Sri Aurobindo on Shiva (HH 169)


Yesterday, the 7th March was celebrated in India as the ‘Mahashivaratri Day’ or the ‘Night of Shiva’. Though many legends are associated with this ‘Day of Shiva, the mighty Ascetic-Adiyogi (the first Yogi)’, symbolically this day represents the coming together of Purusha and Prakriti. It is the day when Shiva withdrawn in fields of trance emerges out and beholds the gaze of the World-Mother. They dance to the tune of a new creation and thereby this day assumes a significance that remains relevant even today. While many of us are aware of Sri Krishna with regard to Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga, Lord Shiva too plays an important part in this yoga. The Mother has spoken of him as ‘The Lord of Transformation.’ We share some luminous words of Sri Aurobindo that bring the majestic Shiva close to our inner vision.

Words of Sri Aurobindo

shiva-the-hindu-god-1165592_1920The gods behind the workings of Nature are to be seen and adored as powers, names and personalities of the one Godhead. An infinite Conscious-Force, executive Energy, Will or Law, Maya, Prakriti, Shakti or Karma, is behind all happenings, whether to us they seem good or bad, acceptable or inacceptable, fortunate or adverse. The Infinite creates and is Brahma; it preserves and is Vishnu; it destroys or takes to itself and is Rudra or Shiva. The supreme Energy beneficent in upholding and protection is or else formulates itself as the Mother of the worlds, Luxmi or Durga. Or beneficent even in the mask of destruction, it is Chandi or it is Kali, the dark Mother. The One Godhead manifests himself in the form of his qualities in various names and godheads. The God of divine love of the Vaishnava, the God of divine power of the Shakta appear as two different godheads; but in truth they are the one infinite Deity in different figures. One may approach the Supreme through any of these names and forms, with knowledge or in ignorance; for through them and beyond them we can proceed at last to the supreme experience.

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…the very goddess of destruction is at the same time the compassionate and loving Mother; the austere Maheshwara, Rudra, is also Shiva, the auspicious, Ashutosha, the refuge of men.

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There are Four who are Beyond and they rule the mighty game of evolution. It is they who build the universe with their thoughts and imaginations. Vishnu or Virat put them in front each in turn, and they govern each a cycle. All the sons of immortality come forth from them and return to them, all the children of earth are their portions. One stands in front, the others incarnate to help him. They are God Himself in His fourfold manifestation. Once in each chaturyuga they come down together,— the chaturvyuha, Srikrishna, Balarama, Pradyumna, Aniruddha. Srikrishna contains all the others and puts them out from His being. He is Ishwara, Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu. Lordship is His manifestation, Might and Wisdom are His gunas. Balarama is the second Power. Force is His manifestation; strength and wrath are His attributes. Pradyumna is the third Power. Love is His manifestation; sweetness and delight are His attributes. Aniruddha is the fourth Power. Desire is His manifestation; bodily enjoyment and worldly reason are His attributes. Srikrishna is the Brahmin served by the Kshatriya. He has the divine knowledge and uses His might under the guidance of the Knowledge. Balarama is the Kshatriya. He allows Srikrishna in Him to guide His strength and wrath, but He does not guide them Himself, He enjoys them. He is Rudra. Pradyumna is the Vaishya. He is for dana, prema, karuna. He gives Himself to men and buys their love in exchange. He is the universal philanthropist. He is the sweet and throbbing heart in things. Aniruddha is the Sudra. He is the kamin, the bhogin, the scientist, the user of material means, the democrat, the leveller.

The Satya is full of Srikrishna; it is the golden Age when men are full of might and wisdom. The Treta is full of Balarama; the Chakravarti Raja is the incarnation of the Treta; it is full of great wars and mighty sacrifices. The Dwapara is full of Pradyumna; He prepares in the Dwapara the love which supports men through the Kali. Aniruddha, the Sudra, reigns in the Kali; He breaks the ancient moulds, He shatters to pieces the achar; He questions everything, destroys everything, levels everything, rebuilds everything. He is a Sudra and has the passion for work and service; He puts off lordship in order to become the divine Slave of humanity. For each of Them is not simple in Himself, but contains the other three and their attributes; only His own are usually foremost. Each is not a part but God Himself in His fullness. They are not different, but the same, Four who are One, One who is Four. That one is Srikrishna.

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In Nature, since it started from division and egoism, the Titan had to come first; he is here in us as the elder god, the first ruler of man’s heaven and earth. Then arrives the God and delivers and harmonises. Thus the old legend tells us that the Deva and the Asura laboured together to churn the ocean of life for the supreme draught of immortality, but, once it had been won, Vishnu kept it for the God and defrauded the fiercer and more violent worker. And this seems unjust; for the Asura has the heavier and less grateful portion of the burden. He begins and leads; he goes his way hewing, shaping, planting: the God follows, amends, concludes, reaps.He prepares fiercely and with anguish against a thousand obstacles the force that we shall use: the other enjoys the victory and the delight. And therefore to the great God Shiva the stained and stormy Titan is very dear, —Shiva who took for himself the fierce, dark and bitter poison first churned up from the sea of life and left to others the nectar. But the choice that Shiva made with knowledge and from love, the Titans made from darkness and passion,—desirous really of something very different and deceived by their stormy egoism. Therefore the award of Vishnu stands; to the God shall fall the crown and the immortality and not, unless he divinise himself, to the proud and strenuous Asura.

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….This, according to our Vedantic ideas, is how the world and things whether in general or particular come into being. They exist first in seed form in the silent and unexpressed idea, in a world of deep sleep where there is as yet no action of thought or deed, only the inert, inoperative idea. Shiva the white and pure, the ascetic, the still, contemplative Yogin holds them in himself as Prajna, theWise One, God ideal. But Shiva is tamasic and rajas is necessary to induce motion before things can exist. The thing has next to sprout out of the seed and take a volatile and unfixed shape in the psychic world where it waits for a material birth. Here Brahma, the flaming, shapeless and many-shaped, holds them in his brilliant vibrating medium of active imagination and thought and by his daughter Vach, the Goddess Speech eldest-born of the world, puts them into shape and body as Hiranyagarbha, God imaginative and therefore creative. Last they take permanent shape and abide in some material body, form, organism. Vishnu there holds them in his fixed and visible cosmos as Virat, God practical, until the divine imagination wearies of them and Shiva as destroyer draws them back again, their outward form disintegrated and their supporting imaginations dead, into the seed-state from which they emerged. For a long time the idea of unity, the idea of a strong national self-expression were merely sleeping and inoperative ideas held as sounding words rather than possibilities. Still the repetition of the words like the repetition even mechanical of a powerful mantra, began to awaken the divine force latent in the idea and, however feebly, it began to stir. But it was not till the 16th of October and the 7th of August that these ideas seized on the faith and imagination of the people and took shape, volatile and unfixed but still shape, as a living aspiration. The day of material realisation is yet distant. Moving to unity we are still divided by external and internal agencies. Moving towards strength and freedom we are still subject to external force and internal weakness. But this we have gained that the purpose and imagination of unity and strength is rooted in the hearts and minds of a great and the most vigorous portion of the young generation, inheritors of the future, beyond the power of force or sophistry to remove. Having secured so much we can go on in the confidence that, whatever now happens to the pioneers, Hiranyagarbha has taken the new ideas into his protection and when that has once happened Virat must inevitably fulfil them.

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Some poems of Sri Aurobindo

Ganges

Hearken, Ganges, hearken, thou that sweepest golden to the sea,
Hearken, Mother, to my voice.
From the feet of Hari with thy waters pure thou leapest free,
Waters colder-pure than ice.
On Himaloy’s grandiose summits upright in his cirque of stones
Shiva sits in breathless air,
Where the outcast seeks his refuge, where the demon army moans,
Ganges erring through his hair.

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Epiphany

Immortal, moveless, calm, alone, august,
A silence throned, to just and to unjust
One Lord of still unutterable love,
I saw Him, Shiva, like a brooding dove
Close-winged upon her nest. The outcasts came,
The sinners gathered to that quiet flame,
The demons by the other sterner gods
Rejected from their luminous abodes
Gathered around the Refuge of the lost
Soft-smiling on that wild and grisly host.
All who were refugeless, wretched, unloved,
The wicked and the good together moved
Naturally to Him, the shelterer sweet,
And found their heaven at their Master’s feet.
The vision changed and in its place there stood
A Terror red as lightning or as blood.
His strong right hand a javelin advanced
And as He shook it, earthquake stumbling danced
Across the hemisphere, ruin and plague
Rained out of heaven, disasters swift and vague
Neighboured, a marching multitude of ills.
His foot strode forward to oppress the hills,
And at the vision of His burning eyes
The hearts of men grew faint with dread surmise
Of sin and punishment. Their cry was loud,
“O master of the stormwind and the cloud,
Spare, Rudra, spare! Show us that other form
Auspicious, not incarnate wrath and storm.”
The God of Force, the God of Love are one;
Not least He loves whom most He smites. Alone
Who towers above fear and plays with grief,
Defeat and death, inherits full relief
From blindness and beholds the single Form,
Love masking Terror, Peace supporting Storm.
The Friend of Man helps him with life and death
Until he knows. Then, freed from mortal breath,
Grief, pain, resentment, terror pass away.
He feels the joy of the immortal play;
He has the silence and the unflinching force,
He knows the oneness and the eternal course.
He too is Rudra and thunder and the Fire,
He Shiva and the white Light no shadows tire,
The Strength that rides abroad on Time’s wide wings,
The Calm in the heart of all immortal things.

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Shiva

The Inconscient Creator

A face on the cold dire mountain peaks
Grand and still; its lines white and austere
Match with the unmeasured snowy streaks
Cutting heaven, implacable and sheer.
Above it a mountain of matted hair
Aeon-coiled on that deathless and lone head
In its solitude huge of lifeless air
Round, above illimitably spread.
A moon-ray on the forehead, blue and pale,
Stretched afar its finger of chill light
Illumining emptiness. Stern and male
Mask of peace indifferent in might!
But out from some Infinite born now came
Over giant snows and the still face
A quiver and colour of crimson flame,
Fire-point in immensities of space.
Light-spear-tips revealed the mighty shape,
Tore the secret veil of the heart’s hold;
In that diamond heart the fires undrape,
Living core, a brazier of gold.
This was the closed mute and burning source
Whence were formed the worlds and their star-dance;
Life sprang, a self-rapt inconscient Force,
Love, a blazing seed, from that flame-trance.

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A letter of Sri Aurobindo on the above poem Shiva, The Inconscient Creator

The Inconscient as the source and author of all material creation is one of the main discoveries of modern psychology, but it agrees with the idea of a famous Vedic hymn. In the Upanishads, Prajna, theMaster of Sushupti, is the Ishwara and therefore the original Creator out of a superconscient sleep. The idea of the poem is that this creative Inconscient also is Shiva creating here life in matter out of an apparently inconscient material trance as from above he creates all the worlds (not the material only) from a superconscient trance. The reality is a supreme Consciousness —but that is veiled by the appearance on one side of the superconscient sleep, on the other of the material Inconscience. Here the emphasis is on the latter; the superconscient is only hinted at, not indicated,—it is the Infinity out of which comes the revealing Flame.

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Shiva

On the white summit of eternity
A single Soul of bare infinities,
Guarded he keeps by a fire-screen of peace
His mystic loneliness of nude ecstasy.
But, touched by an immense delight to be,
He looks across unending depths and sees
Musing amid the inconscient silences
The Mighty Mother’s dumb felicity.
Half now awake she rises to his glance;
Then, moved to circling by her heart-beats’ will,
The rhythmic worlds describe that passion-dance.
Life springs in her and Mind is born; her face
She lifts to Him who is Herself, until
The Spirit leaps into the Spirit’s embrace.

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