Shiva


the word Shiva refers to the third God of the Trinity, and the one who has
been assigned the task of bringing the world to an end. The word itself briefly means the
eclectic, glorious and beautiful virtues of truthfulness, purity, auspiciousness, wisdom,
enlightenment, erudition, sagacity, blissfulness, dispassion, detachment, holiness and
divinity. These are accompanied by a high degree of peace, tranquility, serenity and their
attendant happiness, joy and bliss. Since ‘truthfulness and auspiciousness’ are qualities
that are beautiful, this word also means something that is beautiful and beyond reproach.
 Briefly therefore, the word ‘Shiva’ means ‘one who is auspicious, always pure,
holy, divine, truthful, beautiful and blissful’. Shiva is the Lord who is self-realised and a
personified form of the cosmic Consciousness and the Absolute Truth.
The Maho-panishad of Sam Veda tradition, in its Canto 1, verse no. 7 describes
that Shiva was born from the forehead of the Viraat Purush, the macrocosmic, invisible
and all-inclusive gross body of Brahm, the Supreme Being.
The Panch Brahm Upanishad of Krishna Yajur Veda, verse no. 41 espouses that
Shiva lives in the heart of the creature as an embodiment of ‘Sat-Chit-Anand’, i.e. as his
Atma—“Shiva, as Sat-Chit-Anand personified, always lives in the heart. He is a constant
witness of all that is happening. That is why the heart is regarded as the doorway to
liberation and deliverance from the traps that have been laid out by this delusory and
cunning world of artificiality to ensnare the creature in its tentacles.”
 The Bhasma Jabal Upanishad of the Atharva Veda tradition was preached by
Lord Shiva himself to sage Jabal Bhusund, and it highlights the fact that Lord Shiva is no
ordinary God, or even a senior one being a member of the Trinity of Gods consisting of
Brahma the creator, Vishnu the sustainer, and Rudra the concluder, but is the supreme transcendental Brahm himself personified. Shiva is the Supreme Being himself. Refer
Bhasma Jabal Upanishad, Canto 1, paragraph no. 1; Canto 2, paragraph no. 3, 6-8.
 The Yogtattva Upanishad of Krishna Yajur Veda tradition, in its verse nos. 92-94
says that Lord Shiva, in his form as Rudra, is the patron deity and personification of the
fire element, and it is no wonder then that he is surrounded by ‘fire-spitting’ serpents as a
symbolism of this fact. In this Upanishad’s verse nos. 98-102 it is asserted that Shiva is
the patron deity and personification of the sky element.

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 The Dakshin Murti Upanishad of Krishna Yajur Veda, in its verse nos. 8, 10, 13,
15 and 19 affirms that Shiva is invariably wrapped by serpents.
 The Dakshin Murti Upanishad of the Krishna Yajur Veda describes Lord Shiva
as the south-facing Lord and elaborately elucidates the metaphysical significance of this
form.
 The Brihajjabal Upanishad of the Atharva Veda tradition, in its Brahman 4, verse
no. 29 says that the Lord with three eyes (Trinetrum) is the bearer of this world having
three aspects or the one who is the foundation upon which all the three Gunas such as
Sata Guna, Raja Guna and Tama Guna rest (Trigunadhaaram) and is the one from whom
the Trinity Gods (i.e. the creator Brahma, the sustainer Vishnu, and the concluder Rudra)
are born. This Lord is none other than Lord Maheshwar, the great Ishwar or Lord of
creation who is also known as Shiva, Ishan, Isha etc. This Lord is synonymous with the
supreme transcendental Brahm. This fact is endorsed Krishna Yajur Veda’s Varaaha
Upanishad, Canto 4, verse no. 32, and in Dakshin Murti or Dakshin Mukhi Upanishad.
 As the deity of the fire element, he is said to have ‘three eyes’ (Yogtattva
Upanishad, verse no. 93), and as the deity of the sky element he is depicted as having a
moon tucked in his lock of hairs, besides having five mouths, ten arms and three eyes
(Yogtattva Upanishad, verse no. 100). Now let us see their significance.
The Ram Uttar Tapini Upanishad of the Atharva Veda, Canto 5, verse no. 4/42
says that it is Lord Ram who has manifested as ‘Maheshwar’, the great God. Since this
term is conventionally applied to Lord Shiva, it follows that Shiva is actually Lord Ram
in this form. Its verse no. 4/43 clearly endorses this view when it says that Lord Ram has
manifested himself as Mahadev—the great God. This term ‘Maha-dev’ is also
conventionally used for Lord Shiva.
The Atharva Veda’s Pashupat Brahm Upanishad, Purva Kanda/Canto 1, verse no.
32 emphasises that Lord Rudra or Shiva is also known as Pashupati. To quote—“One
must understand that the knowledge of the self-illuminated Hans that has been revealed
in this Upanishad deals with the eclectic and the divine knowledge of the pure cosmic
Consciousness known as the Atma as well as Brahm.
This ‘Hans’ is also revealed in the form of Lord Rudra (Lord Shiva), who is also
known as Lord Pashupati1
.
 It is this Brahm that is represented by Pranav, the cosmic ethereal sound
encapsulated in the word Mantra OM. It is this Pranav representing Brahm that provides
one with liberation and deliverance from this mortal gross world (32).
[Note—1
Lord Shiva who has full control over his sense organs and their inherent animal-
like instincts and behaviour—because he is a highly self-realised and enlightened deity
who is chosen by exalted ascetics and spiritual aspirants as their patron God—is known
as Pashupati, literally the Lord of animals. Since Lord Shiva tolerates no nonsense and
ruthlessly overcomes the wayward tendencies of the sense organs and the mind, showing
anger at them for their natural grossness and tendency to commit mischief and misdeeds, he is also known as ‘Rudra’, the angry one. Lord Shiva is uncompromising and
unrelenting in his pursuit of immaculacy, purity, auspiciousness, righteousness, nobility,
probity and propriety, and hence called Rudra, the angry God.
 ‘Rudra’ has zero tolerance for impertinence, mischief and nonsense. ‘Shiva’ is, on the
other hand, calm, tolerant and forgiving. Shiva always remains in a state of meditation
and contemplation, a state that is depicted in his posture of blissfulness and half-closed
eyes. Rudra, on the other hand, spews fire and brimstone. While Shiva symbolizes the
virtues of Brahm marked by blissfulness, tranquility, calmness, wisdom, enlightenment,
self-awareness and contentedness, Rudra represents the qualities of dynamism, vitality,
vigour, strength and energy present in Brahm.
 The question arises ‘why did Shiva become Rudra (angry)?’ The answer is that when
Shiva found that his sense organs and mind did not allow him the peace that he sought by
meditation and contemplation upon the ‘Atma, the self’, he became angry over them, and
severely took them to task—i.e. he became ‘Rudra’ or angry. It is like the case of a
teacher who is of a very calm nature and loves his students like they were his own sons,
but when he finds that his kindness and loving nature is being misused by the students
who create ruckus in the class, he has to become stern and spank them in order to restore
discipline and decorum. But that does not mean that he is cruel or wishes to harm his
students in the least. This same thing applies to Shiva.
 Shiva becomes Rudra in order to ruthlessly punish the creatures of this creation who
behave like savages or animals. This is necessary for him as he is the Supreme Being
who has the mandate to maintain order and balance in this creation, and he would be
failing in his moral duties and obligations if he tries to maintain a false exterior of
calmness when his interior is agitated by the upheaval all around. The Supreme Being
that Shiva is has an obligation to uphold positive traits and the virtues of auspiciousness,
righteousness, probity and propriety in this creation even if it means that his own image
of being calm and forgiving is questioned and overshadowed by anger and vehemence.
 Just as the case of severe and malignant diseases like cancer and tuberculosis
requiring an equally strong medicine, the evil, pervert and demonic forces of creation
require an equally strong antidote to be overcome.
Therefore, that aspect of Brahm, the Supreme Being, which helps the Jiva (the living
beings of this creation) control evil tendencies and negativity which make him animal-
like is known as ‘Pashupat Brahm’, and the effort that a Jiva makes to achieve this
eclectic goal is known as ‘Pashu-harta Yagya’.]
The Tripura Tapini Upanishad of the Atharva Veda tradition, Canto 1, verse no. 8
says that Shiva is known as Hans; and Canto 1, verse no. 9 says that he is Brahm.
The Tripura Tapini Upanishad, Canto 4, verse nos. 10, 14 assert that Shiva is the
creator of everything in this creation, and Canto 1, verse no. 13 says that Shiva represents
the creation itself much like Brahm, the Supreme Being who is also treated as being an
embodiment of the entire creation.
The Tripura Tapini Upanishad, Canto 4, verse no. 11 says that Shiva represents the
third state of consciousness known as the Sushupta state.
The Atharva Veda’s Bhasma Jabal Upanishad, Canto 2, paragraph no. 6 asserts that
Shiva and Rudra are one. The difference between the two names is due to the fact that the
same Lord exists in two forms which appear to be diametrically opposite of each other in
their characteristic features.
 If we closely examine this verse we will understand the difference between the
two terms ‘Shiva’ and ‘Rudra’ on the one hand, and between ‘Brahm’ and ‘Shakti’ on the other hand. Lord Shiva is extremely calm, serene, self-contented, self-realised and
blissful like Brahm, and is therefore regarded as a personification of the latter (i.e. of
Brahm). He remains perpetually involved in doing mediation and contemplation,
remaining happy and submerged in the thoughts of the transcendental Truth. Hence, he is
regarded as the patron deity of ascetics who themselves are regarded as personified forms
of Brahm because they have become extremely self-realised, i.e. they have experienced
the truth about themselves as being the Atma which is pure consciousness. This Atma is a
microcosmic form of the cosmic Consciousness and the Absolute Truth of creation
known as Brahm.
When the same Shiva assumes an angry form of Rudra at the time of conclusion
of creation, he shows an astonishing and an astounding level of dynamism, energy,
power, strength and vigour that are synonyms of the cosmic Shakti of Brahm. It is like
the case of lightening that is present in the dark rain-bearing clouds in the sky. This
lightening appears suddenly, streaks across the sky and causes a huge blast of light and
thunder, and if it happens to strike the earth leaves behind scorched trees and ruined
buildings, only to vanish without trace in another moment in the sky, withdrawing itself
into the thick bank of cloud from which it made its appearance.
This analogy of the lightening appearing from and disappearing into the clouds in
the sky would explain the phenomenon of Rudra vis-à-vis Shiva, and Shakti vis-à-vis
Brahm. Rudra appears momentarily from Shiva, accomplishes the task for which Shiva
had to assume this ferocious and ruthless form of anger, wrath and vehemence
personified, only to vanish into the calm and tranquil form of Shiva. Similarly Shakti
appears from the neutral cosmic entity known as the divine Brahm, accomplishes what is
expected of it, and then disappears into Brahm without trace.
Since everything in creation is a manifestation of Brahm, this unique character of Brahm
and its relationship with its dynamism revealed as Shakti is also revealed in all the five
primary elements of creation such as sky, air, water, fire and earth. Let us take one
example of earth to understand how it works out.
The earth is the grossest of the five elements, being heaviest and most dense. It is
inert and lifeless on the outside like any other celestial body of the fathomless heaven, but
still it conceives and harbours all imaginable forms of life, takes proper care of them and
provides endlessly for their necessities of existence. The earth is self-sufficient in this
respect, and it does not need any other help to sustain life, or even to replenish its
reserves which never deplete inspite of constant exploitation. So in this sense the ‘earth’
is Brahm personified. But when the ‘mother earth’ becomes angry, she vents her anger as
earthquakes, landslides, floods, tsunamis, famines and draughts, leading to large scale
destruction and havoc. This is the Shakti form of earth.
Then again, the earth is a solid piece of cosmic body which is lifeless, neutral and
barren at one place as evidenced by the endless stretches of rocks and sand seen at some
place on its surface, but at the same time it constitutes of charming and vibrant forms of
endless variety of fauna and flora symbolizing life in all its splendour and grandeur at the
other place. Even when the earth seems to be neutral, lifeless and inane, it still has its
inherent dynamism and energy as shown by its magnetic field and its movement not only
around its own self but also around the sun. This means that ‘earth’ stands for Brahm as
well as for Brahm’s Shakti simultaneously.
Likewise, if we take the example of the fire and the water, we find that on the one
hand they are harbingers of life, growth and development on the one hand, and when
annoyed become the cause of widespread destruction and havoc on the other hand. For
instance, fire is an essential component of life because without the fire there will be no
warmth and light, and the resultant chill and darkness would snuff life out of this
creation. But the same fire can scorch everything to ashes if it becomes annoyed and
decides to punish the world it had so benevolently nurtured.
The water also behaves in a similar fashion. While water is called the benevolent
‘elixir of life’ as it is the only element which actually cradles life in its merciful arms by
providing it with readymade nourishment and acts as a buffer, a coolant and a soft
lubricant that helps this creation to overcome the harsh and abrasive conditions on earth,
which is nothing but a solid and rugged ball of thick and hardened rock that would have
caused severe injury to the creation if it was not protected by the water, the same water
can wipe out life if it turns malevolent as is evident during floods, high ocean tides and
huge waves, tsunamis etc., or as observed during draughts when the water decides to
withdraw itself and let the life parch itself out by thirst.
Air also exhibits similar characteristics. On the one hand the air is absolutely
essential for life to exist in this world, because without air the life would suffocate to
death, but the same air can cause ruin when it becomes angry, as is proved during fierce
storms and cyclones.
The sky is the cosmic bowl which harbours everything that exists in this universe,
from the smallest piece of cosmic debris to the huge galaxies and planetary systems. It is
in the sky that our earth lives, and it is in the sky that the air we breathe is contained. But
it is the same sky in from which devastating meteors and asteroids might strike upon the
earth to wipe out entire generations of creatures. [It is one such event that had wiped out
the ancient dinosaurs from the surface of earth, and more recently one such meteorite had
blasted its way down to earth across the skies in the Ural Mountains of northern Russia
which injured thousands of people and cause material damage to buildings and factories.]
 During severe thunderstorms, hurricanes and cyclones, it is the sky that is said to
‘open up’ and pour rain on the earth which cause deluge, or blow fierce winds that strike
out viciously any thing standing up in its path much like the swing of the Vajra of Indra,
the king of Gods. It is one such deluge pouring down from the sky or heaven that is
expected to wipe out the present generation at the time of doomsday. Then again, during
wars, it is from the sky that rockets, missiles and arrows shower down upon armies to kill
and slay mercilessly.
So we conclude that while all the elements and all the units of creation are indeed
manifestations of Shiva or Brahm, the latter’s life-fostering and benevolent nature is
displayed in these units when they act as aids to development of life and its growth, while
their destructive aspect is a representative of Rudra. The dynamism, energy, vigour,
strength and abilities displayed by all the units of creation are, however, a manifestation
of the Shakti in its many myriad forms.

credit : Ajai Kumar Chhawchharia