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Symbolism of Siva’s picture

Bull

Drum

Lines on Forehead

Mala Beads

Moon

Right Hand

River Flowing From His Head

Snakes

Sun Behind Him

Tiger Skin

Trident


Bull
Siva’s vehicle is the bull, nandi, which means “giving joy.” Nandi is fullof joy. He symbolizes controlled virility and devotion. As such he is the symbol of proper or pure (color white) dharma which brings order both to society and to the universe. Nandi is supported by four legs which are: austerities, purity of body and mind, compassion and clinging to truth.


Drum

Siva’s drum symbolizes the primordial sound or origional vibration from which all other patterns of vibration that make up creation are derived. Some traditions use the devotional symbol of God speaking creation into existence. Here Siva beats creation into existence on his drum, devotionally symbolized as the sound of “dama dama dama dama.” This sound ever reverberates through the cosmos, holding creationin manifestation.


Three lines on the forehead

These represent the three gunas, the primordial qualities which underlie all manifestation. These are purity or pure consciousness, energy or activity, and inertia. Everything in creation is made of a particular mixture of these three origional qualities. The three lines appearing on the forehead indicate that he has mastered the three gunas and thus is master of the whole of creation, which is nothing more than a mixture of these gunas. It is in the center of the forehead where the three principle energy channels or nadis meet. When the energy and consciousness (conscious energy) is centered here one transcends the gunas.


Mala beads

Mala beads are used in the devotional repetition of the divine name. They thus represent devotion, without which it is not possible to transcend the ego. This is not a sentimental or emotional devotion, but an interior and focused devotional surrender that comes from continual washing one’s self in the divine name until one ever lives within its spell.


Moon

The moon is the vessel of soma, the nectar of bliss, the nectar of immortality. It is the soma chakra, which in Siva is ever open, conferring on him immortal bliss.


Right Hand

Siva’s right hand is raised in a gesture of blessing granting fearlessness. Fearlessness must be accepted if one is to tread the path that leads beyond death to the abode of Truth.


The River Ganges flowing from his hair

The river Ganges here is the pure causal waters of purifying knowledge which cleanse from ignorance and bring enlightenment. As it flows in the causal world its purifying force is so great it would instantly remove all impediments to realization, destroying in the process the earth itself. Siva in his boundless grace catches the river of Truth-consciousness in his hair lowering it gently to earth so it nourishes the course of evolution of consciousness through its purifying action.


Snakes

Snakes, naga, represent the serpentine energy, Kundaline Shakti, which bringscreation into manifestation at the end of each night of Brahman, and whichlies coiled and sleeping under the gunas at the base of the spine in un-awakened humans. Awakening her from the sleep of her own gunas (the primordial qualities which underlie all manifestation) energizes the spinal chakras, those subtle transformers which manifest all human experience.

When the chakras are sufficiently purified, Kundalini Shakti, the female aspect of Siva, can safely leave her sleep at the base of the spine and dance her way up the subtle spine through the chakras toward her divine consort, Siva. The whole universe, from the lowest and darkest to the most resplendent, is hidden in these inner churches or meeting places or doors between manifestation and the different aspects of Sivas dama dama dama from his primordial drum.

This dama dama dama is the origional vibration that sturctures and brings to manifestation all patterns of vibration. On the one side of the chakra, the side of manifestation, is what we call the world of the senses, the world of outer experience. On the other side of the chakras are the patterns of thought energy from Siva’s drum that underlie and sturcture the outer universe. Kundalini Shakti’s journey from the base of the spine through these chakras to Siva’s abode on Mount Kailas at the crown of the head is thus a journey across the whole universe.

When she joins Siva in the high country, the higher chakras, she is known as the Goddess Parvati. They are ever one. They only appear different through expression. The naga around Siva’s neck indicate his mastery of the primordial energy of Kundaline Shakti and his having it raised from its sleep under the gunas to Its full expression within and beyond the chakras.


The Radiant Sun

The sun is a symbol of Self-knowledge, perfect awareness of the Self as the Atman, the supreme reality, the Self hidden within the outer appearances of the ego, self-conscious- ness, sense consciousness and so forth. The radiant sun behind Siva’s head shows him as living in complete and constant awareness of the Supreme Reality as his Self.


Tiger Skin

The tiger skin represents the mind. Siva sitting on the tiger skin ind icates that he has both mastered the mind and transcended it.


Trident

Siva’s trident, trishula, not only symbolizes his rule over the totality of manifestation which is ever divided by his trident into trinities:

three divisions of time - past, present, future;
three part cosmic cycle - creation, preservation, desruction;
three primordial qualities - purity, activity, inertia;
three worlds - physical, astral, causal;
three states of consciousness - waking, dreaming, deep dreamless sleep;
three divisions of mind - conscious, subconscious, unconscious;
three chains of bondage - attachment, repulsion, ignorance;
three principle energy channels in the subtle body: ida, pingala, sushumna;
three psychological states: pleasure (happiness), pain, (unhappiness), boredom,
three aspects of consciousness - feeling, knowing, doing but the power to destroy our ignorance with the triple power of Sat, Chit, Ananda: absolute being,purity or pure, unconditioned consciousness, and bliss.

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Last updated: 2001SEP02 15:50 PDT