It is often said in tamil “சக்தி இல்லையேல் சிவம் இல்லை “, which means “There is no Sivam without Shakthi”. People often think that Shiva is so affectionate towards Shakti, the truth though is “Important concepts needs personification to withstand the sands of time”. Sivam (or shiva) is the matter and Shakthi as the name suggests is the energy (all forms of energy). There is no matter without energy and matter too is a form of energy. Like what relativity says E=mc². This concept is not only present in the Saivam tradition, but also in Toaism, the concepts said by Lao Tsu is quite similar.
Ardhanarishwarar, the diety with half Shiva and half Shakti is a representation of this, the whole universe being made of Matter and Energy, and both are in equilibrium, where matter keeps changing in to energy and energy in to matter. Not dwelling too much in the science part of it, the reason for personifying this is to take this concept to people in way they could understand and follow for ages. While people who cannot comprehend the deeper meaning can follow bakthi for realization and people with knowledge can follow gnana marga for realization.
The deeper concepts of cosmology is woven in to Saivam in the form of Nataraja. Unlike Abrahamic religions which said that the universe was created around 6000 years back, the ancient Indians said that the current universe was created 8.4 billion years ago (a number that was non existent in any other country or civilization at that time) which is quite close to the current estimates of modern scientists.
Be it Carl Sagan or Fritjof Capra, the great scientists in the field of particle physics admire the concept of Nataraja.
He has explained about Shiva Nataraja thus:
“In contrast to the mechanistic view of classical Western science, the Eastern view could be called an organic, holistic, or ecological view.”
“To eastern Mystics, objects have a fluid and ever-changing character. Change and transformation, flow and movement, play an essential role in their world view. The cosmos is seen as one inseparable reality, forever in motion. It is alive, organic, spiritual and material at the same time. A very similar view is now emerging from modern physics.”
Western people have to read Capra’s book in order to understand the cosmic dance of Shiva Nataraja which reveals the mysteries of the Universe.
He explains Shiva Nataraja’s dance: “Modern physics pictures matter, not as passive and inert, but as continuously dancing and vibrating. This is very much like the Eastern mystics description of the world. Both emphasize that the universe has to be grasped dynamically. It structures are not static, rigid ones, but should be seen in terms of dynamic equilibrium.
“Physicists speak of the continuous dance of sub-atomic matter which goes on all the time. They have actually used the words ‘dance of creation and destruction’ or ‘energy dance’. This naturally comes to mind when you see some of the pictures of particles taken by physicists in their bubble chambers.
“Of course, physicists are not the only one talking about this cosmic dance. Perhaps the most beautiful example of this metaphor exists in Hinduism – the idea of the dancing Lord Siva. Siva is the personification of the cosmic dance. According to Indian tradition, all life is a rhythmic interplay of death and birth, of creation and destruction.
“Indian artists have created beautiful pictures and statues of dancing Lord Siva. These statues are visual images of the cosmic dance, and so are the bubble chamber tracks photographed by modern physicists. They are a modern version of the dance of Siva obtained by using the most modern and advanced of our Western technological instruments. To me, the effect is as beautiful and as profound as the magnificent Hindu statues. In both cases, we are picturing an eternal dance of creation and destruction, which is the basis of all natural phenomena, the basis of all existence. Therefore, I have put the two together – here you have the ‘Dance of Siva’ merging the 12th and 20th century versions. You can see that this image of the cosmic dance unifies, in a very beautiful way, ancient mythology, religious art, mystical insight and modern science.”
More about Nataraja and his cosmic dance in the next post