On Hinduism (7)


Reflections on Hinduism (7)

Sri Krishna and Shiva: Deeper into the Mystery

One is there, Self of self, Soul of Space, Fount of Time,
Heart of hearts, Mind of minds, He alone sits, sublime.
Oh, no void Absolute self-absorbed, splendid, mute,
Hands that clasp hold and red lips that kiss blow the flute.
All He loves, all He moves, all are His, all are He!

(From Sri Aurobindo’s poem Krishna)


If Shiva is the austere, inconceivable presence of the Supreme, the vast impersonality of the Divine, Sri Krishna is the Divine Personality supporting the eternal play of existence as Vishnu, the archetypal sustainer and nurturer, and himself entering into it as friend, lover, intimate guide and Guru. To invoke Shiva to descend to the earth plane to support or aid evolution is a near impossibility, but Sri Krishna is a constant presence amidst the world-play as the incarnate Divine and the World Teacher, the avatar and the jagat guru, leading humanity towards its highest consciousness. It is his assurance to the human soul that he would be born upon earth, age after age, whenever the burden of unconsciousness would threaten to disrupt the evolutionary balance of the universe.

If Shiva is the archetypal ascetic, the ash-smeared adiyogi with matted locks and serpents, Sri Krishna is the cowherd with the alluring flute, playmate of the gopis, king, statesman and warrior who understands the intricacies of the world as much as he understands the profoundest mysteries of the universe, is as much at home with politics as he is with metaphysics, can fight and destroy as skillfully as he can play the flute and dance.

If Shiva is the Silence of the Infinite, the shunya in which floats all existence, Sri Krishna is the music of the spheres, he is the manifest Cosmos brimming with life and energy, the radiant godhead of ananda, the supreme bliss of existence and consciousness. If Shiva is non-duality, the absolute Alone, Sri Krishna is the delight of the One playing amidst the infinite Many, the Lord of Love and the rasa of the Divine’s all-becoming. The sages declare that this whole existence is Sri Krishna’s blissful play, Krishnalila. Of him indeed the Upanishads say — raso vai sa, verily, he Himself is Delight [1].

Hindu dharma has two faces: one, Shiva, the ascetic, the tapasvi, seated on Kailash, symbolic of the supreme peaks of Yogic consciousness; and the other Krishna, the delightful,the anandmaya, the one sporting with the gopis in a Raaslila symbolic of the eternal play of the Divine and the human, the play of the spirit in matter, the play of love drawing the soul ever closer to the incomparable delight of union with the Divine.

Shiva is the consciousness-source of existence and Krishna is the delight-source: we arise out of consciousness and delight and we return unto consciousness and delight. This is the mystery at the heart of Sanatan dharma. Whichever route we take, through consciousness or delight, it is the same consummation we reach: for consciousness is delight, delight is consciousness.

Religions that regard human life as sinful or deluded cannot comprehend this mystery. The God of such religions is outside of the universe, a benign or an authoritative being presiding over human destiny. The God of Sanatan dharma is neither within nor without; in a deeper sense, neither transcendent nor immanent: God is the universe, it is the whole of existence. Transcendence and immanence are mere statuses relative to human consciousness, not absolute truths. The Truth is manifestation.  God or the Supreme Reality is this very universe. God or that Supreme Reality does not create this universe — it becomes this universe out of its all-consciousness and all-delight.

We say Shiva is that all-consciousness and Krishna is that all-delight out of which arises this universe — all beings and things are manifestations of  Shiva, of Krishna. But these too are human expressions limited by human consciousness. The truth, as our sages and seers declared trenchantly, is absolute oneness — Shiva is Krishna and Krishna is Shiva: separating the two is like separating fire from its heat.

As the Yajur Veda declares categorically:

शिवाय विष्णु रूपाय शिव रूपाय विष्णवे |
शिवस्य हृदयं विष्णुं विष्णोश्च हृदयं शिवः |
यथा शिवमयो विष्णुरेवं विष्णुमयः शिवः | [2]

Shiva is the manifest form of Vishnu, another name for Sri Krishna; Vishnu is the manifest form of Shiva. Vishnu dwells in Shiva’s heart as Shiva dwells in Vishnu’s. Wherever one finds Vishnu, one will find Shiva; and wherever one finds Shiva, one will find Vishnu. Realizing the one is realizing the other.

Thus all existence is consciousness and all consciousness is delight — this must be understood. Consciousness and delight are not attributes of existence but the very substance of existence: existence is consciousness, and existence is delight. This triune reality of the Sanatan dharma is known as satchitananda: Sat is existence itself, Chit is consciousness and ananda is delight, bliss. To be, therefore, is to be conscious, and to be conscious is to be in delight, in the bliss of being.

The moment one understands this triune reality, one understands too the purpose and meaning of existence and consciousness — to grow in consciousness towards the perfect bliss and delight of existence. In fact, it is not even so much a question of one’s growing in consciousness; it is more a matter of understanding that consciousness grows by its very nature towards more being and more delight. This is what is known as brahmagati — the movement of Brahman into its own vastness. Brahman is the vastness, brihat, and ever-expands into itself. Thus the supreme consummation of the Sanatan dharma is to become one with the Truth, satyam, which is also the Vast, brihat.

Shiva then is the expansion of consciousness into its own vastness; Krishna is the deepening of consciousness into its own infinite depths. Together, for one who can fathom this mystery of mysteries, they lead the human soul to its perfect fulfillment in ananda — the bliss of the Divine. But this is not the whole of the rasamaya anubhava: there is a still intenser bliss, or rasa, of knowing that Shiva, seated in the mind’s pinnacle, opens the consciousness to the eternal light of Truth; and Krishna, seated in the inmost heart, opens the consciousness to the eternal delight of the Divine. The true devotee of the Sanatan dharma is therefore neither a Shaivite following Shiva as the one godhead, nor a Vaishnavite following Sri Krishna as the one godhead; she is a Yogi in whose consciousness the two become integrally one.

It may be enough for some seekers to aspire for Shiva’s perfect non-duality and purity within themselves, and some seekers may be content aspiring for Krishna’s perfect delight and bliss; but for the complete Yogi who aspires to realize the very heart of the Sanatan dharma, neither is sufficient: she aspires for purnata, completeness, which is realizing Shiva’s fierce purity in Krishna’s delight, and Krishna’s bliss and delight in Shiva’s fierce purity. Can one even begin to conceive of such a realization? For this is a Yoga of a different dimension: austerity, asceticism and vast impersonality merge blissfully into love and delight of the Divine; non-duality revels in the variegated opulence of multiplicity and multiplicity resolves back, moment to moment, into an indescribably profound unity. Everything comes together, all diverse streams converge, and the Yogi dissolves into the perfect ananda, only a thumb-sized portion of her inmost consciousness and being remains to partake of the timeless anandmaya Purusha, the Being of Bliss. This is the experience of the supreme, the most excellent, rasa of all existence — paramam rasanubhuti.

It is this paramam rasanubhuti that is at heart of the Sanatan dharma. All other experiences and realizations, all other processes and attainments, are only preparations for this supreme rasa, for it is in this rasanubhuti that existence is finally justified and validated in the profoundest possible way. All existence arises out of ananda and into ananda subsides. Sorrow, pain and suffering, birth and death, delusion and ignorance, falsehood and evil, are all steps along the way, processes of an infinite evolution of consciousness that even the vastest human mind would fail to grasp.

This consummation of the Sanatan dharma is a state of perfect and permanent absence of sorrow and disturbance; our ancient sages called this the anamayam padam — the sorrowless state. This is the brahmanirvana that Sri Krishna holds as the highest good in the Bhagavad Gita. This nirvana is not an extinguishing or extinction — it is the consummation and fulfillment of the jiva, the human soul, in perfect union with the Divine.

The one who understands this, understands too that this universe and our human existence in it is not just Maya and mithya, it’s not just delusion and ignorance, it’s not just pain and suffering, it’s not the meaningless extinction in death, nor an eternity of heavenly reward or hellish retribution, nor even an ever-circling round of karmic processes from lifetime to lifetime. It is none of all this. Existence is a vast field of lila, of divine delight and play; human life is a journey of consciousness from one peak of light and delight to another, ever higher, ever more fulfilling. It is not evil or falsehood that stands opposed to the godhead: it is our own spiritual ignorance and unconsciousness. It is an obvious thing: the antithesis of consciousness is unconsciousness, not evil. If anything, evil and falsehood, that so bewilder the human mind and heart, exist only to serve the spiritual purpose of awakening the human soul to its higher light and truth.

This is the truth of Sri Krishna: that all is His play, do not be bewildered, do not be dismayed by appearances; look deeper, look with more love and understanding, and you will see Sri Krishna and you will see Shiva, and you will see your own highest and deepest self, your atman, and you will know that there are no divisions or differences. To realize one’s own existence as the Divine’s play of consciousness and delight is the crowning glory of the devotee and yogi.

As Sri Ramakrishna once remarked, comparing the Divine with honey, I do not wish to become the honey; I want to taste and savor the honey. This savoring of the divine honey is the soul of the Sanatan dharma. Why else would one consent to be born as mortal on earth?

1 रसो वै सः — From the Taittiriya Upanishad; Sri Aurobindo’s rendering.

2 Shivaaya Vishnu Roopaaya, Shiva Roopaaya Vishanave; Shivasya Hrudayam Vishnur, Vishnuscha Hrudayam Shivaha; Yatha Shivamayo Vishnuhu, Yevam Vishnu Mayaha Shivaha

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