Sadhguru: There are innumerable creation myths with Shiva as protagonist because a single metaphor is never adequate to describe the mysteries of the universe. A perennially relevant myth reminds us of the perils of fundamentalism.
The Cosmic Pillar
Creator Brahma and Preserver Vishnu came across a great pillar of fire. From this unending column of effulgence emanated the sound, Aum. Awed, they decided to investigate. Taking the form of a swan, Brahma rose high into the blue skies in pursuit of its summit. Taking the form of a boar, Vishnu bored his way deep into the universe in pursuit of its base.
Both failed. For this cosmic pillar was none other than Shiva himself. How can one measure the immeasurable? When Vishnu returned, he conceded defeat. However, not wanting to admit failure, Brahma boasted that he had scaled the summit. As proof, he presented a white ketaki flower that he claimed to have discovered at the roof of the universe. The flower vouched for Brahma’s claim.
The lie cost Brahma dear, for no sooner was the sentence uttered than Shiva appeared as Adiyogi. The two gods fell at his feet. For this lie, Shiva declared, Brahma would henceforth be deprived of the privilege of worship. The flower, by becoming accomplice to this subterfuge, fell from grace. Adiyogi refused henceforth to accept it as an offering. However, an exception was made for the holy night of Mahashivratri. To this day, the white ketaki flower is offered for worship only on this darkest night in the year, considered to be the night of profoundest spiritual possibility.
Brahma’s lie marks the first act of fundamentalism on the planet. The flower too, is punished for offering tacit support to the fundamentalist impulse. To claim a limited end to a limitless process, to draw borders across the borderless, to make conclusions about the unfathomable – this is the beginning of the human impulse to create certainty where none exists. It is the birth of pain, of delusion.
An Unlimited Uncertainty
The spiritual journey is a journey towards clarity, but never towards certainty. When you draw conclusions about beginnings and endings, you are a believer. When you accept that you really do not know anything, you become a seeker.
I am often asked if Shiva lives there. And the answer is “yes”. For what is Shiva without his knowing? In a very real sense, he is alive – not physically, but as an immense energy form. A knowing that is hundred percent experiential, hundred percent alive, hundred percent here and now: this is Shiva. And despite numerous appropriation attempts, he has never been domesticated by any sect or scripture, dogma or doctrine. He remains essentially untameable. You can dissolve into him. But you can never presume to know him. From the bluff of belief to the searing clarity of unknowing, from the fluff of pomposity to individual insignificance – this is the way to realization.
Editor’s Note: Find more of Sadhguru’s insights in the ebook “From Creation to Creator”, available at Isha Downloads. Pay what you wish and download it. Enter “0” or click “Claim for free” for a free download.
A version of this article was originally published in Speaking Tree.