Like all spiritual aspirants, I have the deepest desire to experience this beauty called “Shiva” – the all encompassing truth. It is a difficult one to grasp as it is within the atom of atoms and is beyond the infinite as hailed by the scriptures as also shared by our dear Master, Mohanji as below.
“It is the source of the mind, yet it is no mind. It is the source of desires, yet it has no desires. It is the source of elements, yet it has no dependency on them. It is the source of time, yet it is timeless. It is all the space, yet it is unfathomable spaceless space, complete and full, beyond fullness. It is the soul of the fire, water, air, earth, space, suns and galaxies, yet it is independent from all of it. It never gives or takes. It is never born nor has death. It is expansion, bliss and beauty. It is unexplainable. It is Shiva”
As I contemplated on the deep Shiva tattwa shared by my Guru, thoughts started to form.
“If Shiva is beyond the elements, Shakti infuses herself in the elements to enable us to experience Shiva!
“Namah Shivaya Vazhga
Naadhan thal Vazhga
Imai pozhudum en nenjil neengadaan thaal vazhga!“
“Long live the Lord’s Name “NamaShivaya!”
Long live the Lord’s Feet
Long live the Lord’s feet who does not leave my heart even for a split second!”
My thoughts were now flowing in a steady stream and I capture them below.
While Shiva is all opposites juxtaposed, Shakti (energy) can be felt and she acts as the light leading us to this all-encompassing beauty called Shiva! To me, She is the supreme manifested and unmanifested energy that emanates and merges with Shiva, as Ardhanareshwara.
As I reflected on how Sakthi experiences Shiva as elements , “The Pancha Bootha Sthalams came to my mind!”
Panchaboothas are the five primal elements of the universe – Earth (Prithvi), Water (Aapa), Fire (Tejo), Air (Vayu) and Space/Ether(Akasha). From the stories I have grown up listening to and reading, Shiva himself manifested as the five Lingas. Now, as I recollect these familiar stories in a new light, a facet of Shiva can be touched by connecting to the Shakti aspect in each of these panchabootha shrines!
The Prithvi Sthalam (Place) or the Earth aspect is in Kanchipuram. Here, the Devi creates a Shivalinga with shore sand and worships Him and hence is considered as Prithvi Linga (of the earth). To me, the subtle meaning revealing itself is that the Devi has filled the concentrated essence of herself so that she experiences Shiva as Earth. She even guards Shiva, her beloved, from being swept away by the ocean currents by hugging him and in essence becoming Him!
The second sthalam is Jambukeshwaram. Here, Devi Parvathi transfers her energy in the form of water surrounding the Shivalinga (form worshipping the formless) as she worships him under the Jambu tree! She thus experiences Shiva as water! This linga is known as Appulingam!
The Tejo or Agni sthalam is Tiruvannamalai also known as Arunachala. Here the Goddess becomes jyothi (or light) and merges in the light of Shiva! If Shiva is the infinite light, She shows the path to dissolve into him – the finite can perceive only the finite and the infinite can do so with the infinite. For the finite, to perceive the infinite, it has to lose its assumed identity and become one with the infinite.
In this context, another quote of Mohanji comes to mind. “Everything has to burn before Shiva wears the Ash!“
I wonder if Shakti, as Dakshayini (The first incarnation of Devi), cast herself in the yogic fire because She was sure that her benevolent Lord would pick her up at least as Ash! Shiva is the unfailing master. If one fails to reach him while in the manifested elements (body), he will surely pick one up as ash!
Srikalahashti is the vayu Sthalam. Here, the Shivalinga is self manifest (Swayambhu). I picture Shiva as the stillness perceived by the dynamic Pranic Shakti! Here Lord Shiva liberates three beings -a spider, a snake and an elephant for their true devotion. The Devi is known as – “Gyana Prasunambika” – The flower of wisdom.
The story goes that the Spider(shri), Snake(kala) and Elephant(hasthi) all worshipped Shiva in their own limited capacity. The spider spun a web to protect the lingam from the heat. The snake offered the most precious gems to the Lord and the elephant cleaned the Linga by pouring water (Abhishek). The benevolent Lord accepted it all. One day, there was a fire and the spider sacrificed itself to protect the Lord. The elephant and the snake, in a fit of rage arising from their ownership of the Lord, meet their end as well! It is here that the power of wisdom, is significant in the journey to liberation(Gyana sakthi). It does not matter how low or high the birth is but when divine wisdom dawns, conflicts resolve and Shiva offers the fruit of liberation.
The final aspect is the infinite space-chitakasha or the limitless sky of consciousness. Chidambaram (Akasha lingam) is a representation of the Akash tattva-(The infinite aspect ).The beauty of the shrine is Shiva is in the sanctum sanctorum as Lord Nataraja (The Lord of Dance). While in other temples, Shiva is worshiped in the abstract form (lingaswarupam)), all offerings here are made to the beautiful images of Nataraja and Goddess Sivakami. Chidambaram also represents the Ananda tandavam.(Blissful dance) -The dance of Shiva and Shakti in perfect synchronization. The beauty is the dance, the bliss is the dance.
This reminds me of Mohanji’s words on Kriya from which I infer that “Dance is the ultimate!“
Yes! Shiva and Shakti dance and the entire cosmos is a result of their dance. No one can understand any tattva if Shiva and Shakti are separated. They are one. The beauty is that Oneness. Kailash is seen if the Shivashakti principle is perceived!
The Guru appears to establish this unifying principle – “He for God and She for the God in Him”!
In summary, all forms of Shakti are truly Shiva’s. The body is also made of the five elements driven by Shakti to experience Shiva! I also see the panchabhootha sthalams as a cryptic message for us to unravel the path to ultimate liberation – by graduating each of the levels to the final frontier.
It starts with us being “grounded (prithvi)” and stabilized in our faith,
allow the experiences to flow like water (”aapa”), light the “fire” of spiritual seeking in ourselves (“agni”), expand our inner being through these experiences (“vaayu”) and finally prepare to be dazzled by the cosmic dance of limitless energy (“Ether”) which is when we are liberated. To get there, we have to preserve and channelize the Shakti (energy) that we are imparted – so we let Her guide us and take us along with her to where she (and we) truly belong.
As we approach the Shivaratri festival, let us meditate on Shiva and Shakti, performing the Ananda Tandava, in our Chit Akasha! May the Divine Family bless us with a speck of their eternal bliss to celebrate life in “Shivanandam!”(Joy that is Shiva)
I connect the dots for myself. This is what my Guru Mohanji has initiated me on… The “Shakti path” to Shiva!!