The First Yogi Part 1 (updated)
A very long time ago, perhaps as much as 15,000 years ago, before anyone had heard of Yoga or the Bhagavad Gita or even Tantra, a unique looking man was seen wandering around the upper region of the Himalayas. No one knew his name. No one knew who he was. No one knew where he had come from. As time passed his legend grew. He was seen very rarely but when he was, he was seen in cremation grounds dancing wildly, or he would be sat completely still, his eyes closed. He would sit motionless for many months at a time.
At this time only a few million people lived on earth, so the region of the Indian subcontinent was not as populated as it is now. All the people of that part of the world soon began to speak of this wandering yogi. Some believed he was a myth created by the elders to frighten children. Others believed he was possessed by spirits. Those discarded by society found him fascinating. Those who ruled found him frightening. He was described as 7 foot tall with long matted hair. His body smeared in ash and sometimes even blood. On occasions he appeared to have no clothes on. At other times he had the skin of a dead animal draped over his shoulders. He carried a trident in one hand and a skull in the other and wherever he wondered he was followed by the few who believed he was of divine origin. When he danced wildly he appeared completely inebriated. When he sat silently he looked eternally peaceful.
"Then a certain ascetic (one with matted hair) wearing an antelope's skin, and holding a staff, of ripe speech and burning with lustre, entered the forest, like a lord in bodily form".
Another who was fascinated by him was the Princess Parvati. She was the daughter of Himavan, the King of the Himalayas. When she heard descriptions of this wandering man amidst the cremation grounds, she became infatuated. The descriptions she was told, the whispers she had heard, all matched that of the man she had been seeing in her dreams since childhood.
When Parvati travelled to find him, she would feel her body and even her soul drawing itself towards him. She didn't need a map or directions, she just followed her heart. Her soul drew itself towards him as if they had been separated since the dawn of time. Although they had never met, Parvati longed to be with him.
When Parvati found him after many months of travelling, she would find him sitting silently and motionless. Parvati would sit and just watch him. She would sit for many months just watching him as if under a spell, her mind, body and soul completely fixated on him.
"On seeing him, the daughter of the mountain-lord, all trembling and her body covered with perspiration, said My heart , however, pervaded by the one sentiment of love, is set on him".
After many months with his eyes closed, one day he finally opened his eyes. This was only for a split second, but it was enough for him to notice the angelic Parvati. They both sat mesmerised and just stared into each other's longing eyes.
Finally, the ascetic spoke, "O thou who art beautiful beyond argument, who illuminates the sky with her lustre. By the site of you illustrious one, my internal darkness is dispelled". Parvati felt like she had waited a life time to hear these words. Any anguish she had over meeting him had now left her body. They continued to gaze into each other's eyes without any concern for the world around them. The seasons changed yet their admiring gazes remained fixed on each other.
After some time, Parvati respectful of the traditions she was born into, slowly walked away. She was uncertain and didn't want to leave but she knew that proper custom should follow if she wished to be with the wandering yogi. Parvati, returning home, instructed her dearest friend to inform the yogi that if he too wished marriage, he would have to ask Parvati's father for her hand. When the yogi was asked if he would speak to Parvati's father, he replied "It will be so". Parvati heard the news and was ecstatic. Her family, unsure of her wishes to marry someone they had only heard whispers of, soon joined in her celebration. Rumours have it that even Cupid breathed a sigh of relief.
"Then (after the settling of the wedding day), in the waxing (fortnight) of the moon, and on the day endowed with virtue, Himavan with his relatives gathered, performed the ceremonies preliminary to the wedding of his daughter. The high roads were strewed with heavenly flowers".
After marriage, the ascetic would spend much time in meditation. His eyes remained closed and his mind peaceful. His body was free from illness and disease and his intelligence was far superior to anybody else. When he spoke, he spoke in a way that had never been heard. When he sat still, he sat in way that had never been seen. Parvati knew that her husband was experiencing another dimension of life. He was too far removed from the misery of the common man to not be of a higher state. Parvati wishing to save mankind from their constant suffering would enquire; "By what means can this higher state be realised?". The ascetic now referred to as Shiva (meaning the auspicious one) would explain to Parvati that man, if willing, can elevate himself and experience true awareness and realisation of life. Man must experience pure consciousness to become free and peaceful. This is the same consciousness that is responsible for the manifestation, maintenance and reabsorption of the entire universe. Shiva would explain that this transformation, from human consciousness into divine consciousness, is called YOGA. This word Yoga is used both in the sense of the journey to the universal consciousness, and the eventual union. Shiva would go on to explain 112 techniques that man could use to enter into this higher state of consciousness.
In the next blog, I look at the discussion between Shiva and Parvati, and the birth of the Vijnanabhairava (Divine Consciousness) Tantra, the 112 Yoga techniques to realise a higher reality (referred to as Bhairava).
This story is a re-telling of various stories I have heard and read over many years of casual reading and research. The story is inspired by The Shiva Puranas, The Teachings of Sadhguru, The Kumarasambhava of Kalidasa, The Vijnanabhairava Tantra, the works of Osho Rajneesh, Devdutt Pattanaik, Vanamali, Jaideva Singh and Ramanaj Prassad, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati as well as many other stories I have read over the years of which I no longer have a reference. I have intentionally left out many mythological tales within this story as the metaphors behind the myths are perhaps far too advanced for me to understand let alone explain. My intention with this blog is to present Shiva to you in a way that is relatable and in a way we can all understand. For this reason, I have chosen here to present him not as the Hindu "god", but rather as the adi yogi. The first yogi, whose system of realising the true self remains available and accessible to all regardless of gender, belief and religion.