Siva Nataraja - The Lord of the Dance
The manifestation of Siva that has most appealed to me is Siva as Lord of the Dance. Years ago, as a liturgical musician, one of my favorite songs to play was the Shaker song - "The Lord of the Dance," and I made a blog entry in December of 2007 on the interplay between these two.
I include the comments sent to me by Dr. Manoj Challam on the meaning of Siva Nataraja:
SHIVA NATARAJA – THE
Life is Uncertain. Anything can happen anytime to anyone of us. The real question is how does one live such a life of uncertainty with Certainty?
By Embracing the Dancer, the Shiva Nataraja, the Joyous Dancer. Nata means the Dance and Raja means King.
This is the dance of creation and destruction of the Universe that each of us co-creates. On one hand, Shiva holds the , the Drum, the pulse beat of Creation. Time and Space comes from this beat. On the other hand, Shiva holds the fire, the fire in the belly we need in order to do a radical transformation in our lives, be it a new relationship, a new spiritual path or a new career. To keep the balance of Creation, one Destroys the Demon of Ignorance (Apasmara) beneath our feet. These demons represents the old ways of thinking, the old patterns (samskaras) and addictions that sometimes drag us down. These demons are always there in our lives, that’s why Shiva steps on the back of the demon after breaking it, but the head is upturned upwards. One needs to always manage these demons with Sadhana or Spiritual Practice.
Here is where we live this uncertain dance with Certainty. By Surrendering to Grace, as shown by Shiva’s hand gesturing to one of his feet. The word “Surrender” to many Western minds mean giving up or losing something. To the Eastern mind, surrender is like a drop of water merging with the Ocean. You essentially gain the Infinite. The individual drop is indistinguishable from the Ocean and that’s where the Certainty in our lives comes in: We realize that we are the Ocean that is never born and never dies.
During our life’s Dance of UnCertainty, an intuitive flash of recognition of Certainty comes in, that is accompanied the Blessing pose of the other hand of Shiva (Abhava Mudra) where he removes all fears and uncertainties within us. There is the element of Grace involved at the final step but we can do the self effort to be Lucky. This Self Effort is likened to managing our demons (like Apasmara) under our feet and surrendering to Grace.
This Shiva archetype (Isthadevata) is within our collective Unconscious. These archetypes lie deeply embedded in our Causal Body and are available for the whole human race. They pop up in times of transition in our lives and help guide us to achieve the higher ideals in life. One of the biggest knowledge about ourself we can find out is to know who our Isthadevata is and how to invoke that and incorporate those superhuman ideals in our lives. At its very core, these teachings are not a Religion (theirsm, polytheism, monotheism, etc) nor a Philosophy (Dualism, Monism, Non Dualism, etc). It is a Sadhana (Spiritual Practice) of actualizing human potential of becoming the best at every stage of our lives. It is always Perfecting as opposed to Perfection and looking at the good in everything around us.
Shiva gives us the reason to live with joy. Shiva also reminds us of the grander ideals we can all live for. He brings out the yearning some of us have to make an impact on people and society and leave a legacy beyond the transitory nature of our lives.