Shiva Sati Mythology : A Conversation [2003]


vnathan14342 wrote :
There is one contradiction in this story. After having immolated Herself in the sacrificial fire, Sati's corpse was still available for Shivji to carry around for Vishnu to cut into pieces to remove Shivji's disillusion. How was it possible? That was a question my daughter asked, and I could not find an answer. Can any one elucidate?

Colin
Namaste "vnathan"
Perhaps I can offer an answer to your daughter's question.
There are different versions of the Shiva Sati story. For instance, the version in the Kalika Purana has several differences from the version in the Shiva Purana.

In the Shiva Purana (which I read some time ago) Sati goes to the Daksha's ritual and immolates herself in the sacrificial fire because she is offended by Daksha insult to Shiva. Shiva punishes Daksha, but remains calm, and doesn't carry around Sati's body.

In the Kalika Purana (which I'm studying right now) Sati doesn't in fact go to Daksha's ritual. Her spirit leaves her body straight after she hears that her father has organized a ritual without inviting her and her husband. Her body doesn't go into a fire, so it's there for Shiva to pick up and carry about.

Contradictions arise when the different versions get mixed up. Adi Shakti16 wrote : "Shivji was unconsolable because Sati sacrificed Herself to uphold the glory of her Husband. His action was a manifestation of His love for Sati who had sacrificed Herself because of Her love for Shivji."

In the Kalika Purana version, Sati's reason for leaving her body is somewhat different.

The event is foreshadowed even before Sati is born. Daksha worships the Goddess, she appears before him, and he entreats her to incarnate as his daughter. The Goddess replies that she will grant his request. However she also warns him that if he ever treats her with disrespect, then she will end her incarnation at once, whether her life at the time is happy or not.

It isn't a matter of a wife upholding the glory of her husband, but of the Goddess manifesting her own glory.

Om Shantih,

adi_shakthi16
colin, thank you for sharing your views on this subject.

The version I quoted was based on the 'shiva purana' - you are absolutely right. But , in the version, I read, shiva was 'enraged' at his beloved wife's untimely death - so enraged was he that he cut daksha's head and threw it into the sacrificial fire. then upon request . he found the head of a 'goat' on daksha's head and revived him. In this version that i read, shiva does take the lifeless 'body' of sati and in a 'frenzied' mood did the 'tandava' dance - he was roaming round carrying the corpse of sati on his shoulders like a mad man -then vishnu threw his 'disc' (sudarshana chakra) and cut her body into several pieces and sati's body fell all over and these places were honred as shakti peethas! please refer to post on shakti peethas!
Who is to glorify whom? in shiva purana, shiva is glorified and in kalika purana mother kali glorified. in vishnu purana, vishnu is glorified. But from all the tantras we know shiva worships his sakti and sakti in turn worships shiva? are they different? they are on unified whole! ardha-nareeshwera! the shiva lingam has 'yoni' in it! the yoni has 'linga' in it! this is the highest tattwa! Shiva and his Shakti are inseperable-that is why lifetime after lifetime , they are each other's consort.

Whenver I read all these 'version' I always find that there are as many versions as there are translations! read the bhagvat gita - one sees so many different versions- 'dwaita' , 'advaitha' etc... As a woman (stree) it is very appealing to me to see shiva 'grieving ' for his wife, sati. (specially since valentine's day is just a day way- how romantic), by the same token, it is very 'sexy' to see sati sacrificing her life to make a statement that her beloved husband's honr means more to her than her own life? is this not the highest form of sacrifice? love!

nora55_1999
"it is very 'sexy' to see sati sacrificing her life to make a statement that her beloved husband's honour means more to her than her own life? is this not the highest form of sacrifice? "

I wish I could agree with you , but I find it such word very disturbing. It is by this notion that the act of "Sati" it self becomes widespread and being "justified". Widowed are being persuaded, forced, drugged and sometime hurled in her husband funeral pyre in the name of " being faithful". Symbolically widows who refuse to "sacrifice" themselves and is still full of life, are being scorned and ill treated. I believe there are more reasons to just a sacrifice.

As usual there are several version to this story, I am not here to dispute who is right or wrong, but to find an understanding to this whole story and learn from it. That is believe is the purpose of the Gita, Purana etc.

In Mahabhagavata Purana, Siva's narration to sage Narada " Sati said "I shall go to my father's sacrifice in order to destroy his pride". Sati in the form of Kali went in a bejeweled chariot drawn by 10,000 lions to her father's sacrifice "

Sati is so called, according to the Devi-Bhagavad because she is of the nature of truth. She also represent good fortune, auspicious, beauty and charm.

There are many versions to the Story, but one thing for sure Sati did went to her fathers sacrifical weather physically or spiritually. And the main aim of her presence is to destroy pride and arrogance.

Sati's death is due to the underlying conflict between Daksan and Shiva. Sati comes from the realm of established religion, the order of the dharma and marries into a realm of ascetism, thus combining herself the two opposing worlds. In this aspect Sati function as a mediator, trying to bring the two world together.

Daksa distaste for Siva's odd appearance, strange habits and as a world renouncer, Shiva does not behave accordingly to the ways of the world. His appearance is most unconventional. Shiva was also undoubtedly a non-Aryan indigenous diety who was looked upon with considerable suspicion by the Brahman custodians of the sacrificial cult. His association with world renounciation, asceticism and the powers of fertility as symbolized by the linga probably marked him as a deity who belongs to the fringes of society from the point of view of the Brahman establishment. Eventually, it was the death of Sati which brings these conflict to the end. The reinstitution of the sacrifices and Siva being included after he restore the head of Daksa represents his acceptance into the establishment of the Brahman religion. Therefore when Sati kills herself, she causes the conflict between these two opposing world to resurface in the open which initially are destructive but eventually resulted in beneficial and creative.

The same can be said about Sati's body, when Vishnu cut her body to pieces and falls to earth. She dutifully played two role : 1) by bringing Shiva back down to earth, where he previously he dwelled in the mountains and engaged in austerities, indifferent to the ongoing creation.

"He was unaware of the manifest world, his mind being fully absorbed…. Regaining his self composure, he passed the time contemplating the true form of the goddess" [ Devi Gita 1: 5 ]

He followed her to earth and when he found her yoni in one of the places, he embedded himself in her yoni thus fully engaged in the creation as symbolized by the conjunction of the yoni and linga. This act itself by Sati makes Siva accessible to the world ( in the form of his linga ) and he can still perform his heroic asceticism in the mountain retreats in one of his several forms.

2) By having pieces of her body falling into the various part of the earth ( this being India ) she have sacrilizing the earth. From this body pieces various form of establishments ( temples ) emerge. The earth itself is seen as the body of goddess sati and as such she made it accessible to her devotees or to those who seek her powers.

prainbow61
Thank you, Nora for commenting on this and opening room for clarification. I, too feel that the specter of abuse looms too large for these words to be digested in the spirit they were intended.

The joy of a great though mythical act of self sacrifice cannot help but be compared with actual human suffering that takes the same form.

This is in part how I came to the Goddess.

My family was nominally catholic. My mother was frequently beaten, her face was bruised and her eyes blackened often when I was a child. When I was taken to church, I looked on the image behind the altar of the man hanging on the cross, dying, bleeding from his side and from his crown and I felt a continuation of the horror I felt at home. But catholic churches always have a section dedicated to "the Virgin Mary." There I looked into a woman's face, beautiful and full of compassion, lit by soft candlelight. My heart was full there, peaceful. I felt no attachment to the stories I was told about her, but I was fully attached to the image and the principles that radiated from that image.

In time I found more things to feed my soul and nurture me, but it was the face of the Goddess as I saw Her in a catholic church that spoke to me right from the beginning.

And so I say that an image that mimics a suffering may not be able to transmit other information to the viewer. To some of us, the Sati story paired with he notion of Her sacrifice for Her consort being "sexy" too closely resembles suttee. This is good for discussion, I think.

The Goddess ever offers me more compassion than I understand. She is my light.

adi_shakthi16
prainbow, just to let you know that I am against all forms of abuse both physical and emotional - specially to women and children.

prainbow61
Please! Do not think that I interpret your words to mean you advocate any form of abuse! No, on the contrary, I find your words loving and interesting. I am struggling to peacefully point out that what may be a simple image for one person, may be more complicated for another, because of their experiences. This I think is true in many cases. Your generosity is not at all questioned here.

Though you obviously understand the implications, many people are untouched by the challenges of domestic violence. Bu tI think it important to discuss the intended and principle meaning of these great texts. I only wish to be honest where my personal experience differs, in order to participate in a deeper discussion of how to reconcile the ideals of the texts with the sometimes challenging realities of *some* women's lives.

In this, I am so grateful to be part of such a broad forum of opinion. I have no wish to narrow this discussion to my perspective, my experience, my interpretation of anything. I am enriched by the diversity of discussion here. Frequently I have nothing at all to offer as I am so poorly versed in the texts and customs discussed here.

I hope I do not diminish your joyous passion for this story or any other. I do not view your opinion with any negativity at all. I hope that I may offer my own concerns and reactions without reflecting at all negatively on the wisdom and love that you bring to this forum.

Although I am a strong and independent woman, please accept my genuine humility in this learned temple of the Goddess. I bow without feeling diminished. I may contradict yet intend no insult. I may differ yet feel no less respect. Please accept my sincere apologies if I have offended. I hope you know I do not doubt your generous and peaceful contributions.

Namaskar,

devi_bhakta
Dear Prainbow:

Your points are well taken as are Adi's. It is a point with which it is essential to come to grips when Goddess chooses us to worship Her.

The ancient Sanskrit texts are rife with ambiguous meaning. The Devi Bhagavata Purana, c. 1000-1500 CE, is a massive, poetic, and theologically rich vision of Goddess as the Supreme Reality, second to none. And yet, there is no mistaking its author's low (if not downright hostile) opinion of human women.

How can we reconcile this problem? Although it is dangerous in a spiritual context to read a text too critically -- after all, it is supposed to be revealed scripture, not a novel to be judged good or bad -- I think we must grapple with the implications of misogyny in ostensibly Goddess-oriented texts.

In classical Vedic Hinduism, only twice-born (i.e. upper caste), initiated, male devotees were allowed access to these scriptures. They were written by upper-caste men for upper-caste men and -- however divine their underlying message -- many of these works reveal the prejudices of upper-caste men.

In Tantra, the other main stream of Hindu philosophy and practice, we see everywhere a reverence for women. Unlike Vedism -- which views the world as illusion, and woman as the symbol of all the ties a man to that illusion -- Tantrism embraces the world as not only real, but as the body of Goddess Herself. Every human is a microcosm of the Universe, and every woman is specifically a microcosm of Devi. Tantric Goddess cults welcomed women and lower-caste men into their fold, although a selective standard (of spiritual preparedness) kept such admissions few and secret.

And here is where the problem lies, I think. To speak of Vedic vs. Tantric Hinduism is so theoretical as to be useless -- because each stream of influence is so intimately intertwined with the other. There are Tantras that try to gain "legitmacy" by claiming Vedic authority, and Vedic works that are suffused with the spirit of Tantra.

The Devi Gita, the best-known section of the Devi Bhagavata Purana I mentioned above, is a classic example of this sort of theological schizophrenia. Although there are many learned Hindus who would say I am hopelessly straying from the true path, I cannot blindly adhere to the scriptural word when it flies in the face of the scriptural spirit.

In my opinion, anyone who claims to love the Goddess but -- in point of fact -- does not much like (or more importantly, respect and even reverence) women, has to do some serious soul-searching as to contradictions between their professed beliefs and their actual beliefs. Devi is not considered a "She" simply because she's prettier than Shiva or Vishnu, or because She's wearing a saree. Devi is a "She" because She is the highest exponent of the Divine Feminine Principle in all of its aspects -- Mother, Daughter, Lover, Warrior, Friend, Confidante .... everything anyone can be, She is.

Upon constant and careful reflection, I simply cannot believe that a worldview that diminishes the status of women in any way is an accurate reflection of Her Truth.

Colin
Adi_Shakti16 wrote : [1]colin, thank you for sharing your views on this subject.

I'm glad my views are of interest. [2]the version i quoted was based on the 'shiva purana'

I've just visited a library where there is a copy of the Shiva Purana, in an verse by verse English translation published by Motilal Banarsidass of Delhi in 1970. It is Volume 1 of the series _Ancient Indian Tradition and Mythology_ edited by J.L.Shastri.

I have to tell you that the version of the Shiva-Sati story which appears in it is in many ways different from the version you quoted.

In your earlier posting you said that your version came from the web.

If we want to know what the Shiva Purana actually says, which is the more reliable source...

1.A verse by verse translation of the Shiva Purana?

or
2.A narrative on a website which claims to be based on the Shiva Purana?

[3]in the version, i read, shiva was 'enraged' at his beloved wife's untimely death - so enraged was he that he cut daksha's head and threw it into the sacrificial fire.

In the version I've just been looking at, Shiva is certainly angered by the death of Sati. However, Shiva doesn't personally cut off Daksha's head. Shiva sends a being called Virabhadra to do this, while Shiva himself waits in Kailasa.
[4] then upon request . he found the head of a 'goat' on daksha's head and revived him.
Yes. In the Shiva Purana he comes down and does this after the gods visit Kailasa to propitiate him.

[5] in this version that i read, shiva does take the lifeless 'body' of sati and in a 'frenzied' mood did the 'tandava' dance - he was roaming round carrying the corpse of sati on his shoulders like a mad man -then vishnu threw his 'disc' (sudarshana chakra) and cut her body into several pieces and sati's body fell all over and these places were honred as shakti peethas! please refer to post on shakti peethas!

None of this happens in the text I've just read. The Shiva Purana version of Sati story ends with Shiva accepting the worship of the revived and repentant Daksha, then going back to Kailasa and talking about Sati to his followers there.

The text actually specifies that Sati's body was "reduced to ashes" when she died. (Siva Purana, Rudrasamhita, Section II, chapter 30 verses 6 to 8). There is simply no body for Shiva to carry around or for Vishnu to cut up.

The story about the origin of the shakta pithas is well known and important. It is found in the Kalika Purana, and probably in other writings as well. But not in the Shiva Purana.

Does this matter? Is it important to distinguish between different versions of a sacred story such as the myth of Shiva and Sati?

I think it is important, because the diversity is part of the richness of India's sacred lore. That richness is obscured when a particular version of the Shiva Sati myth (for instance) is presented as if it were the only one.

[6]who is to glorify whom? in shiva purana, shiva is glorified and in kalika purana mother kali glorified. in vishnu purana, vishnu is glorified.

True. This is another reason for distinguishing carefully between the versions of a myth found in the different Puranas.

[7]whenver i read all these 'version' I always find that there are as many versions as there are translations!

So, the ideal thing is to read the original texts in Sanskrit.

[8]I use my sword of 'discrimination' and like a swan try to seperate the milk from the water!

I try to do that too. But the swan needs to find the water before it can separate out the milk. In the same way, I feel that we need to look carefully at the actual texts in order to get to their essence.

nora55_1999
In my previous post about Sati and Shiva, I mention that there is more reasons to just a sacrifice. To expand on it, I personally believe Devi reincarnation of Sati is not just to function as the wifely role and performing the sacrifice so that other can model her as thesymbol of the faithful wife. Oh ! The story of a faithful wife sacrificing for the sake of her husband honors make a lovely love story, but isit what the whole story is all about?

The central role of Devi is that of a creator and the cosmic queen. As a cosmic queen she maintain cosmic order through the process of destruction, creation and preservation. Sati is so called, according to the Devi-Bhagavad because she is of the nature of truth. She also represents good fortune, auspicious, beauty and charm. Sati itself represent the earth as beingflourishing and thriving, but it has become full of ego, arrogance and prideful (symbolizes the King). The death of Sati brings about the period of chaos and turmoil (being inauspicious). Personally I believe Sati kills herself, not so much of to uphold the honor of her husband, but to punish.

"I shall go to my father's sacrifice in order to destroy his pride. Sati in the form of Kali went in a bejeweled chariot drawn by 10,000 lions to her father's sacrifice "

" Meanwhile, the three tiered universe, with all that is mobile and immobile, lost its auspicious charm. When the entire world with its oceans, continents and mountains bereft of energy… then, ever drowing in a sea of misery, they were consumed by disease " The Devi Gita 1:6 - 1: 8

This is nothing new, Goddess Lakshmi is said to represent good fortune did the same thing. A myth tells us that Goddess Lakshmi disappear from the three world, when God Indra insulted her. As a result, all sacrifices cease to be performed, all austerities are discontinued by the sages, all generosity ends, the sun and moon lose their brilliance, the gods lose their strength, and fire loses its heat. In the absence of the goddess the worlds become dull and lusteries and begin to wither away. When she returns, the world again regain their vitality, and the society of humans and the order of the gods regain their sense of purpose. In the story of the churning of the ocean, after the reemergence of Goddess Lakshmi, Indra composed a hymn of praise for Lakshmi, she thus praised, granted him three wishes, namely
1. That never again should she abandon the three worlds
2. Never again should she forsake any that should sing her praise in the worlds of Indra's hymn
3. Those who hears or read the story of the reemergence of Goddess Lakshmi, SHE will never leave their house for three generations; strife or misfortune may never enter where the hymns of Goddess Lakshmi is sing.
In Devi Gita, the supreme Goddess manifest herself on the crest of the Himalayas, after all the Gods and sage performs the sacrifice and prayers for the Supreme Goddess.

Another aspect of this mythology is the function of Sati as the forth that brought forth creation. Sati plays the role of luring Siva from ascetic isolation into creative participation in the world. Thus the central message in this is that union /marriage between Man (Shiva) and Woman (Sati) is necessary for life to be generated and sustained. Therefore in the mythology of Sati and Shiva, this has been accomplished as evidence from the union of Yoni (all individual woman) and lingam (all individual man). Sati played a central role that bring forth this union.

In my conclusion, the whole story about Sati and Shivan is all about :
1) Conflict between the two world. The world of Brahmanism and Ascetism. Sati in her role as the mediator, put an end to this conflict.

2) Pollution. The earth being polluted by the "children". Even in the attempt of trying to purify themselves ( as in Yagna ) they still habour hatred, pride and arrogance. Sati in her role as the preserver, creator, destroyer and symbolizes truth, put an end to this hypocrisy in her "children". This is what happen when one "burnt" the truth. Chaos and darkness precede.

3) Sancity of union/ marriage.

The story about the faithful wife sacrificing for the sake of her husband, is a tiny fraction of the whole myth which has been sensationalised to such an extent that it overshadow the true message of the whole story.

Eve _69
Thank you all for this insight. I have to agree with Nora about the concept of I think charity versus dakshina.

You see even now Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has been trying to recreate the Brahmanical caste system by trying to get a group of 40,000 pundits together for a whopping billion dollars (to perpetuate world peace). But you see, Shiva is not for this idea. Teaching from Shakyamuni (ostensably the Jesus of India) explain that Buddha understood that in a few thousand years into Kali Yuga the world would return to barbarianism. Which is just where we are going. You see superstition and physical might usurping resaon and ethics everywhere (aka Bush, anti-Bush, etc, right vs. left). For this reason Buddha iniated people in large groups into what he called the Vajra Caste. It could be called the one caste. His intention was to gather up the enlightened of all castes together so that they might be stronger in the long run. The means for doing this was the Kalachakra Tantra.

Kalachakra was the first Buddha - the timeless buddha, and he is joined in one face with Akshobya - the Buddhist name for Shiva. Moreover, it is written by a few that Jesus and Mary spent much time in the unknown years in India and some in Kashmir. My belief is that Kalachakra and Christos and Sivaism, and Shaktism all have compassion, charity and good will towards all caste and different people of mankind as their goal, to which they have all tried to override all challenges to their idealogies to become catholic inthe real sense or universal religions. Meanwhile everyone still fractionalizes all systems as if they are different. But my version of truth is that these religions at least share in the largest sense of all encompasing compassion for all humans nay all of life. If people are interested then Skanda, Kartekeya, Subramaniya are all I believe Jesus, the closest thing that exists in the Hindu world to Jesus anyway. And as the son of Shiva this could be proven.



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