“Lord Shiva is the ideal husband, not in the sense of riches or sense gratification, but because he is the greatest of all devotees. Vaishnavanam yatha shambhuh: Shambhu, or Lord Shiva, is the ideal Vaishnava. He constantly meditates upon Lord Rama and chants Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.23.1 Purport)Download this episode (right click and save)
Mahadeva. The great god. Shiva. The auspicious one. Girisha. The lord of mountains. So many names there are for addressing one of the most important deities of the Vedic tradition. He is more than just an elevated form of Brahman. He is a distinct personality, whose identity is never annihilated. In fact, every individual soul has the same deathlessness. What we know as death is actually just the changing of bodies, the replacement of the set of material and subtle elements covering the otherwise spotless soul.
“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)
Lord Shiva is obviously a worthy object of worship. To the impersonalists, he is one part of the panchopasana, the five deities worshiped for elevation to a higher consciousness. He grants benedictions to his worshipers very quickly. For this he is known as Ashutosha. Since he is an individual himself, Lord Shiva speaks. There are reasons why the pious souls can listen to him all day.
1. He has so much wisdom and dispassion
There is jnana, or theoretical knowledge. There is vijnana, or realized knowledge. Both are important. I can teach someone that two plus two equals four. They can learn that truth and then repeat it on a formal examination. But it is not until they have to practically apply the teaching in real life that the truth has been assimilated.
Lord Shiva has tremendous wisdom, but he has dispassion to go with it. The two are complementary. Vairagya is important because there are so many objects to which to form attachments. Attachments keep one bound to the cycle of birth and death, the constant changing of bodies.
Lord Shiva is very wise and he is kind enough to share that wisdom with those who want to hear it. His renunciation gives further strength to his teachings. If I tell people that it is bad to smoke, yet I smoke regularly myself, the message is damaged. The truth about the harms of smoking remains, but because I am hypocritical others will have a more difficult time believing me. Lord Shiva does not have this defect. He practices what he preaches.
2. He has experience of heartache
Relationships of any kind are difficult. You have two individuals, who each have their own genius. They are not robots. Moreover, desires change. Just because my wife has been happy eating pizza for dinner every day for the last week doesn’t mean that she will be happy with pizza for dinner tonight. The same goes for me. When desires aren’t met, there is frustration, which can lead to anger.
Lord Shiva had his own troubles. His wife Sati refused to listen to him one time. Mahadeva tried his best to convince her not to visit her father. Daksha was against Lord Shiva, and so if Sati were to witness her husband being insulted, she would not be able to tolerate it.
Sati didn’t listen and Mahadeva was right. He lost his wife in the process. That is a terrible loss to suffer. It did not take Lord Shiva off the virtuous path. He remained dear to the Supreme Lord. In this way the great Vaishnava has experience from which to speak about the different trappings of material life.
3. He speaks sweetly
Lord Shiva did not want to get married again, but Bhagavan Vishnu assured him that by accepting a chaste wife from a good family his devotion would only increase. Sati was reborn as Parvati, the daughter of the mountain king. When she heard that Shiva was destined to be her husband, she underwent tremendous austerities in the forest. Her vow could not be broken, even by Shiva’s attendants.
In Vedic literature we find many conversations between Shiva and Parvati. The husband Shiva addresses the wife very sweetly. He uses “Devi” and other such affectionate terms to address her. Though he is the great destroyer, called upon at the appropriate time to eliminate everything in this world, Mahadeva is the nicest person you could meet. He has no hate in his heart. Even after the bitter experience with Sati’s demise, he did not hold a grudge against females.
4. He knows the Absolute Truth as Rama
Mahadeva is no fool. The atheists think there is no spirit. The body is simply a lump of chemicals to them. It evolved today from a previous set, sometime in the past. Of course they don’t really believe this. This theory is what they tell themselves as justification for enjoying as much as possible, to the point of cheating and stealing. If they really thought the body was just chemicals, they wouldn’t be so saddened by death. After all, who laments for something that never had any life to begin with?
Lord Shiva knows that there is a God. He worships God in the form of Shri Rama. Shiva knows that there are many aspects to the Divine, that the original one can expand into many identical forms. Even Shiva himself is a partial incarnation, the guna-avatara in charge of the mode of ignorance. Lord Shiva not only worships Rama, but he knows all about the king of Ayodhya. He can speak endlessly about the glories of the husband of Sita.
5. He passes the Ramayana onto others
There is the Ramayana, an epic Sanskrit poem authored by Maharishi Valmiki. Since God’s pastimes are endless, intricate, and beyond comprehension, others have their own observations and recollections as well. Lord Shiva tells his own version of the Ramayana, and it is passed down through the generations. This is the version Goswami Tulsidas received from his guru. The great poet then turned the story into a wonderful song in Hindi, which is still sung and honored to this day.
If we meet Lord Shiva, we can politely ask him to tell us the Ramayana. He can speak on and on about the glories of Sita and Rama. He is always speaking about Rama to the attentive listener Parvati. Their conversations are found in Vedic literature, and fortunate is the soul who listens to even a drop of such nectar.
As auspicious one Shiva is known,
Wisdom and great dispassion shown.
Endlessly saints ready to hear,
Nectar reward when coming near.
Parvati most devoted wife ever were,
About Rama’s glories speaks to her.
Ramayana of his own to generations giving,
Fortunate those with his blessings living.