Who Is Siva?
Path to Siva Commentary, Lesson 11
Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami , 2017-01-07
Lord Siva is the Supreme Being of the universe, not one of many gods. To Saivites Siva is the supreme being; to Vaishnavites Vishnu is the supreme being. The soul starts with experiencing the world. On one side the soul is pulled by veiling grace toward the world. On the inside the soul is pulled by revealing grace toward God. Resolving karma, maturing in the world, fulfilling dharma, we move toward imperturbability, realization, moksha.
Path to Siva, Lesson 11
Good morning everyone.
Looking this morning it's Lesson 11 from our new book Path to Siva.
First I'll read the short text and then I'll make some comments on it.
"Lord Siva is the Supreme Being of the universe. He/She is All and in all, both the Creator and the creation, within everything and beyond everything at the same time. Siva has a threefold nature. His highest reality is beyond time and form. His second aspect is the Divine Mind, existing here, there and everywhere. His third aspect is the Personal Lord, the Creator and source of all time and all form. Only in the deepest meditation can the nature of such a vast and mysterious God be fully known. The name Siva means 'the auspicious,' 'gracious' or 'kindly one.' Siva is the One Supreme Being that all faiths have worshiped, by many names, and sought to understand for thousands of years. Siva has five powers: creation, preservation, destruction, and the twin graces of concealment and revelation. He creates the three worlds from His own being, and He also preserves the three worlds, dancing in each tiny atom at every point in time. Ultimately, He absorbs creation back into Himself. He does this in great cycles of time spanning billions of years. Then, in the next grand cycle of time, He creates again. Siva is also the creator of individual souls, like us. With His fourth and fifth powers, concealing and revealing, Siva governs and guides our evolution, as a parent guides a child. We should always worship this great God of love and never fear Him. He is the Self of ourself, closer than our breath. Gurudeva taught, 'His nature is love, and if you worship Him with devotion you will know love and be loving toward others.' Siva is the sun above us, the wind that cools the land, the five elements, the thought within our mind, the spark of light within our body, that which lives and that which is inert. Beyond knowing, beyond gender, He/She is the deathless Being who resides beyond the three worlds, yet stands in souls united. "
Interesting, one of the text books I refer to now and then, it's called Saiva Vina Vidai. Vina Vidai means questions and answers or said another way catechism. Arumuga Navalar wrote it. He starts the same way we do. We started here: "Lord Siva is the Supreme Being of the universe." So he does question answer. Who is the lord of the world? Siva Peruman. First sentence, exactly the same.
There's a story I read in one of our presentations on Iraivan Temple. It's from 2007 article, Associated Press wrote about it, wrote about Iraivan Temple to be precise. Published in over 100 major newspapers in North America, just a few in other countries. But we just got very large distribution and fortunately it was very positive. When newspapers write about Hinduism it always doesn't come out positive. Especially in India. They have a rule of thumb that they can't say anything positive about Hinduism in India. They have to come to the U.S. to find a newspaper that says positive things about Hinduism.
So the article, very poetic, it starts: "In the clearing within Kauai Aadheenam's lush gardens the ping ping pinging of metal chipping at stones can be heard over the sounds of bird calls. The half peasant artisans from South India put the finishing flourishes on the Hindu monastery's legacy for the ages. Hand carved in granite and shipping pieces to the islands from India the Iraivan Temple is faithful to the precise design formulas defined by South Indian temple builders a thousand years ago. The eight million dollar temple to the god Siva is the first hand-carved all stone Hindu temple outside of India according to the Kauai monks. The project is the rarest to even in India."
Sounds pretty good, right? But there's one phrase that wish we could have edited and that reads: "Iraivan is a temple to the god Siva." What makes Siva sound like one of many gods, right? "The temple to the god Siva."
So, Gurudeva chose the names of our temples to avoid that. Kadavul and Iraivan, Tamil language means God. There's no one "one of the gods" association. That's a, it's quite common in books. It starts out: In praise of God - "Kadavul Valthu" - praise of God, it's a very common way of starting a book. So Gurudeva wanted to make clear, these are temples to the supreme being. And we happen to call the supreme being Siva. So the temple is to the supreme being, not to one of many gods.
I have a way of talking about Siva and Vishnu. I went to a number of Venkateswara temples that were having kumbhabhishekams. Over a period of five years I think I went to four Venkateswara temples. That's because there's lots of people from Andhra Pradesh in the U.S. There's more people from Andhra Pradesh than from Tamil Nadu by far. So there's lots of temples to Venkateswara. And I developed a presentation, there I'm sitting there with my three stripes in the middle of group of Vaishnavites and I asked the question: "Who do you think is the greater god, Siva or Vishnu?" Got everyone's attention, right?
So I'm sure lots of them think: Oh, he's going to say Siva, you know. There he is with his three stripes and all. We're in trouble. So I say: "They're equal." Why are they equal? Because each is the supreme being but to a different Hindu denomination.
So to Saivites Siva is the supreme being. To Vaishnavites Vishnu is the supreme being. So one can't be greater than the other. It's just two different names, two different concepts for the supreme being. That's why it's equal.
This lesson touches on the three perfections of Siva but there's a second lesson on that which develops it further so I won't mention that one.
The five actions, important, and that's one of the benefits of having a Nataraja in the shrine if you're explaining the temple to someone. Because if point to Nataraja, point to the symbolism and show creation, preservation, destruction, veiling and revealing grace right in the symbols. So you can show all five actions in a very nice way that Siva does five things. And of course, the one that's not necessarily clear is the veiling grace. So I thought there was a nice wording on that in "Saiva Vina Vidai." He goes through all five.
"What is veiling? Cleansing of the souls in the objects of experience which are the effects of the two kinds of karmic action."
"Cleansing of the souls in the objects of experience..." When I present it in a class I have five flowers. For Si Va Ya Na Ma. So you have to imagine that cause I find five flowers. It's hard to find five flowers in this weather. So you have to imagine Si Va Ya Na Ma. So the Ya is the soul; its in the middle. Na is the veiling grace. Ma is the world. Va is the revealing grace. Siva, Si is Siva, God. So you're in the middle; the soul's in the middle. On one side it's pulled by the veiling grace toward the world, in the inside it's pulled by revealing grace toward God.
Well when you look at it that way it makes you think that veiling grace is bad. I don't want to get pulled toward the world. But, that's a misinterpretation. It's better to look at it in another way. Let's say you plant a seed in the ground. Is it bad to be in the ground rather than the air? No, it's where you start, right? Start in the ground and you pop up and then you get to flower, then you have a bud and then you bloom. So you start in the ground.
So likewise, the soul starts with experience in the world. That's why Patanjali says, the world is here, prakriti in his terminology, for two purposes. To provide experience and to provide liberation. So experience first comes by being in the ground. You know, it's not that wonderful an experience. Nicer to be a bud and opening up in the sun, right? So it starts with experience in the world and people that are in that stage of evolution don't necessarily participate in religion at all or if they do they may participate based on fear. They go to the temple because they're afraid if they don't something bad will happen. If they're not. they're not very religious when we start as a soul. And then we get a little more religious but we're still mainly concerned about the world and then a little more religious. And then we get to the point where we're about equal in each. Enjoying being in the world and things then but we're also enjoying getting to know God, getting closer to God and therefore religion really becomes strong.
Gurudeva puts that idea another way. We need to find moksha. He has a couple of definitions of moksha. You think of moksha, you would generally just think of: Well we need to realize God and then we'll be free from rebirth. Moksha's based upon realization.
If you think a little deeper you'd say: Well, lets see. I guess karma could bring me back so maybe I'd better resolve all my karma too. So realize God but afterwards although my karma otherwise I'll come back even though I realize God just to face some karma. So we have to resolve all karma as well as realize God.
But then Gurudeva has a third one. Just fulfill all dharma. We have to have experience. We have to do different things in the world. Have to be parents and raise children. We have to be a professional and handle responsibility. We have to have experiences in the world to mature. That's why in Hindu thought "The world is an ashram." If we look at it the right way it's maturing us spiritually. It's not making us worldly once we are in this place where we're interested both in the world and beyond. When we start looking at the world not as a worldly place but as a place where we gain self mastery over our emotions. Where we learn to take on greater and greater responsibility. We move toward imperturbability. (Sometimes I twist my tongue on, I got it out that time.) Imperturbability is the goal. Nothing upsets us. We have such self control that nothing upsets us.
I told one monk once who tended to get upset when he was young. Said: Even if you knew the world was going end in five minutes you shouldn't become upset. What's the benefit? Getting upset is just giving away your best intelligence. You become a little bit stupid if you become upset. But there's no advantage to it, right? Why give away your intelligence; you're letting something upset you.
So that's experience. So we need experience in the world and that's the idea of veiling grace is we just don't want to sit all day at the feet of God. We want to do something in the world. We need that veiling grace to cause us to mature. Otherwise you just seat at, sit at the feet of God as an immature soul. We haven't matured so we can't have the highest realizations; we can have devotion but we can't have the highest realizations cause we haven't gotten matured by the world. All of that is in that veiling grace.
Destruction is an interesting one. Destruction sounds bad, right? Oh, oh. We think of destruction, think in Hawaii, I think of a hurricane for some reason. Somewhere else you may think of earthquakes, California. Somewhere else you think of tsunamis. Anyway, those are very destructive events.
But the kind of destruction I was thinking of is called disruptive technology. I was looking at an intro video on destructive technology at electric vehicles and the energy over the next couple of decades. And the author gives the example that when the Model T came out, he had a picture of the streets of Manhattan and a couple of Model T's and everything else, 95, 98 percent of what you saw in the street was horse drawn carriages. Ten years later, the same street, he had a picture, there are about two horse driven carriages and 98 percent of what you saw was the Model T. So the Model T took away the whole horse and carriage industry. You didn't want to be a blacksmith at that time, huh. Be out of work. Needed to learn how to be a blacksmith, needed to learn to be a mechanic.
So technology can just come in and change things. So that's a type of destruction as well. It's a good type of destruction, it's a progress causing progress. One technology's coming in replacing another. So something in our life can do that. We can upgrade something in our life. One type of pattern in our life gone away and we replace it with a more refined kind. And that's a kind of destruction as well. Something's gone away.
Simple one is letters. I get a couple of letters a year now. Generally they're handwritten by people who have beautiful hand penmanship, you know. But everything else comes in on email. So email has really disrupted paper mail causing the post office to run at a loss, etcetera. But it's so much more efficient, right? Then you get an email there and then you can instantly answer it, particularly so over seas. Used to be if you were writing to India, take two weeks for the letter to get there, Then Indian time, you know, you have to answer it on an auspicious day at an auspicious time. That can be a lot. And two weeks to get back. So it would take six to eight weeks to get an answer from India. With the pace of life in interacting with India, was very slow and now, instantaneous. They can, there's times of the day where you can just communicate instantaneously on email or on Skype. Different things cause the time difference works for part of the day to do that. But it's totally changed that consequently anybody involved in letters, that whole area has gone down significantly.
Anyway that's the end of my talk.
Have a wonderful day.