Deities

saraswathi

Saraswati | Sarasvatī | सरस्वती

Saraswathi is a Hindu goddess, part of the trinity with Lakshmi and Parvati; she is a representation of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom, and learning. The three forms of the female goddess assist Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahman their partners while they sustain the universe . The goddess is revered by Jains and Buddhists as well as Hindus.

Saraswathi’s name is meaningful; Sara means essence, Sva means oneself so together they mean essence of oneself. It means to fill oneself with knowledge like with water and this goes further into her ancient mythological status as a divine river goddess, the best of river mother goddesses from the Rigveda.

Saraswathi is also meant to refer to a cleansing knowledge or knowledge that purifies the essence of a person, which can also refer to enactment of the arts such as music, dancing, language, and eloquence.

Saraswathi is usually depicted with four arms holding objects: a book (the vedas, a crystal mala or rosary (represents the power of meditation, inner reflection, and spirituality), a pot of water (the power of purification), and a musical instrument (typically a veena representing arts and sciences). Saraswathi is also associated with anuraga, the love for the rhythm of music which represents all feelings and emotions expressed through music. Saraswathi is associated with the swan which is often located at her feet and is said to discriminate between water and milk, drinking only milk as a sign of discernment. The swan is also a symbol of spiritual purity and perfection.

Saraswathi is also worshipped in the areas surrounding India and has influenced many of the following countries: Myanmar, Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia. She also has a festival in Bali that has a long history. She is also worshipped in various places in India.

Saraswathi is a popular god worshipped in modern times and especially in southern India can often be seen as revered deity in daily life.

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Lakshmi_goddess of wealth

Lakshmi | Lakṣmī | लक्ष्मी

Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity, love, fortune, and is considered the embodiment of beauty. She is the wife of Vishnu and carries his active energy. Her fours arms represent purusartha, or the four primary aims of human life: Dharma, Kama, Artha, and Moksha and representations of her can be found in many Jain monuments as well. In Nepal and Southeast Asia, Vasudhara mirrors Lakshmi with some minor differences. She is Vishnu’s source of strength while maintaining the universe.

When Vishnu incarnated on Earth, Lakshmi took form as Sita (when Vishnu became Rama), Radha (Krishna’s lover), Rukmini, and Satyabama. In ancient Hindu scripture all women are declared to be embodiments of Lakshmi. The marriage between Lakshmi and Vishnu is the paradigm for Hindu religious wedding ceremonies. Their relationship forms the basis for partnership in Hinduism.

Archeologists suggest that Lakshmi’s worship may have originated around 100BC. Statues and iconography have been dated from the second half of the first millennium CE. In modern India, Lakshmi is regarded as the goddess of wealth and Diwali and Sharad Purnima are festival celebrations held in her honor.

Lakshmi is another great example of a deity that evolved in the ancient Hindu texts and was mentioned only once in the Rig Veda as a kindred mark or sign of auspicious fortune. In the later Arthara Veda, she evolved into a deity with multiple incarnations and large amounts of plurality and is associated with good luck, good fortune, prosperity, success, happiness, and the good. Later, she is regarded as the incarnation of beauty, and the goddess of fortune and was associated with Vishnu. In later myths, she is associated with the creation of the universe, giving diverse gifts to many of the other gods (ie Indra gets force and Sarasvati receive nourishment). In the later epics, such as the Mahabharata, she personifies wealth, riches, beauty, happiness, loveliness, grace, charm, and splendor.

The word Lakshmi is derived from lakṣ (लक्ष्) and lakṣa (लक्ष) which mean to perceive, observe, know, understand and goal, aim, or objective. This together form knowing goals, or perceiving and understanding objectives.

Lakshmi is usually sitting or standing on a lotus flower and carries a couple in her hands which represent the ability to grow beautifully from dirty or filth in circumstances. She is also seen with elephants (symbolizes work, activity, strength, rain, fertility, and abundance) and an owl (symbolizes striving to observe and discover when surrounded by darkness, that also becomes blind in daylight, a reminder to refrain from greed and ignorance after knowledge and wealth is acquired).

Lakshmi also has a multitude of other names: Padma, Kamala, Padmapriya, Padmamaladhara devi, Padmamukti, Padmakshi, Padmahasta, Padmasundari, Vishnupriya, Ulkavahini, Ambika, Manushri, Mohini, Chakrika, Kamalika, Aishwarya, Lalima, Indira, Kalyani, Nandika, Nandini, Rujula, Vaishnavi, Samruddhi, Narayani, Bhargavi, Sridevi, Chanchala, alaja, Madhavi, Sujata, Shreya, Maheshwari, Madhu, Madhavi, Paramaa, Janamodini, Tripura, Tulasi, Ketaki, Malati, Vidhya, Trilochana, Tilottama, Subha, Chandika, Devi, Kriyalakshmi, Viroopa, Vani, Gayatri, Savitri, Apara or Aparajita, Aparna, Aruna, Akhila, Bala, Tara, Kuhu, Poornima, Aditi, Anumati, Avashyaa, Sita, Taruni, Jyotsna, Jyoti, Nimeshika, Atibha, Ishaani, Kalyani, Smriti and probably her most used abbreviation, Sri.

In Eastern Indian traditions, Lakshmi is regarded as a form of Devi, along with Durga or Shakti. Lakshmi, Parvati, and Saraswathi are regionally considered to be from of Durga in West Bengal and Odisha, which are usually considered separate in India. She is the personification of spiritual fulfillment and is the embodiment of Param Prakriti, which purifies, empowers, and uplifts the individual.

It is obvious that Lakshmi represents an elusive and evolving subject of wealth and prosperity as well as the divine feminine aspect of spiritual energy. She is a powerful symbol in Hinduism and is worshipped often in modern India with statues and symbolism apparent in many of the places that I am currently near in Mysore. Her evolution is as interesting as her origins and I continue to find tremendous insight in the symbolism applied to her forms.

 

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krishna.com depiction of Krishna

Krishna | कृष्ण

Krishna is one of the most celebrated and loved gods in the Hindu pantheon and is generally recognized as an avatar of lord Vishnu, one of the trimurti. Krishna is a god of love, sometimes depicted as a god-child playing a flute, a prankster, a model lover, a divine hero, or as the supreme being as described in the Bhagavad Gita.

Krishna is described in the Mahabharata, the Harivamsa, the Bhagavata Purana, and the Vishnu PuranaHe is also named Vasudeva, Bala Krishna, Gopala, Govinda, so you may hear these names mentioned where they are referring the Krishna.

Krishna’s skin color is usually black or dark blue which is due to the word’s use as an adjective to mean black or dark blue. The waning moon is called Krishna Paksha meaning darkening. It is sometimes referred to as “all-attractive”. Most of the variances and differences occur regionally, but is easily recognized in depictions.

Krishna is often shown with cows, which is significant as representing him as a divine herdsmen, as is often shown as a baby stealing butter from the neighbors houses. It is generally accepted as possible that Krishna dates as far back in time as Shiva, to the Indus Valley Civilization, but neither can be proven to date before that time period.

In depictions for the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna is often shown with multiple arms and multiple heads which denote power with attributes of Vishnu such as the chakra or as a charioteer.

Sometimes you will hear Krishna referred to as Bala Krishna and this is the child-god form of the deity and is often worshipped. He is seen as having conceived himself as a being that is one with Vishnu. This is a divine conception, rather than a virgin conception as in the bible. While his mother was pregnant, it was said that she was hard to look at because of the light that accompanied her radiance. They say that this light is in reference to a Vedic hymn that expresses an unknown divine, or golden child.

If you study Krishna, you will start to see a lot of parallels with Jesus, if you are familiar with Christianity. Both are sun-gods, or represent the ‘light of the world’. Both also seem to have been grounded in the god Osiris which is an account of a demigod of the sun, and the potential first influence of this story is from the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia. Some believe there to be multiple Christs, some believe that Christ was completely fabricated in about 400AD to unify the Roman Civilization under a single symbol. Most of Christianity’s roots are pagan, which largely influences the Christian Calendar to circulate with the seasons. There is a good amount of evidence that say Jesus did exist, though the bible’s accuracy is another question entirely. Almost all scholars agree that the writers were successors to the original tradition and wrote the 4 new testaments over 50 years after Christ’s death and crucifixion, so it is generally agreed that the bible is not a historically accurate document, by any means.

Moving back to Krishna, he is best known as Arjuna’s charioteer and advises Arjuna when he comes to the battle distraught and unwilling to use his bow to fight. The Gita talks about righteous war, the nature of the divine, and the eternal nature of the cosmos, which is depicted in a conversation between Arjuna and Krishna.

The relationship between Vishnu and Krishna is often debated and is viewed as complex and diverse, though many consider Krishna to be a full incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

In about the 6th century AD a movement started in India called the Bhakti movement, which then spread into the United States in 1965, when Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada visited New York from West Bengal. Krishna’s name was chanted in many public places in the US and was spread by the ISKCON (institute for Krishna consciousness). There are also stories of Krishna in Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, and other Indian and southeast asian religions.

Krishna’s flute is often used as symbolism to represent revelation of the divine and Krishna is depicted with it quite often. It represents a divine dance that is the nature of the divine and that the revelations of divine come about through this mystical dance with the divine. It is said that whenever he plays, you cannot help but dance.

Here’s a little mental picture of what it might be like to experience Krishna:

You are walking through a softly floored canopy of oak trees, hiding the sun with their small leaves. Soon, you hear a soft sound in the distance, a sweet melody that you can help but want to hear more of. So you move closer, but find that you do not know the direction that the sound is coming from. So you sit, to determine where this beautiful sound could possibly be coming from.

As you sit, the sound becomes a bit louder and you begin to realize that the sound was coming from inside of you all along. And as you sit quieter, more still, more peacefully, the music gets louder and louder, until you can’t hear anything else at all. It begins to overwhelm you until you open your eyes, and there, standing before you, is a small dark blue boy, maybe 10 years old, smiling at you in a way that makes you feel the dampness of your skin.

His eyes are whiter than stars and his gaze darker than the night. The boy pulls out his flute and begins to play. Soft at first, melting your thoughts and giving you nothing to do but feel, this boy becomes more and more enraptured by the song, bringing you with him. But you soon realize that this is no boy, nor a girl; in fact, the little child has qualities of both, but perfected. As you begin to rise and then dance with the flute, you lose all track of time, where you are, even who you are. The dance is all there is and it is you, unbroken, relentless, fearless in the dark of night.

Soon you begin to tire, and though the music grows sweeter, you can no longer listen because of your fatigue. Suddenly, a light opens, splitting through you like a knife.

You open your eyes to a purely white room, 4 walls, and a single bench, cushioned, for you to sit on. The child walks into the room, but now you can tell that something in the child has changed. With a quick grin and a wink, the boy disappears and in his place is a man with hundreds of heads and many arms, though all perfectly aligned with his body in a way that you could never explain. You can hardly see the figure clearly, he is betrothed in light. Each time you try to get a better look, the figure gets blurry once again.

An overwhelming power takes ahold of you and you can no longer see the light. You close your eyes one last time and breath, aware of your full exhale for the first time. And you find yourself seated, comfortable, with the soft grass beneath you and the strong trees above. But still, you hear a gentle flute music in the background, waiting for you to begin dancing once again.

 

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Buddha_mountain

The Buddha

buddha_w_tree

 Siddhartha Gautama

Siddhartha Gautama, or the buddha, is the sage whose teachings were interpreted to form Buddhism. ‘Buddha’ means awakened one, or enlightened one and is titular for the first awakened being of an age. Siddhartha is the supreme buddha (Sanskrit सिद्धार्थ गौतम  |  samyaksaṃbuddha) and taught a middle way between the opposing philosophies of indulgence and asceticism in the eastern regions of India in about BCE. Most of the traditions of Buddhism were passed down by oral tradition through monasteries and about 400 years later were committed to writing.  The majority of scholars today believe that he did indeed live during the Mahajanapada|महाजनपद era in India thus making him a younger contemporary of Mahavira, the Jain teacher.

The Buddha had teachers, many that are very notable: Alara Kalama, Udaka Ramaputta who appear to have taught him meditative techniques. He was also influenced by many contemporary thinkers like Purana Kassapa, Makkhali Gosala, Ajita Kesakambali, Pakudha Kaccayana, Sanjaya Belatthaputta, and the Vedic Brahmins. There are many traditional biographies that historians disagree with, but that are very interesting for understanding the religion as a whole.

The Buddhacarita is an epic Sanskrit poem by Asvaghosa, who wrote in classical Sanskrit. The Lalitavistara Sutra, Mahavastu, and the Nidanakatha are other accounts of the Buddha’s life, leading to different traditions and accounts.

He was born a Sakya, either in Uttar Pradesh India, Nepal, or Piprahwa, but tradition states him as being born in Lumbini, Nepal. The Buddha denied being man or god, but the stories of the scholars bring light to the man after whom the religion is based.

His story was elaborated upon time and again in tradition after tradition, but the ending is always the same: Siddhartha sits under the Bodhi tree for 49 days and becomes enlightened. The buddha awakes. He realized the cause of suffering and how to eradicate it with use of the four noble truths striving to attain Nirvana|निर्वाण or the ultimate stillness. Hindus refer to this as an extreme egolessness, or quietness of the mind and unison with Brahman. The buddha described it as perfect peace.

The buddha lived and taught for a long time, and his death seemed to be somewhat voluntary, though his last meal might have been pork. Tradition even dictates that he may have been somewhat sexist, refusing women into his following at first. At first, the buddha didn’t even want to teach! He doubted that human could grasp the subtlety of his message, or the intricate complexity of its meanings.

The authenticity of much of the buddhist religion’s traditions are in question, but they seem to be at least based on the original Gautama. The core principle of buddhism, dhyana, or object-based meditation is maintain across all traditions, as is the concept of liberating insight. However, scholars believe that the buddha’s teachings were likely personal and that the eightfold path and four truths may have been expounded upon after the buddha’s passing. Many find evidence only for a middle path or middle way. Some Hindus regard the buddha as the ninth incarnation of Vishnu.

The stories you have heard and likely largely exaggerations of the buddha’s birth and upbringing. There really was a buddha, very long ago, though his teaching was likely very different from its depiction today and was likely very personalized to each individual, though he never claimed to be a god. This remains one of the core tenets of Buddhism, that there is no god and that the universe is somewhat tailored to each of us individually, though we are part of a larger whole. Humans are subject to the wild laws of karma and continue in samsara until we achieve moksha, or liberation. For more on the religion, please see my article on buddhism.

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Vishnu

Vishnu

Vishnu is my favorite god, I think he is the best representation of the type of god that sustains the universe out of all the mythologies and religions. Vishnu has light blue skin like clouds, and is eternal powerful; he works in unison with Shiva to maintain the universe. Vishnu lives in Vaikuntha, the realm of eternal bliss and happiness and the resting place for the souls who have attained Moksha, or liberation from Samsara. His abode lies beyond space, time, and the material universe, immeasurable and infinite. He sits on Ananta Shesha, his snake with a thousand heads in an ocean of milk, the Ksheera Sagara. He has ten avatars, or incarnations including Krishna and Rama. His purpose is to rejuvinate Dharma and give the universe sustenance. But he is popularly known as the one to grant Moksha, or release from the material world.

Vishnu is a self-born deity. This again promotes the universe as an infinite expansion-regression system, with neither end nor beginning, which I find fascinating. This coincides with the Jain believe that the universe is infinite and has always been. It also has interesting similarities with Satya, the idea of truth, in that it is immeasurable, immutable, all-pervading, and absolute.

The Rig Vedic texts, one of the oldest existing documents, refer to Vishnu as the sun. Religion is essentially the same in that it is different forms of sun worship. Because if you really stop to think about it, the sun is the source of life for this planet. I think without it, it wouldn’t take long for everything on earth to die. Maybe it would take less than a week.

Harihara

Vishnu’s ideological figure evolved over time into the consort of Lakshmi, Lord Narayana, Purusha Sooktham, Vishnu Purana, and was made more distinct from Shiva, Brahman, and Surya (the sun god, who sun salutations are devoted to). Hanuman is often seen with Vishnu, in temples dedicated to Rama, Krishna, and Narasimha. Shiva and Vishnu have joined forms in one story, kind of like fusion in Dragonball Z, to form Harihara. Many of the more advanced philosophical Hindu teachers consider the both gods to be different aspects of the supreme being.

Vishnu is a popular god of Buddhism, especially in Sri Lanka, where many shrines are dedicated to him as the protector of Buddhism. He has 10 incarnations, a few notable ones that have associations with yoga poses are: Matsya (Matsyandrasana), Kurma (Kurmasana). He is also Krishna, Rama, and the Buddha. He returns to the universe to kick-ass and destroy demons as Rama, or to eradicate suffering as the Buddha, or to restore balance by saving the world from King Bali. Vishnu has too many names to count.

Vishnu, like many other Hindu gods, has many arms to represent his ability to work simultaneously, his supreme power and existence not bound by space or time. he holds a conch, a chakra, a mace, and a lotus flower in four of his hands when he is depicted, representing the universe, enlightenment, strength and eradication of demons, and divine perfection as an individual unfolds. His flying mount, the eagle garuda, represents the soul and the divine truth of the Vedas.

His godly powers are omniscience, sovereignty, manipulation of energy, strength, vigor, splendor, generosity, and compassion. A lot of these qualities are shown through Krishna, which is probably the most popular form of Vishnu. In AUM, he is the “u” and the vowel sound that rings deeply like ooooo. He sustains and creates.

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The Monkey God Hanuman

Hanuman is a Varana, or a shapeshifting monkey-humanoid from the ancient Hindu epics the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Puranas, and Jain texts (Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism). He is a steadfast devotee of the god Rama (the seventh incarnation of Vishnu) and is an intricate part of the war against the demon king Ravana. Some texts presume him as an incarnation of lord Shiva, but in many texts he is mentioned as a son of Vayu, god of the wind. The name Hanuman has a few possible origins: one where he was struck in the jaw by Indria, king of the deities where hanu means jaw and man means prominent or disfigured; a second where hanu means killed or destroyed and man means pride, meaning one whose pride was destroyed; and finally a theory that hanuman means male monkey.

Hanuman is an intriguing character in many ways. He is viewed as an ideal devotee or Bhakta to Rama. He was also a lifelong Brahmachari or celibate in his devotion, which is believed to be his source of strength, especially by Indian wrestlers. In one tradition (my favorite) he is said to be born to Vayu and Anjana through the ritual of Dasharatha to have children. The sacred pudding that he gave his wives led to the birth of Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata, and Shatrughna; however, by divine grace some of the pudding fell onto a kite and Vayu brought the kite on the wind to Anjana, in deep worship to Shiva in the forest who consumed the pudding. This led to the birth of Hanuman to Anjana; his mother was a spirit of the clouds and waters also known as an apsara.

The mythology of Hanuman’s childhood is also very interesting. He was quite mischievous during his childhood and would steal things from sages meditating in the forest and re-arrange their sacred artifacts. They placed a curse on him that he could only remember his abilities if he was reminded by another person. He also believed the sun to be a ripe mango and went to eat it, but clashed with Rahu and thrashed him, even though Rahu was supposed to be creating an eclipse. Indra was told of this by Rahu and struck Hanuman with a thunderbolt on the chin, causing him to fall to the earth unconscious. Vayu, upon seeing the attack, withdrew the air from the world. After seeing all of creation asphyxiate, Indra withdrew his thunderbolt and the devas bestowed multiple blessings of power upon Hanuman. In another story, Hanuman learned that Surya,the sun-god, was all-knowing and ascended to the sun to ask for his teaching. Surya told Hanuman that it would be impossible since his chariot was always moving, but Hanuman was undeterred and ended up being a most respected student of Surya.

Hanuman’s adventures occur in the Ramayana, more specifically in the 5th book called the Sundara Kanda. Hanuman meets Rama when Sita was kidnapped by Ravana and Rama’s brother Lakshmana and Rama are searching for her. He disguises himself to find their identities, but upon learning Rama’s identity prostrates himself. Rama then embraces him with warmth, beginning their epic friendship and Hanuman’s devotion to Rama.

Hanuman then begins his own search for Sita, which leads him to cross the sea. But Hanuman laments that his powers are not enough to cross with the other varanas, until Jambavantha reminds Hanuman of his virtues and he leaps across the sea to Lanka, where Ravana’s palace is. He finds Sita there, but she refuses to return with him saying that it would harm Rama’s honor. Hanuman then begins to wreak havoc on Lanka until he allows himself to be subdued and learns the size of Ravana’s armies. He then warns Ravana of Rama’s warning to return Sita to him and offers his forgiveness in return. Ravana becomes enraged and orders Hanuman to be killed until Ravana’s brother intervenes and reminds him that it is against the rules of engagement to kill a messenger. Ravana decides to light Hanuman’s tail on fire, but Hanuman enlarges himself and again wrecks havoc on Lanka, before returning to Rama.

Hanuman also saves his brother, Lakshamana, by delivering an entire mountain to him. Ravana tries several ways to stop him, even by expediting the rise of the sun, Surya. Hanuman grows in size to slow the sun’s rise and delivers the entire mountain to Lanka to save his brother. Rama embraces Hanuman to show that he is as dear to him as a brother and Hanuman releases his grip on Surya with apologies to his guru. Rama holds a celebration to honor his well-wishers and helpers and Hanuman enters without desiring a reward. As Hanuman comes to Rama, Rama is overwhelmed with emotion and embraces him with deep compassion for his work in the war against Ravana. Sita, knowing that Hanuman deserved more honor than any other, gave Hanuman the precious stones around her neck. When he receives it, Hanuman takes apart each stone saying that he won’t accept it unless Rama and Sita are inside. Many unbelieving witnesses watch and question Hanuman, saying he could not possibly be so devoted to Rama and Sita so Hanuman opens his heart to show them Rama and Sita inside.

Hanuman, after the war with Ravana, left to the Himalayas to record the Ramayana, including each detail of Rama’s deeds. Rama then departed for his supreme abode Vaikuntha. Hanuman requested to stay on earth as long as Rama’s name was worshipped. He is immortalized by his actions and is one of the most powerful and venerated gods in Hinduism. Hanuman is also on Arjuna’s flag in the Bhagavad Gita and stays with him during the entire battle, protecting his chariot from celestial weapons until at the end of the battle when Hanuman floats back into the sky, the chariot bursts into flames.

hanuman_statueHanuman is a god venerated by many traditions spread all over Asia, inferring that he is a very old deity and is intricate to the religious formations over the years. The biggest statue of Hanuman is in Murti and is 85 feet tall. Hanumanasana is the Sanskrit name for the splits in yoga, named that way for how Hanuman leapt over the ocean to rescue Sita.

 

Who are your favorite Hindu deities?

Hanuman is a fascinating character and worshipped for many of his devotional qualities; how do the stories speak to you about devotion in your life, in relationships, even your Dharma?

What resonates with your about these stories?

Let me know in the comments!

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Shiva (the god of Death)

Shiva is the god destroyer, his matted hair and ash smeared face sit silent in meditation or flow eternally in his cosmic dance of death. From his matted hair flows from the Ganges river in India and he often adorns himself with snakes, particularly cobras. He lives far secluded from the other gods in his abode in Mount Kailash, which is a real mountain from which many of the rivers in Asia begin. It is on top of this mountain that the destroyer of ignorance, suffering, illusion, and sadness finds his eternal meditation with his wife Parvati and sons Ganesha and Kartikeya. He is a simple herdsmen and yogi at certain times with his family, and at others he slays demons to protect the equilibrium of the universe. He also wears a garland of skulls, to show his victory over death and holds a three forked trident to represent the meeting of three worlds, immediate, internal, and external.

Shiva is a powerful god that creates change through chaos and destruction. The symbols of Shiva are extremely powerful, they bring a stoic freedom to find peace in each moment knowing that someday the moments will end. He is a part of the Trimurti and makes way for Brahman to create through his destruction. Vishnu preserves the continuous cycle; some claim Vishnu as the primary deity, called Vashnavism, and some claim Shiva as the primary god, called Shaivism. Together, they complete the cosmic cycle of death, rebirth, and life. Shiva is the cosmic dancer, and often slays demons with his trident while playing the damaru. Shiva is also well-known for playing the flute.

The final pose in a yoga asana series or sequence is devoted to Shiva. In Ashtanga in particular, the final meditation is focused on the death of the individual and release from the cycle of Samsara. He is the patron god of yoga and is one of the primary focal points of the philosophical traditions. Death is undoubtedly the primary reason yoga is practiced, whether it is to ensure a long life, to improve health and vitality, or to find meaning in life. Yoga helps us to come to terms with our own mortality and know that one day, we will stop breathing. But in that cessation is the beauty of the unknown and the release from this world that grants freedom that is unequaled.

The next time you are in Shivasana, meditate on your own death. It is very powerful and drops me into a deeper Samadhi every time, minimizing distractions. There are also many powerful chants used before class to destroy obstacles and invoke the presence of the great transformer. If you have different ways of showing love for Shiva, or ways that you know Shiva to be different, let us know!

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