Who is Lord Siva? | Surprising Facts You Didn’t Know About Lord Shiva

Shiva - Who is Lord Shiva? Who is the Lord of Shiva? Is Lord Shiva a human? Origin of Shiva? Whom does Shiva Meditate upon?



Lesser-Known Facts About Shiva

Shiva is one of the most widely worshiped and most misunderstood personalities in Hinduism. Many worship him but hardly know about Him. Whatever is known, is dominated and misguided by fiction writers, TV Serials or non-authentic guru or institutions. Let us dive into the scriptures to get an authentic understanding of this great personality.

Who is Shiva?

Shiva means "The Auspicious One," He is one of the powerful controllers of the material world. Many people depict Shiva as an intoxicant, who smokes weed. This is a complete misrepresentation of the personality. Many think of Shiva as the formless universe. Many think Shiva to be a concept. There are many different interpretations of Shiva which are nowhere mentioned in scriptures. Rather than discussing the non-bonafide representations or whimsically motivated interpretations, let us understand the true identity of Shiva as revealed in the Scriptures.

Shiva - The Greatest Vaishnava

While describing the greatness of Srimad Bhagavatam, Suta Goswami compares it with Lord Shiva.

Just as the Gaṅgā is the greatest of all rivers, Lord Acyuta the supreme among deities and Lord Śambhu [Śiva] the greatest of Vaiṣṇavas, so Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the greatest of all Purāṇas.
[Srimad Bhagavatam 12.13.16]

Shiva proves his devotion to Krishna repeatedly. Be it serving as Hanuman to Lord Rama or as Advaita Acharya to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. And in the Dwapar Yuga when Krishna appeared in His Original form, Lord Shiva made repeated attempts to behold His eternal Master. His love for Krishna is so deep and pure that he readily gave up His masculinity and turned into a gopi. Thus known as Gopeshwara Mahadev. Thus he taught with his example that there is only one Purush (enjoyer) - Krishna, the rest all are feminine, Prakriti (enjoyed).

Shiva - One of the 12 Mahajans

Mahajans means authority. One must understand the position of the Supreme Lord, Krishna, through the authorities, or mahājanas. There are 12 Mahajans and Lord Shiva is one amongst them.

Lord Brahmā, Bhagavān Nārada, Lord Śiva, the four Kumāras, Lord Kapila [the son of Devahūti], Svāyambhuva Manu, Prahlāda Mahārāja, Janaka Mahārāja, Grandfather Bhīṣma, Bali Mahārāja, Śukadeva Gosvāmī and I [LordYama] myself know the real religious principle.
[Srimad Bhagavatam 6.3.20]

Shiva - One of the Adi Guru Of Krishna Consciousness

Shiva is not just authority but also the principle acharya in one of the four bonafide sampradayas. Padma Puran clearly states in Kaliyuga, authentic spiritual knowledge can only be attained through four sampradayas - Brahma Sampradaya, Sri Sampradaya, Rudra Sampradaya and Kumar Sampradaya. Lord Shiva is the principal Acharya in Rudra Sampradaya, where he teaches the science of Krishna Consciousness.


ramanujam srih svicakre madhvacaryam caturmukhah sri-visnu-svaminam rudro nimbadityam catuhsanah
Ramanujacharya appear in the Sri (Laksmi) sampradaya; Madhvacharya in the Brahma sampradaya; Vishnu Swami in the Rudra (Shiva) sampradaya and Nimbaditya in the Kumara sampradaya.
[Padma Puran]


Shiva as Vaishnava

Shiva can be observed in scriptures taking no break in glorifying The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna. He goes on and on and on..

For example, 71st chapter in Utarakhanda of Padma Puran, when mother Parvati asks Lord Shiva, who is the object of His meditation, He goes on and on glorifying Lord, from 89th verse till 312th verse. Few excerpts from this -.

Vāsudeva is the highest Brahman, he is the highest soul, he is greater than the great. He is a great lustre, a great light, the great first principle, the highest position. He (is) great Śiva, the great (object) to be pondered over. He is the highest knowledge and the best recourse. He is the highest truth, the highest bliss, the highest joy and rise. He is greater than the Invisible; he is the highest sky; he is the highest prosperity, the highest lord; he is full, immutable, admitting no alternative, and without a prop.
Shiva to Mother Parvati - Padma Puran.

Lord Shiva concludes His glorification by summarizing:

There is no better abode than Viṣṇu. There is no greater penance than Viṣṇu. There is no greater religious merit than Viṣṇu. There is no hymn that does not pertain to Viṣṇu. There is no greater truth than Viṣṇu. There is no greater sacrifice than Viṣṇu. There is no greater meditation than Viṣṇu. There is no better recourse than Viṣṇu. For him who has devotion to Viṣṇu, what is the use of many hymns, and very extensive sacred texts and thousands of Vājapeya sacrifices? Viṣṇu is full of all sacred places. The lord is full of all sacred texts. Viṣṇu is full of all sacrifices. I am telling the truth and the truth (only). I have told (you) this which is the full essence of everything up to Brahman.
Shiva to Mother Parvati - Padma Puran.

When mother Parvati asks a question, which is the name which is as potent as 1,000 names of Lord Vishnu .

But, O lord due to my mind attached to lust etc., due to my having been one with you, due to an error, if I am unable to recite every day these thousand names of Viṣṇu, then tell me, O bull-bannered god, that name, by which I shall get that fruit (obtained by the recital of Viṣṇu’s thousand names). Mother Parvati to Shiva - Padma Puran.

... Shiva gave the key mantra ....

Sri Rama Rama Rameti Rame Rame Manorame Sahasranama tattulyam Rama Nama varanane .
O you beautiful one, O you charming one, (recite) ‘Rāma, Rāma, Rāma’. The thousand names are equal to that..
Shiva to Mother Parvati - Padma Puran.

This is not just one place, Shiva has been observed in many places, teaching mother Parvati the essence of Vedic Scriptures to be rendering devotional service onto Vishnu or Krishna. Not only this, but Shiva's service to the Lord can also be seen in His various pastimes. Even in his incarnation as Hanuman, He was one-minded focused on Lord's service..

Lord Shiva resides as Nandishwara meditating on Lord Krishna and awaiting His darshan near Nandagaon, as Gopeswhara and Banakhandi Mahadeva serving Krishna in Vrindavana, as Vishwanatha praying in baisi pahaca near the entrance of Lord Jagannatha’s temple in Puri, as Lingaraja receiving the prasada of Ananta Vasudeva in Bhubaneshwar and as Sri Manjunatha worshipping Narasimhadeva in Dharmasthala.



Shiva as Adi Shankaracharya

Adi Shankaracharya was the incarnation of Lord Shiva. In this incarnation, He spreads the Mayavad Philosophy, which establishes the false position of Jiva to be on the same platform as Lord Vishnu / Narayan. This philosophy propagates the myth that Lord is formless. The philosophy of Mayavad is completely imaginary and extremely dangerous to devotional life. This service by Shiva in the form of Adi Shankara was to separate the atheistic crowd from devotees. It was also done under the instruction of the Supreme Lord. In Shiva Purana the Supreme Personality of Godhead told Lord Shiva:

dvāparādau yuge bhūtvā kalayā mānuṣādiṣu.
svāgamaiḥ kalpitais tvaṁ ca janān mad-vimukhān kuru.
"In Kali-yuga, mislead the people in general by propounding imaginary meanings for the Vedas to bewilder them.".
[Lord's Instruction to Shiva - Shiva Puran].

On this context, Shiva speaks to Mother Parvati in Padma Puran.

māyāvādam asac chāstraṁ pracchannaṁ bauddham ucyate.
mayaiva kalpitaṁ devi kalau brāhmaṇa-rūpiṇā.
brahmaṇaś cāparaṁ rūpaṁ nirguṇaṁ vakṣyate mayā.
sarva-svaṁ jagato ’py asya mohanārthaṁ kalau yuge.
vedānte tu mahā-śāstre māyāvādam avaidikam.
mayaiva vakṣyate devi jagatāṁ nāśa-kāraṇāt.

"The Māyāvāda philosophy," Lord Śiva informed his wife Pārvatī, "is impious (asac chāstra). It is covered Buddhism. My dear Pārvatī, in Kali-yuga I assume the form of a brāhmaṇa and teach this imagined Māyāvāda philosophy. In order to cheat the atheists, I describe the Supreme Personality of Godhead to be without form and without qualities. Similarly, in explaining Vedānta I describe the same Māyāvāda philosophy in order to mislead the entire population toward atheism by denying the personal form of the Lord.
[Shiva to Parvati - Padma Puran].

Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu clearly warned us about this dangerous philosophy- "māyāvādi-bhāṣya śunile haya sarva-nāśa".

jīvera nistāra lāgi’ sūtra kaila vyāsa.
māyāvādi-bhāṣya śunile haya sarva-nāśa.
Śrīla Vyāsadeva presented the Vedānta philosophy for the deliverance of conditioned souls, but if one hears the commentary of Śaṅkarācārya, everything is spoiled.
[Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta - Madhya-līlā - Chapter 6.169].

gauṇa-vṛttye yebā bhāṣya karila ācārya.
tāhāra śravaṇe nāśa haya sarva kārya.
Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya has described all the Vedic literatures in terms of indirect meanings. One who hears such explanations is ruined. 
[Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta - Ādi-līlā - Chapter 7.109].

So Shankaracharya's philosophy basically doesn't believe in the forms and qualities of the Lord. It says nirguna Brahman is the Absolute Truth. However, during his last days, he composed the following verses,.

bhaja govindam bhaja govindam govindam bhaja muudhamate . naamasmara Naadanyamupaayam nahi pashyaamo bhavatarane .
Worship Govinda, worship Govinda, worship Govinda, Oh fool ! Other than chanting the Lord’s names, there is no other way to cross the life’s ocean..
[Stotram by Adi Shankracharya].

kadacit kalindi-tata-vipina-sangita-taralo.
jagannatha svami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me.
Who sometimes fervently plays His flute on the banks of the Yamuna river in Sri Vrindavana, who is like a bumblebee that blissfully tastes the lotus faces of the Vraja-gopis, and whose feet are worshipped by great personalities such as Laksmi, Shiva, Brahma, Indra, and Ganesha — may that Sri Jagannatha-deva be the object of my vision..
[Jagannathashtakam by Adi Sankaracharya].

Someone whose philosophy is based on formless Brahman, who doesn't believe in the beautiful form of Lord, how can He compose such deep verses on Govinda or Jagannatha. The person who thinks Absolute is formless wouldn't have any faith or inclination towards any deity, let alone Supreme Personality of Godhead - Krishna / Govinda / Jagannatha. The fact is Shiva couldn't hide his devotional heart even in the form of Shankara and composed the following verses which clearly show his devotional heart and gives a clear message - the ultimate epitome of spiritual practice and philosophy is Devotional Service onto Krishna.

This is why even though Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, He warned everyone against the poisonous philosophy of Mayavad, but, never blamed His dear devotee, Lord Shiva..

tāṅra doṣa nāhi, teṅho ājñā-kārī dāsa.
āra yei śune tāra haya sarva-nāśa.
Śaṅkarācārya, who is an incarnation of Lord Śiva, is faultless because he is a servant carrying out the orders of the Lord. But those who follow his Māyāvādī philosophy are doomed. They will lose all their advancement in spiritual knowledge.
[Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta - Ādi-līlā - Chapter 7.114].



Understanding Shiva Tattva

The Absolute Truth, Krishna, is anandamaya (desiring to increase His joy), hence from His original form, He expands and becomes many. The Lord's various expansions and the Lord Himself simultaneously co-exist. These expansions of the Supreme Being are known as Vishnu-tattva, and they are also Supreme Absolute Truth. Although non-different from the Supreme Lord, the Vishnu-tattvas all accept their own role as Godhead in the mood of Servitor to the "original" Supreme Being. This relationship is the foundation of Vedic monotheism, which encompasses the inconceivable, absolute personal nature of the original Godhead.

The Supreme Being possesses two other expansive qualities known as Shiva-tattva and Jiva-tattva. Shiva-tattva is between Vishnu-tattva and jiva-tattva.

A jiva (spirit souls like us) can never attain the position of Shiva Tattva what to speak of Vishnu Tattva. Therefore all the myth propagating that man is God in illusion, daridra-narayan, are all misleading.

Krishna, the Original and Supreme Personality of Godhead possesses 100% of the qualities, Vishnu posses 94% of His qualities, Shiva 84% and Jiva only 78%. Therefore even after meditation for millions of lifetimes, a Jiva can never become Shiva or Vishnu or Krishna.

Shiva is neither an ordinary living entity, jiva, nor a typical demigod. He is in his own category of existence, known as shiva-tattva. He is almost on the level of Vishnu, but because of his interaction with material nature, he is not counted as Vishnu-tattva, the category of Godhead.

When Krishna expands into a form, whose purpose is to assist Krishna in annihilation, this form is called Shiva. An example cited in scriptures is like Milk is Transformed into Curd by adding acid, Krishna expands Himself into Shiva by a mixture of Ignorance. Also although curd is made out of milk, it cannot be converted back to milk, similarly, although Krishna expands as Shiva, Shiva can not be Krishna.

kṣīraḿ yathā dadhi vikāra-viśeṣa-yogāt
sañjāyate na hi tataḥ pṛthag asti hetoḥ
yaḥ śambhutām api tathā samupaiti kāryād
govindam ādi-puruṣaḿ tam ahaḿ bhajāmi

Just as milk is transformed into curd by the action of acids, but yet the effect curd is neither same as, nor different from, its cause, viz., milk, so I adore the primeval Lord Govinda of whom the state of Śambhu is a transformation for the performance of the work of destruction.
[Brahma Samhita 5.45]

Factually Krishna is the origin of everything existing including Shiva. This has been confirmed in Bhagavad Gita as well.

ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo
mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate
iti matvā bhajante māṁ
budhā bhāva-samanvitāḥ

I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.
[Bhagavad Gita 10.8]

ahaṁ kṛtsnasya jagataḥ
prabhavaḥ pralayas tathā
... Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both the origin and the dissolution.
[Bhagavad Gita 7.6]

In the following verses, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu very clearly describes Shiva while explaining the science of Absolute Truth to Sanatana Goswami

Lord Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, expands a portion of His plenary portion and, accepting the association of the material mode of ignorance, assumes the form of Rudra to dissolve the cosmic manifestation. Rudra, Lord Śiva, has various forms, which are transformations brought about by association with māyā. Although Rudra is not on a level with the jīva-tattvas, he still cannot be considered a personal expansion of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Milk is transformed into yogurt when it associates with a yogurt culture. Thus yogurt is nothing but milk, but still it is not milk. ‘Milk changes into yogurt when mixed with a yogurt culture, but actually it is constitutionally nothing but milk. Similarly, Govinda, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, assumes the form of Lord Śiva [Śambhu] for the special purpose of material transactions. I offer my obeisances at His lotus feet.’ Lord Śiva is an associate of the external energy; therefore he is absorbed in the material quality of darkness. Lord Viṣṇu is transcendental to māyā and the qualities of māyā. Therefore He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. ‘The truth about Lord Śiva is that he is always covered with three material coverings — vaikārika, taijasa and tāmasa. Because of these three modes of material nature, he always associates with the external energy and egotism itself.’ ‘Śrī Hari, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is situated beyond the range of material nature; therefore He is the supreme transcendental person. He can see everything inside and outside; therefore He is the supreme overseer of all living entities. If someone takes shelter at His lotus feet and worships Him, he also attains a transcendental position.’ For the maintenance of the universe, Lord Kṛṣṇa descends as His personal plenary expansion in the form of Viṣṇu. He is the director of the mode of goodness; therefore He is transcendental to the material energy. Lord Viṣṇu is in the category of svāṁśa because He has opulences almost equal to Kṛṣṇa’s. Kṛṣṇa is the original person, and Lord Viṣṇu is His personal expansion. This is the verdict of all Vedic literatures. ‘When the flame of one candle is expanded to another candle and placed in a different position, it burns separately, and its illumination is as powerful as the original candle’s. Similarly, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda, expands Himself in different forms as Viṣṇu, who is equally luminous, powerful and opulent. Let me worship that Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda.’ The conclusion is that Lord Brahmā and Lord Śiva are simply devotee incarnations who carry out orders. However, Lord Viṣṇu, the maintainer, is the personal feature of Lord Kṛṣṇa. [Lord Brahmā said:] ‘I am engaged by the Supreme Personality of Godhead to create. Following His orders, Lord Śiva dissolves everything. The Supreme Personality of Godhead in His form of Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu maintains all the affairs of material nature. Thus the supreme controller of the three modes of material nature is Lord Viṣṇu.’
[ Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta Madhya-līlā 507 - 518]


Who is Lord of Shiva /
Who is Shiva's Object of Worship

The first expansion of Shiva is Sada Shiva - whose eternal abode is in the spiritual realm. This form of Shiva originates from Shankarshana. Shankarshana is one of the Quadruple expansions originating from Lord Balaram who is the first plenary expansion of Krishna. Later on, Sada Shiva assists Maha Vishnu in impregnating Mother Nature with the jivas. Sada Shiva appears as 11 Rudras from Lord Brahma to assist Shankarshana in annihilation.

In Ilāvṛta-varṣa, Lord Śiva is always encircled by ten billion maidservants of Goddess Durgā, who minister to him. The quadruple expansion of the Supreme Lord is composed of Vāsudeva, Pradyumna, Aniruddha and Saṅkarṣaṇa. Saṅkarṣaṇa, the fourth expansion, is certainly transcendental, but because His activities of destruction in the material world are in the mode of ignorance, He is known as tāmasī, the Lord’s form in the mode of ignorance. Lord Śiva knows that Saṅkarṣaṇa is the original cause of his own existence, and thus he always meditates upon Him in trance by chanting the following mantra.
[Srimad Bhagavatam 5.17.16]



What is Shiva's prayer?

The most powerful Lord Śiva says: O Supreme Personality of Godhead, I offer my respectful obeisances unto You in Your expansion as Lord Saṅkarṣaṇa. You are the reservoir of all transcendental qualities. Although You are unlimited, You remain unmanifest to the nondevotees.
[Srimad Bhagavatam 5.17.17]

O my Lord, You are the only worshipable person, for You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the reservoir of all opulences. Your secure lotus feet are the only source of protection for all Your devotees, whom You satisfy by manifesting Yourself in various forms. O my Lord, You deliver Your devotees from the clutches of material existence. Nondevotees, however, remain entangled in material existence by Your will. Kindly accept me as Your eternal servant.
[Srimad Bhagavatam 5.17.18]



Why Shiva Puran says Shiva is Supreme

It has been described in Vedic scriptures that Krishna as Vishnu is the cause behind all causes. Krishna is the Adi Narayan. However, Shiva Puran seems to deviate from this truth. This causes bewilderment in the minds of people worshipping Shiva as Supreme. So is Shiva Puran telling a lie?

Shiva himself tells Parvati about the classification of Puranas. He says the 18 major Puranas can be categorized into three groups based on their target audience's modes of material nature - goodness (sattvik), passion (rajashik) and ignorance (tamasic).

vaisnavam naradiyanca tathabhagavatam subham garudanca tathapadmam varaham subhadarsane sattvikanipuranani vijneyani subhani vai brahmandam brahmavaivartam markandeyam tathaiva ca bhavisyam vamanam brahmam rajasani nibodhame matsyam kaurmam tathalaingam saivam skandam tathaiva ca agneyam ca sadetani tamasani nibodhame.

O beautiful lady (Parvati), know that the Visnu, Narada, Bhagavata, Garuda, Padma and Varaha Puranas are sattvika; the Brahmanda, Brahma-vaivarta, Markandeya, Bhavisya, Vamana and Brahma Puranas are rajasika; and the Matsya, Kurma, Linga, Siva, Skanda and Agni Puranas are tamasika.

[Lord Shiva says Parvati - Padma Puran Uttara Khanda(236.18-21)]

Later on, Shiva further instructs Karthik on how to deal with Tamasic Scriptures

shiva-shastreshu tad grahyam bhagavac-chastra-yogi yat
paramo vishnur evaikas taj jnanam moksha-sadhanam
shastranam nirnayas tv eshas tad anyan mohanaya hi

The statements of the Saiva scriptures should be accepted only when they agree with the Vaishnava scriptures. Lord Vishnu is the only Supreme Lord, and knowledge of Him is the path to liberation. That is the conclusion of all the scriptures. Any other conclusions are meant only to bewilder the people.

[Skanda Purana, Lord Shiva tells Kartik]


What should be our prayer for Shiva

vrndavanavani-pate jaya soma-soma
maule sanandana-sanatana-naradedya
gopesvara vraja-vilasi-yuganghri-padme
pretim prayaccha nirupadhi namo namaste
O gatekeeper of Vrndavana! O Soma, all glories unto you! O you whose forehead is decorated with the moon, and who is worshipable by Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana, Narada and other great sages. O Gopisvara! Desiring that you bestow upon me divine love for the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha-Govinda who perform joyous pastimes in Vraja-dhama, I offer my respects unto you again and again!
[Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, Sankalpa-Kalpadruma 103]



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