On fear & it’s Transgression
On fear & it’s Transgression
Shiva’s encounter with the Mimansikas
Mimansikas are a community in search for the purpose of life. With the spirit of inquiry & thirst for higher knowledge these people are quite preoccupied with form & ritual.
In their efforts to please god and win his affections they were once performing a Yagna or fire rite in the forest. Intoxicated with the elixir of immortality & floating in the infinite bliss of his divine energy, Shiva walked past them with utter disinterest & oblivion, stark naked.
His sudden unabashed appearance, unclothed & calm as it were, left the Mimansikas in a state of shock. Frightened by his sudden & crude appearance without a flicker of anxiety aroused extreme discomfort & fear in their own beings.
Their complex need for a form conscious reality, which focused on Yajna to assert their control over the forces of nature & reinforce their belief, was overrun by this contradictory & subtle act from Prakashatman, the luminious one.
Rattled by his poise & composure, despite his nakedness the Mimansikas began to feel inadequate & weakened. These feelings of threat were amplified by dreadful thoughts that his presence would distract their wives & harm them. So they decided to extinguish him.
Invoking the forces, by chants made at the fire rites they manifested a tiger, serpent & demon to slay Shiva. Unphased by their attempts Shiva, killed the tiger, garlanded the serpent around his neck, where it sat, unstirred, with its hood up. He then broke the demon’s back & climbed onto it. Atop the beast, he staged a forceful & impassioned dance. Hypnotised by his dynamic & sharp moves the Mimansikas watched awestruck.
The motion, gestures, expressions & moods in this mind boggling display popularly called Tandav in Natya shastra or the treatise of performing arts is evocative of the lord’s wisdom.
Nataraj’s raised right palm is the Abhaya mudra (gesture) which epitomizes a lack of fear. This rests lightly over an outstretched left arm and hand which points downwards towards the left foot that is also raised and positioned in mid air, swung over the right leg.
These organised movements are not without significance. The left leg in motion represents the cyclical movement & endlessly changing rhythms of nature. The left side of the body personifies, Prakriti or nature, complete with its expressions (abhinaya), moods (bhava) & feelings (rasa). The right side represents spiritual silence &stillness.
The dance is done on the demon Apasmara or the demon of forgetfulness. This is symbolic of the human mind which is so caught up in chasing false personal needs of its ego that it forgets its true, liberated nature & remains ensnared by attachment busily creating a subjective reality to cope with existence.
The crux or nectar from the tale as it were, is its revolutionary disavowal of fear. The Mimansikas & their obsession with ritualism is a means to keep busy & reveals a need to control out of fear or a perception of threat. Shiva addresses their discomfort, by questioning their meaningless beliefs & displaying his power to demonstrate that he is the one with the mastery of wisdom. He outdoes all their attempts at eradicating him and instead leaves them mesmerized by his dance. The stories in their little heads, which they use, to make themselves feel important & reinstate illusions of their subjective realities are shattered by his victory against their weapons & the dance through which he wins them over by unveiling the true nature of reality.
The golden lesson that emerges is that fear is outgrown by questioning our constructs of reality & challenging our limiting beliefs. Empathy with others & a release from the need to dominate situations, with the faith that there is room for everyone to realize their potential is the ultimate pathway to transgressing fear & negative emotions of lack & seeking Moksha or liberation.