His name means The Auspicious One. He is Pure Consciousness, Chidanandaroopa
- the form of joy that pure consciousness takes. He is the oldest god known to mankind,
and more interestingly is perhaps the oldest living god, tracing a genealogy of
worship that is easily five thousand years old. Naturally, therefore, he is described
as the God with no lineage. Like Yahweh, who may be his only contemporary, his name
was not to be taken in vain. In fact his name was not to be uttered at all. He is
the howler, Rudra, when he first appears to us in the Rig Veda. He is Raudra
Brahman, the wild God of the Hymns. He is also Nataraja, the elegant
King of the Dance, and in fact of all the fine arts. He is the Lord of yoga, the
culmination of the universe, the cause of its dissolution - yet always transcending
such petty events.
To attempt an overview of Shiva in one essay is an act of extreme idiocy. I shall
therefore seek to communicate some of the flavors that are associated with Shiva,
trusting that time will be vouchsafed us to explore him in detail as we grow as
a web-site. Shiva has been around for so long that entire encyclopedias on him are
necessary to get just a bird's eye view. This god is perhaps the single most important
influence on the arts and culture of the Indian subcontinent. In a very real sense,
you find Shiva all over the country, he is in fact the country, so closely
interwoven are the myths of his actions with the culture and geography of the land.
So strong is Shiva's hold on the imagination that all local area gods which seek
to gain in prestige, or are sought to be subverted to the main body of the Hindu
religion, end up being described as various manifestations of Shiva. If the god
lives on a hill, a forest or a cave then there is no way he escapes being but one
more aspect of Mahadeva - the great god who loves to linger in hills, forests and
caves. This is what has happened to Khandoba in Maharashtra, Skanda in Tamil Nadu
and Ayyapan in Kerala to give the three most common examples. In fact another manner
of accommodating these local religions was to decree the gods to be sons of Shiva.
The Rig Vedic Shiva was known as Rudra. He was a grim mysterious god, living on
the fringes of Vedic society, a god who was so much of an outsider that he was not
even entitled to a share in the fire sacrifices. Yet the Vedic pantheon was clearly
in awe of this self sufficient Hunter-God. The hymns praise him in all-too-visible
anxiety that his strange powers may be aroused, and his name as mentioned was never
to be invoked. "We live in dread, and pray that you pass us by", quavers the Rig
Vedic verse. Yet it immediately goes on to add that He is the Awakener, who when
touched by pleas, grants a thousand kinds of balm that heal.
In a sense Rudra was too much a part of the Life-Force, too acutely felt to be just
a god. Rudra punishes Prajapati for the first primordial act of incest and in a
sense he is the defender of Dharma ever since. He is also a slayer of a brahmana,
Prajapati, in the service of a higher morality, a fact that has caused much anguish
to medieval commentators who were busy trying to show brahmanas were gods on earth
as well as in heaven. Rudra-Shiva is thus always about living an authentic life,
with utter disdain for convention.
This Vedic manifestation of Shiva was thought to be the earliest known(1500 B.C.)
before he became the great God of later Hinduism. Then came the discovery of a few
seals from the Harrapan civilization (2750 B.C.) and the picture changed completely.
The seals show a figure who is so manifestly Shiva that it had to be acknowledged
as such, even though it smashed the nice theory that was emerging of invading Aryans
destroying the cities of the Indus valley. It is known as the proto-Shiva seal.
However, for those who can read the signs and can decode the evidence, this figure
is far more important.
He is surrounded by animals, which directly links him up with the Rudra-Pashupatinatha
of the Vedas. The tiger, the elephant, and the bull depicted here, all play prominent
parts in the Shiva mythology. Even more importantly he is shown in a typical yogic
posture, which would indicate the knowledge of the ancient art.
This posture is the Udharva Linga posture (and not the ithyphallic posture
as is so easily assumed) and it indicates the triumph over the sexual impulse..
The balls of the feet press into the sacral region behind and beneath the testicles
as is shown. The lingam is erect and it presses into the navel, signifying the complete
conquest of the sexual energy. He is now Udharva Retas, "he whose semen flows
upwards". In the yogic system when you do not dissipate semen through ejaculation,
it transforms itself into a food for the brain called ojas, vital energy, and is
the source of the creative force that alone can provide you with the fuel to break
through into enlightenment. This posture is commonly practiced even today and the
udharva linga experience is not uncommon for many spiritual practitioners. Even
the founder of Kriya yoga has left an account of precisely this linga entering the
navel and the subsequent freedom from all thoughts and desire of lust.