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Swayambhu the 'Self-Created, the Self-Existent'

Swayambhu on Dr John Dunn. Śūnyatā, void or emptiness, the starting point, the nature of the Supreme Consciousness or Shiva. Śūnya, the word for zero, the Bindu beyond one and many and beyond human intellect. Sacred symbol of the cosmos in its unmanifested state, the point around which the cosmos is created, applied to the forehead. Śūnya, 0, the ultimate self-regulating system, the ultimate equilibrium. Even its symbol a circle is closed, admitting of no intervention.

Yet an intervention was made, a breaking open of the circle. What was capable of a spontaneous act of such creativity, such immense frivolity?

The world came into being in an act of spontaneity. There was no pre-determined reason for its creation, which was an act of total freedom. The spontaneity of this act was likened by Dante to a child at play who turns eagerly to what delights it. Such unrestrained freedom is the foundation for our own human freedom. Because we were born out of this spontaneous action we can go on believing that there is such a freedom for us. So important did Dante believe this allegorisation of creativity and play to be that it occurs at the very centre of Purgatory (XVI) and is thus the crux of the Comedy as a whole.

All we have is metaphor, the intervention was made, the circle was broken open, the egg was penetrated. Swayambhu, spontaneous and self-manifested being, entered the cosmic egg, Hiraṇyagarbha. And from the breaking waters a the lotus flower emerged. And creation was like that lotus flower, from which shone a brilliant light. And the name of the place came to be Swayambhu, meaning 'Self-Created or Self-Existent'. Pilgrim saints, sages and divinities, you venerated this transfigurative light for its power in granting enlightenment. Most holy Swayambhu, light of the lotus flower atop your wooded hill, most ancient and enigmatic of all the holy shrines in the valley of Kathmandu.

When one thinks of the the lotus flower, an eternal self-existent light over which the stupa was built, one thinks too of the eternal flame of Zarathusta, symbolic of the truthfulness and creative power of Ahura Mazda who opposed the evil, untruth, arrogance and death of Angra Mainyu.

Hiranyagarbha is the cosmic egg, the golden womb from which comes all life, soul or Atman of all Creation, the Lord of all that moves and stands. Hiranyagarbha is the vivifying power of Surya, the Sun deity whose symbol is the swastika in either right or left-facing form.

Swastika, wooden disc with a central hollow in which brahmines produced a flame by friction with the pramantha, a stick, symbolic of Swayambhu and pentration. Pramantha the ‘fire-drill’, the rotation that generates fire. Pramantha, which the Greeks conflated with Prometheus and man’s god-like Promethean power to intervene destructively in nature. This swastika too was the symbol of the vivifying sun to the Greeks - life-giving Apollo from whom Prometheus stole fire, who with the Muses made Parnassus the home of poetry, dance and music; in short, the seat of creativity and play.

The point is that Swayambhu is more original to the universe than any notion of abiotic or living principle. The inevitable limitations of materialism are swept away by Swayambhu the self-generating, self-evolving, self-existent, self-manifesting and self-born. It is this self-generating principle in man, the creative drive of the cave painter, the spontaneity of Dante’s child at play, that is the divine in man. It is the principle that man can create something from nothing. He can overturn the equilibria of Śūnya to create something new.

He intervened in the equilibrium of nothingness to break open the closed ring of 0. He entered the dark womb of the cave to render self-regulating stasis open to change. He breached the interminable cycle to create new life out of destruction.

‘Make it new’, for this is an assertion of your humanity. The act of giving rather than receiving, unprompted, frivolous, playful giving, is the act of a sovereign mind.


© John Dunn.


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