After sense, after perception of sense, after consciousness of perception, after awareness of consciousness, after understanding of awareness, after all knowledge that comes from such information is what lies before that knowing - what is before is also after. As an egg is non-separate from the bird, insect or other being that emerges from within it, the egg resulting in the birth of another egg - as a being results in further beings, so does sensation and information result in more information and sensation; so does knowledge result in more knowledge. A circle has no beginning or ending, except the point at which it is first discovered or described. All information shapes the way it is interpreted into knowledge. A pillar, if it might be extended indefinitely, would circle back upon itself, as you would hold yourself in your own arms tightly to touch hand to hand - so does all becoming encircle its own conditions of beginning and ending: this encircling, this holding onto of information and sense, this discovery and description, this declaration, this pillar - this is the emergence of Shiva. Shiva emerges from this thing, this pillar, this line or causation, this reasoning upon information, this linga. This is the symbol of Shiva.
The linga is made to appear formless: grasp sand with two hands and clasp it between those hands. Let it go: and it falls to the ground, formless, even dispersed on the wind. This is the Shiva Lingam. Grasp mud with two hands and clasp it between those hands. Let it go: it forms a small formless pillar that through time is observed to disperse. This is the Shiva Lingam. So is a rock, unshaped except by the gradual processes of water, wind, ice, and other natural phenomenon, grasped in the hands: this is also the Shiva Lingam. The three gunas are present in all things, present in the Shiva Linga. Grasping this, as you would grasp one of your hands with the other to make a Shiva Lingam, say "Om Namah Shivaya!" It is by Yoga that Shiva is realized.
Color (especially red), white and black are used to symbolically express Raja, Sattva, and Tamas respectively. These are present in all things, to greater or lesser degree - not because they elementally form all things, but are the emergent property of things. As Vishnu is an emergent property of discovering what has been declared by Brahma, as Brahma is an emergent property of declaring what has been discovered, so are both emergent properties of Shiva - and Shiva emerges from discovery and declaration. There cannot be made distinction which comes first, or second: the infinite pillar forms a circle and has no top or bottom, no beginning or ending, no first or second. No distinction in honor or priority can be made between parent and child, between fetus and womb, between egg and egg.
Once, Brahma and Vishnu came to violent disagreement which had come first: but then a flaming pillar separated them. This pillar of Shiva, the Shiva Lingam, challenged the both of them to find its beginning or end, to exceed it. So Brahma and Vishnu each sought their own domain. Brahma flew upward into space like a swan, and Vishnu directed himself downward through space, as a boar digs into the earth: Vishnu sought to discover the foundation of the pillar, Brahma sought to find the extent of the pillar. And both exhausted themselves before finding the limits of the pillar: for it circled back onto itself without end or beginning. Blinded by the flames, neither Brahma nor Vishnu were aware that the other similarly struggled, or even of their own endless circling: to them, the pillar remained straight, and infinite - while Vishnu flew one direction on the interior of the circle and Brahma on the exterior in the opposite direction they crossed paths, but didn't even know it. When both Brahma and Vishnu each understood they had failed, when they had stilled, and quieted, they heard the pillar: "a-u-m" Om! They saw on the pillar the letters a-u-m. They saw the pillar formed those letters. A-U-M are, respectively, the sounds/letters of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. They knew the pillar to be Shiva, and their mistake in seeking primacy. Shiva said, "we are all three part of the same, the act of beginning conditions the act of preservation and sustaining - as well as ending. The act of preservation and sustaining condition its ending, and its beginning. The act of ending conditions beginning and sustaining. Do not fight yourself, you will only exhaust yourself."
One grows filthy from exertion and work to require a bath, and bathes for work. One rests to prepare for work that will require additional rest. It is by making vows we learn not to, it is by taking up that we let go. One learns from a teacher to exceed that teacher, and become teacherless. By understanding the limits of sense and knowledge, one comprehends logic, and reality.
The altar of the Shiva Lingam (Shakti Yoni) is representative of Uma. The exterior of the Shiva Lingam is representative of Brahma, the center of the lingam is representative of Vishnu. One should only undertake the practices of Shiva Lingam with no teacher.
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