The divine pair Shiva/Shakti needed a long and painful process to bring together the extreme poles of asceticism and ecstasy, of independence and symbiotic fusion, of world aversion and devoted “world care” in mature consciousness. Shiva and Shakti grow into a creative dance in strength and power in several stages of maturity.
The love story of Shiva and Shakti begins with a problem. A powerful demon, the great Asura Taraka, threatens the realms of gods and men. A wise seer prophesies that only a son of Shiva and Shakti will have the power to stop the invader.
Name one woman in the entire universe
The gods then turn to Shiva, who is once again in the icy solitude of a world-forgetting immersion. Only reluctantly does he emerge from his meditation. “Name me one woman in the entire universe who can endure the consuming fire of my asceticism without burning up from it – and I will marry her!”, Shiva finally says.
The gods turn to Shakti and ask her to incarnate in the form of a woman so that together with Shiva they can father the son who is to bring about liberation from the demon Taraka. Shakti agrees to bring the lonely one out of his high transcendence into the earthly realm and is born shortly afterwards as the daughter of a king. Her name is Sati and she grows up to be a woman of extraordinary beauty.
When she reaches marriageable age, her father invites many handsome princes and Sati is to choose a bridegroom. But Sati does not want to choose any of the suitors. In the evening, when an unclothed mendicant appears in front of the window of her palace – it is Shiva in an earthly form – their eyes become absorbed in each other. Shiva begins to dance with powerful steps. At the sight of his graceful movements, Sati’s heart is suddenly inflamed with love. Although the king is reluctant to marry his daughter to the mendicant monk, Sati resolutely asserts herself. The marriage ritual can take place. The unusual bridegroom appears on the day of the wedding riding a bull. His skin is smeared with the ashes of the cremation sites, snakes wind around his arms and neck. A burning ray of light emerges from his open third eye. It is Shiva who now circles the wedding fire seven times together with Shakti and then settles down with her on the mighty mountain Kailash.
Once there, he enfolds her in his arms and warms her with his fiery heat. Then he sinks heart to heart with her in the boundless immensity of a love that gives birth to worlds.
The joint game of creation begins. And it is she who leads him. He follows her in deep devotion and allows himself to be moulded by her into myriads of creative forms. Having become one with her will, he enjoys her playful whims as much as the high sublimity of her mother power. In the play of her dynamism, to which he willingly surrenders himself, she gives birth to the world; time, space, sun, earth, nature come into being.
Everything she creates, he fills with his consciousness.
The creative game comes to an end
But this creative love game comes to an abrupt end. Sati’s father has invited relatives and friends to a sacred sacrificial ritual, only Shiva and Sati are excluded. When Sati learns of this, she rides angrily to the place of the sacrifice and confronts her father. Her father explains to her that he does not want Sati and Shiva to be here because neither of them is pure enough for this sacred ritual. This makes Sati even angrier and – following a wild impulse – she throws herself into the sacrificial fire. Her last thought is that she wants to be reunited with Shiva in another life.
When Shiva learns of the death of his Sati, he is overwhelmed by the pain of loss. Bowed low by grief, he strides to the sacred fire altar and lifts Sati’s charred corpse from the still-hot ashes. Holding the lifeless body in his arms, he dances around the earth in a mighty stomp to express his grief. The mountains quake, the seas burst their banks, the universe trembles, the sun darkens and all beings on all levels freeze – paralysed by fear.
Only Vishnu, the guardian of the world, can stop Shiva from his powerful dance of destruction. Shiva comes to his senses again, instantly recognises that his immense pain is based on attachment and immediately returns to the summit of Kailash. All contact between him and the forms of the world dissolves again, his entire consciousness flows back into his high ground of being. Shiva rests again in the vastness of a transcendent self-awareness.
Once again the gods ask Shakti to incarnate on earth so that the saviour of the worlds can take form through her. This time she is born as the daughter of Himavan, the personification of the Himalayas, and his wife Menaka and is given the name Parvati. Of her virtues, her firm will stands out in particular. When Parvati reaches marriageable age, Shiva is still sitting in complete seclusion on Kailash. Therefore, Parvati goes to the barren heights of the Himalayas. She spends her days there in ritual devotion and quiet surrender directly before the great Shiva. Again and again she begs the great god, whose fire she feels, to perceive her just once. Parvati develops immense patience and devotion. She does not cease to worship him in all forms of ritual devotion. She has to prove that her all-power is equal to his all-consciousness even in the regions of asceticism. She must learn to direct her power completely towards him and forget the world and herself in concentration and devotion.
Word of Parvati’s ever-maturing spiritual power spreads through the mountain region. One day, an old wandering ascetic comes by Parvati’s house and asks her why she is taking on all these hardships. She explains to him that her soul has chosen Shiva as her husband and that she will win him through her pure alignment. “My soul longs for the impossible!” The wanderer begs her to desist from her request after all. He warns her: “A great danger emanates from him. He is the formless form before which all things and waters perish!” But Parvati remains steadfast and will not be dissuaded from her decision. Then the appearance of the wandering ascetic changes. The great Shiva stands before Parvati. He confesses to her that he can no longer resist her enormous strength and asks her to marry him once more. Then the will and consciousness of the great Shiva descend into her. He and she penetrate each other once more, and she carries him with the strength of purified power into all planes of world existence.
(to be continued in part 2)