Why Does Shiva Sit in the Smashana or Cremation Ground?
Why is Shiva sometimes depicted as sitting in the smashana or cremation ground, surrounded by death? Sadhguru looks at the symbolism behind this representation and explores some fundamental aspects of life and death.
 
Mural in Spanda Hall depicting Shiva sitting in Smashana or Cremation ground
 

Why is Shiva sometimes depicted as sitting in the smashana or cremation ground? Sadhguru looks at the symbolism behind this representation and explores some fundamental aspects of life and death.

Sadhguru: The only problem that I have with people is that they lack the needed intensity. If they were intense enough, we would not have to work towards the ultimate for a lifetime – today, the work could be done. The moment of death or the possibility of death is the most intense experience in most human beings’ lives. Most of them would have never touched that level of intensity throughout their lives. In their love, in their laughter, in their joy, in their ecstasy, in their misery – nowhere else do they touch that level of intensity – only in death.

Because of that, Shiva went and sat in the cremation ground or kayanta, waiting. Kaya means “body,” anta means “ending.” Kayanta means “where the body ends” – not “where life ends.” It is a kayanta, not a jeevanta. All that you picked up on the planet, you have to leave behind. If you have lived in such a way that your body is all you know, then the moment when you have to shed it becomes the most intense moment of your life. If you know something beyond the body, it is not of great significance. For one who has realized the nature of who he is and what he is, kayanta is not such a great moment. It is just one more moment, that’s all. But for those who lived just as a physical body, when the time to part with all that you know as yourself comes, it is going to be a very intense moment.

Immortality is a natural state for everybody. Mortality is a mistake that you have made. It is a wrong perception of life. As for the physical body, kayanta, the end of the body, will definitely come. But if instead of being just a kaya, you become a jeeva, if you are not just a living body but a living being, then immortality is a natural state for you. Whether you are mortal or immortal is only a question of perception – no existential change is needed.

Shiva sits at the smashan, bored with you and your play, bored because the whole drama all over town is absolutely stupid. The only real thing happens at the cremation ground.

That is why enlightenment is referred to as realization, not as an accomplishment or achievement. If you see it, it is there for you. If you do not see it, it is not there for you. It is only a question of perception – no fundamental, existential change. If you are equipped, not with the senses, but with your pragna, then you know not only the kaya but the jeeva, and you are naturally immortal. You do not have to work towards your immortality. You just have to realize that this is the way it is.

So, Shiva shifted his residence to kayanta or smashan. Shma refers to shava or corpse, shan refers to shanya or bed. Where the dead bodies lie, that is where he resides, because he realized working with living people is a waste of time. You cannot get them to the pitch of intensity that is needed. You have to do so many tricks to make people a little intense.

Intensity does not arise because you have made the instinct of survival the biggest thing within you. There are two fundamental forces in this living body. One is the instinct of survival – another is the longing to expand limitlessly. If you empower the instinct of survival, it always tries to play low, because survival means playing safe. If you empower the longing to become limitless, if you are seeking limitless expansion, if that is what all your energy is focused on, then there will be full intensity of life.

The instinct of survival is dominant in every other creature. With the phase of evolution where we have become human, a higher level of awareness and intelligence has entered into our lives – this is the time where the instinct of survival can be kept down and the longing to expand should be fired up. Out of these two forces, one is always trying to fuel the intensity in you, the other is always trying to keep you at a simmer. You may have to save resources that are scarce, but life is not scarce.

Shiva sits at the smashan, bored with you and your play, bored because the whole drama all over town is absolutely stupid. The only real thing happens at the cremation ground. Maybe at the moment of birth and the moment of death, something is happening. Maternity homes and cremation grounds are the only two sensible places, though maternity is happening a little too much.

Is it wrong to be limited? No. But it is painful to be limited. Is it wrong to be in pain? No. If you enjoy it, what is my problem?

Shiva is sitting at a place where life makes utmost sense. But if you are fearful, if you are on survival or self-preservation mode, this will not make sense to you. Only if you are longing to expand and touch the ultimate, it will make sense to you. He is not interested in those who want to survive. To survive, you just need four limbs and a few working brain cells. Whether they are earthworms, grasshoppers, or any other creature – they are all surviving, doing fine. That is all the brain you need to survive. So if you are in survival mode, if self-preservation is the most dominant thing in you, he is bored with you – he is waiting for you to die.

He is referred to as the destroyer not because he wants to destroy you. He is waiting at the cremation ground so that the body is destroyed, because until the body is destroyed, even people around do not realize what death is. You may have seen that when someone dear to them dies, people will fall all over the dead body, hug it, kiss it, try to bring it back to life – many things. But once you set fire to the body, no one ever goes and hugs the flames. Their instinct of self-preservation tells them this is not it.

This is not a question of right and wrong but of limited sense versus ultimate sense. Is it wrong to be limited? No. But it is painful to be limited. Is it wrong to be in pain? No. If you enjoy it, what is my problem? I am not against anything. The only thing that I do not like is if you want to go in one direction, but you are going in the opposite direction.

Senselessness is the only thing that I am against, because the essence of human life is that you have much more sense than any other creature – or you are supposed to, but a whole lot of people are trying to disprove that. Creation means intelligence. The Creator means ultimate intelligence. Unfortunately, a lot of people who are in all kinds of mess talk about God, and most people only talk about God when they are in a mess. If you have a nice, warm shower, you will sing a cinema song. If we put you in the cold theerthakund – “Shiva! Shiva!” The moment there is difficulty, Shiva comes to your mind. When life is going the way you want it, you will think of all kinds of people and all kinds of things. If someone puts a gun to your head – “Shiva! Shiva!” He is the wrong guy to call. He is waiting at the cremation ground. If someone puts a gun to your head, and you call Shiva to save you – he will not.

If you are not just a living body but a living being, then immortality is a natural state for you.

Trying to turn it backward is the one thing that will not work with life. If you run forward, whichever direction you go, whatever you want to do – you sing, you dance, you meditate, you cry, you laugh – as long as it takes you towards a higher level of intensity, it will all work. If you try to roll it back, it does not work. Most human beings you do not have to poke with a dagger to make them miserable. If you simply leave them alone, they will become miserable. Their instinct of self-preservation has crossed reasonable limits and is trying to curtail life and turn it backward. Sitting in the cremation ground, this is Shiva’s message: even if you die, it will work, but if you curtail life, it will not work. The question whether you curtail life or allow life to happen does not depend upon what you do and what you do not do, but upon how effervescent and how intense this life process is right now.

It is not a question of whether what you do is useful or not. If you can bring intensity into useless things, it will still work. But you need meaning for everything that you do. Unless it is meaningful, unless it is useful, you cannot throw yourself into it. In that context, meaningfulness and usefulness are important. Otherwise, meaningfulness and usefulness are essentially psychological. They are an inspiration, not an end in themselves.

Editor's Note: Download Sadhguru's ebook, Shiva - Ultimate Outlaw. The ebook is filled with rich graphics and pearls of wisdom from Sadhguru that reveal many virtually unknown aspects about the being we call Shiva. Encounter Shiva like never before!

 
 
 
 
  17 Comments
 
 
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2 years 10 months ago

Jai Guru DEv!! Jai Guru Dev11

4 years 2 months ago

The limited physical dimensions, i.e. the body and mind somehow seem to become aware of their limited nature when one enter a cremation ground. This makes perceiving the boundless nature more effortless. Experiencing a blissful state is little effortless when one sits in a Ghat at Varanasi. It is not that one cannot experience this in a cremation ground in Chennai, but people may find this insane and start throwing stones! Shiva sitting in a smashana is a symbolism to perceive the dimension that is beyond the physical. Pranam

2 years 10 months ago

How much do they charge for inner engineering program ?

4 years 2 months ago

Nice one! I liked your perspective of looking at things around!

2 years 7 months ago

How to measure the intensity we reached in life with regard to Love and affection, joy and sarrow we had and exchanged with others and intensity one reached after death?

God is said to be pervading every where including every being but beings could only see him when they reach at most supremacy in love and affection or joy and sarrow. As many human beings have got their limitations in reaching that supremacy in their life time they could only see him in cremation or burial ground as that is the only time they reach the upper limit of supremacy of all their feeling at the lost minutes of their life, so when soul leaves the body it follows the body to the place where it is finally being disposed off. Thereby the soul Athma could see God or merge with the greatest soul which is called as Parmathma. That is the reason Shiva the all pervading is depicted to be sitting in smashan.

4 years 2 months ago

Suffering is normal, but accepting the fact that there is always an end to everything that begins is something that would calm everybody. Thanks for the wonderful explanation guruji. It answers quite a few questions and also makes the path ahead more easier and ofcourse intense...

2 years 7 months ago

Lord Shiva inspiring me to destroys my ego! I'm doing this since a few years and it is like a war sometimes i win and sometimes i lose. So i have a question: When it will ends this battle? But what does it matter, i win! :D Ahah

Thank you Sadhguru :-)

Pranam

4 years 2 months ago

i have a question,, is there anything like GOD in this world. well, i don't find it true that there is anything like this. all the irrational myths make my belief stronger. i believe in no god. any miracle occurring sometimes is mere a co-incidence and nothing else. all the god were good humans and they are now known as god. like after sometime mahatma gandhi, modi, tendulkar they will be known as god.. its just a creation of common people or say very clever people who want others'conduct well regulated so that they serve their own purpose..

2 years 5 months ago

Kunal,
Have you ever pondered at questions that science has no answers to.
- how did a single cell become you? Who told that cell to multiply and grow in a certain way / shape? Go beyond your genes and DNA.
- hold a flower in your palm and make an attempt to know it in its entirety
- Observe the forces of nature at play and go beyond the definitions we have learnt in school.
You may start to understand what God is...There is god within you, me and everything in this universe, but you can't find it looking outwards.

2 years 5 months ago

Why are you looking only at that? Maybe at those times it was a necessity.

3 years 8 months ago

This Master, Sadhguru, has and is providing an infinite number of approaches to get YOU and ME to simply turn around and RUN WITHIN....not to wak, skip, or even trot but to run as hard as you possibly can. Little desire = little movement. Hear what he is saying! He is talking about LIGHTING YOURSELF UP WITH DESIRE TO KNOW WHO AND WHAT YOU ARE AND IT IS only with unbridled "INTENSITY" that this can occur less you not finish the race and end up with intensive fear at the moment you must return your borrowed flesh.

It is our preoccupation with what "is not" that keeps us from uncovering "what is." You must have such desire that nothing else of the world/3rd dimension can compare to finishing the race which begun with you as a single atom who desired to become a fully realized Adam...and the evolution was on. Sadhguru's sacrifice to remain here among the living dead cannot be measured or even understood, it would serve you well to become available to his guidance as I know it is serving me.

1 year 4 months ago

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3 years 7 months ago

Kunal(Patna),
I am from Chhapra Bihar, I had thousand of similar questions before I did inner engineering program 2 years back. After that most of my questions were gone ..... evaporated :-)

3 years 2 months ago

"You may have seen that when someone dear to them dies, people will fall all over the dead body, hug it, kiss it, try to bring it back to life – many things. But once you set fire to the body, no one ever goes and hugs the flames. Their instinct of self-preservation tells them this is not it." - Namaskaram Sadhguru seems like these five senses are clever aren't they ? Shambho I bow down

3 years ago

y all the gods have two wives...

2 years 10 months ago

just tell me how can i see god?i want to see shiva