Mount Meru – Hell and Paradise on One Mountain
Mount Meru (or Sumeru, or Shumisen) is a huge, sacred golden mountain in the centre of our universe which supports the heavens and passes through the centre of the Earth—or at least this is what the ancient Hindu texts state. Furthermore, the supreme gods Brahma, Siva, Vishnu and the Devas (Hindu demi-gods) reside on the top of this mountain. Many temples and ancient places were model after their abode on Mount Meru, including Angkor Wat.
According to the ancient texts, the mountain is supposed to tower at a height of more than 1,000,000 km and is gold in colour—which of course is considered to be allegorical. Different levels of ‘heavens’ correspond to different heights, and different deities are said to live on the different levels. Similarly, the levels of mountain inside the Earth correspond to multiple levels of Hell. Mount Meru is guarded at the four cardinal points by four celestial Guardians who defend the world by keeping away the fallen gods (the Asuras)—similar to the fighting we see in Greek mythology with the Titans and the Olympians—and in order for humans to approach the mountain they would need to have permission from the mountain itself.
A few scholars have tried to locate the mountain as a physical mountain—probably a high one judging from the fact that the ancient Greeks believed that the highest mountain of Greece (Olympus) was where the Greek gods abide. One speculation points to Mount Pamirs in north east of Kashmir. Other scholars base the location on the reference to the mountain being located at the center of the earth and have speculated that Mt. Meru may exist at the North Pole. Japanese Buddhist traditions also mention Mount Meru and provide a map from the 16th century CE which locates the mountain somewhere in the Himalaya range of mountains.
In the Buddhist mythology, Mount Meru exists at the same time in both the physical and the spiritual plane, and the golden palace of the gods is located on top. It is surrounded by 7 rings of golden mountains, each separated from each other by sea, and the mountain itself separates 4 main continents, one of which is inhabited by the mythical kingdom of Shambhala. It is interesting to mention here that on the Mercator’s Map of the North Pole appear 4 continents separated with water and with a mountain between them—which of course doesn’t rule out the possibility that the region was mapped according to legends.
A heavily guarded mountain with multidimensional existence, connections to the stars and to the center of the earth, and the residence of the supreme gods—obviously such a mountain could not exist in reality. Could it possibly be a real mountain just high enough to trigger people’s imagination by exaggerating its height, or it can be a form of energy emanating from a place that could extend throughout the heavens in a golden colour? The hypothesis of it being located at the North Pole is certainly plausible, especially if we take into account the old maps. We also should not forget the resemblance of Mount Meru with Mount Olympus.
By John Black