Embodying Garuda: The Myth Behind Garudasana

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Once upon a time, a long time ago a golden egg, glowing like the very sun appeared on the earth.

The egg shown so brightly that it drew the attention of all of the Gods and all of the demons. From the egg emerged Garuda. Shining so brightly that no one could bear to look upon him.

He had the body of a man, but the wings and beak of a bird. His wings so large that when he opened them, the breadth of his wings blocked out the sky behind him.

His light was so great, his power so immense and tangible that the Gods and demons trembled in fear and awe.

In their fear of this being so magnificent and shining so brightly they begged Garuda to make himself smaller and less powerful. And in his humility he agreed. He restrained his strength and withdrew his power.

One day, when Garuda was grown, his mother Vinata lost a bet with her sister, who ruled the underworld, the serpent land of Patala.

Per the conditions of the bet, Vinata was taken to the underworld to live. Garuda was desperate to rescue his mother.

The serpents agreed to release Vinata but only under the condition that Garuda would acquire and bring to them a cup of Amrita, the nectar of immortality.

The keeper of Amrita was the God Indra. God of all the Gods. To retrieve the Amrita from Indra, Garuda flew to a celestial mountain to face the obstacles protecting the nectar of immortality.

The first obstacle was a massive ring of fire. Garuda, drank from the sacred river and extinguished the fire, passing through easily.

The second obstacle was a massive spinning, spiked metal ring. So Garuda made himself very small and slipped through.

Finally, Garuda came to face a venomous, two-headed serpent. Garuda began to beat his massive wings, stirring up the dust and earth until it swirled around him blinding the serpent. In their blindness he attacked and killed the evil serpent.

Before Indra could stop him, Garuda stole the amrita and flew to the underworld to rescue his mother.

When he arrived, Indra was just behind him, chasing him to retrieve his precious nectar. Indra and Garuda engaged in a viscous battle and in the midst of the battle, a few drops of the nectar of immortality fell to the ground in front of the serpents.

In their greed the serpents rushed to lick up the few precious drops. The nectar was so powerful that it bifurcated their tongues. And this is why the serpents tongue is split.

In the midst of all of this chaos, Lord Vishnu was watching. He saw Garuda's humility, his selflessness, and his strength and wit. He was so pleased that he made Garuda the Lord of all the birds and in exchange Garuda became Vishnu's Vahana, his mount and stayed with him always.

Like Garuda, we are larger than life. Spiritual beings encased in this mortal form. Like Garuda we are presented with opportunities to restrain our strength, an act of true humility, allowing those around us to shine. Like Garuda there are times we are called to fight against all odds for the things we believe. Like Garuda we are vast in our spiritual potential. But when we awaken to our habits and our conditioning, when we awaken to our potential, we are led towards highest possibility.

May we stay humble, may we know who we are, may we live to our fullest capacity and potential.

Anwar Gilbert