This is something I have been meaning to write for some time now.
How to begin?
Religion can mean different things to different persons. For some, it may be the means to seek succour or solace when under trauma, distress or suffering. For others, it may be means to seek guidance in shaping one’s mindset. For others, it may be means to seek identity. And for some others, it may yet be means to seek some understanding of relentless questions that come up in the course of life.
For instance, one question that is intractable and tends to bring on a headache if the mind lingers on it; – is of course, the question, “Who created the universe? And if some God created it, then who created that God and so forth and so on?”
Related questions that can arise are, “At what point of time did the universe come into being? And what was before that; and till what boundaries shall the universe grow and what is beyond those boundaries?”
Theoretical physics is grappling with these issues. Theories are there, but the answers do not satisfy the questions.
Shankaracharya, who apparently derived much from earlier thinkers going under the nomenclature of Hinduism, recounted therefore the answer that the universe was a NULLITY. The universe was nothing, and all that we witness is simply MAYA.
The first part of Shankaracharya’s answer that the universe was “nothingness”, a “nullity” looked to be satisfactory. A nullity has nothing to it, so the question of its “creation” doesn’t arise.
Similarly, if the universe was just a nullity or nothingness; the question of its boundaries, or what lay beyond or before the boundaries again did not arise.
So some of the “headache” questions at least were answered by saying that the universe was nothingness or nullity.
But this “Maya” thing, voiced by Shankaracharya & other Hindu thinkers, was more difficult to handle.
The living, solid, concrete, explosive and, sometimes, absolutely stunning things all around don’t exactly look to be “Maya” ! They don’t look to be illusions or delusions, which is what “Maya” means.
But still there is help there. Nullity or zero it seems comes into being only when the summation of certain things amount to zero. For instance, it is +2 and -2; which when summed together give rise to 0.
So proceeding on the basis that the universe is a nullity; it would appear that this nullity – in order to be a nullity – requires permutation, combination of any variety of things which, when summed up together, produce a zero or nullity. And this permutation and combination of any variety of things – that when summed up together amount to zero – is what it would appear Shankaracharya, relying on earlier thinkers within the fold of Hindu thought – was referring to as Maya or illusion.
Hindu thought, therefore, at its core has grappled with questions involving the human mind for ages with a manner of thinking which is based on objectivity, but enables grasp and understanding of multiple subjectivity. Such manner of thought process extending over thousands of years is the hallmark of Hindu thought. It attempted to explain things in a manner possible to be comprehended by any persevering soul.
Proceeding from the two kernels that the universe is a nullity, a nothingness and that this nothingness – in order to be a nothingness – is a summation of immense permutations and combinations that together yield zero or nullity; then had interesting implications.
Nullity was identified with the universe, which would be the central principle and was often equated with Shiva. Shiva is therefore the universe, the nullity, the nothingness which – in order to be so – holds and requires any varieties of permutations combinations that together yield the summation of nullity or nothingness; but which mutation and combinations is what we witness in our lives.
Shiva would therefore be in just about everything that a human is likely to undergo or witness in his or her life. And the principle of nullity would reinforce permutations, combinations of positive constructiveness given that positive constructiveness is much more difficult to achieve as compared to negativity or destructiveness; but is required otherwise to balance the negativity or destructiveness in order ultimately to have the ultimate summation as nullity or zero.
This matter of reinforcement of positive constructiveness is what is Shiva then in its activated form which would not be incorrect to go by the common description of Shiva as “Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram”; – the meaning of which is “Truth and Beauty is God”.
This truth and beauty then can exist in innumerable forms and wherever worshipped so, would be worship of Shiva. So if one looks to any aspect, say even a tree or a vehicle as an embodiment of positive constructiveness or beauty or positive productivity; it would be Shiva worshipped in such form.
That’s why if you lovingly take care of your car, it seems almost to respond like a living thing and may even save your life where otherwise, normally, such saving in such accident would not have been possible.
So wherever there is truth and beauty, or an effort to see or find truth and beauty; that is the best of Shiva, – for positivity is favoured by the principle of nullity; given that positivity is much more difficult to come by as compared to negativity, but is required to balance negativity in order to have the ultimate summation as nullity.
But since Shiva, the universe, the nullity is in everything, as laid down in simpler terms in Gita; – Hinduism in its core thought offers an understanding of the evil that we witness and renders the process of dealing with it more liveable.
The core Hindu thought, therefore, had weight for an adequate dealing with and living of the day-to-day life. This weight was recognised by any scholar – whether from the subcontinent or beyond – who attempted at length and with sincerity to study and understand core Hindu thought.
Because of this weight or worth of core Hindu thought, the roots of Hindu thought are deep and strong. But then, as a natural expected fallout; the command & influence that the strength and weight of Hinduism at its core germinated was exploited by vested interests of the relatively powerful sections of society in the subcontinent who laid down various rules/rituals, trappings and paraphernalia by which they sought to corner and dominate the society’s resources to their betterment and to others’ detriment; and thus the inception & consolidation of the caste system, the gender twists, the closing of minds to foreign thoughts, influences and similar like that have continued till the present day.
But wherever there is truth or beauty or attempts to seek or find the same; that is Shiva at its best to be worshipped in all those forms and thus the Hindu thought, as it truly is, has nothing to do with divisions based on race, caste, region or nation or any other such division; but is a unified whole in its pursuit of truth and beauty, wherever and in whatever form and to whatever extent they may exist or be a part of anything or something else.