Siva Is More Than Just the Destroyer

Bodhinatha mentioned he is preparing to visit Atlanta later in the year, where a Siva temple is being built. His talks there, four of them, will be on Siva and this is the first. He spoke on the nature of Lord Siva, who is not just Rudra, the "Destroyer," as some wrongly claim. Siva performs all of the three acts, creation, preservation and destruction, plus two more, veiling grace and revealing grace, all seen in the sacred symbolism of Lord Nataraja, the Divine Dancing Siva. Siva is love, and love is Siva.

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Questions? Bodhinatha is the successor of "Gurudeva," Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. If you have questions on subjects about spiritual life you will find answers in Gurudeva's books and teachings. Learn about ways to study these teachings by visiting The Master Course site or writing to mastercourse@hindu.org.

Unedited Transcript:

I am starting to prepare some talks for a trip to Atlanta, which is in about two months. The Hindu temple of Atlanta is inaugurating a Siva temple and invited us to go there, be the guests and give a talk. This is on Memorial Day weekend. They already have a Balaji temple, a Vaishnava temple. They acquired an additional six acres and last year started building a totally separate Siva temple. An interesting pattern following the expression of this idea of having totally separate buildings for a temple that is of the Vaishnava tradition and a temple of the Saiva tradition. I think, it is probably the largest scale. It is done in a smaller way in a number of temples. They have the main temple as a Vaishnava temple and then they have a separate smaller temple for Siva, in a number of places like in Southern California. This must be a distance, six acres of land contains the Siva temple. It sets a nice precedent having totally separate buildings for these two traditions.

As many of you know, Gurudeva was very concerned about this phenomenon in the US of sticking Siva and Vishnu in the same temple, which is unheard of in India. If the central deity is Siva, it is a Saivite temple. If the central deity is Vishnu, it is a Vaishnavite temple. So it is in India. But in the US, in order to accommodate the interest of both groups and accommodate the financial ability of the temple, they put them both into one building.

Gurudeva felt this was very confusing. So, I am sure he is quite happy to see this being done in Atlanta, in such a nice way.

I am in the midst of preparing four talks. They are asking me to give one talk on each of the four days, a half hour talk. I going to give a portion of one, the second. I am trying to in each talk address three separate topics, so there is a certain amount of variety.

One is something about Saivism and Siva, that I am sure they are expecting. Another one is something about Hinduism in general, which stresses some great aspect of Hinduism, why Hinduism is such a great and wise religion. Then the third area is some practical suggestions, something you can actually take home with you and do, because that is always important too, to bring it down to earth in a practical way.

This talk is based upon a talk I gave in Mauritius. So it is going to sound familiar to some of you. But it is a good talk and the reason for the talk on the nature of Lord Siva, is that sometimes when people explain Lord Siva they come up with some pretty strange explanations. So this is trying to put forth the traditional Saivite explanation of Siva in a way that is easy to remember.

The first topic for today's talk is the nature of Lord Siva. There are some who say that Lord Siva is the Destroyer, also known as Rudra, that Brahma is the Creator and Vishnu is the Preserver and that Hindus believe in a trinity of three separate Gods.

This, of course, is not an accurate understanding. To understand Lord Siva it is helpful to refer to the fact that Hinduism has four major denominations or divisions - Saivism, Saktism, Smartism, Vaishnavism. Each calls the Supreme Being by a different name. To Saivites, the Supreme is called Siva. Saktas refer to the Supreme as Sakti. Smartas call the Supreme Being, Brahman and to Vaishnavites, He is Vishnu. However, the important point is that each is worshiping the same Supreme Being. The name is different, the tradition is different but it is the same Supreme Being that is being worshipped by all Hindus. Lord Siva, therefore, as the Supreme Being performs all three functions - creation, preservation and destruction. In addition to these three actions, He also performs two more actions which relate specifically to the soul.

The fourth action is that He hides Himself from us, though He pervades the entire Universe. Though He is within us, we cannot see Him. This is called His Veiling Grace. This is like both the mother and father playing hide and seek with their child. The game begins by the child not being able to find them.

The fifth action is that Lord Siva eventually shows Himself to us. This is called His Revealing Grace. Of course, this is like the child after much searching successfully finding his mother and father.

Each of these five actions of God Siva has a name. Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, Rudra the destroyer, Mahesvara the veiling Lord and Sadasiva the revealing Lord. These five actions are also refered to often in the chants of the Siva puja by another set of five names. Sadyojata the creator, Vamadeva the preserver, Agora the destroyer, Tatpurusa the veiler and Isana the revealer.

An effective way to explain the nature of Lord Siva to someone who is not familiar with it, is by showing the person the murthi of Nataraja, the Lord of Dance. For in it, the symbolism of all five actions is clearly present.

Sristi - Creation or emanation is presented by His upper right hand holding the damaru, the drum upon which He beats paranada the primal sound from which issue forth the rhythms and cycles of creation.

Sthiti - Preservation is represented by His lower right hand in a gesture of blessing abhaya mudra, saying 'fear not'.

Samhara - Destruction, dissolution or absorption is represented by the fire in His upper left hand posed in ardachandra mudra, half moon gesture.

Tirobhava - Obscuring grace, the power which hides the truth there by permitting experience, growth and eventual fulfillment of destiny, is represented by His right foot upon the prostrate person, Apasmarapurusha the principle of ignorance or anava.

Anugraha - Revealing grace which grants knowledge and severs the soul's bonds is represented by Siva's raised left foot and by His lower left hand, held in gajahasta or elephant trunk mudra, inviting approach.

Another approach to understanding God Siva's nature is to think of Him as the parent and yourself as the child. As parent, He is both father and mother to you. God Siva is your parent because He created your soul. He is the Primal or Original Soul who has created all other souls.

In fact, God Siva is the perfect parent because no matter what we do, Siva always sends blessings and love to us. When we make mistakes, He never becomes angry with us or punishes us. He continues to love and bless us no matter what. God Siva's love is perfect love, meaning it exists at all times for all souls.

The goal of Hinduism is like the goal in the game of hide and seek. God has hidden Himself from us and if we keep searching diligently, we will eventually find Him. In finding God, we also find Siva's perfect love and experience it for ourselves.

There is a famous verse in the scripture Tirumantiram on this point. It states: "The ignorant foolishly say that love and Siva are two. But none of them knows that love alone is Siva. When men know that love and Siva are the same, love as Siva they ever remain."

Thank you!