In Hinduism there are 3 Gods representing the principal functions of the Universe. Brahman is the Creator; Vishnu the Sustainer; and Shiva the Destroyer. The cycle of existence requires these 3 cycles – firstly to make things and beings, then to maintain them and eventually break them down to primordial matter to bring back the space for the new creation.
Shiva is depicted as Nataraja in his cosmic dance form called Anandatandaya when he is in the process of destroying. It symbolises the divine cycle of birth and death, as without breaking down there would be no new making.
Shiva quality of destruction is not only related to matter, it is also responsible for removing rigidity, darkness and taking away any obstacles from the spiritual path. Without destroying that which stands on our way to growth there would be no spiritual progress and illumination.
According to the Sadhus of the very strong Adi Nath Sampradaya tradition in Hinduism Shiva is the Adi Nath – the First/Original Master/Guru. He is also called Mahadeva, Maheshvara, or the One Representing Supreme Reality beyond mental concepts. In Adi Nath Sampradaya tradition it is Shiva who invented Yoga, spending eternity in Seclusion, Asceticism and Samadhi. When doing Sadhana (Spiritual Practice), Shiva is depicted as a Yogi sitting in meditation on top of the mountain Kailash in Himalayas.
Adi Nath Sampradaya has its roots in ancient Siddha (Perfected One) tradition. In Nath practice Hatha Yoga is used for the refinement of the body to the state of Sahaja Siddha – the Awakened Soul to the Absolute Reality. In this practice, the Yoga Guru is a necessary guidance to achieve that aim.
Between 9th and 10th A.C. Nath Panth (a very important lineage of Masters) springs out from Adi Nath Sampradaya. With Matsyendranath, the saint and yogi who’s teachings are respected by the number of Buddhist and Hindu traditions, author of the earliest Hatha Yoga texts; and his disciple Gorakhnath (also known as Gorakshnath) accomplished saint, yogi and the originator of the Nath Panth. In all these lineages Shiva is believed to be the First Yogi, the One Who Invented Yoga, and the First Yoga Guru.
In Yogic tradition, Shiva is not thought of as a God, but rather as a Realised Being, Adi Nath – the First Yogi. He is the Teacher and the Example for the inner well-being and practice towards freedom. When he performs his destroying duty he dances in ecstasy, and the rest of the time he spends in solitude in silent meditation. He represents the steadfast, devoted and true Sadhana that brings complete understanding of life, awareness of the self, and ultimate comprehension of all existence.