NAMAH SHIVÁYA SHÁNTÁYA -3
Shiva – the Focal Point of Everything (Discourse 3) – CORRECTED FROM DIFFERENT SOURCE BETTER THAN EE 7.5
SHRII SHRII ÁNANDAMÚRTI
25 April 1982, Calcutta, INDIA
I have said repeatedly that Shiva’s jurisdiction was unlimited; in fact, everything relating to Shiva was ubiquitous. He did not leave any sphere of the human life of those days untouched.
One’s life is determined on the basis of a few pulsations, and these pulsations depend on a specific number of inhalations and exhalations. The number of such inhalations and exhalations – on average, from 21,000 to25,000(twenty-one thousand to twenty-five thousand) per day – varies from person to person. The process of breathing has a great influence on the human mind and self, or soul.
Suppose a person is running: his or her breathing immediately becomes heavy. In that condition he or she cannot think properly; the sensory organs such as tongue, nose, etc., cannot function properly, and as a result one’s perception is impaired. Action is performed during the period of expansion, and perception occurs during the period of contraction.
In the state of motion the period of contraction becomes too short to allow any clear perception.
Moreover, the process of breathing, depending upon whether the breath is flowing through the right nostril or the left nostril or both nostrils, influences people in various ways.
It was Shiva who determined what kind of activity should be performed, depending on which nostril the breath was flowing through, and depending on whether the iid́á or piuṋgalá or suśumná* channel was active.
He set down specific rules and regulations as to when one should undertake physical, psychic or spiritual activities.
–He further instructed when and in what circumstances one should do ásanas, práńáyáma, dhárańá, dhyána, etc. This science, which Shiva invented and developed, was known as svara shástra or svarodaya [science of breath control].
Prior to Him, the world was not aware of this science. Shiva also gave clear instructions how this science could be applied by people in the practical field of action.
In fact, this svara shástra did help the people later to solve many problems in their mundane as well as spiritual lives. When doing a heavy job while breathing normally, a person might have serious difficulties – perhaps one’s limbs might be broken – but in a state of baddha kumbhaka, or púrńa kumbhaka [with the lungs full], one can easily do the same work.
While doing some over-strenuous activity in a state of shúnya kumbhaka [with the lungs empty] one might even die.
*Iida, piungala and susumna are three nadiis or subtle nerve channels. When the breath flows through the left nostril the iida is active; when through the right nostril, the piungala is active; when through both nostrils, the susumna is active.
Suppose you are climbing to a high place or lifting a very heavy load. If you do not follow the system of breathing while lifting the load, your hands may become painful or your bones dislocated.
If you do the same work in a state of shúnya kumbhaka, you will have great difficulty – you may even collapse.
If, on the contrary, you perform any strenuous activity in púrńa kumbhaka, taking a deep breath, you can easily do it.
All this comes within the scope of that svaravijiṋána.
You might have read in the Rámáyańa that Hanuman, by taking a deep breath, made his body swell and lifted a whole mountain. Although it is a mythological story, it refers to the science of svaravijiṋána.
Now, if people dance according to the prescribed rules of svaravijiṋána, in harmony with proper chanda and proper mudrá, the dance not only becomes enjoyable to others and to the dancers themselves, it also becomes quite a good exercise. And if at the same time that dance equally influences each and every gland, then those glands secrete the proper amount of hormones, which brings nourishment not only to the body, but also to the mind and the átman [the self, or soul].
Both males and females have a large number of glands in their bodies; males have a slightly larger number.
All these glands need regular and proper exercise. Food alone is not enough; people need a special kind of exercise. The systematic and rhythmic dances invented by Shiva constitute those useful exercises.
Now, all dances do not equally exercise all glands, and there are some glands which are not at all influenced by dances.
In the absence of the proper exercise of those glands, people lose many capacities at an early age – especially the capacities of deep thinking and of sustained recollection.
The mind has two main qualities – thinking and recollection.
Both these qualities deteriorate in the absence of exercise of those glands, and there is no process for restoring them.
Considering all this – considering the location of the glands, and the effect of chandas and mudrás – Shiva invented a unique and perfect dance: táńd́ava.
As long as a dancer remains above the ground, he derives much benefit; when he touches the ground, then those benefits are assimilated by the body.
That is why in táńd́ava there is much jumping, because jumping requires the practitioner to remain off the ground for a fairly long period of time.
The word tańd́u in Samskrta means “jumping”, so táńd́ava (tańd́u + suffix śńa) means a kind of dance where jumping is a dominant feature.
When paddy is husked by a wooden husking machine, the rice grains jump about, and that is why rice is called tańd́ula in Samskrta.
Uncooked rice is tańd́ula, and cooked rice is odana. (One whose rice is pure, that is, one who earns his bread by honest means, is called shuddhodana. Buddha’s father’s name was Shuddhodana.)
Anyway, it was Shiva who first introduced the táńd́ava dance. This was a unique invention which no one had ever thought of in the past; nor is it likely that anyone will find a substitute for this dance in the future.
This táńd́ava dance, as I said a little earlier, was invented by the harmonious adjustment between chanda, mudrá and the glands. This dance is not only beneficial for the body, it also develops the mind and leads to spiritual elevation.
Shiva was not content with the mere invention of táńd́ava.
In collaboration with His wife, Párvatii, He also invented various other types of dances and spread them widely throughout the society.
Before Him, dance meant simply a random movement of the limbs; but from that time on, it was elevated to a systematic practice.
So you can imagine in how many ways Shiva promoted human welfare!
Since the advent of living beings on this earth, medicines have been used.
Dogs, cats, snakes, mongooses – all animals, in fact all beings – need some kind of medicine in various conditions.
When wild animals become sick, they rub their bodies against certain trees and plants to cure their ailments. This shows that all living beings are more or less acquainted with some types of medicine.
Before Shiva, áyurveda [the Vaedik school of medicine], was known to the people.
As I have already said, there were six branches of knowledge related to the Vedas – chanda, kalpa, nirukta, vyákarańa, jyotiśa and áyurveda or dhanurveda.
This proves that áyurveda was also in existence in India before Shiva’s time.
But it had not developed as a systematic school of medicine.
It was simply a collection of substances whose medicinal value was discovered accidentally.
These substances, called muśt́iyoga in Samskrta, and t́ot́ká in Bengali, definitely have great medicinal value, but it was necessary to systematize them.
This muśt́iyoga, as an áyurvaedik school of medicine, was very popular in the ancient Vaedik period, but it did not become a systematic science, a formal branch of medicine, in India until the days of Shiva.
Shiva provided it with a definite form, and it became popularly known as Vaedyak shástra [Tantra-oriented medicine].
You should note that I am not using the term áyurveda in the sense of vaedyak shástra.
It is necessary now to say something about the history of the social life of ancient India.
Regarding certain important items of medical science, such as dissection, surgical operations and stitching, the Vaedik school of medicine, áyurveda, did not make much progress.
Later on, a group of Brahmins came to India from Sacdonia in Central Asia, the present Tashkent (Sákadviip or Sákaldviip in Samskrta). Those Brahmins introduced the processes of surgical operation and stitching, and spread them among the Indians to some extent.
But there is no evidence that the Sacdonians also knew the practice of dissection.
One may argue against this, but it will be futile, for there is no conclusive evidence.
Since the Sacdonians had refused to embrace Islam, they had to leave their homes and migrate to western India by sea.
Along with them they brought two other things from overseas – cloves and palmistry.
There are three Samskrta synonyms for “clove” – lavauṋga, devakusuma and várisambhava: várisambhava means “that which comes from the other side of the ocean”.
The second thing they brought with them was palmistry, which was part of astrology. This science of palmistry was not known in India either: the Sacdonians brought it with them from overseas. So its Samskrta name is sámudrik vidyá, that is, “knowledge brought from overseas”.
After their arrival in India these Sacdonian Brahmins brought about some real improvement in the Indian áyurveda.
All these things took place long after Shiva, about 6000(six thousand) years after Shiva was born.
But the vaedyak shástra which Shiva invented had already included dissection, surgical operations, stitching, etc.
The Aryans who migrated to India were full of vanity and highly egotistic.
They not only declared the indigenous population of India to be Shúdras, but also refused to accept, them into their society; they declared them to be “pariahs” or “untouchables”.
Even to this day in the Paora’n’ik (Paora’n’ik) society you will find three categories of Shúdras:
1. Ácarańiiya Shúdras are those whose cooked food and drink can be accepted by upper-caste people, except those items which are boiled, roasted or fried.
2. Anácarańiiya Shúdras are those from whom the upper-caste people will not accept any food and drink, but whose shadow can be accidentally stepped on without the need to take a purifying bath afterwards. Secondly, one is allowed to worship the deities in their houses without the fear of losing one’s caste.
3. Antyaja Shúdras are those with whom the Aryans will have no connection; and if even their shadows are stepped on, upper-caste people will have to take a purifying bath.
Because of their extreme pride, the Aryans divided the indigenous population of India into these three categories, although these so-called Shúdras were the original inhabitants of India and the Aryans were the outsiders.
When this was the social condition, how could the science of dissection continue?
The non-Aryans could not touch the dead bodies of the Aryans because then the corpses would lose their caste!
This superstition has persisted even to this day; it is not altogether non-existent even now.
For the purpose of dissection, normally dead bodies are collected from the cremation ground, and obviously it is not possible to know the caste of those corpses.
Perhaps the body may be of an Antyaja Shúdra or an Anácarańiiya Shúdra – not all dead bodies are of high-caste people.
Hence dissection was impossible, and medical science could not advance.
But Shiva was free from all these superstitions of casteism and untouchability, so He could easily propagate the science of dissection.
Thus His science of vaedyak shástra advanced significantly in all those regions where caste distinctions were not very rigid, and where simultaneously the influence of Shiva was great.
Vaedyak shástra made remarkable progress, but those who practiced it were treated as inferior by those Aryans who had migrated to India from outside.
The Sacdonian Brahmins who cultivated the science of áyurveda throughout India were accepted as Brahmins, although they were outsiders from southern Russia.
Let me add one thing more in this connection.
When the Paora’n’ik(Paora’n’ik) Age began in India, about 1300 years ago, all the Indian Brahmins who accepted the Paora’n’ik(Paora’n’ik) religion held a convention in Prayaga.
In the Post-Buddha Age, the people who followed the Paora’n’ik (Paora’n’ik) religion said, “We accept the supremacy of the Vedas without reservation. We may or may not follow the Vedas, but we accept their authority.”
In fact those people were following the Paora’n’ik religion, not the Vaedik religion, not the Árśa Dharma.
This convention decided the criteria by which the Brahmins would be recognized: it was decided that those who were following the injunctions of the Vedas and the Paora’n’ik system of religion would be recognized as Brahmins, whatever might be their moral standard.
Now, to disregard the caste regulations was a violation of the Vaedik code of conduct.
So those who touched the dead bodies of so-called untouchables, or dissected their bodies, would not be recognized as Brahmins.
After long deliberation, the Prayaga convention decided to recognize ten classes of Brahmins, five from northern India and five from southern India.
The five classes from northern India (called Paiṋcagaor’ii) were: the Sárasvata Brahmins of the Punjab, Kashmir, southern Russia and Afghanistan;
the Gaor’a Brahmins of North Rajasthan and West Uttar Pradesh;
the Kányakubja Brahmins of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh;
the Maethili Brahmins of Mithila; and
the Nágar Brahmins of Gujarat.
The five classes from southern India (called Paiṋcadrávir’ii) were:
the Utkal Brahmins,
the Traelauṋga Brahmins;
the Dravir’ Brahmins;
the Karńát Brahmins; and
the Citpávan Brahmins of Maharashtra.
Those Brahmins do not eat fish. The Ráŕhii and the Várendra Brahmins of Bengal, the Namboodris of Kerala, the Gaor’a Sárasvata Brahmins of Konkańa, the Kraoiṋcadviipiis of Magadha, and the Sarayúpád́ii Brahmins of the western parts of Bihar and eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh were not recognized as Brahmins at the Prayaga convention.
The Sacdonians had not arrived in India at that time, they came later; but later those Sacdonian Brahmins who studied astrology and áyurveda were also recognized as Brahmins.
However, those in Bengal who studied the vaedyak shástra invented by Shiva were not recognized as Brahmins.
The Vaedyas of Bengal were quite advanced in the knowledge of medicine, but as they had to touch dead bodies during dissection they were not given recognition as Brahmins.
Just imagine what a great injustice was done in those days!
So Shiva reorganized the whole science of medicine(vaedyak shástra) and gave it a systematic form.
This not only immensely benefited India, but later also brought about significant improvements in the alchemy, the alchemistry and the medico-chemistry of Central Asia. This was no ordinary achievement.
Shiva lived about 7000(seven thousand) years ago. After His departure the Buddhist and Jain doctrines almost inundated the land of India.
But even during the dominant periods of Buddhism and Jainism in India, Shaeva Dharma maintained its influence among the masses like a subterranean flow of water; it was quite discernible in Indian society.
Take, for instance, the case of Bengal. Perhaps you know that the original inhabitants of Bengal were divided into six groups. The Brahmins, the Kayasthas and the Vaedyas do not really belong to the mainstream of the population, they belong to the higher stratum of the society.
The real people of Bengal were these six communities: the Kurmii Mahatos of western Ráŕh, the Máhisyas of Midnapur and 24 Parganas Districts; the Sadgopas of northern and central Ráŕh; the Rájavaḿshiis of Varendrabhúmi; the Namahshúdras of the eastern Samatat́ and southern Dabák area; and the Chakma’s of Upabauṋga. Later the Chakma’s were driven to the hilly regions by the Aryan colonizers. This was a great injustice to them. From then on the Chakma’s mostly settled in the mountainous areas.
Even when Buddhism and Jainism were in their ascendancy, these original people of Bengal did not give up their Shaeva Dharma.
Outwardly there may have been some influence of Buddhism and Jainism on them, but inwardly they remained Shaivites, followers of Shiva.
You should remember this, for later you will understand its historical importance.
In those days they used to observe certain festivals centring around Shiva, which Shiva Himself did not really teach them. Nor were those celebrations held during Shiva’s time.
But out of their great reverence and love for Shiva, they used to observe those festivals, which have continued in Bengal even to this day.
If you observe carefully, you will find that these celebrations are popular mostly among the six groups of original Bengalis.
Of these six communities, the Chakma’s later accepted Hiinayána Buddhism, but the remaining five communities adhered to their original cult.
Nowadays, they have no doubt accepted the Paora’n’ik religion, but in those days they were completely Shaivite.
One of those festivals is Caŕaka. Behind this Shiva-oriented festival we find the dharmacakra of the Maháyána Buddhists. When Buddha first started preaching in Sarnarth, he sat in a special mudrá and propounded the main thesis of his doctrine to five people.
Of course, prior to that he had initiated Sáriputta and Mahámaodgalyan Arhan in Magadha, but he did his first actual preaching at a place near Benares called Sárauṋganáth (the present name is Sarnath, and the still older name is Iishipattana Migadáva,*** or, in Samskrta, Rśipattana Mrgadáva).
***In the Pa’li language
That special mudrá of Buddha is called dharmacakra pravarttana mudrá.
To those first five people who heard his preaching, he said, “Always keep the wheel of dharma moving. Take care that it never ceases to move.”
These five disciples were Kaońd́ińńa, Bappa, Bhaddiiya, Mahánám and Assaji* (in Samskrta – these five disciples were – Kaońd́ilya, Bapra, Bhadreya, Mahánám and Ashvajit).
*In the Pa’li.
The practice of keeping the wheel of dharma moving is still prevalent among the Maháyánii Buddhists, particularly among the Tibetan Lamaists.
Lamaism is a branch of Maháyánism.
Even today, there is some influence of Lamaism in Bhutan, Tibet, Arunachal, Ladak, some parts of Nepal, Sikkim, and the Darjeeling District of Bengal.
The Buddhists move the wheel and say, Oṋḿ mańipadme hum, oṋḿ mańipadhme hum.
To represent this idea – the idea that the wheel is endlessly moving – an artificial tree is erected on which a bamboo pole is tied; that pole keeps revolving, thereby signifying that the wheel of dharma is moving unceasingly.
Cakra – cakkara – caŕaka. The word caŕaka has been derived from the original cakra.
Formerly in Calcutta there were quite a few localities called Caŕakad́áuṋgá.
This is how the Caŕaka Festival originated, as a result of the combined influence of Maháyána Buddhism and the ancient Shaeva Dharma.
The people of Bengal gave up Buddhism and embraced the Paora’n’ik religion only about 1300 years ago.
The dharmacakra system of Buddhism is still retained, but the presiding deity of the wheel is no longer Buddha; it is Shiva of the Shiva Cult, because the influence of Shaeva Dharma was always present in the social life like a subterranean flow of water.
Now like Caŕaka, there is another festival – Gájan. The common people spend the whole year in various routine duties, so they feel that they should set apart one particular day when they leave their mundane work and shout in the name of Shiva, Shiva he!
The Samskrta word for “shouting” is garjana. In Prákrta, it is changed: garjana – gajjana – gájana. These festivals were not popular during Shiva’s time: you should remember that they all came into being about 5500 years after Shiva, in the post-Buddha, post-Jain era.
Another popular festival is Jhánpán. Thorns, pointed iron bars, iron nails, etc., were spread in a place, and then people would jump on them and fall over them, but their bodies were not pierced. Part of this festival was the custom of revolving in the air, with the body suspended from a hook.
As a result of the practitioner’s intense devotion and love for Shiva, the mind becomes so concentrated that the nerves become temporarily numb, and the person loses all sensation of pain during that period.
He or she does not feel pain even though there may be heavy bleeding.
King Váńa of Varendrabhúmi (the northern part of Bengal) introduced this form of worship. In north Bengal, you will come across many places called Váńagarh, Váńeshvara, etc., named after King Váńa.
He was a great devotee of Shiva, but he was born about 5500 years after Shiva. He himself used to practise this, so the system has come to be named Váńaviddha Haoyá after him. This festival also was unknown during Shiva’s time.
There is yet another Shiva-oriented festival, Bolán, which is common almost everywhere in Bengal, but especially in the Ajay Delta of Ráŕh. With skulls in hand, the devotees dance and shout the name of Shiva and beg for alms while singing hymns to Him.*****
*****Author’s note: Vandana karibe a’mi Shivera a’ma’r
Yini Pu’rn’a, yini nitya, yini sa’ra’tsa’r.
[I will surely worship my Lord Shiva,
The absolute, eternal and supreme essence
This Bolán festival, although slightly influenced by Tantra, was not current at the time of Shiva.
It also had its origin in the post-Buddha, post-Jain era.
I have given a brief idea about these festivals because you are already aware of them. Now you understand the history of their origin.
One more important thing needs to be mentioned.
With the decline of Shaeva Dharma, Buddhism and Jainism emerged.
Over the course of time, Buddhism and Jainism also began to decline; their philosophical base began to be eroded.
During that critical period Buddhism and Jainism were declining and the newly-propounded Paora’n’ik religion was emerging.
During this transitional stage in Indian history, a new doctrine, a new cult, emerged as a result of the synthesis of the declining Buddhism (which was popularly known as Baoddha Yogácára or Vajrayána at that time) and the rising Paora’n’ik religion (which was known as Shivácára, though it had no relation to Shaeva Dharma). This cult was the Nátha Cult, Nátha Dharma.
The word nátha used to be appended to the names of the preceptors of this Nátha Cult, such as Ádinátha, Matsyendranátha (who invented Matsyendrásana [spinal twist pose]), Miinanátha, Gorakśanátha, Gohininátha, Caoraungiinátha, etc.
This Nátha Cult had a large influence in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal.
Though much of Buddhism was accepted in the Nátha Cult, Shiva was the predominant god of the sect; but it had nothing to do with the actual Shiva or the Dharma He propounded.
Not only Shivácára but other cults also blended with the declining Buddhism or declining Jainism.
The Paora’n’ik Cult had five sub-cults in it – Shivácára, the Shiva Cult; Sháktácára, the Shakta Cult; Vaeśńavácára, the Viśńu Cult; Saorácára, the Súrya Cult; and Gáńapatyácára, the Gańapati Cult.
Gáńapatyácára emerged in the Maharastra area of western India at a time when Buddhism was starting to decay and the Paora’n’ik religion was on the rise.
That is, a new cult arose centring around Gańapati or Gańesha.
During the same period, in some parts of Bengal, the Shakta Cult was emerging, which included the sacrifice of animals at the altars of the deities.
In southern India, Shivácára and Vaeśńavácára emerged simultaneously.
In Bengal, Vaeśńavácára was yet to evolve.
Saorácára was popular only among the Shákadviipii Brahmins. (As they studied astronomy, they accepted the sun as their planet-god).**
They were opposed to the Vedas.
Wherever there is a greater concentration of Shákadviipii Brahmins, there you will find sun-temples. Their sun-god is dressed in loose trousers like the Afghans, a loose jacket on his body, a rosary in his hand, a fez on his head – the dress of an Afghan Muslim. This sun-god is the presiding deity for the Shákadviipii Brahmins of Central Asia.
**Saora’ca’ra is the cult of su’rya, meaning “sun”.
Anyway, Buddhism and Jainism underwent great changes and were converted into sub-cults.
In those days, Matsyendranátha of the Nátha Cult was a prince of Bengal. At that time the capital of Bengal was Maynamati – a place in the present Comilla District of Bangladesh. Maynamati is near the present Tripura State.
There was another famous yogi of the Nátha Cult – Bábá Caoraungiinátha.
In those days he had an ashram at a place which is now called Chowringee.
As pilgrims had great difficulties on their long journey through the forest to the Kalighat Temple, he had his disciples build a broad road to Kalighat.
That road was named after Caoraungii Bábá – the present Chowringee Road.
I am told that the present authorities are trying to change the name of this road. This is unfortunate; it is a distortion of history.
This was the transition stage.
During this stage, Buddha and Shiva were often merged in the minds of the people because, as I said earlier, people at heart were Shaivites.
If the society is likened to an enamel ornament, then Buddhism and Jainism were the enamel coating and Shaeva Dharma was the pure gold underneath.
The idea of Buddha and Shiva together gave rise to the concept of Bat́uka Buddha, which became changed into Bat́uka Bhaerava by the followers of the Paora’n’ik religion.
In Samskrta the word bat́uka has various meanings.
One of the meanings is “greatest”. The Samskrta word bat́uka became changed into bar’ua in Mágadhii Prákrta, baŕuá in Ardha-Mágadhii, baŕuyá in old Bengali, and boŕo in medieval Bengali.
You should know that among the Hiinayánii Buddhists of the Chittagong region, this surname Baŕuá is very common.
If you see anyone with the surname Baŕuá speaking Bengali, you can immediately conclude that that person must be a Hiinayánii Buddhist of the Chittagong area.
Also among the Assamese who have adopted the Paora’n’ik religion, the surname Baŕuá can be found.
Anyway, from the word baŕuá came the term boŕo.
The people of Bengal have now accepted the Paora’n’ik religion.
They have almost forgotten that the former Bat́uka Bhaerava, or Boŕo Bhaerava, has now been changed into Boŕo Shiva.
Because of the close proximity in sound, Boŕo Shiva became Buŕo Shiva.
As the people do not know the origin of the word – do not know that the boŕo is derived from the Samskrta bat́uka – and as it is easy for anyone to understand the meaning of the word buŕo [ In Bengali Bur’o means “old”], Boŕo Shiva became changed into Buŕo Shiva.
Perhaps you know that the Sábarńa Choudhury family were the zamindars or landlords of Barisa of south Calcutta.
In west Calcutta, they had a temple of Boŕo Shiva, and around that temple, a market for the sale of flowers, fruits and sweets grew up.
The people would call the market Buŕá Bázár – that is, the bazaar, or market, for the Buŕá Shiva Temple.
Now the name of the same bazaar has been changed to Baŕá Bázár, due to the distorted pronunciation of the up-country businessmen settled in the market area.
These are the deities of that transition stage of Indian history.
Sadáshiva of 7000 years ago has no relation to this Buŕo Shiva; Buŕo Shiva is a Buddhist deity.
In the same way there evolved the concept of Lokeshvara Buddha as a result of the synthesis of the declining Buddhism and Vaeśńavácára.
Sometimes, in specific cases, Lokeshvara Buddha was called Bodhisattva.
His figure looked like Viśńu, but there was an image of Buddha affixed to the diadem on his head; this was the only sign to identify the Bodhisattvas.
In the early days of the Paora’n’ik Age, Lokeshvara Buddha became transformed into Lokeshvara Viśńu and continued to be worshipped by the people. In a number of places I have seen images of Lokeshvara Viśńu.
At that stage there emerged another deity, Bodhisattva Niilanátha, as a result of a synthesis between the declining Buddhism and Shivácára. I will explain the concept of bodhisattva a little later.
About 1500 years ago, the people followed Buddhism. In those days a mother desiring the welfare of her children used to worship Bodhisattva Niilanátha. Thereafter the Bengali people abandoned Buddhism and embraced the Paora’n’ik religion. Naturally Bodhisattva Niilanátha became transformed into Shiva Niilanátha.
People thought since Caŕaka worship was a worship of Shiva, though indirectly, and since Niilanátha was half Shiva, let us perform the pújá [worship] of Niilanátha one day before Caŕaka Pújá.
Accordingly, Niilanátha is worshipped the day before the last day of Caetra [the last month of the Bengali calendar] – which is the day on which the Caŕaka Festival is celebrated.
In fact, there is a ritual for the worship of Niilanátha prescribed by the Paora’n’ik scripture; it does not require the ritualistic religious services of a Brahmin priest, because the deity is half Buddhistic, half Shivácára.
Usually, the Buddhist mode of worship is this: the devotees, after coming to the place of worship, light oil-lamps, offer their salutations, and in some cases, chant a few mantras.
The same procedures are followed in the case of Niilanátha. The worshippers come in the evening, light a few lamps, sprinkle some Ganges water, offer their salutations, and if they want to complete the ritual, recite some rhymed verses dedicated to the deity.
That is, the mode of worship is still Buddhistic.
As I have said earlier, lighting the lamps is part of the general mode of Buddhistic worship, and the same practice is followed in the worship of Niilanátha. Even now one can hear the village women say –
Niiler ghare diye báti,
Jal khao’se putravatii.
[If you really want welfare for your sons, light a lamp at the shrine of Niilanátha before you drink water in the morning.]
A lady with a male child goes to the Niilanátha temple and leaves a lighted candle or lamp in the evening.
So this Niilanátha has no relation to Shiva. This is post- Buddha Niilanátha, post-Buddha Shivácára.
But people in general, particularly those six original communities of the Bengali population, were so intensely devoted to Shiva that they took Niilanátha to be Shiva and worshipped him with deep reverence.
I shall speak about the bodhisattva concept later.
Now when the Paora’n’ik Age arrived, the original Bengalis did not dare to worship Buddha directly, because of fear of the upper-caste people.
A follower of Buddhism was required to follow the Three Jewels (Triratna):
Buddha, the holy preceptor;
Saḿgha, the organization; and
Dhamma, the ideology – here Buddhism.
The Samskrta word Dharma is changed into Dhamma in Prákrta. The philosophy that Buddha preached was called Shúnyaváda According to him, everything of this universe is emanating from Shúnya [the Void], everything is maintained in Shúnya and finally everything will merge in Shúnya: Shúnyát agacchati, Shúnye tiśt́hati, Shúnyaḿ gacchati – this is Shúnyaváda in brief. Shúnya means “zero”.
So they would worship dharma [Representing Buddha] in the form of a round-shaped stone which looked like a tortoise. A tortoise is round, that is, it looks like a zero, denoting nothing. This is how they would worship Dharmaráj — Buddha in indirect form, in a different name, in the name of dharma.
You will notice even today that Dharmaráj in most cases has been accepted as Shiva, for, as I have already said, the original Bengalis would secretly worship Shiva, even in the days of the dominance of Buddhism and Jainism.
Gradually Dharmaráj was accepted as Dharma-T́hákura, that is Shiva.
There are many temples of Dharmaráj or Dharma-T́hákura in various places, and the priests of these temples in most cases are not Brahmins, they are from the original Bengalis. Sometimes the Sadgopas, sometimes the Jelekaevartas [fishermen] are appointed priests of these temples.
They too have the full right to perform the priestly duties, because Shiva recognized no caste distinctions – to Him, no one was Ácarańiiya Shúdra or Anácarańiiya Shúdra or Antyaja Shúdra. All were equally His loving children.
In Angadesh, people of all classes and castes, even Ácarańiiya, Anácarańiiya and Antyaja Shúdras, march in procession in the evening of the Shivarátri day and dance and shout, Hara Hara vyom vyom [a chant in praise of Shiva]. There is not the least expression of caste sentiment or untouchability.
There is one Dharmatala at Salikha in Howrah District and another in Calcutta city itself – Dharmatala Street.
Recently, the name of the street has been changed, and thereby history has been unfortunately distorted.
Anyway, there was an intermediate stage when some sort of synthesis took place between the declining Buddhism and Jainism, on one hand, and the Paora’n’ik religion, on the other. During that transitional period Shankaracharya was born – the main propounder of the Paora’n’ik religion.
So that the Paora’n’ik religion he propounded would receive a spontaneous and warm response from the general mass, a very psychological attempt was made to proclaim Shankaracharya as an avatára [an incarnation] of Shiva.
Is this not, in truth, a pseudo-sentimental strategy?
The fact is that Shiva had an unprecedented influence over the mainstream of the population of Bengal and India.
Hence it became necessary to declare Shankaracharya an avatára of Shiva, so that the simple indigenous people of India might accept the doctrine of Shankaracharya, without any reservation, as the words of Shiva. This occurred about 1300 years ago.
25 April 1982, Calcutta