“Is this why Shiva and Parvati are shown in the abstract as the ‘linga’ which is set in a sort of yoni which is sort of ‘vagina’….” I blushed bright red. This was hovering close to something that always upset me. In fact the word ‘vagina’ was absolutely the only thing I knew about sex and it scared me silly.
“Sex between the male and female procreates both children and love. There is between Shiva and Parvati a very healthy sexual relationship that is part of their love. It is not all of their love. But it procreates love. They are great lovers.” I blushed. The priest laughed. “The Linga is not just a phallus symbol John. Believe it or not! No. Take it easy John! You are beet red. Listen to me! If it is only a phallus then why is it here in a temple to Shiva rather than at an altar to Krishna the Divine Lover? And therefore the Human Lover? Who has loved absolutely everybody! Believe me! Everybody! Um? Shiva and Parvati are very much your Western happily married couple! Unlike other gods! Why? If the Linga is a phallus then why is it here in a place celebrating Shiva who is absolutely devoted to only Parvati?”
“Who is ever reincarnating” I added.
“I could not do all of the temple rituals until I married. Yes. Marriage is part of the Linga. Or look at it from another direction! Shiva is usually shown as either the Lonely Ascetic in a lotus position searching his soul to understand the mystery of himself, or else the Lord of the Dance. The core of the temple shows Shiva as the Empty Space. The core of every Shiva Temple is a deep inner space of Divine Emptiness which is the Divine Presence of Shiva. But few are allowed for various reasons to see that Sacred Empty Space. Of course his temples have side shrines to his charming son the Elephant god, and his pet Bull because they are charming and warm and appealing and the young children of the devotees like them. And let’s face it! Everyone loves the Ganesha the Elephant god! Who cannot love a god with the head of an elephant and the big round tummy of a fat man? Pat his tummy and go home lucky! But usually Shiva is seen as the semi-abstract form as the Linga. A smooth stone resting in a cradle shape. Why? Put aside for the moment Shiva as the Lonely Searcher, and Shiva as the Lord of the Dance then what is left?”
“So what is left?”
“What is left are the very many stories which tell of Shiva’ deep love and adoration of Parvati, the Eternal Feminine. Shiva sings that it is Parvati’s femininity transforming him and in powering him.”
“S……..ex” I sputtered.
“When it is always stressed that Shiva is the lonely and introspective searcher? Does not quite fit does it? Shiva is a guy who spends a lot of time alone inside his own head John. He is a guy who thinks about things instead of swaggering around taking things for granted. So what is Shiva thinking about when he thinks of Parvati?”
“Love?” I hedged. Love was as alien a concept to me as sex.
“There as statues of Shiva which shown him as both Male and Female. That is to say showing both Shiva’s masculinity and his femininity. His feminine side. Just as he helped Parvati discover her masculine side, she helped Shiva discover his feminine side, literally in the case of the stature I was describing. . Everyone has both masculine and feminine qualities in greater or lessor degrees. Each person has a balance of both. Some balances lean toward one side more than the other side. But everyone has qualities of both. Everyone has both a personality and a sexuality that is a sliding roundness like a Memsahib’s ‘slide bracelet’.”
“Mother had one of those. Father’s last gift before he died. It had two wires fixed to an ornate clasp. All of the jeweled charms slide back and forth.”
“Exactly. The ornate clasp is ‘Male’ or else ‘Female’ and the wires form a circle on which the charms of aspects and qualities and characteristics and strengths and weaknesses all slide loosely round about. Nothing is rigid other than the clasp that anchors the circle of the bracelet itself.
And personality and sexuality slide around rather than stay straight and rigid. No one is absolutely one thing! Personality and Sexuality is not a rigid straight line with absolutes nailed in place. Take that kirk church straight line your mother’s minister taught you and bend it into a circle. Personality and Sexuality is now sliding around in a circle.
Parvati helped Shiva realize that every personality is made up of strengths and weaknesses and this aspect and that characteristic as well as both male and female qualities of sexuality. And everything slides. The key then is finding the right balance of qualities. The key is not accusing, or damning, or repressing, or feeling ashamed. The key is balance. Why is Shiva shown as balancing as he dances? It is the beauty of his discovery through Parvati of the Art of Balance. This is absolutely what he learned from Parvati. Love. Absolutely. Sex. Absolutely. Procreation. Absolutely. But most deeply it is the Art of Balance. So the Linga is perhaps more correctly seen as the symbol of the wisdom Parvati taught Shiva, the Art of Balance.
“And when you are a god of extremes then balance can be good” I said.
“Or as the Ancient Greeks put it: The Golden Mean. The danger is excess. The Art is Balance.”
“Moderation in all thing” I said.
“Exactly. So you see we are not worshiping a stone phallus John. We are worshiping the invisible god balanced on the stone. Shiva is the god of dynamics. He is the god of energy. That dynamic energy is sexual, yes, but also emotional and intellectual. And Shiva the god of dynamic energy is perfectly balanced on the linga. He is teaching us his own greatest lesson: how to use that dynamic energy wisely and how to harness that dynamic energy constructively. And Shiva does this through balance which he learned from Parvati through her love for him and his love for her.”
“OK” I said blushing. “Tell me more about the dancing.”
“Good idea. You are still beet red. It is ok John. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Let’s talk about dancing!”