The Shiva Family and the Christian Trinity
Most Hindus would be familiar with the endearing picture of Lord Shiva with the beautiful goddess Shakti, seated in their celestial abode on mount Kailash, with their two divine children – the elephant headed, Ganesha, and the youthful boy God, Muruga. Or during Christian catechism you may have encountered the image of the venerable elderly Father with his Son, Jesus, seated on the heavenly throne with the illuminating dove, the Holy Spirit, hovering above.
While these images present God in the context of human relationship and may facilitate a subjective emotional identification with the divinity represented, the enquiring mind may be prone to investigate the possibility of a more esoteric or philosophical explanation to these familiar images of devotion.
Here’s a possible interpretation…
When we picture God as Shiva the householder with wife and children, the metaphorical meaning may be that the one God is being expanded into the family unit as an attempt to convey to us the multiple aspects and characteristics of the one divinity.
We find the same dynamics in the Christian doctrine of God as a Trinity in the interpersonal representation of Father and Son. Obviously, the feminine Mother figure, prominent in the Hindu stories, is missing here primarily because of the insecurity of a patriarchal church. However, a study of the nature of the Holy Spirit in the Bible and contemporary theology, will unveil the possibilities of the feminine creative power behind the hovering dove.
So on a more philosophical and esoteric level, the Father, Shiva, is the absolute consciousness of Being. He is that which is! He is the Source, the primordial substance of the universe, the ultimate Reality... And when that pure consciousness expresses itself, this will-power of self-expression manifests as the feminine creative potential to birth the universe called Shakti in Hindu philosophy and Holy Spirit in Christian theology.
The first expression of this Shakti is the primordial sound vibration that causes the great explosion that creates space in which the universe will be manifest. In the Hindu image this force is signified by the image of the mighty elephant combined with the human ability to act discerningly – Ganesha, the beloved elephant headed God. Therefore, he is called the firstborn son of Shiva-Shakti.
When the space is created by this massive Shakti force called Ganesha, the pure-consciousnesss of Shiva pours into it as pure light where it will be multiplied by the Shakti's creative wisdom into the different aspects of the phenomenal universe. This pure light issuing forth from the Source is therefore called the second son of Shiva, Muruga. However, some Hindu traditions contemplate the appearance of light before the creative sound and therefore they call Muruga the eldest son and Ganesha the younger one.
So, basically the two sons are the primordial sound and light of the universe born out of the self-expression (Shakti) of the source of being (Shiva).
In the Christian tradition these principles of the first sound and light are combined in the image of the one Son, Christ, who prior to his human birth as Jesus, son of Mary, is eternally begotten from the Father. This cosmic Christ is described by Saint John as. ‘the WORD (Ganesha the primordial sound) which was with GOD (Father/Shiva) in the beginning… and in him was LIFE (Holy Spirit / Shakti) and that life was LIGHT (Muruga).’
Furthermore, the Triune God or Shiva family may be seen as the process of our own Self-realisation...
Ganesha is that moment when some aspect of false perception in the mind is cleared. Muruga is the light of new understanding that dawns in that cleared space. Shakti is the dynamic force that draws us deeper into that light of revelation and enables us to appropriate it in a way that advances our spiritual evolution and draws us back to that ultimate Reality. And then the Shiva mystery becomes even more clearer and you are closer to that truth of Shivoham (I am that I am)…
Or using the Triune image – the encounter with Christ as the Word opens us to new light, through which the Holy Spirit, the essence of all things, draws us back to the Father, the source of Being.
But to some, these metaphorical interpretations may feel like a pretentious mouthful about something that is way beyond the limitations of human intellect. So the Bhakti tradition of love and devotion, offers us the alternate path of contemplating and interacting devotionally with the stories and images of the celestial Shiva family OR the eternal love shared amongst the persons of the Trinity. And even here on this path of loving devotion to the Triune God or Shiva family, where the more philosophical reflections seem excessive, we will find ourselves standing on the threshold of the possibility of our own Self-realisation. For to love is to know and to know is to love.
May Ganesha clear your way... May Muruga shine his light on the path… May Mother Shakti carry you in her arms of love back to the supreme truth of Shiva! May your journey to the Source be blessed in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN.
- FR KUMERAN –