Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Spiritual Symbolism of Nakedness

On the last weekend, a question was raised by my friend as to what is the significance of the following Puranic story. I promised to write a post.

"Anusuya, was the wife of an ancient Indian rishi (sage) named Atri, in Hindu mythology. In the Ramayana, she appears living with her husband in a small hermitage in the southern periphery of the forest of Chitrakuta. She was very pious, and always practiced austerities and devotion. This allowed her to attain miraculous powers.
The sage Narada praised Anusuya in his hymns and verses, making the wives of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva jealous. They requested their husbands go and tempt her away from her husband, breaking her pativrata (fidelity to her husband). The Divine Trinity went to Anusuya as guests when Atri was not at home, and asked her to serve them lunch in the nude. She agreed, but first splashed them each with enchanted water, turning them into small children. The three goddesses waited for their husbands to return, and when they didn’t, travelled to Anusuya’s cottage to find them transformed. The goddesses repented, and at the request of Anusuya, the three Gods agreed to be born as her sons."

In every spiritual tradition the symbolism of nakedness was associated with the highest level of detachment.
In art the Tirthankara (Jainism) is represented either standing stiffly in the pose known as kayotsarga (“dismissing the body”) or seated cross-legged on a lion throne in the posture of meditation, dhyanamudra. The images are nude. The images are often carved out of marble or other highly polished stone or are cast in metal, the cold surfaces serving to emphasize the frozen detachment from life.
Nudity is the main doctrinal difference between the Shvetambaras and Digambara traditions of Jainism, Digambara means clothed in the quarters of the sky, by renouncing all external clothing, including his loin cloth. He must completely abandon all possessions.

In the Biblical Genesis we read that only after they disobeyed God that Adam and Eve realized their nakedness. The true meaning is that in our absolute spiritual consciousness there is no room for a perception of physicality. Only when we descend to the state of alienation from the Divine did they realize their nakedness.

In the Gospel of Thomas, Christ emphasises the need for total renunciation.

His disciples said, "When will you appear to us, and when will we see you?"
Jesus said, "When you strip without being ashamed, and you take your clothes and put them under your feet like little children and trample then, then [you] will see the son of the living one and you will not be afraid." ....Saying 37

In this beautiful story the same theme is emphasized and the when the Gods ask Anusya to serve them in the nude, it is meant that she must be at the highest level of spiritual attainment to serve the Divine. Hence the Divine whose apparition is in physical form must also be transcended at elevated to a state of Childish innocence where the Ego and duality are totally absent.
The trinity can only be reincarnated in Virgin birth only by one who is also undefiled by her material manifestation. This is the final gift of Divine wisdom, represented here by the three Divine Feminine.

When Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to his disciples,  "These nursing babies are like those who enter the kingdom."
They said to him, "Then shall we enter the kingdom as babies?"
Jesus said to them, "When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter" .....Saying 22 Gospel of Thomas

In this New Year, let us aspire to move towards this state non-differentiation

Love to you all


  1. Thanks a lot, for the post.
    Several years after the story read from Amar Chitra Katha, a deeper spiritual interpretation from you!

    However, what always intrigued me about this story is the challenge to Anusuya's dignity that was posed at the outset by the Divine Trinity. But then the Divine manifests itself through one's response to threats and temptations too.

  2. Thanks for your response.
    On the point of the threat to Anusuaya's dignity posed by the Divine Trinity, it has to be understood that it is a perceived threat only when viewed from the lower consciousness domain.

    A person of the highest spiritual consciousness is always in the state of original Eden where there is no perception of nakedness.

    Love & blessings.