Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Vedic Roots of the American Eagle

In E Pluribus Unum I noted that it is the Eagle which carries the E Puribus Unum message in its beak in the American Seal. I wrote, 'This Eagle has its own esoteric significance, which is perhaps worthy of another entry'. This 4th of July morning I pulled a book from my bookshelf which I haven't read in over a year and by 'chance' flipped to a page and read:


''... Jatayu, the eagle who tried to rescue Sita from Ravana without even knowing who She was.... Lord Rama gave Jatayu the powers of sympathy and compassion, to shelter all under his wings.... Whose symbol is the eagle? America's. America is the first country to help anywhere in the world in the time of famine, flood or other disaster. Americans are generous by nature and love to give to others who don't have enough. And they do it just for the sake of doing it. Not for gain, but because it is to be done, just as Jatayu [the eagle of the Ramayana] did for Sita. Some say that in Kali Yuga the giving of gifts is the highest form of religious merit. As Americans have given a great deal they have collected considerable spiritual benefit. Yes they have made mistakes, like Vietnam, but they have still done more good than anyone else has. So, America is Lord Rama's blessings to this Earth through the eagle Jatayu.' - the Aghori Vimalananda, from Aghora III: The Law of Karma by Robert E. Svoboda [bold emphasis added]

This mention and appreciation of America's symbol and underlying spirit of the Eagle comes from Vimalananda, an Indian yogi, circa 1977. Vimalananda's vision or perspective allowed him to connect some seemingly unconnected dots. In this case the dots are spread out over many ages, from the ancient Vedic civilization to our own. He recognized a real correspondence between Jatayu, an eagle of Vedic lore who was triply blessed by Rama (the 7th Avatar of Vishnu), and the eagle of America. He also applied Vedic cosmology and numerical symbolism to America's ongoing role and destiny in the world:
'Another reason that America is strong can be discovered in numerology. How many states does America have? Fifty: 5 + 0 = 5.... Five is the number of Guru, or Brihaspati - the planet Jupiter - who is the world's protector. And five is also the number of magic and mystery. The Greeks use to go into battle with their word for five painted on their shields. Also, the American flag has thirteen stripes: 1 + 3 = 4. Four is the number for foundation, so their foundation is firm.'
On the same page, Vimalananda acknowledged that Americans have 'performed some terrible karmas .... Don't forget that the Americans came into possession of America by theft. Armed robbery in fact; they used firearms.... The question is, will these karmas catch up to them? So long as the Americans can just remain true to their heritage and remember to be generous they will continue to prosper.... [It will] depend on how well their good qualities can continue to function in the face of the powerful distortion that the weight of all their evil karmas is creating.'

Here we could get into an un-ending debate or discussion about America's good and bad qualities and actions. That would be a typical exercise in dualistic consciousness that would drain the energies all involved and truly miss the unspoken POINT, SOURCE or larger FRAMEWORK of Vimalananda's seeing. His assessment of America's spirit and its role in the world is a product of his knowledge of the integral and continuous whole, all connected to the same Divine Laws in both time and space. He read the symbolism and significance of America's existence and self-expression because he was knowledgeable (to some degree) of the symbolism and significance of the Vedic systems of knowledge, which expressed an integral fusion of natural laws, mythology, cosmology and mathematics. To the Vedic Rishi all individuals, tribes and systems of knowledge (the Many) had the Divine Flame as a common point (the One) and none had a purpose or expression disconnected from that point.

To many Vimalananda's multi-dimensional, mythological, cosmological and numerological assessments of America might seem ridiculous or crazy; but to those who have made some progress in understanding Vedic symbolism and its 360 degree framework, and who have also made progress in remembering the shimmering Vedic idea that all is evolving towards a real (i.e. material) expression of Satchitananda (Truth, Consciousness-Force, and Bliss), Vimalananda's assessments are not crazy at all. He just non-chalantly connected some dots, or put together some pieces of the world puzzle based on Vedic systems of knowledge and measure which have captured something of an eternal truth (sanatana dharma) of our being and becoming. Whether or not he was aware of the eagle's place and significance in the 12 month Vedic sacrifice (i.e. in the tropical zodiac) is unclear or undisclosed in Aghora III.

Jatayu the eagle is known in Indian mythology as the son of Garuda the eagle. Garuda the eagle is Vishnu's vahana (his vehicle or ride). Vimalananda mentioned the eagle and the Avatars of Vishnu but mentioned nothing of the zodiac which is the essential framework for understanding the Vedic mythology of Vishnu and the deeper symbolism of the Eagle. Vishnu the Preserver and Protector corresponds directly to the four preservation or 'fixed' signs of the tropical zodiac, - Taurus the Bull, Leo the Lion, Scorpio the Eagle (or Scorpion) and Aquarius the Man [1], and to the four ages of the Precession of the Equinoxes corresponding to the four fixed signs. This 'fixed' cross of the zodiac (and simultaneously of the 25,920 year Precession) is found in the Rig Veda (RV 1.154), the Bible (St. John's Revelation) and in the mythology and iconography of the Sphinx. [2] (Note that all four fixed-sign creatures of the Sphinx are represented in the tarot card above and have the wings of an Eagle. Typically a Sphinx is a chimera of two or more fixed signs of the zodiac, such as the Lion-Man of the Sphinx of Giza.)

The dual nature of Scorpio (the lowly Scorpion and the lofty Eagle) is symbolic of the dilemma or evolutionary challenge faced in the soul's journey, in the 8th month or sign of Scorpio. Vimalananda, perhaps without knowing the zodiacal correspondences involved, described the dual symbolism of Scorpio and the dual challenge faced by America:

'By temperament eagles are killers, but Lord Rama gave Jatayu the powers of sympathy and compassion, to shelter all under his wings.'
In the Scorpio phase of the 12 stage evolutionary journey an important choice is made. How do we use our vital energies? Are they hoarded or discharged in a way that causes destruction of self, earth and other? Or are they used/released in pursuit of a higher view of self, earth and other, in which All are sheltered under the same universal truth-consciousness? This dilemma or evolutionary challenge is faced by all people and all nations, it is just that America is playing out the symbolism in a grand and epic way, for all the world to see, understand and learn from. When injustices or whatever repression and destruction of people and earth's life and beauty become exposed and conquered, one could say that the deadly Scorpion is transformed into a majestic and heroic Eagle. One begins to chose to participate in a living harmonious whole over the mortal or moribund consciousness. This transformation or alchemy is the subject of Scorpio, the 8th sign of the zodiac and 8th month of the 12 month Vedic sacrifice (sacrifice in this case meaning a process by which mundane existence is 'made sacred' via an increase in truth-consciousness).

The Aghori Vimalananda wrote that if Americans can live up to their heritage and choose to be more like the compassionate and protective eagle and less offensive in terms of negative karmas, then the country will continue to prosper. Surely this is true. But how do individuals and collectives come to understand their 'heritage' and true place within the whole if they remain unaware or unconscious of their common journey or common field as described in the Vedic tradition? How do they take their place in a harmonious circle of life if unaware of the sanatana dharma (eternal truth) that is the tropical zodiac, which has been the hidden structure or hidden backbone of most of the sacred texts, monuments, mythologies, wisdom traditions and temples that have survived the ages to reach our door?

My understanding is that as Indians develop a truer and truer understanding of the symbolism found in their own forgotten or misunderstood Veda (including the Vedic measure of the Year), Americans will be more and more open to learning this truer, more integral and world-relevant yoga, and more conscious of their position and role within the whole. As it is, many hundreds or thousands of forms of yoga are popular in America. But these are fragments of a fragmented dharma. As India recovers its maha (great) yoga, i.e. the yoga that truly integrates and unifies existence and consciousness, She will remind the world of the great significance, truth, divinity and sacred geometry of its forms and symbols. Connecting the dots, as Vimilananda did, between Vedic symbolism, the zodiac, numerology, ancient mythologies, and the symbolism of real events and forms in our lives and in the current state and flow of world events will become less and less a stretch of the human imagination and more of a standard (or at least respected) way of thinking.

I will close this post with an image from Greek mythology that is one more random dot of information that can be reconnected back to its early origins and take its place in the 360 degree framework of the Vedic Year (the tropical zodiac). In Vedic mythology the eagle Garuda carries Vishnu, the Preserver. As stated above Vishnu symbolizes or embodies the four 'fixed' signs of the Tropical Zodiac (Scorpio, Aquarius, Taurus and Leo). Below we see an image from Greek mythology in which an eagle carries Ganyamede 'the [Aquarian] cupbearer'. Hopefully some readers will be able to see in the image below a replication of Vedic symbolism and knowledge. Perhaps, in such a simple act of seeing, some will be one step closer to realizing that the zodiac has been and remains an important key for understanding our collective history and our collective evolutionary journey.


Ganymede on Jupiter's Eagle

'In Greek mythology, Aquarius was 'cup-bearer to the Gods' (Ganymede). Ganymede was the son of Tros, king of Troy.... While tending his father's flocks on Mount Ida, Ganymede was spotted by Jupiter. The king of gods became enamored of the boy and flew down to the mountain in the form of a large bird, whisking Ganymede away to the heavens. Ever since, the boy has served as cupbearer to the gods.' [3]

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