Why do Hindus hesitate in accepting Shiva Linga as a phallic representation?

shiv linga
Image Courtesy: HolidayIQ

The common factor of all discriminated and exploited sections is that they themselves think low of themselves. It may be the lack of knowledge about oneself. Maybe the centuries old enslavement that followed a period of degeneration has made us believe that the standards prescribed by the west are worth following. It is not about being correct or not. We continuously try to portray our ancients some sort of super humans, without realising the futility of the exercise. Instead of following logic, that was supposed to be the base of any argument, we try to interpret the truth so that it qualifies to be correct in the eyes of western scholars.

Of course, there is no doubt that Indian history and ancient scriptures were presented by the western scholars who translated them into English and other European languages. First, we shall understand that they cannot do the task themselves without support from Indians. Whether it was Max Muller or Buhler, they worked hard to understand the meaning of these texts more than many Indians, who simply argue that the westerners have misinterpreted the texts and portrayed them to be negative and regressive so that Indian scriptures were inferior to the Christian ones. Here, one shall note two points.

First, not all westerners have a bias against Indian scriptures and tried to portray them negatively. The interest Germans have shown in learning Sanskrit and understanding them, really puts us Indians to shame, though they might be searching for some Aryan links to establish their racial superiority. At the most, their translations can be wrong due to lack of understanding the ‘essence’ of a script, despite knowing the correct meaning, as only a native can understand the nuances of these, as they are still used in many Indian languages.

Second, it was not only westerners that have manipulated our scriptures. Having said that, the manipulation could be part of evolution of Indian society. Vedic period Indians were almost pagans. They worshipped nature. They called ‘Gods’ all those who could control the nature. It was a period when humans were living in sync with the nature. In fact, today these gods were relegated to the boundary lines of pantheon of gods. From being the worshipper of nature, the society evolved into a society that worshipped the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Even today many consider only the male trinity the only one, forgetting there is an equal version of female one consisting Saraswati, Lakshmi and Durga. So, where does it leave Indra and Mitra and Varun, who were the deities of Vedic period? And, I don’t see any foreign hand in pushing Indra and Mitra and Varun into obscurity.

So, we thought equating the worship of Shiv Linga to Phallus was a western conspiracy to denigrate one of the most powerful gods, who could survive from Vedic period to the times of independent India. How can we then explain the most phallic representations of Shiv Linga that existed centuries before even Christianity and Islam were born?

Fig 39 of (http://en.unesco.org/silkroad/sites/silkroad/files/knowledge-bank-article/vol_II%20silk%20road_kushan%20art%20BIS.pdf ) shows a Linga that was dated to first century. Why the Shiv Ling always centred in the frame that resembles Yoni? Why not a square or the more common circle?

So, Vivekananda had considered that the Yupa Stambha, the sacrificial post of Vedic times, the post that resembles the eternal light beam to be the Linga. Well, he was partially correct. In fact, that can be one interpretation, at the best. First, it was not Stambha, but Skambha that was referred in Atharv Veda. Seventh Suktham of tenth Kandam was about questions and answers about the Skambha. Many people who agreed with Vivekananda simply wrote that Skambha is Stambha. Only, it did not. Stambha is a post or a pole, while Skambha is ‘the support’. How can we trivialise the knowledge of a Vedic time intellectual and expect him to write a suktham on a pole? In fact, the name of the suktha is “Sarvadhara Suktham”. The Skambha referred here is the one that supports everything in this world from earth to sky to stars to time, seasons, knowledge etc. In fact, the way Shiv tatv explains that it encompasses the world can be interpreted that the Skambha is the Shiv Linga, which is the support of everything.

However, the Sanskrit word ‘Ling’ means a symbol not necessarily always represents the gender. But, it is also a fact that the Shiv Linga was worshipped in the phallic form. Forget Hindu India, even in Muslim Pakistan, even today Phallic offerings are made to the sufi saints. Read the book “In search of Shiva: A study of folk religious practices in Pakistan” by Haroon Khalid. I remember, it is one of the first chapters.. Not only in India, but even in countries that have some Indian influence, the phallic form is worshipped.

How and Why the Phallic worship might have started?

We all know the seed that remained idle would sprout when it comes in touch with water. What caused the seed to sprout? A combination of temperature and moisture? We know only when it happens. I mean the conditions that may cause a seed to sprout. But, we don’t know why? And that is the force of life. That is the force of life that caused so many billions of lives on the earth and god knows, where else. The nature of nature is to germinate, to grow, to reproduce, to perish. This is the cycle either for plants or any other life forms including humans. Then instinct to reproduce is so part of a natural phenomenon. But, for a society, it is the natural phenomenon that has a vital significance. What’s the use of a person’s accumulated wealth, with no one to inherit? We know how the society treated men and women who were not fertile. In fact, an industry runs on this, even today.

In a country, where many societies are at war with one another, the criticality of increasing the population is vital for its survival. And so, the need to reproduce. As Vedic Indians were pagans, who worshipped nature and also a bit more innovative (certainly more than current generation of Indians), they recognised the importance of reproductive organs and worshipped them. In a way, Shiva was the life force, while the Shakti was synonymous with the Nature. This was the essence of ‘Prakruti – Purusha” philosophy. Prakruti is the nature, where as the Purusha, as explained even in the Purusha Suktha, is the eternal Brahman, from where everything has come out. In modern Hinduism, this concept was taken by the Vaishnava philosophy. Especially, in the aftermath of Gita, where in the Lord tells I’m the one who encompasses this universe. In fact, this is the reason why I consider Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Sakthi aradhana as ‘religions’ but not Hinduism.

While at the higher level of spirituality the Shiv Linga represents nothing (not even the Yupa Sthambha), at lower level it certainly was worshipped as a reproductive organ. I remember seeing a brass Shiva statue with a protruding phallus, in the opposite chamber to the garbha griha of Kashi Vishwanath Temple. In the scriptures, reproduction and the process were never condemned as they were vital for the society to sustain. What was condemned was debauchery.

It is time for Indians to stop trying to appear ‘gentlemen’ as defined by the westerners. In fact, none of Indian Gods claimed themselves ‘Shepherd’ and wanted the people to be his ‘sheep’. When the oracle was presented by Sri Krishna, all he wanted from Arjuna was “to analyse the words of god and take a decision to the best of his abilities”.

Long ago I saw a film in which the king, who was told to pray to Shiva twice daily sleeps deep. When he finds he has no time to bath and go to temple, he visualises Shiv Linga in the breast of his sleeping lover and throw flowers at it. And, the director immediately shows Shiva accepting the flowers and explains to Parvati, who was wondering why the Lord accepted from flowers thrown at the breast of a sleeping lady. “It is the thought in one’s mind” Shiva explains. That explains what is a Shiv Linga, at a higher level.

So, claiming the Shiv Linga is not a Phallic representation is as wrong as claiming it to be a Phallic representation.

Perhaps, we need to analyse the depths of Indian spirituality thoroughly. Maybe we have lost the appetite to study hard and analyse. And, to argue and debate too. Even when the Indian culture and kingdoms were on the way to denigration, it was possible for Adi Sankara to travel to the north and have a debate with Mandan Mishra, all the way walking! May come again the same level of grasping and determination to us. Else, we make the mistake of considering it to be ‘religion’ of what our ancestors considered to be ‘spirituality’. The nirgun, nirakar, niramay Shiva can be worshipped even in the form of a Phallus or a stone or a statue or just by staring into nothing. It is time for us to become spiritual and not religious.

Stop looking at the west and look “Am I correct Master?”. Be truthful to oneself. Not to others. Especially those who don’t matter!