Around the end of the eighth century in Kashmir, India, the sage Vasugupta had a dream in which he was told by Lord Shiva to go to a nearby rock where a great secret would be revealed to him. The sage went to the river at the base of the Mahadeva mountain and there he touched a rock which immediately turned towards him and revealed what later became known as the Shiva Sutras.
On the face of the rock, which still exists, were inscribed the profound aphorisms that became the foundation of Kashmir Shavism. The sutras that appeal to me, are the basics of this scripture: The Self is the dancer; The inner Self is the stage; The senses are the spectators. This scripture teaches that the universe is nothing but the play or dance of Shiva, the supreme Consciousness. Consciousness for its own pleasure became the physical manifestation of everything and everyone that we perceive with our senses. The nature of Consciousness is of absolute freedom and joy. Inherent within all physical manifestation, this exuberance leaps into Consciousness as a pulsing that is the true nature of reality, a dance of atoms and molecules if you will, based in the energy of Love. The Shiva Sutras teaches us to view our world with this perspective and to reclaim the legacy of our divine nature.
How do we hold on to the perspective that this world is nothing but Consciousness, when everywhere we see pain and suffering? How can this too, be part of God’s nature? According to Kashmir Shavism it is all the manifestation of the cosmic actor, just as in theater, where we have drama, tragedy, comedy, satire and pathos. We can say that nothing in this world is real. It is all the play of Consciousness. Consciousness becomes lost in its own illusion for its own pleasure in the game of hide and seek. Enough already of the hiding, many of us are now on the path of the seeking! The greatness of this scripture is that it teaches us that we are already that Consciousness. There is no real seeking, but an awakening; for we do not have to find that which we have never lost. We simply have to realize the truth of our divine nature and claim it. Then the illusion of this world crumbles and we align with the truth of reality where we think and act from our divine nature.
The image of the Self as the dancer is made famous by the statue of Shiva, which originated in the south of India, called Nataraj. His cosmic dance called Tandava is celebrated in myths and poems and enacted in plays. In the Nataraj statues, each limb and gesture portrays one of the five creative powers of Consciousness. In the Tandava dance, the whole cosmos comes into manifestation by the powerful movements of the shaking of his locks and gestures of the Lord’s arms and hands. In his upper right hand, Shiva carries a drum shaped like an hourglass that marks the passage of time and from which, the sound of human speech emerged. In his upper left hand, Shiva carries a flame signifying the fire that will destroy the world at the close of this cycle to prepare for another new world of creation. In the lower right hand, the palm is raised to face forward in the gesture that says, “have no fear.” This symbol is the promise of support that our needs are being taken care of. The right foot is dancing on a dwarf demon which represents our forgetfulness, our spiritual blindness. This is the delusional function of Consciousness which is represented by Shiva’s right foot holding down our true nature. The lower left hand points to the raised left foot signifying spiritual refuge, the power of grace and the offering of blessings to dispel illusion, the root of all suffering and pain and awakening to our divine inheritance.
This Tandava dance is enacted in every thought and action, in every moment of our lives; the creative powers of creation, support, illusion, grace and destruction are inherent within all of our mind constructs, all the worlds we weave in our inner and outer experience.
To see this world as nothing but the spectacular dance of Consciousness that is played out in our hearts, our minds and our physical reality is to live with joy and the awareness that all this is not real. It is simply Consciousness sporting within its own being in all its myriad of forms, in colorful beauty, sadness, and joy, for its sheer delight. That Consciousness is you and me and everything you see, hear, touch, taste and smell. Welcome to the play of Consciousness, take a front row seat and enjoy!