Who Is Shiva? Is He for Real?
Who Is Shiva? Is He for Real?
“Shiva is worthless. He is encircled with dirty snakes and chest smeared with funerary ashes. He has nothing to wear. With matted hair locks, he wanders around on an old bull and prefers to reside in the funeral grounds. He does not know his parents,” this was what Shiva (in the disguise of an old Brahmin) told about himself when he had come to meet his fiancée Parvati.
Shiva is called “Thaskaranam Pathi” (the leader of robbers). Shiv says in Yajurveda-Taitreeya Samhita that he is ‘Stenanam Pathi’ (leader of the thieves).
Shiva is known as Bhikshatana-murti (Beggar). He wandered around the world as a naked beggar with the skull as his begging bowl.
Shiva is an uncouth tribal (Kirata), body black in color, shoulders holding bows and arrows, hair falling on the forehead, wearing the skin of tiger with terrible looks.
“You’re right Uday, many other religious sects in the West refer to Shiva as anti-Christ, devil, Luciphor, and Satan, who is the “dark one” with negative power of destruction.
Despite all this, why was a statue dedicated to Shiva in the dancing form (Nataraja) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) Large Hadron Collider (LHC)?
Remember – the LHC is the largest machine in the world. It took 1000s of scientists, engineers, and technicians decades to plan and build it. It is the highest seat of scientific knowledge.
None of those intelligent quantum scientists are stupid enough to install the statue of “dark-one” devil there. Has Shiva’s dance (Ananda Tandava) anything to do with The Big Bang Theory and the Mass Energy Relationship? The inscription in the statue reads “O Omnipresent, the embodiment of all virtues, the creator of this cosmic universe, the king of dancers, who dances the Ananda Tandava in the twilight, I salute thee…”
Just who is this Shiva? Why millions of people consider Shiva as the Lord of the Universe. Is he for real?
Years ago, I asked this question to a famous Swami. He started interpreting Shiva’s symbolisms, like: “Uday, the Ganga from Shiva’s head symbolizes the flow of intelligence, wisdom.”
I told him: “Sir, what kind of logic is that? I can also say my car tyre shape represents “Kalachakra” (cycles of time) or cosmic wheel, so you should worship my car.”
Most of those interpreters do only one-way talk on radio, television, or in the Dias. They tell: “This represents that” or “that symbolizes this” similar to a comparison that “Samosa symbolizes universe”. Their business model is to play with our minds and make us blind to beliefs and superstitions.
I follow Sanatan Dharma which has NO room for any idiotic or superstitious beliefs. My ancestors have a rational, logical, and scientific explanation for everything in records that might have been lost during brutal invasions, aggressive conversion trade, and foreign rules. Let’s travel through our ancestor’s path…
I had checked Bhagavatham (essentially it is about Vishnu!) written by ancient Indian sages. Yes, it says about Shiva: “He has three eyes – the Moon, the Sun and the fire. His navel is the sky. His breath is air. His stomach is the ocean. Mountains are his bones. Trees and vines are his body hairs. His heart is dharma. The sound coming from his mouth is “Namah Shivaya”.
– This is not an imagination, visualization, or hallucination of any sages. They see it (I will explain this). Remember, if those sages could see the sun, moon, and other galaxies and could calculate the distance between the Sun and the earth or measure the circumference of the earth with astonishing precision (which proved recently with satellites and computers), we don’t have to distrust their vision. The same Bhagavatham (written 5000 years ago) has Bhuvana Kosa: Bhoogola Varnana (description of spherical-shaped earth), whereas till recently the West and the Middle East believed that earth is flat and the center of the universe.
– This “seeing” is a lost art. Our mind (brain) is deeply conditioned or programmed by education and media-market with a vested interest. Alternatively, religion also conditions us. The moment you hear the word Shiva, you are conditioned to think the way your brain grasped it from the images in calendars, comic books, film, and television serials. Hence we are unable to see what ancients have seen. We can see like them for which we have to cross-over this conditioning through deep meditation. (See my article on Meditation)
Now, to know Shiva, first, we should know the meaning of “Namah Shivaya”
There are two powerful mantras in (I think) Shukla Yajur Veda: (1) Mantra matha (mother of all mantras) – Savitri (popularly known as Gayatri) and (2) Panchakshari (Holy Five Syllables) ‘Namah Shivaya’. These two mantras appeared to sages on the banks of river Saraswati 7000 years ago, when the rest of the world was making grunting sounds for language and crawling in all fours in caves.
Contrary to popular misconception, the Vaidiki mantras were not written – it is seen. While in dhyana (deep meditation) sages would get to see (darshan) the mantra with their external or internal eyes. As the seer (dhrishtav) experience the mantra, he/she would recite it. Later, somebody may write it down. (The authentic, genuine mantras are only Vaidik mantras. Other mantras are written, not seen.)
The meaning of ‘Namah Shivaya’ is simple: NamaH = not mine; Shiv = the auspicious, and Aya = belongs to. But ‘Shiva’ has a literal meaning too, “that which is not.” So whichever way you take, the mantra is negating the ego (ahankara) and realizing everything (including me) belongs to Shiva (which actually is Brahmam).
Every mantra has a Devata (appearance), Rishi (who saw it), and Chandas (Vedic meter) – For “Namah Shivaya”, they are Sadashiva devatha, Vamadeva rishi, and Pankthi Chanda respectively. So, Vamadeva had seen Shiva.
Tantric scriptures say: His head is Himalaya. Kedaram-forehead. Varanasi is Brumadhya (the point halfway between the two eyebrows). He is lying down – extending his hands. (Remember, ancient India was spread from Iran to Indonesia, before invasions). His chest is from Kurukshetra up to Prayag. Chidambaram is the center of the heart.
“In the heart of Shiva is Chidambaram (Thillai in Tamil) Nataraja is present in his cosmic-dancing form. Chid = consciousness, ambaram=sky. The sky of consciousness as seen by the sages!”
(Yet, some other sages saw Shiv’s head as Himalaya; hence they could see the moon and the great Ganges flowing from those mountains! Just try to visualize this simple and beautiful natural wonder!). Sages saw Shiva as the universe itself and they found it is universal consciousness or pulsating energy.
The latest studies say that the universe can endlessly expand and contract in a cosmological cyclic model. During expansion, dark energy (remember the ‘dark one’?) – The unknown force causing the universe to expand at an accelerating rate – pushes and pushes until all matter fragments into patches so far apart that nothing can bridge the gaps. Simultaneously it is contracting – everything into black holes or the ‘dark one’… This cyclic process happens an infinite number of times, thus eliminating any start or end of time. The big bang theory is the prelude to the big crunch as the universe is caught in an infinite cycle of expansion and contraction.
Atharva Veda calls the process ‘pracharana’ (expand) and ‘sangkochana’ (contract). When the universe expands creation (of stars, galaxies, and content inside) happens. When it contracts, trillions of celestial bodies are destructed. This cyclical, rhythmical process can happen simultaneously in an infinite number of parallel dimensions too.
As a physics graduate, my understanding of Albert Einstein’s theory is that what we have called matter is energy. There is no matter, but only energy. Philosophically saying, it means, in non-existence there is existence. (Remember? Shiva = “That which is not.”). The Atharva Veda explained the relation between space, time, and ‘sthiti’ (ether) in pre-historic time (Sloka: 17.1.19). Modern physics also supports the integration of ether, time, and space and calls it space-time-continuum.
Applying this matter-energy theory here, the creation (expansion) or destruction (contraction), the process is just the energy changing its form. You know energy can be neither created nor be destroyed, but it transforms from one form to another.
This is a rhythmic continuous process of the cosmic energy that appears like a dance (This is my humble understanding). Our ancestors termed it “tandava” (cosmic dance). ‘Rudra Tandava’ or the dance of destruction. ‘Aananda Tandavam’ or dance of bliss is associated with the creation of the world, after its total destruction.
In short, the dance of Shiva is nothing but the dance of the cosmos or energy transformation that happens rhythmically. It’s the ceaseless flow of energy going through an infinite variety of patterns that melt into one another.
This is the fundamental nature of everything. The same process (expand and contract) happens even inside sub-atomic particles. Ancients called this indivisible matter anu (atom) and Parmanu (a subatomic particle). ‘Vaisheshik Darshan’ by Sage Kanad explains the atom and the nature of the universe. He saw the energy in the universe is also working inside the atom. Modern physics is now moving towards it. So the existence (which appears non-existing) of Shiva can be seen from inside of atom (anu) to the entire cosmos.
For those who do not understand Vedic science, the ancients have given another simple option. They have built temples that resonate with the state of meditations that will make you realise and experience the cosmic dance of Shiva.
We have five Shiv temples representing each chakra (meditation steps) as well as Panchabhuta (five basic elements in nature): (1) Jambukeshwarar Temple, Thiruvanaikaval (Manipurakam, Jalam or Water), (2)Arunachaleswara Temple, Thiruvannamalai (Swadisthananam, Agni or Fire), (3) Thillai Natarajar Temple, Chidambaram (anahratham, Akasam or Sky), (4) Vayu Lingam, Kalahasti temple (Visudhi, Vayu or Wind) and (5) Varanasi (Ajna , Earth’s center) = It is known as Manomayi stahnam where you can see Sadasivan (Remember, the devatha ?). Some people say the fifth one is Ekambareswarar Temple (Thiruvarur) Kanchipuram.
All these temples are places where Shiva supposedly performed the cosmic dance – at least those great sages saw it either with their inner eyes or external eyes. (There should be other geographical combinations of Panchabhuta Shiva temples in your locality too.)
Now, you may co-relate the Panchabhuta and the power of Shiva in each of them in both forms – silent and violent. Each element has the thandava dance in it – ananda and rudra. For instance, when you take water in the glass, it quenches your thirst, calm, quiet, and silent. The same water takes destructive form – as Tsunami. The air that soothes you from the air-conditioner can become a destructive force in the form of Tornado…and so on. The atom is cool but it can become an atom bomb. This concept they explained in the form of Shiva’s dance – silent and violent dances. Amazingly, everything is connected.
You can’t go to those temples? No issues. Ancients have portrayed Shiva in a classical way for you to worship at home as image if you want to. Shiva is shown in the sitting meditating pose, sitting on a deer’s skin with white Himalaya in the background of blue akash. “Shiva is also depicted in the form as smeared with the ashes of the graveyard, having a snake on the neck, Ganga coming out of his hairs, having three eyes, blue neck, trishul (Trident) on one hand, and damru (a small two-headed drum) on his other hand.”
And for an ordinary, average family man like me, ancient seers have drawn described Shiva’s family – as a role model. Shiva’s vahana (vehicle) =bull. Wife Parvati’s = tiger. The tiger is waiting to pounce on the bull. Shiva’s elder son Ganapathi = rat. The snake around Shiva’s neck is waiting to eat the rat. Shiva’s other son, Shanmukha (Muruga) = peacock. It’s waiting to snatch the snake. It’s a violent and stressful situation in Shiva’s abode in Kailas. Present and clear danger, similar to our stressful life.
But everything is well-balanced. This family communicates to us a simple, yet great, principle – there are huge problems in everybody’s life, which may appear life-threatening, but keep your calm.
Further, our ancients have also given a direct idol to worship – Shiva linga. Nobody needs an interpretation for symbolism or explanation there. It just means the tool of creation.
A friend once told me: “Uday, do you know, Shiva linga is actually an atomic reactor.” I replied: “Please don’t reveal this secret to the scientific community. They might the credit of our idly and vada too as a symbol of the solar system.”
Why do you want such funny interpretations and symbols when you have the truth in front of you? Find a satellite picture of Mount Kailas – it is a Shiva Lingam! How did our ancestors (without having satellite technology) “see” mount Kailas as Shiva’s abode and it looks like Shiva linga?
Even Ravana, the Asura king, could see Shiva in his deep meditation. Excited (sambhrama) Ravana had written Shiva Tandava Stotram describing what he saw- Shiva’s power and beauty. A person who “sees” Shiva will know that he is the Truth that is divine and beautiful. (Satyam-Shivam-Sundram).
Shiva is present everywhere as matter or energy – whichever way you want to see. Everything is his manifestation only – this is what our ancient sages wanted to tell us. You can see Shiva in whichever form you want – from a dirty dark beggar to a handsome Youngman or as the cosmos itself. Energy channels can open up to you in any form.
For, Shiv is pure blissful consciousness. Anyone who meditates will become aware that “I am Shiva”(Shivoham). Shiva is the pure unbounded all-pervading consciousness (the transcendental self, the Absolute). That’s what Adi Shankaracharya tells in Nirvana Shatakam (it’s a small poem, please try to read it):” Neither am I the mind nor intelligence or ego. Neither am I the organs of hearing (ears) nor that of tasting (tongue), smelling (nose), or seeing (eyes). Neither am I the sky, nor the earth. Neither am I the fire nor the air. I am the ever pure blissful Consciousness; I am Shiva, the ever pure blissful consciousness.”
When we spend our entire life just for dying one day, why can’t we spend a bit of our time to see this bliss of Ananda Thandavam? If we cannot see the presence of cosmic dance in each and everything in this universe, then, why do we need eyes?
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