St George and the Dragon

Swami Savitananda Saraswati (Netherlands)

According to Swami Niranjan, we all have our addictions. My husband, Suryamitra, and I have an addiction which we are not ashamed of. While eating lunch we like to switch on the television to watch the one o'clock news and then an information channel called National Geographic. A few months ago we watched a program about the circus, in which dancing horses were doing exactly what their trainer told them to. It must be quite easy to train a horse, I thought. In the next act a trainer and his huge elephants gave a fantastic performance, but tigers presented more problems for their trainer. These displays led me to wonder about the training of human beings.

Next came a crocodile handler who explained, "You cannot train or discipline a crocodile. When the crocodile is in the water he will kill you immediately, but when he is lying on the sand or on a rock, I can blind him by covering his eyes and try to sit on him. I must be very careful of the legs, which, despite being small, have claws. I must also be very aware of the powerful tail." He demonstrated this by covering the crocodile's eyes and quietening it, then sitting on its back while pushing its feet down with his legs.

This was followed by a movie about the dangerous Australian salt water crocodiles. In Indonesia there is also a crocodile called a dragon, reputed to be the most dangerous in the world. It can spit in your eyes and blind you. Now I could see the connection with training human beings.

In swadhisthana chakra a crocodile is depicted, symbolizing the hidden, underground movement of the karmas. In Europe a thousand years ago, it would have been portrayed as a dragon, rather than as a crocodile.Swadhisthana means 'one's own abode'. We all have this crocodile in our personality, our psyche, and our aim in life is to master it by overcoming our lower nature. The yogic literature says that you have to 'sit' on the crocodile, to learn to ride it. Riding a horse or an elephant is not difficult, but to ride on a crocodile you must become a hero.

There are many myths about gods and saints who fought the dragon within themselves. The most famous of these is St George who has many towns and villages named after him throughout Europe. He is said to have conquered the dragon on a hill in Southern England. The dragon's blood was so poisonous that even today nothing grows there. According to the myths, St George was riding a white horse and blinded the monster by thrusting his lance into its eye. St George is a heroic symbol of the human struggle against the lower nature.

St Michael is another famous saint who is depicted as an angel. Christian symbology reveals that the archangel St Michael descended from heaven and killed the dragon. Every year the Anthroposophic Society celebrates his feast in September. This dragon or crocodile represents the lower nature which we all have to overcome.

According to yoga, we cannot 'kill' our lower nature. Therefore, yoga aims to raise the level of consciousness and to become the observer of the lower nature. Our lower nature is symbolized by the talas, which are inferior chakras below mooladhara chakra. These are the chakras of the instinctive mind, of our lower nature. It is our mission to transform them.

In one of the Vedas it is written that it is very difficult to obtain a human life. Only that soul, that atma, which stands with one foot in the higher nature (the chakras) and the other in the lower nature (the talas) receives a human life. In the Prashnopanishad (chapter 3, mantra 7), it is said:

Now, by one of the nadis udana flows upwards. By performing virtuous deeds, men are carried to virtuous worlds. By sinful acts men are carried to sinful worlds. By combining both kinds of karmas (virtuous and sinful acts) verily men are carried to the human dimension.

Most teachers do not speak much about these lower levels. Although we are standing with one foot in the chakras, we can still be dragged down to the talas, which may cause us to lose our human nature. The crocodile in swadhisthana chakra is dangerous because once he gets us in his teeth or claws, he will not let go. For example, we smoke, use alcohol or drugs, gamble or play the lottery and once we have a taste for it, we are mesmerized. This crocodile can drag us down into the mud and we fall deeper and deeper into the talas.

Yoga talks about the pranas which flow through the chakras and talas. From mooladhara, the energy flows upwards in a clockwise direction towards sahasrara chakra at the top of the head. However, when the energy goes below mooladhara chakra, it flows anti-clockwise. The aim of yoga is to have all the energies moving in a clockwise direction, enabling the lower energies to be integrated with and mastered by the higher energies.

The first tala, atala, situated in the hips, is said to work together with swadhisthana and mooladhara chakras. Somebody who has one foot in mooladhara and swadhisthana will have the other foot in atala. We can also have one foot in the chakras and the other in the talas. Yoga can help us all to raise our energy and become better human beings, even murderers who kill only for the sake of killing. The feeling of having done wrong has to arise. The will must be educated and transformed in order to change one's life. The masters say that yoga can help them to slowly climb up the ladder and become better human beings. This has been demonstrated in India and in Europe, where yoga has been taught successfully in prisons.

Swami Niranjan has said that we have to balance our lives by transforming our negativity into positivity. This is especially difficult when children reach puberty. Before puberty children are usually nice and friendly, as if the crocodile or dragon in swadhisthana chakra is sleeping. Yet with the arrival of sexual maturity, this crocodile seems to wake up and start to move its tail. It begins to turn in the water and its screw like movement can drag children down. This is symbolic of what happens in a child's life when the personality is unbalanced. This great change can happen to anybody. One day the child says, "Yes mum, I will do what you say," and the next he/she is totally the opposite. Parents say, "We never had any problems with this child before and now he/she won't listen." The depiction of the crocodile in swadhisthana chakra is a symbolic expression of what is being experienced.

Children need to be balanced during these times of change. Swami Niranjan advocates teaching yoga in primary school. In my experience children aged six and seven enjoy yoga, but have no time to come to class because their parents send them to music, football or tennis classes instead. This has led me to think that maybe we need to introduce yoga earlier. In our centre we have yoga classes for pregnant women and after the baby is born we encourage close contact between mother and child through massage. Our next step may be to introduce yoga to very small children in order to raise the energy and make it stable before they reach the age of sexual maturity.

The chakras are also symbolized by gods and goddesses. Vishnu resides in swadhisthana chakra and his energy preserves the human race. He is very creative and enjoys music and art. Therefore, to help balance swadhisthana chakra and gain control over the dragon or crocodile, creative expression in the form of music and art can be very helpful. Another divine being in swadhisthana chakra is the goddess Rakini, who is depicted as a woman with two heads. This symbolizes that when movement of energy in swadhisthana chakra is very strong, a woman can be a saint or a witch. Rakini also has protruding teeth, meaning that too many uncontrolled fantasies may lead to hysteria and loss of mental health.

When Vishnu and Rakini are together, it can be a very difficult time for young girls. Rakini can become totally hysterical when she is listening to Vishnu making music. When young men stand on the stage, singing, "Oh babe, I love you so," some young girls think it is true and may even faint. Until children's personalities become strong and stable, we have a responsibility to protect them.

According to Greek mythology, the Athenians shipped their young girls and boys to Crete. There they were sent into the labyrinth to meet the Minotaurus, a kind of dragon or crocodile in the form of a bull, who killed them. This labyrinth symbolizes an initiation road. Fortunately, Theseus went to Crete and saved the children by killing the Minotaurus, after which Greece no longer had to send its young people to Crete.

This myth can be compared to the situation today where parents allow their twelve or thirteen year olds to visit discotheques and clubs, or in Holland, the cafes where drugs are sold and where they can drink beer or buy 'ecstasy' pills. This is similar to what the Athenians did in the past, just allowing their children to literally 'go to hell'. We should strive to be like Theseus and protect our children, which is the best gift we can give them for the future.

Seventy percent of children we do not have to worry about as their development will be relatively balanced. Ten percent face very great difficulties and are frequently dragged down by the lower energies, which may result in their using drugs and alcohol at a very young age. However, we have to protect the twenty percent in-between who can go either way. Parents have a great responsibility to know how to guide their children. It is very important to teach children the right moment to say yes and no. This is the essence of true education.

From the ages of one to seven, it is said that the parents carry one hundred percent of the child's karma and are, therefore, fully responsible for the well-being of the child on all levels. From the ages of seven to twelve, the child slowly takes up a little responsibility for his own karma. Between the ages of twelve to eighteen, the parents still carry fifty percent of the responsibility, which they have to fulfil. From eighteen to twenty-one, the child takes up his own karma completely. Therefore, the guidance and teachings children receive during these times of great change is fundamental in ensuring balanced development.

The higher chakras symbolize the higher nature and innate potential within us all. We all have to strive to become heroes, to rise up from our lower nature and become the controller of the dragon. If we can establish ourselves in our higher nature, we can become vehicles of light, not only for the people around us but for the whole world. Yoga can help everybody to become master of the dragon that dwells within.