"The Compassion of Shiva"

Excerpt from Rev. Jeffrey’s Talk - “The Compassion of Shiva," November 13, 2016     
“Shiva is one of the Hindu Trinity: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.  Brahma is traditionally seen as Creator, Vishnu: Preserver, and Shiva: Destroyer, or Dissolver.  Shiva, in short, is the one who dissolves, or removes the darkness within us, and within the entire human race.  I think of him as the Remover of Darkness.  An energy of tremendous compassion.
    Again, all the Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist God’s, many people believe---and I believe---just represent aspects of the one God…aspects of our own selves, our own true nature.  I believe they may have incarnated in physical form as well.
    In Shiva’s gentle form, he is depicted as the supreme yogi.  An ascetic who sits on his tiger skin and in his loin cloth and meditates high in the Himalayan Mountains on top of Mt. Kailash.  I’ve been there.  Amazing mountain.  Shiva is depicted as having the great Ganges River flowing down onto his head.  His matted dread lock catch the Ganges (the most sacred river in India) and prevent it from destroying the earth.  It is said that the Ganges River was created by the Godhead, but it’s descent was so powerful, it would destroy the earth….so Lord Shiva in his tremendous compassion caught the Ganges in his dreads and slowed it down, so that it gently emerges on the earth from its source high in the Himalayas at Gangotri.”

Read the entire talk below:

COMPASSION OF SHIVA

            The title of my talk today is the “Compassion of Shiva.”  I’m going to explain who Shiva is in a minute.  This quality of compassion is so needed today, especially in terms of the election this week.

            In Unity, we teach about the absolute truth, and we do that very well.  We speak of All being One at the highest levels.  Every human being being unlimited and divine, made in the image and likeness of God…having the potential for Christ Consciousness.  And we speak of God as Absolute Good, Good without an opposite.  And all of this, I believe, is true.  At the highest levels this is true, and always true.

            The problem that we can encounter is that we don’t always stay there.  There is a relative truth as well.  And many say this is our humanness.  I don’t really like that term, because our humanness is unlimited and divine as well…and what it means to be human is constantly changing and evolving.  But there is also a relative truth that operates in our lives.  Relative truth is that which is changing.  Sometimes we do experience major challenges, sadness, depression, anger, frustration, lack…sometimes it seems as if we aren’t unlimited or divine, that it’s not all good, and we don’t experience that Oneness and Love within us and all around us.  Every human being experiences this relative truth (including Jesus) at some point.

            And I’m here to tell you: that’s ok!  And in fact it’s totally normal!  We speak of oneness so much in Unity, that sometimes we don’t always remember the relative truth that we may also feel the feelings I mentioned above.  So my talk today is what can we do when we enter those moments or periods of time when we forget those highest absolute truths.  And what I want to share with you today is the truth of compassion. 

            There is a Hindu God named Shiva.  I want to take some time and explain who Shiva is and the symbolism, because you all are intelligent, and just by explaining the symbolism, I know in your own ways you will make connections that I don’t share with you in this 20 minutes.

            Shiva is one of the Hindu Trinity: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.  Brahma is traditionally seen as Creator, Vishnu: Preserver, and Shiva: Destroyer, or Dissolver.  Shiva, in short, is the one who dissolves, or removes the darkness within us, and within the entire human race.  I think of him as the Remover of Darkness.  An energy of tremendous compassion.

            Again, all the Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist God’s, many people believe---and I believe---just represent aspects of the one God…aspects of our own selves, our own true nature.  I believe they may have incarnated in physical form as well.

            In Shiva’s gentle form, he is depicted as the supreme yogi.  An ascetic who sits on his tiger skin and in his loin cloth and meditates high in the Himalayan Mountains on top of Mt. Kailash.  I’ve been there.  Amazing mountain.  Shiva is depicted as having the great Ganges River flowing down onto his head.  His matted dread lock catch the Ganges (the most sacred river in India) and prevent it from destroying the earth.  It is said that the Ganges River was created by the Godhead, but it’s descent was so powerful, it would destroy the earth….so Lord Shiva in his tremendous compassion caught the Ganges in his dreads and slowed it down, so that it gently emerges on the earth from its source high in the Himalayas at Gangotri. 

            The Ganges represents the life current in our own spine that connects us with the Great Central Sun…the light of Christ.  This is the energy we tap into in meditation, and Shiva is the energy that has control over it.  The ultimate yogi.

            Shiva’s third eye is always open, meaning he always remembers the realm of the absolute where all is One, all is love, all is peace.  He is referred to as auspicious, generous and pure. 

            A crescent moon rests next to his dread locks which symbolizes the mind…that Shiva has control over the mind, and can go beyond the mind into no-mind states…where the mind is totally still and transcendent. 

            So all of this represents what Unity has historically taught….there is a presence, or current within us…Charles Fillmore refers to it as a current, Eric Butterworth refers to it saying we can flip on and off this current just like electricity…this is the Ganges, and we connect with God through meditation.  Shiva just gives us a location…the spine….and brain. 

            We remember in Unity the wisdom that all is One and all is love just as Shiva keeps his third eye always open.

            We control our thinking by affirmations and denials, releasing the limiting thoughts and affirming absolute good, just as Shiva has control of the mind symbolized by the crescent moon.

            There is so much more here…remember, I’m summarizing.

But Shiva also has another aspect.  The remover of darkness.  Oftentimes this is depicted as the fierce Nataraj who is the form of Shiva dancing…his dance keeps the universe spinning, and creates and dissolves worlds.  But mostly he is depicted with tremendous compassion and eyes moist with love. 

            He hangs out with the demons.  Demons can be interpreted figuratively as our lower nature, literary as negative entities in the astral realms who have transitioned from this life but have not evolved themselves, or both…I’ll let you decide on that one. 

Most expressive of this aspect of Lord Shiva is that he is depicted with a blue throat, or as entirely blue.  And referred to as “Neelkanth,” or “blue-throated one.”  The story here is that there was a great nectar at the bottom of the ocean.  The Gods stirred the ocean to get to the nectar, but they also stirred up some poisonous things in the process…Shiva said he would drink the ocean and hold the poison in his throat so that everyone else could get to the nectar. 

            Deeply symbolic story.  That God is everything…the Good and Bad, but we have to engage or swallow our shadow side or lower nature in order to experience the nectar.  We must drink the entire ocean. 

            So what we see here is the absolute and the relative truths.  All is One and Love and suffering is real.  The first noble truth in Buddhism states that suffering, dukkha, exists.  Now you can switch this word to discomfort if you don’t like suffering.  Always, in the world of the relative, some discomfort exists.  Even if we remove all suffering from this planet and existed as a divine society in Christ Consciousness in Oneness and Love, we will still be able to observe it somewhere in the universe.  As long as duality exists, there is going to be light and dark.  We see in John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.”

            Shiva demonstrates a great truth: both can exist within us, and yet the darkness can be kept in check…not consuming or overcoming us.  Compassion means to “suffer with,” but it doesn’t mean to be consumed by it.  Someone came to the great Indian saint Neem Karoli Baba and said, “Oh Maharaji, my life is so full of suffering.”  This blissful saint said, “Mine too.”  So how do we live like that?  How can we have so much bliss, in transcendent meditation sitting on snow-capped Himalayan mountain tops, controlling the life force in our spine (the Ganges River), controlling the mind, the cresent moon, and still hang out with demons, having compassion for the most hardened criminals, and atrocities, holding the poison of the world in our throats at the same time?

            How’s Jeffrey going explain this one?  I’m just gonna pause for a moment here and catch my breath. 

            The first thing I’m going to suggest to you is non-violent authenticity.  Allow ourselves to be with it authentically….and allow others to do the same.  One of the ways to transform suffering is to go right into the eye of it…like going into the eye of the hurricane where there is peace amidst the storm.  That is Shiva.  The way out is the way through.  This can be challenging.  “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”  The camel had to remove its baggage to pass through the gate to the city of Jerusalem.  We’ve got to remove, or transmute our baggage.  This is what Shiva does.  And the first step is to feel it.

It really takes a lot of courage to allow ourselves to feel the sadness, feel the fear, authentically say: “I feel alone.” “I am scared.”  And to stick with the feeling as people try to fix you.  But I’ll tell you this.  As you allow yourself to feel it authentically….that hurricane (of health challenge, financial challenge, challenge at work) around you starts to slow down and even calms to a strong wind.  Why?  Because when we don’t recognize that that is what we are feeling…in some way we are resisting it…and we know that what we resist just persists and gets bigger. 

            So I would recommend checking in with yourself at least 3 times a day, preferably more.  Hold your hand over your heart, and ask yourself…”How am I feeling?”  Am I stressed, am I afraid, am I worried?”  And just be with it.  Totally accept it, and breath into it.  When we start to do this, we acknowledge that it is bothering us, we bring our mindful awareness to it, and we start to feel some peace.  Shiva is etymologically related to Shaiva, which means peace.  When we allow ourselves to authentically be with it, non-violently without judging ourselves or others, we start to feel God’s presence within and among the storm…at the same time.  We become like Shiva swallowing the ocean or hanging out with the dark beings and yet not being deeply moved and having tremendous compassion and understanding for the darkness.

            Next I invite you to remember that there is always a process taking place.  There is wisdom, and even perfection (though it may be hard to see in the moment) in that process…and that that process is impermanent.  Shiva wears sacred ash to represent the impermanence of all things.  There is a process taking place…and I believe that process is one of good, of leading us into great awareness and light…and it is taking place all over planet earth. 

            Sometimes politically it may seem as if things are getting worse and worse and worse all over the world as old paradigms fail and crumble and new one’s are born.  As economies fail, and new one’s like we see in Iceland are created.  This is all Shiva’s dance and the movement of his damaru, his drum.  Shiva is not only the destroyer and remover of darkness dancing the worlds into ash, but is also seen as the creator bringing new life with tremendous compassion.  Sometimes things have to crumble before they are made new, and that can be a messy process, but it is a process…it is impermanent, and it is leading, just as Shiva does, to greater light and new life.  Look at all the movements taking place on this planet…the movements for racial equality, for gender equality, for environmental preservation, for new forms of creating renewable energy (I saw).  And now we have the internet and social media to connect us, and people are actually organizing and doing tremendous good.  This is all the Shiva’s dance, the great Wheel of Becoming….It’s a process and it is impermanent.  Shiva always dances within a wheel.  The wheel spins, the old crumbles, and the new is born.  Don’t get too caught up in the spokes…live in the center of the wheel, in the eye of the storm and join Shiva in his dance.  Remember this is a process.

            Last, but certainly not least…remember that God is always with you.  Remember that this week as you watch the election results.  Wherever you are, God is, and where there is God there is compassion.  There is engagement and understanding of the darkness and sadness and anger you feel.  Shiva is there engaging your sadness with total compassion.  And bringing all of that transcendent peace and high stuff I mentioned earlier…his third eye is open, and so is yours. 

            Remember that story footprints:

The key with all of this is to balance the light and the dark.   Allow yourselves, like Shiva, to be non-violently authentic to how you are feeling.  You don’t have to strike back.  You can take Spirit-inspired actions to make a difference in this world, and put action to your feelings.  And so instead of lashing out, swallow the poison, you can go to the eye of your feelings, and gradually transform them into compassionate action.  Remember, the events on this planet and in your life are part of that cycle of destruction and creation that human beings, planets, and universes go through.  It is all part of the process, and there is perfection in the process.  The destruction is leading into greater creation.  And remember God is always compassionately walking with you.

            So I invite you whenever you feel sad, or upset, or challenged to remember this being we call Shiva.  This being of tremendous compassion we call Shiva….who is one with the highest highs of truth, and yet willing to be right there and fully present in our darkest hours with understanding and compassion.  The more you are able to go into the darkness, the stronger your light.  Bring this energy into your life and into our world.  Hold this compassion this week during the election regardless of the outcome.  Be a loving spiritual being, like Shiva, able to hold both darkness and light, dancing the dance of destruction and creation, living in the center of the wheel in great compassion and love.  Om Namah Shivaya.