On the occasion of Mahashivratri:
What does Shiva mean? From written and unwritten sources, from Tantrik and Vedic texts, from shrutis and smritis, we get three meanings of the term Shiva. The first and most important meaning of Shiva is “welfare”. Shivamastu means the same as Kalyanamastu — “May you be blessed”.
Kalyanasundaram is the representation of Shiva embodying the true spirit of blessedness. He is said to serve all life forms with five faces, two on the left as Vamadeva and Kalagni; two on the right as Daksineshvara and Ishana and one in the centre as Kalyanasundaram, the Supreme Controller.
Shiva is Daksineshvara because He is showering daksina or compassion upon all creation. That is the special role allotted to Daksineshvara. Ishana is responsible for controlling all the jivas, individual beings, with meticulous care. And Kalyanasundaram, the face in the centre, plays the role of controlling all the faces. Kalyanasundaram’s only purpose is to promote the greatest welfare of all living beings.
As Vamadeva, Shiva is terrible — He is Rudra — “one who teaches others by making them shed tears”. But the underlying purpose is to teach people, not to harm them. The other face, Kalagni, also subjects people to torture, but there also, the main purpose is to teach them, to promote their welfare. Now here also, the central face, Kalyanasundaram, controls the two roles of Vamadeva and Kalagni. He is Sundaram, beautiful, because He promotes kalyana or welfare. Hence Kalyanasundaram.
Shiva is both severe and tender. He is tender, so naturally people love Him. Although He is severe, people still adore Him, because underlying His apparent severity there is tenderness. Thus the role of Shiva is predominantly the role of promoter of welfare. So the first meaning of the term Shiva is “welfare”.
The second meaning of the term Shiva is “cognition in its zenith status”, the Supreme non-attributional process, beyond the faculties of all existential bondages.
The third meaning is Sadashiva, who, by His holy birth, consecrated, as it were, every particle and utilised His whole life for the sole purpose of advancing the cause of universal welfare of not just humans but all life. Hence he is called Sadashiva: Sada means always and Shiva, welfare. He is one whose only vow of existence is to promote the all-round welfare of all living beings.
Here is a question: In the night of blinding darkness, do humans alone aspire to feel the soothing touch of light? No, all want it. All seek to grow out of the oblivion of existential darkness into the warmth of life, to experience finally the fulfilment of their life’s urges.
Up until this day, human beings have not made a proper appraisal of this great noncorporeal power, Shiva, who gave human beings their first opportunity to experience the sweet joy of fulfilment of all their longings. No one has discussed Him much up until now. Why people failed to make this appraisal is irrelevant today. It is the firm duty of every individual to know and evaluate the exact contribution of Shiva, and in this process of evaluation, we cannot ignore the phenomenon of Supreme Light.
One may derive some joy from a bright ray emanating from a shining entity, but without the entity itself, the bliss will not be complete.