A lot of Shiva paintings, sculptures, frescos, and depictions show Him as the living manifestation; the one which can be comprehended by the human mind. In reality, Shiva cannot be understood or defined as such by us or by anyone on this earth. This is so because Shiva is not meant to be understood but to be experienced.

Religious scholars have time and again presented Shiva as the ultimate consciousness that flows in the universe, that is everywhere, that resides in everyone. Yet we see quite a many representations of Shiva that signify he was a mortal being. For an instance, if you will explore any Indian art gallery, you will find that the demand of Shiva artworks have never seen a dip only because he is the ultimate example of how by living a normal human life we can attain an apex and blissful state of transcendence.

So, what is Shiva? Shiva is the stillness, the superlative state of stasis, the one that he only could accomplish. I, personally, have never tried to decipher the true nature of Shiva but always made an attempt to touch that ecstatic capacity of consciousness that Adiyogi has mastered, doesn’t matter if only a fragment.

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As I stated, Shiva is often narrated as the two forms; one that is infinite, formless, and timeless. This state is known as Parabrahma. Another sort is the one in which Shiva is presented as the finite individual who has a wife (Parvati) and children (Ganesh and Kartikeya). This second form is specifically meant to show that even being a householder who takes care of his kids and wife, Shiva was a spiritual crackerjack.

Shiva: The Slaughterer of Ego

The manifestation of Shiva that is popularised and can be seen in paintings and artworks offers us more than a visual treat. I once visited a popular Indian art gallery and observed a painting of Shiva where the artist has only emphasised on the serpent revolved around the neck of Mahadev and rest of the manifestations were blurred.

I became curious and asked the artist about the motivation behind such surreal and unique representation. He told me that our world needs Shiva more than ever now and the serpent that Shiva is wearing as an ornament represents ego that every now & then control us, our actions, and quite a significant part of our lives.

Shiva has told us that if we practice stillness, meditation, or transcendence in an ideal manner, we can not only control our ego but also wear it as an ornament, which is amazing to think.

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Another story that tells us that Shiva is the actual destroyer of ego is the tale of his third eye. It is astonishing that until a few months back, I wasn’t really aware of the real meaning of Shiva’s third eye. Like everyone else, I used to think that whenever Shiva opens his third eye, the world will cease to exist and every living form will come to an end. How naïve and stupid I was.  

In reality, Shiva’s third eye is the power of wisdom that every physical representation of Mahadev depicts. And Shiva used this power to destroy desire and ego. That means, if we experience and practice Shiva as we are meant to, there will be no ego and no materialistic desire, which ultimately means peace in our times.

Shiva – Shakti: The Union of Consciousness

Shiva is the soul, Shakti is the mind. One cannot survive without other. The tale of Shiva and Shakti tells us that it is important to embrace reality, i.e. consciousness and it is equally paramount to recognize and praise Shakti, the mind, which belongs to matter.

Even the epic of Shiva – Shakti tells us that Shiva was in an apex and completely still mode of trance. He didn’t realise that because of such stillness the entire universe was in an unbalance and the desire of love and household was required to maintain the living equilibrium. When Parvati married Shiva, the entire world came to harmony and thus the duo forms a reality that still exists.

So, Shiva and Shakti are the two different elements that constitute one reality that is consciousness. Shiva is static, the one that is still and blissful, while Shakti is the kinetic factor of the same reality. That is how Shiva is everything and nothing, he is still and yet he is behind every action.

Why we need Shiva?

Explore any Indian art gallery or any art conventions, you would rarely find any depiction of Shiva less ecstatic and mesmerising. Remember, Shiva is praised not only in India but across the globe in various forms and by several names. Even the world’s most illustrious and largest Physics laboratory, CERN, has a sculpture of Shiva’s Nataraja form at the entrance. Well, that’s because Shiva is the ultimate source of creation, out of which every living form has come out and will ultimately dissolve back in.

Now, in present time, we see violence, hatred, inhuman behaviours, and chaos. People are using the name of religion, cast, country, etc to satisfy their own ego and that is seriously sabotaging our planet, our humanity, and not to mention our self. Eradicate any thought that says Shiva is a deity of Hinduism or any religion. Shiva is the consciousness, the light that brightens up our mind, the quintessential element that cleans our soul and still let us do what we want in our lives. You do not require to become a saint to attain Shiva. Instead, you can be standing in an Indian art gallery and still experience Shiva while you are observing an exquisite artwork. That is the magic of Shiva.

Do not limit the fragrance and the essence of Shiva with some religion or belief. Think of him as the pure stillness that is infinitely spread across the universe, that was always there before anything existed, and that will be there even when there will be nothing. Shiva is in me, he is in you and In fact, he is not even a male or a female. Shiva is an amalgamation of both female and male. That can also be seen in many Shiva paintings where his form of Ardhanarishvara is showcased.

The Final Takeaway

Try to experience the spiritual journey of Shiva by ransacking the ego that is restricting you to think beyond our physical reality. Shiva is rife, Shiva is mundane, Shiva happens every day and Shiva occurs never. It is the ultimate reality that resides in each one of us and the pleasing consciousness that lifts us above the meaning of material desires and brings us closer to the true meaning of consciousness.

So, the next time you are visiting an Indian art gallery, try to not only look but to feel Shiva. See how blissful and peaceful it would be to once experience the transcendence that Shiva mastered, that other sages partially accomplished, and that we are millions of miles away to even sense (so to say). Thanks!