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Lord Shiva - Existence personified

We have just celebrated Mahashivratri this week. For someone not keen about following a specific belief system, the occasion, however, raises a question. Vedanta conceptualises God as formless and attribute-less. Yet we offer prayers to a form-god such as Shiva. Are they not contraindicative? And why is Shiva one of the most sought after?

There is no conflict. True, Vedanta hypothesises existence of a formless and attribute-less eternal reality, which spontaneously manifested into a world of names and forms with all its enormity and diversity. It, however, could not have been one stroke event. The process excited by the primal source progressively evolved – step by step – into a very intricate but an orderly system. The system as such includes the primal source, manifest world, and lot of intervening dynamisms propelled by play and interplay of primal energies further aided by differentiated energies evolving in the process.  it is important to be aware of such a complex system in place to figure out where and how we fit into this exhaustive game plan. We may then be able to sail through such an intricate living order, known for throwing fresh challenges every moment along with opportunities it unfolds.

The irony, however, is that given the varying levels of intelligence, and lingual diversity, it is difficult to bring such intricate knowledge within mental comprehension of all. And mere academic awareness would not be enough. The idea needs to be reflected again and again to get firmly registered in the inner realms of mind. Following which, it will spontaneously reflect in our usual conduct. Our Rishis and Munis found an easy answer in symbolic imageries that can find immediate appeal and emotional connect. To lay importance to these imageries, they were accorded the status of deity (form-God). Meditation with focus on these deities helps inculcate values identified with them. It is in this spirit that each deity carries educative inputs offering lessons in different aspects of human conduct. Hence the relevance of offering prayer to form-Gods.     

Of all the deities, the concept underlying Lord Shiva is the most profound. For, it not simply offers a look at the unified picture of the world process, covering both the seen and unseen sides. Also, it offers lesson in how to relate to the world around. See how beautifully, vital truths relating to worldly existence has been portrayed through two imageries of Lord Shiva.  First, Lord Shiva seated in meditative posture on Mount Kailasha, and second with his entourage. Read together, it comes out that Lord Shiva is ‘Existence Personified’.  For, the pictures put together cover the primal source, the manifest, intervening dynamisms between the two, and the conduct rules of life on earth plane.

In the first imagery Lord Shiva is shown with lunar crescent over His head.  He is perceived almost bare bodied, with just the private part covered with tiger skin.  His poison fed blue neck is encircled by venomous snake.   River Ganges flows down His hair locks.  He is perceived holding a trident in one arm, Damru (double headed hand drum) in another, rosary in the third, and the 4th palm in blessing mode.  Lord Shiva’s meditative posture symbolises reflecting within on the run of the life cycle.    As the rosary keeps going round and round, so does life cycle keeps moving in succession.  Different beads of the rosary imply varied existences on the run.  The blessing mode implies that all existences draw succour out of his inexhaustible potential.

Mount Kailasha, said to be the place of abode of Lord Shiva, is one of the high peaks in the Himalayan range to which lot of perennial rivers are sourced.  Contextually, however, only the river Ganges alone emerging out of Shiva’s hairlock has been named for the sake of understanding.  Being one of the highest peaks, it is closest to the cosmic world, simultaneously having all round view of life down below.  Lord Shiva, with lunar crescent over the head, read together with his place of abode, the Himalayan range having in store perennial rivers, is symbolic of eternity, infinity.

The presence of lunar crescent symbolizes the convergence of all nature driven forces.  For, Moon’s luminosity is drawn out of the Sun, as well as all the planets and stars up above in the sky.  But before all light drawn thus, flows down the line, Moon does its own stamping by turning them into an amiable form, to facilitate creation of form-existences on earth plane.  The obvious implication is that Moon symbolises convergence of all nature driven energy streams.

The issue continues…….

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