The Allegory of Parvati.
Shiva was married to Sati who immolated herself after her father insulted her husband. Shiva was distraught at the death of Sati and withdrew into severe austerity and meditation, which caused the world to begin to fall asunder. The forces of darkness therefore had free reign.
This represents the dissolution of the world, pralaya, when with the withdrawal of energy and matter (Shakti) pure consciousness cannot manifest. It alone exists, unaffected. The world falls apart.
Because of her compassion and love, Shakti decides to incarnate again in order that one would be born from her who would defeat the demons. She would gain Shiva’s affections so that he would turn his gaze outwards to the world once more.
Parvati was born. She was the daughter of Himavat, the Lord of the Himalayas, and her own name means Mountain. She was deeply involved in a spiritual quest from childhood, and was delighted when her father took her to meet Lord Shiva.
In so many of the sacred traditions the soul is a feminine force. We are female, all incarnate beings, all seeking union with the male, pure consciousness.
Shiva, however, remained immersed in his rigorous practices and would not pay any attention. Parvati fell completely in love with Shiva and all she wished to do was marry him, unite with him.
The soul has the experience of first vision, that abrupt and sudden awakening that causes it to ‘fall in love’ with the Divine.
So from then on Parvati went to his cave everyday and kept it clean, brought flowers, made it a sensual paradise. She helped him constantly in any way he needed. Yet Shiva remained unmoved.
The soul tries various methods. It is a child learning. Its efforts are outwards. Rites and rituals and emotional service.
Her father used trickery to force Shiva to fall in love with his suffering daughter by sending Kama to shoot an arrow of love at the god when he opened his eyes and saw Parvati. But Shiva incinerated Kama on the spot.
There is no short cut, no manipulation of consciousness that will make it do our bidding. The undisciplined temptations of the senses cannot coexist with pure consciousness.
At this point Parvati realised that her methods were not working. Shiva also sent her away because of the manipulation by her father.
This is her dark night. The soul is lost to her beloved. She must withdraw and look inwards. She has been cast out.
Parvati understood that she would have to become as disciplined as He who she loved, would have to master her Self as earnestly and completely as he had mastered his senses. So, she withdrew to the forest. She wore no clothes. She dwelled outdoors through all privations. She lived first on wet leaves, then dry leaves, then no food, and finally she drank no water. She practised severe austerities so that she eventually matched her beloved in his mastery.
The soul must exert discipline over the senses.
All the long years she practised with love and devotion, still Shiva did not come.
The seeking soul continues despite the absence of outward demonstrations. In complete trust the soul continues its devotions. The Lord appears far, removed, distant, and yet the soul continues to abide in the great Love.
Still, regardless, she was learning about her own nature, her capacities, her true nature as Shakti. She became so immersed in her practices that she generated a heat that threatened the heavens.
And in the process the Self is gradually revealed. It is as powerful as the beloved. It is of the same stuff, the same nature. There is no difference.
Shiva did not arrive but he sent temptations her way. A handsome young ascetic came to admire her, and to compliment her, and thereafter to denigrate Shiva. He wondered how a charming pleasant woman like her, daughter of a king, used to luxuries and an easy life, could live beside the wild ascetic that was Shiva with his matted hair and his snakes and his intoxication and his pagan ways. His companions are ghosts and wild animals, warned the ascetic.
Still there are obstacles. Confusion, temptations. The way is not always bright, appearances are deceptive. But steadfastly the soul keeps her heart fixed on Pure Consciousness.
Though Parvati wished to be hospitable to the young yogi, she grew angered at his insults of her Beloved. She told him that he did not know the Lord very well and she attempted to throw him out.
The soul will not submit to falsehood, will not stray. It is steadfast, bears all insults.
As she raged against the ascetic he changed into his true form as Shiva.
Pure energy recognises pure consciousness, pure consciousness embraces the soul and they merge.