The Body, Blood and Water

In Religion on July 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm

This is a picture of Shiva and Parvati. Shiva is sometimes called the Ardhanareeswara – the God who is half woman.

This iconography instills the duality of destruction and rejuvenation, of thandava and lasya, of ascetic and householder.

Shiva is the God of not only destruction but also of rejuvenation. He is known for his dance of destruction called the thandava. Parvati his wife is the one that tames him, seduces him away from his destructive ascetic penance of mortification and severe austerity, with her dance of lasya.

Switching religions to Christianity, Jesus in the Essene tradition dances only in the rejected books outside of the four approved gospels that make up the new testament of the Bible. I wish Jesus’ dancing were included in the main approved gospels too. It would have lightened the preachy theme and context a bit. His dance according to the rejected gospels were always happy.

If thandava is the dance of destruction, then lasya is the dance of beauty, grace and happiness. Together they have an identical Christian parallel:

In Jesus’s last supper with his disciples, just before he was crucified, he left behind an act of symbolic legacy for them. He offered them bread and wine, representing his body and blood.

He broke the bread and lifted the pieces and said:

Take this, all of you, and eat of it:
for this is my body which will be given up for you.

He lifted the chalice of wine and said:

Take this, all of you, and drink from it:
for this is the chalice of my blood,
the blood of the new and eternal covenant.
which will be poured out for you and for many
for the forgiveness of sins .
Do this in memory of me.

I interpret this body and blood part thus: The body is offered up and the material world is renounced. This is a Shiva principle and ascetic in nature. The body is mortified and given up to achieve a greater goal. To remember this great sacrifice on the cross, the Christ asks his disciples to eat the unleavened broken bread in memory.

The blood on the other hand is an offering of love and forgiveness. Like the lasya dance of Parvati, one of love it offers forgiveness. The Christ offers his blood to his disciples in a supreme act of love

The priest who commemorates this act of institution, mixes drops of water in the chalice of wine, to symbolize how we humans of low merit are partaking in this fellowship with the Christ. Jesus’ first miracle was at the wedding at Cana, where he turns water into wine. Rich in underlying meaning, it foretells his mission of transforming the common and ordinary to extraordinary. Of ordinary tax collectors, prostitutes, sinners and fishermen transforming into saints.

This water tanker in front of me, with a picture of shiva-parvathi, reminds me of the body, the blood and then the water that is transformed. The water, apart from representing us low life, is essential for our sustenance too. The Hindu-Christian imagery is complete.

The water finds it’s source in the matted hair of Shiva as Ganga. Bathing in the Ganga is believed to cause the remission of sins in Hinduism. It also breaks the cyclic karma of life and death. The Ganges of Hinduism actually literally stands in as the blood of Jesus in Christianity.

Shiva as Neelakanta or the ‘blue throated one’, has a blue throat as he has swallowed the poison of the ocean world and saved it. The Jesus of Christianity takes on this role as savior of this world.

Unlike Shiva’s duality, Jesus’ duality is hidden in plain sight. Jesus’ greatest miracle is one of duality: everlasting life over mortal death. The parallel to destruction and rejuvenation is exact.

His mortal body succumbs to death on the cross, only to be raised up on the third day. The resurrection of Christ we are told, is the cornerstone of Christianity. Without resurrection there can be no Christianity. Christianity and thus the Christian faith exists strictly on this life-death duality of Jesus.

His death is as important as his resurrection. The intended message to his disciples is that they must die to live forever. The old worldly ways needed to be put to death and renounced and a new way of life in him completes this transformation he is talking about.

Another important duality of Jesus, is also obviously hidden in plain sight. He is like Krishna, a god-man, a devine-human, a God who came down to earth. but if Krishna is brought into this argument, where are the gopikas of Christianity?

Thats a difficult question, because on feminine divinity, Christianity more often than not, implicitly derives rather than explicitly states. If so, then a subject more for the learned than the commoner.

Was Mother Mary a God-bearer or simply a Christ-bearer?  A council determined that Mary was the mother of God in the fifth century after Jesus’ death. That to me is an implicit derivation by a council. The build-up of dogma voted upon by centuries of councils is what makes it staid and a bit unadventurous.

Nevertheless, Mother Mary is accorded the highest honor. From his cross, exhausted and just about to die, Jesus turns to his mother and says ‘Mother, here is your son’, and then turning to his disciples ‘Behold, your mother’

In other words, he entrusts his mother to his followers, asking them in turn to treat her as their own. This seals Mother Mary’s role in our salvation. She moved from ‘Mother of Christ’ to ‘Mother of God’ within a couple of centuries after Jesus’ death. She is accorded the title of ‘Mother of the Church’ fairly recently in 1964. She is assumed into heaven but not given the same position as a goddess among the father-son-spirit that is a two-thirds masculine threesome. Leading some to even argue, if the spirit is not the devine godess!  Why this gender ambiguity?

What I find really ironical is the fact that gender equality between Gods and Goddesses seemingly does less to promote such equality among humans. human gender equality is what the society has wrought and tempered almost exclusive of scriptural teachings. Religions that are unsupportive will lose relevance in the modern world.

Christian duality can also be found in the old testament of ecclesiastes:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.

A time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, a time of peace.

[Sriram Ramakrishnan]

Krishna’s mom Devaki and father Vasudeva are not accorded Godly status either. The biggest difference between Krishna and Christ is that one preaches literal killing of evil, while other preaches forgiveness. Krishna offers a boon to Sisupala’s mom that he will forgive 100 sins of Sisupala (for which he could be killed). Krishna then keeps a tally and when Sisupala (who is an inveterate sinner) sins more than 100 times, Krishna promptly kills him using his Chakra. In Christ’s case when His disciple asks how many times should he forgive, Christ replies 7 times 70, the meaning being a high number so no one can keep count, or in other words continue to forgive without tally. I find this very interesting.

[Peter Vas]

Sin and forgiveness are difficult to comprehend. There are some differences on how the two are treated by the old and the new testaments of the Bible too. The old covenant with God is different from the new covenant with God. The new promise is that the sin will not only be forgiven but also ‘taken away’, meaning to say God will not even remember your evil deeds and hence will not ask for you to repay.

So the new God is even more loving, accepting and forgiving than the previous old God who was made out to be powerful and vengeful to keep the law or face consequences.

This change in make-up may be due to the fact that societal laws took care of passing earthly judgements and religion need not show a heavy policing hand here. That’s my best guess as to the sudden change. all I know that what Jesus proposed was radically different and some of these changes were hard to digest back then.

While Krishna has a hardened outlook on justice and fairplay, some of the religions that have their roots in Hinduism are extraordinarily pacific in outlook, like Jainism and Buddhism.

So one can safely say that the natural progression of these two religions, Hinduism and Christianity was toward forgiveness, acceptance and pacifism.

While Christianity preaches love, Hinduism shows us ahimsa or non-violence

They both mean the same thing, but ahimsa has a political, social, chronologic and global import of immediate relevance and was catapulted to be Hinduism’s theme ever since Gandhi’s satyagraha brought an end to the British rule in india.

it is incredible that ahimsa shines through as the philosophical underpinning of Hinduism even though the sacred texts go a thousand different directions on human predicament. It is difficult to conclude that the premise line of Mahabharata and Ramayana is ahimsa.  So how did ahimsa percolate out of these sacred texts?

Maybe there was active re-interpretation of sub-texts and plots to glean rightful morals? Another discussion for another day?  I don’t have the answer to this exciting puzzle and I am just conjecturing at this point.

i find this fascinating as the interpretations could be from any learned guru, whereas the Vatican has the ultimate hold on Biblical interpretations. I find that restrictive to the act of creative interpretations.

Christianity went through a terrible bad patch during the Christian empire building but time has healed those wounds and the essence of Jesus’ teachings are once again brought to fore. The sermon oft quoted being ‘love one another as you love yourself’

I came across this startling revelation in Devdutt’s Mahabharata. Apparently the story of Shishupala is a story about the intertwining nature of forgiveness and repentance and how the unrepentant human remains unforgiven:

To protect her son, Shishupala’s mother gets from Krishna a boon that he will forgive a hundred crimes of her son. But she does not bother to warn her son never to commit a crime. Thus Vyasa draws attention to the peculiar human trait of trying to solve a problem through external means without bringing about an internal transformation.

The acts of omissions are the difficult ones to interpret, because those are ambiguous and one can infuse it with just about any meaning one wants to convey. But once a wise man cracks the code, one can only hope the interpretation is as popular as the story itself!  Most times it is not.

Looping back to the original teaching of forgiveness in the Bible, the repentance bit was missing in our discussion.

While Jesus teaches forgiveness, he demands repentance too!  Repentance is not optional or a request from the teacher, it is a pre-requisite to forgiveness. an unrepentant man should be rebuked, says he.  But a repentant man should be forgiven seven times a day (seven being a copious number in Hebrew)

I agree, there is no indication that Krishna reached out to Sisupala and tried to influence him. He just kept a tally and killed him on reaching 100 crimes. This may be an omission, but no one talks about forgiveness in Hindu scriptures. Even when the Devas and other celestials commit sins, they are cursed to be born in the earth as something. When they repent, they are told of a way to end their penalty period and get back to their original form. So they have to pay for their sin and when the payment is complete they can return to heaven. This is told several times in the scriptures (Example Ahalya and how Rama saves her).


  1. Jesus as Guru – The image of Christ among Hindus and Christians in India


On Religion
sita pieta muruga
The symbolism of Ganesha Pieta Carnatic Calling Muruga



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