Achieve a Balanced Life with Nandi the Bull

How would your life go if you saw it from the perspective of a bull? On one hand, your bull-vision might be your sense of strength and power. Being a mover and shaker. Good so far if you marshal those forces with inner focus, calmness and clarity. On the other hand, your first inclination might be to run in the opposite direction.

The Bull conjures up some pretty hairy images:

— Stomping around a cape-waving matador in a bull ring.

— Stampeding down the streets of Pamplona, Spain, in the annual running of the bulls, on the heels of grown men running to (literally) save their butts.*

— Causing chaos in a china shop.

— And, of course, getting steamed up over the proverbial red flag (or cape), from which comes the expression, “seeing red,” when someone is angry. We’ve all had those moments.

Consider that in each of the above scenarios the Bull is pulled waaay out of his comfort zone—sending a message of stress and its consequences:

— Experiencing anxiety in social circumstances that results in awkwardness, stemming from a sense of not fitting in. (Yes, me too.)

— Feeling boxed in no matter which way you turn. (Look to the ancient Greek myth of the Minotaur imprisoned in the center of the Labyrinth at Delphi.)

— Being so pushed over the edge physically, mentally and emotionally that folks suddenly disappear or pretend to be busy when they see you coming. Yup, been there.

Except Bull-wise those are one dimensional views of a beast so beautiful in form and function that he was worshiped by earlier civilizations such as the Sumerians, Babylonians, Romans, Greeks and Egyptians. The constellation Taurus dates to “at least the early Bronze Age” (good point, Wikipedia). This exaltation was due partly to the bull’s importance to agriculture and no doubt partly to his impressive bedroom skills, given that a bull with a healthy libido is critical to the herd’s producing plentiful offspring and extra milk to sustain them and the entire village.

The Key to Self-Mastery

Now if you were to expand your inner bull’s-eye-view (couldn’t resist) to its widest possible scope, what would it contain? Strength, power and procreative endurance for projects or progeny—check. Yes, however. Hinduism has given us Nandi the Bull to symbolize a deeper and vaster component that tempers all this snorting and thundering stuff: spiritual surrender.

Nandi (whose name means “bringer of joy”) upholds truth, morality, higher consciousness and the path of right action or dharma.

He is companion, mount and chief disciple of Shiva, the major Hindu deity of destruction. They are a formidable pair given that Shiva, with his matted locks, serpent necklace and ash-smeared body, is the supreme demon slayer. Only here, it’s about the slaying of those demonic aspects of the ego that have us in their grip. We look to Shiva to destroy the negativities and self-limiting concepts from which discomfort, doubt, anxiety and above all, fear, arise.

There are tales from the Puranas, the ancient scriptures that recount the doings of the Hindu deities, that center around Nandi’s devotion to the ego-slaying Shiva—and its consequences. This bull has laid his life on the line for his master more than once. What a powerful metaphor for the key to self-mastery: surrendering your ego’s fears, worries and doubts to your higher Self.

When the positive and negative cosmic forces known as devas and asuras teamed up to extract the nectar of immortality from the ocean, they churned up an unanticipated substance: the sticky poison of human karma. The scared deities backed off. Even the scantest touch would “drag the divinity down to the realms of human suffering and ego,” as the legend goes.

Shiva steps forward, scoops up the poison into his palm and begins to drink. His wife, the goddess Parvati, stops the poison at his throat, which turns blue. Then to everyone’s horror, Nandi begins drinking up the poison that had spilled from Shiva’s mouth onto the ground. And he’s perfectly okay. Shiva tells them: “Nandi has surrendered into me so completely that he has all my powers and my protection.”

Wildness and Wisdom

This double boon from Shiva has made Nandi the wild bull into both a warrior of unparalleled skill and the guru of 18 enlightened sages. (Consider that one of the sages was Patanjali who compiled the Yoga Sutra, whose aphorisms are quoted by Yoga teachers to this day.)


The Yin/Yang combination of spiritual warriorship and wisdom is rooted in Eastern disciplines from Akido to Zen. It’s found in great texts such as the Bhagavad Gita and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. And it appears in Hollywood heroes like Yoda and David “Kung Fu” Carradine.

According to Hindu scripture, we are living in the Kali Yuga or dark age, a cycle of wars and cataclysms in which humanity’s lower qualities like hatred and greed predominate. Nandi empowers you to remain balanced and centered. To uphold your dharma by playing your appropriate role/s in life with strength and open-hearted compassion. And to be firm yet fluid in the face of whatever comes.

Nandi’s statue always guards the entrance to Hindu temples, devotedly facing the statue of Shiva which is placed at the opposite end. Arriving visitors can whisper their prayers into Nandi’s ear. According to this ancient tradition, Nandi can pull Shiva out of his deep meditation and relay their prayers so that Shiva can fulfill them.

Nandi, Shiva and Parvati Source:
Nandi, Shiva and Parvati

How to Meditate with Nandi

You’ll want to call upon Nandi when:

— Wondering what is the right path to take in making a decision.

— Needing to see the ultimate truth of a situation.

— Facing change with strength and flexibility.

— Wanting to release toxic emotions.

Sit on a mat or cushion on the floor, keeping your shoulders relaxed and your spine long. Or sit on a chair with both feet on the floor. Alternately, sit in a favorite outdoor spot. Rest your palms face down on your lap, or place one palm under the other, thumb tips lightly touching. Focus on your breath, taking three or four deep full inhalations and long slow exhalations. Soften your gaze and continue with steady breathing.

Call Nandi to you by bringing his image into your mind’s eye. Be patient! Use all your senses to perceive his arrival.

— When you see, hear and/or feel Nandi’s presence, spend as much time in silence with him as you comfortably can. Like all enlightened spiritual masters, Nandi can impart great wisdom without uttering a sound. Allow yourself to receive the message or teaching he has for you, even if seems like it’s your imagination. (Note: This step can be done before/after or apart from the next step.)

— Whisper your intentions and prayers into Nandi’s ear. Then see yourself looking beyond his head, gazing raptly at Shiva. Know that your worries and negativities have been vanquished. See the clear field of dharmic action. Go forth with clarity and focus. Claim your power!

*Congratulations to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and PETA for the successful settlement of their lawsuit recently, in which the Pamplona-style Great Bull Run is permanently gone from California.

References: Wikipedia,,,, Shrimad Bhagawatam. Images: Wikimedia Commons,,

6 thoughts on “Achieve a Balanced Life with Nandi the Bull”

  1. This is a lovely post that is well-written and full of useful info for my yogic life that is not always so in balance with kids, life, work, etc. How unique to look at the philosophy through animals and Nandi, the bull. Definitely gives me a new perspective and angle to meditate on and incorporate symbolically into my practice. Great stuff!

  2. Thank you for these inspired interpretations! It’s a pleasure learning more about Nandi’s relationship to Shiva and learning a lovely meditation guide towards clarity and “re-claiming my power.”

    1. Thank you, Cindy! Nandi’s ability to lead us back toward our power lies in his unswerving devotion to Shiva. It also places Nandi in some interesting situations, that I’ll be discussing in The Roscoe Effect book. Look for it to be published later this year.

  3. Thanks Valerie for expanding my knowledge base and consciousness with Hindu philosophy and guidance with applications to modern societies stresses and complications. Pete.

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