Shiva – The Destroyer of Maya

Shiva

Shiva – The Destroyer

The Hindu Mythology talks about three manifestations of the Almighty. Brahma – the Creator, Vishnu – the Preserver and Shiva – the Destroyer.

In the first place, it would appear that Creator and Preserver must be good and Destroyer must be bad. However, in India we worship the Preserver and the Destroyer but not the Creator. Confusing?

The confusion occurs because the notion of the world in our scriptures is very different and we are not much aware of it.

According to the scriptures, in the beginning only Narayan existed. From his navel emerged Brahma who was scared to be in a dark space. This feeling of insecurity generated fear in his mind and to materialize his significance he created the world. The world was, thus, not a result of divine grace but a result of Brahma’s desire. The world is thus considered Maya, or Illusion. It is this Illusion that Shiva ignores. He believes in the existence of soul and the power of tapasya so he rejects this materialistic world and thus metaphorically destroys it. Therefore he is called the Destroyer.

After he created the world, Brahma’s desire did not end but increased even more and he went to chase the Goddess Saraswati. She ran away from Brahma. She went to the East so Brahma emerged a head in the East. She went to the West so he propped a head in the West. She went behind him so he emerged a head at his back. She ran in the upward direction so he emerged a fifth head on the top.

Shiva got so disgusted by this utter display of desire by Brahma that he beheaded his fifth head. Thus the Destroyer destroyed the excessive desire of the one who created Maya. Therefore the Destroyer is worshipped and the Creator is not.

(Vishnu, the Preserver, recognizes that the world is an illusion and believes in the power of tapasya. But at the same time he understands the existence of Brahma’s desire and believes in preserving it as long as the desires are in limits. This concept of limited desire is called Dharma. A man who learns to control his desire and outgrow his fear walks on the path of Dharma. He who is overwhelmed by his fear and cannot control his desires steps on the path of Adharma. Vishnu creates this balance on Earth, therefore he is the Preserver. He watches it sportfully when Dharma is being followed and allows Brahma existence. When he sees Adharma overpowering Dharma, he takes an avatar and sets things right.)

To destroy, Shiva needs power therefore he is associated with the Goddess of power, Shakti. Throughout the epic Mahabharata, many characters worship Shiva to seek power in some form or the other. Amba worships Shiva to get a boon to kill Bheeshm. Arjuna worships Shiva during his exile to achieve deadly weapons to prepare for the Kurukshetra war. Jayadrath worships Shiva to obtain a boon of overpowering the four Pandavas (this is how he gets Abhimanyu killed).

It is also interesting to note that three people mentioned in the above example are obtaining power to avenge some kind of humiliation.

Vishnu and Bhudevi – The Preserver and the Earth Goddess

Now “Sustainability” is not just an MBA buzz word. It is a serious concept. A damn serious one. So serious that ignoring it and not trying to work in its direction can land you into battlefields (and mind you, here I am not being metaphorical).

Much before the Kurukshetra War (and probably after the menace caused by Parshuram), the Earth Goddess (aka Bhudevi) went to the Preserver of the Universe, Vishnu, in the form of a cow and begged for help. The following conversation took place (probably in Sanskrit).

***

Bhudevi: I am replete with warriors, and these warriors think no end to themselves. In the quest of creating culture, cities, dams and armies they have mindlessly destructed all that I had for them. They have cut the forests, polluted the water and land. But their lust knows no limits. Moreover, a few rich and powerful are doing this in abundance while depriving the weaker of their rightful share. They have so recklessly squeezed milk out of my udders that they are sore.

(Vishnu was furious at this discovery. He tried to comfort the Earth Goddess and made a declaration.)

Vishnu: These homo sapiens of the warrior community are indeed a bunch of maniacs. They have forgotten their place, and they have forgotten yours. They do not see you, the provider of all resources, as their mother but they regard you as their property. Their greed has made them stoop down to this level that they have lost all sense of Dharma. They will certainly learn a lesson and that too the hard way. That’s a promise!

(Then looking towards the tragic face of the cow)

Do not worry! I will descend on Earth as a cowherd to protect you. I promise you that the greedy and unrighteous Kshatriyas will pay for your milk with their blood.

Krishna and Cow

***

Thus Vishnu declared his arrival as Krishna, the cowherd, determined to teach unrighteous Kshatriyas a lesson and re-establish Dharma. Thus, one can say the war was, in a way, inevitable. The uncompromising Kuru princes were but the catalysts.

Brahma Vishnu Mahesh

Brahma Vishnu Mahesh

Brahma Vishnu Mahesh

Hindu mythology talks about three manifestations of the Almighty. No, they are not Amar, Akbar and Anthony but Brahma – The Creator, Vishnu – The Preserver and Shiva – The Destroyer.

Hindu mythology does not see the world as the ultimate Truth. It sees the world as an illusion, created by Brahma to actualize his existence. Brahma, its creator, is thus considered the first father (Param – pitah). He appears as a priest and is associated with knowledge – Saraswati. On creating the world he gets so mesmerized by his creation that he follows it passionately, ignoring the ultimate Truth of soul but pursuing the possession of materialistic truth and believing only in his subjective world. Thus, Brahma is not worthy of worship according to Hindu mythology.

Shiva is the God who does not believe in illusions but seeks the soul that is the only Truth. Thus, he shuns the notion of the world, society, rules and culture. He prefers to stay alone on the icy mountains of Kailash, smeared with ash which is an indicator of what remains when everything destroys (soul), wearing a tiger-skin and is deep into meditation. Through the continuous Yoga of eons he becomes an infinite source of spiritual power – Tapa. He is thus a hermit, dressed like one and associated with power – Shakti. By ignoring Brahma’s creation, he thus destroys it and so he is called the Destroyer. He is worshiped by the hermits who renounce the world to seek the soul as well as by those who seek power.

Vishnu is the God who recognizes the illusion created by Brahma but at the same time recognizes and accepts the concept of soul of Shiva. However, he does not shun Brahma. He rather believes in uplifting him and making him realize the Truth of Soul. He thus becomes the Preserver of Brahma’s world as well as the endorser of Shiva’s soul. Hence, he’s known as the Preserver. He’s the God of the householders and stays in the boundaries of culture, dresses like people with family and is associated with wealth – Lakshmi, which is indispensable for running a household. He is worshiped by the priests, hermits and householders alike.

The three Gods are thus associated with the three Goddesses.

Brahma – Saraswati | Vishnu – Lakshmi | Shiva – Shakti

 Lakshmi Durga Saraswati

Lakshmi Durga Saraswati

The three Gods and three Goddesses appear in different forms, in different ways, at different places and at different times throughout the Mahabharata influencing the course of the story.