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Naga Goddesses (Lhu)

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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Naga goddesses and gods are mystical serpent beings living in oceans, lakes, rivers or wells and play an important part in most mythologies, religions and fairy tales worldwide. They are always associated with having strong magical powers (siddhis), a vast esoteric knowledge and a capricious character, which can quickly change from friendly and helpful to angry and malicious. As the keepers of the treasures of the water element (magical gems and precious stones) they are often portrayed holding a gem in their hands, being adorned with jewels or wearing a gem in their crown. Those precious stones not just grant them immortality but also the ability to magically emanate themselves into all kind of form bodies. Possessing those magical gems (cristallized wisdom-power) exposes them to many enemies, who like to steal this huge source of power. The archetypal arch-fiends are the mythological birds, called Garuda's. It is this fight between Nagas and Garuda's which, according to many mythologies, is the essential force or polarity which creates the world of existance. Even Christianity has this motive using the metapher of an archangel (Garuda), trying to kill a snake. One could even go so far to distinguish the polarizing West and the depolarizing East in the way how they handle the snake-archetype.

In psychological terms their energy can be associated with the libido, Chi, Kundalini or life energy. To illustrate this there is a little story on Tibet's famous yogi Padmasambhava. While he was meditating at a lake, he was disturbed by a Naga which lived there. So Padmasmbhava decided to fight this powerful Naga. He tried all his magic over many days and became weaker and weaker until he nearly lost all his power. Than suddenly the Naga arose from the lake with a smile of wisdom in her face and spoke to the great yogi: 'Padmasambhava, you can't kill me. Trying so, you would kill your 'self'.' Padmasambhava understood this lecture and left this place to regenerate.

The whole process of becoming enlightened 'can' be interpretated as a wise handling of the Naga energy, integrating their wisdom and magical powers. All precious stones, jewelry and bracelets Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are adorned with symbolize according to higher tantra teachings special naga powers (siddhis). Very often even the head aura is composed of radiant serpents. It would fill many books to describe in full the deep meaning of the Naga mysteries. Due to many wonderful mystical Naga experiences, which I had from early childhood onwards I started such a book project in the early seventies but gave up under the heap of informations and complexity, which filled thousands of index cards, I still keep.

I just want to add that in Buddhism Nagas and Naga kings (Nagaradjas) play a very important part. Beside the folkloristic beliefs, often mixed with superstition and being more down to earth (Naga offerings to lakes, wells, trees etc. for spending rain, granting fertility to get a child etc.) there are the higher esoteric levels for the advanced tantrician. It is said that before the final enlightenment can take place the heirs on buddhaship (bodhisattvas of the 9th and 10th level) take rebirth in the mystical Naga worlds to get all final necessary empowerments and hidden teachings. Buddhism states that also the historical Buddha Shakyamuni took rebirth in the Naga realm just before his last incarnation on earth. Even during his enlightenment peaks, sitting under the bodhi-tree in India, he was magically protected by a Naga. Also the so-called 'Second Buddha' and founder of the Madhyamika-School, the Indian mahasiddha Nagarjuna, got his last insights and tantric perfections with the help of the Nagas, meditating at the shores of a lake. Click for Nagaradja Page Following the tantric Buddhist believes the coming Maitreya Buddha is perfecting himself in the Tushita heavens, sitting on a magical Naga tree, and studying with various Naga teachers to prepare for his full enlightenment on earth, which again should take place under a Naga tree (a magical tree, inhabited by a powerful Naga). It is said, that a rebirth in one of the various Naga realms has a great potential to reach buddhaship in a very short time without needing further rebirth. This so-called Naga-Buddhas are often invoked to grant special insights and siddhis for the Buddhist practitioner.