From the SHIVA MAHA PURANA – Supreme Book of God (simplified)
[1.1.4] the Greatness of Shiva Linga
Vishnu originated from Shiva; Brahma originated from Vishnu
By worshipping the Shiva-Linga a person can attain liberation from all the bondages of the world. Lord Shiva is the manifestation of God (Nishkal) himself. Because of his divine beauty, Shiva with form is called (Saguna or Sakal); without any form or qualities, He is called (Nirguna).
In the first kalpa (cycle of time being 4 yugas) of Swetvarah, there was a battle between Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu to prove who was superior. Lord Shiva manifested before them and showed them his form in the shape of Shiva-Linga. From then on, the Shiva-Linga became famous.
[1.1.5] The Deities go to Kailash Mountain
Nandikeshwaji tells us about the battle between Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu. While travelling, Lord Brahma came to the abode of Lord Vishnu, finding him resting on Shesh-Nag (reclining couch with canopy), being attended by Garuda (divine eagle), and other attendants. When Lord Brahma saw that Vishnu did not get up to receive him, he became very angry.
A battle was fought between them for very long time. All the deities from heaven arrived to watch the battle. They became very worried when there was no sign of the battle ending. They decided to go to Lord Shiva to request his help.
[1.1.6] Anaal-Stambh (the Pillar of Fire)
Though Lord Shiva knows all, he pretended ignorance, asking about the well-being of the world. The deities told him about the battle being fought between Brahma and Vishnu. So Lord Shiva sent one hundred of his ganas (angels) to pacify them. He himself also went, accompanied by Shakti boarded on a chariot.
When Lord Shiva reached there, he saw that Brahma and Vishnu were about to use their deadly (nuclear) weapons – Maheshwar and Pashupat. Afraid of the destruction these deadly weapons might cause, Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of ‘Analstamba’ (pillar of fire) between them. Brahma and Vishnu released their weapons which fell into the pillar of fire and were destroyed.
Brahma and Vishnu were very surprised to see the pillar of fire so enormous that it reached the sky and penetrated down the earth. Vishnu went down to the ‘Patal’ (Nether world) to find the base of that ‘Pillar of fire’. He was unsuccessful and came back.
Brahma transformed himself into a swan and flew up into the sky to find the end of the pillar. On his way, he met a withered ‘Ketaki’ flower which still had some freshness and fragrance left in it.
Lord Shiva smiled at the useless attempts of Brahma and Vishnu. As a result of his smile, the Ketaki flower fell down from the branch. The Ketaki flower told Brahma that it had been present since the beginning of the Creation, but did not know about the origin of that ‘Pillar of fire’. The flower advised Brahma against trying to find out, but it was no use.
Brahma asked the Ketaki flower to lie in front of Lord Vishnu, saying that he (Brahma) had been successful in finding the top of that pillar of fire. Ketaki flower agreed. Both of them went to tell Vishnu that Brahma had seen the end of the Pillar of fire. Ketaki flower gave witness. Vishnu accepted the superiority of Brahma.
Lord Shiva became very angry with Brahma. He proceeded to punish Lord Brahma for his falsehood. Lord Vishnu requested Lord Shiva to spare the life of Brahma. Lord Shiva became pleased with Vishnu, and gave him the same status as his own.
[1.1.7] Shiva Obliges Brahma
Nandikeshwar continues the tale –
After giving Vishnu the same status as that of Himself, Lord Shiva opened His third eye, and from it manifested ‘Bhairav’.
He ordered Bhairav to kill Brahma. Bhairav severed the fifth head of Lord Brahma with his sword. Brahma became terrified and was trembling in fear. Lord Vishnu felt pity on his condition and requested Lord Shiva to forgive him. Lord Shiva then stopped Bhairav, but told Brahma, “You spoke Untruth with a desire to become worship-able. It is my curse that you will not be worshiped by anybody. You will possess only four heads.”
When Brahma begged forgiveness. Lord Shiva feeling pity on Brahma gave him the boon of being the presiding deity of all the yagyas (ritual done in front of a sacred fire). The Ketaki flower also was prohibited from being used during worship. But when Ketaki flower gave his apology, Shiva gave it a blessing that it would be fortunate to be offered to Lord Vishnu during worship.
[1.1.8] Consecration of Maheshwar
Lord Vishnu and Brahma made salutations to Lord Shiva, offered him a seat, and they worshiped him. This was the first time Brahma and Vishnu worshiped Lord Shiva. Shiva was very pleased. ‘Shiva-ratri’ (Night of Shiva) has continued to be celebrated since that day.
This particular day is the most auspicious day for worship of our Lord Shiva. A devotee who fasts on Shivratri, eating only fruits, attain virtues equivalent to worship done for the entire year. Lord Shiva himself has told the deities that he manifested in the form of the ‘Pillar of Fire’ in the month of Agahan, during the constellation of Ardra.
He also said “One who worships me on this night of Shiva (Shivratri) or worships me in my form of linga is dearer to me than ‘Kartikeya’ (Shiva’s son). The place where I manifested in the form of the ‘Pillar of fire’ will become famous as Lingasthan.
Because of its resemblance with the ‘Mountain of Fire’, it will also be known ‘Arunachal’.”
Later, Shiva brought back to life all the people who had died in the battle fought between Brahma and Vishnu.
[1.1.9] Omkar (OM / AUM)
Lord Shiva then preached to Brahma and Vishnu on the five duties called ‘Panchakritya’. He said that ‘Shrishti’ (Creation), ‘Sthithi’ (Position), ‘Samhar’ (Annihilation), ‘Tirobhav’ (Concealment) and ‘Anugrah’ (Obligation or Kindness) are the five duties by which this world functions.
The source of this world is ‘Sarga’ (Nature). The establishment of this world is ‘Stithi’ (Position). The tendency of this world to destroy is ‘Samhar’ (Destruction). The feeling of absence of this world is ‘Tirobhav’ (Concealment) and ‘Moksha’ (Salvation) is ‘Anugrah’ (Obligation).
Lord Shiva explained that the first four duties help in the nurturement of the world, and the fifth duty – ‘Anugrah’ (Obligation) belongs to the Giver of ‘Moksha’ (Salvation).
Lord Shiva also told Brahma and Vishnu that He had blessed both of them to look after the two duties, Shrishti and Sthiti.
Rudra and Mahesh (forms of Shiva) have been entrusted with the job of Sanhar and Tiribhav.
“The fifth duty, Anugrah, has been kept by me,” said Shiva.
After describing the allocation of the five duties, Lord Shiva described the meaning of ‘OMKAR’ to them. He said that OMKAR signified the world, and contained the power of both Shiva and Shakti. This powerful mantra gives all kinds of worldly accomplishment, as well as Salvation.
Then Lord Shiva initiated Brahma and Vishnu with the ‘OMKAR’ (OM) mantra. He also taught them the importance of the worship of Shiva-linga.
[1.1.11] Sacred Pilgrimages of Shiva
There are numerous places of pilgrimages connected with Shiva at the banks of river Ganges and river Indus. River Saraswati is considered to be a sacred river.
There are famous temples of Lord Shiva at Kashi, Naimisharanya, Badrikasharam, Kedar, and more.
There are many temples of Shiva at the banks of holy rivers like Ganges, Yamuna, Saraswati, Godavari, Narmada, Kaveri, Sarayu, Tungabhadra, and more.
Worshipping Shiva at these places bestows undiminishing virtues and liberates a man from all of his sins.
[1.1.13] Dharma (the Right Path)
Invirtuosity invites sorrow, while virtuosity bestows joy and happiness.
[1.1.14] Worshipping Shiva
Virtuosity performed with a pure heart does not go in vain.
[1.1.17] Worldly Bondage and Salvation
The sages requested Sutji to explain the meaning of ‘Bondages of Life’ and ‘Salvation’.There are eight types of bondages which a man feels on this earth; the soul is liberated after becoming free from these eight bondages:
2. Intelligence Qualitative
“Each soul is bound by these eight aspects of the Nature. The actions performed as the result of these bondages is called ‘Karma’ (actions performed resulting from bondages). A man reaps the fruits of his actions – whether good or evil. He either enjoys pleasures or suffers sorrow, due to this Karma.”
The soul takes rebirth in a cycle bound by the effects of their Karmas. The eight Chakras are the eight forms of nature. Shiva is beyond the reach of these eight chakras. He has full control of these eight chakras. So a man can become free from the bondages of this world ONLY by worshiping Shiva Linga. The linga is both gross, as well as subtle.
[1.1.18] Worship of Parthiva Linga
Sage Sutji explains the greatness of worshiping a Parthiva Linga:
The Parthiva Linga is the most supreme among all the Shiva-Lingas. All the aspirtions of the deities, as well as humans, are fulfilled by the worship of Parthiv Linga.
During the era of Satya-Yuga, jewel was considered to be of prime importance.
During Treta-Yuga, Gold was of prime importance.
During Dwapar-Yuga, Mercury had prime importance.
In our present era of Kali yuga, a Parthiva Linga has this place of honor.
Just as Ganga among the rivers, Kashi among the sacred places of pilgrimages, and Omkar (OM / AUM) among all the mantras are considered to be superior – in the same way Parthiva Linga is considered to be the supreme among all the Linga. Worshiping a Parthiva Linga with a ‘Nishkam bhava’ helps a man to attain liberation.”