It's the Easter season and my nine-year old has had eggs on her mind. So have I. But while she has been thinking of chocolate eggs, I have been contemplating golden ones. Golden eggs and golden strings actually.
Ancient Vedic verses basically say the same thing with slight variations:
In the beginning was the primal essence (Brahman).
Then the primal egg manifested.
It floated within the cosmic void until it went into contractions and birthed the universe.
Brahman is considered to be the eternal, infinite, source of all existence. It is the state of pure undifferentiated awareness. Out of Brahman's Cosmic Mind emerges Hiranyagharba, the Golden Egg. Hiranya means golden and Gharba translates to womb or egg. (Some of you may be familiar with this term which is used in the Surya Namaskar/Sun Salutation mantras.) Hiranyagharba constitutes the entire material universe. It births everything that is, was, and shall be: all forms, all beings.
Hiranyagarbha is also symbolically equated with the life-giving Sun. I recently had the joy and privilege of going to the Sivananda Ashram Bahamas for a short trip. My partner and I took a brief tour of the ashram site. Our guide regaled us with stories and tangentially mentioned that the sun is considered to be a symbol of the universal mind with each ray becoming the string of a spiritual tradition. In this respect Hiranyagharba is ‘Jnana bhaskara’ or The Sun of Knowledge.
Threads of Knowledge
In fact, the very teachings of the philosophies of the Vedas and the Tantras are in the form of sūtras, which means string or thread. A sūtra is a condensed grouping of words which creates a short statement or aphorism. A collection of sūtras constitutes a text which is also called a Sūtra, such as the Brahma Sūtras of the ancient Vedas or Patanjali's Yoga Sūtras popular in Hatha Yoga. Sūtras are not "written" or crafted in the traditional sense of the word but are considered to be the very "breath" of Hiranyagharba. They are primal, archetypal patterns of light projected out as sound.
The Soul Thread
There are some inner experiences that change your life. You don't really understand what they are but you know they are significant. Years ago I had one such experience which I often draw on when my internal resources are low.
I was sitting in meditation. Breathing. Looking into the blackness. Shadows of memories rising and flitting across the muted mental screen. Fidgeting. Despairing. Quite deeply actually. It was a difficult time in my life and I felt challenged on many levels. And I started to succumb. I felt flooded with emotional pain and lack. And then the single-most radiant, spectacular inner vision I have ever witnessed unfolded. It was a thick shimmering silvery-golden string which slowly began descending into my inner field. Somehow it was multi-faceted, articulating itself, and flashing with light. To say it was brilliant or resplendent would be an understatement. It is undoubtedly the most beautiful thing I have ever seen...
I give you the end of a golden string;
Only wind it into a ball,
It will lead you in at Heaven’s gate,
Built in Jerusalem’s wall.…
William Blake, Jerusalem
The concept that our life hangs on a thread, as it were, surfaces in many cultures. This includes:
Within the Indian tradition, there is a string called the Brahma-Sutra or the String of Brahman. Another term for it is the Sutratma: atma meaning soul. Just as a thread unites the flowers of a garland, this principle unifies all beings by linking the individual to the Cosmic Mind.
Our Sonic Universe
And here I sit trying to weave all these personal strings into a meaningful tapestry! Another personal memory: a few years ago my daughter had a birthday which we celebrated with her friends in the local neighbourhood park. That evening as I reflected back on the festivities of the day, the mental picture of the kids running at the playground abruptly transformed to a black backdrop with each child's image morphing into that of a vibrating coloured string. Each was of a different length and emitting a unique frequency. As quickly as this image vividly emerged, it vanished, back to laughing children again.
Yogic cosmology asserts that the universe is vibratory and sonic in nature. String theory in physics, of which I have no capacity to talk about intelligently, theorizes that the universe may be subatomic strands of energy vibrating at different rates and frequencies.
Golden strings. Golden eggs.
"So what?" my highschool English teacher always used to ask us. (How she continues to inspire me still!) Well, mystical traditions provide us with tools to connect us to the subtle vibratory energies which give rise to people, forms, and phenomena. They allow us to touch states of Unity and re-establish our connection to Something Bigger. Mantras are also the language of light. They are living threads, primal sound forms, which trigger latent states of Consciousness and align ourselves with archetypal energies: the building blocks of being and Beingness, if you will. Certain mantras even encode the experience of Hiranyagharba, the seed of creation, while others may lead us back to the pure, undifferentiated state of Brahman. Lofty stuff but lest we forget...
Not only must we follow the golden thread towards spiritual freedom,
but we must also unravel the garden-variety twine
that is wrapped tightly around our hearts and minds.
And therein lies the rub, as they say. When we engage in spiritual practices we will constantly knock up against our limitations, blind spots, and emotional baggage. Sometimes we lack context or complete understanding. Sometimes we lack conviction. Sometimes we momentarily lose our senses or good judgement. Oh how much easier to be a materialist!
But there is a subtle world shining with awareness behind the thin veil of the material world. We need to be able to penetrate this veil, lifting it to reveal what universally shines in each of our hearts and minds. It peeks through in moments of joy and moments of connection. And in moments of surrender it is the part of our Being that leaps forth and throws us the end of a shimmering string to inspire us forward.
Celebrate joy! Join my 9-year old daughter and I this Saturday, April 7, from 1-2:30 for a family friendly yoga and chanting workshop. Have fun as a family and in community but leave with some deeper Yogic tools to create harmony in your family. $25/family. More info here.
Seeking inspiration? Curious to explore how mantra can affect your meditative practice and induce healing states? Join me Monday, April 30 from 7-8:30 for "Mantras for Renewal". Event co-hosted by Transitions NDG. More info here.
The first image is "Hiranyagarbha The Golden Embryo" by Artist Vidya Devi and Dhirendra Jha.
Here are my "musings" on mantra and sound as a transformative path.