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Thursday, April 11, 2019


Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to make the short trip to Evergreen, CO to the home of a wonderful couple. The husband, Devraj, is originally from India and was raised in the Hindu tradition. Their home is decorated with rugs, sculptures and wood carvings from his homeland. I was in awe, not only of the artistry they exhibit, but also of the spiritual significance of many of them. I was particularly captivated by a statue of Shiva Nataraja, similar to the one pictured below, in the home’s entryway. 

Wanting to make a personal connection with the Devraj, I told him that I know very little about the Hindu deities, but that I recognized this as Shiva, the destroyer. My comment prompted a more in-depth conversation. Devraj explained that the word ‘destroyer’ often has a narrow and negative connotation and typically evokes images of physical destruction or death for many people in the West, but that in the East, the meaning is more nuanced.

He pointed out to me that the sculpture is rich with symbolism. It depicts Shiva Nataraja as the Lord of the Dance dancing on the demon Apasmara who represents evil and ignorance. This signifies that Shiva destroys false perceptions, judgments, concepts and ideas that are born from fear and ignorance which when acted upon result in “evil.” Further, even though Shiva is the “destroyer,” he is also a creator. Something must die before something new can emerge. Shiva destroys ignorance so that new ideas can be embraced and something different can be manifested. Additionally, he is shown dancing in a circle of flames which signifies the circle of life, complete with all its varied experiences. I encourage you to read more about the powerful symbolism of this image.

I shared with Devraj that his explanation of the symbolism reminded me of a depiction of Jesus’s resurrection (below) from the Eastern Orthodox church which I was introduced to recently during the Universal Christ Conference in Albuquerque. The image shows the resurrected Jesus victoriously standing on Satan and reaching out to Adam and Eve.

In traditional Christianity, this depiction might be interpreted literally as the resurrected Jesus destroying Satan, the personification of evil, and saving Adam and Eve who represent all of humanity, from the fires of hell through his crucifixion and resurrection. In Unity, however, we interpret it metaphorically and metaphysically.

In Unity, Satan represents our own states of ignorance, thoughts of separation and fear which may demonstrate in ways that one might call “evil.” The resurrected Jesus standing on Satan represents the power of the Christ consciousness to overcome our belief in separation. That the resurrected Christ is reaching out to Adam and Eve, all humanity, signifies that we can all be raised to Christ consciousness. While in the Christian tradition crucifixion (destruction) resurrection (new creation) are one-time events, in Unity we understand that they are representative of the continuing cycle of life as is depicted in the Shiva sculpture.

I encourage us all to remember that the power to transform our consciousness and create a new life lies within us, not in an external power. For most of us, each day provides us with multiple opportunities to embrace the dance of life, to honor the Shiva or Christ within us, and to overcome our own Apasmara or Satan - our beliefs in separation, our states of ignorance and our inclinations to act from them.

I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about Shiva Nataraja and how this imagery is so closely aligned with imagery of the resurrected Jesus. It is yet another powerful reminder that there is Truth in all spiritual traditions and that we are more similar than we might know.

1 comment :

  1. Great post. Really appreciated the interweaving of the common themes across spiritual traditions.