Understanding SHIVA – The Divine Dancer

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ShivaSHIVA is one of the most powerful deities of the Hindu Religion. In Yogic literature, he is not known as a God, but as the first Guru of Yoga. Yoga in it’s original form means Union, which is enlightenment.  Thus Shiva represents the understanding of the different qualities of life, which are required or necessary to get on the path to enlightenment.

On the day of Mahashivratri, people specifically pray to Lord Shiva and his Consort Parvati. While the external symbolism of Shiva and Parvati is that of a man or a woman, what they represent are the feminine and masculine principles of life. Both the feminine and masculine aspects are needed for Creation, Manifestation and Movement. Shiva and Parvati are Masculine and Feminine, Purusha and Shakti, Consciousness and Form, Sun and Moon, Yin and Yang etc. Both Shiva and Shakti lie within us and cannot exist independently of one another.

SHIVA is known as the Destroyer – but SHIVA is ultimately the destroyer of those traits within us which create suffering and imbalance. Shiva as a Spiritual Principle is complex and difficult to put in words that are so limiting. Symbolic imagery of the kind that is used to depict Shiva has long been used by the Rishis and Sages of the ancient Hindu tradition. These symbols and images help a layman better understand the principles and attributes that may be otherwise too complex to comprehend by an unenlightened mind. SHIVA has many different attributes, but below is an attempt, through the use of symbols, to give this boundless energy some form.

  1. SHIVA is Divinity – As represented by his blue skin. The blue colour signifies the divine, the all-pervading infinity without limits just like the blue sky. Most Hindu deities are represented with the colour blue.
  2. SHIVA is Oneness – In the world, we “see” through our left and right eye, which signifies duality. Shiva’s third eye represents awakening from the world of duality into oneness. When you awaken from duality, you see through your third eye, which is intuition and direct perception.
  3. SHIVA is Wisdom and Knowledge – The River Ganges which flows out of Shiva’s Crown is representative of Wisdom which is what the source of life is. Knowledge that is Wisdom is soul purifying only when it comes out of our Crown Chakra. The River also represents flow – the flow of life which is spurred by Knowledge.
  4. SHIVA is Creation – For pure consciousness to express itself it needs the feminine principle of the mind, represented by the moon. Without mind, pure consciousness cannot be perceived. Creation requires the use of the mind, though too much mind becomes a problem. The Crescent signifies the requirement of some mind, but not too much.
  5. SHIVA is Spiritual Energy as Sound – The Damru is representative of spiritual energy that can be created using Rhythm and Sound. All mantras are based on the principle of invoking spiritual energy through the use of rhythmic sounds. Mantras have special significance in Yoga.
  6. SHIVA is Kundalini – The usually dormat but extremely powerful energy which is present in all of us and usually represented as a Snake. Kundalini if activated without control, can be very dangerous and destructive, just like a snake. But when Kundalini is activated and controlled with discernment and wisdom, then it becomes all powerful. The snake sitting comfortably around Shiva’s neck represents the active and controlled use of Kundalini energy resulting in authentic power.
  7. SHIVA is Balance – Shiva’s Trishul is representative of the three aspects of Consciousness, represented by Ida, Pingala and Sushumna, the three Nadis in our bodies through which Life Force flows. Ida and Pingala represent duality as well as the feminine and masculine principles required for Creation. When we become perfectly balanced in the two aspects, we enable the Kundalini energy to flow through our Sushumna. When the kundalini starts flowing through our Sushumna, we are able to Create without suffering and Karma. Shul means suffering while Trishul means the destruction of suffering.
  8. SHIVA is Patience and Strength – As symbolized by his vehicle Nandi, the bull. To progress on the Path of Life, you need patience to meditate, and Strength to face all the many obstacles on the path. The Bull is a symbol of both Patience and Power.
  9. SHIVA is Form and Formlessness – The lingam is the external symbol of manifestation into form. To manifest our thoughts into form, we need both the masculine and feminine principle of Creation. Yet the Dance of life is to go from Form to Formlessness and back to Form again. The Lingam which means identification, is a symbol for creation and dissolution.

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