Once upon a time, it is said, the great Brahmā and Vishnu were engaged in a bitter quarrel. Each insisted that He was the original Being, the Father, and the other the son. And so, the argument proceeded for hundreds of celestial years, but neither emerged as a victor. Suddenly, out of nowhere, appeared in front of them an immense column of blazing light, one that seemingly had no beginning or no end. Surprised and dumbfounded, they each decided to investigate the column of light. Brahmā took the form of a swan (hamsa) and flew upwards, while Vishnu took the form of a boar (varaha) and burrowed downwards. For a thousand celestial years, each continued in his respective direction, but found no end to the column of blazing light. Both decided to return back to the original location and found there in front of them an image of Shiva appearing from the light of the column. Each bowed to the Great Lord (Maheshvara). Maheshvara blessed them and related to them how Brahmā and Vishnu are one with Him. That image of Maheshvara Shiva, that form as a blazing column of light, is better known as the Jyotirlingam.
The above is a well-known story from the Puranas. It is found in chapters 5-9 of the Vidyeshvara Samhita (Book I) and chapter 7 of the Rudra Samhita (Book II) of the Shiva Purana, as well as in the Linga Purana. There are various versions of the above legend, and numerous nuances we need not go into. What is important to take away from this legend is the identification of the Jyotirlingam as an infinite column of light, and the identification of Shiva with that infinite Light.
The Jyotirlingam legend overtly relates the concept of infinity in one dimension only. But as we extrapolate from a philosophical perspective, we realize that infinity cannot be a uni-dimensional characteristic, and should be true in all dimensions. Otherwise, that which we call infinite will have boundaries, and cannot be considered infinite! There is, however, significance to the legend relating that Brahmā traveled upward, and Vishnu traveled downward. Previously, we saw in the post on the Ashtamurtis, how Shiva is considered both the unitary center and, in His eight forms, the eight cardinal directions (N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW). Now, we find in the above legend, how Shiva, as Brahmā and Vishnu, is also the two polar directions - up and down.
Bringing these legends together, we come to realize that Shiva is truly the Infinite One. He is Anadi (beginningless) and Ananta (endless). He is infinite in all three dimensions of space. And, as Mahakala, Great Time, we realize that Shiva is also the fourth dimension. He is past, present and future. That Shiva is space-time, the very fabric on which all this is supported. He is both the supreme Support, as well as that which is supported by the supreme Support!
Aum Namah Shivaya.
© Agnideva, 2007. All rights reserved.
Related posts: Jyotirlinga Stotram Video and Jyotirlingam Shrines.