The Goddess Parvati represents the sacred Feminine in the aspect of the consort of the Divine Masculine, as well as the Divine Mother.
She also represents the divine aspect of the Yogi or Yogini who is in search of spiritual perfection and union with God.
For those of you unfamiliar with this story I will try to give you the quick version! Shiva is a deity who represents both an aspect of formless pure God consciousness & Divine Masculine Energy, the aspect of God as the Destroyer of the World (Illusion & Darkness)and the Adi-Yogi, or Adi-Guru- “Adi” meaning first, and Guru meaning, among other things ‘one who dispels darkness’. In the aspect of the Adi-Yogi, he is an ascetic completely absorbed in meditative union. As Adi-Guru he is the first to teach mankind (the rishis) the ancient spiritual science of Yoga, or attaining oneness with God.
Parvati (whose name means Daughter of the Mountains), is reborn as an incarnation of Shiva’s former wife, Sati, who was insulted by her fathers dislike of Shiva and threw herself into a ritual fire. By the time Parvati comes around, Shiva is absorbed deeply in meditation. Falling in love with him and longing to become his wife, she watches him and serves him unceasingly. He basically ignores her!
Parvati decides that the only way to win her Lord is to practice yoga and meditation also. Her family scolds her that this is no way of life for a woman, but she insists, and goes on to perform extreme yogic disciplines. In some versions of the story she is said to have stood on one leg for hundreds of years.
So deeply does she practice that it is said that eventually the Heavens are set ablaze with her yogic fire, and the gods devise a way to get Shiva to love her. Keeping the story short- he comes to test her and make sure she is truly devoted to him, and she passes the test and becomes his wife.
The way that Parvati can inspire us in our own spiritual path and sadhana, is that she wins the love of Shiva not just with her love, infatuation, devotion, and service, but through rigorous discipline and yogic austerities. She presents to us the ideal of bhakti (devotion). In that particular aspect of their relationship they are a divine aspect of God and Devotee/Yogi, and also embody the spiritual intimacy of the ideal guru/disciple relationship. In fact in a certain Vaishnavite mythology Shiva’s first wife Sati is also his devotee, and because she takes him for granted and doesn’t listen to him as her satguru, after she is reborn as Parvati she must win him back through yoga and renunciation.
This story is inspiring especially to those on the yogic path, because it gives us insight into how yoga really works to bring us into spiritual blossoming, and how in yoga the magical must be mixed with the scientific in this way in order to achieve results. The fact that Parvati stands on one leg to me represents the one-pointedness of concentration that one needs to be able to achieve in meditation.
When Shiva in disguise comes to test Parvati, he basically asks her ‘Why do you want to marry a crazy ash smeared ascetic who meditates all the time, wears skulls, etc? That’s the kind of guy you want? Why not marry Vishnu (God in his aspect of the Preserver of the Universe) who can give you anything you desire?” Parvati angrily defends her Lord, expressing her love for him, and wins his heart.
In this way, God tests us. He tests our love . But he tests us with Himself. We are tempted by our desires and material needs and wants. But it is only when we renounce them, either in a physical sense, or even in our hearts, and say to God, ‘It is only you that I want. You are the source of all of these things and without you they are meaningless’, that God comes to you.
Paramahansa Yogananda says we must be like ‘the naughty baby’, who cries to our Mother. The Mother will give the baby many toys to placate it, but only when the baby throw the toys away, only crying for her, then the Mother will come. He is speaking as well of the one pointedness and surrender that the devotee must develop on all levels, in the body, in the heart, in the mind, in the spirit.
And this is what the true path of yoga does.