What if a woman were the wife of the most attractive, beloved, richest and strongest man in the world? Wouldn't she be extremely happy? Well, Sanjña was the wife of such a man, but she felt miserable.
The legend of Sanjña is told in the Mahabharata, the great epic poem of India. Her husband was Lord Surya, the king of our solar system. He is not only a character of legend, but we can find him when we go outside, during the day, and we see him traveling in the sky, in the form of a huge sphere of fire, which we in the West call the Sun. Its name in Sanskrit - Surya - comes from the word sur, which means "to shine".
Lord Surya was faithful and devoted as a husband, but Sanjña could not bear to stand by his side. The problem was that he was so bright that she couldn't look at him. So, one day, she asked Chhaya (whose name means "shadow" and who looked a little like Sanjña) to secretly take her place, and for her to return to Earth where she could live in anonymity in the world of men.
Chhaya gladly played the role of queen, and even gave Lord Surya a son – Saturn, who did not shine like his father and moves slowly on the celestial vault. However, Chhaya gives him all his attention, and neglects Sanjña's children, who eventually complained to their father: "The mother is no longer herself, she completely neglects us and only plays with Saturn!"Surya's suspicions awoke immediately, and when he got home at the end of a day, he got closer to Chhaya and looked at her closely, realizing that she was not his wife. "Who are you?" asked her, "cis it you done with Sanjña?"
Chhaya was terrified, Surya – she usually shined brightly, but this time she threw arrows of fire around her. So he told him the painful truth – that Sanjña, his wife, could no longer bear his presence and left him.
Hearing this, Surya rushed to Earth to find her wife, much loved. He found it on a meadow in the form of a mare. Then he took the appearance of a stallion, and galloped after her. When he caught up with her, he blew air into her nostrils, and that's when Sanjña became pregnant and soon gave birth to two sons, twins, named Ashvini. They can be seen in the sky at night, when it is clear, in the form of two bright stars located in the constellation of Aries.
But Sanjña did not want to go back to heaven, and he said to Lord Surya, "You are too bright, I can't even look at you, because you hurt my eyes!"
Hoping to bring her back to Sanjña, Surya asked her father-in-law Vishvakarman, the great architect of our Universe, for help. He chastened Sanjña by saying: "It is not natural for a wife to abandon her husband and children!" But she didn't listen to him, and preferred to stay on Earth where he was much more comfortable.
Eventually Vishvakarman found the perfect comprmis: he invited the Sun to lie on his lathe, and carefully cut off some of surya's rays of the blinding light. He then sent him to his wife Sanjña, who this time managed to look at him in all his greatness and exclaimed, "You are the most beautiful man I have ever seen in my life!"
After that, the brilliant couple returned to heaven and lived happily ever after.
The inner sun
What is the real meaning of this strange story from the Mahabharata? The most important clue we get is when we understand who Sanjña really is. Sanjña means in Sanskrit "he who knows", that is, the mind. Sanjña is the lower mind, the one that runs away from the light of the Self in order to live here on Earth. In other words, Sanjña is us, the ordinary people.
Legend has it that the true love of the soul is the inner divine self, and many texts in yoga describe this inner self as "shining like a thousand suns." For the vast majority of people, this light is far too intense and too unbearable. There is a famous story in the Bhagavad Gita in which the great Krishna reveals this inner experience to his disciple Arjuna. But Arjuna is not prepared for the greatness of this divine vision. He panics and exclaims , "O Lord Krishna, please stop, it's too much for me!"
The purpose of our spiritual practice is to expand our consciousness until we can live fully awake in the divine light. But most people like Sanjña don't work to increase this state of consciousness. On the contrary, many of us flee frightened by this light. We are concerned only with objects from the outside world and we lose touch with the light inside. But at the same time we also lose the blessings that come with this light, just as Sanjña lost his children.
But our divine Self does not let us get lost in the shadows forever. Divine grace always seeks us. In the yogic tradition, horses symbolize prana, or vital energy. Prana makes physical life possible, its proper use is the source of the healing powers. In our story, the inner Sun "impregnates" Sanjña through the force of its upheaval. The twin gods, called Ashvini, whom Sanjña gave birth to, represent our two nostrils, through which the two pranic currents flow, Ida and Pingala.
These gods are present when a child is born, because the prana, or life force, represents the connection between the physical body and the spirit within. (In the book of Genesis it is said that when God breathed into the nostrils of man, giving him life, he was endowed with soul.) Here the legend reminds us that breathing exercises, called pranayama in traditional yoga, can help us reconnect with the light inside, that is, with the individual higher Self, Atman.
To see God
When some yogis are asked why they meditate, they sincerely admit, "I want to see God." This looks a little like the desire of an ant who would like to see the Empire State Building. In fact, several mystics have reported that during the experiences they have had, the divine light shines so brightly that the mind gives back. In the Book of Revelation in the Christian tradition, it speaks of the vision of the divine being as being as "a shining sun in its full power."
Mortal beings simply cannot comprehend eternity. The unlimited power and beauty of the supreme reality is entirely beyond the comprehension capacity of our human minds. However, the legend of Sanjña and Surya tells us that in his burning desire to reunite with the human soul, God pours out by grace, a part of his energy and brilliance towards us, the limited people.
In the Vedic tradition, attention is focused more on the Atman, the supreme individual Self, and less on Brahman, or the supreme consciousness. Then, the transcendent being is personalized and becomes accessible to us through meditation. By focusing on our own inner light, we can enter a universe of unlimited enlightenment. Enlightened souls live continually in the light of the Self. They directly experience the fact that Atman, our supreme individual self, is entirely contained in the universal spirit, just as a drop of rain completely reunites with the ocean when it falls into it.
After his self-imposed exile on Earth, Sanjña finally reunited with Lord Surya in divine light. Maybe sometime we will stop this flight, and we will return home, re-registering ourselves in Himself!