When we say Shiva, generally he’s always referred to as Swayambhu, because there is no particular moment of creation, there is no particular source of creation – he’s by himself – that’s why the word ‘Shiva’ means ‘that which is not’. “That which is not” does not happen at a particular time, does not happen through something – it is there.
So Shiva was. The creator Brahma came and started creating. So, various galaxies, the planets, the life forms, the humans, everything came forth out of him. Creation got into its grind of movement and Shiva, who was still, opened his eyes and started looking at the creation. As he observed the creation, he saw people were going through all kinds of struggles, pains, miseries, agony, various levels. Here and there there was little bit of pleasure and joy, So, when he saw this, he did not like the creation.
He looked around, then he saw Brahma was so absolutely proud of his creation, he was looking at his creation with great pride and joy. Then he found two eyes were not enough, so he popped one more head to look at this side – he didn’t want to miss anything. Then he popped one more and one more. Then he popped a fifth head, like a crown for his pride, not to look at anything in particular, just to crown himself with an extra head.
When Shiva saw that this Brahma is so gloating about such a miserable creation, he got mad. He attacked Brahma and plucked his fifth head out. Now he has only four, you know. Brahma screamed in pain and said, “Why are you doing this to me?” Then Shiva said, “Are you not ashamed of this creation that you have done? Everybody’s suffering! People are going through all kinds of struggles. People are going through all kinds of miseries and pain and agony.”
Brahma said, “I have not created pain, nor have I created joy, I have just made it. It is up to them how they go through this. It is in their mind.” Then Shiva said, “Who created the mind? That is also your creation.” Brahma said, “The mind has no attributes of its own, it is just there. People can make joy out of it or misery out of it. People can make agony out of it or ecstasy out of it – it’s left to them.”
Then Shiva sat down and looked at the creation very carefully, observed every creature and then he wanted to know his own mind, so he closed his eyes and started looking at the nature of his own creation, his own mind and when he realized, when his realization came to a certain absoluteness, that actually creation is without attribute, each individual can make whatever he wants. The mind is attribute-less, when he realized this, then he became so ecstatic, so ecstatic that he jumped and danced.
He danced wildly out of his joy and ecstasy. As he danced intensely, with absolute involvement, when every cell in his body was a dance by itself, suddenly he realized that this dance is not necessary either, and he noticed at the peak of his dance, there was absolute stillness, so he sat down as an ascetic, unmoving, utterly still. They say that stillness happened on this day, on the Mahashivarathri night is when it happened.
From intensity of ecstasy to absolute annihilation and stillness, these two things he went on alternating. This is the imagery you see – sometimes he’s dancing and exuberant, sometimes he’s utterly still as if nothing exists.
When we say Shiva is the destroyer, it is not about destroying the world – it’s about destroying your world. Your world is essentially an accumulation of past experiences and impressions. Past is seeping into the present only through your thought process, and it is projecting itself into the future through your desiring process. What you know as your desire is essentially an exaggerated version of the past. So the destruction of the past is the essential nature because if you want to know the grandeur of the creation, that is possible only through the presently existing moment – that is here right now. This is the only doorway.
In utter stillness, there is no past. In absolute movement, there is no past. These are the two fundamental passages that Shiva found, to give access to that which is creation and the source of creation.