Shiva -Karma and the thing itself
Updated: Jan 5
It is essential to understand that Hindu logic is fundamentally different from western logic. In western logic, there is a dichotomy between this and that, with the understanding that something can be one or the other but not both. In contrast, Hindu logic is more complex and inclusive, recognizing that something can be:
This but not that - I am this but not you.
This and that - I am this and also as you.
Not this but that - I am not this but am also like that.
Not this and not that - I am neither this nor am I that.
Any attempt to understand the Hindu metaphysical system without acknowledging this dual subjective/objective logic as a philosophical concept is likely to fail. It is vital to approach any philosophical or metaphysical system with an open mind and an appreciation for the unique perspective it offers.
“Sachara chara para purna
I am shiva, the all-pervading consciousness complete within itself.
The thing itself, the thing itself,
The everlasting bliss revolving.
The thing itself, the thing itself.
When a person is first introduced to the deity Shiva, they may see him as a powerful and impressive figure, like a superhero. They may be drawn to his strength and benevolence and decide to practice yoga in order to emulate him. As the person practices yoga, they may see Shiva as a powerful master who is self-sufficient and able to guide them towards self-empowerment and liberation.
After many years of practice, the person may understand that Shiva is the greatest of all gods, as he needs nothing and can bestow great powers upon his followers. He is a powerful and benevolent guide, showing the way to destroying the illusions of the world.
As the person continues on their spiritual journey, they may come to understand the nature of existence within a state of deep meditation, known as samadhi. They may come to see the world as an illusion and Shiva as the pillar of the universe, a stable force in the midst of chaos. The person may strive to become this pillar themselves, discarding all material possessions and existing in union with Shiva. In this final phase, Shiva is seen as the all-pervading consciousness, and the person is a singularity of will, existing within him.
This but not that - I am me, but not Shiva.
This and that - I am me, and also Shiva.
Not this but that - I am not me, but Shiva.
Not this and not that - I am neither Shiva nor me.
Hindus often treat statues of Shiva (called murtis) as if they are the deity itself. This may be because Hindus view life as unpredictable, with individuals able to experience different roles and circumstances (such as being a beggar one day and a king the next). However, Hindus also believe that there is a self beyond any one incarnation or personal story, represented by the murti. This self is influenced by karma, which is not about reward or punishment but rather the consequences of one's actions. These consequences can affect an individual's nature in future incarnations, regardless of their circumstances. In Hindu belief, individuals have the ability to change their karma through their actions and choices.
The concept of Jesus eliminating karma in the Hindu perspective is seen as disturbing because it removes the personal story and potential for enlightenment (called moksha) that comes with the acceptance of one's responsibilities. To illustrate the differences between the Western and Hindu concepts of karma, it can be helpful to consider the idea of an Atma (individual soul) incarnating into a cow. Hindus do not eat beef or harm cows, so the life of a cow is relatively easy and carries little karma. No cosmic balance needs to be maintained, only the cycle of life and death. In this perspective, actions such as murder or being murdered are significant only in terms of their impact on the individual's karma, not as a matter of justice or fairness. Karma is not about retribution but rather the subjective and objective consequences of one's actions on the self. Deterministic factors, such as being heavily weighed down by karma, can lead to an Atma being reborn into a lower form, while a lighter burden can result in a higher form. However, it is also possible for an Atma to be randomly assigned to a lower form, such as a cow, due to the actions of powerful spiritual practitioners (called Siddhas). In Hindu belief, the gods enjoy playing with dice, but the dice also have their own agendas.
In Hindu belief, Shiva is present in his murti (statue) because it is a meaningful and tangible way to understand and connect with him. However, the murti is not the whole of Shiva, and it is important to remember that he can also be experienced as a spiritual presence beyond the physical form. One can cultivate a deeper reverence and connection with Shiva by burning incense and making offerings at his shrine (called a mandir).
While it can be helpful sometimes to consider Shiva as the anthropomorphized archetype of primordial darkness, it is important to also recognize his tangible presence in the murti. Without this foundation, building a relationship with the more abstract and immense aspects of Shiva can be difficult. Some western practitioners may make the mistake of focusing solely on the archetype, forgetting the importance of the physical elements of worship. This can lead to confusion and even psychological breakdown, as it is difficult to sustain a connection with the divine without grounding oneself in the physical world. By integrating Shiva's physical, personality, and spiritual aspects, one can achieve a sense of balance and connection with the divine.