Thursday, January 1, 2009

Time Divine

As we begin yet another year, we take time to remember that time itself, in the philosophies of Sanatana Dharma, is divine. The monistic and monistic-inclined philosophies, in particular, teach that everything is part of the divine Being including matter, space and time.

The doctrine of Time Divine in Sanatana Dharma transcends sectarian boundaries. Each of the three primary sects of Hinduism – Shaivism, Shaktism and Vaishnavism – impart this doctrine of Time Divine, albeit using varying iconography or imagery. In Shaivism, the Lord is represented as Great Time through the iconographic forms of Mahakala (Great Time) or Kalabhairava. In Shaktism, the cognate forms of Goddess Time are Mahakali or Kalasankarshini. In both Shaivism and Shaktism, these aforementioned forms are represented in temple icons. Vaishnavism, by contrast, rarely if ever uses iconographic forms to teach of Time Divine. Instead, a vivid imagery of Time Divine is given in the Bhagavad-Gita (XI.32-33). No matter the sect through which the doctrine of Time Divine comes, the idea is the same: time, the great dissolver of all things, is indeed a manifestation of the divine Being.

Much of the doctrine of time in Hindu theology and philosophy arose in central India in the city of Avantika (later called Ujjayini or Ujjain). For as long as anyone can remember, Avantika has been a center of Shaivite worship, and especially associated with Pashupata Shaivism. The city of Avantika was also the capital of various ancient Indian kingdoms and empires. Most importantly, as the location of the Jyotirlingam Shrine of Mahakala (Great Time), Avantika has for long been considered the prime meridian of longitude in Indian time calculation. Local legends dictate that it was the great emperor Vikramaditya of the Malwa dynasty who mandated that the prime meridian pass through the Linga icon of Mahakala.

Though the meridian (82.5ºE) for Indian standard time (UTC+05:30) no longer passes through Avantika (Ujjain), the default Indian Hindu calendar is still calculated for the coordinates of Ujjain. Moreover, the primary era of the Hindu calendar throughout northern India and Nepal begins with the coronation of legendary emperor Vikramaditya, the devotee of Lord Mahakala, in the year 58 BCE. It is also with the blessings of Lord Mahakala that great treatises on astronomy, astrology, mathematics, and time calculation were written by their sagacious authors in Avantika. The Aryabhatiyam, the Surya Siddhanta, the Pancha Siddhantika, and other important treatises were all composed in Avantika. It is here, in the land of Lord Mahakala, that great scholars came to understand time and the doctrine of Time Divine. It is here that sages first came upon the concept of great time cycles known as yugas. And, it is in Avantika, no doubt, that the ancients fully realized that time indeed is the manifest Divine.

As we mark the beginning of a new Gregorian year, we take a moment to remember Lord Mahakala-Shiva, who is immanent as Time, and His holy city of Avantika, whence the measurement of time and space amalgamated with theology and philosophy. Though we envision our passage through time as a passage through the living divine Being, we simultaneously realize that He is never bound by time. In the approach of understanding time as divine, we use time as an anchor to experience and obtain timelessness – that eternal, unchanging Shiva.

Jai Mahakala!

Agnideva © 2009. All rights reserved.

Pausha Shukla 5, Samvat 2065 (Plava Samvatsara, Yugabda 5110) [?]


Anonymous said...

I came across your article on 14 different Shiva Sahasrams currently available. Do you have those with you or have access to them in any way? How do you know that the one in Shiva Rahasya is copied from Rudrayamala and not otherwise?
Please let me know. Thanks.
BTW, yours is a wonderful blog site for saivaites. You must be truly devoted to Lord Shiva.

Agnideva said...

Thank you for the comments. All the points you’ve raised are excellent and valid.

I do not personally have access to all the Shiva Sahasranamas, but I have looked at several. It is a widely held opinion of scholars that the Mahabharata version is the original, and others came later. The Mahabharata/Linga Purana version is most available in print and the Rudra Yamala/Shiva Rahasya version is next most available. A couple of years ago, a lady named Kamakshi Ramaswamy did her PhD thesis at Madras University on Shiva Sahasranamas. She has analyzed and compared various Sahasranama stotras in detail.

So far as I am aware, the Shiva Rahasya is a late text of Shaivism (14th-15th century CE) written likely in southern India. It was specifically written to shadow the Itihasas – Ramayana and Mahabharata – which were otherwise perceived as Vaishnavite. Hence, sometimes it is called the Shiva Rahasya Itihasa (instead of Purana). As a text that tries to bring together different streams of Shaivism – Puranic, Upanishadic and Agamic (Tantrik) – it has drawn and incorporated parts of older texts such as Rudra Yamala, Kamika Agama, Pashupata Brahmana Upanishad, etc. This is why the common Shiva Sahasranama of the Shiva Rahasya and Rudra Yamala is thought to have been taken from the latter text, and not vice versa.

Now, there is always some uncertainty when someone claims something is from the Rudra Yamala. Not everything that claims to be from the Rudra Yamala is actually found in the printed versions or manuscripts of that text. The Shadakshara Stotra is a fine example of this. Though it claims to be from the Rudra Yamala, you will not find it anywhere in the printed text. There is a hypothesis that the original Rudra Yamala (which must have been very voluminous) was lost over time and what survives is a fragment of the original. In any case, the Rudra Yamala is a very old (pre-800 CE) Shaiva-Shakta text, and predates the Shiva Rahasya by several centuries.

I hope that answers your question.


Anonymous said...

Wow! I certainly did not know that Shiva Rahasya is a compilation and not a Kavya.
I think, Itihasas (or kavya or mahakavya)usually have dhrastas who write what
they saw so it really does not matter when they were conceived.
But compilations are totally different.

I personally like the Sahasram from Shiva Rahasya so it does not matter
if its a compilation or purana or itihasa. Its really a priceless gem.

Like Shiva Rahasya namas more than the ones from Shiva Rahasya, mainly because:
1) The one from Shiva rahasya has more namas (more than 1000), like
shairiratna, shaishiresha, shaishirartupravartakaH

2) There are practically no duplicates in Shiva Rahsya. But Rudrayamala
clearly has some, for example, krishnavitobhayanaghaH (which is 3 namas
1) krisnavita 2) Abhayo 3) anagha )and meedhusthamooanaghaH (which is meedustama + anagha).
The nama Anagha is repeated here. Where as Shiva Rahasya has nama KrisnavitO bhayanakaH making it
just one nama called bhayanaka.

2) Some of the names found in Shiva Rahasya (not in Rudra yamala) are the ones in SriRudram
(or even Shiva Attotara namas).
For example, Rudra yaamala has "kupyaH rushirmuniH" where as Shiva Rahasya has "kupyaH rushirmanuH".
manu nama is in SriRudram and Rudra yamala ignores it and just repeats 'muni' nama twice.

3) Some of the namas in Shiva Rahasya are more closer to the ones in SriRudram than the ones in
Rudra yaamala. Like the nama "haniyaatma".

I would really like to read the thesis done by Kamakshi. Is there any way to get hold of it??
Is it published on-line?

sampath said...

the blog is so excellent.i like lord shiva a lot.its fabulous history of lord shiva.collect more and more information on lord shiva.u have done a grt job.plz do give ur gmail id

Agnideva said...

Namaste Sampath,

Thank you for visiting and thank you for the kind words.

Just go to the top of the webpage under the "Welcome" section and hit email link. You can email me directly that way.

Aum Namah Shivaya.

Agnideva said...

To anonymous:

I have been looking for info about Kamakshi's dissertation. I cannot find it. Even the article that mentioned it is no longer online. The article about her work was originally published on on May 7, 2007.

kailash Chandra said...

Its nice to know about avantika and shaivism. But what was the connection between avantika and Madhayamika. I have information about madhyamika(which is now called Tambawat nagari situated nearby Chittorgarh. It was also the center of Shaivism. Plz let me know.

CRB said...

Hi Agnideva,
Firstly really thanks a lot for this blog. I like shiva a lot. I am trying to get the Shivarahasya book. But i could'nt find it in market. I have become a member in ksri library in mylapore but there also they are not giving access to the library or to take photocopy of it. i heard there was a book published by Saraswathy mahal library about shivarahasya. Which has sanskrit text and the meaning in tamil. Can you please give me some deatils of books on shiva rahasya like the sanskrit text with meaning in tamil or in english. so that it will be easy for me to read that precious text. i also heard that shiva rahasya has the precious shiva moola mantra which is considered to be the powerful mantra. Looking forward for your response.

Thanks and regards,

Mike said...

Is the Bhagavad Gita accepted in Shaivism, is it not a very vaishnav doctrine?

Agnideva said...

Hi Mike. BG is not a Shaivite text, as you've noted, but it is also not anti-Shaivite. Many concepts discussed are also applicable to Shaivism (like the concept discussed in the post above).

Shaivite philosophy is not based on the BG. If and when it is used in monistic Shaivism (specifically Kashmir Shaivism), it is taken not as a literal text with a historical basis as is done in Vaishnavism, but as entirely allegorical. Per that interpretation, the divine Me/I would apply not to a specific God-incarnate, but to the universal Self, who is the Self of all, and also known as Shiva.

(Note that this interpretation is very similar to the Advaita Vedanta interpretation).

Anonymous said...

I heard from a source that krishna says the bhagavad gita not only as himself but in the vishwaroopa as the entire trimurti i.e. brahman (including brahma vishnu and shiva and everyone else) I heard this from a shaivite source. Is this true?

Agnideva said...

Hi Anonymous,

Yes this interpretation does exist, although I've never specifically seen it any Shaivite source.

In Vaishnavism, Krishna is the personification of the Supreme Brahman, who is Creator (Brahma), Sustainer (Vishnu) and Dissolver (Rudra). That which is called Parabrahma in Vedanta is called Para-Vasudeva in Vaishnava tantras.

In Shaivism, Shiva is the personification of the Supreme Brahman, who is Creator (Brahma), Sustainer (Vishnu) and Dissolver (Rudra). That which is called Parabrahma in Vedanta is called Para-Shiva (Paramashiva) in Shaiva tantras.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Do you know any place were I get more infromation on the this version of Bhagavad gita. Do you recomend a better more shaivite way of thinking about the Bhagavad Gita (other than beliving that krishna is used a tool by shiva to tell the gita).

Agnideva said...

Hi Anonymous,

The BG is neither Shaivite nor anti-Shaivite in my opinion. Shaivism doesn't derive its teachings from this text. Truth be told, Shaivite theology is not based on the Puranas or Itihasas, but on the Agamas, and of course Vedic texts. As I said earlier, the interpretation you mentioned is not found in any Shaivite source I've seen; it is more of a general Vedanta interpretation.

The only Shaivite commentary on the BG that I know of is called the Gitartha Samgraha by Acharya Abhinavagupta. It is not a rigorous commentary explaining purport of every single verse, but a glance into the text. From the get-go, it is made clear in this commentary that the entire text is allegorical. The BG is not treated as a historical conversation, but treated like an Agama where an illumed sage has codified a mystical teaching in the form of a dialog. And, from that perspective, Krishna is only an archetype.

Moreover, it must be mentioned that in Shaiva Monism, there is Shiva, and Shiva only. Even if you call Him by any other name (Vishnu or Krishna), it does not minimize His existence or grandeur. All the stories about Vishnu worshipping Shiva and vice versa are made up in Puranas by rival sects when Vaishnavism and Shaivism were competing theologies.

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