Adishankaracharya, when he wrote Shivah शिवः in his compositions, he used this to mean the eternal auspicious non-dual Advaita. Eg In the Brahmajnyanavalimala he ends it with ‘Shivosmyaham’ शिवः अस्मि अहं. Or in the Nirvan shatak he ends every verse with ‘Shivoham shivoham’ ‘शिवः अहं शिवः अहं’.
Today is Vaishakh Shukla Panchami, we celebrate Adi Shankarcharya’s birth anniversary today.
Also someone commented that Adishankaracharya wrote on the Advaita yet worshipped the deities by composing beautiful stotras in their honour. Apparently someone thought that the ‘Shiv’ he writes about is the deity Shankar, the embodiment of Tamo-gun (post here).
Adishankarcharya was a Sat-guru. In brief his life story is this. He took Sanyas at the age of 8yrs, then studied under his Sat-Guru at the banks of the Narmada till the age of 12yrs where his Guru said that he was ready, ie Jivan-mukt, the Advaita. He wrote his brilliant compositions, his Bhashya-s, his books on the Advaita, everything on the pure Jnyan till the age of 16yrs, all this in just 4yrs. He wrote about Himself as he was a realised Seer, a Sat-Guru. Then he toured Bharat giving discourses on the Ved (4 Ved-s, Vedanta, Brahmana, Aranyak) set up the 4 Maths in the 4 corners of Bharat, each one dedicated to one of the 4 Ved-s. Not deities, but to the Ved-s. The Ved-s are ‘worshipped’, read, taught and learnt even now in these Maths. He was/ is the highest Parmeshwar himself.
His work is not fully comprehensible to aspirants who are still on the path. Do not assume that he worshipped Shankar or any of the other deities of the Vedic/ Pauranic pantheon. These deities are a part of the manifested creation, ie in the domain of Mahamaya. He was/ is the Advaita, beyond the reach of Mahamaya. Also he wrote in the Devbhasha Samskrutam. So what he wrote and what you understand will be different. He, an Atmajnyani Mahapurush, ie the Advaita itself, and you, a sadhak, an aspirant. When you really understand what he has written, you will also become the Advaita.
Shivah शिवः has the following meanings in the Devbhasha Samskrutam, auspicious, bliss, benign, friend, kind, gracious, favourable, etc. And if you had to break down शिवः to get at its root energy it is something like this.
- The true and pure emotion that you feel for your inner self, when you recognise yourself to be this highest state of consciousness. This constant state of this purity. The transcendence achieved after apparent duality is resolved to be a superficial illusion. The discarding of the illusion of duality so that you dwell in the eternal constant, unchanging, non-dual, unborn state that you really Are.
The Advaita is called ‘Shivah’, ie ‘the highest auspicious’. (In some parts of India, the personification of Tamo-gun is called Shiva which causes confusion. I am from Maharashtra, in Marathi language we refer to this deity generally as Shankar or Mahadev not ‘Shiva’.)
In this context, all of us at our core are Shivah. But we want to play the Game of Creation so we have no awareness of this fact. We have purposely put filters over our perception which do not let us recognise our essential eternal auspiciousness. We conceal our Shivah nature. The energy which animates us all is the same energy which animates the Tri-dev, Brahma-dev/Sarasvati, Vishnu/Laxmi, Shankar/Parvati, Indra, Agni and the other deities of the pantheon, every one of the 33 Koti devata, the Rudra, the Aditya, the Devi Lalita Tripursundari, Mahamaya herself. They too are all Shivah. Everything is Shivah. This essential auspiciousness शिवः is the only thing which really exists, the concepts of you, me, deities, Mahamaya are hollow, superficial, illusory.
This is the Nirvan Shatak. I will expand the meaning of just the last shlok.
अहं निर्विकल्पो निराकाररूपो | विभुत्वाच्च सर्वत्र सर्वेन्द्रियाणाम् | न चासङ्गतं नैव मुक्तिर्न मेयः | चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम् |
All alternatives, all variations, all options have gone away from my nature. All forms have dropped away, dissolved, vanished into nothingness like mirages dissolve. I exist as the basis of everything. I am the potential of existence. I exist as the covering of everything. I pervade all the organs of action and sense, ie I pervade the tattva-s of creation. I am all that Is. I do not have anything attached to me, nor do I cling to anyone. I am not the concepts of liberation or realisation or enlightenment. I cannot be measured in anyway whatsoever. I am the nature of the blissful intelligence. I am the eternal consciousness. I am the auspicious Advaita. The highest auspicious Advaita Am I.
This is the Brahmajnyanavalimala which I have referred to several times. I will expand the meaning of just the last shlok.
अन्तर्ज्योतिर्बहिर्ज्योतिः प्रत्यग्ज्योतिः परात्परः | ज्योतिर्ज्योतिः स्वयंज्योतिरात्मज्योतिः शिवोऽस्म्यहम्
I am the light amidst. I shine within. I am the illumination seen in the inner eye. I am the Eye and I am the Light. I am the brightness which shines forth. I am the divinity which is always apart. I am the light of the eternal which illuminates the eternal. I am away from the transient. I am the eternal flash of lighting. I visibly shine with all power. I am the self-evident fire. I am the blazing flame, superior to the best. I am higher than the highest illumination. I am the radiance which gives power to fire. I myself am the celestial brilliance of the self. I am the eternal blazing flame of consciousness. I am the spontaneous light. I am the self-illuminated light. My nature is light. The highest auspicious Am I.
When you recite either of these compositions you are clearly invoking the pure Advaita within.
Now a bit on the word ‘Aham’. In grammar, it is the first person singular of ‘asmad’, ‘I’. In Sanskrit it means something like – I, self-radiance, indeed, verily, I grant, it is true, surely, certainly.
‘Aham’ broadly means the sense of the self. What you exactly understand your ‘self’ to mean. Your comprehension of what you are. What you experience your self to be? This is ‘Aham’.
Now at the lower levels of consciousness you understand yourself to be Rajiv, Anita, a boy, a woman, a professional, a home maker, a father, a grandmother, a human, confined in a body, having 5 senses, awake, going to work, sitting down to dinner, being born or dying etc. If you think of yourself as something like this, it is a very very limited sense of self. You are experiencing a very limited fraction of your immense Self. This is the ‘aham’ which represents the root cause of ignorance, the ‘ahamkaar’ which is the root cause of existential sorrow. When you put your ‘aham’ in words like this you are still playing the Game, your personal Lila.
But in your spiritual path there will come a time when you will think and experience yourself as the geometry represented by the Shri Yantra. You will experience your consciousness as the multidimensional Shri Chakra. You will see yourself at the central Bindu of this geometry. This is the first tangible step where you will know that the ‘aham’ is much much more than these simple words can define. You will now move towards experiences which cannot be described in words. And at one point you will transcend all these experiences too. This is the state where when you say that ‘Chidanandah roopah Shivah Aham’ or ’Shivah Aham asmi’ you will mean it completely.
“Most assuredly, verily, certainly, truly, radiantly, eternally, blissfully, auspiciously Am I.”
“Unchanging, non-dual, auspiciousness Am I.”
If any of my readers feel this post resonating in your hearts, you are on a very high level of understanding, continue on your path. And even if not, its ok to continue thinking of ‘Shivah’ as Shankar or Vishnu or Brahmadev or your source of faith or whatever generates positive energy in you. Everyone should freely worship the energy they are drawn to. No one can judge you but yourself. You choose for yourself. No one can force you. Only you are aware of what you experience.
But this is not what Adishankaracharya intended when he wrote these lines. When he talks about Shivah शिवः he talks about the Advaita. Listen to his these compositions and with the Light of the Advaita, when the time comes, you too will experience what शिवः indicates towards.