MYSTERY OF SHIVA LINGA & THIRD EYE
(Interactive session on 05.04.2015)
Keynote address by Asish Kumar Raha
(Other participant speakers: Dr. Ananda Mukherjee, Mr. Gaur Kanjilal, Mr. Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya, Mr. D.P. Das, Dr. J. Bhawal & Dr. Suhas Majumdar) [Opening song – Shiva chanting played by Ms. Sharmila Bhawal]
Anchor: Mr. Asim Banerjee
Manner and form of worship varies from religion to religion. Besides, God is conceived in varied forms and also as formless . Amidst these various forms and manner of worship, perhaps the most mystical and enigmatic one is the worship of Lord Shiva by the Hindus in India, Nepal and other countries as well, in symbolical form of the Linga and the Yoni. Going by the shape and the form of those symbols, as also some Puranic texts, several scholars known as Indologists are of the view that the Linga and the Yoni represent male and female sex organs. Indian scholars and pedantists on the other hand rubbish such construction, alleging that the ancient texts have been totally misunderstood, and misinterpreted by those Indologists. Our effort here will be to examine the rival contentions in historic perspective, in order to find out the truth.
The concept of the Third Eye is the other aspect under our focus. It is no less mystical, conceptually, and can even be called esoteric as it is believed that the one whose Third Eye has opened even a little bit is capable of showing super natural power. There has been considerable research on the subject with no satisfactory finding in medical terms. It is, however, believed that the phenomenon of the Third Eye belongs to the domain of the Yoga. Our efforts here will be to examine, analyse and understand this esoteric phenomenon scientifically.
Meaning of the term ‘Linga’
In Sanskrit, Linga means a ‘mark’ or a symbol. Thus the Shiva Linga is a symbol of Lord Shiva – a mark that, according to the Linga Purana, symbolizes the Omnipotent Lord, who is otherwise formless and Infinite.
Is the Linga phallic symbol?
Does Linga represent phallus? Western scholars and Indologists beginning with Max Mueller in the 19th century up to Wendy Doniger in the current century are predominantly inclined to believe so, while majority of Indian scholars disdainfully reject the said western version, holding that the Linga, far from representing phallus, actually symbolizes Infinite Brahman in form of pillar or Stambha / Skambha that links the spirit world with the material world, having no beginning or the end. In support of their above contention, Indian scholars rely upon some passages from the Atharva Veda. Western scholars on the other hand find support for their phallic theory in the Shiva Purana and the Linga Purana.
Genesis of conflicting views
To trace the genesis of this conflict, western Indologists from the time of Max Mueller, were convinced that the Vedic religion was the outcome of the worship of the fire, the sun, and other awe-inspiring objects of natural phenomena. This came out prominently in the Paris Congress of the History of Religions, soon after the grand assembly at the Parliament of Religions at Chicago in 1893 where Swami Vivekananda stood out as the most enlightened and popular speaker. The purpose of the Paris Congress was only to inquire into the historic evolution of different forms of established faiths. Vivekananda was present at Congress, but declined to speak owing to his ill health.
Mr. Gustav Oppert, a German scholar, gave his scholastic finding at the Congress to the effect that the Shiva-Linga was the phallic emblem of the male and the Shalagrama-Shila represented the female generative principle. In other words, he wanted to establish that the worship of the Shiva-Linga and that of the Shalagrama were nothing but the component parts of the worship of the Linga and the Yoni, which were put together in course of time. Swami Vivekananda repudiated above thesis of Gustav as completely unfounded and ridiculous, arising from mis-interpretation of some Vedic and Puranic texts. He pointed out that the worship of the Shiva-Linga originated from the famous hymn in the Atharva-Veda Samhitâ sung in praise of the Yupa-Stambha, the sacrificial post. In that hymn a description is found of the beginning-less and endless Stambha or Skambha (pillar), put in place for the eternal Brahman. In the Linga Purâna, the same hymn is expanded in form of stories, in order to establish the glory of the great Stambha and the superiority of Mahâdeva. As for the Stambha or endless pillar getting reduced to the present size of Shiva Linga that has a resemblance of Stambha, the Swami drew an analogy of the massive Buddhist Stupa (memorial topes) getting reduced to miniature substitutes for worship or devotion, or Varanasi Shiva temple getting reduced in miniature form. According to the Swami, Shalagrama-Shilas are natural stones resembling in form artificially-cut stone-cases of the Buddhist Dhatu-garbha (metal-wombed or memorial topes). Those were being first worshipped by the Buddhists, which gradually got into Vaishnavism, like many other forms of Buddhistic worship that found their way into Hinduism. (ref. vol. 4, pp 422-429, 2nd reprint of subsidized edition, March 1989, of The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda).
Interpretation of western Indologists
The contra view of western scholars relating to Shiva Linga as phallic symbol is founded on some Puranic stories, which are as follows.
According to Siva Purana and the Linga Purana, when the universe was dissolved and immersed completely in water, Lord Vishnu alone was resting on the water in sleeping posture. From his navel arose Brahma in a lotus. At that time two demons, viz. Madhu and Kaitava came out from Vishnu’s ears and attacked Brahma. Afraid, Brahma sought intervention of Vishnu and eventually Vishnu killed both the demons. However, both Brahma and Vishnu started fighting over who was greater. At that time, there emerged from the water a huge pillar like structure, which went up to the sky. Brahma in form of a swan flew upward to find the top-end of the pillar while Vishnu in form of a boar dived down into the earth to find the bottom end of the pillar. But both were unable to find the end of the pillar. At that time, they heard a cosmic voice saying that they ought to worship the Stambha or the pilar, which is the ultimate power known as Mahadeva or Shiva joined by the Shakti. In course of time, that Stambha or pillar was represented by Linga, which looked like phallus, established in a foundation, which resembled a female Yoni, representing Shakti. Thus the Linga and the Yoni placed together were believed to represent the Shiva and the Shakti.
According to another tradition, when entire universe was immersed in a single ocean, Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra arose from the water. Both Brahma and Vishnu witnessing the power of the Rudra as blazing suns beseeched him to create progeny. Rudra condescended to their request and went into deep meditation to acquire extra power to create perfect progeny. As several celestial years passed by and Rudra was still lost in meditation, Vishnu requested Brahma to create progeny without waiting for Rudra, for which purpose Vishnu lent his power (Shakti) to Brahma. Thereupon, Brahma started creating gods, demons, Gandharvas, Yakshas, serpents, birds, Raksasas, humans etc. and the earth was bristling with population of above species. At that time finally, Lord Rudra emerged from the water, ready to create progeny with his newly acquired Yogic power. Witnessing the earth as already over-populated, he became angry and was about to destroy the entire creation so as to start it afresh. A flame of destructive fire came out of his mouth to burn the whole universe. In order to pacify Rudra, Brahma chanted his praises. Satisfied, Rudra withdrew from his destructive mode and released his excess energy in the form of Linga, which he broke off from his body and threw it on the surface of the earth. The Linga broke through the earth and also rose to the sky. Brahma took the form of a swan and flew to the sky to reach the top-end of the linga while Vishnu took the form of a boar and dived into the earth to find its bottom-end but both failed to find either end of the Linga. Rest of the story is similar to the one already stated above.
The third account of the origin of the Linga is again from the Siva Purana, Linga Purana and the Brahmanda Purana. The story is like this. In a pine forest where the sons of Brahma, the seven sages and other ascetics, viz. Bhrigu, Angiras, Vasishtha, Visvamitra, Gautama, Atri, Sukesha, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Marichi, Kashyapa and Samvarta, were engrossed in deep meditation and austerities, Shiva in order to teach them the value of worldly life for the sake of balance in creation, took the form of a nude, semi-lunatic but of extremely handsome and shapely figure, and seduced their wives. The sages being outraged and angry by the seductive and vulgar gestures of the perverse intruder cursed him that he would lose his manhood and drop his phallus on the ground. Though the above curse affected Lord Shiva in the least, in reverence to the sages he chose to drop his Linga on the ground and revealed his identity to the sages. Consequent upon retribution of the Shiva, the whole of the pine forest got parched by fire and the seven sages were banished from the earth to take their refuge in the firmament. All the sages after knowing the identity of the Shiva worshipped the Linga and took the lessons of life from him. They also took a vow not to dishonour any guest in future and also to grant him his wishes, as the god himself came in the guise of a guest. The sages also learnt the lesson of striking a balance between austere asceticism and family life.
According to Padma Purana, which tends to establish superiority of the Vishnu over Brahma and Siva, the sages once requested Bhrigu to determine who among the three gods was superior. Bhrigu went first to mount Kailash to meet Siva but was not allowed access by Nandin as Siva was engaged in love making with his consort. Enraged, Bhrigu cursed Siva that the form of the Yoni and the Linga will represent him and his consort. Thereafter, he went to Brahma and found him passionately engrossed with his consort, ignoring the sage altogether; Bhrigu thereupon cursed Brahma that he would not be worshipped by anyone. Bhrigu’s next journey was to the abode of Lord Vishnu. He found Vishnu equally engaged in lovemaking with his consort. Losing his temper, Bhrigu entered the bedroom of the Lord and kicked him in his chest. Vishnu, instead of being angry, told the sage he felt honoured by the touch of the feet of a great sage like Bhrigu. For reason of this modesty of Vishnu, Bhrigu instantly declared Vishnu as the greatest of the threesome.
Based on the above Puranic stories, western Indologists are inclined to look upon the Shiva Linga, juxtaposed with the Yoni, as nothing more than phallic symbols representing male and female sex organs.
Interpretation of Indian scholars based on the Atharva Veda
The Indian scholars, on the other hand, predominantly subscribe to the philosophical or spiritual background of the Linga worship, tracing its origin to the Skambha Sukta (Hymns of Skambha) in the Atharva Veda. The concept of Skambha or Stambha representing Brahman or Existence Absolute, Consciousness Absolute and Bliss Absolute was later migrated to the Linga Purana and the Shiva Purana to symbolize Shiva or Mahadeva. Since Purusha needs Prakriti or Shakti for creation and procreation, Shiva and Shakti are envisaged as co-existing in the Stambha / Skambha, later taking the form of the Linga and the Yoni in miniature form. In order to understand this Indian point of view let us look into some of the verses in Skambha Sukta, relied upon by indian scholars.
Extracts from the Stambha Sukta, the Atharva Veda (X- 7):
yásmint stabdhvā́ prajā́patir lokā́nt sárvām̐ ádhārayat
skambháṃ táṃ brūhi katamáḥ svid evá sáḥ – (7)
7) Who out of many, tell me, is that Skambha, On whom Prajāpati set up and firmly established all the worlds?
yát paramám avamám yác ca madhyamáṃ prajā́patiḥ sasr̥jé viśvárūpamkíyatā skambháḥ prá viveśa tátra yán ná prā́viśat kíyat tád babhūva – (8)
8) That universe which Prajāpati created, wearing all forms, the highest, midmost, lowest, How far did Skambha penetrate within it? What portion did he leave un-penetrated?
yásmin bhū́mir antárikṣaṃ dyáur yásminn ádhy ā́hitāyátrāgníś candrámāḥ sū́ryo vā́tas tiṣṭhanty ā́rpitāḥ skambháṃ táṃ brūhi katamáḥ svid evá sáḥ – (12)
12) Who out of many, tell me, is that Skambha On whom as their foundation earth and firmament and sky are set; In whom as their appointed place rest Fire and Moon and Sun and Wind?
yásya tráyastriṃśad devā́ áṅge sárve samā́hitāḥskambháṃ táṃ brūhi katamáḥ svid evá sáḥ – (13)
13) Who out of many, tell me, is that Skambha He in whose body are contained all three-and-thirty Deities?
yé púruṣe bráhma vidús té viduḥ parameṣṭhínamyó véda parameṣṭhínaṃ yáś ca véda prajā́patim jyeṣṭháṃ yé brā́hmaṇaṃ vidús te skambhám anusáṃviduḥ – (17)
17) They who in Purusha understand Brahma know Him who is Supreme. He who knows Him who is Supreme, and he who knows the Lord of Life, These know the loftiest Power Divine, and thence know Skambha thoroughly.
yátrādityā́ś ca rudrā́ś ca vásavaś ca samā́hítāḥbhūtáṃ ca yátra bhávyaṃ ca sárve lokā́ḥ prátiṣṭhitāḥ skambháṃ táṃ brūhi katamáḥ svid evá sáḥ – (22)
22) Who out of many, tell me, is that Skambha In whom Ādityas dwell, in whom Rudras and Vasus are contained, In whom the future and the past and all the worlds are firmly set;
br̥hánto nā́ma té devā́ yé ‘sataḥ pári jajñiréékaṃ tád áṅgaṃ skambhásyā́sad āhuḥ paró jánāḥ – (25)
25) Great, verily, are those Gods who sprang from non-existence into life. Further, men say that that one part of Skambha is nonentity.
hiraṇyagarbhám paramám anatyudyáṃ jánā viduḥskambhás tád ágre prā́siñcad dhíraṇyaṃ loké antarā́ – (28)
28) Men know Hiranyagarbha as supreme and inexpressible: In the beginning, in the midst of the world. Skambha poured that gold.
skambhó dādhāra dyā́vāpr̥thivī́ ubhé imé skambhó dādhārorv àntárikṣamskambhó dādhāra pradíśaḥ ṣáḍ urvī́ḥ skambhá idáṃ víśvaṃ bhúvanam ā́ viveśaskambhó dādhāra dyā́vāpr̥thivī́ ubhé imé skambhó dādhārorv àntárikṣamskambhó dādhāra pradíśaḥ ṣáḍ urvī́ḥ skambhá idáṃ víśvaṃ bhúvanam ā́ viveśa – (35)
35) Skambha set fast these two, the earth and heaven, Skambha maintained the ample air between them. Skambha established the six spacious regions: this whole world Skambha entered and pervaded.
The above verses from the Skambha Sukta of the Atharva Veda would conclusively prove that the Skambha has no reference whatsoever to phallus or phallic symbols. Quite on the contrary, the Skambha connotes the Supreme Power, the Infinite God or Brahman WHO is formless as also in form, existent as also non-existent, and the ultimate source of the entire creation. Now the question is how the Shiva Linga can be related to the Skambha. The answer to this lies in the Puranic verses relating the Shiva Linga, some of which are cited below.
Shiva in form of Skambha in the Puranas
skambhénemé víṣṭabhite dyáuś ca bhū́miś ca tiṣṭhataḥ
skambhá idáṃ sárvam ātmanvád yát prāṇán nimiṣác ca yát – (2)
[Upheld by Skambha’s power these two, the heaven and the earth, stand fast. Skambha is all this world of life, whatever breathes or shuts eye.]
ékacakraṃ vartata ékanemi sahásrākṣaraṃ prá puró ní paścāardhéna víśvaṃ bhúvanaṃ jajā́na yád asyārdháṃ kvà tád babhūva -(7)
[Up, eastward, downward, in the west, ‘it rolleth, with countless elements, one-wheeled, single-felled. With half it hath begotten all creation. Where hath the other half become unnoticed?]
yád éjati pátati yác ca tíṣṭhati prāṇád áprāṇan nimiṣác ca yád bhúvattád dādhāra pr̥thivī́ṃ viśvárūpaṃ tát saṃbhū́ya bhavaty ékam evá – (11)
[That which hath power of motion that which flies, or stands, which breathes or breathes not, which, existing, shuts the eye. Wearing all forms that entity upholds the earth, and in its close consistence still is only one.]
anantáṃ vítataṃ purutrā́nantám ántavac cā sámanteté nākapāláś carati vicinván vidvā́n bhūtám utá bhávyam asya – (12)
[The infinite to every side extended, the finite and the infinite around us, These twain Heaven’s Lord divides as he advances, knowing the past hereof and all the future.]
bā́lād ékam aṇīyaskám utáikaṃ néva dr̥śyatetátaḥ páriṣvajīyasī devátā sā́ máma priyā́ – (25)
[One is yet finer than a hair, one is not even visible. And hence the Deity who grasps with firmer hold is dear to me.]
tváṃ strī́ tváṃ púmān asi tváṃ kumārá utá vā kumārī́tváṃ jīrṇó daṇḍéna vañcasi tváṃ jātó bhavasi viśvátomukhaḥ – (27)
[Thou art a woman, and a man; thou art a damsel and a boy. Grown old thou totterest with a staff, new-born thou lookest every way.]
pūrṇā́t pūrṇám úd acati pūrṇáṃ pūrṇéna sicyateutó tád adyá vidyāma yátas tát pariṣicyáte – (29)
[Forth from the full he lifts the full, the full he sprinkles with the full. Now also may we know the source from which the stream is sprinkled round.]
yó vidyā́t sū́traṃ vítataṃ yásminn ótāḥ prajā́ imā́ḥsū́traṃ sū́trasya yó vidyā́d sá vidyād brā́hmaṇaṃ mahát – (37)
[The man who knows the drawn-out string on which these creatures all are strung, The man who knows the thread’s thread, he may know the mighty Brahmana.]
akāmó dhī́ro amŕ̥taḥ svayaṃbhū́ rásena tr̥ptó ná kútaś canónaḥtám evá vidvā́n ná bibhāya mr̥tyór ātmā́naṃ dhī́ram ajáraṃ yúvānam – (44)
[Desireless, firm, immortal, self-existent, contented with the essence, lacking nothing, Free from the fear of Death is he who knoweth that Soul courageous, youthful, undecaying.]
The above Puranic verses lend support to the view that the concept of the Shiva Linga had a direct nexus with the Vedic Skambha and had nothing to do with human sex organs. As to the question why Skambha in form of the Shiva Linga needed to be juxtaposed with the Yoni representing Prakriti or Shakti, the explanation offered in the Purana is as follows. There is no creation without the union of the opposites. There could be no creation from Shiva alone, or from the Prakriti (nature) alone. “The union of a perceiver and a perceived, an enjoyer and the enjoyed, of a passive and active principle, is essential for creation to take place. Transcendent manhood is the immanent cause of creation; transcendent womanhood is the efficient cause. There cannot be procreation without such union and there cannot be divine manifestation without their cosmic equivalent.”
Why the Vedic Skambha in the Linga – Yoni form
The question that arises for determination is why the symbols looking like the phallus and the yoni have been used to represent Shiva and Shakti or the Purusha and the Prakriti, as the case may be.
While addressing the above question, two important phenomena have to be kept in view. First, symbolism was widely prevalent in ancient India during the early and late Vedic period. By way of a crude illustration of symbolism, we may refer to the Tantric ritual of creating an effigy of the prospective victim for the purpose of inflicting pain or harm to the targeted victim by way of pricking, hitting or excising the limbs of the effigy. Likewise, superimposition of divinity on a symbol or image has been widely prevalent. Secondly, it has to be borne in mind that the Puranic texts such as the Linga Purana and the Shiva Purana were composed during the ascendancy of Buddhism when ascetic practices and celibacy in pursuit of the Nirvana (liberation), posed a serious challenge to the Hindu tradition of the balanced life in following four phases, viz. Brahmacharyam (abstinence), Garhastham (married life), Vanaprastha (seclusion) and Sannyas (monastic life). The Hindu reaction to the Buddhist drive for celibacy led to extolment of sex-images in contemporary temple sculpture and the deification of sex symbols. This would largely explain why the Vedic Skambha was reduced into the shape of the Linga and the Yoni put together for purposes of worship as the Shiva and the Shakti during the ascendancy of Buddhism. It is pertinent to mention here that no ardent worshipper of the Shiva Linga is driven by sex desire. On the contrary, as per the standing ritual, the worshipper is to resort to strict abstinence, if not fast, before his / her obeisance to the Linga. Another important aspect of the Linga worship is that the Linga is necessarily to rest on the Yoni for purposes of worship. Except for the Ekalinga (Linga without the Yoni) temple near Udaipur in Rajasthan, all other Linga temples have the Linga and the Yoni grouped together. In this regard we may mention the twelve Jyotirlingas (self-radiant Lingas), which are as follows:
| Names of 12 Jyotirlingas
Mallikarjuna (Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh)
Ghrishneshwar (Aurangabad, Maharashtra)
Mahakaleswara (Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh)
Vishwanath (Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh)
Trimbakeshwar (Nasik, Maharashtra).
Omkareshwar (Madhya Pradesh)
Alinga – Linga distinction
Invisible Shiva called ‘Alinga’ is the root of the visible ‘Linga’ or ‘Prakruti’/Shaivi /Maya or the Universe. Thus the visible Linga (Prakriti) is Shiva Swarupa itself. Alinga in Hindu philosophy connotes Infinite, All-pervasive, and the ultimate source of all souls and matters, and in short the Pure Consciousness. In other words, Alinga is Brahman, the source of the Purusha and the Prakriti. Manifested in Saakar (form), Alinga becomes the Linga, which is a combination of the Purusha and the Prakriti inasmuch as all the attributes of the Prakriti are subsumed in the Linga. The synthesis of the Alinga and the Linga is known as ‘Aouttama’ Linga. From the above point of view, one should not distinguish the Linga from the Yoni, describing the former as the Shiva and the latter as the Shakti as the Linga is only a combination of the two and cannot be vivisected into two separate identities.
Three parts of the Linga explained
It is customary to form the Linga in three parts for worship in a temple. The lowest part is the square base, which is called the Brahmabhaga or Brahma-pitha which symbolically represents Brahma, the creator. Lord Vishnu represents the middle part, which is octagonal, known as Vishnubhaga or Vishnu-pitha. The top cylindrical portion is known as the Rudrabhaga or Shiva-pitha, also called the Pujabhaga (part for worship) as this part is meant for worship. The top part also symbolizes fire as it represents the destructive as also preserving power of God.
Pouring of water on the Linga explained
It is commonly believed that the ritual of pouring Ganga water over the Linga has originated from the belief that the holy river Ganga descended from the paradise to the Shiva’s matted head as otherwise the earth would have been swamped by her gushing water. The Ganga was released to earth afterward by the Shiva when the devotion and prayer of king Bhagirath pleased him. The pouring of milk on the Linga symbolically represents pouring of Ghee on the sacred fire of the Yajna signifying sacrifice of the self to God.
There is another explanation for the ritual in the perspective of the Puranic stories. One of the stories indicate that the Shiva broke away the Linga from his self and threw it on the earth when he found that the Brahma had already created the creatures including humans, without waiting for the Shiva to arise from his long meditation. Given the fact that the Linga means mark or symbol, the breaking of the Linga and the throwing of it would logically mean that the Shiva dispersed or released his accumulated energy as his mark on the stones which alone could absorb it, without being burnt. Whether the transmitted energy of the Shiva could change the shape of a stone slab into the present Linga-form is debatable. However, in all likelihood, it was felt necessary by the contemporaries to reduce the heat of the stones by pouring water on it. As the stones wre believed to be recipient of the Shiva’s energy, those stones were held as the Linga or the symbols that represented the Shiva. This may explain how did the paradigm of the pouring of water on the Linga originate.
Concept of the Third Eye
The Third Eye, also known as the Pineal gland, is situated in-between the eyebrows in the forehead, at a depth of about an inch and a half, and placed at the centre between two hemispheres of our brain. It is often described as the gate to the cosmic world. From the yogic perspective The Third Eye is essentially an esoteric concept. The awakening of the Third Eye amounts to the opening of the gate to allow us access to the mystic world that lies beyond the three dimensional world. According to physicists, 95% particles remain invisible to our eyes and perception. The Quantum Physics postulates oneness of the universe and also that all sub-atomic particles are inter-connected. The Yoga provides empirical validation of the above axiom primarily through the medium of the Third Eye. When it awakens, nothing remains invisible. In the Yoga, the Third Eye is known as Ajna (command) Chakra (sixth out of seven Chakras in ascending order) in the human body. One who has attained mastery over Ajna Chakra is believed to have complete command over all the sense organs. The other Chakras (from one to five in ascending order) are Muladhar, Svadhisthan, Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddha and (the seventh one located on the head) Sahashrara. Each of these Chakras has a special character, and the mastery over each Chakra helps the yoga practitioner to rise to a certain spiritual level, the highest spiritual experience of Nirvikalpa Samadhi (experience of merger with the Divine) being attainable when the Kundalini (primal energy, called shakti, located at the base of the spine in coil form) rises to the Sahashrara.
Shiva’s Third Eye
Lord Shiva is known as Triyambaka or the possessor of the Third Eye. In the Shiva Purana, we find an interesting account of the impact of the Thrid Eye of the Shiva. The story goes as follows. After having lost Sati, his consort, Shiva got deeply absorbed in meditation. Meanwhile, the demons led by Tarakasur went berserk. They drove out the Devas from the paradice. Indra, the king of the Devas, came to learn from the Brahma, one of the Trinity and the Grandsire of the Devas and the asuras, that only the offspring of the shiva and Parvati would be able to kill Tarakasur. Therefore, it was important for them not only to break the meditation of the shiva but also to generate love in his heart for Parvati, the beautiful daughter of the Mountain King. The Devas deputed Kama Deva, the God of Love, on the mission. Kama Deva succeded in breaking the Shiva’s meditation but paid the price with his life as he was burnt into ashes by the fire emitting from the Third Eye of the angry Shiva. The story does not end there, but we need not continue with the story further as it is strictly not relevant.
The second instance when the Third Eye of the Shiva was shown as emitting light to the world was when his consort Parvati playfully placed her palms on his eyes. His Third Eye instantly popped up to light the world, which was enveloped in darkness when his eyes were covered by the palms of Parvati.
Even though authenticity of both the stories can be questioned, the Third Eye phenomenon cannot be dismissed or discarded as a mere fiction. From the ancient to modern time there are umpteen instances of the Third Eye factor being experienced without any satisfactory scientific explanation.
Third Eye activation in Mahabharata
There are at least three instances in Mahabharata when the Third Eye was got activated. On the eve of the Battle of Kurukshetra, Vedavyasa bestowed upon Sanjaya the Third Eye vision to give a running commentary of the battle to Dhritarashtra, the blind emperor. We also have the full account of the cosmic form of Sri Krishna, envisioned by Arjuna through his Third Eye that was got activated for the purpose by Sri Krishna. This is narrated in Chapter 11 of the Bhagavat Gita. Mahabharata further mentions that after the battle when Dhritarashtra, Gandhari and the Pandavas were immersed in grief for losing their nearest and dearest ones, Vedavyasa gave them the Third Eye vision to see departed ones in their mortal shape and form.
From the above three accounts of activation of the Third Eye and its effect, the following facts emerge. First, the activation of another person’s Third Eye for a limited period and purpose could be accomplished by the known masters of the Yoga such as the sage Vedavyas and Sri Krishna. Second, what is not visible to naked eyes is visble to the Third Eye. Third, the Third Eye is capable of transcending the three dimensional barrier, like it happened in the case of Arjuna. Fourth, it helps travelling into the past like it happened with King Dhritarashtra and the Pandavas when they could see their departed children and relations as engaged in the battle, long after the battle was over. According to the Yoga Shastra, all these phenomena are possible once the Third Eye awakens. However, the extent or degree of awakening may depend upon the spiritual advancement of the person concerned.
Modern anecdotes – experience of Swami Yogananda
In Chapter 14, titled An Experience in Cosmic Consciousness, in his Autobiography of a Yogi, Swami Yogananda has left the following account of his experience. On a fine morning when the young Mukunda (Yogananda’s pre-sannyas name) was trying to meditate in the sitting room of his Master Sri Yukteswar, without being able to concentrate, he was summoned by his Master twice. Mukunda shouted protestingly: “Sir, I am meditating.” His Master retorted: “I know how you are meditating with your mind disturbed like leaves in a storm. Come here to me.” Sri Yukteswar struck gently on Mukunda’s chest and the effect has been penned down by Yogananda in following words:
“The whole vicinity lay bare before me. My ordinary frontal vision was now changed to a vast spherical sight, simultaneously all perspective. Through the back of my head I saw men strolling far down Rai Ghat Lane, and noticed also a white cow that was leisurely approaching. When she reached the open ashram gate, I observed her as though with my two physical eyes. After she had passed behind the brick wall of the courtyard, I saw her clearly still.”
“All objects within my panoramic gaze trembled and vibrated like quick motion pictures. My body, Master’s, the pillared courtyard, the furniture and floor, the trees and sunshine, occasionally became violently agitated, until all melted into a luminescent sea; even as sugar crystals, thrown into a glass of water, dissolve after being shaken. The unifying light alternated with materializations of form, the metamorphoses revealing the law of cause and effect in creation.”
Experience of Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda, known by the name Naren prior to his Sannyas or monkhood, often teased Sri Ramakrishna, his Master-to-be. Once, in the temple of Dakshineswar, young Naren with his friend Hazra were offered by Sri Ramakrishna tea with Rasagolla (round-shaped milk-made sweet dipped in syrrup). When Sri Ramakrishna was out of sight, Naren started taunting him by telling Hazra: “See, this tea is Brahman, the cup is Brahman, so are the Rasagolla, the wall, you and I. All are Brahman.” Just as he burst in laughter, Sri Ramakrishna entered the room and touched him gently in the chest. Immediately, the Third Eye of young Naren opened and his whole vision changed. He saw the tea, the cup, the Rasagolla and the wall being made of same substance as his own body. As a matter of fact, entire world and his own self were in his vision made of the same stuff. In his case the above vision lasted for several days, which made him learn through direct experience the oneness of the universe, which was pronounced as the axiomatic Truth by the Yoga and the Vedanta long ago, and has since been validated by the Quantum Physics.
Nostrodamus, Edgar Cayce and Ramanuja
Both Nostrodamus and Edgar Cayce are believed to have foreseen the future and quite a few of their predictions are believed to have come true. They were neither soothsayers, nor astrologers, but the persons who claimed to have possessed extra-ordinary power to see the past and the future while in trance. Edgar Cayce lived in the 20th century America and is credited with curing several thousand incurable patients by prescribing medicines unheard of. It is on record that Cayced prescribed a medicine for a female member of the family of Rothschild who happened to be one of the richest Americans. As the medicine’s name was unheard of, Rothschild advertised in newspapers whereupon a Swedish gentleman responded saying that his father took a patent of that medicine but never manufactured the same and he was no more. Nevertheless, he supplied the formula of the medicine to Rothschild and the latter got it produced through hired chemists. When the medicine was administered to the patient, she was completely cured. It is said that Cayce could not explain how he could suggest the medication or could see the future. But as per his version, all those things materialized before his eyes. There is a strong possibility that the Third Eye got activated in the case of Cayce as also Nostrodamus which enabled them to see the things that were ordinarily not visible to naked eyes.
In the case of Ramanuja who could not pass his Matriculation examination, he was credited with solving most difficult mathematical problems instantaneously, which phenomenon astounded mathematical giants like Professor Hardy of Cambridge University. It is said that when Ramanuja was on his death bed owing to Tuberculosis, Professor Hardy came to Madras Hospital to see him. From his hospital bed, Ramanuja saw the number plate of his car, and told Hardy that the number of his car was unique for four aspects. After Ramanuja’s death, Hardy struggled to find out those four aspects. Before his death, he could discover only three aspects and he willed his property to researchers for discovering the fourth aspect. Eventually the fourth aspect could be discovered after 22 years of research. Now the question is, how could Ramanuja, who had no formal training in Mathematics, solve the hardest mathematical problem almost in no time. It is said that Ramanuja had no explanation to offer except that the solution materialzed in his vision which he could see and reveal. This may be yet another example where the Third Eye was got activated.
Yoga technique of opening the Third Eye
The Yoga that deals with the technique of opening the Third Eye is known as Shiva-yoga. As has been stated above, the Third Eye as a gate to the cosmic world enables our consciousness to transcend the barrier of three dimension and access higher dimensions beyond this phenomenal world of matter. Shiva Yoga takes us to a higher dimension from where we can find the unity, inter-connectivity and integrity of souls as all souls have emanated from the Shiva, the Absolute and the Ultimate Truth. Here, the Shiva is taken as indentical with Brahman, the Existence Absolute (Sat), the Consciousness Absolute (Chit) and the Bliss Absolute (Ananda).
The Shiva-yoga also teaches us how to transcend the symbol through the symbol. To elucidate it, we can meditate on the external Linga as Ishta (God as the focus of concentration) and the Linga within as Prana (the life force). Thus concentrating on an external symbol, one can go in trance and gradually lose external consciousness in the course of which the Linga-without gets merged into the Linga-within, till both slowly melt away into nothingness or the wholeness, that pervades inner consciousness.
The prevalent practice to awaken the Third Eye, however, is to concentrate on the Third Eye location, in-between the eyebrows on the forehead, for meditation. It is customary to apply sandal paste in form of Tilak or Tika on the Third Eye location, as sandal paste is believed to have a smoothing effect on the hidden eye.
The Third Eye in non-Hindu traditions
Apart from Hindu and Buddhist traditions, the Third Eye concept was known and practised in other traditions such as Chinese, Christian, Theosophist and the Sufi. Taoist and Chan schools of China were not only aware of the Third Eye phenomenon but they both followed elaborate training to awaken the Third Eye or the Mind’s Eye, held as one of the main energy centres. Incidentally, the word ‘Chan’ is a derivative of the sanskrit word ‘Dhyan’ or meditation, and the Japanese word ‘Zen’ is a derivative of the Chinese ‘Chan’. Thus it is no wonder that the Chan school of thought, and similarly the Zen school as well, were well conversant with the Buddhist method of meditation where the focus was on the Third Eye point. According to Taoist Alchemical tradition, the Third Eye is also known as ‘muddy pellet’.
According to the mystic tradition of Christianity, represented by mystics such as Father Richard Rohr, the Third Eye concept is intricately connected with non-dualistic thought. As per this tradition, the Third Eye has the mind of Christ. According to the neo-gnostics like Samael Aun Weor, the Book of Revelation metaphorically mentioned the Third Eye in several places. Like the Third Eye in Hindu tradition happens to be the sixth of the seven Chakras, the gnostic tradition equates the Third Eye with the sixth of the seven churches of Asia, viz. the church of Philadelphia.
The Third Eye phenomenon was well known in Sufi system as well. Sufi philosophy is essentially dualistic, love being its essence. Its tradition of meditation is founded on the holistic, non-dualistic principle of the Divine. Like in Hinduism, in Sufi tradition also human body is divided into a number of spiritual centres, which are called ‘lataif’. Each spiritual centre in a body is associated with a particular colour. The purpose of meditation is to open and activate these spiritual centres, the Third Eye being one of the spiritual centres.
Madam Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophist Society, has identified the Third Eye with the Pineal gland, which is a tiny organ, about 1 cm in length and shaped like a pine cone. It is located between the two hemispheres of the brain. C.W. Leadbeater, a renowned theosophist, has explained that the Third Eye, when awakened, enables one to have a microscopic vision when tiniest objects like quarks become visible to us. It also helps us with macroscopic view of the universe.
Our analytical finding on the contentious issue whether the Linga combined with the Yoni are phallic symbols as the western Indologists are generally inclined to believe, or it is the miniature form of the Vedic Skambha or pillar representing Brahman as is convincingly held by the vast majority of Indian scholars, tilts, no doubt, in favour of the latter, based not only on the Vedic and the puranic texts but also on the belief of worshippers.
In the first place, the Linga is understood by worshippers as inclusive of the Yoni. Second, no worshipper of the Linga looks upon the Linga and the Yoni as sex symbols. On the contrary, they look upon it as holy representation of the Divine, the Shiva. It is also customary to keep fast and to purify one’s thoughts before worshipping the Linga. The god of sex and love in Hindu mythology is Kama Deva and Rati and not the Shiva and Parvati. As the story goes, it is the shiva whose anger burnt the Kama Deva into ashes when the latter tried to arouse sex desire in the shiva to break his meditation. Thus the ascetic Shiva is looked upon traditionally as a detached Maha Yogi, while his consort Parvati is held as representing Shakti or the energy. Neither of them had anything to do with lust or materialistic desire. Third, the plain meaning of the word Linga is mark or symbol and not phallus. The sanskrit word for phallus is Shishna. Fourth, the description of the Shiva as the Formless, Infinite, above all qualifications, without beginning or end etc. in the Linga Purana and the Shiva Purana make it amply clear that the Shiva is held as the Brahman or Sat-Chid-Ananda in both Alinga (formless) and Linga form (in symbolic form). Lastly, the Skambha Shukta in the Atharva Veda and its reference in the Linga Purana establish a strong link between the Vedic Skambha and the Puranic Linga.
As for the concept of the Third Eye, it is traditionally associated with the Shiva, referred in the ancient texts as the inventor and the preceptor of the Yoga. Our findings based on the Yoga and recorded experiences of revered spiritual leaders as also of some extra ordinary individuals, is that the Third Eye is not a fiction or chimera. It is the key to extra sensory perception (ESP) that lies within us, and can be activated by Yogic processes through meditation. The person whose Third Eye is fully awakened can access the cosmic world at both microscopic as also macroscopic levels. The past, present and the future events surface before such person and the mysteries of the cosmic world get unfolded.
Our study reveals that the mystery of the Third Eye was known not only to Hindu Yogis and Buddhist monks in India, but also to Taoists, Chan and Zen practitioners, Christian and Sufi saints and mystics as also to Theosophists and advanced spiritualists of other faiths as well.
From the example of Ramanuja and Edgar Cayce who were not yogis or monks, but commoners, it would appear that the Third Eye could effortlessly open in an individual without any austerity or elaborate practice overtly undertaken. Those who subscribe to the theory of re-incarnation like the Hindus and the Buddhists, explain such phenomenon with reference to the past life austerity and penances undertaken by those individuals. For those who do not subscribe to the theory of re-birth, there is no plausible explanation for the activation of the Third Eye in a non-practitioner like them.
It is, however, a fact that extra sensory perception is a subject of serious research among scientists, particularly neuro biologists, who do not dismiss such phenomenon as unreal or improbable. Yoga, which was earlier looked upon as esoteric or mystical is now getting recognition from the community of scientists after the effects of the Yoga have been recorded, experimented and experienced. The activation of the Third Eye is, however, a subject of advanced Yoga and is yet to pass the scrutiny of experimental science, despite the instances of Ramanuja and Edgar Cayce. Such experimentation is difficult owing to the fact that an advanced Yogi whose Third Eye has awakened will rarely submit himself to scientific study or researches. Nevertheless, the gap between the experimental science and the empirical science, between the science of matter and the science of mind and consciousness, between physics and neuro science, is getting bridged by the day. The day may not be far off when the mystery of the Third Eye gets unravelled to us with scientific evidence and explanation.