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I have several times confessed being a near atheist. But I think, I am wrong. If someone were to ask me if I believed there was a God, I would tell him that I knew there was a God. My conviction on God is not because I have scientific and empirical evidence of his being. It is because I believe, we need God. As Voltaire said, "If there is no God, It would be necessary to invent one." An atheist’s insistence of non-existence of God is as stupid as a fanatic’s insistence of the existence of God. I believe God is a necessary idea. We need God as someone who is possible, who is to be aspired for. I believe, God is what man should aspire to become. He is not a jealous, revengeful thing, which attacks us at each of our failings. God, if He were as our religious people teach us often, spiteful, He would be a mean thing to hold my respect. Someone who punishes people for not loving Him. In my opinion, he is an idea of a man, or what a man should try to become. He defines humanity for us and sets what we call in professional world, definable parameters of achievement.
In this sense, I look at Shiva, who is a perfect model to follow. I believe him to be the truest of all Gods, and I trust, I am not alone in my thoughts since in the trinity, he is the Mahesh- or Greatest of all Gods. Shiva is closest to being human, and is the most modern in his outlook. Let us look at what makes Him a great God to aspire to become.
Solitary- Shiva is a great example of self-contentment. He is a non-conformist hero. He lives away from the people. He lives in the Himalayas. I would presume it to be a metaphor, something which reflects in the writings of great German philosopher, Nietzsches, the nihilist thinker, when he writes, “Flee my friend, into thy solitude! I see thee deafened with the noise of the great men, and stung by the little ones”. Shiva seems to have paid heed to his advice, or he got the philosophy from Shiva. The wiser ones intellectually intimidate and the smaller minds will indulge in pushing with smallness of their mind. The truth however is flung much higher than the articulation of the so called greats and much subtle for the meanness of the fanatics who understand little. Shiva therefore, moves to the higher planes, where the independence of mind could be preserved. He is the one for unorthodox and unconventional. Shiva tells us the value of quiet dignity, the power of meditation and solitary analysis, the significance of a mind not intimidated by the pettiness of small minds and not awed by the intellectual haughtiness of a collective which pretends to be revolutionary but is driven by greed and narcissism.
Benevolence and Kindness- Shiva represents benevolence and kindness. He is easy to please, has not hidden motives and therefore goes with the name of Bholenath. He represents the person with no hidden agendas and no cunning conspiracies. He is a trusting person. It is important in life to trust people. You may face betrayals. But it is false to presume that those who are always suspicious of people do not face betrayal. We have, all kind of people, our lives as larger continuum of tranquil trust, broken by sudden slips into betrayal. By cultivating trust, being bholenath or easily trusting, we enjoy the treasures of tranquil trust better. We must be strong to survive such occasions, but we must not prepare too much. Nothing we do in life can prepare us for life. Be trusting. For each occasional Bhasmasur, we have thousands of lovers and friends, and a general temper of happiness, joy, music and peace.
For the Larger Good- This takes from the earlier one. Shiva was the only God, who never had a plan for himself, or needed much for himself. He was the one who did not even want to secure anything for himself. He lived far from the larger society, in body and in spirit. Still when Dev and Asurs (good and evil) churned the ocean, and dreaded poison emerged, Shiva was the one to drink the poison and save the mankind. The blue of the poison which stayed on his neck, added to the beauty of the soul of Shiva and made him the savior of the world. He steps into something which he was neither the perpetrator of nor the beneficiary of only for the larger good. We need to also ask ourselves once in a while what is our contribution to the larger good of the people. We need to figure out in our daily struggle for self-sustenance to somehow look at our larger civic role, our contribution to the society, nation and world at large.
Playfulness, Art, Music- We need to play, laugh and dance. Shiva was a great warrior, greatest of them all. He treasured his solitude. He was not though, a boring man. He invented chess, played, and danced as the first dancer in the humanity. And anyone who has seen the human interpretation of Tandav, the dance of Shiva, will tell you, it is a dance with abandon. Shiva would dance as if no one was watching. That is the purpose of art- Art for the sake of art, as they say. That is what Shiva teaches us. Om - The first word, the first sound, from which all music, all literature is said to have emerged, belongs to Shiva.
Cultivate a habit, protect the inner child, and learn to laugh, to dance, to be happy as if you were in a trance. He is a warrior, and as Nietzsche would say, his is the “courage that scareth away ghosts, createth for itself goblin—It wanteth to laugh”.
Unconventional Friendships: British have told us that Indian society has been plagued with fissures and factions since, they would want us believe, forever. But that is a political game. The biggest God that we had, Shiva, never had conventional friends. He never had friends like King of Gods, Indra, what the communists would call the Manuvadi deities. His friends are Nandi, the bull, a man with face like a bull, ghosts. They wander in the wild and Shiva brings them love and affection. He never seeks to change them, he wants them to be comfortable. He becomes one with them. He is the one who moves among the kings and the poor with similar ease. He is a friend, who doesn’t judge. He is a friend, who enlightens, educates but never belittles or changes the other. His friendship choices are not always in line with social mores and dictum. He is an independent mind and dedicated friend. His friends will go with him and attend the congregation of kings and gods, even if it shocks His prospective in-laws. He isn't the one to disown His friends.
Respectful Husband: Tomorrow is the International Women’s day, a day after Mahashivratri. A coincidence, a thoughtfully happy coincidence. Shiva marries Parvati. Her parents are horrified at his dressing, his demeanor, his friends. They agree to her choice, but never quite accept him. And Shiva, all knowing Shiva, who can see the distrust and disdain in the eyes of his father-in-law, the great king of mountains, never utters a word of it to Parvati. He hopes Parvati would understand when they stay uninvited to the Yagya at Daksha’s place. She doesn’t. But what stands out in the story, is that Shiva doesn’t come in the way. He is TrikaalDarshi, He can see the Past, present and the future. He knows what painful future is ahead, still he would not have the heart to stop Parvati from visiting her parents. He stands by her decision. In a later life, He will stand by her decision when He would accept Her son, Ganesha, which she creates and never gives birth to. While Lakshmi spends time serving Vishnu, He is one God who is most respecting to his female partner. Parvati is an equal partner, who was the first to hear Shiv Purana, learn Yoga, play Kaudi (chess) with him, and eventually, in love, in happiness, in playfulness, in a joint search of knowledge they become one and Shiva becomes Ardh-Narishwar. His willingness to share knowledge of Yoga with Parvati indicates the respect with which he treats her, much ahead of the time, when some smaller mind declared women to be unfit for higher intellect. The respect for the partner, non-intrusive trust is something which can any man be the best bet for marital bliss even today. Kali, another form of Shakti, or Parvati, when mad with anger, was about to destroy the world, lost in the frenzy of killing, help was sought from Shiva. Shiva, the husband, the man, the Mahakal himself who had within his power to stop Kali, instead took a different way to stop the Devi. He lied at her feet and stepping over all-powerful Mahakal, The God of Death, Shiva, Kali felt a sudden shame and embarrassed stopped. It would take an extremely self-assured man to put himself at the feet of the woman he loves even when she is wrong. The Shiva and Kali story carries many lessons. The woman, Kali, goes beyond her brief, loses the track and goes about killing the innocent. Most modern women, who lose track of their own selves, in a blind pursuit of ambition, which begins with self-assertion, slowly deteriorate into ego and aggression, which feminist movements are many times blamed off. They pursue wrong motifs of liberation, unreal proofs of emancipation, and in process lose themselves. Shiva, in her feet, represents the sanctity and truth and a controlled energy which lies in surrender in philosophical sense and a saddened husband who brings her violence to a halt, not by overpowering her, rather by surrendering in utter love.
Shiva – The Eternal Lover and the Ideal Family man: Shiva loved Parvati and when He lost her in doomed Yagna at Her parent’s place, where she visits uninvited, He is mad with sadness and fury. He fights with her memories as He travels across the country, bit by bit coming to terms with his loss at eighteen Jyotirlings. He destroys the whole world in His agony, or the world seems to have ended for the sad lover. He then waits for her reincarnation to marry her again. He is the only family man among the Gods and He is always seen with his complete family. He is no Rama to leave his wife to satisfy the world, He would rather leave the world for his family. He is a message to the family men across the world, look inwards, forget the society. And if you respect your family, it will come on its own, with brilliant kid even with strange head of an elephant who would write the first poetry, a wife who will be Shakti or power in here own right. He invented the first game, to play. He appreciates the role of playfulness in keeping the family together and is not a prisoner of his own image of an ascetic, a sage, when he goes dancing and playing with his wife and child.
Shiva- The Environmentalist: Shiva stays in the mountains. When the world is suffering with famine, he works, probably the first engineer in the history, to bring water to the plains. He turns and twists the angry waves of Ganges and makes it into mother Ganga for the impoverished, famine-struck people. He controls the nature, but never destroys it. He loves animals, the cows, the bulls- He is the PashupatiNath- The lord of the animals. Even a snake finds a place of love around his neck. It not only speaks of the courage of our first martial Hero, it also tells of his love for all things living.
Shiva is Byronic hero. He is silent, unconventional, brooding, thoughtful, brave and still, loving, loving to a fault. He is my hero. He has, in his being, answers for you, whichever stage of life you might be in.