Both the work of Carl Jung (CW 9ii) and Vedanta (Adi Shankara and the Upanishads) agree: the deity image represents the inner Self. In Vedanta, the deity image represents the innermost Self (Ātman)
In my last post, titled Fires of knowledge: Ashes of wisdom, I spoke of ash as a symbol of Shiva, and thus of the supreme Self. In that post, I drew from a passage from the Brahmanda Purana. In this post, I am going to share more from the Brahmanda Purana (Chapter 27). In the story, Shiva makes a strong statement concerning his own nature, and thus the nature of the supreme Self.
I will start from the beginning of the Story. In the Brahmanda Purana, a group of sages go into the forest to seek out Shiva. There they encounter the frightful form of Shiva. The text says:
“Then the lord came to that forest in order to confer grace on them. His limbs were grey due to the application of Bhasman (ashes). He was naked. He had hideous features. His hairs were dishevelled and ugly. His teeth were terrific. His hands eagerly got hold of a firebrand. His eyes were reddish brown. His penis and scrotum resembled red chalk. His face was beautified by reddish white colour. (10-12)
In his fierce form Śiva tells the sages that he is made of fire and Soma, that all resorts to fire and ash. Shiva speaks:
“I shall explain this to you…. I am Agni (fire) accompanied by Soma … all the worlds have resorted to the fire made and unmade (i.e. artificial and natural). The whole world, mobile and immobile, is burned many times by fire…. Everything can be achieved through Bhasman (ash). It is excellent and sacred. (verse 106- 107)
Shiva then explains that devotees may assimilate the power of Shiva through ash. Shiva speaks:
“He (the devotee) sprinkles the living beings after assimilating the power and essence of ashes. One is rid of all sins through Bhasman (ashes) which is my vigour. Bhasman (ash) is so called because it illuminates (everything) auspicious and renders it fragrant. It is glorified as Bhasman (ash) because it instantaneously destroys all sins. (108-110)
Shiva then goes on to explain the more esoteric knowledge of his being, and thus of the Self. Shiva says:
“I am Agni (the fire) of great splendour. This my Ambikā is Soma; (112-115)
Shiva tells the sages that Ambikā is Soma. Soma is a ritual drink that initiates partake of; soma is the elixir of immorality. Soma is mentioned in the Rig Veda ( 8.48.3): “We have drunk Soma and become immortal; we have attained the light.”
Ambikā in Sanskrit: अम्बिका means ‘Mother’ and is a reference to the mother Goddess. The Oxford Index to Indian Culture relates Ambikā to the goddess Durgā. Specifically, Durgā as seated on a lion or tiger. Durga fights the demons of Ignorance. Ambikā also applies to Parvatī and to goddesses in general. In this case, Shiva relates Soma to Prakriti.
“Agni (fire), Soma and I form ourselves the Purusa with Prakrti. (112-115)
Prakriti प्रकृति, means ‘nature’; Prakriti is the creatrix; she (as Shakti) is the female creative energy. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi speaks to Prakriti in the Bhagavad-Gita, calling her the ‘primal motive force.’ Carl Jung understood this when he called the goddess a libido symbol.
Puruṣa पुरुष is the innermost Self (Atman), or pure consciousnesses of the Self. The Katha Upanishad (1.11-13) speaks of Puruṣa , the Adorable One: “who exists in the faces, the heads, the necks of all. he dwells in the cave (of the heart) of all beings, he is all-pervading, therefore he is the omnipresent Shiva… That person [purusha] is the great lord; he is the mover of existence. He possesses that purest power of reaching everything, he is light, he is undecaying.” The Mundaka Upanishad says: ‘Purusha alone is verily the universe.’ Purusa is cosmic man.
In Prakriti and Purusa, we see consciousness and energy as the two primal forms which make up the Self. Here we see primal triads: Agni (fire, awareness) and Soma (energy, goddess) and Shiva (innermost Self). And another triad: Purusha (Self, awareness, consciousness), Prakrit (energy, goddess) and the implied Jiva (soul).
“O highly fortunate ones, Bhasman (ash) is spoken of as my vim and vigour. The position is this that I retain my own vigour by means of my own body. It is through Bhasman (ash) that protection is sought in the world in inauspicious circumstances. A devotee whose soul is sanctified by means of Ash-bath, who has conquered anger and who has subdued his sense-organs does not go back (i.e. is not born again) after coming near me. (112-115)
It is through such sacred knowledge the soul is sanctified. Through the fires (of Knowledge) the soul is sanctified. Through Soma (elixir, goddess, energy) one obtains immortality. The passage continues providing more details on this purification by ash. Shiva says:
“He who mentally meditates on Bhava, he who takes his bath with Bhasman, (becomes free from sins)…, he attains Gānapatya (the state of being a follower of Ganapati)….meditate on Mahādeva, if they merge themselves (in him) and are sanctified by identifying themselves with him, they shall obtain immortality (Moksa) (121-124)
And this last part is important: by meditating on the Mahādeva (the supreme Self), by merging with him, by identifying with him, one becomes immortal.
Carl Jung understood that the Self is the archetype of wholeness (CW 5, 9i, 9ii). Vedanta understands that the only archetype that we should identify with is the Self. There is no need to be the king or queen or the wise old man. There is no identity to idealize or become. Identity with the Mahādeva, the supreme Self alone is the realization and the goal. Through this knowledge one obtains Moksa, liberation from bondage.
As a last note, just for the delight of it, one who obtains such knowledge becomes a devotee of Ganapati, also known as Ganesha!
- Brahmanda Purana, Internet Archives
- Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Collected Works 9i by C. G. Jung