A story from Yoga Mythology, of Shiva and Shakti and Virabhadra.
As a westerner, you may have some understanding of Greek or Roman Mythology (but not so much about Yoga Mythology).
The Archetypes and characters in Mythological stories are rich in metaphor and in enabling us to understand a deeper meaning to a story and how it relates to us.
Shakespeare made extensive use of classical mythology in his plays and we are all familiar with at least some of the story lines or quotes without even realizing that they are inspired by classical references.
Indian literature and tradition are the same, filled with rich and evocative story and mythology.
Many of these are played out in the yoga poses that we use in class.
Here and in future articles, I will attempt to explain some of these mythical stories and how they translate into the poses we enjoy during a yoga session.
Warrior pose – 1, 2 and 3
The Sanskrit word for Warrior pose is Virabhadrasana
‘Virabhadra’ is the name of the ‘warrior’ and asana means ‘pose’
(Sanskrit is a language of scholars much the same as Latin or ancient Greek.)
Who are Shiva and Shakti?
Shiva, the great mythical god, a matted-haired cosmic dancer, destroying ignorance with grace and power with his dance of bliss. (There is an energetic movement practice called ‘The Dance of Shiva” dedicated to this.)
Shiva is known by many names.
As is his wife or consort, Shakti. Both Shiva and Shakti have many mythical incarnations, each telling a different story. In this story, she is known as Sati.
A story about Shiva and Shakti
Sati was born mortal to a father named Daksha. Like many fathers, Daksha did not approve of his daughter’s choice of mate. At his daughter’s coming of age, he held a party and invited all the acceptable potential suitors that were more pleasing to him.
Sati played the game and was polite and courteous to all the guests. As time came close to the end of the party Sati’s father asked her to choose her suitor. Taking the flower garland from her neck, she threw her arms up to the sky and called out the same – “Shiva”.
Shiva appeared in the sky, wearing the garland and arrived at Sati’s side. As tradition states that whoever wears the garland can wed, Daksha had no choice but to allow Shiva and Sati to be married.
Shiva and Sati lived in happiness on the mountain side, even though her father was still full of scorn at the union. Daksha held another party and purposely snubbed Shiva by only inviting his daughter. Sati was most unhappy about this yet attended the party so that she could petition her father to change his bias against Shiva. Resolute, Daksha remained full of scorn and hatred for Shiva.
Sati became furious, her rage causing her to self-ignite and burn to ashes before her father’s eyes.
The heavens rumbled at this dramatic turn of events and Shiva was troubled. His trouble turned to complete fury and grief when a messenger told him of what had happened.
Shiva stood on the mountain side and in rage, tore off one of his dreadlocks, throwing it to the ground with such force that it snaked its way through the earth on the mountain side emerging up through the ground at the party, as the great warrior, Virabhadra. ( Warrior one, face upturned and lengthened arms above the head).
He drew his sword and cut off Daksha head (Warrior Two), before picking it up and reaching forward to place it on a stake, (Warrior three).
In the mythic world of the gods, these things happen in an instant, as did the reforming of Sati into a new body!
She reproached Shiva for his fury, scolded him and ordered him to make things right, this was her father after all.
Shiva could not replace Daksha’s head on his body, so quickly took the head of a goat to make him whole again. Daksha was grateful to have a second chance and appreciated Shiva’s actions to give him his second chance. Shiva, in turn, could see that his actions had solved nothing and had only made matters worse. Daksha by his part could see how swift to judge he had been and how his actions had lacked dignity.
To celebrate, he threw another party and happily rejoiced in the company of his beloved daughter Sati and her husband Shiva.
This story reminds us that life does not always go to plan. That knee-jerk, implosive or conditioned actions often cause us and others problems. Revenge does not cure hurt, disappointment or failed expectations.
So how can we attain, or retain the calm spaciousness that we feel during our yoga practice, even when unexpected, unplanned and stressful situations arise in our lives?
The Yoga Sutra offers an aphorism that may help us; Yoga Sutra 1.33 …
“In order to preserve an elevated state of mind, be happy for those who are happy, cultivate compassion for those who are sad, feel delight for those deemed to be lucky, (virtuous or righteous), and experience indifference towards those perceived to be wicked. ”
The opposite of love is not hate – it is indifference.
It’s not easy to constantly fight against a reactive mind, but when we fail we always have the opportunity to step up and make things right.
Warrior pose reminds us that being fierce exists not only to destroy, but also to be strong enough to achieve integrity, compassion and a loving state of mind. We need strength to do the right thing.