SHIVA AS A NIRGUN BRAHMAN
WHO IS NIRGUN BRAHMAN?-
1-Brahman connotes the Highest Universal Principle in Hinduism, the Ultimate Reality in the universe. In major schools of Hindu philosophy it is the material, efficient, formal and final cause of all that exists. Brahman is a key concept found in Vedas, and extensively discussed in the early Upanishads. In Hinduism the Supreme is understood as either nirguna (formless and without material qualities), or saguna (with form and with transcendental qualities) or both.
2-The Vedic scriptures describe, in detail, both the nirguna and saguna Supreme Lord. Most Hindus tend to accept only the nirguna Supreme and believe that nirguna Supreme is the ultimate Truth.Actually,God can
be experienced in two aspects – as NIRGUNA and SAGUNA .
NIRGUNA is the eternal all-pervading and omnipresent divine consciousness. SAGUNA is the manifestation of God in form.The sun is a graphic simile
for this. Sunlight is the Nirguna form of the sun, and the celestial body is the Saguna form.
3-When God manifests in form he appears to be limited by his form, but his presence is unlimited and all-pervading. Nothing exists without God’s presence. God is omnipresent and absolute.God is in everything,and
everything is in God. God exists in everything that we call “good” as well as in everything we describe as “bad”. In God there is no limitation or differentiation, only unity. Nirguna God is pure energy, the living and conscious power that is at work in the Universe. Reality, the Supreme Self, is Nirguna God.
4-In the Katha Upanishad it is said: “Paramātmā is the same everywhere, in every world, on every level throughout the entire Cosmos. Until you recognise this you will continue to be reborn. Paramātmā remains the same – in past, present and future. It is the same in the heart of an ant or an elephant, in every living being. It is the Cause of everything.” 5-The Shaiva tradition identifies Lord Shiva as the formless, eternal, mysterious, and supreme being having many aspects, potencies, and dimensions. He is considered both transcendental and immanent, who cannot be quantified and qualified objectively with our limited awareness. He is beyond our mind and senses, but within the reach of our experience and awakening.
SHIVA SHIVA SHIVA;-
Various schools of Shaivisma or Shaivism and the scriptures that form their basis allude to some important aspects of Shiva, as experienced by the awakened jivas in their transcendental states, which are mentioned below....
1-SHIVA AS A NIRGUN BRAHMAN ;-
02 POINTS;- 1-At the highest level, lord Shiva is Sadashiva, Parameswara, or Paramashiva. In his formless (nirguna) aspect, he is the transcendental formless reality, the highest and the most unknown, who is Brahman Himself without qualities and attributes, the supreme lord, the eternal truth, the absolute, infinite, timeless, indivisible, entirely subjective Truth, which is beyond the senses and mind, without time. He is the end of all spiritual practice, the experience of pure consciousness and bliss in the state of samadhi or union... by experiencing which everything is known and realized.
2-He is the eternal mystery mentioned in the Kena Upanishad , whom Uma Haimavathi refers as the "Spirit Supreme", by knowing whom Indra excelled all other devas and became the ruler of the heavens. According to Shiva purana even Brahma and Vishnu attained the level of Trinity because of their past devotion to Nirguna Shiva. 2-SHIVA AS A SAGUN BRAHMAN ;-
03 POINTS;- 1-As the awakened supreme self, Shiva is Maheswara or Mahashiva, the Lord of the manifest universe. As the awakened supreme self, he is saguna Brahman, the cosmic lord, who combines within himself the roles of creation, maintenance, destruction, concealment and liberation. He performs these five functions through his five supreme energies: pure consciousness (chit-shakti, bliss (ananda-shakti), will power (iccha-shakti), pure knowledge (jnana-shakti) and dynamic power (kriya-shakti). 2-As manifest Brahman, he projects the material and objective universe through his dynamic power (shakti) and projects into himself, like a reflection in a mirror, all that he creates. The creation is but his conscious dream, an alternate reality that cannot be entirely categorized as false or illusory. He is the Purusha of the Vedas, the cosmic male, who creates Prakriti & the cosmic female and then establishes himself in it in order to manifest the objective reality in which he conceals himself from himself exists as deluded jivas.
3-As Tirumantram states succintly, " Himself creates, Himself poreserves, Himself destroys, Himself obscures and then grants himself mukti, Himself the all pervading lord." He is also the source of all knowledge, the Agamas and the Tantras come from him. 3-SHIVA AS A LORD OF A FUNCTIONAL UNIVERSE;-
02 POINTS;- 1-At the next lower level he is Iswara or Shiva or Rudra, representing a functional aspect of Mahashiva, performing the role of a destroyer. In this role, he is responsible for the regeneration and renewal of the material and objective universe and its various components through destruction and degeneration. In this functional aspect he facilitates the illusory movement of kala (time) from one phase (yuga) to another. He is Hara , the lord with a thousand names, who is seated on the mountains of Kailash, with Parvathi and his whole entourage of devas, gods, siddhas, shiva ganas, myriad yogis and devotees enjoying his darshan (vision).
2-In this role he facilitates the spiritual progress of humanity. He evolves the subtle beings into gross and then the gross beings into subtle.Through his grace (anugraha), he destroys our karma, impurities and bonds and facilitate our spiritual evolution. He makes possible the flow of divine consciousness into our earth consciousness using himself as the conduit and brings forth all the tantras and agamas. 4-SHIVA AS JIVA,THE EMBODIED & DELUDED SOUL;-
02 POINTS;- 1-The jivas are the deluded aspect of Shiva. According to some schools of Saivism, they are not created by any one and exist just like Siva eternally. Their number also remain constant which means they retain their individuality even after attaining liberation from the bonds of objectivity. According to other schools, jivas and Siva represent the same reality. There is actually no difference between the two or at the most the relationship is that of difference and non-difference (bheda-abheda).
2-The deluded being are subject to the impurities of anava (finiteness), delusion (maya) and egoistic actions (karma) but are the same as Siva in terms of essence and pure consciousness. When the cloud of ignorance is removed through the intervention of Siva's grace (anugraha), a jiva becomes liberated and reunites with Siva. Thereafter there will not be any difference between the two. 5-SHIVA AS AN ENLIGHTENED & SELF AWARE ENTITY;-
02 POINTS;- 1-These are the various incarnations, emanations, divinities and deities and objectified energies that constitute the Shiva pantheon. They come into being as a projection of cosmic will during the various phases of creation. Some are manifested in the very beginning and some in the middle and some at the end. They perform many roles and implement the supreme will of Shiva. Hanuman, Dakshinamurthy, Tandavamurthy, Bhairava, Virabhadra, Chandakesvara, Mahakaleswar, Ardhanariswara, Bhikshtanamurthy, Tandavamurthy are some of his well known minor aspects or incarnations. Some schools of Shaivism do not accept the concept of incarnations.
2-According to them since is a Shiva perfect being and creation is a manifestation of his dynamic will, there is no place for imperfection or disorder in his manifestation and so the questions of reincarnation to restore order does not arise. What we consider as his incarnations are but the embodiment of highly evolved jivas who come to the earth plane to help others on the path of liberation or perform specific tasks as willed by Shiva. 6-SHIVA AS A VEDIC DEITY;-
04 POINTS;- 1-For those who do not practice pure Shaivism or any of the Shaiva schools, Shiva is a very popular god of Hindu or Vedic pantheon and they worship him as such either as a personal god or in the company of other gods. An ancient god with prehistoric roots and far deeper antiquity than we can fathom, we find references to a god by the name Rudra in the Vedas. Rudra is the god of rain and thunder.
2-In all probability when the vedic priests integrated different native traditions of India with the vedic traditions, they probably identified, Shiva, already a popular God of India, with the Rudra of the Vedas. Devout Hindus who practice mainstream Hinduism, indulge in devotional, ritualistic, ascetic, festive, yogic, musical and meditative practices to please Lord Shiva and attain his grace.
3-As a personal god, Shiva has the qualities of a graceful and lovable god, who is easier to please and approach with love and devotion. As the lord of Kailash, he is an epitome of knowledge, humility and unconditional love. As a devoted husband, father and master, he bestows boons and unconditional love upon his beloved devotees. Whether they belong to the mainstream Shaivism or not, Hindus are very emotional and ecstatic about Lord Shiva which can be seen and felt in many sacred places and temples of Shiva all over the country. 4-It is important to know that Lord Shiva is Brahman himself, who descends into lower planes to manifest himself in different aspects, which he does for his own ananda (pure joy). As deluded souls, it is important for us to know that we are Shiva himself in human form and that we can by effort rediscover our own infinity. Shiva does not ask us to worship him, rather know ourselves as him only and live with that faith and conviction the rest of our lives.
7-SHIVA IN SHAIVA TRADITION;- In Shaiva tradition, Lord Shiva is considered the highest, supreme Brahman Himself. As Brahman, Shiva has four aspects, corresponding to the four states and four main functions he represents. They are THE UNMANIFEST ASPECT;- Nirguna Brahman THE UNMANIFEST ASPECT ; - Saguna Brahman MATERIAL ASPECT ;-Virat INDIVIDUAL ASPECTS - Anshas or Emanations 8-MAHESHWARA OR MAHADEVA;-
03 POINTS;- 1-As in case of Brahman, the unmanifested aspect of Shiva is beyond our knowledge. In this aspect, he is the transcendental reality, the highest and the most unknown, or the Non-Being, in whom Nature (Prakriti) is either absent or latent and undifferentiated. Hence he is devoid of qualities and distinguishing features. 2-In this aspect he is the eternal mysterious Self, pure consciousness and bliss, whom Uma Haimavathi declared in the Kena Upanishad as the "Spirit Supreme", by knowing whom Indra excelled all other gods and became the ruler of the heavens. Yet, even the gods have little knowledge of him. Like the dark matter of the universe, or deep sleep, He remain a mystery beyond our minds and senses.
3-For our understanding, we may name this aspect of him as Paramesvara, Mahesvara (the Supreme Lord). He is Brahman Himself, the Supreme Self, the Eternal Truth, the Absolute Principle, who is without a beginning and without an end, indivisible, beyond the senses and mind, without a form and without division, the end of all devotional and spiritual practice, by knowing whom everything is known and realized. 9-ISVARA OR PARAMA SHIVA;-
03 POINTS;- 1-As the Vedas declare, at the beginning of creation, due to some mysterious reason, a part of the Unmanifested Brahman becomes manifested as a reflection in the quality of Sattva. This aspect is known variously as Brahman with qualities (saguna Brahman), Lord of the Universe (Isvara), Cosmic Person or Being (Purusha). We may name this aspect of him as Parama Shiva, Maha Shiva or Mahadeva, the God of gods and the Lord of the manifest universe.
2-As the awakened Supreme Brahman, he is the Cosmic Lord, the active Being, who combines within himself the roles of creation, preservation and destruction and projects out of himself all that we know as material universe. He is the Cosmic Being, who performs a sacrifice upon Himself to manifest the beings and the worlds.
3-Creation is but his conscious dream, a set of vibrations arising from his cosmic dance, which makes possible all that we experience and enjoy in our phenomenal existence. He is the Purusha of the Vedas, the Cosmic Male, who awakens primordial Nature, Prakriti or the Cosmic Female, and establishes himself in it to manifest life and diversity. 10-VIRAT,DAKSHINAMURTHY, RUDRA OR SHIVA;- 03 POINTS;- 1-At the next lower level he is Shiva, popularly known as the destroyer, representing an aspect of the Trinity. In truth, He is all, representing the triple functions of creation, but tradition specifically recognizes him as Shiva, the destroyer. This is his most visible and physical aspect, in which He and Nature are not only inseparable but indistinguishable in both form and function. Hence, he is also known as Ardhanarisvara (half male and half female). He is the Cosmic Body or the world itself (Virat) representing our wakeful consciousness and the sensory world.
2-While we identify his creative aspect as Brahma and his preservative aspect as Vishnu, he especially known particularly as Shiva the destroyer. He is the lord with a thousand names, known variously as Hara, Shankara, Kailasapati, Parvathinatha Umapathi etc., and venerated by liberated beings and eternal souls (siddhas) of the heaven, and his retinue of innumerable ganas, deities, yogis, and devotees. In this role Shiva facilitates the spiritual progress of humanity as World Teacher (Dakshinamurthy).
3-He destroys old order of things to facilitate renewal and regeneration of the manifest universe. He destroys the impurities of the mind and body to facilitate our spiritual evolution. He transforms the demonic nature hidden in creation to facilitate order and regularity and the liberation of beings. As Time, he is also the lord of Death who is responsible for the impermanence and instability of the phenomenal universe. Finally at the end of current creative cycle, he destroys the worlds to prepare the ground for yet another cosmic renewal. In this role he is also responsible for the flow of divine consciousness into our earth consciousness and our transformation into spiritual beings. 11-ANSHAS OR EMANATIONS;-
1-Creation is an extension of the Supreme Brahman. Everything that we see and experience in the manifest world is Brahman only because there is nothing other than Him or without Him. So technically the whole diversity is an aspect of Brahman only, but in them Brahman remains concealed or hidden behind phenomena. However, occasionally he reveals himself partly or significantly, to perform particular functions for the order and regularity of creation or the welfare of the worlds.
2-We consider such appearances as his emanations or partial manifestations (ansha ). In Vaishnava tradition they are called incarnations, whereas in Shaiva tradition they are known only as emanations or minor aspects of Shiva, because Shaiva do not recognize the need for the incarnation of God. Some of the famous emanations of Shiva are Hanuman, Dakshinamurthy, Tandavamurthy, Bhairava, Virabhadra, Chandakesvara, Mahakalisvar, Ardhanariswara, Bhikshtanamurthy, Tandavamurthy are some of his well known minor aspects or incarnations. 3-In popular Hinduism, Shiva has a limited role in creation and identified in a particular aspect, but in Saiva tradition Shiva is Brahman Himself. He is everything, the known and the knower, the support and the support, the creator and the creation, the Being and the Non-Being, existence and non-existence. While we may give different names to distinguish the functional aspects of Brahman, in truth, they are but His numerous forms. Therefore, it is important to know that Lord Shiva is not a mere idol or a Shivalinga worshipped by people in temples and sacred places for superstitious reasons.
4-He is Brahman Himself, the Unmanifested Being, who descends into lower planes of existence to project an alternate reality which we experience as the phenomenal world. It is only by transcending our delusion and looking beyond the physical reality he projects, which is possible only through austerities and the grace Shiva, we will be able to reach the Highest Truth, Shiva, hidden within ourselves beneath the layers of phenomena.