Shiva - Our Supreme God
Śivaḥ - Our Supreme God
Fire is His head, the sun and moon His eyes, space His ears, the Vedas His speech, the wind His breath, the universe His heart. From His feet the Earth has originated. Verily, He is the inner Self of all beings.
Atharva Veda, Muṇḍaka Upanishad 2.1.4. eh, 159-160
What Is the Nature of Our God Śiva?
God Śiva is all and in all, one without a second, the Supreme Being and only Absolute Reality. He is Pati, our Lord, immanent and transcendent. To create, preserve, destroy, conceal and reveal are His five powers. Aum.
God Śiva is a one being, yet we understand Him in three perfections:
Absolute Reality, Pure Consciousness and Primal Soul.
As Absolute Reality, Śiva is unmanifest, unchanging and transcendent, the Self God, timeless, formless and spaceless.
As Pure Consciousness, Śiva is the manifest primal substance, pure love and light flowing through all form, existing everywhere in time and space as infinite intelligence and power.
As Primal Soul, Śiva is the five-fold manifestation:
Brahmā, the creator; Vishṇu, the preserver; Rudra, the destroyer; Maheśvara, the veiling Lord, and Sadāśiva, the revealer.
He is our personal Lord, source of all three worlds. Our divine Father-Mother protects, nurtures and guides us, veiling Truth as we evolve, revealing it when we are mature enough to receive God’s bountiful grace.
God Śiva is all and in all, great beyond our conception, a sacred mystery that can be known in direct communion. Yea, when Śiva is known, all is known.
The Vedas state:
“That part of Him which is characterized by tamas is called Rudra. That part of Him which belongs to rajas is Brahma. That part of Him which belongs to sattva is Vishnu.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
What Is God Śiva’s Unmanifest Reality?
Paraśiva is God Śiva’s Unmanifest Reality or Absolute Being, distinguished from His other two perfections, which are manifest and of the nature of form. Paraśiva is the fullness of everything, the absence of nothing. Aum.
Paraśiva, the Self God, must be realized to be known, does not exist, yet seems to exist; yet existence itself and all states of mind, being and experiential patterns could not exist but for this ultimate reality of God. Such is the great mystery that yogis, rishis, saints and sages have realized through the ages.
To discover Paraśiva, the yogi penetrates deep into contemplation.
As thoughts arise in his mind, mental concepts of the world or of the God he seeks, he silently repeats, “Neti, neti—it is not this; it is not that.”
His quieted consciousness expands into Satchidānanda. He is everywhere, permeating all form in this blissful state.
He remembers his goal, which lies beyond bliss, and holds firmly to “Neti, neti—this is not that for which I seek.”
Through prāṇāyāma, through mantra, through tantra, wielding an indomitable will, the last forces of form, time and space subside, as the yogi, deep in nirvikalpa samadhi, merges into Paraśiva.
The Vedas explain:
“Self-resplendent, formless, un-originated and pure, that all-pervading being is both within and without. He transcends even the transcendent, unmanifest, causal state of the universe.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
What Is God Śiva’s Pure Consciousness?
Parāśaktī is pure consciousness, the substratum or primal substance flowing through all form. It is Śiva’s inscrutable presence, the ultimate ground and being of all that exists, without which nothing could endure. Aum.
Parāśaktī, “Supreme Energy,” is called by many names: silence, love, being, power and all-knowingness.
It is Satchidānanda— existence-consciousness-bliss—that pristine force of being which is undifferentiated, totally aware of itself, without an object of its awareness. It radiates as divine light, energy and knowing.
Out of Paraśiva ever comes Parāśaktī, the first manifestation of mind, super-consciousness or infinite knowing.
God Śiva knows in infinite, all-abiding, loving super-consciousness. Śiva knows from deep within all of His creations to their surface. His Being is within every animate and inanimate form.
Should God Śiva remove His all-pervasive Parāśaktī from any one or all of the three worlds, they would crumble, disintegrate and fade away.
Śiva’s Śaktī is the sustaining power and presence throughout the universe. This unbounded force has neither beginning nor end. Verily, it is the Divine Mind of Lord Śiva.
The Vedas say:
“He is God, hidden in all beings, their inmost soul who is in all. He watches the works of creation, lives in all things, watches all things. He is pure consciousness, beyond the three conditions of nature.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
What Is the Nature of the Primal Soul?
Parameśvara is the uncreated, ever-existent Primal Soul, Śiva-Śaktī, creator and supreme ruler of Mahādevas and beings of all three worlds. Abiding in His creation, our personal Lord rules from within, not from above. Aum.
Parameśvara, “Supreme Lord,” Mother of the universe, is the eternal, sovereign one, worshiped by all the Gods and sentient beings.
So loved is Śiva-Śaktī that all have an intimate relationship. So vast is His vastness, so over-powering is He that men cringe to transgress His will. So talked of is He that His name is on the lips of everyone—for He is the primal sound.
Being the first and perfect form, God Śiva in this third perfection of His being—the Primal Soul, the manifest and personal Lord— naturally creates souls in His image and likeness.
To love God is to know God. To know God is to feel His love for you.
Such a compassionate God—a being whose resplendent body may be seen in mystic vision—cares for the minutiae such as we and a universe such as ours.
Many are the mystics who have seen the brilliant milk-white form of Śiva’s glowing body with its red-locked hair, graceful arms and legs, large hands, perfect face, loving eyes and musing smile.
The Āgamas say:
“Parameśvara is the cause of the five manifest aspects: emanation, sṛishṭi; preservation, sthiti; dissolution, saṁhāra; concealment, tirobhāva; and revelation, anugraha” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
As the Primal Soul, God has a form, with arms and legs and a vast mind. In this perfection, called Parameśvara, He is creator of universes and ruler of all. A story tells of Śiva as an infinite pillar of fire which Brahma and Vishnu cannot fathom.
What Are God Śiva’s Traditional Forms?
Our adoration of the one great God Śiva is directed toward diverse images and icons. Primary among them are Śivaliṅga, Naṭarāja, Ardhanārīśvara, Dakṣiṇāmūrti, Hari-Hara, Bhairava and the triśūla. Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
Every form is a form of Śiva. Tradition has given us several of special sacredness.
The Śivaliṅga was the first image of Divinity. After it all other icons evolved from mystic visions.
We contemplate God Śiva as Paraśiva when we worship the Śivaliṅga. Its simple elliptical shape speaks silently of God’s unspeakable Absolute Being.
We exalt Śiva as Parāśaktī or Satchidānanda, God’s living omnipresence, when we worship any form of His never-separate Śaktī, especially Ardhanārīśvara, whose right half is masculine and left half is feminine, and in whom all opposites are reconciled.
We adore Him as Parameśvara, the Primal Soul, when we worship Naṭarāja, the Divine Dancer who animates the universe.
Thus we worship Śiva’s three perfections in three forms, yet knowing that He is a one Being, fully present in each of them.
He is also Dakṣiṇāmūrti, the silent teacher; Hari-Hara—half-Śiva, half-Vishnu—and Bhairava, the fierce wielder of triśūla, the trident of love, wisdom and action.
The Tirumantiram declares:
“Everywhere is the Holy Form. Everywhere is Śiva-Śaktī. Everywhere is Chidambaram. Everywhere is Divine Dance.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
One of Śiva’s forms is Nīlakaṇṭha, Blue-Throated Lord. When devas and demons churned the Ocean of Milk, a poison arose, and death was everywhere. To save mankind, Śiva gathered the poison and drank it, which turned His throat blue.
He is the God of forms infinite in whose glory all things are—smaller than the smallest atom, and yet the Creator of all, ever living in the mystery of His creation. In the vision of this God of love there is everlasting peace. He is the Lord of all who, hidden in the heart of things, watches over the world of time. The Gods and seers of Brahman are one with Him, and when a man knows Him, he cuts the bonds of death.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 4.14-15. upm, 91-92
There the eye goes not, nor words, nor mind. We know not. We cannot understand how He can be explained. He is above the known, and He is above the unknown. Thus have we heard from the ancient sages who explained this truth to us.
Sama Veda, Kena Upanishad 1.3. upm, 51
This atman is the Lord of all beings, the King of all beings. Just as the spokes are fixed in the hub and the rim of a chariot wheel, in the same way all these beings, all the Gods, all the worlds, all life breaths, all these selves, are fixed in the atman.
Śukla Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upaniṣad 2.5.15. ve, 716
He, the Self, is not this, not this. He is ungraspable, for He is not grasped, He is indestructible, for He cannot be destroyed,. He is unattached, for He does not cling to anything. He is unbound, He does not suffer, nor is He injured.
Śukla Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upaniṣad 4.5.15. ve, 421
To Rudra, Lord of sacrifice, of hymns and balmy medicines, we pray for joy and health and strength. He shines in splendor like the sun, refulgent as bright gold is He, the good, the best among the Gods.
Rig Veda 1.43.4-5, 64
Now, that golden Person who is seen within the sun has a golden beard and golden hair. He is exceedingly brilliant all, even to the fingernail tips. His eyes are even as a Kapyasa lotus flower. His name is high. He is raised high above all evils. Verily, he who knows this rises high above all evils.
Sama Veda, Chāndogya Upanishad 1.6.6-7. uph, 183
The bodily form of the Almighty, being constituted of powers, is not comparable to ours. Most conspicuous is the absence of āṇava. His bodily form, having a head, etc., is composed of five mantras, corresponding each to the five activities—Īśa, Tat Purusha, Aghora, Vāma and Aja.
Mṛigendra Āgama, Jñāna Pāda 3.A.8A-9A. ma, 119-20
The Lord He is: Hari, Brahma and Rudra. He is the Seed of the corporeal world. Distant and near is He. He is sugar-cane-sweet ambrosia divine. Thus He stands, close to Jīva.
Tirumantiram 2365. tm
As movement within wind, as sugar within sugarcane, as ghee within milk, as juice within fruit, as fragrance within flower, thus does the Lord pervade all.
Tirumantiram 2639. tm
Himself creates. Himself preserves. Himself destroys. Himself obscures. Himself, all these He does and then grants mukti—Himself the all-pervading Lord.
Tirumantiram 1809. tm
An earring of bright, new gold glows on one ear; a coiled conch shell sways on the other. On one side He chants the melodies of the ritual Veda; on the other He gently smiles. Matted hair adorned with sweet konrai blossoms on one half of His head, and a woman’s curls on the other, He comes. The one is the nature of His form, the other, of Hers; and both are the very essence of His beauty.
Tirumurai 4.8.10. ps, 105
Bearing Ganga on spreading, matted locks, the forehead eye sparkling, the breath spirating as tempestuous wind, the immaculate form shining radiant as the clear sky, the holy feet stretching to the ends of Earth, the blemishless heart serving as pedestal, the Vedas chanting aloud of themselves, the right hand that grants refuge and the left hand that grants favors both appropriately gesturing, the nada sound of drum filling the air all around—thus Śiva dances.
Tayumanavar 15.4-5. ht, 177
Love of Śiva’s feet eradicates bad karma. Love of Śiva’s feet grants you clarity of mind. Love of Śiva’s feet imbues the heart with gladness. Love of Śiva’s feet is consciousness itself.
Natchintanai, “Love the Feet...” NT, 164