The Shiva Tattva

The Shiva Tattva (shiva image)

The Shiva Tattva

The essence of the Shiva principle called the Shiva Tattva has been dealt with in Krishna 

Yajur Veda’s Dakshin Murti Upanishad, verse nos. 4-5, 24, 28-30; Varaaha Upanishad,
Canto 3, verse no. 6, Canto 4, verse no. 32; Rudra Hridaya Upanishad, verse nos. 5-6,
 Shiva Tattva—The word ‘Tattva’ means truth, reality, essence, fundamental
aspect, the primary and basic element, the real and truthful principle, while the word
‘Shiva’ stand for a host of eclectic virtues and divine glories exemplified and personified
by Lord Shiva, such as the divine and grand virtues of spiritual beauty, auspiciousness,
truthfulness, righteousness, nobility, dispassion, detachment, wisdom, knowledge,
enlightenment etc.
Since the primary essence and the basic elementary Truth of creation that is
absolute, pristine pure, uncorrupted, untainted, immutable, eternal, imperishable and
universal, that is auspicious, righteous and noble, is known as Brahm, and since these
virtues are undiluted, untainted and eternally truthful, since they are unchallengeable and
irrefutable ‘truths and reality’ of existence, they are collectively called the ‘Shiva
Principle’. Lord Shiva is the ultimate Authority and Principal of creation who personifies
these virtues.
 The word Shiva refers to one is not only beautiful, auspicious, holy and truthful,
who is not only most enlightened, wise, self-realised and Brahm-realised, but personify
or embody these virtues in his own self. That is why Shiva is the universal teacher and
preacher of the great principles and tenets of metaphysics and spirituality because there is
no one more competent, more knowledgeable and wiser than him. This is also the reason
why he is depicted always in a state of perpetual Samadhi—the state of perpetual
meditation and contemplation, because he has tasted the nectar of eternal bliss and
happiness that comes with realising the ultimate Truth of existence which fills the
spiritual aspirant with an extreme sense of contentedness and ecstasy.
It must be remembered that all Upanishads rely on and unequivocally expound
upon one basic philosophy, and it is the tenet of ‘Advaita’ or ‘non-duality’. They
endeavour to establish by their teachings that the ‘Tattva’, or the fundamental essence
behind everything in this living creation, no matter what its external form and quality is
and what the context and circumstance are—is basically the one and the same entity that
is known as pure cosmic Consciousness. Since the underlying essence is the same and it
remains constant, unchanging, immutable, indivisible and universal inspite of the mind-
boggling variations in which it is manifested in this visible world, since nothing can exist
without this fundamental essence, and since it would outlast all known visible faces of
creation that appear to be true on their face but are fundamentally flawed because they come to an end whereas ‘truth’ should be eternal and imperishable, it is known as
‘Tattva’, the great essence and fundamental ‘truth’ behind everything.
So, the Shiva Tattva being talked about here is the ultimate essence or Tattva that
is ‘Shiva’ in nature. That is, the essence that is basically truthful, beautiful, auspicious,
holy and divine in nature.
The main aim of all spiritual pursuit and study of the scriptures is to become
aware of the supreme and irrefutable Truth that is Absolute in this creation along with the
basic principles that define this Absolute Truth and form its eclectic essence. Since the
concept of the Absolute Truth is too abstract to be comprehended by the mind, it has been
personified as a deity or Deva. What is it? It is the eclectic, esoteric and mystical
knowledge and awareness of the cosmic, universal and eternal divine Being who
personifies this Truth, and who is the subject matter of all metaphysical research and
spiritual practices. This Supreme Being is none other but Brahm, the cosmic
Consciousness. The knowledge of this Brahm is known as the Shiva Tattva—the
auspicious, holy and divine essence and principle that defines and governs the enigmatic
and mysterious entity known as Brahm.
It is like the case of the hidden nucleus around which the electrons move in an
atom, or the atom itself which is invisible but forms the basic building block around
which all the molecules are constructed, and which in turn form the basis of all material
things that have come into existence in this world. If we remove the nucleus or the atom,
nothing would exist though no one has actually seen either of them.
 The varying ratio of the three basic qualities of Sata, Raja and Tama in a person
determine his individuality, and since the chances of these qualities mixing with each
other is phenomenally large, we have countless types of men with no two individuals
having everything in common. But suppose a situation is brought about when these three
Gunas neutralise each other, as the case was before the beginning of creation when they
were present in Brahm but lay in a neutral state, it would result in the elimination of all
disparities and differences seen in this world. That is, the state of non-duality,
homogeneity and uniformity would be reached. All variations and changes would cease
to matter—what is now would also be in the future, and it was the same in the past. This
is the basis of the theory of non-duality, i.e. that what was then is present now and would
be there in the future and beyond. Since only ‘truth’ does not change, the entity targeted
by this Upanishad is this ultimate ‘absolute truth’ which it prefers to call the ‘Shiva

Now let us see what the Dakshin Murti Upanishd of the Krishna Yajur Veda, verse nos.
4-5, 24, and 28-30 have to say on the subject.
“Verse nos. 4-5 = He (Maarkandey) began his discourse—‘That esoteric, mystical and
eclectic divine knowledge and wisdom which kindles spiritual awareness and
enlightenment in a spiritual aspirant and seeker, culminating in the revelation to him of
the supreme essence pertaining to Lord Shiva who is famously known as ‘Dakshin Mukhi
or Dakshinaa Mukha1
’, is the known as ‘Shiva Tattva’.
 The supreme transcendental Lord who winds up the entire creation at the time of
its end (i.e. at the time of its conclusion, called the ‘dooms-day’), retracting it and
establishing it in his own Atma or pure conscious cosmic Self (i. e. in his own bosom just like an octopus withdrawing its tentacles or a tortoise retracting its limbs in its shell) is
the patron deity or Deva of this knowledge2
 This Lord (i.e. the supreme transcendental Brahm in his most elementary and
truthful form known as ‘Shiva Tattva’—the primary essence, the basic elementary truth,
known as the ‘Shiva Principle’, of creation) remains perpetually blissful by submerging
himself in his own consciousness known as the Atma. He is self-illuminated (because
illumination and light are metaphors for consciousness, enlightenment and knowledge
that are holistic, divine, holy and auspicious) (4-5).
The word Dakshin Mukhi has two parts. The second part ‘Mukha’ means ‘face’,
while the word ‘Dakshin’ has three connotations here—viz. ‘south’, ‘right’ and
‘knowledge and wisdom’. Since Lord Shiva faced ‘south’ when he taught the ancient
sages and seers who had approached him in some earlier time to gain divine wisdom and
metaphysical knowledge which only he could impart to them, he was known as ‘the Lord
facing south’. Since the knowledge imparted by him was astoundingly unique, most
esoteric and divine, besides being the most ‘right’ or correct and precise ‘knowledge’ of
metaphysics which granted ‘a divine wisdom as well as spiritual vision’ to its followers,
making them experts and skilled in this knowledge, it was called ‘Dakshin’.
 The word ‘Dakshin’ is derived from the word ‘Daksha’ which means to be an expert
and skilled in any field of knowledge. Since Shiva is an expert God in the knowledge of
Brahm and the Atma, he is therefore the most competent and expert teacher and preacher
of this subject. A wise and skilled teacher is one who can make even difficult and rare
knowledge easily accessible to this students, and for this purpose he must have a first
hand experience of its intricate details so that he can solve all the problems, satisfy their
queries, and attend to other nitty-gritties.
In other words, the Dakshin Murti is the ‘image’ (‘Murti’) form of Shiva as a wise
and enlightened teacher as well as an expert preacher of divine knowledge which is
meant to make the disciple aware of the actual principles and the secret truth hidden in
this world behind the arcade of falsehood and deceptions that are so typical of this
deluding material world so as to enable him to attain a state of eternal blessedness
marked by eternal spiritual peace, happiness, beatitude and felicity. It’s the correct and
auspicious path to self-realisation and Brahm-realisation. And since he had done so while
facing south, he came to be known as ‘Dakshin Mukhi’—or the south facing Lord who
also happens to be an erudite and wise teacher and preacher.
Again, if we take the other name Dakshinaa Mukha it would mean ‘one who is a
personification of the virtues of donation and charity’. The word ‘Dakshinaa’ means
giving away charitably and making selfless donation, while ‘Mukha’ means ‘mouth’. In
other words, Lord Shiva has been extremely gracious, benevolent, liberal and
magnanimous in giving away whatever he has, and in this particular case he has given
away eternal spiritual knowledge and wisdom pertaining to the non-dual reality of the
‘self’ as a personification of Brahm. Since teaching is done by the ‘mouth’, hence this
donation and charity that he made was through the mouth, entitling him to be called
‘Dakshinaa Mukhi’.
Lord Shiva is regarded as the God assigned the duty of bringing about conclusion of
creation. In fact, Shiva is another manifestation of the supreme transcendental Brahm, the
Supreme Being, in his role as the concluder of creation just like there is Brahma the
creator and Vishnu the care-taker, both being the same Lord in his various roles. The
Shiva that is referred to in this Upanishad and the one who ought to be worshipped is not
his external form as the ferocious and merciless ‘God of death’ but the hidden element of
Truth and Reality that governs this creation and which acts as the dynamic Principal that
works behind the scene to bring about the conclusion of this vast creation, retract it in his own bosom like a father would embrace his offspring to protect it from the impending
danger, and then when the time is conducive, to make it re-emerge once again with a new
mandate and a fresh lease of life. Obviously, such an entity is known by the name of
Brahm in the Upanishads. In his role as the creator, this cosmic Principal is known as
Brahma, as the sustainer, nourisher and protector it is known as Vishnu, and as concluder
it is called Shiva. These three Gods of the Trinity represent the basic elements of creation
from which the entire creation has come into being. In this context, the reader is advised
to refer to Yogtattva Upanishad, verse no. 85-102 which basically describe how the five
elements have personified as these three Gods.]

“Verse no. 24 = To strike a perfect balance and establish a perfect harmony and
equanimity of the three Gunas (i.e. the Sata, Raja and Tama Gunas inherent in the
creature is varying ratios that determine his individual character and personality as well
as his mental setup and demeanours) is like Kaal or the death-knell of variables and
dichotomies that create innumerable distortions, confusions and perplexities that occur in
the world in its three dimensions of time (such as the past, the present and the future)
“Verse no. 28-29 = When the darkness of Agyan (ignorance and delusions) is removed
by the medium of the light of shown by Gyan (truthful knowledge and wisdom), Bhakti
(devotion and faith) and Vairagya (dispassion and detachment from falsehood and
deluding world)—it is only then that the lamp of self-realisation springs to life on its
own. That is, the self-illuminated Atma begins to show its divine presence.
One should use one’s Gyan (knowledge and wisdom) as the upper part of the
 which is used as a rubbing rod to vigorously arouse Vairagya (the grand virtues of
dispassion and detachment) which acts as the lower end of the Arani to produce the fire
of enlightenment and total dispassion or non-involvement with things that are not real
and true so that this ‘light’ can remove the darkness of Moha and Agyan (delusions and
ignorance) that act as impediments or obstacles in the awareness of the supreme Tattva,
i.e. in the realisation of the ultimate reality about the pure consciousness which is the true
‘self’. These two—Moha and Agyan—are equivalent to death of the creature because
they create extreme fear and confusion for him.
 That supreme transcendental Tattva (essence and fundamental truth) is realizable
only by the means of constantly pursuing the path of Gyan and Vairagya as well as doing
Yoga (meditation and contemplation). [Like in the field of modern science, research and
diligence is to be continuous process and not an ad-hoc approach. Like the case when
remains healthy if one eats a balanced diet for the whole of his life and not gorge upon
food once and then fast for a long time to compensate for it, meditation and
contemplation, learning and experimenting should be a continuous process to fine tune
one’s efforts and have better and finer experiences of spiritualism through life.]2
The Arani consists of two pieces of wood used to self-produce the fire during
fire sacrifices by vigorously rubbing them against one another. The lower piece is
rectangular in shape with a hole or indentation in the middle; it is made of a softer form
of wood, usually of the Ashvatta tree (Ficus riligiosa). It is called the lower Arani or the
‘Adharani’ and is likened to the female uterus. The upper piece of wood is in the form of
a churning or rubbing rod made of hard wood, usually Shami tree (Acacia suma), and it is
called ‘Uttararani’. It is equivalent to the male phallus. The upper piece is inserted in the
hole of the lower piece and vigorously turned with the help of a long string or cord. This rubbing generates heat and results in the creation of fire at the point of friction. This fire
is the offspring of this union of the cosmic male and female.
 In the present example, the upper part of the Arani which is vigorously turned is the
Gyan, while the lower part is represented by Vairagya. The idea is that with proper use of
Gyan or truthful knowledge, an aspirant can ignite the fire of renunciation and
detachment from this world and its material charms, and this light of enlightenment
would in its wake remove the darkness of delusions that they have cast upon him.
 The analogy of the Arani has been cited in a number of Upanishads of the Krishna
Yajur Veda, e.g. Kathwalli Upanishad, Canto 2, Valli 1, verse no. 8; Brahm Upanishad,
verse no. 18; Kaivalya Upanishad, verse no. 11; Shwetashwatar Upanishad, Canto 1,
verse no. 14-15, Canto 2, verse no. 6; Dhyan Bindu Upanishad, verse no. 22.
The same idea has been expounded in Yogatattva Upanishad, verse nos. 14-18 of the
Krishna Yajur Veda tradition.]

“Verse no. 30 = Not to think of and contemplate on the supreme Truth is equivalent to the
fetter that shackles the creature to this world. [This is because the mind cannot stay quiet,
and neither can the organs remain idle. So if their energy and restlessness is not directed
or channelised properly to something spiritually better and constructive, they would
automatically and naturally gravitate or swerve towards their natural habitat, which in
this case is this material world of delusions and artificiality, a world full of sense objects
that keep the creature trapped in their snare by their magical charms, in an instinctive
manner. This happens due to ignorance about the truth and reality of existence. The
creature erroneously and out of ignorance thinks that the pleasures and comforts of the
world are for real as much as the fallacious conception that he has about the gross and
perishable body as being his ‘true self’ instead of the Atma. Falsehood and deception are
like fetters that tie the creature’s soul to this world of birth and death because he would
be entangled in its vice-like grip. He would be under the impression that the deeds done
by the body are being done by ‘him’—and that therefore he is entitled to reap the fruits of
such deeds. He forget in the process that what he considers as ‘him’ is not the ‘real self’
of his but only a temporary dwelling in as much as the ‘real self’ is the pure
consciousness called the Atma that merely resides in this gross body and is not involved
in any of the deeds done by the latter. This Atma is eternal and imperishable as opposed
to the body, and therefore all the miseries to which the creature is subjected to in this
world are actually limited to the body and do not affect the Atma. This Atma never dies
or takes birth, and the quagmire in which it has found itself in the present is due to its
ignorance about this fundamental Truth of existence. Delusions, ignorance and their
attendant hallucinations, vexations, perplexities, miseries and torments are tantamount to
tying the creature in fetters because a bonded man is never at peace with himself no
matter what material comforts he might be enjoying.]
 Those who are tied to this fetter are the ones who are tormented and scared by the
notion of duality or Dvaita in this world. [They are utterly confused as to what is true and
what is false. They are not certain if the world they see and believe in is true or not, and
whether the Atma actually exists. They are also not sure what kind of Mukti, or liberation
and deliverance of the soul or Atma is known as the ‘final Mukti’ or the Kaivalya Mukti.
They toss around and hop between theories and philosophies, never finding any firm
ground to rest and have everlasting peace.]
 When one becomes aware of the fact that one’s ‘true self’ is the pure
consciousness and a personification of the supreme Truth of existence called the ‘Shiva Tattva’, that they are one and the same, it is then that he finds freedom from all sorts of
fears and consternations. That is, when a wise and self-realised person realises that his
‘self’ is the universally conscious Atma which is the microcosmic counterpart of the
macrocosmic Consciousness called Brahm, he feels a sense of great spiritual achievement
as he would then have found or discovered the greatest of spiritual and metaphysical
Truths in existence.
This eclectic knowledge and enlightenment steadies the spiritual aspirant by
helping him focus on his own ‘self’, in his own Atma, which is the truthful essence
known as cosmic Consciousness that is synonymous with the supreme transcendental
Divinity known as Brahm or the ‘Shiva Tattva’ (30).
The Varaaha Upanishad of the Krishna Yajur Veda, Canto 3, verse no. 6, and Canto 4,
verse no. 32 have this to say on the subject of Shiva principle—
“Canto 3, verse no. 6 =
“Canto 4, verse no. 32 = Shiva is the eternal Guru (moral preceptor, teacher and spiritual
guide); Shiva is the Vedas personified; Shiva is revealed in the form of all the Gods;
Shiva is the supreme Lord. [These stanzas can be interpreted as follows—the Guru is a
manifestation of Shiva; the Vedas are embodiments of Shiva; the Gods are none other
than Shiva revealed in their forms. Indeed, Shiva is the supreme Lord, the Supreme Being
of creation.]
 Since everything is Shiva, I too am Shiva. [That is, I am an embodiment of
Shiva—the truthful one, the auspicious one, the beautiful one, the wise and enlightened
one, the one who is renunciation personified, the eternal and infinite one, the Supreme
Being himself in my form.] (32).”
The concept of ‘Shiva Tattwa’ has been expounded upon in the Rudra Hridaya
Upanishad of the Krishna Yajur Veda, in verse nos. 5-6, 12-15 as follows—
“verse no. 5 = To bow before Govind (one of the numerous names of Vishnu) and pay
obeisance to him is equivalent to bowing before Lord Shiva and paying obeisance to the
latter (because they are both the same Divinity personified). Those who worship Vishnu
(who rides the Gurud, the legendary heron of eagle) with devotion and reverence are
indeed worshipping and showing reverence to Lord Shiva who rides a bull (5).
“verse no. 6 = Those who do not like the strange and unconventional form of Shiva as
‘Virupaksha’ that is very odd and inconsistent with the usually pleasant form of Vishnu,
and therefore resent it and have aversion for it cannot hope to ever please Lord Janaardan
(Vishnu, the compassionate Lord who is merciful towards his subjects, protects them and
loves them). It is equivalent to having resentment for and aversion to Lord Janaardan
 Those who do not know the mysterious secrets of Rudra (Shiva) can never know
the esoteric secrets of Keshav (Vishnu) as well; they are ignorant of who Vishnu actually
This verse is a clear indication that both these Gods—Shiva and Vishnu—are to
be treated alike and with the same degree of respect and honour. This proves the fact that
this Upanishad aims at establishing harmony and goodwill between the worshippers of
Vishnu and Shiva who were traditionally at odds with each other.

Shiva is called ‘Virupaksha’ because of his external appearances which are most odd
and unconventional. He is depicted by the Purans as being naked, wearing only animal
skin and having ash of the cremation ground smeared all over his body, has serpents
wrapped all round him, eats intoxicating herbs and remains perpetually in an intoxicated
state, lives in the cremation ground in the company of ghosts and phantoms, gets angry at
the slightest provocation or pretext, etc. This external behaviour of the Lord is obviously
at odds with that of Vishnu who is depicted in a flamboyant form with magnificent and
colourful attire, fully decked up with priceless ornaments, having a charming demeanour,
pleasant speech that offends none, good company, a regal abode in the heaven, and
always sporting an enchanting and benevolent smile captivating the heart of millions of
his devotees as compared to the fear-instilling, grave and somber mood in which Shiva
So this verse intends to enlighten the spiritual aspirant that he should not be misled
by these and other such dichotomies and differences that exist in this creation, or the
various forms in which the different godheads are depicted in the Purans and other texts,
but peer underneath and see the reality and the truth that they represent. External
appearance is no criterion to decide that one God is senior to the other, as this is
necessary so that the concerned God can play his role in the cogwheel of creation
perfectly. This wisdom, erudition and enlightenment would be called acquisition of ‘true
Gyan’ or knowledge that is ‘true’ and ‘enlightening’ in the real sense.
The outwardly odd behaviour and fearful external appearance of Shiva which makes
him ‘Virupaksha’ is misleading—for the simple reason that the Shiva is very enlightened
and self-realised who has totally detached himself from worldly involvement and
pleasures, and instead prefers to remain engrossed in meditation and contemplation. He
has tasted the divine elixir of self-realisation and the peace that comes with meditation
and contemplation, so is the least bothered by how he looks and what people think of
him. He is an ascetic par-excellence. Hence he is always seen with closed or half-open
eyes. His short temper is due to this trance-like state of his blissful inner self—for when
his internal peace of meditation is disturbed by any kind of external disturbances, he gets
extremely annoyed and exceedingly peeved. His staying in the cremation ground is
indicative of his close acquaintance with or understanding of death which makes him
totally aware of the perishable nature of life and the futility of pursuing it at the cost of
liberation and deliverance of the soul. Since he constantly sees death in the face, no
charms of this world can ever be sufficiently enticing as to trap him in its snare.
 But does this mean that Vishnu is engrossed in enjoying this perishable world and is
in any way less self-enlightened and divine than Shiva? Not the least; the Lord has to
carry on with the function of sustenance and protection of this creation, and so has to
adopt a posture that suits his job. He needs wealth and powers and authority to provide
for the necessities of this creation, create prosperity for its future wellbeing, and maintain
law and order in this creation. Shiva is only concerned with conclusion, so he can afford
to maintain a distanced life style. That is also why Shiva is usually the patron God of
ascetics and their like because they symbolise the last phase of life marked by total
renunciation, spending time on meditation and contemplation, and generally preparing to
face the ultimate truth that all material objects of this world are perishable and they have
to be abandoned at the time of death. So a wise man should not hanker after them and get
unduly perturbed and anxious for them at the internal level of his ‘self’. At the most, they
should be used to fulfill the obligations of existential life as and when they present
themselves during the course of the soul’s journey in this world, but not thought to be the
truthful thing to be aimed at and achieved at any cost whatsoever. The world does not
provide long-term bliss, peace and tranquility, and neither is it eternal and restful.
Shiva stands for the last phase of life and is the manifestation of Brahm to bring
about the conclusion of creation at the macro level, and of the individual in the form of
the death of the body at the micro level of creation. What is the secret to be known? It is
the fact that inspite of being the great God called ‘Mahadev’ who is most powerful and
omnipotent, Shiva prefers to remain away from the limelight of creation.
Iconographically, he has been depicted as being submerged in deep meditation and
contemplation on his inner self. This indicates that he has learnt that true peace comes
with realising the bliss emanating from the Atma, and not by remaining engrossed in the
material world of sense objects which only create delusions and consternations. He is
deemed to be the most enlightened God as indicated by the fact that he is the only one to
have the activated ‘third eye’ of wisdom located in the middle of the forehead between
the eyebrows. Shiva remains submerged in the ecstasy and blissful state of Brahm
realisation. Which brings us to the main point of this verse—that is, this Brahm upon
whom Shiva meditates had manifested himself in the form of the Viraat Purush who is
also known as Vishnu at the time of the first stages of creation. So Shiva is actually
meditating upon Vishnu. This fact has been affirmed in the epic Ramayan where Lord
Ram, an incarnation of Vishnu, calls the image of Shiva installed on the shores of the
ocean before his departure for the conquest of Lanka and its demon king Ravana, as
‘Rameshawar’—literally meaning ‘the Lord of Ram’. It also means ‘One who’s Lord is
Ram’. In other words, Ram as an incarnation of Vishnu is the Lord of Shiva, and vice
 Therefore, in the lexicon of metaphysics, Vishnu is the supreme Brahm upon whom
Shiva meditates and remains engrossed in his memory. Shiva represents the extremely
enlightened and dispassionate form of Brahm, whereas Vishnu stands for his more
worldly manifestation that is engaged in affairs of creation and its maintenance. This
Upanishad also asserts that the Jiva, the living being in his essential and truthful form as
the Atma, the pure consciousness, is Ishwar or the supreme Lord personified—refer verse
nos. 41-45 on the one hand, and on the other hand that this supreme Lord is no one else
but Shiva—which is the basic theme around which this Upanishad is built. So, when it is
said that Shiva meditates upon Vishnu it also implies that an enlightened man who has
realised who he actually is worships the supreme Lord of creation known as Vishnu. It is
easy for him to worship Vishnu than Shiva for one other reason. Vishnu had incarnated
on several occasions and lived amongst humans, creating a legion of stories and worldly
deeds that are well documented in the different Purans and Itihasas, such as the Bhagwat
Maha Puran and the epic Ramayan that the ordinary man can read, find practical to
follow and easy to relate to because they describe to him things and circumstances and
the world with which he is very much acquainted and which is the one that is causing him
all the problems in the first place.]
“verse no. 12 = The Antaraatma is Brahma the creator, Parmatma is Maheshwar (literally
the ‘Great God’ but meaning Shiva), and the universal and eternal Atma is Vishnu the
sustainer and protector of creation (12).
[Note—The Anataraatma is the consciousness residing in the bosom of all living beings
as their own individual Atma. It forms the core of the inner self, the individual creature in
his true form. This can be roughly translated as the sub-conscious mind that directs the
conscious mind to act. Since it is the mind that creates this world by its imaginative
powers and then believes it to be true, it is said that the Antaraatma is the creator of the
physical visible world, or is equivalent to Brahma who created this world by using his
mind. This is because Brahma had the technical knowledge that was required for this
process, and knowledge and its application is the function of the mind and intellect.
The Parmatma is of course the Supreme Being, the Lord of all that exists. Hence, he
is ‘the Great God’ or Maheshwar. He remains in a passive state of meditation and
perpetual contemplation as symbolised by Shiva.
 Finally, Vishnu is the Atma because he symbolically represents the Viraat Purush and
displays all the unique characteristic qualities of the Viraat Purush, the macrocosmic
invisible Lord of creation from whom the three visible Gods—viz. Brahma, Vishnu and
Shiva—emerged. So therefore, Viraat is like the soul and the basis upon which the entire
edifice of this creation is built, and who is at the very foundation of creation of these
Trinity Gods.]
“verse no. 13 = This creation as a whole is like a huge tree1
. The three parts of this
creation are known as the three worlds (celestial, terrestrial and nether or subterranean),
and they are like its outstretched branches. [Refer verse no. 41 also.]
 The upper part of this cosmic tree is represented by Vishnu. Its middle part
(trunk) is represented by Brahma. And its roots are represented by Maheshwar (Shiva
symbolising the supreme Brahm)2
The metaphor of the tree has been employed in Katho-panishad of Krishna
Yajur Veda tradition, Canto 2, Valli 3, verse no.1 also to describe the creation.
The upper and outer branches of a tree spread out in the sun and their leaves absorb
sunlight and carry on photosynthesis. The branches give shelter to so many forms of
fauna and animal life—birds, flies, insects, centipedes and reptiles etc. (e.g. the
caterpillar, snakes, squirrels, lizards etc.). This is a clear symbolism of the functions of
Vishnu who is assigned the task of sustenance and giving protection to the creation.
 The trunk and central branches stand for Brahma the creator because it is out of this
central core that the outer branches and leaves and flowers emerge and spread out. In the
case of the huge Banyan tree it is seen that these branches produce secondary trees by
first touching the ground and then transforming this apparent prop into a stem or trunk of
the second spread. It is symbolic way of how Brahma unfolded the creation and then let it
spread out on its own and reproduce itself. The trunk of the tree is a link between the
upper part bearing the leaves, fruits and flowers, and the root that anchors the whole
structure to the ground and absorbs nourishment from the soil. The trunk helps the
nourishment absorbed by the root to be taken and distributed equally to all the distant
parts of a huge tree. In other words, Brahma the creator is that aspect of the supreme
transcendental Brahm (the ultimate Absolute Truth and cosmic Consciousness) that
helped to reveal the existence of the latter when he unfolded the multicoloured and
multifarious vast creation which is so infinite, varied and unique that it defies all
definition, narration and imagination.
 The visible aspect of the world is like the unfolding of the upper part of the tree
consisting of the stem, fruit, leaves and flowers, while the root is like the Viraat Purush
from whom the entire creation evolved. The seed which is the ‘basic cause’ of the entire
structure coming into existence, including the root, is like Brahm. At a slightly grosser
level of evolutionary ladder, the three Gods of the Trinity, i.e. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva
would represent the trunk, the root, the flowers and the fruits depending upon how one
interprets this analogy. For instance, Brahma made this visible creation possible and laid
down its foundation; hence he is like the trunk as well as the root. Vishnu sustains and
takes care of the world; hence he is like the root which absorbs nourishment and the trunk
which distributes this nourishment to all the parts of the tree. Shiva is like the leaves,
flowers and fruits because they lend beauty to the tree, are its essence and auspicious
reward, and produce the seed from the next tree would be born along with the sign of the
tree’s final years of its life-cycle.

Since it is the root that is at the foundation of the entire edifice, it can also be
compared to Maheshwar—the great God who is the anchor of everything in existence.
Had it not been for the root, the tree would not have come into existence in the first place.
The root anchors the tree and prevents it getting uprooted in the fiercest of storms. The
tree draws it basic nutrients from the ground through the root. Without the root, there
would be no tree. Even if the tree is cut on its upper side but its roots remain intact, it
would regenerate itself.]

“verse no. 14 = Vishnu personifies the auspicious objective or aim of doing anything.
Brahma represents the actual process of doing deeds or giving effect to one’s plans. And
Maheshwar stands for the cause behind anything that happens, or occurrence of any
circumstance that requires action to be taken and deeds to be done (14).
[Note—Vishnu signifies that the aim of any deed should be righteousness and
auspiciousness. This aim ensures that the deed is done in a righteous and auspicious
manner and subsequently bears good results and fosters all round happiness and goodwill
for the creature in life. When this does not happen, the creation suffers. This is why when
unrighteousness represented by the evil forces of creation personified by Demons are in
the ascendance, Vishnu incarnates himself as one or the other incarnations to slay these
Demons and restore order and the virtues of righteousness and auspiciousness in creation.
Brahma is the godhead that actually took necessary actions to initiate the process of
creation of the physical world once the Viraat Purush had decided to do so. Therefore,
Brahma symbolises the virtues of implementing decisions and taking appropriate actions
so one’s dreams and aspirations can be fulfilled. Brahma also created the vast repositories
of knowledge in the form of the Vedas, indicating that it is not only sufficient to do deeds
but more importantly to do them in the correct manner.
 Finally, Shiva stands for the end of life, the culmination of one’s efforts and ensuring
a good end. Obviously, no one would want to ruin one’s future and die in sufferings,
pains and agonies. So Shiva is the cause which would indirectly propel a person to do
things righteously and with due diligence. Again, one can reach an end only when there is
a beginning, for without a start there cannot be an end. Therefore, Shiva indirectly is the
‘cause of the beginning’ so there can be an ultimate ‘end’. Shiva inspires a person to
make an auspicious beginning immediately with the averred aim of finding eternal peace
and happiness for one’s self.
Shiva is the patron God of ascetics, hermits and mendicants because he symbolises a
high degree of self-realisation, renunciation, dispassion, wisdom and enlightenment.
When a man becomes enlightened and self-realised, he sees the futility of pursuing this
world and decides to renounce it by taking the vow of Sanyas, or the life of renunciation
and detachment from the material world. This is literally a new beginning, a new life for
him. It is a life of awakening and self-realisation which leads to liberation and
deliverance as opposed to the earlier life of delusions and entrapments.
Shiva is the patron God of death implying the end of all delusions and bondages to
this body and the material world, and the beginning of a new life spiritual freedom
marked by self-realisation and enlightenment.]
“verse no. 15 = Dharma (the virtues of righteousness, auspiciousness, probity and
propriety) personifies Rudra. The Jagat (the world, both the animate and the inanimate) is
a symbolic representation of Vishnu. And Gyan (knowledge, wisdom and erudition)
stands for Brahm (15).”

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credit : Ajai Kumar Chhawchharia