He is the one who existed even before the world began.
He is the one who has been prayed to even when He was unseen.
And Ever since the very first time He chose to make His presence known ,
Lord Shiva is loved by Millions of people all over the world.
In the Pantheon of Hindu Gods, Shiva is named as one of the three main Deities, along with Brahma and Vishnu. He stands out clearly as the most enigmatic . He is full of paradox, and no one attribute can describe his personality. He is the perfection of opposites, he can be ascetic, meditative, powerful, intoxicant, angry, destroyer, but he is also the perfect husband, householder, dancer, spiritual guru, boon giver and the ultimate creator known by the Shivalinga. Known as Mahadeva, The god, of gods, he is intensely human, which make His episodes and adventures easy to relate with , creating an important bridge between God and Man.
He is never alone , always by his side is his wife, Parvati, who is actually Shakti, The great goddess Durga, playing out Her role as Mother of all Nature. As our original Divine parents, they have always been present to care for the whole world. He is a mountain Chieftain and She His wonderful eternal Half. Along with two divine children Kartikeya and Ganesh, they form the holy family. There are also the faithful merry men and creatures led by Shiva’s Bull, Nandi and Durga’s unnamed Lion, adding to the wealth of adventure.
Shiva is powerful enough to bestow kingship upon others, and often times is Proptiated by Kings, but does not wear a crown nor Claims any Kingdom for Himself. Mt. Kailash where he is said to live along with his fellow men and creatures is less of a kingdom and more of a community. Indeed He is the fulfillment of Opposites. He is the Master of divinity but exhibits the most human qualities, which makes him endearingly beloved to Millions. . His Ultimate paradox is that he is known as the Destroyer, but worshipped in His symbol of the Shivlinga, which proclaims Him the Ultimate creator.
He is Yogeshwar – the god of the Yogis – those who are controlled and celibate souls – as well as Shaktiman -beholder, lover and husband of Shakti – his spouse. In the Triad, Lord Shiva is considered to be ultimate destroyer of the world, whilst Brahma is considered – the creator – and Vishnu – the preserver. But it is better to understand His role as that of a “RE –ABSORBER” He signals the end of a world cycle .Because of this ending of a world cycle, he becomes responsible for allowing in change;for all beings and things with a beginning are destined for an end.
Shiva is often depicted with a Third eye on His forehead, and mythology attributes a blaze from this eye as the destruction of the world. But spirituality understands this symbolism in an altogether different way : Through the opening of the third eye, a cosmic dimension is perceived, where all is merged in the Universal spirit, and therefore the only destruction is that of separateness of duality. Ultimately there is only one consciousness from where all beings come,and where they all must necessarily rest. Such A state of being, is not destruction, but a homecoming, a salvation. So, too , the power of destruction associated with Lord Shiva is perceived by his followers to be a great power of purification; transforming the personal level to a harmoniously beautiful Universal one.
Through Shiva the art of meditation takes its most absolute form. In meditation, the mind is gradually rid of its wavering thoughts , dropping all ego based deception. This is Dhyana. In the deepest Dhyana (meditation) even the object of the mediation is transformed into its formless essence, which is the essence of everything and everyone. This state is Samadhi, an abiding in our pristine essence.
Yet another form of Shiva is Nataraj. Shiva’s Nataraja form represents both destruction and the creation of the universe and reveals the cycles of death, birth and rebirth. His dance of bliss is for the welfare of the world. In the pose of Nataraj, the King of dance is giving audience to his beloved devotees within the Hall of Consciousness, which is the heart of man. Below his feet Shiva crushes the demon of ignorance called Apasmara Purusha or jiva. Jiva is ignorant about his own divine nature, caused by a primal forgetfulness. While one of his hand is stretched across his chest and points towards the uplifted foot, indicating devotion as the release from earthly bondage of the devotee, In the other he is holding a flame. The fire represents the final destruction of matter., but the dance of Nataraj is also an act of creation, which rouses dormant energies and scatters the ashes of the universe in a pattern that will be the design of the ensuing creation.
The Mahamrityunjaya form of Lord Shiva is the greatest conqueror of death. The Mahamrityunjaya mantra is one of the two main mantras of the Vedas, next to Gayatri mantra. It is chanted to remove threats of death and disease. This form of Shiva also is the being of pure joy, referring to unconditioned enjoyment of the perfectly peaceful mind. That is the true nature of the divine elixir that this Shiva offers his devotees in no less than four hands.
Another main form of Shiva is Ardhanarishwara –, the androgynous representation, of Shiva and Parvati, is an extremely beautiful Shaivic symbollism. It denotes the perfect balance of Prakasa (illumination) and vimarasa (reflection of that illumination on itself, therefore its power, to do). This is yin and yang, being and becoming, in physics, potential and kinetic energy.One can understand Ardhanareshwara to be God in perfect repose of Himself, from the time before even creation of the world, and therefore the perfect Parent of all things.
Lord Shiva is conceived in his unborn, invisible form as the Shiva Lingam. The Shivlinga, a most esoteric symbol, conveys different understandings at different levels. It is worshiped equally popularly as the Image of Shiva Himself ,and in abundance, with some variance, the world over.
The paramount understanding being that the transcendent godhood , unfathomable in its Pristine realm of infinity ,is however, knowable in the finite world it creates and pervades. The Linga, (upper columnic portion) is transcendence,The lower receptacle is Yoni, cosmic womb. Altogether the Shivlinga means to convey that the transcendent pervades the manifest world as immanence. This also gives us some insight into “why does god create the world?”Finitude, serves by contrast, the purpose of the infinite light to focus, on itself.
Thus the shivlinga is a symbol of god’s creativity,immanence ,as also His transcendence.It also represents the perfect balance of Yin and Yang, potential and kinetic, male and female energy, and so, shiva and shakti itself. Because its ‘made’ form ,devoid of any complicated sculpting, represents God in a simple, straightforward way, the shivlinga is a favourite symbol.
Shiva is full of Adventure.When Ganga incarnated on earth, Lord Shiva captured her in his hair to avoid her Torrential downpour from devastating the Earth! Spiritually, again, the significance is that Ganga, which emanated from the heaven’s of Vishnu, was brimming with spiritual knowledge which alone leads to salvation. But this spiritual knowledge was too strong for an ordinary human being to receive, so Shivji acts as an”adapter” who, first recives the Gyan, and the trickles it for the others in smaller, digestible quantities.Shiva’s Devotees are the shaiites who come in aried guises, which are mostly ascetic and embark on the inward meditative journey. But they are also the most ‘Life affirmative’ of all sects and consider all of life as sacred, having come from their Divine parents Shiva and Parvati.
This article is contributed to Vimanikopedia by Shailendra Gulhati.