Understanding The Forms of Shiva
“Shiva has always been referred to as Triambaka because he has a third eye. A third eye does not mean a crack in the forehead. It simply means that his perception has reached its ultimate possibility.”
In Indian tradition, Shiva has many forms, each representing a powerful possibility for inner evolution. Sadhguru looks at a few forms, and explains the basis underlying each of them.
Sadhguru: Shiva is always seen as a very powerful being, and at the same time, as one who is not so crafty with the world. So, one form of Shiva is known as Bholenath, because he is childlike. “Bholenath” means the innocent or even the ignorant. You will find that most intelligent people are very easily taken for a ride because they cannot subject their intelligence to petty things. A very low level of intelligence that is crafty and shrewd can easily outsmart an intelligent person in the world. That may mean something in terms of money or society, but it doesn’t mean anything in terms of life.
When we say intelligence, we are not looking at just being smart. We are looking at allowing that dimension which makes life happen, to be in full flow. Shiva is like this too. It is not that he is stupid, but he does not care to use intelligence in all those petty ways.
Sadhguru: Natesha or Nataraja, Shiva as the Lord of Dance, is one of the most significant forms of Shiva. When I visited CERN in Switzerland, which is the physics laboratory on the planet, where all the atom-smashing takes place, I saw that there is a Nataraja statue in front of the entrance, because they identified that there is nothing in human culture which is closer to what they are doing right now.
The Nataraja form represents the exuberance and dance of creation which self-created itself from eternal stillness. Nataraja standing in the Chidambaram temple is very symbolic because what you call Chidambaram is just absolute stillness. That is what is enshrined in the form of this temple. The classical arts are to bring this absolute stillness into a human being. Without stillness, true art cannot come.
Sadhguru: Generally, Shiva is referred to as the ultimate man, but in the Ardhanarishvara form, one half of him is a fully developed woman. What is being said is that if the inner masculine and feminine meet, you are in a perpetual state of ecstasy. If you try to do it on the outside, it never lasts, and all the troubles that come with that are an ongoing drama. Masculine and feminine does not mean male and female. These are certain qualities. Essentially, it is not two people longing to meet, it is two dimensions of life longing to meet – outside as well as inside. If you achieve it inside, the outside will happen 100% by choice. Otherwise, the outside will be a terrible compulsion.
This is a symbolism to show that if you evolve in your ultimate context, you will be half a man and half a woman – not a neuter – a full-fledged man and a full-fledged woman. That is when you are a full-blown human being.
Sadhguru: Kalabhairava is a deadly form of Shiva – when he went into a mode of destroying time. All physical realities exist within the span of time. If I destroy your time, everything is over.
Shiva put on the right kind of costume and became Kalabhairava, to create the Bhairavi Yatana. “Yatana” means ultimate suffering. When the moment of death comes, many lifetimes play out – with great intensity, whatever pain and suffering needs to happen to you, will happen in a microsecond. After that, nothing of the past remains in you. Undoing your “software” is painful. But this happens at the moment of death, so you have no choice. But he makes it as brief as possible. Suffering has to end quickly. That will happen only if we make it super-intense. If it is mild, it goes on forever.
Sadhguru: In the yogic tradition, Shiva is not worshiped as a God. He is the Adiyogi, the first Yogi, and Adi Guru, the First Guru from whom the yogic sciences originated. The first full moon of Dakshinayana is Guru Purnima, when Adiyogi began the transmission of these sciences to the Saptarishis, his first seven disciples.
This predates all religion. Before people devised divisive ways of fracturing humanity, the most powerful tools necessary to raise human consciousness were realized and propagated. The sophistication of it is unbelievable. The question of whether people were so sophisticated at that time is irrelevant because this did not come from a certain civilization or thought process. This came from an inner realization. It was just an outpouring of himself. You cannot change a single thing even today because he said everything that could be said in such beautiful and intelligent ways. You can only spend your lifetime trying to decipher it.
Sadhguru: Shiva has always been referred to as Triambaka because he has a third eye. A third eye does not mean a crack in the forehead. It simply means that his perception has reached its ultimate possibility. The third eye is the eye of vision. The two physical eyes are just sensory organs. They feed the mind with all kinds of nonsense because what you see is not the truth. You see this person or that person and you think something about him, but you are not able to see the Shiva in him. So, another eye, an eye of deeper penetration, has to be opened up.
Any amount of thinking and philosophizing will never bring clarity into your mind. Anyone can distort the logical clarity that you create; difficult situations can completely put it into turmoil. Only when vision opens up, only when you have an inner vision, will there be perfect clarity.
What we refer to as Shiva is nothing but the very embodiment of ultimate perception. It is in this context that the Isha Yoga Center celebrates Mahashivarathri. It is an opportunity and a possibility for all to raise their perception by at least one notch. This is what Shiva is about and this is what yoga is about. This is not religion, this is the science of inner evolution.
May this Mahashivarathri night not just be a night of wakefulness, but let this also become a night of intense aliveness and awareness for you. It is my wish and blessing that you make use of this wonderful gift that nature offers us on this day. I hope all of you ride this upsurge and know the beauty and ecstasy of what it means when we say “Shiva.”
Editor's Note: Download Sadhguru's ebook, Shiva - Ultimate Outlaw, along with Vairagya, an album of sacred chants (also available as an Android App). They're free!