We will continue from where we left off in the last article – Uttanka obtains the queen’s two earrings, thanks the king and the queen, and sets off on his return journey.
On his way back, he observes a naked sadhu (hermit) lurking around him. The sadhu was visible at times but then would become invisible. Uttanka decided to bathe in a nearby river before having his meal. He enters the river, leaving the earrings on the bank. The sadhu immediately arrived, picked up the earrings, and ran away with them. Uttanka followed him in vain; right before Uttanka’s eyes, the sadhu turned into a snake, drilled a hole in the ground, and vanished. It was then that Uttanka remembered the words of the queen and realised it was Thakshak, the naga, who had taken the earrings and then vanished to naga-loka (the country of nagas) deep below the ground.
Uttanka unsuccessfully attempted to follow the snake by opening the hole in the ground with a stick. At this point, God Indra took pity on him and entered his stick as a thunderbolt; there was an explosion and a tunnel, which Uttanka used to reach the strange land of nagas, was formed. There he prayed, especially to Thakshak, in return for the earrings, but to no avail.
There he observed two ladies weaving a beautiful piece of cloth on a loom, using a black and a white thread. This loom had twelve spokes, being turned by six small boys. There was also a man with a very beautiful horse that he owned. Uttanka recited a prayer and explained the symbolism of everything he saw. He pointed out that twenty-four fortnights in a year were represented by the black and white threads across twelve spokes, symbolising the phases of the moon. The six young boys represent the seasons. The ladies are the two aspects of the cosmic intelligence behind all phenomena. The horse is the source of time and the man (the owner) is divinity which is the cause of all things, seen and unseen. This interpretation pleased the man and he asked Uttanka what he could give him. Uttanka asked for all the snakes to do as he wished. The man asked Uttanka to blow air directed at the backside of the horse. On doing so, smoke started coming out from the five sensory openings of the horse. This smoke filled the whole naga kingdom; Thakshak finding it hard to breathe came out of his palace and gave the earrings back to Uttanka.
Once he had the earrings, Uttanka realised that his guru’s wife was to perform the ceremony within the hour and that his return journey was still a good two day. The man with the horse asked Uttanka to mount the horse and on doing so, Uttanka reached his guru’s place in a flash and delivered the earrings to his guru’s wife in time.
This part of the story depicts how a disciple moves into the unconscious and learns the secrets of time. The snake, disguised as a naked sadhu (sometimes seen but mostly not), represents deep desires which lie unseen in the unconscious, manifesting only at times to be seen. When we are not aware (represented by Uttanka’s dip in the river), desire in form of the ego, symbolised by Thakshak, steal the higher emotions or energies we have acquired by meditative practices.
To reach to the root of desires, our awareness must enter the unconscious mind and for that, we must have the energy of sensitivity. The God Indra is the symbol of sensitivity and him entering Uttanka’s stick as a thunderbolt reveals Uttanka using the energies of sensitivity to reach the area of deep desires. For instance, if someone hurts us, just by holding the sensitivity of the pain (and not doing anything else), we are able to go to the root of the pain in the unconscious. This capacity to hold is called ‘dharana’ by Sage Patanjali. The ability to observe this pattern, which is the cause of pain, is ‘dhyana’. In this observation, if the pattern dissolves and the bonds which tied the soul break, the joy of freedom is ‘samadhi’.
Uttanka goes into his unconscious, sees, and understands the mysteries of time. In this, he observes his own divinity or the owner of the horse or ‘ashva’ in Sanskrit, also meaning time. In understanding time, lies the freedom from all desires. The inner guru (the owner of the horse in the story) tells him to blow air into the anal opening of the horse. Digestion is a process that starts at the mouth and ends in the anus. Blowing there symbolises the process in reverse or reverse time, what the Taoists call as the backward flowing method, which Patanjali calls as ‘pratiprasav’. We create situations where the hidden ego reveals itself. This is symbolised by the smoke which makes Thakshak appear. If we see a situation where someone is going to insult or hurt us, we should not run away but allow it to happen. The soul can never be hurt, only the ego is can be. The minute we feel pain, we should realise that it is out of self-love. We dissolve the self by sending the ego back in time and then what remains is love, or the two earrings – love and faith. This is the deepest spiritual grace we can be worthy of.
Uttanka riding the horse back home shows that he has now understood and is the master of the play of time.