Questioner: The Ardhanarishwara is described as Shiva being half male and half female. Why isn’t it described as Parvati being half male and half female —isn’t shakti supposed to the energy that moves the universe? Isn’t the female principle the actual Creator as Prakriti?
Sadhguru: If you look at the story as a story, the story is around Shiva because it is his story, and Parvati came in and joined him. So, naturally it is described like that. But if you look at it as a symbolism of creation, then these two dimensions—Shiva and Parvati or Shiva and Shakti—are known as Purusha and Prakriti. The word “Purush” is today commonly understood as “man”, but that is not what it means. Prakriti means “nature” or “creation.” Purush is that which is the source of creation. The source of creation was there, creation happened, and it fit perfectly well into the source of creation. This is the story. If you want to refer to the source of creation as being a part of creation, it is not completely inappropriate, but it is a little less appropriate. And this question is coming because of social situations of women being exploited or suffering in so many different ways.
Let me tell you the story of what happened. Shiva was in an ecstatic condition and because of that, Parvati was drawn to him. After Parvati did many things to woo him and sought all kinds of help, they got married. Once they were married, naturally, Shiva wanted to share whatever was his experience. Parvati said, “This state that you are in within yourself, I want to experience it too. What should I do? Tell me. I am willing to do any kind of austerity.” Shiva smiled and said, “There is no need for you to do any great austerity. You just come and sit on my lap.” Parvati came and with absolutely no resistance towards him, sat on his left lap. Since she was so willing, since she had placed herself totally in his hands, he just pulled her in and she became half of him.
You need to understand, if he has to accommodate her in his own body, he has to shed half of himself. So he shed half of himself and included her. This is the story. This is basically trying to manifest that the masculine and the feminine are equally divided within yourself. And when he included her, he became ecstatic. What is being said is that if the inner masculine and feminine meet, you are in a perpetual state of ecstasy. If you try to do it on the outside, it never lasts, and all the troubles that come with that are an ongoing drama.
Essentially, it is not two people longing to meet, it is two dimensions of life longing to meet—outside as well as inside. If you achieve it inside, the outside will happen one hundred percent by choice. If you do not achieve it inside, the outside will be a terrible compulsion. This is the way of life. This is the reality which is being expressed in a beautiful dialectal form—Shiva included her as a part of himself and became half-woman, half-man.
Shiva is referred to as the ultimate man, he is the symbolism of ultimate masculinity, and even he is half a woman. I think that is compliment enough. You don’t have to say Shiva came and became half of Parvati because that is not how nature happened. First was Purusha, and then Prakriti manifested. First there was the source of creation, then creation happened. If you were to say, “I delivered my mother,” that would be inappropriate. If you say, “Ardhanari means Shiva became a part of Parvati,” that is what you are saying.
The writer is a world-renowned spiritual leader.