In which I encounter some more of the 330 million gods (mas o menos).
(Notes: (1) Hindu philosophy speaks of 330 million gods, i.e. a bigger number than we can actually get our minds around, one for every person, giving room for a complete diversity of belief. While I don’t believe in “God,” I have no problem with the idea of 330 million gods, none more exclusive or correct than any other, with no permission to use of the concept of “God” as justification for murder, physical harm, repression, or suppression of expression because of societal or family of origin privileging any particular belief. (2) “Maya,” which in Sanskrit not Spanish, literally means to measure, is the tattva that is the bridge between the universal and the manifest. The “universal” is immeasurable; what we think of as manifest is always measured in space and time. The distinction between how the tantrikas and other yoga philosophies interpret the concept of maya is for your own research or another day. (3) The number 108 refers to Shiva.)
The Hindu pantheon has a trinity in which Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the preserver, and Shiva is the destroyer. Have you ever wondered why it is Shiva, the destroyer, and not Brahma, the creator, who is represented by the lingam–symbol of the progenitor?
Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.
The other day, it was announced that following a controlled forest fire, a rare hybrid orchid that hasn’t been seen in the wild in Maryland for the past 70 years has emerged. This, I think, is such a wonderful example of the privileging of the destructive energy of of Shiva in the context of the triad of Brahma (creator), Vishnu (sustainer), and Shiva (destroyer).
Shiva in this context does not so much destroy for the sake of destroying, but is part of the inevitable and necessary part of life that strips away, dissolves, razes, eliminates, so that new life can emerge and be sustained.
Ruda, who is both the ancestor of Shiva and another name for Shiva, is known as the howler. Rudra is wild and fierce. Rudra rages. I heard Paul Muller-Ortega recently describe Rudra. He said Rudra rages, but offered that there are lots of things against which to rage, such as injustice and inflicted suffering.
The idea of Shiva/Rudra raging has filled my contemplations for the last week. The questions that arise for me is “what is divinely inspired rage?” “When is fierceness or rage serving to expand love and compassion rather than just destroying the self or others?”
When are rage and destruction necessary to optimize the flow of energy? I think of Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi. I think of a surgeon removing a tumor. When I think of the ongoing war in Iraq; the newest reports of torture; the potential that corporate interests, ignorance, and bigotry may completely undermine this country’s coming to agreement on providing basic health care for all, I think that living a quiet life is not fully engaging a life of the spirit. How do I find a place of non-attached, but fierce action? How do I find Rudra and not get distracted by personal desires for outcome (and personal desires for simple peace and quiet)? When should I howl, to whom should I howl, and what?
This rage, this fierceness, must come from a grounding in the heart with the discrimination of study and practice. If I cannot find it myself, can I at least support those with the courage and wisdom to be directly engaged?
To find water deep enough for swimming and fresh enough for drinking in the desert is absolutely exquisite, sweet, refreshment. It is love, nectar, and bliss all at once.
A half a mile away on foot in certain directions, this swimming spot was invisible. All that was readily apparent was dry heat and scrub. Sometimes, we feel similarly separated from inner nurture and support amidst the challenges of the world. When we are steady with our sadhana (yoga/meditation practice), we will more and more easily find our own inner bathing spot — karunabdhe (ocean of compassion, an aspect of shiva), even as we engage in and encounter the vagaries and tribulations of daily life. When we know the ocean of compassion is right there in which to bathe whenever we need refreshment, we can engage more fully and with more light and compassion, better to serve and love and delight, whatever difficulties come our way.
Last night when I arrived to teach, I found that the room where I teach had been booked with something else (mistakes happen) and the alternative offered by the space just was not viable. I was peeved, but just canceling class did not feel right for the space (which has treated me well), my students, or myself.
Instead, I waited until class time, gathering the students together and giving the options. Fortunately, class was small because it is summer. Two students agreed to drive us to my house, which is usually a walk, but one already had her car with her on her way home from work; and the other had hers just a couple of blocks away at her house. All the students, including two brand new students who came along for the adventure, arrived at my house less than 10 minutes after the usual class start time. To honor everyone for being so flexible, I turned the class into a donation class, with the proceeds going towards July’s cause: the ACLU.
This turn of events seemed to me to fit well with the message of the Shiva archetype Nilakantha, which just happened to be the name of Shiva that I have been contemplating this week as I have been preparing my classes.
Shiva drank the poison that was stirred up when others were searching for the nectar of immortality. In the quest for the unrealistic, these beings brought to the surface a poison that would have killed all humans. Shiva drank this poison and trapped it in his throat, which turned it blue. This gave him the name blue-throated, or nila-kantha.
The challenge I encountered yesterday was certainly one of the well-off middle class. If it were not for our lifestyle, the abrupt change of plans and disruption could not have even felt poisonous, but we are creatures of our place and time. We took the potential chaos from having been stirred up and instead of letting it ruin our evening, we made it into a celebration and an offering.
And I am working with the space not to have it happen again. Many thanks to the students who came and were so gracious.