Two years ago I was lucky enough to see Dead Can Dance, one of my favourite bands. Their live performances often feel like mystical experiences. There is something infinite and boundless about the way Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry channel their inner visions into music. Every time I listen to the second half of this splendid song by Dead Can Dance, I am reminded of the vastness of the ocean and a Vedic deity called Varuna.
Sail on silver wings
Through this storm what fortune love may bring
Back to my arms again
The love of a former golden age
In Vedic religion, Varuna is a divine protector of the ocean and the sky, which are both boundless in nature. He is also said to possesses the mystical powers of healing and rejuvenation brought by the cosmic rain. Varuna is the ruling deity of Shatabhisha, the twenty-fourth Nakshatra (lunar mansion), which resides in the constellation of Aquarius (Kumbha in Sanskrit), the mythical water-carrier.
The symbolism of Aquarius is related to the dichotomy between individual ego and universal consciousness. The vessel itself represents the individual consciousness, while what it contains is the univeral life-force. This indicates that a person, while maintaining their separate identity, tastes a few drops of water from the ocean of supreme bliss. The word kumbhaka also refers to the invigorating practice of breath retention in pranayama. If we are able to control breath, we are able to control prana, the life-force.
Ultimately, the jug must be broken and the water has to flow out to nourish humanity. This process is what we must strive towards – to break from the prison of ego and narrow boundaries that prevent us from working for the universal good. While operating on a lower level, Aquarius individuals tend to be very introverted, self-negative, alienated, restrained, and confined within their narrow worlds. In general, they are acutely aware of their separateness and distinctiveness, which makes them emotionally disconnected from others. The symbol of Shatabhisha Nakshatra is an empty circle, which indicates a need for seclusion and independence, characteristic of Aquarius individuals. At the same time, these people have an innate capacity for sacrifice and humanitarian concerns. They have enough faith to surrender their ego to the divine.
As the lord of truth and righteousness, Varuna protects the natural law (dharma) and reminds us of our higher duties. He represents the primordial connection between humanity and the gods. In Shatabhisha, difficult karmas are cancelled through the divine grace of Varuna. Much healing and spiritually uplifting nourishment can be found in the celestial waters that he presides over.
May we all find enough strength and perseverance to sail towards these infinite oceans of nectarean bliss.