Lord Shiva serves as an exceptional role model for all yogis to nurture the qualities necessary to help advance on the spiritual journey, to emulate the ultimate devotion, and to have a single-pointed focus upon the supreme reality, Sriman Narayana.
Written by: Madhusudanadas
Bhagavan Shiva symbolises that completely surrendered mind, that mind which is always focused upon the Supreme Reality.
Without a completely surrendered mind, union is not possible. Without being like Lord Shiva, perfect yoga is not possible. Shiva is always meditating on Lord Narayana with whom he has an extremely close relationship. In fact, Shiva is seen to have the ultimate devotion to Narayana.
In the month of December last year, about the same time I was asked to write on Shiva and Yoga, I just completed the Vedic Chanting teacher training and was ready to teach. Guess what Vedic chanting course comes up next for teaching in the schedule of upcoming courses? Shiva’s Ultimate Devotion commencing in the month of February! It made me so excited. This course, designed as an experience to connect with Shiva through the power of chanting over three weeks, culminates in Maha Shivaratri - the great night of Lord Shiva. Only a few days into the course, there is so much encouraging feedback from some yogis on how it is helping them connect with Lord Shiva.
When we look at what Shiva adorns it is easy to see why practising yogis would wish to connect with, be like, and learn from the king of all yogis.
The Adornments of Lord Shiva
In his muscular hands, Shiva holds the trident. The trident represents the three states of consciousness – waking, dreaming and sleeping. It also represents the three gunas (the three qualities or modes of material nature) which are sattva, rajas and tamas. Holding a trident signifies that the three states of consciousness are within Shiva’s grip and at the same time he is beyond all three choosing to use them as he pleases. He is also the master of the three gunas, using them as tools, rather than being used by them.
River Ganga flows from Shiva’s head to earth. This represents the flow of the knowledge of liberation from the divine consciousness to human consciousness. It is said that Ganga washes away all sins, the knowledge of liberation washes away all sins of the embodied soul. Lord Shiva possesses this knowledge and is additionally dear to me for revealing in a dialogue with goddess Parvati the mystical knowledge of the guru-disciple relationship.
There is a crescent moon on Shiva’s head. The moon represents the mind. Shiva’s mind however is fully surrendered to Narayana and can be said to be a state of ‘no mind’. When the mind is absent, can this surrender be expressed and understood in the manifest world? It cannot. True wisdom is beyond the mind, but in order for it to be expressed, a little bit of the mind is required which is represented by the crescent moon on Shiva’s head.
Lord Shiva’s third eye, when open, destroys everything and anything within its sight. It signifies the destruction of worldly desires. It is an eye of wisdom, which provides us with the faculty to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong. Certainly, something that we could all make use of.
The snake around Lord Shiva’s neck represents the ego. Shiva has control over his ego which allows humility to be fully expressed. The wearing of a snake can also represent a state of fearlessness over the past, present and future represented by the three coils of the snake. Any yogi who wants control of his or her ego, wants to strive to be humble, and wants to have a fearless nature? My hand is up!
Lord Shiva’s body is covered with holy ash. This shows the temporary nature of the physical body which is ultimately cremated and all that remains is ash. For sure we shall all leave our physical bodies one day. This serves as a reminder for us not to spend our time getting distracted with worldly pursuits but instead direct our time towards spiritual activities and also spiritualising our other daily activities. There is not a moment to waste!
Shiva is a great yogi, who is seated within each one. Shiva is always sitting in meditation to represent that the mind has to calm itself. When you have learned to calm your mind, when you have learned to surrender your mind to the Lord, then He can reveal Himself.
Lord Shiva serves as an exceptional role model for all yogis to nurture the qualities necessary to help advance on the spiritual journey, to emulate the ultimate devotion, and to have a single-pointed focus upon the supreme reality, Sriman Narayana. The next time you visit Shree Peetha Nilaya, the main ashram of Paramahamsa Vishwananda, sit next to Lord Shiva on the grounds and try to follow where His eyes lead to. It is not just a coincidence that Lord Shiva’s focus and gaze goes straight to and through the door of the main temple of The Ashram, where Lord Narayana rests.