EVERYDAY REMINDERS FOR STRIVING MEDITATORS
This Friday night is one of my all-time favorite nights of the year; Shivratri; a night dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Lord of Yoga, the ultimate renunciate. This hindu deity, known for his deep states of meditation, ability to destroy the ego and capacity to bring about extensive changes and transformation (inside and out) is said to reside at the summit of Mt. Kailash (in Tibet), where he sits in a state of perpetual meditation, along with his wife Parvati and his bull, Nandi.
I love gazing on images of Shiva because of all the symbolism that his form contains. On an external level, Shiva is known for his prominent third eye, a serpent around his neck, a cresent moon adorning his dreadlocks, the holy Ganges river flowing from his matted hair, a trident as his weapon of choice, and a little drum known as a damaru that accompanies him and his faithful bull, Nandi, wherever they go.
What do all the symbols around Shiva represent?
Well, as a meditator, let me share with you what I’ve learned over the years from my teachers, Shri Anandi Ma and Dileepji :).
THIRD EYE – While his two regular eyes represent the physical, everyday world, his third eye represents the Ajna Chakra and the spiritual wisdom and power acquired through meditation, that allows one to see beyond maya (illusion).
SERPENT AROUND NECK – The serpent represents the Kundalini, the source of divine energy that lies dormant at the base of the spine, until awakened. Once awakened, she moves in an upward direction, piercing various chakras along way until she reaches the Sahasrar chakra, thus leading spiritual aspirants to the ultimate state of consciousness.
CRESCENT MOON – There’s a long story behind this symbol, but the jist is that it represents the waxing and waning of the moon, the mind and the continuim of time, which when adorned on Shiva signifies the control over the mind and time.
GANGES RIVER – The holy ganges river is known as the holiest river in India and is personified as the Goddess Ganga. The story says that Shiva was asked to break her descent from heaven to earth as the force of her fall would have flooded and wrecked havoc rather than help the inhabitants of the world. So the Ganges flows first through Shiva’s matted locks and then from there he lets her gently flow out so that devoted souls can bathe in her waters and purify their souls.
TRIDENT- The trident in his hands represents several things, the most important being the trinity of supreme divinity which oversees the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance and destruction. Brahma is known as the creator, Vishnu is known as the preserver and the Shiva as the destroyer/transformer.
DAMARU (drum)- The damaru represents the heartbeat of life, the cosmic sound of AUM and the process of creation.
BULL- Nandi, Shiva’s bull is not only a great devotee of his, but is also his trusted vehicle and represents truth. He’s a reminder of the strength and power that comes from living truthfully, righteousnessly and harnessing the infinite consciousness that lies within you.
So to honor his greatness, many yoga studios, meditation centers and hindu temples locally and abroad celebrate Shivratri in various ways. Some partake in a day of yogic fasting, some enjoy all-night chanting, while some prefer just meditating. No matter what, devotees enjoy carving out the time to pay homage to Shiva with the hopes of getting a chance to experience his greatness and be blessed with a deepened yoga and meditation practice.
If you’re in Northern California, Dhyanyoga Centers will be hosting an all-night event filled with chanting + meditation this Friday, Feb 24 from 9 pm to 7 am. And if you live elsewhere, google Shivaratri events near you….or invite some of your favorite yogini/yogi pals over for a little late night yoga, chanting, meditation and chai :).
Lots of love,