About the Naga Buddha and fighting Fear

by Anna

Yesterday, I stumbled across a little stall with beautiful old South East Asian statues on the London Yoga Show, and was promptly introduced to the Buddha of my birthday (Saturday), namely Naga Buddha (pang nak prok). According to Thai belief, and influenced by the philosophy of Buddhism, there are seven postures of the Buddha, depicting a state of being, resembling actual happenings on each day of the week.

Now, the only thing I don’t like about this Naga Buddha is the fact that “Nāga” is the Sanskrit word for a deity  or being, taking the form of a very great snake, specifically the king cobra, found in Hinduism and Buddhism. However, on the other hand it didn’t surprise me a bit, considering that the term snake has been on my mind rather vividly for the past six months up to the point where I thought I’m about to lose it because I had the weird fear that they might come up the toilet and every time something moved near me, outdoors as much as indoors my first thought was it could be a snake. Let me explain.

I do not, at the best of times, like snakes and avoid swimming pools for the unrelated fear that there could be some in there (nearly impossible in western Europe) and even feel repulsed by pictures of them and feel the need to switch channels should anything related pop up on TV. I suppose this isn’t necessarily a phobia but merely an excessive innate response to danger, which all of us humans share to a certain degree.

A few significant changes have taken place this year so far. Not only did I start a new year one, but also did I start a new year seven cycle, the 5th, to be precise. According to numerology, a year one shows a new beginning, a fresh start, full power and potential for new projects and the determination to see it through. A numerological year begins and ends with your birthday. You can determine which year you are in by adding together your day and month of birth with the current year. Then there are different sources that talk about the seven year cycle, which doesn’t only include the complete change of the cells in our body, but also comprises of the understanding that we change mentally, evolve, mature and possibly even change in personality.

So quite naturally I jumped into this new chapter of mine setting up my own complementary business, offering workshops, learning new skills and just as naturally found myself including Kundalini Yoga in my usual yoga practice, which, surprise surprise, talks of the sleeping coiled up serpent at the base of the spine.  Kundalini is actually the Sanscrit word for “coiled” and  the aim is to awaken this sleeping energy and enable it to rise up the spine to the higher energy centres, ultimately in search of enlightenment. Some call it the yoga of awareness because it focuses on raising consciousness.

I found the idea of a sleeping serpent at the base of my spine rather unpleasant and would avoid thinking about it. But it wasn’t long after that I had a strange experience during meditation. I suddenly became aware of a huge snake curling itself around my crossed legs and rising up behind me, covering me with its massive head and open hood. Ok, there I was sincerely trying to accept this situation as it was, not letting fear reign my responses and trusting in the good of this unusual event. An image of Buddha came to my mind, where he sits in crossed legged meditation when it begins to rain heavily and a large king cobra (Mucalinda) comes in and provides shelter  and protection for him, just like the snake in my vision. While I just sat there, trying to figure out the meaning of it all, I finally came to the conclusion that it probably is just about trusting in the good of everything and that this snake was not here to scare me. However, I still found the proximity of it rather unpleasant, so I kindly asked it to leave, which it did without remorse.

The first, and until now the only time something similar had happened was when I was much younger, maybe 13, when I was playing in a tent in the garden when I became aware of a presence, which turned out to be a big snake. Just to make this clear, I grew up with the awareness of other dimensions and beings that were not presenting themselves in physical form. So this snake was just like the encounter described above, an energetic link, to something I had no idea of at the time. Back then I wasn’t particularly frightened, more curious and the snake didn’t stay very long.

Now to the mythology behind this mysterious Nāga. In Sanscrit, nāga is a cobra, a specific type of hooded snake. In Hinduism, particularly in India, nāgas are considered nature spirits and the protectors of springs, wells and rivers. They bring rain, and thus fertility, but are also thought to bring disasters such as floods and drought, but usually only when they have been mistreated. They are snakes that may take human form and tend to be very curious.

Varuna, the Vedic god of storms, is viewed as the King of the nāgas. The nāgas also carry the elixir of life and immortality. There are a few stories that involve fights with Garuda, the eagle deity, which gives the impression that the snakes are evil, but reading up on the story it emerges that it all boils down to a failed bet between their mothers.

Shining the light back onto my own little story, I find it interesting, even with little impact on reality, that I chose the nickname “Storm” for online applications in my teens, which I now know is the king of the Nāgas. And I always refered to water, which I mainly drink, as compared to hot or fizzy drinks, as “the Elixir of Life” since I believe that it is good practice to drink plain water to keep the body hydrated. Also, my zodiac and moon sign is Aquarius, which, despite the fact that it is an air sign, is depicted as the water carrier. These are just a few seemingly insignificant details which, however, weigh heavily on my intuition sense. Could all these small little things actually mean something? Are they just small indications of a bigger system that is beyond our comprehension?

It really did cost me great strength to type king cobra into google to find out more about it, fearing all the nasty photos. It was nearly as bad as actually going directly into the snake department at the zoo. The specific name for the king cobra is actually Ophiophagus hannah and I notice with a slight grin that it even sort of has my name “anna” in it…but hey, let’s not get too superstitious here 🙂

The question arising at the end of all this is: What is it that I don’t want to acknowledge about myself? All the signs are there to indicate that this serpent, or Nāga, is my personal symbol to work with and achieve my goals, even to protect me, and it has been trying to present itself to me soo many times, yet I still block it because I feel so repulsed by its mere image. In the end it is fear that is stopping me from fulfilling my higher purpose, which is something I really ought to start working on resolving right now! And I think that is the whole reason behind all these snake references I have encountered over the past months. I am now ready to face my fear and stand up for myself. I can work towards becoming who I innately know I am, and stop worrying that I’m won’t be capable of being that person.

As the magnificent Maya Fiennes said on yesterday’s Kundalini yoga workshop: “If we wanted to be perfect, we wouldn’t have needed to come on earth. Life on earth is not supposed to be perfect. We are here to experience, to live and to learn.”

And just what a fantastic journey life is!