The real meaning of Shiv, Shankar and Shakti

Acharya Prashant
5 min readFeb 21, 2020

In the public mind, Shiv and Shankar are one and the same: Shiv-Shankar, Bholenath, Kailashpati: hundreds of names. All names are beautiful. But if we understand the meaning of these names by going into the depths of spirituality, their beauty increases further.

Shiv means the soul, the pure truth. You say Shivoham, just as the Upanishads say, Aham Brahmasmi or Poornoham. You would not ordinarily say Shankroham. When the Supreme Truth is known as nirgun — nitya — nirakaar — nirvishesh (virtueless — timeless — formless –non-subjective), it is addressed by the name Shiv. Shiv can, in fact, have no form, no body, no abode, no gender, no family, and no virtue. This is because all the causes of human suffering are contained in this material, visible, virtuous world.

All that comes under the purview of the senses, becomes the content of the mind and keeps the person in confusion. It is essential that the Ultimate Truth be seen as free of form, color, and shape. If we make the Ultimate Truth also a thing of the world and start giving it form, color and shape, then would there be any possibility left for human liberation? Therefore Shiv has to be formless.

Now let us come to the limitations of the common man. Nirgun and Nirakaar are mere words for the ordinary mind. Since our birth, all our experiences are of shapes, forms, and bodies. Therefore, most people are not aware of Nirguna-Sadhana, nor are they able to relate with the shapeless and thoughtless. For most people, trying to imagine a truth which has form becomes unavoidable. This is where Shankar arrives. If Shiv is the Absolute Truth (Brahm-satya), then Shankar is the God (Ishwar). Brahm and God are very different, but worship is almost always of God. The common man also considers God more useful for himself. Shiv cannot be defined, but Shankar has definite characteristics. Shiv has no family, but Shankar has a family, wife, children, everything. Shankar can be the character of a purana or a story, but not Shiv. All that we know by the name of Shivpuran is actually Shankar’s story.

Shiv is the truth, the Brahm. Shiv is eternal, a point without beginning or end, because of which we are, and who we are. Shiv is undescribable, even to say the word Shiv is limiting Shiv. If you really want to say Shiv, you will have to…