On Suffering & Dissolution: Shiva’s Aspects
At some point or the other, all of us experience varying degrees of pain, anguish & suffering. A sense of longing for that something out there that we still haven’t achieved but we deeply desire. Our whole being then creates reasons to work towards fulfilling the unaccomplished dream & make the desired goal.
Like the hungry beggar who chases the elusive morsel to keep him from fading from a life that will inevitably bring upon him suffering & misery in one form or another, we gravitate towards that which haunts our minds & feeds our souls with the elixir of life. For different people this means different things – the void that needs completion, the lack that fuels the Longing, the seed that yearns to germinate, the child who seeks the mother, the lover who needs the touch, the parasite who thrives on the host, the fish that needs the water, the light that illumines the darkness. In the nexus of interdependent existence the object subject relationship is the inescapable and evanescent reality.
In the world of Indian mythology, Shiva, the destroyer, symbolically plays the dynamic role of possessing the potent energies capable of dissolution of suffering & delusion to further the evolutionary process of consciousness or energy manifest as matter. Thunderclaps & Lightening are thus imagery used to demonstrate his annihilating power in mythic tales. In this divine process of the removal of toxins or unnecessary weeds much pain, anguish & discomfort is experienced by the emotional body of humanity at large. What brings joy to one brings pain to another. Prayer & obeisance is thus offered to the mighty & feared Mahadev for mercy & compassion to protect the innocent from harm & forgive deeds of ill will performed in ignorance.
An interesting accessory, Shiva possesses is the Kamandalu. The seeds & nectar or inner plum from a Pumpkin are removed and the dry shell is used to make a drinking water pot used by Shiva & yogis in their ascetic life. The removal of the seeds, symbolize the removal of the ego, from an individual & simultaneously the purging of all desires, to experience the internal divine bliss of sat-chit-anand & self realisation, associated with the nectar found in the pumpkin.
Dissolution a synonymous term to suffering which portends ends is what the image of the destroyer entails. However, ends also encapsulate in their closure the hope & seeds of new beginnings. So also, Shiva’s, imagery represent the manifestation of the ever present, Akala, Aja, Amar- the transcendental, omniscient, unborn & undying force that always IS, devoid of the cyclical rhythms interpreted through the chasm of time, comprehensible by the limited mind.
So whilst in his limited aspect he is, presented as the destructive god, in the holy trinity of Brahma (creator), Vishnu (preserver) & Mahadev (destroyer), his infinite form represents the overarching persona, of the supreme god who guides the world through suffering, by removing the elusive veil of maya & destroying the kama-deh or desire body. Finally, by providing Nirvana, liberation & introverting the consciousness of the individual towards divine ecstasy or Moksha he redeems souls to a state of sublime detached existence in its primordial form of peace & infinite stillness.