Sunday, January 06, 2013

Nak kings of the White Lotus Sutra

There are at least 8 Nak kingdoms within the Lao tradition, and one of the most prominent cities is known as Badan, which figures prominently in the legend of Phadaeng Nang Ai. The Ngaosrivathanas also have an account that lists many of the Nak connected to the cities of Laos in their exceptional work, "The Enduring Sacred Landscape of the Naga."

There were eight prominent Nak kings identified in the White Lotus Sutra. This may be an interesting point to start examining who else the Lao integrated into their tales as Nak kings, although typically, most Lao do not know or refer to them by name, with a few exceptions. The following names are romanized according to the Sanskrit spelling, rather than the Lao. (That research is forthcoming.)

The kings Nanda and Upananda are often spoken of in conjunction, said to be brothers responsible for the rain, bringing joy and good fortune.

King Sagara resides in the depths of the oceans, and his realm also encompasses the atmosphere. He is said to personify wisdom and the greatness of emptiness.

King Vasuki holds sway over the bodies of water that are not oceans. Lakes, streams, rivers, and similar spaces. He has many heads, and is said to be connected to the power of manifesting in many different incarnations and forms, and the limitless variations of observing the dharma.

King Taksaka, the Many-Tongued, embodies eloquence and the words that can divide but also bring people together. He is also believed to be poisonous, when required.

King Anavatapta, is the Nak King of the Great Cool Lake, whose waters could cool the searing flames of the Nak, but also the flames of emotional distress and suffering from being subject to the mortal realms. The lake of Anavatapta is said to be in the Himalayas.

King Manasvin, is a powerful entity, who is said to be coiled up and prepared to be unleashed when needed. His realm is said to represent the immense power of water to bring amazing benefits.

Finally, King Utpalaka, resides in the dark swamps, where the lotus blossoms grow. The muddy waters are reputed to symbolize the source of mortal life and death, while the lotus symbolizes enlightenment.

The interesting point to consider, however, is who are or were the Nak queens? The eight-year old daughter of Sagara holds a prominent place as a Nakanya who spoke at the assembly at Vulture Peak regarding the ability of women to attain nirvana.

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