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Many of us are devout followers of Shiva. But, we worship Him without understanding the deep meaning of Shiva.
In Hindu mythology, Shiva is one of the three forms (trimurtis) of God, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, the Hindu Triumvirate.
The Parmatama or spirit or what is called as God can be classified as a mixture of three forces representing Generator (creator or Brahma), Organizer, (maintainer or Vishnu) and Destroyer (completing or Mahesh or Shiva). These three similar forces come into play in our body to perform any work. They can be denoted as: Idea generation or creation, maintaining or organizing the contents of the idea, and then destroying or completing, so that new work can be undertaken through Ganesha, the Lord of new beginnings.
One must understand and implement the principles of Lord Shiva in day to day life. This can be done by understanding the meaning of the form of Shiva.
Classically, Shiva is worshipped in a sitting meditating pose, sitting on a deer’s skin with a background of white Himalayas and blue sky (akash). Shiva is also depicted with ashes from graveyard smeared on his body, a snake around his neck, Ganga flowing out of his hair, three eyes, blue neck, trishul in one hand and damru in his other hand.
All these symbolic representations have a deep spiritual meaning and tell us about Shiva’s principles of success.
Of the three eyes of Shiva, the left eye indicates love; the right eye signifies justice and the third eye wisdom or intelligence. To work effectively, one must use both eyes i.e. doing every work with love and justice. Any work done with love and without justice will lead to pampering, and justice without love will lead to rudeness. The third eye should be used in times of difficulty. The message here is: whenever you are in difficulty, use your intelligence and wisdom. The opening of the third eye opening means the disappearance of ignorance (darkness or pralaya).
The half open-eye meditating pose teaches us that in daily life, one should be as calm as if you are in the meditation pose. Being calm or practicing calmness helps in achieving better results.
The snake around the neck represents ego. And, the downward posture of the head of the snake indicates that ego should be directed towards the consciousness and not outwards. The ego should be kept under control and not let it overpower you.
The blue colour symbolizes sin or negative thoughts. Shiva as neelkanth (blue neck) teaches us that one should the negative emotions should never be expressed nor suppressed; instead they should be altered or modified. This indicates that the poison is neither to be drunk nor to be spitted out but to be kept in the throat by making it a part of the life. For example, an episode of anger should neither be expressed nor suppressed. Suppressed anger releases chemicals in the body causing acidity, asthma, angina and diarrhea etc. Expressed anger creates an unhealthy social environment. The only way is to alter or modify the anger by wilful cultivation of opposite positive thoughts in the mind. Therefore, the process of silently passing on love to any individual can take away the angry thoughts from the mind (love is opposite of anger).
The ash on the body of Shiva reminds that everything in the universe is perishable and nothing is going to remain with the poison. The message here is that ‘you have come in this world without anything and will go back without anything, then why worry’.
The trishul in one hand represents control of three factors i.e. mind, intellect and ego. It also represents controlling the three mental gunas i.e. sattva, rajas and tamas.
The damru, the hollow structure represents ‘taking all your ego and desires out of the body’.
The blue Akash represents vastness and openness; the white mountains represent purity and truthfulness.
It is customary to fast on Shivaratri. Fasting does not simply mean missing a meal or not eating that day; it also means fasting or abstaining from all negativities “see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil”. Fasting also indicates controlling the desires for eating foods (like fermented, sweet, sour and salt) and controlling the negative thoughts both in the mind as well as in action.
By adopting these principles, one will attain a free flow of knowledge, which is represented by the Ganga coming out of the hairs of the Lord Shiva. The matted hairs of Shiva represent tapas and signify that nothing in the universe is impossible without contemplation and repeated practice.
If one follows Shiva’s principles in everyday life, one will find no obstacles in routine life as well as in the spiritual journey.
Dr KK Aggarwal
Padma Shri Awardee
President Elect Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania (CMAAO)
Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications
President Heart Care Foundation of India
Past National President IMA