Shiva depicted as Yogishvara, the god of Yoga in Elephanta Caves

That Which is Not

He is not love
Nor is He Compassion
Seek Him not for Comfort
For He is the Completion
– Sadhguru

I am not a devotee of Shiva, but Shiva is my life breath. I am not a worshipper. I have never prayed to Shiva or to anybody in my life - never, not even once; but he has been my breath and being always.
– Sadhguru

Before reading this post, please note that everything that is written here is not based from my experience. This post has been inspired from the book "Shiva, the Ultimate Outlaw" by Sadhguru. When I read this book four years ago, it gave me a new perception of my own culture. However, this did not quench my thirst to know, it only made me more curious. From that point in my life, nothing has been the same.


hat can I say about him? I mean how does one explain silence without using sound. But he is the ultimate silence. So, this is just an attempt to intellectualize the different aspects of what we refer when we utter the two syllables: Shi-Va. Ultimately, it does not matter because whatever we say about Shiva is bound to have loopholes. There is a point when words fail to convey meaning. Therefore, when it comes to Shiva, we have to rely more on our intuition rather than articulation.

I've come to realize that some people including myself tend to write about stuff that we have no clue. Perhaps, this is one way of dealing with our ignorance. Ignorance was never blissful to me. It always felt like an eternal stagnation. Therefore, who better to write about ignorance than Shiva, the Lord of Ignorance. Knowledge is always limited. Ignorance is boundless. Sadhguru once said, "when you really know the pain of ignorance, then a master arises."

When I was a kid, I've been reading here and there trying to understand what we really mean when we utter the word Shiva. Being born in a 'Hindu' family, I was naturally engaged in supernatural stories surrounding Indian Gods. Listening to Indian epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata were mesmerizing to my ears. To quote from the movie Life of Pi, "the Gods were my superheroes."  Although, my rational mind could never be tamed by the supernatural, I never felt the need to reject them. As Sadhguru stated, "this is a spiritual culture of seekers, not believers; of quest, not commandment." However, when it came to Shiva, he was always the one sitting on top of a mountain in a transcendental state of meditation. He was the ascetic who withdrew from the world in the quest for serenity and stillness, untouched by the ways of life.

Credit: Isha Foundation

Shiva is not part of this world. He does not want to be part of the world. He is indifferent to its niceties. He has transcended human values and hierarchies. For members of society, he appears a beggar. But beggars want alms. Shiva wants nothing.

– Shiva to Shankara: Giving Form to the Formless (Book)

First we need to understand that Hinduism is a dialectical culture. Science was expressed in the form of stories. This is helpful because stories can be shared to the mass without concerns about the science or the logic behind it. Dimensions that could not be expressed logically was packed in mythology. Mythology does not mean that it's made up. This allegoric method of expressing and sharing knowledge made it easier to remember, transmit and preserve knowledge. This might explain why ancient India is the only civilization that has withstood the test of time despite invasions and colonization. Only those who have enhanced their perception beyond a certain level can demystify the story and understand it in the right context. In the yogic culture, when we say “Shiva,” there are two fundamental aspects that we are referring to.

The galaxies are just a small happening – a sprinkling. The rest is all vast empty space, which is referred to as Shiva. That is the womb from which everything is born, and that is the oblivion into which everything is sucked back. Everything comes from Shiva and goes back to Shiva. So Shiva is described as a non-being, not as a being. Shiva is not described as light, but as darkness.
– Sadhguru

Shiva As a Principle

The word “Shiva” literally means “that which is not.” And that which is not is the basis of existence. This can be explained in many ways by using the concept of infinity. Infinity and nothingness are one and the same. That's probably why India invented the number Zero. Zero has no value on its own but it adds value to other numbers. Similarly, try to think of something that is endless or perpetual in nature. For example, sound is a limited happening. If there is no sound, there can only be silence. Silence is not an occurrence, it is simply there. Silence needs no cause. Ramana Maharishi, the sage of Arunachala gave a beautiful description of silence. He highly stressed on the method of transmission through silence. He always said that anything that can be known in this existence can be perceived through silence.

There is a state when words cease and silence prevails. Silence is ever-speaking. it is the perennial flow of language which is interrupted by speaking.
– Ramana Maharshi

Time is relative. It's not until Einstein came up with the notion of General Relativity that we realized this. Time can slow down or speed up depending on the gravitational time dilation (consequence of watching Interstellar too much!). The higher the gravitational potential (the farther the clock is from the source of gravitation), the faster time passes. Light is also a limited happening. Once it's energy source is depleted, only darkness remains. Even our sun or any star cannot escape this reality. There is a reason why we don't ask about the speed of darkness. When we say speed, we are referring to a certain distance and the time it takes to cover that distance. But how can you measure the speed of that which is all-pervading. Therefore, darkness or nothingness is also timeless. It is neither contained by space nor bound by time.

In a nutshell, the changeless or the eternal aspect of reality such as silence, formless, attribute-less, indivisible, decayless, timeless, spaceless, darkness and emptiness is that principle which we refer to as Shiva, the void or the absolute nothingness that remains after which there is no 'thing' or the absence of physicality; The primordial state from which everything emanates and dissolves into; The eternal stillness out of which dynamism is born out of. Nothingness is the absolute presence at all time. That's why Shiva is known as the destroyer.

Something can never hold everything. A vessel cannot hold an ocean. This planet can hold an ocean, but it cannot hold the solar system. The solar system can hold these few planets and the sun, but it cannot hold the rest of the galaxy. If you go progressively like this, ultimately you will see it is only nothingness that can hold everything.
– Shiva, the Ultimate Outlaw (Book)

Shiva is also known as Mahakaal. Kaal is a Sanskrit term with dual meanings. It translates into both time and darkness. Maha-kaal means a greater time or that which is above the cycle of time. Interestingly, words associated with Kaal is either referencing to time or the color black. For example, the Hindi word 'Kal' is used interchangeably to refer to yesterday or tomorrow. Darkness is usually associated with something that is evil or sinister. However, this is just a social construct. Here, we are describing the nature of emptiness or no-thing. Not even space!

I can go on with so many examples but the point is we are describing that aspect of Shiva which is eternal in nature. In short, we are trying to explain the concept of nothingness or boundlessness. The yogis like to use words like unmanifest, non-existence or non-physical. Whichever word we may use, it is ultimately in the lap of nothingness that everything is happening. So, the big question is how did something happen out of nothing? Why this existence at all? Why not simply emptiness? There are scientific theories that suggest that this existence came from nothing but there is still no certainty to that. For yogis, it is purely an experiential knowledge but science does not account only for experience. It has to be backed by mathematical evidence.

The lazy answer would of course be God and yet it sounds so simple, one could argue. But as tempting as it may seem, I will never take a simplistic assumption for an answer, based on the definition of a three-letter word that varies from culture to culture. God is a word that has been contaminated by religions. It has provided solace and comfort through the instrument of faith but it is also a blindfold that prevents us from seeking the truth. All religions have claimed that their God is the truth. However, when belief turns into seeking, truth alone is God.

Light comes and goes. Darkness is always. It is the basis of existence.
– Sadhguru

A Universe from Nothing

Modern science has just started talking in these terms in the past decades. According to Dr. Michio Kaku, one of the founders of String Theory, our scientific knowledge is still very primitive. The Kardashev scale is a method of measuring a civilization's level of technological advancement, based on the amount of energy a civilization is able to use. Dr. Kaku said that our current civilization is not even type I but type 0. These days, words like Dark Matter and Dark Energy are being thrown around a lot in the scientific community. We know it's there but it's still a complete mystery.

We have to rewrite every single high school textbook on the planet earth. The universe is not mainly made out of atoms. Four percent of the universe is made out of atoms, just four percent. 23% is made out of dark matter. 73%, which makes up most of the universe, is dark energy, and unfortunately, we are clueless as to what dark energy is and what dark matter is.
- Dr. Michio Kaku

One question that fascinates me the most is that if the Universe is expanding, what is it expanding into? Scientists once thought that the expansion was slowing down after the Big Bang but instead, the universe appears to be expanding at an increasing rate known as Inflation. In fact, it is moving away faster than light! The assumption that this expansion should have slowed down due to the gravitational force has baffled our idea of gravity itself. Some scientists claim that the expansion of the Universe cannot be referred as speed. Theoretical physicist Sean Carroll argues that "comparing the expansion rate of the universe to the speed of light is like comparing the height of a building to your weight." While there are many possible theories to explain this phenomena, we still don't know how (not why) for certain. I'm not trying to marry spirituality with modern science. I'm merely asking whether both converges towards the same reality.

This is probably why a statue of Shiva was placed at CERN where the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is based. The Shiva statue was a gift from India to celebrate its association with CERN, which started in the 1960’s and remains strong today. In Hinduism, Lord Shiva practiced the Nataraja dance which symbolises Shakti, or the life force. This deity was chosen by the Indian government because of a metaphor that was drawn between the cosmic dance of the Nataraja and the modern study of the ‘cosmic dance’ of subatomic particles. Shiva, in the form of Nataraja symbolizes the dance of creation and destruction.

Shiva Statue at CERN

The Universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.
- Neil deGrasse Tyson

Shiva as a Being

The Still One

Don't you trust the still one
He drew Me in with his stillness
Me thought He is the way
Be warned He is the End
– Sadhguru

Credit: Isha Foundation

On another level, when we say 'Shiva', we are referring to a certain yogi, the Adiyogi or the first yogi. In the mainstream culture, we have portrayed him as a bit more civilized but in reality, he was as wild as life can be. Since he never bothered to introduce himself, we also called him Shiva because he perceived and personified 'that which is not'. It's quite a tragedy that we have turned him into a God and in that process, we have forgotten the very essence of who he is.

Today, the mainstream culture has turned him into some kind of superhero which is okay but we have forgotten that above all, he is a hardcore Yogi. He doesn't care about the social parameters and norms that has been projected onto him. Maybe, that's how most people relate to him. But there is a thin line between devotion and deception.

In the yogic culture, Shiva is not seen as a God, but as the Adiyogi or the first yogi, and also the Adi Guru, the first Guru, who is the basis of what we know as the yogic science today. He was a being who walked this land and lived in the Himalayan region. As the very source of the yogic traditions, his contribution in the making of human consciousness is too phenomenal to be ignored. This predates all religion.
- Sadhguru

Yoga is not about fitness nor is it a religion. It's not about twisting and bending the body. Hatha Yoga which comprises of the yogic postures or the Asanas is just a small aspect of Yoga. Similarly, fitness and health are consequences or byproducts of Yoga. However, Yoga in its true essence is a science which can take us beyond the limitations of the five senses. This science was transmitted by Shiva to the seven sages who are today known as the Sapta Rishis. When their longing to know what he knew crossed all levels of perseverance, he could not ignore them any longer. On the next full moon, the reluctant ascetic became the Adi-Guru or the first Guru and that's how Yoga was unveiled to humanity. Every year, we celebrate this particular full moon day as Guru Purnima (Purnima means full moon); The day when the first Guru was born. [Reference: Shiva, the Ultimate Outlaw]

Yoga's antiquity goes back to 15 millennia. When the idea of religion did not exist in human mind, Yoga did. This is an outcome of a profound observation of the human mechanism; the most sophisticated gadget on the planet.
- Sadhguru

Credit: Isha Foundation

If I tell you a story, you can either believe it or disbelieve it. Either way, it will get you no closer to the truth. I am not here to tell you a story. I am not here to tell you why. I know the way out of the game, and that is all that counts. Never mind why. Let me show you how.
- Adiyogi to the Sapta Rishis