Mahashivaratri Special: Who is Shiva?

Shiva is not god.  Shiva is not a deity.  Shiva is the very basis of existence.  The consciousness itself.  Beyond the dualities and the form arising from the motion of conscious energy, there is basic primordial one-ness or better still the nothingness.  That is what Shiva represents.

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When Sage Vasistha (Yoga Vasistha) asks Shiva himself at Kailash as to who he is.  He says this:

Do you know who ‘god’ is?  God is not Visnu, Siva or Brahma; not the wind, the sun or the moon; not the brahmana or the king; not I nor you; not Lakshmi nor the mind (intellect).  God is without form and undivided (not in the objects); that splendour (devanam) which is not made and which has neither beginning nor end is known as god (deva)or Lord Shiva which is pure consciousness.  That alone is to be worshipped; and that alone is all.

If one is unable to worship this Shiva then he is encouraged to worship the form.  The latter yields finite results but the former bestows infinite bliss.  He who ignores the infinite and is devoted to the finite abandons a pleasure-garden and seeks the thorny bush.  However, sages sometimes worship a form playfully.

Shiva is known as Mahadeva or the “Great God” itself.  He is being referred to as the pure consciousness which he says can also be called the “father of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva”.  Pure undivided consciousness without any linkages to the ignorance of duality or mind is where everything arises.

Whatever we may call Shiva or the other sentient and non-sentient beings, are mere words.  They may suggest a diversity or difference between them, but such articulation is just semantic.  It is known to the enlightened beings that what is being referred to in all these words and references is one undivided pure consciousness.  And, that is Shiva.

That which IS after all the senses have ceased to function and all notions of pleasure and pain have vanished is the self or Shiva which is also indicated by expressions like ‘that’, ‘truth’, or ‘reality’.  However, that which IS when these cease to be exists even when all these are present, like the limitless space.  Out of their compassion for the ignorant deluded ones, in an effort to awaken them spiritually and to awaken in them a thirst for liberation, redeemers of the universe (known as Brahma, Indra, Rudra and others) have composed scriptures like the Vedas and Puranas.  In these scriptures, they have used words like “consciousness”, Brahman, Shiva, self Lord, supreme self etc.  These words may imply a diversity, but in truth there is no such diversity.

When Mahashivratri comes this year, it is time to wake up to the truth of the pure consciousness.  It is time to align yourself with Shiva, the pure consciousness.

The Lord is not to be worshipped by material substances but by one’s own consciousness.  Not by waving lamps nor lighting incense, nor by offering flowers nor even by offering food or sandal paste.  He is attained without th eleast effort; he is worshipped by self-realization alone.  This is the supreme meditation, this is the supreme worship; the continuous unbroken awareness of the indwelling presence, inner light or consciousness.

The way to do that is via deep inner meditation.  Or better still being meditative.

Times like Mahashivaratri are not considered important because some day is better than another on the calendar.  But because there are times of the year when the placement of Earth, Sun and the Moon render themselves in ways when the human body can lend itself to raising the level of conscious energy.  In these times, one can – if the effort is made – raise the consciousness to a level of meditative state where one connects with the pure inner self.

Mahashivaratri, in that sense, is an opportunity.  Not an occassion.  An opportunity when the option to connect with your primal self is available via the cosmic energies around.  Sadhguru puts it thus:

Mahashivaratri is one of the biggest and most significant among the sacred festival nights of India. This – the darkest night of the year – celebrates the Grace of Shiva, who is considered the Adi guru or the First guru, from whom the yogic tradition originates. The planetary positions on this night are such that there is a powerful natural upsurge of energy in the human system. It is enormously beneficial for one’s physical and spiritual wellbeing to stay awake and aware in a vertical position throughout the night.

This Mahashivaratri, keeping your spine erect, engage in deep meditation, where the self only remains.  Shiva will happen.


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  1. Bhavani says

    Awesome description!!!

    1. Desh Kapoor says

      Thanks, Bhavani!

  2. Arun says

    Wonderful post Desh!
    To be honest, till date I only knew that we are supposed to stay awake the whole night on Mahashivaratri, but never got to know the actual reason as to why we need to! Probably I never bothered to know either (that’s a mistake on my part though!) .

    1. Desh Kapoor says

      Thanks, Arun! Yes, most of us have never known this. It takes someone who has been through the journey to explain things to us the way they are. In my experience, Sadhguru is Shiva himself…. but that would sound facetious in words. But lets just say – he knows Him like no other. 🙂

  3. Kishor Kr says

    “Har Har Mahadev” the very chant used before Shiva means Everyone is Mahadev/Shiva/Prime God.
    A nice outlook towards Shiva and his importance in our lives.

    1. Desh Kapoor says

      Thanks, Kishor! I disagree with the interpretation of “Har Har Mahadev” – because everyone is not Shiva. Shiva is pure awareness. Highest level of consciousness. At the most primordial level everything is One. And so, Shiva. But when you look at the diversity at the gross level and call it “everyone”, then you cannot qualify it with what is true at the primordial level. At the gross level where more than one exists, Shiva is only the highest perception.

  4. Vasantha Vivek says

    Great post, Desh !!! I started my Mahashivarathri Sathana today. And it’s my destiny and GURU’s grace to read your post on this auspicious day !!! Happy to get connected with you through dear Archana …. 🙂

    1. Desh Kapoor says

      Hey thanks Vasantha! Great to be in touch with you! Shiv Shambho! Have a great and blessed Mahashivratri! 🙂

  5. Jyothi Dmello says

    My Aunt always used to say…. Everything related to Hindu Tradition (she might be biased here) has a scientific logic behind it. You post aptly proves so.

    1. Desh Kapoor says

      Jyothi – Religious beliefs get nothing because belief is no seeking. Indian spiritual traditions – dharmic as they are called – were true seeking. In yogic traditions, god is not an apriori assumption but the divine is a realization. And, when any seeking is undertaken – with complete ruthlessness of no room for make-believe assumptions, then doors of the existence open up. That is what happened with the Yogis. Isn’t it amazing that yogis who talked of nadi, chakra and prana (something that no biologist has ever seen) came up with yoga that Harvard doctors want to use to handle the body, blood and muscles of their patients? Or did the yogis – inventors of yoga – knew something about our bodies that even Harvard guys don’t? That we aren’t a physical existence, but an energy phenomenon? Yoga is only to do with energy. Physical gets impacted. Like I said, when seeking is honest and belief absent then knowing happens. Yogis merely mingled those learnings in daily lives of unknowing commoners. So they may awaken someday. Many did. And the tradition of seeking continued. Here is another article on the reason for temples and idol worship. Interestingly a study in Stanford is telling us what the yogis knew all along. That intention can alter the physical.

  6. Rakesh Pandey says

    What a post! I relate and agree to each point, which is theologically accurate.

    I worship the form of Shiva you mentioned, which is prevalent in the Nirgun, which is the Indian version of Sufi. As I don’t bow before any conventional god, I’m considered an atheist. 😀

    An apt post on Mahashivaratri!

    1. Desh Kapoor says

      Thanks so much, Rakesh! Spiritual seeker is always an atheist. In Dharmic traditions and seeking, god was never an apriori assumption but a final realization. THere is a world of difference in the two 🙂 As for “worshipping the nirgun”, you can only do so if you are dissolved in that nothingness. Otherwise, you are having a verbal love affair. 🙂 Please see Rakesh, that we look at the spiritual work and things in the clearest terms. In one exchange with Prahlad in Yoga Vasistha, Prahlad says – that one can only worship Vishnu by being Vishnu. Other than that it is deception. It is for this reason why the word used in our tradition has been Upasana. Which means “in the place/state of”. One can only be said to be in Upasana of Shiva, when one is in place of Shiva. 🙂 Worship is a very high state of being. At my level, I can only be seeking it. Shiv Shambho! 🙂

      1. Rakesh Pandey says

        Absolutely glad to know that I’m not alone! Just to understand this, I researched Theosophy. If all of the religious books direct towards that power, once you move past the idol worshipping image, you are transported to the Idea Worship. That’s what God is. Mahadev is that form. The Anadi and Aghor! With his penchant for all things negative, he is the epitome of positive energy!

        Usually I always keep my religious preference compartmentalized, as very few people agree to it. Truly happy to know that you do!

        1. Desh Kapoor says

          Great minds think alike.. and fools never differ 😛

          “With his penchant for all things negative, he is the epitome of positive energy” – this distinction between positive and negative things is merely social in nature. Shiva defies value judgment. 🙂

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