Consciousness is an inexhaustible source of everything in the universe, yet ever transcending the things which come out of it. Consciousness never ceases to be what it was, is. and will be. From Shiva comes the universe as a whole and everything individually through the power of Shakti. . . yet Shiva remains ever the same. At the same time, Shiva and Shakti, in the highest sense, are one and the same. This is the eternal mystery, the eternal wonder, which ever defies description. It is far better to count every stone on the beaches of the world than try to attempt to describe the impossible.
Tantra regards the material universe as the form, pattern, or expression of the totality. According to tantra, both the manifested and unmanifested, the background and the projection, the film and the screen are real. In fact, to tell a person that the things around him are unreal is nonsensical for his personal experience in normal levels of awareness tells him otherwise. Also from the point of view of tantric, yogic or any other spiritual practice, the world must be regarded as real. One must use the body, the mind and other aspects of the world to know that which is beyond. If one regards the mind and body as unreal, as do some systems, then how can one practise spiritual techniques, how can one practise with things that are unreal? Of course, this is a ridiculous point of view in normal levels of experience. Many other systems regard the universe as unreal because it changes. Though it is really no more than a matter of definition, tantra says that everything, whether it changes (Shakti) or is changeless (Shiva) is actually real. Both are no more than two different aspects of the totality.
Shiva is father (pita) of all that moves and is motionless. He is said to be naked – clothed in open space (digambara – clothed in everything in the universe). Nowadays, he is usually depicted wearing a tiger skin and portrayed as holding a trident which represents the three qualities of nature – tamas (inertia and darkness), rajas (activity) and sattwa (light and harmony) of which he is the eternal master. He is said to ride a bull called Nandi. Shiva contains within himself the seeds of creation. He is symbolized by the shivalingam. He is totally unconditioned, in a continual state of nirvikalpa samadhi, with total absence of duality, of this and that. Shiva is the king of all yogis (Yogeshwara) for he represents the supreme experience. He is also known as Kuleshana, lord of the kaulas, those who have reached the highest stage of tantra (Kaulachara).
Shiva also means many other things, in different moods or aspects. Don’t be confused by these. Sometimes, for example, he is called Rudra, the destroyer, who seems to be more like Shakti in nature (the dissolving aspect). But the important thing to understand or at least appreciate is that there is really no contradiction between regarding Shiva as the inactive, passive personification of consciousness (as we have already emphasized) and also regarding him as a more active personification in the form of Rudra, the destroyer. This merely further emphasizes that the active and the inactive, the manifest and the unmanifest are really one and the same. All these deities, Shiva, Shakti or whatever, really represent exactly the same thing: the absolute. Only the symbol, the representation is different. And why not? If you wish, you can create your own deity and it will be as valid as any other. This widespread worship of vast numbers of deities indicates the incredible complexity (yet such simplicity when understood) and tolerance of the all embracing spiritual climate of India.