The Peace of Shiva the Meditator
More About Shiva
Deity and Kirtan, Part 3
Table of Contents.
12. Shiva in Hinduism.
13. Shiva As Presented by a Westerner.
14. Dharma Talk on Shiva
12. Shiva in Hinduism.
How is Shiva presented in the Hindu religion?
Because of the personification of Deity in Hinduism, you can find Purana stories about Shiva. In this religious storey telling, Shiva is a person usually in human form but with special magical powers, who interacts with other people, also in human form, and magical things happen. In these stories, Shiva is usually a worshipped God.
Some online discussions will refute this personification, and say Shiva is -
- Shiva is all encompassing - the universal soul or consciousness. Realizing this Shiva Tattva leads to Ananda (bliss).
- Shiva is a principle (Tattva) from where everything has come, everything is sustained in it, and everything dissolves into it. Shiva is the space, it is the consciousness.
- There is no way that you can even step out of Shiva at anytime because Shiva is the summum bonum of the whole creation.
- Shiva is eternal and has no beginning nor end. He has no body!
- Shiva is only known thru deep meditation.
Other online discussions about Shiva are broader. This is Shiva the Mahadeva, the Supreme God, with all the Qualities of God, including these Qualities of brahman. These Shiva devotees say Shiva is –
- is the Source of all knowledge and wisdom, and the God of love, compassion and infinite grace, who
- rescues his devotees from harm, destroying all their bondage and sorrow, is their refuge,
- is the ultimate goal,
- is the Creator and regenerator, and supreme ruler, and beyond death,
- has mastery over desires and complete control over the mind,
- destroys imperfections like evil, ignorance, and death.
- protects souls until they are ready to be reincarnated by Brahma,
- is the Lord of the soul and of nature, and synonymous with Life,
- personifies beauty, serenity, spirituality, stability, purity
- has the third eye of spiritual wisdom
- enjoys simplicity in living, and family life as a father
- is Lord of the dance, displaying harmony, rhythm, dynamic motion, and releasing tension, guided action
- readily reveals knowledge, and practising Right Conduct
13. Shiva As Presented by a Westerner.
I would also like to present material by Elizabeth Clare Prophet. She was a charismatic Western Christian evangelist who, unlike the others, incorporated themes from other religions into her preaching. Especially from Hinduism. Her Church is called Summit Lighthouse.
Her interpretation is a special one, for it fits in easily with Western ideas about God.
In Hindu lore, Shiva appears in many guises. In his most celebrated form, Shiva is Nataraj, the graceful King of Dances. On a cosmic level, his dance represents the dynamic, rhythmically moving universe. He is energy in flux, creating and preserving life and then destroying the illusory world of maya at the end of each stage. “When the Creator dances,” says one Hindu text, “the worlds he creates also dance.”
Shiva dances in the Chidambaram, which represents both the center of the heart and the universe. He dances in the hearts of his devotees to wake them from sleepy forgetfulness of their divine nature - and to liberate to become one with God. Shiva also dances in cemeteries and on cremation grounds. These too are symbols of the heart, where he spontaneously enters to burn away illusion, sin, evil, and every obstacle that prevents the devotee from sharing his bliss.
The dancer is but one of Shiva’s many forms. The Hindu scripture Shiva-Purana lists 1008 names for this versatile God. Shiva is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning “auspicious,” “kind” or “friendly.” So Shiva is Auspicious. He is also called Mahadeva and Parameshwara meaning the “Great Lord,” Shambu meaning “benevolent” or “causing happiness,” and Shankara, meaning “giver of joy,” or “bestower of good.”
As Pashupati, literally “lord of cattle”, he is the shepherd of souls. Shiva also appears as the god of music and letters and the lord of songs. As the lord of medicine, he bestows longevity. As the Supreme Guru or teacher, he teaches Yoga, knowledge, and all arts and science.
In his tranquil form, Shiva is the Maha Yogi, or Great Yogi. He is the quintessential ascetic who all holy men and women seek to emulate. Hindu art often depicts him seated deep in meditation, his long hair matted like a yogi’s and his body smeared with ashes. His snow white face, benign and placid, symbolises the ascetic ideal of desirelessness, serenity and bliss.
Shiva also has a destructive, fierce aspect. He is called the Bhairava, the “Terrible,” Hara “the Destroyer”, and Rudra “the Remover of pain.” In the Upanishads, he is “the Great Fear, the upraised thunderbolt whose anger in war even the gods fear.” The Vedas identify him with fire and storms and call him “the god that kills.”
Shiva is worshipped in the tradition of bhakti yoga; the path of union with God thru love. This practice involves singing or chanting mantra (ie Kirtan) and gazing upon devotional images of God. The devotees choose a specific Deity or incarnation of God to whom they give all their devotion. They love this aspect of God more than anything or anyone else. The Deity represents the Atma; the indwelling God or soul. This is the imperishable, undying core of humanity.
As the disciples adore their chosen ideal, they not only unfold their own latent divinity, but they also gain shivatva; the nature of Shiva.
As the soul cultivates supreme love for Shiva, Shiva comes as Guru to save the soul, to awaken the soul to her inner reality and purge her of all lesser loves. By continually contemplating Shiva’s name and image, by forsaking all that is not Shiva - ie the distractions of the mind and the temporary delights of the senses - the soul becomes solely of Divine will. She is animated and moved by Shiva’s cosmic dance, until she and Shiva are eventually one. “No one knows where Shiva resides,” says the Tirumular, the saint and yogi who wrote more than three thousand hymns to Shiva. “To those who seek him he resides eternally within. When you see the Lord, he and you become One.”
The mystical communion between the soul and her beloved is beautifully represented in the legend of Nandi, the white bull. Hindu tradition says that Nandi was a devotee of Shiva who assumed the form of a bull because his former human body was not strong enough to express his devotional ecstasy. Nandi is often depicted bearing Shiva on his broad back. Nandi literally means “joyful.” This symbolises the soul’s joy in God.
I would like to thank Elizabeth for her valuable contribution. She left this life in 2009.
14. Dharma Talk on Shiva (delivered in Sep 2017 in Bundaberg).
I’d like to talk about Shiva again, for Shiva appears quite often in our Kirtans, and in 4 of our 6 songs today. Of all the senior Hindu deities, Shiva appears most often in our Kirtans. Shiva is so significant for our spiritual practice.
This time I will talk about this devotional image of Shiva, and what it can signify for our spiritual practice. (This image, bought in Nature’s Emporium, is our usual shrine image for our meetings in Bundaberg.)
In Hinduism, Shiva is a usually a worshipped God. But the meaning of Shiva does not need to be limited to just one thing, like an external spirit being that we are supposed to worship. For Shiva can also be understood in terms of the healing and release of pain, the transcendence from suffering to Liberation, and taking personal responsibility for this change.
So Shiva can be the power or ability we have as humans to free ourselves from suffering. This is something that we have that animals do not have, that which elevates us above the animal kingdom. Reflecting on this can help gratitude arise, that we have taken birth as human not animal, and therefore we have this special opportunity. It would be a great waste of opportunity to not pursue our spiritual practice in this fleeting human life we how have.
So this traditional image of Shiva is a person, a human being. This can signify that the divine Qualities of Deity can arise in the human form, and be cultivated by we humans. There is no need to reserve them for external spirit beings.
This is a sacred image. Much can be read into it that is very important for our spiritual practice.
- Person looks fit and healthy. This can signify that spiritual practice involves taking care of our health, good diet, avoiding junk food and toxic substances, regular exercise, seeking effective health care when sick, and putting priority on these things, valuing them.
- Person could be male or female, androgynous. This can signify that there is no need to reserve spiritual qualities only to some people, eg. only to men or only to senior priests.
- Person is in meditation posture and the face is composed from meditation. This can signify the importance of regular meditation training in spiritual practice.
- The third eye is depicted in the middle the forehead. So Shiva is also called tri ambakam = third eye. This can signify the eye of spiritual insight, the power we can develop to see into the core of the problem that troubles us, and so come to a radical solution of lasting benefit. Our ability to fundamentally transform a problem that drains us of energy into a challenge that stimulates our energies and develops us as people.
- A snake is wrapped around this person, and looks happy. The snake is the most dangerous animal to encounter in the (Australian) forest, it can cause death or serious tissue damage. But the snake is only dangerous if great fear arises. Snakes obviously can’t eat people, so snakes bite us in fear of being killed. Here the fear is completely gone, and snake and person have made friends instead. The snake has actually wrapped itself around the person for warmth, and will soon cruise off energised, so it can look for food. This can happen to senior practitioners, meditating by a forest pool.
This can signify overcoming our deep fears, and transforming our posture until we are no longer frightened by that which we used to be afraid of.
This could be overcoming the fear of our own painful emotional feelings. Instead of denying, avoiding and covering these feelings up with painful thinking. These include incessant thoughts of blame and resentment, relentless worries over what might go wrong, overpowering thoughts of despair and defeat, or plans to destroy that which we need to protect.
When we uncover the hurtful feelings, uncomplicated by hurtful thoughts, we can examine our fear of them. We can stop judging them to be bad or wrong, stop denying and concealing them.
More importantly, we can stop our tendency to proliferate harmful intentions, driven by our suppressed harmful feelings.
We can just allow the hurtful emotional feelings to persist, not wanting to get rid of them. Overcome our fear of them. This is the essence of meditational training.
Then we can gain insight into how we fuel and aggravate our own suffering, instead of releasing and expelling it from our Being.
- The droopy flowers in the pot of water can signify the principle of Impermanence. When we can truly overcome our fear of our painful feelings, when we stop fuelling them and identifying with them, they will fade away. It’s just the law of Nature.
- The person has a halo of light radiating outwards. This can signify she has cultivated good will and peacefulness strong enough to send out to others, and be radiantly happy. Our Kirtan word for this is srī.
- This is a devotional print, with much gold leaf. This can signify how precious these spiritual themes are, and how we need to protect them.