The Symbolism of Shiva and the Inner Significance of Shivaratri

A Linga materialised by Sri Sathya Sai
The secret of Creation is evident from the description of the form of Shiva. The crescent moon on Shiva's head symbolises the consciousness in human beings, the Ganga symbolises the Life-Force and the snakes on Shiva's body represent the myriads of living beings. He resides on a silver mountain. His dearest friend is Kubera, the Lord of Wealth. Despite being endowed with all these, why was He obliged to carry the begging bowl? To demonstrate to the world that every kind of wealth is a hindrance to spiritual advancement, Shiva renounced everything. It is through renunciation Shiva became the eternal embodiment of supreme bliss. 

The Lord has another name. It is only when the love principle underlying this name is rightly understood, the real form of the Cosmos can be recognised. That name is "Sambashiva". Saa means divinity. Amba refers to the cosmos. Shiva means Purusha (the Supreme Person). Easwara has yet another name Yogasikha. The sky is His blue form. The Dik (directions) are His garments. Hence He is known as Digambara. He is also known as Panchaanana - the Five headed One. The five are Earth, water, fire, air and space. His five heads represent the panchabhutas (five basic elements). 

Shiva is also described as Bhutanatha - the Lord of all created beings. Bhuta refers to creation. Easwara is the Lord of every creature in the universe. Hence, the entire cosmos is reflected as an image in the Lord. 

Shiva is known as Shubhankara--the one who is ever good (Shubham). In the world, whoever takes a bodily form -whether it be humans, deities or avatars sometime or other the body becomes Ashubham (tainted). The prefix "Sri" is affixed to the names of such persons to indicate that without the prefix they are tainted by their bodies. That is why "Sri" is added to the names of Krishna, Rama, Venkateswara and so on to confer beatitude on them. With regard to Eashwara, however, the epithet "Sri" is not applied because Easwara is ever in a state of beatitude."Shankara" remains "Shankara" without a "Sri." Shiva is not called "Sri Siva." Eashwara is not referred to as "Sri Eashwara." He is the embodiment of all auspiciousness and holiness. Hence he needs no other appellation. He is the source of Sakala Aishwarya (all prosperity and well-being). Man is the product of interaction of Purusha (the Supreme) and Prakriti (Nature). Consequently man should have the perennial bliss of the Divine and remain perpetually blessed. Man is made in the image of Nature. Man can divinise himself only by contemplating on the attributes of the Eashwara (Divine). The three eyes of Siva represent the three lokas (worlds). Siva's trident is symbolic of the Past, the Present and the Future the three aspects of Time. The three gunas (Satwa, Rajas and Tamas) are images of the Trinity-Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. The three worlds, the triune aspect of Time, the three Gunas (qualities) are thus manifestations of the Eashwara Principle. When the Divine is installed in the heart in this manner, man can raise himself to the level of the Divine. 
Lord Shiva

It is for the well-being of the world that Shiva swallowed the Halahala poison. Again, it is for the sake of the world's good that Shiva contained the Ganga in His matted locks. Shiva bears the moon on His head to confer peace of mind on mankind. When man moulds himself on the pattern of Easwara, he will get rid of all his evil tendencies and offer to the world what is good in him. This is the meaning of the worship of Shiva. It is only when man gives up utterly his bad thoughts, evil desires and wicked deeds, he will be able to transform himself into divinity. 

Embodiments of Divine Love! The auspicious and sacred Eashwara principle is present in every man. This Divine principle can be manifested only through the practice of pure thoughts and actions. Today's Shivaratri observance conveys a significant lesson. According to numerology,the three letters "Si", "Va" and "Raa" make up eleven ("Si"=5, "Va"=4 and "Raa"=2). These eleven are known as the Ekadasha Rudras, the eleven Rudras. The fourth syllable "tri" means "three". Thus, Shivaratri is the day devoted to overcoming the eleven Rudras by adoring the Supreme Lord, who is master of them all. 

The Rudras turn the Buddhi (intellect) towards sensuous objects and thrust the individual in the sea of Samsara (worldly life). The Paramatma (Supreme Spirit) is master of all the Rudras. Only the man who has conquered the eleven Rudras can expect to realise the Supreme. Who are the eleven Rudras? They are the five Karmendriyas (organs of action) the five Jnanedriyas (organs of perception) and the Buddhi. Man must seek to control as much as possible these eleven organs. From ancient times, the sages have stressed the supreme importance of sense-control as the means to God-realisation. 


Source: Divine Discourse on Shivaratri Day – February 23,
1990

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