Surya is the sun god, the solar deity. He is also the god of illumination and liberation. In Indian mythology, Surya wears a golden robe, and his chariot is drawn either by one steed or by seven mares.
Surya the sun god is extremely important and significant in our spiritual life. Although there are very few hymns dedicated to him. Only ten hymns are offered to the sun god in the Vedas, as compared to over two hundred fifty hymns offered to Indra.
The physical sun that we actually see is said to be the eye of the gods Agni, Varuna and Mitra. The sun is the physical embodiment of the spiritual light of Agni and these two other cosmic gods.
Dawn is the harbinger of Surya. In Sanskrit the dawn is called Usha or Ahana. Usha is the goddess of dawn. She invokes the presence of the sun god and when Surya appears, he seems to be following her. The sun god has boundless divine love for goddess Usha. He wants to offer all his inner divinity to her and she receives it joyfully from him.
The sun is far, very far from our planet earth. When we observe the sun from here, we see a tiny disc, but we know how bright and vast it really is. Similarly, the inner sun, the sun that we have deep within us, is very far from us, and it seems very tiny and insignificant. But when we approach our inner sun we are illumined and transformed, and we enter into the effulgence of transcendental Light.
Each human being has an inner sun. The physical sun we observe every day. But the inner sun, the sun of divinity that we have inside us, most people do not see even once in a lifetime. Again, if I say that each individual is blessed with only one inner sun, then I am mistaken. Advanced spiritual seekers have more than one spiritual sun. And the spiritual Master, in his highest transcendental Consciousness possesses the outer sun and countless inner suns; he is the possessor of the entire universe.
If one is on the path of spirituality, one is bound to see his inner sun. Some of you have already had a glimpse of it. Some of you have seen it for a fleeting second but have not been able to recognise it as the inner sun. But a day will dawn when you will see your inner sun fully in all its transcendental Glory, and you will be inundated with celestial Light. Then, as you grow in the spiritual life, you are bound to develop more than one inner sun.
The inner sun moves. That is why the inner light moves and illumines. Again, the inner sun can remain still and silent. When the inner sun is still, we are also silent. That is why in the Isha Upanishad, one of the most famous Upanishads, we have a description of something that moves and at the same time moves not:
Tad ejati tan naijati…
The sun god is also the god of flight, and he performs his task like a beautiful bird. Time and space are covered by the wings of the sun god. In the Rig Veda there is a significant hymn which runs thus: “The stars are acting like thieves. When they see the sun, they run away, for they are afraid of the infinite effulgence of the sun.” There is another hymn which is an invitation to evening. Evening invites the sun to set, saying, “Brother, you have worked very hard during the whole day. Now you take rest.” In that way, when evening makes a fervent request to the sun god to take rest, night appears.
From the sun, creation came into existence. The sun is the creator that has created something without beginning or end. A great Master once said, “If the beginning comes from anything, then it cannot be a beginning. Beginning cannot come from anything.” It is true. But in the spiritual life we know two significant words: Purusha and Prakriti. Purusha and Prakriti are always birthless and endless. In the thirteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna makes it very clear that Prakriti and Purusha are both without beginning. Purusha the transcendental, primordial Being, and Prakriti, the absolute Energy, together created both the eternal and the temporal.
In the Rig Veda we learn that existence came from non-existence. What does non-existence mean? If we think that non-existence means nothing, then we are mistaken. It is not something that never existed. Non-existence is something which we cannot see with our naked eye, something which is beyond our earthly ken. When our third eye is at our constant command, we will see non-existence as something which has not yet taken proper form and substance in the outer world. When it takes proper shape and form, it becomes possible and practicable for us to see and use it in our day-to-day life.
We all want to bathe in the sea of sunlight. The outer sunlight will give us purification; the inner sunlight will give us illumination. When we want to bathe in water, we need a soap and towel. But when we have a sun bath, we don’t need these things. When we bathe in the inner sun, we need only one thing to satisfy all our inner needs: our soul’s tearful gratitude. When we offer our soul’s tearful gratitude to the Supreme, or when we enter into our soul’s tearful gratitude, we can easily bathe in the sea of inner light.
The sun that we see in the sky is always beautiful. The day dawns; we see beauty all around. We look at the sun and we get inspiration. God the Beauty, the sun god, comes to us in the morning in the form of inspiration. The poet is inspired to write soulful poems, the musician is inspired to compose beautiful music. People going to work in different walks of life are all getting abundant inspiration from the Sun to fulfil their daily duties.
The sun god comes to us in midday as dynamic aspiration. We have to perform the tasks of the day. We have to fulfil our outer demands as well as our inner demands. The inner sun comes to us with its fiery flames, giving us powerful, soulful, dynamic will which will hasten our inner evolution and outer manifestation.
The sun god comes to us in the evening as realisation. The sun sets and purity reigns supreme all around. Nature is resting, Mother Earth is aspiring and all is peace and love within and without. With evening comes realisation, as the sun god offers us the consummation of his wealth. When realisation dawns, the roles of inspiration and aspiration end.
In the Vedas there are thousands of mantras. ‘Mantra’ is a Sanskrit word that means incantation. A mantra can be a syllable, a word, a name or a sentence or two. When we utter the mantra soulfully, we are transported into the seventh heaven of celestial delight. There are thousands of mantras, but there is one mantra that stands out as most significant and that mantra is the Gayatri Mantra. This mantra we find in three Vedas: the Rig Veda, the Sama Veda and the Atharva Veda. This mantra is also a most sublime raga. I am offering you this particular mantra right now. Why? There is a special reason. First I would like to chant it, then I will tell you its significance.
This is the Gayatri Mantra. Many composers have set tune to it. Its meaning is: “We contemplate on the most brilliant light of the Creator-deity, the sun god, to achieve inner understanding, to illumine our intelligence to stimulate our understanding, to transform our earthbound consciousness into the boundless Light of the inner Sun, the sun god.”
In India, in the small hours of the morning, the Brahmins and the seekers of the highest Truth, with folded hands, look up into the sky as the sun comes up over the horizon, and offer this prayer to the sun god. They chant this mantra hundreds of times most soulfully for inner illumination. You can imagine how it looks if you walk along the Ganges and see the Indian Brahmins and the seekers of the infinite praying to the sun with folded hands, for inner illumination. By repeating this mantra, hundreds and hundreds of seekers have attained to spiritual perfection. If you can repeat it soulfully thousands of times at a stretch, you are bound to get at least an iota of inner illumination. But it has to be done most soulfully and not like a child learning something by rote.
The sun is the soul of the universe. The soul has neither birth nor death.
Na jayate mriyate va kadacin…
“The soul is never born and it never dies. It has no beginning, it has no end, no past, no present, no future.”
This is the soul.
Vasangsi jirnani yatha vihaya …
“Fire cannot burn it, water cannot drench it, wind cannot dry it, weapons cannot cleave it…”
This is the soul.
The sun god gives us knowledge and wisdom. The sun god frees us from teeming ignorance and impenetrable darkness. Therefore we have to invoke the sun god. Avidya means ignorance. Vidya means knowledge. Vidya and Avidya go together. Let us take ignorance as a thorn. One thorn has entered into our foot. Now let us take another thorn, knowledge, to remove the first thorn. When we take out the first thorn with the help of the second thorn, we can say that we enter into the realm of death and conquer it. Once we have taken out the thorn, we do not need the thorn that has entered into our foot and we do not need the thorn that we used to remove it. At that time we go beyond both knowledge and ignorance and enter into the domain of Wisdom’s ecstasy.
There are two types of knowledge; outer knowledge and inner knowledge. Outer knowledge can tell us about spiritual life, inner life. But this outer knowledge is not the same as inner knowledge. Outer knowledge tells us that there is a God, that if we follow the spiritual life we will realise Him and that if we meditate on God we will have Peace, Bliss, Power, Delight and so forth. But outer knowledge can go no further. But if we enter into the inmost recesses of our heart the inner knowledge dawns. When inner knowledge dawns, automatically and spontaneously we taste the divine nectar, Amrita, and this divine nectar is Immortality.
The sunlight and the sun god cannot be separated. As God the Creator and God the creation cannot be separated, so the sun god and sunlight cannot be separated. Thus, in the Vedas it said:
Surya jyotir jyotir Surya
“The sun god is Light, Light is the sun god.”
Surya here is not the Vedic god Surya; here Surya means the Supreme God. Similarly, our aspiration and our realisation cannot be separated. Today we are aspiring, tomorrow we shall be realised. When we are all realised, we shall see that our aspiration and our realisation are absolutely inseparable.
by Sri Chinmoy