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Shiva Linga(m) and Yoni symbol
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The ancient symbol Yoni and Lingam (Sanskrit)
We have, hidden within our own deeper awareness, wonderful Gods and Goddesses in embryo who have but one intention: to bring the sacred and high quality life back into our lives. Tantra expands horizons about masculine Self and feminine World into a living experience of the eternal time with infinite space. The sexual symbolism of Tantra, like the subject of sexuality in general, has always engaged the human mind. The modern mind seems to be obsessed with it as well. Many people into Tantra, as well as most of the scholars who write on it, seem unable to move beyond the physical suggestions of these symbols to their spiritual indications. This has kept the study and practice of Tantric Yoga at a superficial level in which its deeper cosmic and creative energies remain latent.
There is an inclination to reduce the Shiva Linga(m) and Shakti Yoni, the two main Tantric symbols of ascending and descending forces - which are often represented by upright conical stones for the Shiva Linga(m) and ring stones or basis for the Shakti Yoni - to merely the male and female sex organs, which is but one of their representations, and their erotic glorification. There is the tradition of Tantric sexuality of mithuna which uses sacred sex as part of Yoga practice. But it is not the only practice of Tantric Yoga and when done is integrated into a much larger array of practices.
It would be wrong to look at the Linga(m) and the Yoni only in human sexual terms, just as it would be to see the Deities of Shiva and Shakti as only symbols of sexuality. Sexuality, no doubt, is the strongest of our biological and psychological urges. Yet sexuality reflects greater and higher forces, of which it is a manifestation.
The polarity of forces that we discover in sexuality is mirrored in the great dualities of nature from electricity and magnetism, to the forces of fire and water, the sun and the moon, and the forms of the mountain and the valley. It is this universal duality and polarity that is the basis of Tantric Yoga, working with it, and through it returning to the pure unity behind it. Sexuality is an important force that we must understand in the process, whether we choose to express it in a human relationship or renounce it for a more solitary path of practice.
The Shiva Linga(m) is often portrayed in an upright conical form much like the male sexual organ. Indeed, some Shiva lingas are quite phallic in their appearance, but there are many other types of lingas which are not. The linga is the symbol of the universal power, the cosmic masculine force or the Shiva principle. It has many forms in nature.
In the Sanskrit language, the word Linga(m) refers to a ‘mark’ or ‘characteristic’ of something. Thus the Shiva Linga is a symbol of Lord Shiva - a mark that reminds of the Omnipotent Lord, which is formless. As a term, it is not per se a synonym for the male sexual organ, as some would believe. Linga(m) indicates what is outstanding and determinative. In this regard, the male sexual organ can be said to be the distinguishing characteristic or Linga(m) of a man at a physical level, but Linga(m) in other contexts can have quite a different meaning.
In Yoga philosophy, the term Linga(m) refers to the subtle body, which is the dominant principle in our nature over the physical body. The Shiva Linga(m) is also the subtle body and can indicate the upper region from the heart to the head. The Linga(m) is a place where energy is held, generated and sustained.
The problem is that the modern mind, particularly since Freud, often tries to use sex as the main means of interpreting life, extending even to art and spirituality, which we try to understand according to sexual symbolism or the sex life of the persons involved! This ‘sexual reductionism’ misses the deeper and broader sensitivities and inspirations that people have.
Clearly sexuality is there for most everyone, but real spirituality and genuine creativity are not! Some scholars have gone so far as to try to reduce Hindu Devatas, Gods and Goddesses to sexual symbols, as if a figure like Ganesha, with his head cut off by his father, was nothing more than another manifestation of the Oedipal complex, missing his deeper yogic implications altogether. Of course, such psychological studies have been done on Christianity and Judaism as well. Freud, himself a Jew, tried to reduce Moses to the Oedipal complex, starting off this trend. Such studies do not help us understand what the spiritual path is all about, but get us further caught in our biological impulses as the primary factors of life. Naturally, such efforts to turn a religion into a sexual neurosis is not appreciated by Hindus any more than by Christians and Jews!
Stonehenge, and other similar sacred sites that have standing stones formed into great circles, show the union of the Linga(m) and the Yoni, the cosmic male and female or Shiva-Shakti principles. The Linga(m) and the Yoni are also united in the chakra or the wheel, with the Linga(m) as the axis and the Yoni as the circumference. The Hindu usage of chakras in ritual and in art also reflects these two powers. Each chakra of the subtle body shows the union of the Shiva and Shakti energies operative at its particular level of manifestation.
The Shiva energy is the upward current running through the spine or Sushumna and the Shakti energy is the horizontal current through which it travels, forming the various lotuses of the chakras. Together they form a spiral of forces. Both forces are necessary to create this dynamic motion.
The experience of the Shiva Linga(m) in Yogic meditation is an experience of a pillar of light, energy, peace and eternity, expanding the mind, opening the inner eye and bringing deep peace and steadiness to the heart. From it radiate waves, currents, circles and whirlpools of Shakti spreading this grace, love and wisdom to all. To concentrate our awareness in the Linga(m) is one of the best ways of meditation, calming the mind and putting us in touch with our inner Being and Witness beyond all the agitation and sorrow of the world.
In Ayurvedic healing, the creation of the Prana Linga(m) or concentration of Prana at a subtle level is what allows deep healing and rejuvenation to occur. In Vedic astrology, the Shiva Linga(m) represents the power of light behind the Sun, Moon, planets and stars. In Vastu Shastra, the Shiva Linga(m) is used to stabilize the spiritual and vital energy in a house, as a conduit of cosmic forces.
To understand the ultimate secrets of life we must be able to look at the primal powers of existence, including the needs for sex and food, according to their broader connections and universal implications. Human sexuality is only one of the many manifestations of the cosmic forces of duality, of a greater Divine sexuality as it were, which transcends all creaturely existence.
We must learn to see the cosmic energy behind human sexuality rather than try to reduce spiritual polarities to our own physical and emotional inclinations. This is another aspect of Yoga in which we must look beyond human psychology to the universal consciousness.
Symbolisms of the Linga(m)
The Shiva Linga(m) represents the ascending energy of consciousness and life in nature. We see this in such forms as the mountain, the thunder cloud, the tree, and the upright human being. Many lingas like that at Kedarnath - the most important Shiva site in the Himalayas - are rocks in the shape of small mountains. Many other lingas are associated with light, the lingas of the Sun, the Moon and Fire. There are the twelve famous Jyotirlingas or light forms of Shiva at twelve special temples throughout India.
The state of Tamil Nadu has special Shiva Linga(m) forms for the five elements with lingas of earth, water, fire, air and ether at special temples in the region. In this regard, each element has its Shiva Linga(m) or determinative force. The famous hill of Arunachala, where the great enlightened sage Ramana Maharshi stayed, is said to be the fire Linga(m) of lord Shiva.
Other Shiva lingas are associated with gold or crystal, the light powers in the metal kingdom. The Shiva Linga(m) is often described in terms of light, crystal or transparency. Shiva himself is said to be pure light or light in its primal undifferentiated state, Prakasha matra.
The Shiva Linga(m) is connected to the upward pointed triangle, which is also the symbol of fire. The Linga(m) is present in the male sexual organ both in plants and in animals. But we should not ignore its other forms in recognizing that. The worship of the Linga(m) is connected more generally to a worship of pillars, obelisks, standing stones and pyramids. Tantric Linga(m) worship is connected to Vedic pillar worship (the Vedic stambha, skambha, dharuna), which has parallels throughout the ancient world and in indigenous cultures in general who can still perceive the spiritual powers behind the formations of nature.
The Shiva Linga(m) is often a pillar of light. In special Vedic fire rituals, the fire could be made to rise in the shape of a pillar which could also then take the shape of a man! In fact, the term Dharma originally refers to what upholds things and can be symbolized by a pillar. The Shiva Linga(m) is the universal pillar of Dharma. The pillar is also an inner symbol indicating the erect spine and concentrated mind.
In terms of our human nature, there are several lingas or characteristic marks. The force of Prana is the Linga(m) or pillar force upholding the physical body according to the currents that emanate from it. This is the inner ‘Prana Linga(m)'. Our deeper intelligence or Buddhi provides us the power of insight to discern higher realities, the ‘Buddhi Linga(m)’. The Atman or higher Self is the ultimate Linga(m) or determinative force of our nature that remains steady and elevated (transcendent) throughout all of our life experience, the ‘Atma Linga(m)’.
The Linga(m) and the Yoni always go together, first of all on the level of opposites, as the upward and downward pointed triangles. The Linga(m) with the yoni below it, the standing stone and the ring base, show the union of male and female energies, not just in sexuality, but also as electro-magnetic forces.
The Yoni is the Holy Grail, the Linga(m) is the Ark of the Covenant.
In addition, the Linga(m) in its movement creates a Yoni, just as a point in its movement can create a circle. We can see this in the circular movement of the stars, planets and nebulae, as well as many other diverse phenomena in the world of nature. The central luminary is the Linga(m) and its field of revolution is the Yoni. The planets form a Yoni or circle as they revolve around the Sun as the Linga(m), of the solar system, its central principle or axis. Yet the Sun itself is revolving around other stars and creating a Yoni or circle of its own.
The womb, more generally, the female principle. In ancient India the Yoni was the common female symbol of the universal Mother of the Gods. This symbol corresponds to Noah's ark, and to the navis or shiplike form of the crescent, the sidereal vessel.
Shiva is not an all-powerful God without his counterpart. His counterpart, Shakti, is sometimes attributed to different Goddesses. Sometimes to Kali, sometimes Parvati who is his wife, but most commonly to Devi, which is a wide term that just means mother Goddess which includes all Goddesses. This variation of attribution of the specific Shakti comes with different branches of Hindu thought. Shivas Shakti constitutes half of his body. He is thought to be powerless without his Shakti. In the Saundaryalahari it says, 'Only when Shiva is united with Shakti does he have the power to create.' Shiva is thought to be the unchanging consciousness called nirguna, that which has no form or shape. This unchanging consciousness becomes saguna, with form, when his Shakti joins with him. So the Yoni, Shakti, manifests the intangible power of Shiva, the Linga(m), grounding it and giving it to the adherents of Shiva.
Devi is the great mother Goddess, who is worshiped under many forms. Any female deity can be brought under the fold of Devi. The Linga(m) is depicted as rising up out of the Yoni, not penetrating it; and the Yoni is seen as symbolic of the divine womb which is associated with the Earth. In the Earth the seed transforms into fruit or grain: in the cave/womb of the earth death transforms itself into life and in the womb of a woman the male and female sexual fluids transform into a human being. The Hindu conception of the womb is commonly thought of as the originator of life and death and this concept is elucidated with the Hindu saying, Again birth, again death, again sleep in the mothers womb.
The ancient Hindu interpretation of the Linga(m) and Yoni is entirely metaphysical and psychological, but the once highly philosophical and sublime worship of the Linga(m) and Yoni of Shiva whorship has degenerated in modern times to mere phallic worship.
The Hebrew interpretation of these same symbols likewise finally became realistic and physiological.
The Linga(m) and Yoni are mystical representations, and perhaps the best possible impersonal representatives, of the abstract expressions of true paternity and true maternity.
I would like to replace the word 'worship' into understanding, because 'worshipping' is drawing you out of yourSelf. And this is about Knowing and Understanding yourSelf.
In the Srimad Bhagavatan The Wisdom Of God (translated by Swami Prabhavanada ) chapter 11 ~ the story of creation ~ (US Amazon.com under 6.00) it says that ( further down in the chapter ) Brahmas first human creations were saints , who, immediately upon being created , fell into deep meditation finding no interest in the things of the world. Thus, through them, Brahma saw no possibility of the propagation of the human species. While he was meditating upon what course he should pursue, his own form divided itself: one half became man and the other half became woman. The man was called Manu, and the woman was called Satarupta: and from them have sprung all mankind.
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