Shiva (Sanskrit: शिव) is one of the principal deities of Hinduism. He is the Supreme Being within Shaivism, one of the major traditions within contemporary Hinduism
According to the Shaivism sect, the highest form of Shiva is formless, limitless, transcendent and unchanging absolute Brahman, and the primal Atman (soul,self) of the universe.
Shiva is also called as Brahman which can also be said as Parabrahman. Shiva means nothingness. The word shivoham means the consciousness of one individual.
The roots of Shiva in folk etymology are Shi which means “in whom all things lie, pervasiveness” and va which means “embodiment of grace”
The word Shiva is used as an adjective in the Rig-Veda (approximately 1700–1100 BC), as an epithet for several Rig-vedic deities, including Rudra. The term Shiva also connotes “liberation, final emancipation” and”the auspicious one”, this adjective sense of usage is addressed to many deities in Vedic layers of literature.
The term evolved from the Vedic Rudra-Shiva to the noun Shiva in the Epics and the Puranas, as an auspicious deity who is the “creator, reproducer and dissolver”.
The Shaivism theology is broadly grouped into two: 1) The popular theology influenced by Shiva-Rudra in the Vedas, Epics and the Puranas; and 2) The esoteric theology influenced by the Shiva and Shakti-related Tantra texts.
The Tantric Shiva tradition ignored the mythologies and Puranic stories related to Shiva, and depending on the sub-school developed a spectrum of practices. For example, historical records suggest the tantrics co-existed with and shared many Vajrayana Buddhist rituals, engaged in esoteric practices that revered Shiva and Shakti, begged with empty skulls, used meat, alcohol and sexuality as a part of ritual. Incontrast, the esoteric tradition within Kashmir Shaivism has featured the Krama and Trika sub-traditions. The Krama sub-tradition focused on esoteric rituals around Shiva-Kali pair.The Trika sub-tradition developed a theology of triads involving Shiva, combined it with an ascetic lifestyle focusing on personal Shiva in the pursuit of monistic self liberation.
ESOTERIC MEANING OF SHIVA
Shiva represents the whole consciousness, the consciousness which is beyond all the space, all the times, all the materials and all the beings. So shiva is an enigma, shiva is you, shiva is me, and shiva is pervading the whole universe.
Shiva is an aspiration of every yogi, anybody who is walking the path of spirituality. One who is absolutely established in stillness, who is behind every activity but at the same time, is totally inactive, somebody who is not pushed into thinking, pushed into talking or pushed into action, somebody who is established in absolute stillness, but the source of every action. Even when he is extremely dynamic, he is extremely still.
Shiva needs to be experienced. And when you experience shiva, you become shiva, and when you become shiva, you are absolutely still, the mind completely collapses, dissolves, and you become completely occupied in the state of shiva, and yes shiva is definitely a state, and in this state it’s total bliss – satchitananda.
He’ is both shiva and Shakti. The latent, the power, the energy aspect, and the creative aspect. ‘He’ is Ardhanarishvara, half-man, half-woman, both genders merge in the supreme entity.
“Utterly fearless and uninhibited it is this consciousness that brings
into manifestation and sustains the infinite
variety of beings, from the creator to the
blade of grass. It is ever dynamic and active,
yet it is more inactive than a rock and is more
unaffected by such activity than space.”
(Yoga Vashishtha – 5:23)
Shiva represents the unmanifest and Shakti the manifest; Shiva the formless and Shakti the formed;Shiva consciousness and Shakti energy, not only in the cosmos as a whole but in each and every individual. The roots of Shakti are in Shiva. Though one is manifested and the other unmanifested, they are in the ultimate sense one and the same. One is the principle of changelessness and the other, the principle of change- Shakti is change within changelessness while Shiva is changelessness as the root of change. The experience of perfect unity of the changeless and the changeable, the dissolution of duality, is the aim of Tantra, and thus of Yoga.
Everything you see around you, whether physical, psychic, mental or whatever, is Shakti, both individually and collectively. This includes everything from a pebble to the sun. All manifestations of Shakti come from the underlying substratum, Shiva. The aim of Tantra is to invert the process to retread the path of creation as it were, back to union with Shiva or the Paramatman (Supreme)
There is a supreme experience where Shiva and Shakti no longer exist as separate entities. Some call it ‘Brahman’, others refer to it as being ‘Not this, not this’, meaning that it is inexpressible, while still others say that it is one without a second. This is the state of nirvana, samadhi, perfect oneness, or enlightenment. It is the state where Shiva merges so closely with Shakti that they become one. They embrace each other so tightly that they cease to be separate. And this is the meaning of the many ‘seemingly’ erotic sculptures which personify these two principles – Shiva and Shakti. They symbolize that enraptured state where separateness is no more. This is ‘The divine embrace of Tantra’.
Shiva means consciousness. It can also be understood in many other ways. You can say Shiva means purusha, the ultimate matter or the basis of creation. The reality and the basis behind the nature of the whole creation is based on two factors. One is Shiva, pure, unchanging consciousness, and the other is Shakti, eternal evolution through action (prakriti)
When you practice yoga and transcend the body and intellect, then you have certain inner experiences. These experiences, which many successful yogis have, often take the form of columns of light. If you read the life of Mohammed, the life of Zoroaster or the lives of the Christian saints, you will find that they all refer to columns of light.
Now, these columns of light are not necessarily the same in everybody’s experience. Sometimes you see a column of smoke and sometimes you see a column of light mixed with smoke.Sometimes you see it as oval shaped, sometimes as round shaped, and sometimes as pillar shaped. This experience, which has been described by so many different yogis, is what we mean by Shivalinga.
The Sanskrit word lingam has two distinct meanings. In general usage it refers to the male reproductive organ, but in the philosophical context it represents the causalbody ( linga shareer). That is how most people have misunderstood the real meaning of the shiva lingam. In many books written by western scholars, it is defined as ‘the phallus of Shiva’. In fact, it does not mean this at all. The shiva lingam is the symbol of higher consciousness. The word lingam literally means occult symbol.
According to the symbology of kundalini yoga, the shiva lingam can have three different colours. These three colours represent the three stages of purification or evolution of consciousness— dim, consolidated and illumined. In mooladhara chakra there is a smoky lingam known as dhumra lingam. Ajna chakra has a black lingam, the itarakhya lingam, and in sahasrara chakra is found the luminous jyotir lingam.
When a person of un-evolved mind concentrates, he experiences the shiva lingam in the form of a smoky column. It comes and then disperses, comes again and disperses, and soon. With deeper concentration, as the restlessness of the mind is annihilated,the lingam becomes black in colour. Then, continued concentration on that black shiva lingam produces the jyotir lingam within, the illumined astral consciousness.Therefore, the black lingam of ajna chakra is the key to the greater spiritual dimension of life.
The human form of Shiva
Like the shiva lingam, Human form of Shiva also represents the higher self in man which is responsible for universal reality. He is symbolized as a human figure- a man like a sannyasin, wearing a deer skin, living in the wilderness, always seated in the lotus posture and always in samadhi and meditation. His body is besmeared with ashes. These are not ordinary ashes, they are the remains of the burnt bodies. This symbolizes the purification of mundane desires through the fire of tapas, or austerity. His arms, neck, shoulders and waist are girdled with hissing snakes, representing the awakened force of kundalini. In his matted hair, on the left side, he holds a crescent moon, the fourth day moon, representing ida nadi. On the right side of his hair is the Ganga, falling with great force, representing pingala nadi. Facing Shiva is a tortoise which has withdrawn into its shell. Its introversion represents the introverted mind of the yogi, remaining fully concentrated on spiritual life, the inner being or the inner point. These are all symbolic aspects of higher consciousness achieved during deep meditation.When you have withdrawn yourself from body consciousness, mind consciousness,matter consciousness and name and form consciousness, at that time, this is what you understand as Shiva.
There are two other symbols associated with Shiva which are especially important – the trident and the drum. In Sanskrit the trident is known as trishula and the drum as damaru. These two symbols relate to the spiritual practices of every yogi. Man has three bodies – the gross, the astral and the causal. These three bodies are like three fortresses, and are symbolically represented as a steel fortress, a silver fortress and a gold fortress. Now, beyond these three fortresses is a being which you have to tackle.If you want to unite with that being, then you will have to somehow penetrate through these three impenetrable fortresses. The body, as you know, is so very difficult to transcend, and the mind and emotions are just as difficult. The difficulty is that we are not able to transcend the idea of the body, the mind or the individual consciousness, but still we want to realize that which is infinite. The yogi has to transcend these three; only then can he reach the innermost being.
Now these three fortresses, symbolic of the body, mind and ego consciousness,are of different depths, and belong to the three gunas, or different qualities of nature- sattva, rajas and tamas. The gunas can be related to each of the three fortresses.
At the grossest level, sleep represents tamas, meditation represents sattva and the active life represents rajas. When the mind is active, full of desires, ambitions, passions, fulfillments and frustrations, that is the rajasic state. When there is laziness,dullness, lethargy and inactivity, that is tamas. And when you have realized the futility of life, and when the mind is calm and completely unperturbed under any conditions of life, that is sattva or harmony. The trishula, or trident, represents these three states of nature in relation to the three bodies.
Now, when you practice meditation, at a certain moment you come in contact with certain inner sounds. They are known as Nada, the sound, or as the inner melody, inner voice or inner music.
Many yogis and mystics have spoken about this experience. These mystical inner sounds have been heard by many people in deep meditation. Some have heard the flute, others the sound of a bird, a thunder clap, or other movements. And they have described their experiences in their songs and hymns and in the various scriptures. The drum which you see with Shiva represents this aspect of experience. At a certain stage of meditation, one can hear the beating of the little drum called damaru. This is an indication of transportation of consciousness from this finite realm to that infinite one.
So, the shiva lingam, the trident and the drum are not external objects; they are symbolic expressions of the deeper nature of reality.
Ref : 1)Saivism in Philosophical Perspective: A Study of the Formative Concepts, Problems, and Methods of Śaiva Siddhānta. – K. Sivaraman
2) The Embodiment of Bhakti – Karen Pechilis Prentiss
3) The Concept of Rudra-Śiva Through The Ages – Chakravarti Mahadev
4) Encyclopedia of Hindu Gods and Goddesses – Suresh Chandra
5 The Principal Upanishads – Radhakrishnan, Sarvapalli
6) Hinduism: Past and Present– Michaels, Axel
7) The Variegated Plumage: Encounters with Indian Philosophy – Narendranath B. Patil