Who Is Lord Siva?
“Lord Siva is the Absolute Self. The third eye refers to the transcendental vision, wherein the world is negated. He is the destroyer of time, space and causation. He drinks the poison of duality and converts it in to His being. The Ganga on His matted locks refers to the stream of Divine Wisdom which enables a person to become one with Him. The cremation ground is the mystic plane wherein the world process has been burned up by the fire of wisdom. The spiritual evolutionary process reaches its climax when the soul /Jiva unites with the Absolute (Siva) by removing the veil of illusion. Goddess Uma is personification of Maya who blesses the devotee of the Lord with intuitive wisdom”
~ Swami Jyotirmayananda
What Shiva Represents:
Shiva is one of the three main aspects of the Supreme/Divine. Shiva means auspiciousness, represents the principles of dissolution which is a necessary process of creation. Everything in this universe that has a name or form is perishable. Shiva is depicted in a sitting, meditative pose with utter simplicity and austerity. His clothes, his decorations are minimal. He has a simple tiger skin as his clothes, sacred ash smeared all over his body, long hair tied together in a knot, snakes around the neck and His arms are decorated with Rudraksha. He is an embodiment of Vairagya, Tapas and Knowledge. He is always meditating on the welfare of the universe.
The crescent moon symbolizes complete control over mind and the third eye, which is usually closed, symbolizes pure knowledge which burns away all dualities when opened. Sacred ash signifies the spiritual wealth left over after the dissolution of all worldly desires. The blue neck represents His extreme compassion for the world.
Trishula shows that he is beyond three gunas (Sattva, Rajas, Tamas). Beats of damaroo represent the cosmic rhythms by which the universe maintains dynamic harmony and balance. The snake is a representation of Kundalini Shakti. Nandi signifies Dharma as well as pure Ananda(joy). Tiger skin represents slain ego and control over all lower nature.
His Many Forms:
Shiva in different forms –
Dakshinamurti, – Shiva is the universal teacher who imparts knowledge by silence
Nataraja – Represents cosmic laws of the dynamic universe continually in motion
Ardha-Nareeshwara – Represents simultaneously both male & female principles working together to manifest the universe
Linga – Shiva is depicted as formless, feature less ultimate reality, the Self who is fully absorbed in his own self
The Nirakara Form:
Is Shiva somebody? Is he a form? Is he someone sitting in some place? No, Shiva is the entire universe!
Shiva is that from where everything has come, everything is sustained in it and everything dissolves into it. That is Shiva or the Shiva Tattva. There is no way that you can ever step out of Shiva at any time because the creation is made up of Shiva. Your mind, body, everything is made from the Shiva Tattva. Shiva is the summum bonum of the whole creation. That is why Shiva is called ‘Vishwaroopa’, which means that the entire universe is his form.
Your form is your body, the form of Shiva is the whole universe, and yet he is formless – Nirakara.
There is a beautiful story related to Shiva. Once upon a time, Brahma (the Creator of the Universe) and Vishnu (the Preserver of the Universe) wanted to find Shiva and understand him completely. So Brahma said, “I will go and look for his head, and you find his feet.” So, for thousands of years, Vishnu went down and down to find Shiva’s feet but couldn’t find it. Brahma went up and up to find his head but couldn’t find that either.
The meaning here is, there is no feet and no head to Shiva. There is no beginning and no end to Shiva. Finally, they both met in the middle and agreed that they could not find Shiva. That is what the Shiva Lingam is all about.
The Shiva Lingam is simply a symbol of the Shiva Tattva. But the Shiva Tattva is the most beautiful Tattva and that is why it is very difficult to talk about it as it is beyond understanding. It can only be felt. Yet, we make a little effort to understand the mystical.
वागर्थाविव संपृक्तौ वागर्थप्रतिपत्तये।
जगतः पितरौ वन्दे पार्वतीपरमेश्वरौ॥
The Parvati Shiva Form:
The great poet Kalidasa described the divinity of oneness of Parvati-Shiva in his outstanding excellent and distinguished work “Raghu Vamsam” in a wonderful way.
Let us prostrate to Parvati -Parmeshvara who are verily the mother and father of the world and who are completely unified like a word and its meaning for granting the creative capability and dexterity to words and meanings.
Parvati-Shiva are divine soul mates because of their supreme divinity, perfect oneness, Tapasya, love, divine marriage, being exemplary pair, ideal family, being shakti and Chaitanya, mutual learning and teaching, purna advaita, auspiciousness, friendship, acceptance, mutual empowerment, yogic oneness of body, mind, intellect and spirit, being unified at unconscious, sub-conscious, conscious and super-conscious levels; for their ultimate sacrifice for the welfare of the entire universe, their mission of eliminating wickedness and protecting goodness and personifications of purity (Shivam) and beauty (Sundaram) and for being verily the super consciousness (Chit).
As such the shape of Shiva in temples is an aroopa roopi – something that doesn’t have a shape, which is the Shivalingam. The 3 eyes of Shiva represent love, justice and knowledge.
The Vision Of Shiva By Swami Tejomayananda:
Every god and goddess in Hinduism can be understood from at least four standpoints: the absolute, the cosmic the ‘departmental’, and the incarnate that appears on earth to re-establish dharma.
From the highest standpoint, Shiva is the formless absolute Reality —the nature of pure Consciousness. From the cosmic stance, Shiva represents the Lord of the Universe as Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer. From the departmental standpoint, he is worshipped as the deity in charge of the power of destruction.
In his fourth aspect, Shiva is said to have appeared in numerous incarnations as a guru avatar, an enlightened master who teaches the knowledge of the Self. Adi Shankaracharya and Dakshinamurti are considered to be his avatars.
Pairs of opposites:
Shiva’s image and attributes have deep significance. On his forehead is the crescent moon and his neck is blue with the poison he swallowed. The moon represents the nectar of life that nourishes the entire vegetable kingdom. But poison brings death.
Shiva holds both and is always in meditation. It indicates that our lives are full of pairs of opposites: life and death, joy and sorrow, honor and dishonor, and success and failure.
We should be able to bear these opposites with the calmness of mind and not let them destroy our mental equipoise.
The crescent moon is curved and tilted. Saint Tulsidas explains that even though the moon is a little crooked, we overlook it while invoking Shiva, and because the moon is in association with the Lord, it is worshipped along with Him.
It means that even though some disciples of the Guru may be crooked or imperfect, they are given respect because of their association with the guru.
The three-eyed one:
Shiva is Trilochana, the three-eyed One. The third eye is the eye of wisdom. The other two represent love and justice. When the Lord looks at and deals with the world, he is both loving and just. Justice without compassion becomes too harsh. Shiva exemplifies a good ruler who has both love and justice and also looks at the world with the vision of knowledge that destroys all ignorance and passion.
On Shivaratri, devotees chant Shiva’s name with single-minded devotion until midnight when it is said that Shiva manifests himself as the light of consciousness within. One stays awake all night in order to practice the simultaneous withdrawal of the mind from the senses, and yet keep it alert. In this state of objectless awareness comes the moment of spiritual awakening the true Shivaratri!
The Symbolism Of Lord Shiva:
Why Do Some Of Us Apply Ash:
The ash of any burnt object is not regarded as holy ash. Bhasma (the holy ash) is the ash from the homa (sacrificial fire) where special wood along with ghee and other herbs is offered as worship of the Lord. Or the deity is worshipped by pouring ash as abhisheka and is then distributed as bhasma.
Bhasma is generally applied on the forehead. Some apply it on certain parts of the body like the upper arms, chest etc. Some ascetics rub it all over the body. Many consume a pinch of it each time they receive it.
The word bhasma means, “that by which our sins are destroyed and the Lord is remembered”. Bha implied bhartsanam (“to destroy”) and sma implies smaranam (“to remember”). The application of bhasma therefore signifies destruction of the evil and remembrance of the divine. Bhasma is called vibhuti (which means “glory”) as it gives glory to one who applies it and raksha (which means a source of protection) as it protects the wearer from ill health and evil, by purifying him or her.
Homa (offering of oblations into the fire with sacred chants) signifies the offering or surrender of the ego and egocentric desires into the flame of knowledge or a noble and selfless cause. The consequent ash signifies the purity of the mind, which results from such actions.
Also the fire of knowledge burns the oblation and wood signifying ignorance and inertia respectively. The ash we apply indicates that we should burn false identification with the body and become free of the limitations of birth and death. This is not to be misconstrued as a morose reminder of death but as a powerful pointer towards the fact that time and tide wait for none.
Bhasma is specially associated with Lord Shiva who applies it all over His body. Shiva devotes apply bhasma as a tripundra (the form of “º “). When applied with a red spot at the center, the mark symbolizes Shiva-Shakti (the unity of energy and matter that creates the entire seen and unseen universe).
Bhasma has medicinal value and is used in many ayurvedic medicines. It absorbs excess moisture from the body and prevents colds and headaches. The Upanishads say that the famous Mrityunjaya mantra should be chanted whilst applying ash on the forehead.
Urvaa rukamiva bhandhanaan
Mrytyor muksheeyamaa amrutaat
“We worship the three-eyed Lord Shiva who nourishes and spread fragrance in our lives. May He free us from the shackles of sorrow, change and death effortlessly, like the fall of a rip brinjal from its stem.”
Aldous Huxley Describes the Dancing Shiva Nataraja:
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