Lingashtakam

This is another of those various songs that we hear very frequently if you live near temples. This has been blared in high volumes during festivals and a number of artists sing this song. But, no one cares to understand the inner meaning. No one cares to understand what is a “lingam” and why the form given to it!! There are so many connotations to the “lingam” each varying in description as the thought of the person goes based on the form factor. Yet, sadly what really is a “lingam” and why is it really associated as a form for “Shiva” is rarely thought, understood or pondered upon.

As always, I do not claim to understand or claim the below to be of what was described, because what is described can only be best understood by the person who wrote it. But, given the basis of the “Vijnana Bhairava’s” description of “Shiva” as translated here, a possible guess can be made. But, the first verse of the “Lingashtakam” seems to describe it pretty well.

Brahma-Muraari-Sura-Aarcita-Linggam Nirmala-Bhaasita-Shobhita-Linggam |
Janmaja-Duhkha-Vinaashaka-Linggam Tat Prannamaami Sadaashiva-Linggam ||1||

bhrahma + mura + hari + sura + arachita + lingam =
the churn + surrounding + equilibrium + shine + adorned + lingam
nirmala + bhAsita + shobhita + lingam =
pure + appear as + adorned + lingam
janma + aja + dukha + vinAshana + lingam =
birth + instigator + difficulty + causing to disappear + lingam
tat = that praNam + imam = salute + this + I
sada + shiva + forever + shiva + lingam

Here, bhrama means to move to and fro, hence translated to churn. Typically murari is translated as “krishna”, but rather than that I have split it into “mura + hari” which becomes “surrounding + equilibrium”. Why? See below.If we associate this translation (of just Bhrahma murari surachita lingam) with the typical shiva lingam that we see in temples, we can now see the reason for why it was sculpted that way! We are looking at a “surrounding churn” of “bhairava or unmanifested” with the center equilibrium shining through in the form of a bell curve. Why the bell curve? I think this is because it is the standard distribution of anything in nature. Take sand and drop it, it takes on a bell curve, pile anything without interference and it forms a bell curve. So, take an “unmanifested” and pull out a “single thought of manifestation” from this, you get a bell curve distribution of all “associated thoughts” in various levels of manifestation around it, to form an equilibrium. This bell curve now shines through the churn of surrounding unmanifested thoughts and this becomes the “lingam”. Hence the below translation.“The churn surrounding, the equilibrium shines through, adorned by purity appearing as lingam, causing the destruction of the difficulty in instigating birth, that, I know as the lingam that is forever the shiva lingam.”

Deva-Muni-Pravara-Aarcita-Linggam Kaama-Dahan Karunnaa-Kara-Linggam |
Raavanna-Darpa-Vinaashana-Linggam Tat Prannamaami Sadaashiva-Linggam ||2||

deva + muni + prava + arcita + lingam =
energy + impulse + chief / principal + adorned / swathed + lingam
kAma + dahan + karuna + akara + lingam =
desire + heat + compassion / warmth + not action + lingam
rAvana + darpa + vinAshana + lingam =
noise / tumult + heat / pride / insolence + destroyer / causing to disappear + lingam

The problem with all our translations is that we have taken words and given them as names of people, or used it in parallel contexts instead of similes and hence when we start translating over a period of time, coincidences occur and we tend to just take the coincidence and take is as a translation. For eg., in this verse, rAvana is the name of the king of Lanka. But, the question we need to ask is why will someone who is describing a “linga” talk about ravana, especially when “shiva” itself is a concept and not a person. So, we need to look for non-divine, non-personified meanings. When we personify, sure, “deva” means “God” and “muni” means sage and so on. But, when the “lingam” itself is a “non-personified” concept, then why bring persons into its description. Hence my translations try to take this out of the verses.”Principal impulse of energy adorned by heat of desire, not acted upon by the warmth (of that desire), destroying the heat of that tumult, I know as the lingam that is forever the shiva lingam“Here we get a more vivid description of the “lingam”, the “prime impulse” is the center of the bell curve with all the heat of the various other impulses or desires surrounding it. The tumult caused by that impulse has to somehow be counteracted to attain the stability and stay in that form, that becomes the lingam.

Sarva-Sugandhi-Sulepita-Linggam Buddhi-Vivardhana-Kaaranna-Linggam |
Siddha-Sura-Asura-Vandita-Linggam Tat Prannamaami Sadaashiva-Linggam ||3||

sarva + sughana + andha + su + lepita + lingam =
entire + very dense + night / blind + greatly + smearing + lingam
buddhi + vivardhana + kArana + lingam =
the power of forming and retaining thoughts + augmenting + cause + lingam
siddha + sura + asura + vandita + lingam =
accomplishment + shine + not shine (night / dark) + praised / celebrated / venerate / adore + lingam

As always, sughandha can be translated as “fragrant”, yet it can also be split as “sughana + andha” which then becomes “dense dark” makes more sense in this context. “sura” “asura” can be translated as “gods” and “demons” or “shine through” which is “light” and “dark” which makes better sense here. Hence translated as:”The entire dense dark greatly smeared by the power of forming and retaining thoughts causing to augment them accomplishing light and dark to be formed, I know that as the lingam that is forever the shiva lingam

Kanaka-Mahaamanni-Bhuussita-Linggam Phanni-Pati-Vessttita-Shobhita-Linggam |
Dakssa-Su-Yajnya-Vinaashana-Linggam Tat Prannamaami Sadaashiva-Linggam ||4||

kanaka + mahA + manit + bhUshita + lingam =
golden + great + known / understood + adorned / decorated + lingam
phaNi (phaNa) + pati + veshTita + shobhita + lingam =
to produce easily + motion + bound + adorned + lingam
dakSha + su + yagna + vinAshana + lingam =
energy + much / greatly + offering + destroyer + lingam

“mahAmani” can be translated as precious jewel or “mahA + manit” which is great + knowing or understanding. dakSha can be translated as power, but energy is the form it is still in. So, translated as:“The great knowing adorned to produce easily motion bound greatly destroying the diffusion of energy, I know that as the lingam that is forever the shiva lingam”The point simply is that it says that this form is created to easily produce motion but reduce the dissipation of that energy and hence maintain the equilibrium.The rest in the next blog.  

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