Daksha Prajapati, the progenitor of the human race, the preserver of balance of life, the architect of the code of conduct of civilized society, finally had reason to smile. He now knew how he would avenge himself and his pride. Shiva and he had been at loggerheads for a manvantara. If there was ever one who was the antithesis of Daksha, it was Shiva. He and his renegade bunch lived on the fringes of the civilized society of Daksha’s making. They were an irreverent, unapologetic lot who didn’t acknowledge the extraordinary diligence and discipline that Daksha had put in. If anything, they were openly disrespectful and seemed to lose no opportunity to shake the precarious and delicate balance of all creation. Why, just recently Shiva had cursed Brahma, Daksha’s father into losing his right to be worshipped and paid obeisance to. And to rub salt in his wounds, the impure tramp walked around holding in his hand the skull of Brahma’s destroyed fifth head. And worst of it all was His Sati, his darling Devi incarnate Sati, his youngest and most precious daughter insisting that she’d marry none other than Shiva. Shiva, that uncombed, unwashed, ash-ridden, animal skin clad, dope-head! It almost felt like something out there was laughing at him, mocking his power and success. But at last, the anger and hate that had been festering within Daksha would now be avenged.
It was to be the biggest ever yajna organised across the three worlds. It would come to be known as Daksha’s Sacrifice and would, once and for all time establish the legitimacy of his rule and the excommunication of that kapalin, the uncouth skull-bearer, Shiva. Daksha had made sure that every god, asura, man worthy of an invite had received it months ahead of time, all except Shiva and Sati.
Sati waited in her snowy home at Kailash for their invitation. She had heard so much about the massive celebration from her sisters, that she couldn’t wait to attend. But the invitation never came. Unable any longer to contain herself she suggested to her husband that perhaps they could go anyway? Maybe the invitation had just got misplaced, after all not even her father in all his arrogance would forget to send an invitation to Mahadev, the god of gods and his consort? Shiva looked at his extraordinary wife sadly and said that if they didn’t receive an invitation, it meant they hadn’t been invited. But, interjected Sati, surely I don’t need an invitation to go to my father’s home? Please do let’s go, my father would have forgotten his anger at our marriage by now. Shiva shook his head firmly. But Sati wasn’t her father’s daughter for nothing. Fine, she said. You stay here. I’m going, that’s my home after all.
Reaching her parental home, she was warmly welcomed by her mother, but her father pointedly ignored her. And when she went up to him, he began pouring insult upon insult at her and Shiva, in utter and demented denial of his puny, mortal body, making Sati burn with shame. It was then that she noticed that every god and goddess had been assigned a place of honour at the yajna. Everyone but her and her husband. Finally she understood what the yajna was about: it was her father’s way of casting out Shiva and her from his fine society, denying them a right of place in the pantheon of gods and goddesses. Regretting at once her action of coming to her father’s house, Sati looked around the wretched court, seething at the injustice of it. If she so willed she could decimate all present including her father … her father, and preceptor, the man who gave her this body she called her own and then her eyes rested on her vulnerable mother and her sisters. Unable to find resolution to the turmoil within, Sati used the only tool available to her. Summoning her inner yogagni, she set herself aflame in front of the aghast invitees.
When informed about his beloved wife’s death, Shiva grew distraught, the intensity of his grief threatened to consume the entire universe. In this state of agitation, he reached out and pulled a hank of hair from his head and slammed it to the ground. And from those matted locks rose Virabhadra. An enormous warrior blacker than the night sky, yet brighter than many suns and hair like a halo of flames. He had a thousand arms that held an entire arsenal of cruel weapons and around his neck was a garland of human heads. He raised his arms to Mahadev, bid me my Lord, what would you have me do? Said Shiva, you are my creation O Virabhadra, born of me, go, destroy the one responsible for the death of my Beloved.
And so Virabhadra along with Bhadrakali, also born of Shiva’s hair, and Shiva’s army reached the sacrificial ground. Bhadrakali and Shiva’s unruly hordes launched themselves at the attendees mowing down everything in their path indiscriminately as the divine invitees fled helter-skelter. But Virabhadra didn’t lose himself to vengeful blood-lust. He had but one role, his eyes fixed on Daksha and his sword pointed at him, no force on earth could save Daksha’s from the personification of Shiva’s wrath that day. And ultimately, Daksha’s head rolled. His work complete, Virabhadra was reabsorbed into Shiva once again. Eventually Shiva was pacified by the gods into forgiving Daksha. And since the sacrifice had to be completed for the good of all creation, Shiva cut off the head of the sacrificial goat and placed it on Daksha’s inert body. Daksha rose, his heart cleansed of all envy, he bowed to the Supreme Lord.
Virabhadrasana, or the Stance of the Gentle Warrior, is a deceptively simple asana, recommended universally for beginners to the practise of Yoga. It doesn’t have the flash and dash of some of the more complicated asanas like Gandha Bherundasana or Taraksvasana, which *le sigh* seem beyond the reach of my inconsistent practise and a 43-year-old body. But not Virabhadrasana. It is a three part asana and incredibly in those three variations, tells you the entire story, intention and code of conduct of the warrior. The first pose is of Virabhadra rising from the matted locks of Shiva. His feet are strong on terrafirma and his hands joined in salutation, he raises them to Shiva offering his services to the Lord. Virabhadrasana 2 finds the warrior looking forward, his target in sight, taking aim. His arms are outstretched parallel to the ground, his unwavering focus or drishti on the head of Daksha. And in the final pose, Virabhadrasana 3, he reaches out, sword held firmly in both hands, a single leg lifted for better reach and decapitates Daksha. Belying his fearsome visage, the gentle warrior had but one purpose, the death of the arrogant Daksha. His was not the role that would cause wanton destruction.
We see a similar philosophy in all great warriors of yore, particularly the famed Samurai of ancient Japan. The Bushido code of conduct of the Samurai or one who is born to serve, lists eight virtues that the warrior must possess: Courage, Benevolence, Politeness, Honesty, Honour, Loyalty, Character and, chief among all, Rectitude or deep sense of justice. A true Samurai will never waver on the path of service. To kill when called to and to die for the cause if needed. And neither of this is done for personal gain or glory but in service of their master.
Both Virabhadra and Daksha are do-ers. But in the case of the latter, so carried away was he by the temporary identity of Prajapati Daksha, he had forgotten that everything must be done as a service to the Eternal. His identity with his ego-driven image was so strong, he was willing to destroy the very things he had created – his daughter who inverted her own creative forces against herself lest she, the mother of all creation, bring forth destruction The sanskrit word for ego is Aham-kara, or I the Doer. In relying on the false message of his Ego-mind, Daksha had begun to believe in his own greatness. He considered himself above Iswara – the perfect union of Shiva and Sati, of Purusha and Prakriti, Consciousness and Creation.
The Greeks have given us the Daemon, or Daimon, a creature part inspiration, part divine intervention that visits the creative when they surrender their ego at its altar. No one has analysed the interpretation of dreams more than psychiatrist and psychoanalyst C G Jung. His work has reached beyond the realm of psychology finding its way into art and science and literature. Yet each time he was approached by someone wishing to have his dream analysed, Jung would always begin by saying, I don’t know how. And with that one sentence, open up the space for the consciousness, the Daemon to flood him with the answers. Shiva is Purushottama, or Supreme Consciousness, the Witness to the play of Creation. Instead of being swept away in a tide of emotion, he created the perfect warrior, the Daemon Virabhadra, who would bring forth destruction only of the Ego and not of all creation and create room for new thought and new structures in place of the defunct.
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, neuroscientist, in her path-breaking book, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, has another theory on anger:
“Once triggered, the chemical released by my brain surges through my body and I have a physiological experience. Within 90 seconds from the initial trigger, the chemical component of my anger has completely dissipated from my blood and my automatic response is over. If, however, I remain angry after those 90 seconds have passed, then it is because I have chosen to let that circuit continue to run.”
Anger is a response to external stimuli, usually at some injustice done and if we bear witness to those 90 seconds, to the ebb and flow of the emotion, we can then act after the heat of the moment has passed and in a constructive manner, not being trapped by the siren song of the ego. Anger always has had a bad rap of being a negative, destructive force. Indeed there’s a direct correlation between anger and violence; and so we are taught to be afraid of anger – ours and others. Eventually we learn to push it down, keep it buried under dogma and self-righteousness, until we either turn in on ourselves or lash out at the innocent and unsuspecting; that’s when it turns destructive. Our dissatisfaction at existing constructs, our desire to change and understand and explain, has the same seat within us as anger. We often hear of the traumatic, violent, pain-ridden pasts of people, masters, who have gone on to create some of the most miraculous, healing art or extraordinary inventions that have changed our lives forever. Great artists and writers and seers have long known about the cleansing creativity brought forth by channelised anger.
When this story first surfaced within me, I couldn’t quite fathom the symbolism of Shiva’s hair. I didn’t understand why he had to tear off his hair, when Shiva could just as easily create things out of thin air. Then I dreamt a dream in which all my hair appeared to be rotting, they had taken on a sticky texture and were fused to one another. And in the dream I imagined that I would look all right bald, too. I still couldn’t understand the metaphor, partly because I connected my hair to vitality, like the story of Samson in the Old Testament and that just didn’t make sense in my context nor in this story. When I narrated this dream to my favourite dream analyst, she said, your hair represents thoughts, which are rotting and outdated and need to be shaved off, discarded, if you seek a clean palette to begin again. Of course. In plucking out his hair, Shiva harnessed those destructive thoughts of anger away from within him, where they would fester and ultimately cause annihilation and when he separated himself from those thoughts he was able to create the the perfect weapon, the Gentle Warrior who would kill the ego and help Daksha transcend the material consciousness into an awareness of the Supreme.
When practised correctly and consistently, Yoga has the power to force the ego to submit to the consciousness. In Yoga we find ourselves in equipoise between striving and being, reflecting the dichotomy between Consciousness and Creation. Ever rooted firmly by gravity but reaching for the stars. In duality however, we see opposites, we see tension and a struggle for balance. But with the emergence of a third entity, there is a synthesis of harmony, without losing the flavour of the original two. This mystical story of threes begins with Daksha who operated at the level of Name-Fame-Gain and Virabhadra who brought him to submission in a threefold manner. A true Yogi knows that the cornerstone of Yoga is harnessing the power of the triumvirate, of breath-intention-movement or Shiva-Sati-Virabhadra.