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Why Shiva Wears A Leopard Skin: a modern western materialistic translation of an ancient spiritual tale

2011/02/19
Shiva's Leopard Skin

One day, Shiva and his consort, Parvati, were shopping in the forest at the base of Mount Kailash. Shiva was bored, as usual, being forced to spend time with his wife when he’d rather be off elsewhere in the forest, alone, meditating, watching the animals and imitating their postures and movements. He didn’t have time for this.

“Maybe you should get yourself a loincloth while we’re here,” Parvati quietly suggested. “Walking around naked in the forest like you do…”

Shiva was slightly offended: “What? What’s wrong with that? I don’t need one,” he said.

“All right, all right,” Parvati retracted. “I just thought maybe it would keep the other sages in the forest from being jealous, and it would just look nice.”

“Honey, I honestly don’t give Musaka’s ass,” referring to his son Ganesha’s pet rat. “If they’re jealous of my lingam, that’s they’re problem. And I’m in the forest alone meditating, who needs to look nice? I’m not out there to impress anyone! ”

“Perhaps you’re right dear,” Parvati admitted, as they approached a jewelry booth at the market.

They spent they remainder of the day browsing the booths, buying a few pieces of furniture, new pots and pans, and stopping at a stall for an iced chai latte and a dal scone for lunch. As they were about to leave the market, Parvati spotted a booth near the exit with a sign that read: SHRI LULULEMON’S ANIMAL SKIN emporium. “Shiva, dear, one last stop. We need a new wall hanging for the bedroom.”

Shiva rolled his eyes and followed her.

After looking at several skins, Parvati spotted a beautiful leopard skin and took it down from the wall to examine. “Do you like this this one?” she asked Shiva.

Wow, Shiva thought, that’s pretty cool. And soft, too. But to his wife, he shrugged, “Yeah, great.” Parvati handed him the animal skin and went to ask the proprietor how much it cost. While she was gone, Shiva held the leopard skin, and when he turned to his right, he caught a glimpse of himself in a full-length mirror on the far wall. He had been holding the skin at waist height, and when he saw himself he was suddenly thrilled with how manly the leopard skin appeared. He gazed towards Parvati to make sure she was still occupied with finding Shri Lululemon. He unfolded the skin and wrapped it around his waist.

Damn, that looks hot, Shiva thought. Maybe Parvati was right, I would look good if I dressed up a bit. And this would go so well with my tiger skin asana mat!

Just then, Parvati returned with the vendor, and Shiva quickly folded the skin. “That one there,” Shri Lululemon said, “that will be 9000 rupees, please.”

“WHAT?” Parvati exclaimed. “That’s absurd! That is too much!”

“That is very special skin,” the dealer said, “it invokes fearlessness in anyone who touches it. Plus, it makes super-cute accessory to meditation.”

Shiva was sold. “Honey, I’ll buy it. It’s a nice skin.” He handed Shri Lululemon 9000 rupees and the Divine couple left the market, heading back up Mount Kailash as the daylight receded. When they approached the front gate, Shiva bid to his son, who was standing by the doorway awaiting their return.

“Ganesha, boy, help your mother unload her purchases from the market. I’m heading back out to the forest for a while.” As he handed some of the packages to his son, Shiva slipped one of them behind his back before dashing back down the road towards the forest.

Shiva dancing in his leopard skin.

Shiva, stylish and radiant in his new leopard skin, dances on a demon.

That evening, Parvati and Ganesha were sorting through the packages, and Ganesha noticed his mother seemed distraught. “Ma?” he said. “What’s wrong?”

“Your father paid 9000 rupees for a leopard skin, and I can’t find it!” she lamented. “He’s going to be pissed when he finds out I lost it.”

Meanwhile, in the forest, Shiva wrapped the leopard skin around his waist, rolled out his tiger-skin mat and began imitating the postures of the various creatures that lived nearby. Several of the animals soon gathered around Shiva to watch.

Kurma, the tortoise, commented, “It’s about time he put something on.”

“Man, that’s an awesome skin he’s got there,” said Garuda, the eagle. “I’m impressed.”

“I wish I had something pretty like that to wear,” the scorpion, Vrschika, uttered.

All the while, Shiva only pretended to be deep in concentration while practicing asana. He was listening intently to the conversations among the animals of the forest, hearing them compliment his new outfit. His ego swelled a little bit with each adulation, and he was glad he had paid the exorbitant price for the leopard skin.

Thus, a new tradition was handed down to future generations of sages and yogis, and Shri Lululemon’s Animal Skin Emporium experienced a boom in business. The Path of Looking Good for Enlightenment, or Sundara-Yoga, (“beautiful” yoga), spread from the Himalayas to the world, rooting itself most solidly in the West, where the ground for such a practice was well-suited for its vigorous growth.

From the SUNDARA SUTRA, a newly discovered text found deep within a cave in Northern Indiana.

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