Yesterday I encountered 2 truths, both revealed through Lord Shiva, and one, once again, through his Aghoric aspects. Prior to the studying I am doing now, I read several books just to prepare me for my current undertaking, as what I am reading is so thick with symbolism and nuance that to have launched into it unprepared may well have been dangerous. At the moment I am reading “The Siva Purana,” yep, all 2,200 pages! The best estimate of when it was written speaks to the text being written between the tenth and fourteenth centuries, which means that much of the text contains intrusions from politically motivated Brahmin who, so it seems, were very concerned with preserving social order and the hierarchical position of their caste. When reading these scriptures, as is the case with any scripture, it is wise to root the wisdom out while leaving burried the material concerns of the men who intruded upon the wisdom of the sages.
One of the big challenges in doing this reading was to empty my cup of dogmatic and fundamentalist notions, leftovers from my upbringing as a fundamentalist Christian. This cup continues to need emptying at regular intervals. In my continued efforts to understand this nuanced scripture, I am not only rereading some of the texts I have already studied, but have been watching “Kahi Suni,” which is an Indian television program that visits the sacred places and explores the myths, legends and stories of India.
The past two days I have spent immersed in meditation, devotion, study and contemplation in the forest. Honestly, I am beginning to think that this is what I am meant to be doing, as nothing else brings me peace. Every one of my material entanglements, work, art, relationships, my car, finances, you name it, all of it leads me down the same path, that of anxiety, fear and depression. The cycle seems to be that I devote myself to Lord Shiva, spending all of my spare time in meditation, contemplation and study, and come to peace, joy, and levels of wisdom and realization that have astounded me… but then the ego begins whining in my skull like an annoying little bitch or begins barking like a tyrannical selfish father, and I am called back to engagement in material concerns, and then I am let down, disappointed, fearful, anxious and depressed. Why do I keep going down the path of darkness when I know the road that leads to light? But, then again, that does seem to be the eternal struggle, doesn’t it?
I keep falling from grace because the ego is loud when it becomes threatened, it insists upon being in control, and as it sees me wandering farther and farther down the path of spiritual life, it begins to ask me questions and telling me things, such as, “You can’t live like this? You cannot spend your days meditating and studying. You are wasting your life, your days are numbered, you need more money, a husband, fame and a large body of work.” And this ego raises itself before my eyes and I follow it like a dying woman follows death. It is one thing to recognize that our culture is constantly at work brainwashing us, but another level of comprehension entirely to recognize that we are perpetuating this brainwashing from a much more insidious place… from within our own minds!
This last 2 days of immersion began in fear and helplessness. I felt abandoned by Shiva, I had succumbed so fully to the ego that meditation and Shiva began to seem foolish to me. But, slowly, as I shed my material concerns, as I studied, increased my meditation and the length of time I spent in the forest, the quietude of clarity began to dawn within me again. So desperate was I to let go, to fall into Shiva, that I laid myself on the floor and begged him to reveal himself to me.
Ultimately, as usual, he did. I was taught once, in a profound moment, while in the audience of a Pandit, that Shiva cannot help but rush to the aid of a Devotee who cries tears for him.
A week ago yesterday I was badly bullied in public again. The experience was humiliating and enraging, and I felt a deep resentment at having to live in a world full of vile troglodytic animal men. Having to share the planet with hostile ignorant Rakshasas and leeching vampires can be exhausting, and I found myself being drug back into the hellish world of my damaged ego.
But this was when the first lesson came to me, and it came in the story of Shiva’s marriage to Sati. I had read it numerous times, knew it well, and as I watched a version of this story played out in “Kahi Suni,” aspects of the story and its secrets suddenly became relevant and known to me in a way that elevated me out of my stupor of self loathing and self pity. Though abstractly, the lesson in the story was applicable to my own experiences of the moment.
Daksha, father of Sati, was holding a sacrifice, and Daksha had intentionally snubbed Shiv and Sati, this infuriated Sati. She was enraged that Daksha, her father, would dishonor Mahadev, and the insult grated on her. Shiva tried to tell her to let it go, tried to instruct her, but Sati was insistent. Shiva knew that the moment she defied him, she would be lost, and while this may seem like a patriarchal notion, that reading would miss the point. The point being that when we deny and question God, as we become taken in by the constructed “reality” of the material world and culture, we are likely to fall into its traps of misery and unconstructive destruction. She went, uninvited to confront Daksha, and encountered a cold and unrepentant Daksha, in the end, unable to move Daksha, she immolated herself in the sacrificial fire.
“All these Suras and Asuras, brahmins and sages bow to me. How is it that this gentleman who is always surrounded by goblins and ghosts behaves like a wicked man?
How is it that this shameless frequenter of cremation grounds does not bow to me now? he is devoid of rights. He has cast off religious practices. He is surrounded by spirits and ghosts. He is elated and spoils good policies and conventions.”
Daksha speaking of Shiva in “The Siva Purana.”
Now, of course, Daksha is a manifestation, or metaphor, for the ego, the ego of social order in particular. His daughter was a manifestation of nature, of worldly and social existence. Shiva, of course, not only rejects, but flaunts social convention, this, of course, is intolerable to Daksha. Let’s step into this for a moment and apply this to our world. Think of Nixon as Daksha and the youth of the sixties as Shiva. Look back at how, not only threatened, but insulted, enraged and offended Nixon was that he had become BIG and powerful, the PRESIDENT, and here were a group of people who were not impressed, who rejected not only his world view, but the immensity of his very material accomplishment. Essentially if a person or people rebel against a man of power, to the transgressors he is seen as and becomes impotent and powerless. The powerful cannot abide those who do not recognize and praise their power. Recently when talking to a friend, he complained after the election that “The next 4 years are going to suck.” To which I told him that whether or not the next 4 years sucked were entirely up to him. I explained that Trump only has as much power over you as you give him.
Shiva, quite innocently and as is natural to his character, meant no offense to Daksha’s power, or his constructed “reality,” but he had no interest in being part of it. Now, of course, just as it is Shiva’s job, his Dharma, to transgress social norms, to challenge the reality of power, it is also the job of Sati to exist between her father and Shiva. She, a woman, as was traditionally realized in India, was a creature of nature, of the world, and it was her job to keep Shiva engaged in the world, lest “reality” as we know it be destroyed. That, however, is Shiva’s Job, to destroy the construct most people have democratically accepted as “reality.” His destruction contains no malice, only Dharma, it is Shiva’s job to destroy not only constructed “reality,” but to destroy our attachment to it so that we may shun this temporal construct and engage with the supreme reality that we already are. Om Shivoham… I am Shiva! Under the heavy robes of the ego, under the crust of material construct, we are all Shiva. And we all decide how much power men of power have over us. Me, I refuse to recognize most men’s power as it exists only within the confines of a construct of reality that I do not buy into. Hence Trump is powerless against me just as Daksha was powerless against Shiva, and Sati, had she the wisdom to see that.
Sati, being caught between Daksha’s ego and social order and Shiva’s renunciation, slips so far into the power of her father’s ego that she becomes consumed by it… literally consumed by fire! So as to keep Shiva from becoming attached to the remains of her corpse, Vishnu has her dismembered and her parts drop throughout India, and wherever her remains fell, holy temples were raised.
So what, beyond the less than significant political ramifications of this story, was the lesson here for me? To listen to Shiva, to be like Shiva. Why was Sati allowing Daksha’s ego to damage or control her own? Why, Shiva must have wondered, did Sati become so caught up in Daksha’s ego that her own was consumed by him, by his fire, his fire which had excluded Mahadev? And this was the lesson for me, when being bullied and sexually harassed, of course it is hurtful and dangerous in the moment, but why would I, a week later, remain consumed by the wicked and demonic ego of the animal-man who had offended me? Why would I allow myself to be consumed by his godless fire? In the actions of this man, he, like Daksha, had started a godless fire, and I allowed myself to be consumed by it. Furthermore, when harassed, I chose to confront the man, just as Sati had confronted Daksha, and just as Daksha could not be moved, neither could this animal-man. Any effort to confront ignorant and material-minded men like Daksha and my own bully will result in little more than a deeper state of entanglement in not only your own, but their egos! Shiva had warned Sati, had warned me, but we both became consumed. The lesson is to stop becoming consumed, to be with Shiva, to be Shiva, after all, I am Shiva… I am Shiva!
NEXT: Part 2