Archtypes & Mythology: Surya Namskara – Bowing to the Inner Sun

By Mark Stephens on Mon, 04/30/2018 - 09:56

People across the world from ancient times to the present have turned to the just before dawn and bowed, praying or chanting or otherwise asking for the mysterious sun to return. In India and with yoga, we find a particular  mythology.

The Sun Salutations that initiate many yoga classes are rich in symbolism. Surya is the chief solar deity who drives his chariot across the sky each day as the most visible form of God that one can see. It is also the ancient Sanskrit term for “sun,” which in most ancient mythology is revered, as Richard Rosen (2003) says, “as both the physical and spiritual heart of the world.” Namaskara is from the root namas, “to bow” (as in “namaste”). In the myths of the Vedas, the gods use the sun’s heat for many purposes, especially creation. Our “inner sun,” the spiritual heart center, is seen as the source of light and truth along the life’s path. In Surya Namaskara, we are bowing to the truth of who we are in our essence, releasing the head lower than the heart, connecting with our inner wisdom.

Now consider the fact that this practice is rooted in the superstition that the sun might not return! This belief was held in most cultures until relatively recently (check out the Flat Earth Society, which represents fringe thinking that was formerly accepted knowledge). Now consider that many yoga writers and teachers assert that yogic wisdom and knowledge is directly transmitted from the divine. Why did the divine never bother to explain the heliocentric model of the solar system but give arcane details about how to sacrifice horses for the good of the gods and humans?