Stories About Lord Siva
by Swami Krishnananda

(Spoken on February 23rd, 1973. The talk that Swamiji refers to as having been given the previous day is ‘Siva – the Mystic Night’ from Spiritual Import of Religious Festivals)

Lord Siva is the symbol of universal austerity and perfection in yoga, as I mentioned yesterday in regard to his worship and adoration during Mahasivaratri. I explained how austerity can be attributed to the divine principle, and in what sense vairagya is a characteristic of the Supreme Being. I concluded by saying that Lord Siva is simple, easy of invocation and easy of appeasement. He will okay anything that we say.

Arjuna was in a predicament, as described in the Drona Parva of the Mahabharata, because he made a vow that he would destroy Jayadratha before sunset the next evening. This was a difficult vow to fulfil. Sri Krishna knew of Arjuna’s difficulty, and by the power of yoga took him to Lord Siva in Kailasha at night. By a mysterious process of invocation of Lord Siva through the Satarudriya mantra chanted by Sri Krishna and Arjuna before Kailasha Mahadeva, the very same mantra to which I made reference yesterday, Pashupatastra was given to Arjuna immediately. By the mere asking, Pashupatastra was given by Lord Siva as a protection and blessing. He did not say anything. He simply bestowed the great Pashupata missile on Arjuna, and bid goodbye to both Krishna and Arjuna. They came back to the earth that very night, and the next morning they were ready for the war.

A fierce battle took place, whose description is not the subject of our talk today. The ferocity went on increasing day by day until, towards the end of the Drona Parva, Drona himself was vanquished and Ashvathama, the son of Drona, was humiliated. Ashvathama wanted to wreak revenge upon the Pandavas for having destroyed his father Drona, so he sent the Narayanastra. The Narayanastra is a missile which no one can face. Not all the earth put together can face this missile. Fierce, flaming, and burning it came towards the Pandavas. All were wonderstruck as to what was coming.

Arjuna immediately asked Krishna, “Lord, what is this that is coming?”

“I know what is coming, and nobody can face it,” said Krishna. “It will simply burn you all to ashes, but it won’t harm anyone who puts down his arms and prostrates himself before it. That is the only way of overcoming it.”

Therefore, a general order was given to the whole army, “Put down your arms, and offer prostrations.” Everyone threw down their arms, and prostration was done: Om Namo Narayanaya. It was the astra of Narayana; who can face it? But it will not harm anyone who pays obeisance and prostrations to it.

Bhima alone would not prostrate. He said, “I am not a coward. I shall see to it. I shall face it.”

When Bhima said this, the astra directly went against him because he was the only man fighting. Everyone had put down their arms, so it went on searching for an enemy. It could not find any enemy anywhere because everyone was prostrating, so how could they be considered enemies? It wanted an enemy, and there was only one person who would not submit: Bhima.

Then Arjuna and Krishna said to Bhima, “This is not the time to show your valour. You may be a great man, but this strength won’t work. So please come down from your chariot.” Then they pulled him down with force.

“You are all cowards,” Bhima grumbled.

Then Ashvathama looked to see what had happened. He thought the whole army had been reduced to ashes. He climbed up a tree to see the heap of ashes of the Pandavas, but he could not see any such thing. Everything was all right, and people were up again in arms and were fighting. He could not understand it because Drona, his father, had initiated him into this mantra of Narayanastra and told him that no one could face this, not even all the earth put together.

“Did my father tell a lie? Oh, even fathers lie these days.” He cursed the father. “Fie upon fathers, fie upon parents, fie upon elders!” he cried, and went away. “Even my father told me a lie.”

As Ashvathama was crying, he met Vyasa on the way. “Why are you cursing?” Vyasa asked him.

“Oh, these days parents also are not to be trusted.”

“Why?” asked Vyasa.

“I was initiated into the Narayanastra mantra by my father, which he said was invincible, but today I find it is futile. It has not worked.”

“Oh my dear son,” said Vyasa. “Your father has not told a lie. He told the truth. It is invincible, but you have used it against the wrong person. You have used it against Narayana himself. Therefore, it did not work. It is Narayana’s astra, and you used it against him only.”

“Have I done that? Who is Krishna, then?” Ashvathama asked.

“He is Sakshat Narayana incarnation. You have made a mistake, so he has withdrawn it himself,” Vyasa replied.

“Oh,” Ashvathama wept, and left. He did not know what to do.

It was sunset, and when Vyasa was seated after Ashvathama left, Arjuna came there and paid obeisance to Vyasa. There was a friendly talk between Vyasa and Arjuna.

Meanwhile, as a side issue, Arjuna put a question to Vyasa. “Oh great sage, I have a doubt in my mind. Will you kindly clear it? During the war when I was fighting with my enemies, I was seeing some peculiar phenomena in front of me. I could not understand what it was. I saw some kind of person always moving in front of me with a trident in hand. His feet would not touch the ground. Sometimes he would be visible, sometimes not. He had matted locks and wore snakes around his neck. Some such personality I saw. What was it? Was it a hallucination? Was I dreaming? I wanted to put this question to some elder, and now I have had the blessing of the darshan of a sage like you. Vyasa Maharishi, Krishna Dvaipanyana, will you please clear my doubt?”

“Oh, this is what you were seeing? I will tell you what it is. My son Arjuna, you do not know the problem that you were really facing. Perhaps you yourself would not have been aware of it. You do not know the power of Bhishma. You do not know the power of Drona or Karna. They are all far superior to you in arms.”

In this connection, I shall recite an interesting conversation of Bhishma to give an idea as to what power these people had. One day, before the war broke out, Duryodhana wanted to know his strength. He called Bhishma, his grandsire, and asked, “Grandsire, what is our relative strength? You know everything. You are the eldest of all, omniscient almost. You know our strength; you know their strength. What is the relative comparative merit of our strength? Will you kindly let me know for my satisfaction?

Bhishma said, “One day is sufficient for me. I will destroy everybody in one day.”

Duryodhana was very happy. “I have such a great man with me who will destroy the whole army in one day.”

Bhishma continued, “All the Kauravas and Pandavas I can smash in one day if I am allowed. Drona can do it in three days, and Karna will take five days. Ashvathama will take only one minute because he has the Narayanastra, which can take only one minute to destroy everybody. But Arjuna needs only half a minute.”

“Why do you say like that?” said Duryodhana. That was a shock. Up to this time everything was all right. But the last thing was a great shock, because Arjuna had something with him which was more than all the astras.

Vyasa continued, “Well, such ferocious people were there, such as Bhishma, Drona and Karna. Arjuna, you could not meet them, and Lord Siva knew it, so without your asking he came to your aid. He whom you were seeing in front of you in the battlefield, occasionally visible and occasionally not visible, was Sakshat Mahadeva who came from Kailasa to protect you. ‘What did he do in the battle?’ you may ask me. Did he fight? Oh, who can stand if he starts fighting! He never fought. His presence alone was there; that is all. And the very odour that emanated from his body paralysed all the Kauravas. If he took up his trident and fought, then who will stand against him? So there was no question of fighting. He did not do any such thing. He was simply moving, emitting a magnetic force. The mere odour from his body was enough to absorb the strength of the entire Kaurava forces. Such a mighty being you saw. You are blessed, Arjuna. Parmeswara, Mahadeva of Kailasa, Lord Siva you saw. Wonderful! Nobody can be as blessed as you, Arjuna.”

Lord Siva is thus Asutosha, quickly pleased. If you chant his name five times, he will come five times to you. He is very simple.

There is a story about how simple Lord Siva is. He was in Kailasa without any palace, without any building, sitting on the snow-capped peaks. It was very cold. One day, Parvati said, “Why are we living like this, like beggars? Can we not have a palace? Indra is coming, Brihaspati is coming, Narada is coming, and so many Devas are coming. Are they going to sit here on the ice? They come to have your darshan. We shall have a good house. We cannot go on like this, like beggars, for a long time.”

“Oh, why do you want all this botheration?” Lord Siva said. “It is all right.”

Parvati would not listen. “We must have a palace.”

“All right, please yourself,” he said.

A day was chosen and Vishvakarma, the celestial architect, was ordered.

And Lord Siva said, “All right, the lady is insisting. We can build a palace, though I am not interested. Okay.”

Immediately a miraculous palace was created. In India we have a ceremony for the first opening, the first entering of the house, which is very auspicious. Brihaspati and all the celestials were called.

Brihaspati said, “It is all right, everything is beautiful, but Saturn’s drishti is there on this house. It will be in flames.” Saturn’s drishti means, if Saturn looks at anything, then it is finished; it will not succeed.

“Oh, then we don’t want it,” said Siva to Parvati. “I have already told you it is not for us. Now Brihaspati says some trouble will come as Saturn is looking at it and he will do some mischief, so let us not enter it at all.”

Parvati said, “Who is Saturn? You are lord of all the three worlds. Can he wag his tail with you? You are afraid of Saturn? What a shame! If you give one order, he will keep quiet.”

“Whatever you say. I am not interested.”

“You please go and tell Saturn not to do anything; that’s all,” she told Siva. “You give an order.”

“All right, I will convey your message,” he said.

“Not my message, but you give the order. You order him not to do any mischief with this house,” said Parvati.

“All right, replied Siva. “I am going to Saturn to tell him that he need not interfere with this house.”

Then Parvati said, “Listen. If he agrees to what you say, it is well and good. But if he says ‘I am sorry’, if he is going to set fire to it, I will set fire myself before he does it. Why should he set fire? I can do it myself. So you give a signal from there that he is not willing. Then I will immediately set fire to it so that the wretched thing goes.”

“All right. What signal?” asked Lord Siva.

“Play your damaru,” she said. “Twirl it several times, I will hear the sound and immediately I will set fire to the house. Saturn need not come and do it. I myself will finish it.”

“Okay,” Lord Siva said, and went and told Saturn, “Parvati’s insistence has brought a palace; somehow it was constructed, and Brihaspati says your mischief is there. I think you will not mind it. Don’t disturb us unnecessarily. We have no palace, no house. So I hope you will keep quiet. Don’t do any mischief.”

“Oh God, why should I do any mischief? Never will I do that! I would not think of it. How can you utter such things about me? When you have built a palace, I will go and interfere with it? Nothing doing!” replied Saturn.

“Oh, I am so happy. You are so good. You are so kind to me. Immediately you have agreed to what I said. Ask for a boon.”

“Oh, what boon can I ask for? Mahadeva, you are famous for dance. I want to see your Tandava just here.” Immediately as Siva started dancing, twirling his damaru, Parvati set fire to the whole palace.

When Lord Siva returned to Kailasa, he said, “Saturn has agreed, so there is no trouble.”

“What no trouble? You have given the signal and I have set fire to the palace,” said Parvati.

“What signal?” he asked.

“I heard your signal.”

“Oh, it was not a signal. I was dancing,” he said.

“Why did you dance unnecessarily?”

“Because when Saturn was so kind, and I was so pleased with him, I offered a boon. He said, ‘The boon is only this: show your tandava nritya.’ I forgot your idea. I did not think of this point at all. Oh, the whole thing is spoiled. The house is gone. So we are once again sitting on the icy peak of Kailasa.”

So Saturn’s mischief worked. Though he said he would not do anything, he had done it. Otherwise, why the fire came? See how mysterious it works. Saturn had done his work, and Siva never realised that by dancing he was giving the signal to burn down the palace. That is one story.

Another story is, Lord Siva is a simple person, very simple, like a child, and he is also a very powerful person. So the gods understood. Siva is not merely like a child, but has power. Nobody can face him. So there was a terrible, fierce battle going on between the Devas and Asuras, the Devas and Rakshasas, and they were attacking at night.

The Devas told Lord Siva, “Please, for heaven’s sake, guard us when we are asleep. Otherwise, the Rakshasas will come and attack us.”

“Okay,” he said. “You go to sleep. I will guard you. If the Rakshasas come, I will see to it.”

So the Rakshasas came. They started hitting Siva with logs of wood. As they were logs made of the holy bilva tree, Siva thought it is worship, because bilva is used in worship. Therefore, he thought devotees had come, and he let all the Rakshasas inside. They were belabouring him, hitting him, beating him with bilva stumps, and he thought it is an offering from bhaktas. They went in and beat all the Devas who were sleeping inside, and crushed them.

Afterwards the Devas said, “Oh Maharaj, we told you to guard us in our sleep.”

“You told me to guard you from Rakshasas only. They didn’t come,” replied Siva.

“What is this? You cannot see them? They came and killed us.”

“But they were devotees,” he said. “They were not Rakshasas.”

“How do you call them devotees?”

“They brought bilva and offered it to me, so I thought they are bhaktas.”

“You are not a good watchman. Thank you,” they said. “This kind of watchman we don’t want.”

It is very interesting if we think of the goodness of God and the kindness with which He looks upon devotees. We are always made to feel again and again the great saying that God’s love for man is much more than man’s love for God. It is also said that if you take one step towards God, God takes a hundred steps towards you. He comes running. While you are only walking towards Him, He comes running to you. He wants you much more than you want Him. That is the characteristic of all perfected forms of goodness, because the highest goodness is in God. The logical perfection of goodness can be seen only in God, in godliness.

So whenever you read the way in which saints and sages were protected by God, saved and blessed by God, you realise how immediate is His presence and how quick is His action. If you go to your bosses, they will say, “Let us see. You come tomorrow.” God will not say to come tomorrow. It is just here and now. It is now or never, because God is eternal presence. God is not a tomorrow. He is a presence; therefore, if you pray to God, He does not say to come tomorrow. Prayers are offered instantaneously.

All spiritual prayers are timeless yearnings of the soul, and they are not temporal words that are uttered. This is the distinction between spiritual prayer and ordinary speaking or talking. Ordinary speech or talk or lecture is a temporal movement of language, an activity of the linguistic medium through the passage of time. But prayer is not a linguistic formula that is uttered. It is the movement of the soul towards God in a timeless passage. It is eternity moving towards eternity. The eternal within us is asking for the eternal without. The infinite within speaks and asks for the infinite that is without. ‘Man seeking God’ does not mean the temporal asking for the eternal. On the other hand, it is the eternal that is within man rising towards the eternal that is universal. In this attitude of divine devotion and submission, we should undertake the vrita of Mahasivaratri.

There is another incident of Lord Siva in the Mahabharata itself. The death of Drona infuriated his son Ashvathama so much that he vowed to put an end to the Pandavas somehow or the other. When the Narayanastra did not succeed, he thought, “I will finish them in the night when they are sleeping.” He was so mean in his attitude that he would even kill people while they are sleeping.

The Pandavas were resting in their tents at night, and Ashvathama wanted to enter the tent and kill them all at one stroke. Lord Krishna, the omniscient, knew this. He told the Pandavas not to sleep in the tent.

“Today you will not sleep here,” he said. “You will sleep in some other tent.” Certain others were made to sleep there. When Ashvathama came with his sword and wanted to enter the tent, what did he see? This is described in the Sauptika Parva of the Mahabharata – a terrific description. What did he see? When Ashvathama was about to enter the tent, he saw something standing in front of him. It was a body extending from earth to heaven. He did not know what it was. It was not a man, it was not a woman, it was not human, it was not nonhuman. He could not say what it was. He could not say how high it was. Even to the sky it was towering, and how wide the body was, he could not say. It was touching the horizons. Fire was coming from its mouth, and millions and millions of Krishnas with Sudarshan chakra in their hands were rushing out of that body – millions, not one or two.

Ashvathama rubbed his eyes and thought, “What is this coming out? It is a delusion.” Immediately he took his astras and started throwing them at it. All the astras went into it like stones entering the ocean. If you throw a stone into the ocean, what will happen? It will simply go in. You do not know where it has gone. So all Ashvathama’s astras, his mighty missiles, were cast on this being. It swallowed the whole thing, as if nothing had happened. Then he raised his sword to cut it. The sword entered it as if it was cutting only space. Vyasa describes this in the Mahabharata. Even mountains would crack to pieces by seeing it, such ferocity it was. Such a thing was standing. He did not know what it was. It was Lord Siva standing in his Vishvarupa form.

Ashvathama prayed to Lord Siva. He did not know this was Lord Siva, because who can describe this form? It was something miraculous. He had his own concept of Siva, and started performing yajna and offered himself in obeisance, and Lord Siva appeared.

Lord Siva said, “I myself was standing there. I would not allow you to go in like that so easily, at the wrong time. That was not the time for them to leave this world, so your work would not succeed. I stood there with my own protective measures, but now the time has come for them to perish. The form you saw was mine only. You do as you like. I am going,” he said, and went away.

“Oh,” Ashvathama said. “I was frightened. Please help me.”

Then Lord Siva vanished from there. Ashvathama entered the tent and massacred many people, who were not Pandavas, of course. They were all somebody else, including the children of the Pandavas.

There is one peculiarity about Lord Siva’s worship. It is said that once you start worship of Siva, you should not discontinue it because while he is easily pleased, he is also easily displeased. This is also a great danger. People who are easily pleased can also be easily displeased, so sometimes it is not a great virtue. People who worship Siva will not discontinue that worship. Even if they take some other mantra, they will do that mantra but this also they will do. Devi and Siva, both are like that. Once you get initiation into a mantra, a method of worship, a purushcharana or an upasana of either Devi or Siva, you should not discontinue it throughout your life. Even if you are to do some other japa and upasana, that may only be in addition to this, but this cannot be given up. Otherwise, there will be rudrakopa. You cannot bear it. If Siva gets angry, then you are nowhere. So do not discontinue the adoration, worship, japa, upasana of Devi or Siva. They will bless you. They will do you much good.

Swami Sivananda Maharaj was always thinking the yoga of synthesis, and he saw no difference among the gods. All gods are the same. You can do japa of mantras of Ganesha, of Siva, of Narayana, of Vasudeva, of Devi, and they can all be synthesised into a single spiritual force for your own spiritual benefit.

To repeat what I said yesterday, Rudra Adhyaya should be studied by those who can study it because the difficulty in Rudra Adhyaya is that it has an intonation, a particular method of chant with ups and downs of accent, which is the peculiarity of all Veda mantras. Many people do not chant the Mrityunjaya mantra correctly. All of you chant it wrongly. That is what I have been observing. There is an intonation which has to be learned. Where it has to be raised, the accent should be raised. Where it is to be lowered, it has to be lowered. Some of you do not even know the utterance of it because you do not know what it means, so you utter anything you like. That is not proper. If the mantra is chanted with correct accent and intonation, it will produce an immediate result. Otherwise, it will be useless – like threshing straw.

This Mrityunjaya mantra that we chant every day when concluding satsanga is a Veda mantra. It is not like a sloka of the Gita, which you can chant in any way you like. It is not a sloka, it is not a verse, but a mantra. Therefore, the Rudra Adhyaya is difficult. It cannot be learned by all people, unless they are trained for months together. But if you can do it, well and good.

The Purusha Sukta and the Rudra Adhyaya are the most important sections of the Vedas – Rudra Adhyaya for Lord Siva, and Purusha Sukta for Lord Vishnu, Narayana, and Devi Sukta for Devi. All these are difficult to chant, but once you learn it, that will protect you, guard you, and nobody can harm you. You will be a source of strength to others. You will be an inspiration to all people, protected by the armour of these mantras. Your prayers will be heard by the god immediately. You can protect your nation, protect all people by your blessing. Your word will become true, your thoughts will materialise. All these things are siddhis, as they are called. They begin to manifest themselves when there is japa siddhi. When japa siddhi takes place, other siddhis automatically follow.

Yajñānāṁ japayajño’smi (Gita 10.25) says Bhagavan Sri Krishna in the Gita. Of all the yajnas, adorations, sacrifices and worships, japa is the best. It is the easiest and the quickest and the simplest method of God-realisation. Japa is of a Veda mantra or a tantric mantra or even a prayer, as you would have been initiated into, but tenacity in the practice of it is essential. Tenacity means stickability. Go on doing it every day, and do not miss it even for a single day. This will rouse within yourself the mantra shakti. The mantra shakti is a living force. It is not merely like atomic energy, which is dead, lifeless. It is a living force. Mantra shakti can speak to you and manifest before you as a form, and guard you like an angel. Such is the power of mantra, because mantra is nothing but the symbol of Devata of the mantra.

So to come to the point again, we are near Mahasivaratri. Do japa of Panchakshara mantra, recite the Rudra Adhyaya, worship Lord Siva, and observe a week of austerity, reduction of diet, reduction of sleep, increase of meditation and japa, and take resolve that you will stick to certain principles of spiritual life, which will be a great discipline and a chastening of your spirit. Lord Siva’s grace be upon you all.