In the Hindu pantheon,
Shiva is one of gods in the Divine trinity composed of Brahma, Vishnu and
Himself, each representing one of the three aspects of the Divine, that is The
Creator, The Sustainer and respectively The Destroyer of the Universe. Shiva is
said to live in Svarloka, the realm of gods and demi-gods ruled by Indra, the
greatest among them.
Shiva, as distinguished from Parama-Shiva, corresponds
to that aspect of the ultimate Reality which is pure consciousness, pure
subject, pure I, without even the slightest notion of “I am” or “I am this” or
“I am here”.
In his Tantra – Loka, Abhinava Gupta refers to Shiva as
“the Mother and the Father of the Universe”. Shiva is the seed, or origin of the
multidimensional universe, giving rise to all other ontological categories. Yet,
there is no duality in Shiva because he is still completely immersed in blissful
union with Shakti.
However, in order to properly understand this fundamental
concept of Tantra, which is the masculine principle – Shiva, we should look
back towards the roots of Tantra.
Tantra enjoys an immense
popularity among philosophers and teologicians as well as among “practitioners”
(yoghis, etc.) All great Hindu
religions have thus assimilated Tantra in one form or another.This process had
actually begun thousands of years beforehand, during the Arian civilization and
during the blending of the different co-existing traditions (Dravidian, etc).
Legend says that during these inflaming times a great man was born,
named Sadashiva. His name means “the one who dedicated his life to the
well-being of his fellows”. Sadashiva, known as Shiva, was an outstanding
spiritual teacher or Guru. He was the one who first offered humanity the
systematic presentation of sheer spiritual thought. As the legend goes, he is
the one to set the basis of spiritual dance and music in India and is therefore
also known as NATARAJA, The God of the Cosmic Dance.
Furthermore, the real founder of Hindu traditional medicine and also the provider of a system and knowledge in
this field (bearing the name Vadyak Shastra) is none other than Shiva.
Shiva played an extremely important role in the social area as well. He is the creator
of marriage system, in which both partners accept equal responsibilities,
disregarding caste or community. Shiva himself came from a mixed family and
through his marriage to an Arian princess helped a lot in unifying the warring
factions in India at that time. The Hindu sage Sri Shankar, expert in studies
and research on Tantra, considers Shiva to be the real father of the human
However, Shiva’s most important contribution to the
development of a truly spiritual civilization represents the concept of DHARMA.
DHARMA is a Sanskrit word translated literally as “innate characteristic”. Which
is the innate characteristic of a human being? Shiva explained that human
beings seek and yearn for happiness, after that and because of that came the
satisfaction of the senses. The indisputable aim of all human beings, whether
aware of this or not, is to obtain absolute peace and freedom, infinite
knowledge and spiritual bliss.
Shiva’s ideas were transmitted orally at
first, then in written form. His wife Parvati, used to ask him questions on
topics raised by the spiritual practice he taught.
The tantra-s (texts or writings which present the tantric philosophy and practice) are in fact the
dialogues between Shiva and his wife Parvati, dialogues in which Parvati asks
questions on spiritual matters and Shiva gives divine answers.
The tantra-s are divided into two great categories:
1. The theoretic principles of the
tantric system. Tantric philosophy and conceptions on different matters are to
be found in the writings named NIGAMA.
2. The practices through which the
proposed aims may be attained; the different methods, techniques and procedures
are to be found in the texts named AGAMA .
Many of these antique manuscripts
were lost for good, others were damaged by time, and others are still unreadable
by the mundane mind because of their coded text, meant to hide the tantric secrets
from the eyes of the uninitiated. This is also one reason for which the
conceptions and fundamental aspects of Tantra have not been completely decoded even now.
Part of Shiva’s original teachings were lost, other parts were spread
over large areas, being assimilated in different ways and under different forms in
the traditions and local schools.
Each Hindu believer followed his own path,
according to their inner aspirations, choosing one spiritual current which
implied the adoration of one of these three gods.
Thus, Tantra and Yoga
are specially oriented towards the adoration of Shiva and are therefore called
Shivaits, and this spiritual current is named Shaiva. Others have turned towards
the cult of Vishnu, named Vaishnava.
Nonetheless, we should carefully
distinguish between different spiritual currents and opposing spiritual
currents, which is not the case of Shaivism and Vaishnavism. Some western
studies have committed the error of sustaining the idea that there were
antithesis, competitions and even fighting between the two spiritual currents.
The Western seeker should properly understand that for the Hindu, Shiva and
Vishnu represent two complementary aspects of Brahma, The Creator. The first of
these two gods, Shiva represents the destructive, transforming and reiterating
principle of infinite Creation, while the latter – the animating,
conservative principle, which maintains creation in its current form.
Unfortunately, nowadays, Tantra appears to most people as a tenebrous,
unbreakable and controversial mystery owing to a multitude of misunderstandings
and misconceptions that occured in the minds of some of the “reputed” Western
researchers of Tantra.
The Tantrics (that is the practitioners of
Tantra) and the Yoghis (the practitioners of Yoga) belong to the Shaivist
current. The aspect of the Ultimate Reality in the form of the Transformer, the
renewer of an eternally vivacious, effervescent Creation best suited to their
spiritual quest and ardor.
Shaivism presents Shiva as endowed with all the
attributes of the Supreme Divinity, and therefore He is the Supreme Creator. His
symbolic representation while performing the magic dance of creation is an
iconographic theme quite rich in symbolism and offers us an idea about the
rhythm of life of the whole creation, and of its destruction. We will
discuss these aspects in detail later on.
The name Shiva signifies “the
good and the kind”. Paradoxically, He is designated as the God of destruction, but
this must not be understood as the destroyer of human beings, but the destroyer
of ignorance and corruption in human nature. Thus, He is an infinitely
benevolent force as He rapidly casts away the restraining chains ignorance and allows
human beings to contemplate His magnificence.