The Esoteric Sense of the Ashwamedha, the Horse Sacrifice

Sri Aurobindo translates Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chapter One, Section Two, Verse 7 (partial): “He desired, ‘Let this have sacrificial capacity for me, by this let me be provided with a body.  That which has expressed power and being, that is fit for the sacrifice.  This verily is the secret of the Ashwamedha and he knoweth indeed the Ashwamedha who thus knoweth it.  He gave him free course and thought, then after a year ( a fixed period of time) he dedicated him to the self. … ”

We have seen that the Ashwamedha, the traditional Horse Sacrifice, has a deep esoteric significance.  The horse in this sacrifice is equated with the universal manifestation.  There is a power of creation put forth by the Eternal to manifest through Time and Space.  It should be noted that the Sanskrit term Ashwa, generally translated as “horse” has underlying meaning, as described by Sri Aurobindo “to the Rishis meant the unknown power made up of force, strength, solidity, speed and enjoyment that pervades and constitutes the material world.”  The term medha, putting aside for the moment its external translation of “sacrifice”, has underlying sense of intelligence, wisdom, sharpness of penetration.  The combination of intelligence and force is the characteristic of the Vijnana, the Supramental consciousness, which is the power that carries out the manifestation through the creation of differentiated forms that represent through Time and Space the Eternal in its embodied presence.

The portion of this verse not translated here by Sri Aurobindo includes references to the sun being the horse sacrifice, with his body being the time span of the year, the cycle of the earth’s rotation around the sun.  The embodied fire is the manifested world.  Death is a form of the action set forth in the sacrifice, and thus, he who knows this becomes one with Death and cannot be vanquished by death, and thus, achieves oneness with the manifested Eternal.

Sri M. P. Pandit concludes:  “Thus are fire, the Sacrifice (of the embodied World-Force), the Horse and Death one Divinity.  He who knows, he who realises this truth in himself becomes that very God with death for his limb, a process of his living.”

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

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