Why am I a SHAIVITE? (A follower of Śiva)

Why am I a SHAIVITE? (A follower of Śiva) Ardhanārīśvara, half śiva and half śakti or half man and half woman
Why I am a SHAIVITE?, It could be because the first chant I ever learned was Om namaḥ śivāya gurave … the first verse of the Nirālambāya upanishad. It could be because the first Hindu temple I ever visited was where I learned about Aruṇāchala and I grew up on a mountain so it’s easy for me to see the Divine in the land that supports and sustains us. Or it could be because I’m an introvert … meaning primarily that I rejuvenate by turning inwards.

This does not mean that I don’t or can’t connect with Viśnu, Durgā, Gaṇeśa or Hānuman. I have room in my heart for all of them, but when I sit and focus my mind, Śiva comes first and most easily for me.

While it’s easy for me to say that I am a shaivite, it was not so simple for me to discover my own “iśta devata,” the specific form of the śiva which I’m most drawn to. Again, I love them all. The more I learn about the Naturage form of śiva and the cosmic dance, the more fascinated I am by it. I particularly love that the flame in one of the left hands represents our access to free will, which of course comes with a certain amount of responsibility for our behavior in the world. Then in my study of the śiva dhyāna mantra, Om dhyāyet nityam maheśam … which describes all the attributes of the classic seated śiva image, I love the reference to the crescent moon and it’s recognition of the constant waxing and waning taking place all around us. This mantra also describes śiva as, “prasanam,” a smiling visage. Every time I reach that point in the mantra I feel myself smile from my heart and an abundant sense of contentment washes over me.

But the form of Śiva which is most dear to me is Ardhanārīśvara, half śiva and half śakti or half man and half woman. As a gay man, I may have spent a little more time, than most, thinking about what it is to be both masculine and feminine in the same body. And as a human, I think it’s very easy to see an imbalance in these energies in the world all around us. And when I’m playing a drum and a drone at the same time, I have a very clear sense of exploring both of these energies at the same time.

For the past several months I’ve been studying the Nirvāṇa ṣaṭakam, an 8th century hymn by śri adi śankaracharya which in it’s verses lists a number of things we are not, like our minds, our bodies, our mothers and fathers and then in the chorus explains what we are, “consciousness-bliss form, I am śiva, I am śiva.” No wonder that I am so inspired by this text.

I hope you enjoy it too.

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