The Shiva Mahapurana is said to have come from the mouth of Lord Shiva Himself. It is an encyclopaedia of various branches of knowledge and ancient esoteric wisdom, handed down through the ages by the grace of the sages and rishis of this holy land of India. It is arranged in seven Samhitas and written in the Sanskrit language. The rarest pearls are hidden in the depths of the ocean and the most precious gems are embedded in rocks. One has to depend on someone to delve deep into the heart of the ocean or chip off the encasing rocks and expose these treasures to our eyes. Modern man has neither the time nor the knowledge of this ancient language to go through this voluminous book, however, wonderful it may be. Vanamali has condensed and picked out the most perfect of the pearls of this ancient wisdom and given it to us as in a form which is easy to read and simple to understand.
"He looked at me,
The conqueror of Love!
He turned His glance on this frail body,
He imbued these hands with strength and courage
To write about His divine glories!
O Thou Ocean of compassion!
Lover of the lowly and despised!
Shiva! Saviour of the world!
A million prostrations do I make
The blue-necked Lord of Parvati"
The Veda presents the cause of the entire jagat as Mayin, wielder of maya, who does not come under the spell of maya, The Mayin is Maheswara- the Lord of all. He is not only the intelligent cause of the jagat but He is also in the form of the jagat. Space, Time and everything in space and time, are His manifestation and therefore not separate from Him. He is therefore both the father and the mother of the universe. Every form is His form and you can invoke Him in any given from. If you look at this Maheswara from the point of view of any manifest force or law, He becomes a devata. If you give a name in Sanskrit to this devata, the name will be descriptive of the form. Thus the name Vishnu means that the Lord is all-pervasive. The word Brahma means the one who is big without a limit. The word Rudra means the cause of tears as the giver of the fruits of actions and also one who is the remover of all tears. In any of the names and forms of worship, you can invoke the Maheswara as the one who is the cause of manifestation, sustenance and dissolution.
In the Shiva Purana the whole Lila of Maheswara is presented in a style that offers the readers a scope to explore and discover. One gets to know what it takes to be almighty. An insight of every virtue in its infinite measure is unavoidable as one goes through any Purana. The author, Vanamali, present the Lord as one who is invoked as Shiva as depicted in the Shiva Purana. The author's devotion to the Lord imbues her pen with facility of expression and helps the reader discover the glories of the Lord and leads to devotion. The author is a recipient of the Lord's blessings and by converting these blessings in the form of presenting the glories of the Lord; she becomes once again the recipient of the Lord's blessings in abundance.
"Trayambakam yajamahe sugandhim pushtivardhanam,
"Urvarukamiva bandanath, Mrityor mukshiya-mamritath."
"I worship the fragrant, three-eyed one in order to give me perfect health and release me from the coil of mortality as effortlessly as a ripe ground falling from its stalk and grant me immortality."
Puranic literature spring s from a deep need in the heart of the human being for fulfillment. It plumbs the depths of our psyche, which cradles in it, an unconscious and indescribable longing for the Supreme, and comes out with the most fantastic images and conceptions, which have baffled the mind of modern man. Those who have been brainwashed by modern scientific preconceptions, whose imaginations have been stifled by strict adherence to a truth which only the senses can see, may find it difficult to read the Puranas and to understand their deep insight into human nature. But those, whose intellects have not been stunted by these constricting notions, will delight in the absolute freedom of expression and the amazing fights of imagination to which the human mind can soar. What must be remembered is that the forms of the gods are not mere flights of fancy but they are meant to reveal the many facets of Truth, which are not perceivable to the five senser. These five sense are limited at best and deceitful at worst, for their main aim is to conceal a Truth, which is incomprehensible to them. The modern world-view knows only of heat and motion, energy bursting out in the Big Bang, some fifteen thousand million years back and expanding into a system of galaxies which is running down from a state of maximum heat and concentration, to a state of cold stillness and disintegration, during the course of a vast period of time. Life and consciousness, as we know them, are claimed to be secondary phenomena, which will pass away into the cold ambiguity of death in this meaningless dance of the elements. Consciousness has no special significance in this view of the cosmos. The scientific outlook is quite sceptical about ultimate values. There is no purpose, no plan in the universe and intelligence itself is only a by-product of matter, condemned to perish in the course of time. For one who is convinced of this view, the Puranas will only be a source of amusement. Which modern mind can believe in oceans of milk and five-headed gods!
The Puranic view of creation unlike the modern scientific view has its basis in the will of the Supreme Being. The ancient sages or rishis of India knew that matter is only a derivative of consciousness and contains within it, in seed form, the fundamental knowledge of its own inner spiritual potency, just as the whole of the mighty banyan tree is contained in its tiny mustard-like seed. There is an invisible field of energy prior to, and underlying the whole of this visible field. This field is unmanifest and not within the grasp of our five sense. The entire field of visible objects is only a projection of this. The rishis were well aware of this. Lord Krishna calls this field, avyaktha or the Unmanifest from which all this manifestation has sprung. Beyond even this field is the vast field called chidakasha or the field of consciousness, which is potent with the power to create? This field of consciousness, which is potent with the power to create. This field is also called Shakti or the creative aspect of the Divine. It is the feminine principal that is capable of all action and creation and hence it is known as the Divine Mother. The universe and all this phenomenon of life cannot really be called a creation, but a projection of the Divine Consciousness that appears inert but which is actually pulsating with life. The creation is not a making of something out of nothing, by someone, but it is a projection of that which has eternally existed. Science may have discovered many physical and chemical laws that govern the universe but it is yet to discover those transcendental laws that are fundamental to it. These spiritual laws are eternal and inherent in Nature.
Based on a cyclical conception of Time, Puranic history has a much wider scope than the modern, limited concept of human history. Modern history linear has no idea of where and when the line started and where it might end. What was there, before the beginning and what will come after the end? These are questions that the modern historian cannot answer. Only the unthinking mind will be satisfied with such a concept of history. The Puranas, however, give us cosmic history. An intelligent reading of them would enlarge our vision and give us a totally new concept of the history of the universe. We will be made to feel that the history of the human being is not simple or as short as modern historians would have us believe. H.G. Wells was one the ancient people, the Indian philosopher alone seem to have some perception of the vast ages through which existence seems to have passed."
List of Illustrations
Glossary of Sanskrit Terms
Method of Worshipping Lord Shiva
Glossary of Mantras
Glossary of Classical Characters
Vedic Invocation for World Peace
Glossary of Names of Shiva
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