The human mind has always been contemplating about sexual symbolisms of Tantra, especially the subject of sexuality. It’s been a subject of intrigue for even the modern minds. But the problem is that most of these analysts haven’t been able to move from the physical suggestion of these symbols into the spiritual tradition. Thus, the practice of Tantric Yoga has always remained at the superficial level when it comes to popular culture.
In that process, the Tantric symbols of Shiva Linga and Shakti Yoni only reduces its true forces. The merely take the symbolism as male and female sex organs. The symbolism is true, but it is only one of many reflections. What it represents is the highest sense of ascending and descending forces, which the erotic glorification captures very little.
Thinking of the symbol as the only sexual reflection would be thinking as Deities Shiva and Shakti only in the sexual form. Yes, sexuality is no doubt strongest form of biological and psychological urges, and yet, this sexuality refers to greater and higher forces, that goes beyond biological manifestation.
The basis of Tantric Yoga is the universal duality and polarity, like the ones mirrored in the great dualities of nature from electricity and magnetism, to forces of fire and water, the sun and the moon, the mountain and the valley. Sexuality is an important force in this process of duality, regardless of how we choose – either to express it in a human relationship or renounce it or a more solitary path of practice.
The upright conical form is much like the male sexual organ – the Shiva Linga. But there are other types of Lingas too. This Linga represents the universal power, the cosmic masculine force or the Shiva principle. There are many such forms in nature.
The word ‘linga’, in Sanskrit, refers to “chief mark” or “characteristic” of something. Many believe that this “linga” means the male sexual organ, which is quite not true. This refers to outstanding and determinative. What this is representing is determinative and distinguish characteristic of the man at the physical level. In other contexts, the meaning of linga varies.
The term means subtle body in Yoga philosophy. This is the dominant principle of nature over physical body, thus Shiva linga refers to the upper region from the heart to the head, as part of the subtle body, where the energy is held, generated and sustained.
Often times, the modern psychology interprets life through the gaze of sexuality, especially since the times of Sigmund Freud. But this misses the depth of people’s inspiration and senses.
Sexuality is a very strong root for people, but the real spirituality and genuine creativity are not there. Western philosophers have only tried to reduced the Hindu symbols. For instance, they claim that figure like Ganesha, whose head was cut off by his father, was nothing than the Oedipus complex playing into account, ignoring the deeper sense of biological understanding at that time. It’s true for other religions too. For instance, Freud, being a Jew himself, tried to reduce Moses to Oedipal complex. These sort of analysis is only disregarding the spiritual path and what spiritual path is all about, and if one keeps following that path, they will only be caught up with our biological impulses as the primary factor of life.
What does Shiva Linga symbolize?
So, that linga is the representation of ascending energy of consciousness and life in nature. This means we see the “linga” in the mountains, in the clouds, the trees, in the human themselves. Many lingas like the Kedarnath (one of the most important Shiva site in Himalayas) are in the form of rocks in the shape of mountains. Other “lingas” are in the form of light with the lingas of the Sun, the Moon, and the Fire.
In Tamil Nadu, the special Shiva lingam with the five elements of earth, water, fire, air, and ether are at special temples in the region. Each element – earth, water, fire, air, and ether – here are the determinative force, and thus the Shiva Linga. Where the great enlightened sage Ramana Maharshi stayed, Anurachala is said to be the fire linga of Lord Shiva.
Other Shiva lingams are associated with gold, crystal, light powers in the metal kingdom. Lord Shiva is said to be the pure light “Prakasha matra” in this form.
There is an upward pointed triangle in the Shivalinga, which symbolizes the fire. It is present in both plants and in animals. Worshipping this linga is connected more to worship of pillars, obelisks, standing stones, and pyramids. If you look at Tantric vidya, they worship linga as part of worshipping the Vedic pillar (Vedic stambha, skambha, dharuna), which represents the spiritual powers behind the formation of nature.
In the Vedic rituals, Shiva linga is rather a pillar of light. When they worshiped, they made the fire rise in the shape of a pillar, and then the fire turned into the shape of a man. The term “dharma” originally meant “what upholds things and can be symbolized by a pillar”. The universal pillar of this “dharma” is the Shiva Linga. This also indicates the erect spine and concentrated mind.
As part of human nature, there are many different characteristics or “lingams”. Our physical body is upheld by the force of the “Prana linga”, our power of insight to dissipate the realities from illusions is upheld by the force of “Buddhi Linga”, and our transcendental experience to elevate from all of our life experience is upheld by the “Atma Linga”.
Yoni and Linga are two inseparable forces that go together. First, they represent the downward pointed and upward pointed triangles. More than that, the linga with the yoni below it, the standing stone and the ring base show how male and female energies are uniting, not just in terms of sexuality, but also in terms of electromagnetic forces.
When the linga moves, it creates a yoni, just as the point in the movement in creates the circle. This represents many things. The stars, planets, and nebulae all move in a circular movement, a diverse natural phenomenon. The center is the linga in its field of revolution the yoni. So, it means that the Sun is the linga of the solar system. Sun is also in a motion of circular movement around the galaxy too. Thus, the Linga represents the power of universe itself.
If you look at sacred sites like Stonehenge, then you will see that there are standing stones forming a great circle. This shows the union of linga and the yoni, the cosmic male, and female of the Shiva-Shakti principles. If you look at the chakra or the wheel, you can see the linga as the axis and the yoni as the circumference. When Hindus use the chakras in ritual and art, they are reflecting upon these two divine powers.
The energy is dual in nature – the Shiva energy is the upward current running through the spine and the Shakti energy is horizontal current through which it travels and forms various lotuses of the chakras. When they move together, they form a spiral of force, and they, together, create the dynamic motion.
In Yogic meditation, Shiva linga shows the peace, expansion of mind, the opening of the inner eye, bringing deep peace and steadiness to heart. Then, the wave achieved propagates as Shakti, spreading the grace, love, and wisdom to fellow companions. Even to concentrate our awareness, Shiva Linga is a great way of meditating and calming one’s mind.
- For Ayurvedic healing, it shows the subtle level of deep healing.
- For Vedic astrology, it shows the power of light behind Sun, Moon, planet and starts.
- For Vastu Shastra, it shows how Shiva Linga can be used to restore and accumulate positive energy in houses.
To conclude, yes, there is certain sexual symbolism behind the Shiva Linga. But it is much much more than that. Human sexuality is only one of many cosmic forces of duality, and the Shiva Linga transcends all that physical existence. One must look beyond the physical psychology and turn towards universal consciousness to really understand Shiva Linga.