“…Shambhu, or Lord Shiva, is the ideal Vaishnava. He constantly meditates upon Lord Rama and chants Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Lord Shiva has a Vaishnava sampradaya, which is called the Vishnu Svami-sampradaya.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.23.1 Purport)Download this episode (right click and save)
The incident of Govardhana Puja proves that one doesn’t have to rely on other divine figures for protection. At first glance, the Vedic tradition looks polytheistic. There are different divine figures, and the arrangement on the altar differs from home to home. Some people worship one divine personality, while others worship another or many other ones.
The variety in worship ties directly to variety in desire. Not everyone is looking for the same thing. Nevertheless, there is a singular source. If you get His protection, you don’t need to worship anyone else. When the people of Vrindavana skipped the worship of the godly figure named Indra, they were punished with a torrential downpour, a devastating flood. The source of the material and spiritual worlds, Shri Krishna, lifted Govardhana Hill and used it as an umbrella to save the people. The historical incident is also symbolic of the protection brought by full surrender to God.
This doesn’t mean that the other divine figures have no purpose. They can help even those who are committed to the path of love and devotion to God the person. One of those figures is Lord Shiva, who is also known as Mahadeva. If a person worships him in the manner of pure bhakti, then even Shiva becomes identical with Krishna. He helps the devotee merge into the eternal occupation of service to the Divine, who is with form and personality.
1. He is easily pleased
In his role as a godly figure, Mahadeva gives out benedictions. What does it take to get something from him? Not much, actually. Because of the ease with which he becomes pleased by his worshipers, one of his names is Ashutosha.
The asuras, who are by definition against God and religious principles, take advantage of this disposition. They ask for things that ultimately won’t benefit them. The devotees, on the other hand, can use the kindness of Ashutosha to quickly get success in the path of devotion. Mahadeva is also known as the destroyer, so he has enough power to destroy the entire creation. This means that anything within that power he can do for helping those who are on the path of bhakti.
2. He narrates the life and pastimes of Shri Rama
One of the reasons Mahadeva is Ashutosha is because he doesn’t want to break from his meditation. He concentrates on the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. God is one, but in the personal feature He does not limit Himself to a single form. For Mahadeva, the worshipable deity of choice is Shri Rama, who is the wife of Sita, the elder brother of Lakshmana, and the son of King Dasharatha.
Mahadeva does not keep Rama to himself. In addition to meditating, Lord Shiva narrates the life and pastimes of the sun of the solar race. The glories of God are endless, so Mahadeva can go on speaking about Rama forever and ever. One of his narrations is found in the Puranas, and it is the basis for the epic Hindi poem of Goswami Tulsidas known as the Ramacharitamanasa.
3. He weds Parvati and gives the ideal example of marriage
The journey through life is difficult, no doubt. In addition to the struggle to survive, for the human being there is the issue of direction. The saying, “He who hesitates is lost,” hits home to the person who doesn’t know what to do in life. Especially if they have realized that material enjoyment doesn’t do much for them, they may not know where to go from there.
To help maintain order and sanity, the Vedic tradition gives the system of four ashramas. If hypothetically you were to live for one hundred years, you spend twenty-five years in each ashrama, or spiritual institution. The second ashrama is grihastha, which is married life. What should a married person do? How should they behave towards the significant other? What is the purpose of staying connected with someone through such a sacred covenant?
Lord Shiva sets the best example. He is known for the vow of maintaining only one wife, eka-patni-vrata. He first marries Sati, whose very name means chastity. Due to an insult by her father, Sati commits suicide and takes birth again as Parvati, the daughter of the king of mountains. Mahadeva would rather remain unmarried, but at the insistence of the Supreme Lord he agrees to accept Parvati as his wife.
Shiva and Parvati help the devotees by showing how a married couple should behave. Parvati is chaste and dedicated to her husband. Shiva is the guru who speaks on the glories of God to his wife. Many important sections of Vedic literature are actually conversations between Shiva and Parvati. The couple is very dear to the Supreme Lord, and the devotees who know them also hold them very dear.
4. He is a conqueror of lust
Mahadeva internally and externally conquers lust, which is known as kama in Sanskrit. Kama personified is a heavenly figure. Kamadeva is basically like Cupid; he arouses lusty desires in the conditioned souls. He tried to do that with Shiva one time, but Mahadeva burned him to ashes. Kamadeva then later took birth again as the son of Shri Krishna named Pradyumna.
kāma eṣa krodha eṣa
viddhy enam iha vairiṇam
“The Blessed Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)
The conqueror of kama can help those with less self-control achieve the same. As Shri Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, kama is the all-devouring enemy of the material world. It is the greatest inhibitor of spiritual advancement. By itself it can lead to rebirth time and time again. Kama and bhakti are on opposite sides. Through Mahadeva’s association, a person can get help in conquering the very powerful lust.
5. He lives renounced, even though he could have everything
Lord Shiva is married. He is very dear to the Supreme Lord. Since he is a heavenly figure, he would be expected to have opulence. After all, one of the reasons for worshiping divine figures is to get residence in the heavenly realm as a result. Shri Krishna says that the enjoyment in that place is very advanced.
trai-vidyā māṁ soma-pāḥ pūta-pāpā
yajñair iṣṭvā svar-gatiṁ prārthayante
te puṇyam āsādya surendra-lokam
aśnanti divyān divi deva-bhogān
“Those who study the Vedas and drink the soma juice, seeking the heavenly planets, worship Me indirectly. They take birth on the planet of Indra, where they enjoy godly delights.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.20)
Though Mahadeva could have everything, he lives extremely renounced. He is so much without external opulence that Parvati’s female friends pitied her that she was marrying such a poor person. These humorous interactions are found in the details of the couple’s wedding. Yet Parvati is no fool. She knows that her husband is actually full of wealth, as he has devotion to God the person.
Mahadeva has the power to give away practically anything. Why does he live with so little, then? There must be a reason. He must know something that others don’t. By studying Mahadeva, the wise person questions whether material opulence is really the ultimate aim of life. Maybe meditation is better. Maybe real strength is having an unbroken link to the Supreme Consciousness. Maybe Mahadeva has something more valuable to give to those who worship him.
In extreme renunciation to live,
Mahadeva something better to give.
Than just benedictions many,
Having lasting value not any.
Ashutosha since easily pleased,
Can give away bhakti also with ease.
Showing example of marriage ideal,
Telling pastimes of Shri Rama real.