“It is time to move beyond … circumscribed views to recognising the deeper aspects of science, art and philosophy behind the yoga tradition and its extraordinary images and cosmic depictions. This affords us a greater appreciation of the yogis of India and their intricate teachings, not merely about the body and mind, but relative to the universal consciousness in which is infinite and everlasting bliss!” – Dr David Frawley
From Freudian academics to the modern media, the main examinations of Hindu deities, particularly of Lord Shiva and his family, usually give their primary attention to sexual implications. But in the process of focusing on this side—often to the exclusion of the rest of the teachings—the deeper meaning of these spiritual traditions easily gets lost.
We can forget yoga’s profound insights into the mind, consciousness and higher human evolution, as well as the subtle meditation practices taught to reveal these.
Tantric Yoga philosophy describes seven chakras from the base of the spine to the top of the head. The purpose of yoga is to raise our awareness from the root chakra below—where we are spiritually asleep in ego consciousness and physical reality—to the thousand-petal lotus at the top of the head where we can experience cosmic consciousness and self-realisation, the state of the Supreme Shiva.
The chakras indicate vibratory levels with the five lower chakras relating to the earth, water, fire, air and ether elements and the two higher chakras to mind and consciousness. The ascent through the chakras involves moving from denser to subtler vibrations, and developing a greater unity consciousness along the way.
We should not stop short at the first and second chakras, which rule over lower energies, but consider all seven chakras and their implications in examining yogic deities and practices, extending to higher realms far beyond physical reality.
We should not only consider the role of physical union but also the role of union with the divine, and with the unitary awareness behind the universe as a whole.
The symbolism of Hindu deities
It is true that Hindu deities provide a wealth of fascinating symbolisms that stretch the boundaries of our imaginations and are not easy to understand for the rational intellect. They are capable of diverse interpretations as they reflect the whole of life and all of nature in its mind-transcending magic and bewildering paradoxes.
But the primary implications of these yogic powers are relative to cosmological principles and higher states of awareness, which constitute the bulk of their traditional interpretations that are quite detailed and extensive. Modern scientists have noted these cosmic connections, with the entire universe as Lord Shiva’s dance of light.
Hindu deities, particularly Shiva and his wife Parvati, reflect the practice of yoga and the energies of all the chakras in their stories and teachings, starting with Shiva as Yogeshwara, the lord of yoga, ruling over asana, prana, mantra and meditation. Parvati is the ideal yogini and manifests the yoga shakti, the inner power of yoga that takes us from darkness to light, from death to immortality.
There is a great mystery of consciousness behind the visible world that is our real duty as human beings to discover and to realise. This mystery cannot be limited to biological patterns or to intellectual theories. We should not be content with mere outer views of life.
Recognising the primacy of ananda
It is time to move beyond such circumscribed views to recognising the deeper aspects of science, art and philosophy behind the yoga tradition and its extraordinary images and cosmic depictions. This affords us a greater appreciation of the yogis of India and their intricate teachings, not merely about the body and mind, but relative to the universal consciousness in which is infinite and everlasting bliss!
Bliss or ananda is the origin and goal of all as the ancient Upanishads so eloquently state. If we are sensitive to beauty, love or grace anywhere, it is only because of this divine ananda. May we all discover that ananda within and around us! It is much more than any media sensation and takes us far beyond the biases of the mind to a boundless vision and new creative insight at every moment. This is what higher yoga practices can lead us to. – Daily-O, 23 September 2015
» Dr David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Sastri) is an American Hindu teacher and author who has written more than thirty books on topics such as the Vedas, Hinduism, Yoga, Ayurveda and Vedic astrology, published both in India and in the United States. He is the founder and director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which offers educational information on Yoga philosophy, Ayurveda, and Vedic astrology.