Long ago in Brahma-loka, the abode of the Gods, Lord Shiva, the deity of transcendence, the cosmic force that returns all matter and energy, all manifestation and activity, back to its Source, was passionately in love with Mahashakti and determined to marry her. But one big problem prevented that: Mahashakti is the Divine Mother, the primal creative force who manifests the entire universe, including all the Gods and Goddesses. She is the active side of Brahman, the transcendental Absolute, the unified field that contains everything but is neutral, non-active, beyond it all. Mahashakti is too universal to marry anybody.
Mahashakti tried to explain this to Shiva, but he was too deep in love to be able to hear. She finally just had to firmly reject his amorous entreaties, and he stalked off, sulking and despondent. Shiva withdrew from the world and did nothing but sit in a cave and meditate. Without his active presence, the world started to fall apart. The evolutionary cycle of creation, maintenance, and destruction lost its dynamism and began to run down.
The other Gods tried to convince him to get back to work, but he sent them away. Finally they implored Mahashakti for help, and she agreed to lure Shiva back into activity. She manifested part of her power as the Goddess Sati, an aspect of Shakti womanhood epitomizing beauty, devotion, and marital happiness.
Mahashakti arranged to have Sati born into a family of deities with a fine mind that quickly learned all the skills and graces needed to create a wonderful environment. Sati knew intuitively she would marry Shiva, and when she was 16 she went to Mt. Kailash and meditated outside his cave. Shiva felt her presence deep in his transcendence and was startled: no one had been able to contact him on this level before. He opened his third eye and beheld her beauty. He opened his mind to hers and beheld her brilliance. He invited her into his cave, and they meditated together. It didn't take long before Shiva realized there was more to life than meditating.
They wanted to marry, but Sati's father disapproved of Shiva, feeling he was an unruly reprobate unworthy of his daughter. After much persuading by Sati, dad reluctantly gave his consent, and the two were married in a lavish ceremony attended by all the Gods.
The happy couple made their home in Mount Kailash. Shiva fulfilled his duties to keep the cosmos running smoothly but spent most of his time blissfully together with Sati in their mountain hideaway.
Sati's father, though, still held a grudge against Shiva. He organized a great ritual sacrifice and invited all the divine beings except Shiva and Sati. Sati was furious at this slight. Shiva tried to calm her, but she stormed back to her parents' castle, crashed uninvited into the ritual, and confronted her father. He treated her with scorn and insulted Shiva. Enraged by this, Sati leaped into the sacrificial fire and burned to death.
Shiva was devastated by having his wife and their marital love destroyed. Unable to control his fury, he dispatched a troop of warriors who demolished the sacrifice and decapitated Sati's father. When Shiva arrived later and saw the carnage, his anger turned to compassion. He revived the father but replaced his head with that of a goat. He lifted Sati's body onto his shoulder and went stalking through the universe, oblivious of everything except his grief. His pain was unbearable, so he again abandoned his duties, retreated to his cave, and sought refuge in samadhi, transcendental consciousness.
This time the consequences of his withdrawal were even worse than before. Without Shiva to destroy the demons, they multiplied and began harassing the Gods and terrorizing humanity. Mahashakti decided to intervene to restore Shiva's happiness and to prevent the universe from sinking into chaos.
She again manifested part of her power, this time as a dual Goddess of Shakti . One side, called Parvati, epitomizes the tender aspects of womanhood: love, motherhood, family life, abundance, nourishment, harmony. The other side, called Durga, epitomizes the strong aspects of womanhood: creative power, intuitive wisdom, destruction of evil, fierce protection of the weak. Born under a Gemini moon, Parvati-Durga could integrate these two sides. She knew it was her dharma (destiny and duty) to marry Shiva and restore the world to balance.
But Shiva was still in mourning. He wasn't ready for another relationship, so when Parvati-Durga meditated outside his cave, Shiva ignored her. The cosmos continued to decline, so the Gods convinced Kama, Lord of love and romance, to stir desire in Shiva. Standing at the entrance to his cave, Kama shot a sugarcane arrow into his heart.
Startled abruptly out of meditation, Shiva saw the gorgeous Parvati-Durga and was filled with lust. Then he saw Kama and realized he had been tricked. With a beam of fire he incinerated Kama and with harsh words sent Parvati-Durga away.
She left but didn't give up. Through long practice she became a master yogi and developed cosmic powers on a par with Shiva's. She achieved the ability to meditate on highest spiritual plane, Shiva's realm of solitude. Here he couldn't banish her because she was his equal. They meditated together, and slowly, slowly Shiva's pain-hardened heart melted with love, and he knew this lady to be Sati returning to him, a second gift and blessing from Mahashakti. Shiva asked Parvati-Durga for forgiveness for his rude behavior, then asked for her hand in marriage. She smiled Yes!
They were married in a joyous fest attended by not only all the Gods but also by nature spirits and human saints. The enlightening power of their union caused the demons to slink back into the dark corners of creation and the universe to swing back into harmonious balance.
Shiva is sometimes baffled by his complex wife, but he adores both sides of her. The couple has two sons and a daughter, all devoted to different aspects of the spiritual path. Since then the family works together generating waves of positivity that pervade the cosmos and improve our lives to this day.
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