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Parvati's Quest: Understanding the Essence of Shiva

Article of the Month - February 2007
Viewed 99048 times since 2nd Oct, 2008

The Reluctant Mother in Law

It is a time honored tradition in India that the groom, riding a mare, leads a procession of friends and dear ones to the bride’s home, where he is given an auspicious welcome at the door by his mother in law and other women of the household. On one such occasion, a lady stood welcoming the congregation, eagerly looking out for her son in law. Before the groom entered, she witnessed numerous of his friends going in. All were beautiful, handsomely dressed and immaculately turned out. What would the groom himself be like, when those preceding him were so attractive? She couldn’t suppress her excitement.

The Marriage Procession of Shiva & Parvati
The Marriage Procession of Shiva and Parvati

"Here comes the bridegroom," someone whispered in her ears. She hopefully raised her head and immediately shrieked out in terror. There he was - his body smeared with gray ash fresh from the cremation grounds, riding a bull, holding a skull in his hands, his eyes rolling as if intoxicated and looking utterly disheveled and untidy, like he had not had a bath for several days. The mother in law wailed, lamenting her beautiful daughter’s choice of husband:

"O daughter what have you done, you have ruined your family. Surely you were not in your senses when you made your choice. Why did I not remain a barren woman rather than give birth to you who has bought ill fame to the whole family. You have put away sandal paste and instead smeared yourself with mud, throwing away rice you have eaten the husk."

God: Ugly or Beautiful?

The lament of the lady is in fact representative of our own view of the external world, conditioned as we are to find only the beautiful to be agreeable, forgetting in the process the fact that the same supreme reality pervades each and every aspect of this manifested existence, whether good or bad. It is only when we start recognizing the inherent divinity in all aspects of life, can we call ourselves anywhere near to understanding god.

Marriage of Shiva and Parvati
Marriage of Shiva and Parvati

 

 

 

The above narrative is easily recognizable as an episode from the marriage of Shiva and Parvati. The latter’s mother was adamant that she would not give away her daughter to a person of such hideous appearance.

 

 

 

Lord Vishnu tried to calm her by saying:

"Dear woman you do not know Shiva. He is both possessed and devoid of attributes. He is hideous as well as comely." (Shiva Purana: Rudrasamhita III.44.90)

The Profound Symbolic Message of Shiva

For those who wish to go beyond the physical form, Shiva’s outward appearance is a constant reminder of many fundamental truths. He is an embodiment of the three principal themes of Indian philosophy, which must be inculcated in our lives before any progress can be made on the spiritual path.

1). Bhakti (Devotion): The Ganges flowing from his hair represents the stream of bhakti.

Kailashpati on Kailash (Meditating Shiva)
Kailashpati on Kailash (Meditating Shiva)

 

 

 

 

 

2). Gyan (Knowledge): Shiva is constantly engaged in inward contemplation, totally oblivious to what’s happening outside, so much that he even appears intoxicated to those not initiated into his mystery.

 

 

 

 

 

3). Vairagya (Indifference and disenchantment with all worldly things): Shiva often frequents the cremation grounds and smears himself with ashes. What better example could there be of disenchantment with the living world? Vairagya means sacrificing everything, and the one who even while living, gives himself up to the funeral grounds, not needing nor expecting anything from the world, is perhaps the ideal example.

As for the bull Shiva rides upon, ancient texts heap praise on it, calling it the Bull of Dharma:

Nandi (The Mount of Lord Shiva)
Nandi (The Mount of Lord Shiva)

 

 

 

‘The bull of dharma has forgiveness for its horns, control of the senses for its ears, the eyes of faith and the Vedas as its breath. (Shiva Purana Vidyeshvarasamhita:17.86).

 

 

 

The Auspicious Beauty of Shiva

Later Shiva, for the pleasure of Parvati’s mother, transformed himself into a supremely handsome male, dressed richly according to social norms:

‘Every part of his body was exquisite. He became fair, handsome and shone with a divine radiance. Embellished with many ornaments and a garland of fresh jasmine flowers, he smiled with delight, capturing his mother in law’s heart, who stood stunned at this fascinating view of beauty.’

Kalyansundaram (Marriage Scene of Lord Shiva)
Kalyansundaram (Marriage Scene of Lord Shiva)

Shiva had in fact transformed himself into ‘Sundaramurti,’ or the embodiment of all masculine beauty on this earth. Indeed, the supremely auspicious image of Shiva marrying Parvati is aptly titled "Kalyana Sundaram," or the beauty which grants welfare, the latter feature being inherent in Shiva’s epithet Shankara,, literally meaning ‘one who grants welfare (sham).’

The Strange Courtship

The marriage of Shiva and Parvati was preceded by a long interval of courtship. It was no ordinary engagement however. The initiative was solely Parvati’s who was spurred on by a dream where she stood by Shiva as his wife. Soon after, by a happy coincidence it so transpired that Shiva stopped nearby on a mountain range to meditate and she went with her father to pay homage. The latter, knowing his daughter’s desire, requested Shiva to permit her to take care of his daily needs while he meditated. Even though Shiva realized this would be an impediment to his pursuits, he agreed on Parvati’s fervent appeal.

Thus did Parvati first gain access to Shiva, and served him as he lost himself in inward contemplation, oblivious to the outside world. A young and charming maiden, alone with the male she adored, the circumstances were just ideal for Kamadeva, the god of love, to make his presence felt, and stoke passion between the two. One day, as she neared Shiva, Kamadeva fired his dart. Shiva immediately opened his eyes, which fell on Parvati, whose beauty affected him for the first time, prompting him to say:

"Is this face or the moon? Are these eyes or petals of a lotus? Is this your nose or the beak of a parrot? Whatever is graceful and sweet in this creation has been incorporated here. There is no woman equal to your beauty in the world."

Shiva was tempted enough to touch her, and Parvati, tantalizing him, withdrew, and a little distance away cast meaningful glances at him. (Shiva Purana: Rudrasamhita III.18)

Kamadeva Reduced to Ashes by Shiva's Wrath
Kamadeva Reduced to Ashes by Shiva's Wrath

 

 

 

 

The lord wondered: "I feel great pleasure on merely seeing her. What pleasure shall I derive in her embrace?" However, he soon composed himself and realized that he had been hit by Kamadeva’s arrow. He looked around for the culprit, and found him perched on a tree nearby. No sooner had he thus perceived the cause of his turbulation than did he open his third eye, the flames from which reduced the god of love to ashes.

 

 

 

 

Shiva then vanished from the scene leaving a terrified Parvati behind who hurried back to her home. She cursed her excessive beauty, which made her vain enough to think that she could tempt the greatest of all yogis.

The Supreme Devotion of Parvati

Parvati however soon recovered herself and understood that to unite with Shiva she had to go beyond beauty and desire. She had to make every part of her being yearn for this union and concentrate all her will, energies and capacities focusing them on this sole purpose. All other preoccupations had to be discarded.

For his sake, who himself made a mockery of social conventions, she would have to surpass social restrictions and brave reproach from the world. Her body had to forget all needs or enjoyments, her mind still all resolves (except the one to marry Shiva) and the heart abandon all other attachments. Only the need for Shiva, the thought of Shiva and the love of Shiva would remain. She would exist only as an intense flame burning for Shiva.

Towards this end she decided to undergo severe austerities (tapasya) in the dense jungles of the Himalayas. Her parents, distressed at the thought of their fragile daughter repairing to the dangerous woods tried their best to dissuade her from doing so. In fact, one of Parvati’s most popular epithets, Uma, is derived from her mother’s call to her not to go to the forests – O (daughter) ma (don’t). The mother said:

"O Parvati, if you are distressed and wish to perform penance, you can do it at home. Why do you wish to go out when we have gods here at home? Dear child, for a woman to go out to the forests is something never heard of before." (Shiva Purana: Rudrasamhita III.22)

The Essence of Penance (Tapasya)

Before going further into what happened next, a short note on the meaning of the Sanskrit word ‘tapasya’ is in order. It is derived from the root ‘tap,’ meaning to heat, insufficiently translated as penance. According to Sri Aurobindo it implies "A fierce and strong effort of all the human powers towards any given end. It is a tremendous concentration of the will which sets the whole being aflame, masses all the faculties in close ranks and hurls them furiously on a single objective." Thus, this was the original intent of the word ‘tapasya,’ – a concentration so intense that it produced heat (energy or force).

Indeed, that which moves us away from pleasure gained by the sense organs, and yokes our inner selves with god is tapasya. The opposite of ‘tap’, the indulgence in sensual pleasure is ‘pat,’ which in Sanskrit also means to fall down and therefore ‘tap’ suggests a gaining of spiritual heights. Tapasya means to gradually start bringing restraint into our lives, giving up things one by one. Truly is it said:

If there is no desire in love it is a boon,
The selfless devotee becomes god soon.

The Potent Mantra of Shiva

When she was about to set out, the great sage Narada paid Parvati a visit. He then initiated her into the five-syllabled mantra of Shiva, calling it the king of all mantras and informed her that its continuous chanting was the most effective way of propitiating him. The mantra is: ‘Namoh Shivai’

The Shiva Purana says:

"The chanting of the five-syllabled mantra shall always be performed along with Om" (Shiva Purana Vidyeshvarasamhita:17.34).

Om Namoh Shivai
Om Namoh Shivai

 

 

 

Thus the potent mantra becomes: ‘Om Namoh Shivai.’

 

 

 

Om Namoh Shivai
Om Namoh Shivai

 

 

 

 

 

It is further stated:

This mantra is of the nature of Shiva himself. By holding on to the mantra, the physical body of the devotee becomes identified with Shiva. (Shiva Purana Vidyeshvarasamhita:17.132).

 

 

 

 

 

Thus did Parvati engage herself, sustaining only on fruits for the first year. In the second she survived on leaves fallen on the ground and after many years gave up even that, hence earning the epithet ‘Aparna,’ parna meaning leaf and the prefix a negating it. Finally, she nourished herself solely on the beams of moonlight and water falling from the sky. In this regard she was no different from the way trees live in this world.

Shiva then had no choice but to appear before her and accept her proposal. Not however before he had put her to one final test.

Parvati’s Dialogue with Shiva in Disguise

Shiva, putting on the garb of an old sage, approached Parvati engaged in austerities. She rose up in respect and worshipped him with all reverence due to a learned Brahmin. He enquired about her well being and asked why she was undergoing such severe penance. When she told him of her desire to have Shiva as her husband, he feigned distress and exclaimed, pointing out the disparity in their situations:

"You have set your mind on a worthless object. How could your hand, decorated with bracelets bear the first clasp of Shiva’s hand encircled as it is with snakes?

"On one side will be your bridal robe embroidered with figures of swans and on the other an elephant hide dripping with blood.

Divine Love of Shiva and Parvati
Divine Love of Shiva and Parvati

 

 

 

 

 

 

"What could be more unseemly than his chest smeared with funerary ashes pressing your two breasts daubed with golden sandalwood paste?

 

 

 

 

 

"Not only his physical appearance, but also in the matter of birth his parentage is obscure. The amount of his wealth can be gauged from the fact that he has nothing to wear. Dear lady, can anyone find in him even one quality that is normally sought in a husband?"

Hearing this diatribe, Parvati’s lower lip trembled with anger. The corners of her eyes reddened, and contracting her graceful eyebrows she cast a scornful look at the Brahmin who had dared to utter these harsh words:

"You who speak to me in this way do not at all know Shiva. Since petty minds don’t understand the motives of great souls, different as they are from those of ordinary people, they criticize them.

"People perform auspicious rites with the aim of warding off calamities or attaining prosperity. Shiva himself is the protector of the world and is desireless. What has he got to do with those mercantile practices which but corrupt the soul?

Benevolent Shiva as The Ferocious Bhairava
Benevolent Shiva as The Ferocious Bhairava

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Though he possesses nothing, he is the source of all possessions. He is the master of the world yet he lives in a cemetery. His physical appearance is frightening yet he is called ‘Shiva,’ the gentle source of all blessings.

 

 

 

 

 

"Whether he glows with jewels or bristles with snakes, dresses in silk or wears an elephant hide, adorns himself with skulls or the moon, it is not possible to define the form of one whose body is the whole universe.

Ascetic Wanderer
Ascetic Wanderer

 

 

 

 

 

"The funeral ashes that have touched his body acquire the power to purify all living beings. Therefore, when he performs his great dance, even the dwellers of heaven vie with each to collect the particles falling off from his limbs, applying them to their foreheads.

 

 

 

 

 

"When Indra, the king of heaven, riding his royal elephant, comes across this penniless god seated on an old bull, he alights from his vehicle and touches his feet.

"O Brahmin, though you are worth nothing, one thing you did say well. Since Shiva is the cause of even Brahma (who exists without birth), how could his own birth or parentage be known?

"Enough arguments however, let him be what you believe him to be. My unshakeable heart knows no other feeling than love. Those whose goal is set do not care for criticism."

She then said with finality:

"I can see from your quivering lips O Brahmin that you wish to speak again. Not only is it a sin to say ill of the great souls, even to listen to such talk is a crime. Therefore, I shall leave this place immediately."

So saying, the young girl turned back. At that very moment, Shiva, assuming his real form, caught hold of her. Seeing him, her body turned moist and the slender limbs froze, with one foot poised in the air, between movement and immobility, like a great river arrested in its course by a mountain. Shiva, his heart melting with affection said:

"O graceful lady, won over by your tapasya, from this moment I am your slave."

Conclusion

‘Just as water and its flavor (rasa) can never exist apart, likewise Purusha and Prakriti never remain disassociated from each other.’ (Bhagavata Purana: 3.27.18)

Parvati’s committed devotion is but a paradigm of the inevitable union between male and female played on the immense plane of supreme divinity. She is the soul of us all searching for god, which is but destined to meet and unite with him.

Uma Maheshwara with Ganesha and Karttikeya
Uma Maheshwara with Ganesha and Karttikeya

 

Calling god ‘him’ does not denote that he is male or a gender bias. The union envisaged above can however happen only in terms comprehendible to us. Thus the supreme reality, attributeless and genderless, has to be brought down to the scale we can relate to. The Nirguna has to be conceived as Saguna. This is the highest we can reach, and it is sufficient, being the paramount goal of human life, this union of Purusha with Prakriti. For this Shiva, the formless, the infinite contemplating infinity, has to be brought out from his inner ecstasy, and indeed, all the beauty, need, and aspiration of this world has to take form (of Parvati) in order to take up its right place on the lap of god. The only requirement being pure and complete surrender, and indeed Shiva destroys only Kama, the desire polluting the devotee’s relationship with divinity, but never the devotee himself.

 

[We humbly wish everybody on the auspicious occasion of Maha-Shiva-Ratri, the Great Night of Shiva, falling on the 16th of February this year]


References and Further Reading:

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  • Hello. I am writing here to correct some misunderstandings and some partial understanding, as is both my duty and capacity as a Shaivite.

    In the article, the analysis of Parvati’s longing for Shiva and subsequent Tapasya was that it was an allegory for the soul's longing for God, equated Parvati with an individual soul, and Shiva as the totality of God. The author quoted a great Vishnaivite purana to this effect, not realizing that the statement by the author of this article was contradicted by the quote from the Shrimad Bhagavatam.

    Vaishnavite cosmology is much less derivative of Samkhya. Shaivite cosmology is derived from Samkhya, yoga and tantra as well as things unique to Shaivism although Vaishnavism represents Vishnu as introducing Samkhya in one of his avataras (this is also in the Shrimad Bhagavatam.) Before I go further, I want to clarify that I am not in any way disparaging Vaishnavism, or the Shrimad Bhagavatam. However, the material in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, or the philosophy of Vaishnavism, cannot apply to Shaivism without a great deal of ‘translation.’


    Purusha is the self as consciousness. Prakriti is nature, which generates (in biological life) limited faculties of consciousness in its form as maya.

    Shiva, the whole beyond the sum of all consciousness, the supreme transcendent, projects itself into manifestation by garbing itself with nature - prakriti. When this projection occurs, it scatters like a spread of light, and appears to constitute many different individual souls (atmans, where the supersoul is angushtha purusha). In Kashmir Shaivism, we call the individuated soul Anu, which is part of the trinity, the other members being Shakti and Shiva.

    Individual souls are still purusha, not prakriti. It is anu (purusha) longing to return to shiva (purusha). This soul is neither male nor female. Shiva is neither male nor female. Absolute transcendence is not confined to any particular pattern of experience, not confined to any particular duality, not even the primordial duality of maleness or femaleness.

    Shiva is culturally represented as male, and is unique in having an aniconic representation (the lingam), which despite the efforts of some Indian philosophers to disprove, is indeed a sexual symbol, but /not/ a primitive fertility symbol. To understand the lingam requires the seeker of truth to go far beyond culturally conditioned sexual mentalities. That is a subject for another time. Shakti (which includes prakriti), is represented as dynamic female.

    However Shakti has both male and female forms, as well as dynamic and static forms. These nuances are under-appreciated. It is prakriti which generates both male and female qualities and existences, like mirrors of eachother.

    And who is to say what exactly defines male and female? We can provisionally define them based on conditioned observations of conditioned phenomena, but maleness and femaleness are open to so much differentiation over time, over place, over consciousness. The original maleness and femaleness is bhedabheda (two in one, dual yet nondual). No secondary descriptors apply to this primordial male (provisionally Shiva) or primordial female (provisionally Shakti). Not strong or weak. Not consciousness and nature. Not knower and known. Not subject and object. Not dynamic and static. Not foreground and background. Not even penetrating and receiving.

    Shiva has both transcendent and imminent existences (and non-existences!) Shiva also pervades, and constitutes matter. All physical manifestation is Shiva. Shiva is the gross(vyakta) and Shakti is the subtle (avyakta).

    Shakti has both transcendent and imminent existences (and non existences!) Shakti is also pure satchitananda, the blissful absolute truth of consciousness, transcending even the Shiva tattva as Paramashakti with Paramashiva (the atattva beyond the 36 tattvas)


    To return to the author’s analysis, the story can indeed be used as an allegory for the efforts of the individual soul to merge into its source, its sustenance, and its final end (even though it has never actually been separate save in illusion!), but that is not who Parvati is.

    Parvati is Paradevi, Parashakti incarnate. She is as much Shiva as Shiva is. She is the ‘half yet whole’ of Supreme God. All individual souls are her manifestations/expansions. Shiva is the husband of all beings (who are the Shaktis of God(Shiva)). Even as Shakti is the wife of all beings (who are the Shivas of a Goddess(Shakti)). Our maleness is Shiva’s, as the one primordial male. Our femaleness is Shakti’s, as the one primordial female.

    Yet they are many.

    Shiva is consciousness. Shakti is conscious of consciousness.
    Shakti is consciousness. Shiva is conscious of consciousness.

    One is the object to the other. One is the subject of the other. They are not different, nor are they the same. We cannot say what they are. One is the attributes of the attributeless other. Both equally partake in all of these dualistic pastimes, yet are not defined by them, nor confined by them.

    To transcend our individual souls, to discover our true selves (soul and self are not the same! Atman is soul, AHAM is self. The true self is universal, and is *also* the whole) we must ourselves become Shiva and Shakti (which we actually already are, but we fail to realize and experience this.) In this way Parvati’s puranic story is excellent inspiration.

    One cannot be truly Shiva without being Shakti as well. Or vice versa.

    Jiva, the embodied soul, is Shiva from one view. Jiva is a Shakti of God (Shiva) from another view. Both are correct. Both are correct on the same levels, and in different levels.

    For example, the embodiment part wherein all manifestation is seen as female prakriti. Yet it is also seen as male Shiva. Both are true.

    The soul part, where all souls are seen as Shaktis of God. Or as Purushas(Shiva) inhabiting maya-prakriti(shakti). Both are true.


    One commentator stated “Parvati does not understand the essence of Shiva and Shiva does not understand the essence of Parvati. That is the truth. So how do these two get together?”

    Nothing could be further from the truth. Not even Shiva understands himself the way Shakti encompasses his shear reality with her absolute consciousness. Not even Shakti understands herself the way Shiva penetrates the depths of her shear reality with his absolute consciousness.

    It is in error to ‘think of God’ in a conceptual manner, but we may indulge for the purpose of explication with the caveat that any conception we conjure up is terribly limited, and must be discarded and gone beyond once understood.

    Shiva and Shatki are two mirrors exactly parallel to one another, extending infinitely in uncountable dimensions, infinitely reflecting eachother, savoring eachother’s light eternally. No measure of inequality, of differentiation can exist here. We cannot typecast Shakti as representing mortal souls entrapped in samsara seeking the supreme, and we cannot typecast Shiva as only the supreme, and not the former.

    Do not make the error of duality when considering the supreme union. We can provisionally consider individuated jivatmans to be male or female in relation to God, assigning the opposite gender to God, to facilitate union. It is beneficial for men to cultivate the feeling of being female for a male God, as this subdues the male ego and facilitates union with, and merger into, the true maleness, but to believe this as a set reality is incorrect. One must also realize God as Female, and oneself as limited/individual-male. Krishna, whom men surrender to as female gopis, is also Kali, who is surrendered to as male. Yes, Krishna is Kali.

    Volumes more can be said about the exquisite duality-yet-nonduality of Shiva and Shakti, in all its infinite manifestations and splendors, but what use are words in describing that which cannot be thought, or thought of, let alone spoken of? I wish only to correct misunderstandings here.

    I want to be clear that I am not disparaging the work put into the article, or some of the comments. It is appreciated. However, seeing errors or partial truths, I am required to offer corrections and expansions.


    For further discussion of my points, readers are welcome to email me at: avazjan(at)gmail.com

    (change (at) to @, I use (at) to prevent automated spambots from targeting me.)

    Namah Shivabhyam
    by Shivananda on 26th Sep 2010
  • Parvati does not understand the essence of Shiva and Shiva does not understand the essence of Parvati. That is the truth. So how do these two get together?
    by Maria (mariacarbonell@comcast.net) on 30th Apr 2009
  • Dr. Bruno Leclerq, Shiva is like Dr. Spock of the Enterprise in Star Trek. Parvati is all song and dance. How can she get "Dr. Spock" to take notice of her? He thinks Parvati is unbearable!
    by Maria on 30th Apr 2009
  • I really appreciate your text as you are presenting all that is said about Shiva and Parvati.
    As we are now deep into kaliyuga, faith is not sufficient any longer for mankind and it is science that must bring about a description of this couple. Science must liberate itself of its narrow-mindedness.

    If science can give us a description of the universe and of man that justifies the beliefs of religion, then the prediction of Shiva Purana will be possible:

    Similarly, it is said in the Shiva Purana that: "The end of the Kali Yuga is a particularly favorable period to pursue true knowledge. Some will attain wisdom in a short time, for the merits acquired in one year during the Treta Age (the second cycle, the Age of Ritual) can be obtained in one day in the Kali Yuga."

    It seems impossible because science is rather atheistic although it claims to be neutral.
    I don’t know how far you want to go into this kind of investigation. This is why I just mention it. If you have that curiosity I will gladly let you see that science and mostly the data it presents, far from leading to the atheistic conclusion, lead to understanding in mechanical terms, in concrete images what the two great religions teach in human terms.

    I will only talk about a single issue that you mention with the contemporary politically correct carefulness. Politically correctness is an idealistic posture, it has no place in science, whether the science of the concrete or the science of the spirit.

    Science is not an ideal, it is based on facts. By science I mean both the knowledge we have about the material world, but also that acquired empirically based on experiences and visions.

    Science is neither an ideal, nor a majority opinion.

    Political correctness makes us say that men and women are the same, even though every new discovery of psychology and neurology proves the contrary. It is this correctness that makes you state that “Calling god ‘him’ does not denote that he is male or a gender bias”

    In this you are wrong. Shiva is absolutely male or yang if you want to express it that way. The seers have said it, quite rightly, for a long time: the only ‘thing’ of this universe that is ‘yang’ or absolutely male is Shiva.

    In relation to him, everything is female, more or less.
    The animal difference between male and female is but a diluted image of this original distinction between Shiva who is unmoved by the events of creation, and Shakti who is both the events and the representation of Shiva in the creation.

    Males and females of the animal world are nothing but a pale picture of the difference between Shiva and Shakti, between the absolute male and the absolute female.

    As the lingam that is used to represent him, Shiva is stiff and motionless, whereas Shakti or Parvati is energy, light, life.

    She acts, she creates and destroys, He directs by selection, keeping himself aloof, in meditation can we say.

    Progressively evolution results in the energy, in Shakti, taking the form of Shiva such that in the end of this created world whatever is the theater where Shakti moves will have the shape of Shiva. At this point in time this universe of ours will have reached its perfection. All souls will occupy their place, represent some aspect of Shiva.

    The theater where everything happens is the Cosmic Egg.

    The necessary existence of a theater is ignored by physics. Yet, how could energy manifest anything, shape anything, create anything unless it has something to fashion, some putty?

    Physics is blind to the fact that energy needs a support. Where there is no support, energy doesn’t go.

    I realize that Shivaism and the other religions of India make hardly any mention of a third factor, nevertheless there are three gunas, and there are three main aspects of Trimurti. At that level of observation we can see that Shiva is Satva, Vishnu is Raja and Brahma is Tama.

    This Shiva is a partially manifested aspect of Shiva, it is present in the other world of our universe, it is not the Shiva that exists, that is, outside of that creation.

    As male and female are clearly distinguished in our languages even though they are barely different – lest we forget some person’s brains are wired for a physical body that is not theirs - we are totally justified to use the same distinction when talking about the model of these differences, when we are talking of Him Shiva, and Her Shakti who are absolutely distinct in all aspects and in their very nature.

    Amazingly the scientific data can describe this view of the universe and of creation, instead of the driverless Big Bang creation from nothing.

    When men get to see that, they will return to the practices that help the souls take the Shiva’s shape.
    They may not do it for fear of god, or for love of god, but rather for understanding that there is a model that the world is working at copying, and an energy that makes it all happen. The very laws of physics and principles of mechanics will make man see what he is here for, and his understanding of psychology and neuroanatomy will make him practice the various rituals as they are the techniques that bring him well-being and peace.

    Of course, this is a dogmatic presentation, and as such it may sound like nothing more that wishful thinking by some theist. This is not so as I document all of that in my various books, in which, among other things I show that there is necessarily an immanent and transcendent guide to evolution. I also show that physics forces us to believe that there is another ‘world’. We could say that the material world of our common experience is a digital construct, whereas the spiritual world of our generally unconscious experience is analog.

    You may be aware that there is now a branch of physics that claims that the force of gravitation can only be understood by postulating the existence of another world….

    I just said that the end of the world will have the entire theater of our created universe show the many shapes of Shiva and nothing else. I wish to add that Shiva is not the God of destruction. The destruction of the universe is part of its evolution, of the changes that take place in matter. It has nothing to do with Shiva. Nevertheless it seems that Shiva is the cause because when everything, all matter vanishes, all that remains to be seen is Shiva.

    He does not cause the destruction, he is what can be seen at last when the agitation that is the material world settles, as dust and smoke settle after the destruction of a brick house, showing the inside chimney that was hidden in the walls all the time.

    It is not the chimney that caused the fall of the house.

    Shiva was there before, Shakti causes the world to be created with all the agitation of light and matter. When the agitation stops or slows down as it may in the mind of the seer, Shiva appears to that seer.

    A last word about the common image of Shiva dancing with his four arms. Here is how I teach people to read it:

    Say that you want to show that god extends from the beginning of our created universe to its end. The beginning is a sound, thus the drum in the right hand. In the end all matters will have converted into dynamic energy, as predicted by the second principle of thermo-dynamics, i.e. nothing but light, represented by flames in the left hand.

    We want to show also that god offers his protection to man, shown by the right hand. At the same time he protects his flock, with the mudra of the elephant of the left hand.
    His right foot is in contact with the material world, and obviously in contact with man who is not crushed, but must look upwards to see Him. His left foot is in the air, traditional representation of being in the other world.

    His right eye is open to see the material world, and the left one closed to look at the inside worlds.

    Around Him, a vaguely oval circle, rounder at the top, more pointed at the bottom, carrying flames all around. This is Shakti. The flames are the energy, and the shape is the yoni.

    In fact, we can see then that dancing Shiva is the lingam in the middle of the yoni, he is shown in all his aspects by the light of Shakti.

    The symbolism of the yoni has been progressively lost as people have moved away from believing in a four arms god.

    The oval yoni has been replaced by a circle with two vertical segments at the base. This is due in part to the fact that a circle looks better, better finished that the oval. Still this form still represents quite clearly the yoni.

    Unfortunately, as people who are not shivaists have started to manufacture the statues, they have replaced the partial circle with a complete circle, losing the yoni and the symbolism in the process.

    Thus, I tell my listeners, do not look at this statue as some stupid primitive belief in a four arms deity – which no doubt it is for some people – but rather see it as a complete description of the universe and its components.

    I tell them: if you sit in front of it and read it as it is meant to be read, as I just taught you, the statue will create in you the image, the perception of what is behind creation, what is behind your presence here now and forever.

    This is the best and easiest meditation.
    by Dr Bruno Leclercq on 13th Apr 2007
  • This is eye opening and inner soul understanding one.
    Beautiful and brightening and lightening of knowledge and wisdom that passes from Lord Shiva...
    by V R Peddi on 8th Mar 2007
  • As are all of Nitin Kumar's articles, this one was just superb, and effortlessly reached great and sublime depths, in my opinion. It was comprehensive and moving, going seamlessly, like Shiva himself, from the literal to the transcendent, so that the wholeness of the divine - both manifest and unmanifest - and the beauty of God's lila, were so well conveyed. Thanks also for that wonderful exposition on true tapasya.
    by christiane on 20th Feb 2007
  • Thank you very much for the charming article

    Parvarti's Quest by Nitin Kurmar.

    It sensitively and lovingly describes the union of the Lord Shiva and Parvati in a way that touches the heart.

    Namaste,
    by Mrs. Nancy Ayers on 19th Feb 2007
  • Hello,
    Your article is truly an eye-opener!
    'Just as water and its flavor (rasa) can never exist apart, likewise Purusha and Prakriti never remain disassociated from each other.' (Bhagavata Purana: 3.27.18)-this quote definitely reveals the purity in the union of Shiv ji and Parvatee.
    Mahashivratree is one of the most celebrated and enjoyed festivals in Mauritius.Indeed,we have a small lake,namely Grand Bassin, which is said to have been purified by pouring a 'lota' of the pious water from the Ganges.Since then, Mauritians fervently practise a yearly pilgrimage to Grand Bassin in order to fetch this pure water to pour on Shivlings in the Shiv Temples of their respective villagers. If some go by any vehicles, most of them walk to and from the lake.
    Mahashivratree is a week long celebration dedicated to the Lord of Lords Shiv ji and his parivaar(family).
    Bravo!
    Wish you a pious Mahashivratree!
    by shyamini (shyaminise@yahoo.co.uk) on 16th Feb 2007
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"We assume that our happiness is the result of an interaction with external objects…. Suppose that an individual is deprived of sleep and food and pleasurable objects for a long time and then all of them are simultaneously offered to him…. Actually, seeking the answer to this question is the most significant pursuit in life…. The veil comes up again and the duality returns…. In this background, we can now analyse the nature of dukha (grief)."
Ananda: Understanding the True Nature of Happiness
"The primary thrust in the Mahabharata is to teach us the nuances of dharma through the poignant love story…. I have full control over my mind, even then it is attracted towards you…. You think you are alone with your own self. But don’t you know that the all-knowing God dwells in every heart…. Those who have wives are the ones who have Lakshmi…. I tell you that truth is equal to studying all the Vedas and bathing in all the pilgrimages…. The immortal dialogue between Shakuntala and her husband is one of the greatest…."
Narrating Dharma - Story of Shakuntala in the Mahabharata
"Once as he was engaged in puja, a saint came to visit him….Like a true householder attached to his family, Gajendra sported in the water with his wives, children and friends…. Understanding that his end was imminent, they all slowly withdrew, till Gajendra was left alone…. If we reflect on it calmly, we will realise that there is no house in the world where the story of Gajendra does not play out…. The one who is careful towards the end is able to reform his death…. Gajendra’s hymn of praise is one of the greatest philosophical poems in the annals of world literature."
Moksha of Gajendra: Liberation by The Formless God
"Vyasa Ji explained through a story how it came to be that the Pandava's marriage with a single wife was in conformity with dharma….The gods, along with their king Indra, were sitting on the bank of a river when they saw a beautiful golden lotus floating on its waters…. Both were playing a game of dice…. On hearing Shiva’s words, Indra started shaking with fear… Without death, the burden on the earth becomes too much…. Her birth had the sanction of all the three Gods - Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu."
Devi Draupadi: Resolving the Paradox
"This middle path lies in between extreme asceticism on one side, and extreme indulgence on the other…. When standing under a Ashok tree, tired and exhausted, she raised her right hand for seeking support of a branch of the tree…. The unique balance that defined his entire life was pre-determined in this duality….One day, in the palace garden he frightened his attendants…. He ate less and less till his diet reduced to a sesame seed, and himself, to a mere skeleton…. Seven days after the attainment of enlightenment gods sent food for breaking his fast…. However, he postponed his ‘nirvana’ for three months till he visited the places he had reminiscences of."
The Light That Enlightened Millions
(The life of Buddha in the popular mind)
"She has always believed that this would redeem her of her distress….A coconut, otherwise an ordinary dried fruit or the source of edible, or at the most, beauty oil, has always been revered as an auspicious object effecting good and well-being and the food that gods most loved….The tree in the Buddhist tradition was later identified as Bodhi-tree, seated under which Buddha had attained Enlightenment….Body gestures and symptoms, signs, indications among others must have been the early man’s tools of communicating oneself and knowing and understanding the world around….Kirttimukha was initially conceived as a mystical mask….Lion does not figure in the wide range of animal toys or figurines excavated from Indus sites."
Auspicious Symbols in Indian tradition
"It concedes that for an orderly social life a division into four groups based on the principle of varnadharma is necessary…. Each individual sometimes acts in a sattvika manner while at other times he may act in rajasic or tamasic manner, which means that the manifestation of a particular guna depends on circumstances…. Though all the three gunas are present in everyone, different persons are driven to act differently…. The karma that I have to perform should depend on my inherent gunas and should have the ability to regulate these gunas…. There is no instant transition to moksha…. An individual has to make his way towards moksha only through worldly life."
Varnashrama Dharma: A Logical View
"But to pull this statement out of context and give it as an advice for anyone is far from correct…. But how is one to recognise the guru? Obviously, he will be able to understand the difficulties of the disciples and clarify to them the meaning of the scriptures on the basis of logic and experience…. They will have to search in their own neighbourhood only….The guru chosen by him should be at least better than himself!…. Of course, if the ideal guru whose features have been enumerated in the beginning is available, then the sadhaka should immediately go and surrender to him…. It is just like going to another teacher for higher education, after completing the education in a school."
The Qualities of a Guru and How to Find One
"Only a certain fraction of this karma is chosen by God in order to form the blueprint of our next birth…. The fruit that one experiences in this birth is due to prarabdha and a portion of the present agami…. Similarly, a fish in the Ganga does not accrue punya because of always living in Ganga…. A good karma can be annulled by a bad karma and a bad one by a good one…. Sometimes we also hear that prarabdha cannot be got rid of. It has to be spent through…. Bhagawan Vyasa says that for the full result of the karma to manifest, three things are necessary…. Then how to understand the statement that prarabdha should unavoidably be experienced?"
Theory and Practice of Karma: Some Salient Features
"During one such sacrifice, nine spiritually charged men entered the sacrificial hall….As for Bhagavat Dharma, it is the dharma spoken by God directly from his own mouth…. Like a person eating food finds himself gratified simultaneously in three ways…. We are all constantly taught by spiritual texts to offer or dedicate all our actions to God. However, the question remains as to how to practically carry out this injunction…..The only fruit of wealth is dharma... Therefore, there is no need for the Vedas to enjoin us to these things for which we already have a tendency….The real intention of the Vedic injunctions in these matters is to make a person abstain from them…”
Nine Teachings from Nine Yogis: The Essence of Bhagavat Dharma
"Here is a fragment from one of the most poignant episodes of Indian history…. This piece of history is from the Mahabharata…. She was dying with shame but inside, like a true kshatrani (woman of the warrior race), she was burning with anger…. I have heard that women who follow dharma were never brought before a public court….Greed is the destroyer of dharma. I do not desire a third boon…. Draupadi was as forgiving as mother earth herself…. Just then Arjuna saw his dear friend Bhagawan Krishna approaching him…. “Leave him, leave him. He is a brahmin and worthy of our worship. Their mother should not cry, like I have at the death of my children."
Analyzing the Eternal Dimensions of Dharma Through Itihasa (History)
"Who would not satisfy his wife who is but his better half?…. Later, he took a bath, performed pranayama and meditating silently on the pure, eternal light, repeated internally the Gayatri Mantra…. Once it so happened that goddess Lakshmi was out of Vaikuntha…. Despite being older, they always maintain the appearance of five-year olds…. Seeing the great saints he welcomed them with reverence…. It is never for one single purpose but to fulfil many functions at the same time…. He ensured for them a glorious death."
God’s Lila, Understanding the Collective Impact of Avatara
"Actually, the one who worships Bhagwan Vishnu should get rich and the one who worships Shiva should become an avadhuta like Him…. Then he works hard again to acquire wealth. I render all his efforts futile…. However, Bhagawan Vishnu is not like that, it takes longer to please Him…. As a consequence, they later harassed the great God Himself…. On the seventh day, he bathed in the holy waters of Kedarnath and began to cut his head with an axe to offer into the fire…. The boy bowed respectfully before the demon and asked…. No one who commits sin against a great person can be safe and happy in this world."
Shiva and Vishnu: A Unique Aspect of Their Worship
"Whenever he gets the time, he should go and live amongst people who have given up worldly life…. A wise person should serve his body and family only to the extent that is functionally necessary…. The person who lays claim on the surplus wealth is nothing but a thief…. He should share all objects of enjoyment with everyone, right down to dogs, sinners…. Such is the attachment to one’s wife….How despicable is this body, which if buried is going to become the food of worms, or excreta if eaten by animals….Since a son is to thus revere his elders even after their death, what to say that he is expected to serve them when they are alive…. The person wishing to follow the path of dharma should steer clear of the five forms of Adharma."
Narada Teaches Yuddhishtra a Householder’s Dharma
"The Bhagavad Gita, while describing the qualities of a wise person says…. This verse is vividly illustrated in the story of king Rantideva occurring in the Srimad Bhagavatam…. He did not believe in hoarding, was above all attachments and was highly patient…. They were all trembling due to starvation and thirst….bowed to the dogs and their owner…. What I want is only this: That I be able to go and live in the hearts of all beings and undergo sufferings on their behalf, so that they may become free from all miseries."
An Example of Living Vedanta: The Story of King Rantideva
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