One of the most ancient spiritual symbols is the Nataraj, the Indian god Shiva as the “King of the (Cosmic) Dance” who dances the universe into being.
Shiva is considered the greatest god of the Hindu trinity Brahma (the creator god), Vishnu (the sustainer god), and Shiva (the destroyer/transformer god) as attested by the mantra referring to these three: Dev, Dev, Mahadev (god, god, great god!). But what’s essential to remember is that Shiva is a symbol of your highest Self.
The Nataraj is such an important and valuable symbol that the Indian government donated a Nataraj statue to CERN, in Switzerland, to recognize the convergence of the Eastern understanding of the universe as the “Tandava”, the Cosmic Dance, and the Western scientific understanding of the universe as the dance of waves and particles.
The Nataraj is ancient and has universal appeal—but what does it mean? The image of the Shiva dancing upon a dwarf (named “ignorance” or “forgetfulness”) within a ring of fire, is explained by Shunyamurti, the founder and director of the Sat Yoga Ashram in Costa Rica, as having a deep inner value for all of us.
In the image of the Nataraj, Shiva has four arms, symbolizing the integration of the masculine and the feminine. On one hand, Shiva holds a drum that represents the rhythm of time.
Shiva is the master of time and thus beyond time. In the hand, he holds a flame, the “yoga Agni”, the fire of yoga produced in meditation, that burns away “Maya”, an illusion. Yet another hand gives the signal to be not afraid, and the last points to the ground, symbolizing the ground of being.
Shunyamurti reminds us that, since Shiva is a symbol for your Real Self, the image begs the question: Do you want to be Shiva, the Supreme Consciousness, or do you want to be the dwarf, the ego?
If we choose the dwarf, we will be in pain and suffering—“if only because God is dancing on our head”.
Shiva is encircled by a ring of fire. The world engulfed in flames, but Shiva’s dance creates a new beginning. This ring of fire also serves as a memento mori, an urgent reminder that death is always present—and we must reach the deathless state of Liberation NOW.
If we remain in the immovable spot—like Shiva in the Nataraj—we gain the one-pointedness and compassion to help others who are in illusion and offer them the healing power of love.