Lord Shiva is not an ordinary living being, nor is he in the category of Vishnu, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is far more powerful than any living entity up to the standard of Brahma, yet he is not on an equal level with Vishnu. Since he is almost like Lord Vishnu, Shiva can see past, present, and future. One of his eyes is like the sun, another is like the moon, and his third eye, which is between his eyebrows, is like fire. He can generate fire from his middle eye, and he is able to vanquish any powerful living being, including Brahma, yet he does not live pompously in a nice house, etc., nor does he holds any material properties, although he is master of the material world. He lives mostly in the crematorium, where dead bodies are burnt, and the dust of the crematorium is his bodily dress. He is unstained by material contamination.

Lord Shiva is not connected with anyone, nor is anyone his enemy. Since he is one of the three controllers of the universal affairs, he is equal to everyone. His greatness is incomparable because he is a great devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is said that among all the devotees of the Personality of Godhead, Lord Shiva is the greatest. Thus the remnants of foodstuff left by him are accepted by other devotees as Maha-Prasada or great spiritual foodstuff. The remnants of foodstuff offered to Lord Krishna are called Prasada, but when the same Prasada is eaten by a great devotee like Lord Shiva, it is called Maha-Prasada. Lord Shiva is so great that he does not care for the material prosperity for which every one of us is so eager. Parvati, who is the powerful material nature personified, is under his full control as his wife, yet he does not use her even to build a residential house. He prefers to remain without shelter, and his great wife also agrees to live with him humbly. People in general worship goddess Durga, the wife of Lord Shiva, for material prosperity, but Lord Shiva engages her in his service without material desire. He simply advises his great wife that of all kinds of worship, the worship of Vishnu is the highest, and greater than that is the worship of a great devotee or anything in relation with Vishnu.

Lord Shiva’s uncivilized, devilish characteristics are never despicable because he teaches the sincere devotees of the Lord how to practice detachment from material enjoyment. He is called Mahadeva, or the greatest of all demigods, and no one is equal to or greater than him in the material world. He is almost equal to Lord Vishnu. Although he always associates with Maya, Durga, he is above the reactionary stage of the three modes of material nature, and although he is in charge of devilish characters in the mode of ignorance, he is not affected by such association.

Lord Shiva never accepts any luxurious dress, garland, ornament or ointment. But those who are addicted to the decoration of the body, which is finally eatable by dogs, very luxuriously maintain it as the self. Such persons do not understand Lord Shiva, but they approach him for luxurious material comforts. There are two kinds of devotees of Lord Shiva. One class is the gross materialist seeking only bodily comforts from Lord Shiva, and the other class desires to become one with him. They are mostly impersonalists and prefer to chant sivoham, “I am Shiva,” or “After liberation, I shall become one with Lord Shiva.” In other words, the karmis and jnanis are generally devotees of Lord Shiva’s, but they do not properly understand his real purpose in life. Sometimes so-called devotees of Lord Shiva imitate him in using poisonous intoxicants. Lord Shiva once swallowed an ocean of poison, and thus his throat became blue. The imitation Shivas try to follow him by indulging in poisons, and thus they are ruined. The real purpose of Lord Shiva is to serve the Soul of the soul, Lord Krishna. He desires that all luxurious articles, such as nice garments, garlands, ornaments, and cosmetics, be given to Lord Krishna only because Krishna is the real enjoyer. He refuses to accept such luxurious items himself because they are only meant for Krishna. However, since they do not know this purpose of Lord Shiva, foolish persons either laugh at him or profitlessly try to imitate him.

Source: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2014 edition), “Srimad Bhagavatam”, Third Canto, Chapter 14 – Text 29

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