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Lord Shiva as Nataraja - Part II
There is another story associated with Lord Nataraja. As the Lord was dancing merrily, one of his earrings became loose and fell on the ground. Then it is said that the Lord lifted that small earring with the toes of His foot. What is the meaning behind this? There is a great secret behind this. That is why this is also called as Chidambaram-rahasyam (the secret of the infinity).
As the story goes, when the Lord effortlessly lifted the small earring merely with the toe of His foot, the entire creation was struck with wonder and amazement. Here, what it means is that we grow accustomed to whatever we are listening to around us. We do not find anything amazing or unique in that. It does not astonish us; it does not create a sense of wonder in us. But when that trivial earring was lifted off the ground by the Lord, then one suddenly gets a glimpse of the subtle, the invisible infinity. Here, it shows that this mysterious creation does not operate the way you think it does.
There is a deeper, hidden, miraculous divine power at work behind everything. You must make space in your life for that miracle of the divine to manifest. This is the deep meaning of the story. Otherwise, we usually go through life with our own limited understanding. We tend to think we understand how everything in creation operates, but it is not really so.
In South India, if someone tries to keep a secret, then others can ask him saying, "My dear! What are you trying to hide? Is it some sort of Chidambaram-rahasyam?" People jokingly ask this to one another in the South.
Who knows and who can really say? Anything can happen at any time! When we realize this, an altogether different dimension of possibilities opens before us. The possibility of the miracles that is hidden in every moment – is what is represented by the Lord lifting the small earring from the ground by His toes and effortlessly placing it back on His ear.
It is said that whatever you read in the Vedas, the Puranas and the Upanishads is not superficial or shallow. It is literally the Truth and you can see and experience it all in this vast Creation, and in this very lifetime. This story is mentioned to illustrate and assure this fact.
There is consciousness present within our whole body, and it is divided in the upper and lower halves of the body. This divine force or consciousness is called as the Kundalini Shakti. The other meaning from this story is to elevate and raise this Kundalini Shakti from the lower centres to the higher centres of the being (From the Sanskrit word ‘Kundala’ literally meaning an earring). When this Kundalini Shakti is awakened and rises within us, then our entire life becomes a dance of joy and bliss. Then nothing in the world can trouble us, and the entire world becomes amazed in wonder when the power of consciousness gets awakened and enlivened within you.
When the Lord Shiva seated deep within you rises and dances in absolute bliss, then the entire Creation is struck with amazement and wonder. This is what happened when Lord Nataraja lifted off the fallen earring from the ground even as He was engrossed in blissful dance. All the gods and goddesses were amazed to see this. It is said at that moment, huge waves of infinite love and bliss swept over the whole of creation and everyone was steeped in joy and happiness, even the gods themselves. And then, in that same state of wonder and bliss, each started dancing in joy. This is what it means.
When you awaken from within, you perceive this entire creation dancing with such joy and total bliss. Everywhere you go, you find the nectar of the Divine pouring. Even when a bird chirps, you find it so beautiful and divine. When the Sky takes on different colours in the day, then that scene also exhilarates you from within. It is that same kind of amazement and happiness that you feel when you meet your beloved. That inner experience brings forth a glimpse of beauty and deep love within you. You find sweetness in everything everywhere. Everything appears new, and fresh. If a baby is crying, then also you find sweetness behind it. If you see a man or a lady walking, or an animal – then such trivial things too fill you with sweetness and adoration. Every particle in this Creation then appears to shine with a different and unique Light; there is uniqueness in everything. You experience the real beauty of creation and this becomes revealed through Lord Shiva’s Tandava as Nataraja. This is the essence behind the story.
So, when you awaken from within, with knowledge and awareness – then you experience the cosmic dance happening every moment within you, and you are the very Lord of that dance. The soul within you, the Shiva Tattva within you unfolds and manifests.
Here during Satsang anyway everyone is dancing happily. But usually it is the outside World that makes you dance (through desires or feverishness). The entire creation is the cosmic dance of Purusha and Prakriti. Every person in the world today is dancing to the tunes of one thing or another. So, at first it is Prakriti or the Mother Divine who makes you dance – to the tunes of anger, desire, lust, greed, egotism etc. What all kinds of actions people do when they are caught in this dance. Is it not a dance? Under the influence of these, people engage in all sorts of activities and drama. There is no dearth of such actions. Wherever you look, you will find people dancing to the tunes of anger, desire, etc. But when the spirit within you strives against these influences of Prakriti, then it rises above these lower urges born of desire and ignorance, and gets engrossed in a dance of bliss and joy – the Ananda Tandava. At that moment, Prakruti is struck with amazement and becomes enamoured to behold this divine dance.
The Devi was not able to fathom and match what Lord Shiva was able to do. We often say that a strong and one-pointed mind can support a feeble body, but if the mind is weak and stuck in negativity, then even if the body is physically strong, it cannot support or take that body forward in life.
This is one of the depictions brought out from this story. The Devi or Prakriti danced and put forward a question to Lord Shiva to unravel. Through Her movements, the Devi says, “O Lord! I dance before you through the eightfold aspects of My divine nature. Would you be able to match my steps and dance along with Me?”
That means, your body (as Prakriti) is asking the Soul (Lord Shiva), “Can You be one with me?” So, when the soul awakens, it rises in a blissful dance and proclaims, “O Devi! O Prakriti! You are mine and a part of me only. I am the Supreme Lord of all creation”. By way of this divine dance of bliss, the Shiva Tattva dwelling deep within us all establishes its sole lordship and presence as the Master of all Creation – being endowed with all divinity and beauty.
Have you noticed that there is a ring of fire all around Lord Nataraja? It means that this divine dance is not something that takes place at the gross material level of the World. It happens in the subtle world, which is the world permeated by Shakti, by the Divine primordial energy. This divine dance is a scene set within the subtle invisible realms of creation, and is happening at all times ceaselessly. There is a ring or large halo of flames around Lord Nataraja’s dance to show its inseparable and underlying connection with the Shakti or the primordial Energy.
What is the relation of this dance with Mahashivratri? On the occasion of Mahashivratri, when the entire atmosphere becomes so filled with positivity, when all the planets are favourably placed and aligned, then you are able to go deep into meditation very effortlessly, and are able to experience the blissful Shiva Tattva. You are able to connect with the Shiva Tattva and also feel the omnipresence of the primordial Energy (Shakti). This is the importance of Mahashivratri.