Shivalinga is a Symbol of the Shiva-Shakti Union

  • By Mata Amritanandamayee
  • May 19, 2022
3 Metre High Shiva Linga, Hampi.
  • Article beautifully explains the importance of Shivalinga. It symbolizes the universe, arising from Brahman.

Every organization has its own symbol(s). The cloth used to make the flag of a country or political party may be worth only 10 rupees. But how great is the value given to it! People see in it the nation or party itself.


If someone spits on the flag or tears it up, saying it is worth 10 rupees only, fights will erupt. When one sees the flag, one will not think. “This is woven from cotton thread. The fertilizer used for cotton is bird—excreta. What a bad smell it must have!” In fact, the flag stands for the nation’s or party’s ideal(s). 


First published in Journal of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.


For the Christian children, the cross is a symbol of self- sacrifice. When they pray before the cross, surely they won’t be thinking of it as a tool for crucifying criminals. Instead, they see it as an icon of Christ’s sacrifice and compassion. When the Muslim children pray facing Mecca, they are contemplating on God’s divine qualities. 


That being the case, it is hard to understand why some denounce only those forms and figures of God worshipped by followers of the Hindu faith. When a son beholds a painting of his father, what he remembers is neither the paint nor the painting but his father. The Shivalinga is not an emblem of any religion in particular. It embodies a scientific principle.


‘Children, the word “linga” also refers to the principle (into which everything ultimately dissolves or merges. The linga is that from which the whole cosmos arose and into which it will dissolve eventually. The rishis who investigated into the origin of this universe discovered through tapas that the source and substratum of everything is Brahman. It cannot be described or signified by words. The beginning and end of everything is in Brahman.


The fountainhead of all attributes, it is itself attributeless and formless. How can the ‘attributeless be described? Only something with attributes can be an object of the mind and senses. The Shivalinga is a symbol that the rishis conceived to represent this inexplicable juncture between the unmanifest Brahman and the manifest creation. The Shivalinga symbolizes the universe, arising from Brahman.

Through the symbol of the Shivalinga, the rishis revealed the ultimate truth, of which they had experiential knowledge, for the understanding of the ordinary person. The supreme truth, which is attributeless, is beyond name, form and individuality. The Shivalinga is a means formulated by the rishis for the ordinary person to understand this principle and worship it in a tangible form.


Mathematics, science and other subjects use many signs and symbols, such as the multiplication and division signs. Don’t people of all faiths and nations use these signs? No one inquires into the religion of a sign’s creator, thereafter rejecting the sign on such a basis. All those who wish to study mathematics learn and use these signs. Likewise, no sincere seeker of 'TRUTH’ will reject the Shivalinga once they understand its underlying principle.


Scientists who have come across light-rays that cannot be seen by the human eye use certain signs to denote them. For example, we understand X-rays to refer to a type of light-ray. Similarly, when we hear about the Shivalinga, we should understand it to be the attributive expression of the attributeless Brahman.


One of the meanings of “Shiva” is “auspiciousness.” Auspiciousness has no particular form. We imaginatively invest auspiciousness in the Shivalinga, a symbol of auspiciousness, through prayer. Auspiciousness knows no distinctions of class or race. Anyone who worships the Shivalinga, understanding its true principle, will be blessed. 


At the start of creation, the supreme truth ramified into prakriti (Nature) and purusha (the in-dwelling principle). Here, the term “purusha” does not indicate a man, but is used to refer to the Chaitanya (consciousness) within. Similarly, by the word “prakriti”, the rishis meant the universe that can be experienced and cognized. Purusha and prakriti are not two. Like fire and its power to burn, they are one; they cannot be separated.


Upon hearing the word “purusha”, the concept of a male will come into the mind of the ordinary person ignorant of the terminology of spiritual science. Therefore, the rishis attributed the masculine gender to the paramatma, the pure consciousness, and gave it the appellation “Shiva;” they also ascribed the feminine gender to prakriti, and called it “Shakti” or “Devi”. 


There is an unchanging substratum underlying everything that changes, as in the case of the mortar and pestle. Shiva represents the principle of the unchanging, changeless substratum behind all change in the universe, and Shakti, the cause of all change or flux. When we meditate with utmost concentration on the Shivalinga - a symbol of the Shiva-Shakti union - this supreme truth will awaken within.


We should also consider why the Shivalinga was given such a form. Scientists today say that the universe has the ellipsoidal shape of an egg. In Sanskrit, the term for egg is “andam.” Since time immemorial, the term used in Bharat to describe the universe is “Brahmandam.” “Brahman” also means “the biggest.” 


The Shivalinga is a miniature representation of the egg-shaped universe. By worshipping the Shivalinga, we are worshipping the entire cosmos, seeing it as an embodiment of auspiciousness and divine consciousness. It does not signify a God seated beyond the skies. The Shivalinga teaches us to see service of the world - encompassing all living beings - as worship of Shiva.


Today, our situation is like that of an egoistic bird-foetus, enclosed within the eggshell. It can only dream of the freedom of the skies, not experience it. To realize the dream, it must get incubated by the mother hen and hatch. To feel the bliss of the Self, the shell of our ego must crack open. Worshipping the egg-shaped Shivalinga will help awaken that awareness.


When we sing “akasha-linga pahimam, atma-linga pahimam,” it means, “May the all-pervading God, expansive as the sky (akasha), protect us; may the paramatma (supreme Soul) who is of the nature of our true self (atma) protect us.


What good does it do to ridicule and project a false interpretation onto a divine symbol that people have been relying on for thousands of years to make spiritual progress? The only purpose it will serve is to create disharmony.


According to Puranic legend, Lord Shiva reduced Kamadeva to ashes with His third eye. Today, we cling to materialistic things as if they were true and abiding, for we have eyes for such things only. Only when the third eye of jnana opens will we understand the nature of the material world, realize that atma Chaitanya (light of consciousness) alone abides and thus enjoy supreme bliss. In that state, there is no distinction of male or female, mine or yours. That is what is meant when we say that Kamadeva was destroyed.


The Shivalinga helps us to imbibe this principle and free the mind of desire. That is why male and female, chandala (out-caste) and brahmin, and old and young alike worship the Shivalinga. Shiva and Shakti are not two; that they are one is indicated by the Shivalinga. It is equally relevant to family life. The husband and wife must live with one mind. If man is the bedrock of family life, the very source of its strength is woman.


It is doubtful whether there is any other symbol that represents the equality and love between man and woman with such compelling clarity.


This article was first published in the Bhavan’s Journal, August 31, 2003 issue. This article is courtesy and copyright Bhavan’s Journal, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai-400007. eSamskriti has obtained permission from Bhavan’s Journal to share. Do subscribe to the Bhavan’s Journal – it is very good.

To read all articles on Shiva  and to see Albums of Shiv Temples   Cover pic by author. 

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