By David Frawley
Shiva is ultimately a deity that represents the non-dualistic Absolute beyond all the contraries and oppositions of this dualistic world of time, space, and karma. He is the force of transcendent unity that is more than the combination of opposites and holds simultaneously the power of both sides of all dualities. Shiva is a deity who transcends duality in his very nature, appearance and manifestation – which also requires that he embraces all dualities and resolves them back into himself. This makes Shiva difficult to understand for the dualistic mind caught in outer differences and distinctions.
Shiva reflects the supreme truth that dwells beyond both relative truth and relative falsehood. He is the Supreme Being beyond both relative being and non-being. He is the supreme good beyond both relative good and evil. He embraces our world on both sides, above, below, and in the center and yet stands infinitely beyond it. He is One, yet he is all. He is everything and nothing, both within all things, outside of all things, and not limited by anything.
As a non-dual deity, Shiva seems contrary to our prevailing views of what is logical, right or appropriate. Shiva is portrayed as a dispassionate yogi yet he has the most powerful passions and the most beautiful and powerful wife. He both destroys Kamadeva, the ordinary God of love but then becomes the Supreme God of Love himself, Kameshvara. He takes us beyond suffering, but to do this he can cause us excruciating pain.
Shiva awakens a higher awareness in us, but for this to occur he must first take us beyond all our preconceptions, making us see the darkness of ignorance behind our lives. Shiva represents our higher Self that is the goal of our aspirations, but to reach it we must allow our ego, its attachments and opinions to be dissolved, giving up our ordinary sense of self altogether.
The Challenge of our Encounter With Shiva
Shiva in his diverse names, forms, and actions is meant to be challenging for us to grasp. Lord Shiva is not meant to be easy to understand, nor can we present his reality in a simple manner that resolves all doubts as to what he actually represents. To contact the reality of Shiva we must face all doubts and difficulties within ourselves and learn how to move beyond them with steadiness and grace. We must recognize the limitations of the mind and its particularized knowledge. The portrayal of Shiva is not meant to present us with only a pleasing appearance, any more than life is always kind. Our encounter with Shiva is meant to shake us up, to stir our inner transformative energies – to get us to question ourselves and all that we may hold to be truth or reality.
Any real encounter with Lord Shiva is not likely to conform to our existing beliefs, hopes, or expectations. It may not leave us feeling more confident about who we are, or more certain that our lives are moving in the right direction. An encounter with Shiva may not initially make us feel happier or give us more prosperity or what we may regard as a better life.
Shiva is not what we think God is supposed to be, conforming to our opinions or hopes; Shiva is what the Supreme Divine truly is beyond the limitations of our minds and the fixed tenets of any particular faith or belief. Shiva is the supreme reality, not we ourselves, our ideas, opinions, books, or institutions. Shiva is the cosmic reality not our individual or collective imaginations and fantasies. There is no box we can place Shiva into, no formula or structure that the mind can arrive at that can comprehend him.
To arrive at the state of supreme awareness that is Shiva, we must allow ourselves to be stripped bare of our personal conditioning down to the subconscious level, beyond the memories of the present birth and the perceptions of the outer world. We must learn to see ourselves in all beings past, present, and future. We must be humbled back to the core of our being where no self-image prevails, and where there is no other that we have to conform to, please, or fear.
The human mind as it is today is not a conscious intelligence that we can rely upon to determine what is real. It is a conditioned response mechanism for biological survival and social development. Information technology has augmented its powers but not taken us beyond its dualistic limitations. But in the silence of the heart, where all is forgotten, one can know the truth. You are Shiva in your deepest Self and core being. Shiva is the non-dual reality in which you personally are not there, yet in which through your inmost essence of feeling and awareness you are everything.
We can approach Lord Shiva many ways through ritual, Yoga, mantra, pranayama and meditation, but these are only expedient measures to draw us beyond body and mind to the mysterious core of our being that knows all intuitively without being trapped in any concepts.
Om Namah Shivaya!