The Deeper Meaning of the Horse of the Worlds

Sri Aurobindo translates Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chapter 1, Section 1, Verse 2:  “Day was the grandeur that was borne before the horse as he galloped, the eastern ocean gave it birth; night was the grandeur that was borne behind him and its birth was from the other waters.  These are the grandeurs that came into being on either side of the horse.  He became Haya and bore the gods, Vaja and bore the Gandharvas, Arvan and bore the Titans, Ashwa and bore mankind.  The sea was his brother and the sea was his birthplace.”

This is no animal used in an imperial sacrifice, but clearly a symbol for the universal force of creation.  Sri Aurobindo notes:  “The Ashwamedha or Horse-Sacrifice is, as we shall see, taken as the symbol of a great spiritual advance, an evolutionary movement, almost, out of the dominion of apparently material forces into a higher spiritual freedom.  The Horse of the Ashwamedha is, to the author, a physical figure representing, like some algebraical symbol, an unknown quantity of force and speed.  From the imagery it is evident that this force, this speed, is something worldwide, something universal; it fills the regions with its being, it occupies Time, it gallops through Space, it bears on in its speed men and gods and the Titans.  It is the Horse of the Worlds, — and yet the Horse sacrificial.”

“But the real powers, the wonderful fundamental greatnesses of the Horse are … not the material.  What are they then?  The sunrise and sunset, day and night are their symbols, not the magnitudes of Space, but the magnitudes of Time, — Time, that mysterious condition of universal mind which alone makes the ordering of the universe in Space possible, although its own particular relations to matter are necessarily determined by material events and movements — for itself subtle as well as infinite it offers no means by which it can be materially measured.  Sunrise and sunset, that is to say birth and death, are the front and hind part of the body of the Horse, Time expressed in matter.  But on Day and Night the sage fixes a deeper significance.  Day is the symbol of the continual manifestation of material things in vyakta, the manifest or fundamentally in Sat, in infinite being; Night is the symbol of their continual disappearance into avyakta, the unmanifest or finally into Asat, into infinite non-being.”

“Of this Horse of the Worlds, who bears up all beings, the sea is the brother and the sea is the birthplace.  There can be no doubt of the meaning of this symbol.  it is the upper Ocean of the Veda in which it imaged the superior and divine existence, these are the waters of supramental causality.  From that this lower Ocean of our manifestation derives its waters, its flowing energies, apah; from that, when the Vritras are slain and the firmaments opened, it is perpetually replenished, … and of that it is the shadow and the reproduction of its circumstances under the conditions of mental illusion, — Avidya, mother of limitation and death.   … Deliverance from the dominion of asanaya mrtyuh (n.b. hunger which is death) is possible because of this circumstances that this sea of divine being is bandhu, kin and friend to the Horse. … We, appearing bound, mortal and limited, are manifestations of a free and infinite reality and from that from which we were born comes friendship and assistance fro that which we are, towards making us that which we shall be.  From our kindred heavens the Love descends always that works to raise up the lower to its brother, the higher.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, pp.327-347 and M P Pandit, Upanishads: Gateways of Knowledge, pp. 185-193