The Nataraja depicts the cosmic dance of Shiva, one of the principal deities of Hinduism. The Nataraja is a highly sophisticated representation of the coming-together of philosophy, metaphysics, spirituality, art, and science.
Perspectives from religious philosophy and symbolism can offer an alternate understanding to the dominant worldviews that have surfaced in the twentieth century onwards that separate mind-and-matter, cause-and-effect and profit-and-responsibility with a dualist standpoint. Certain religious philosophies can offer a holistic framework for a purpose-oriented approach in business and management. For the first time, a scholarly inquiry is underway, led by Chowdhury, to understand how the symbolism of the Nataraja can shed light on management science.
The research sheds light on how management science can benefit from the integration of religious philosophy and symbolism in the theories it propounds and the actions it provokes. This research caters to the call for systems practice to be developed at the interface of formal science, political ethics, analytic psychology, and religious thought.
Fritjof Capra draws inspiration from the Nataraja to talk about the dance of energies as an essential aspect in physics through which both particles and virtual particles determine mass and form. Capra says:
“For the modern physicists… Shiva’s dance is the dance of subatomic matter. As in Hindu mythology, it is a continual dance of creation and destruction involving the whole cosmos; the basis of all existence and of all natural phenomena… [modern physics experiments] bear testimony to the continual rhythm of creation and destruction in the universe, are visual images of the dance of Shivaequaling those of the Indian artists in beauty and profound significance. The metaphor of the cosmic dance thus unifies ancient mythology, religious art, and modern physics. It is indeed, as Coomaraswamy has said, ‘poetry, but none the less science’.”
The philosophy of Natarajaand quantum physics possess a confluence of similar ideas that view reality as a constant force of creation, destruction, and preservation. This cosmic reality manifests itself as our experiential world. This is what is referred to as maya in the Samkhya and Kashmir Shaivism. Maya is commonly interpreted as illusion, but it is actually the creative power of the manifested experience from the unmanifested consciousness.
At one level, the symbolism of the Nataraja depicts continual upheaval, while at another level it represents the cosmos as the ultimate thermodynamic system with great symmetry and rhythm. Despite the quantum dynamism, the essential character of Shiva is ‘nothingness’ or supreme bliss in the Shiva Puranas, the scripture dedicated to Shiva that is estimated to have been composed between the fourth- to the second-century BCE, to denote the involution of the entire universe into a state that is formless and unmanifested. Hence, the call for humility and the suspension of judgement with the attainment of vidya, or knowledge, in the Samkhya.
In all its glory and powerful imagery, the dancing Shiva is interpreted as the substratum of reality and revered throughout the length and breadth of India in its multiplicity of creative manifestations. The cosmic dance of the Nataraja is a highly sophisticated representation of the coming-together of philosophy, metaphysics, spirituality, art, and science.
The Nataraja has inspired my research on advancing my conceptual lens of Holistic Flexibility in systems thinking. The symbolisms of the Nataraja offer concrete references for the principles of Holistic Flexibility. I have drawn perspectives from the panchakritya, or the five most important functions of the Nataraja, to articulate these principles. These principles are the “system as becoming”, drawing from srishti or creation, “transformative flexibility”, drawing from samhara or transformation, “responsible practice” drawing from tirobhava or (freedom from) ignorance, “spiral of learning” drawing from samharaor liberation, and “pragmatic artistry” drawing from sthithi or assurance.