The Vishwarupa Darshanam of Lord Krishna has been elaborately described in the Gita, but few know or realize that of lesser known Shiva. This is a form of Lord Shiva that defines pure consciousness. A form of Shiva that is hard to come by. Few have sculpted His form in stone and bronze. Strangely the Vishwarupa Darshan of Shiva is very similar to what we see for Krishna/Vishnu in illustrative representations of the Gita today.
The Uttarakamikagama describes Sadashiva in white with flowing jatamukuta sinking the glowing crescent moon into His locks. He sits in Padmasana and is depicted either with 5 faces or with one face and 3 eyes - each symbolising Agni, Chandra and Surya or Iccha Shakti, Jnana Shakti and Kriya Shakti. He has 10 arms; his right carries Sakti, Sula (spear), Khatvanga (spear/tantric staff of a long arm bone with a skull at its head), prasada and the last arm is in Abhaya (Hand gesture blessing symbolising "Do not fear"). On his left he carries Bhujanga (snake), akshamala (garland of beads in counts of 27 to 108), Damaru (Sound of creation - OM), nilotpala (half opened lotus bud) and a fruit of the Matulunga (Ayurvedic fruit). He wears a yajnopavita (holy thread) and when he is depicted with one face and 3 eyes, he is also accompanied by goddess Manonmani.
The more terrific form of Sadashiva or Ughra form is 18 armed with flames rising out of His 5th head. He is alternatively found carrying the sûla (trident), pâ'sa (noose), khadga (sword), khetaka (weapon), musala (food grain), para'su (axe), ghanta (time/bell), kapâla (skull cap) among others. Mahasadashiva is described to have 25 heads (5*5) - they represent the Panchabrahmas and symbolize the 25 tattvas of philosophy.
Mahasadashiva depicts a state of mind, one which is further emphasized by the presence of goddess Manonmani alias Durga. Manonmani is a state (a mudra in yoga) where the eyes are neither closed not open, a state where breath is neither inhaled nor exhaled, and the mind is blank, it doesn't speculate or have doubting thoughts. Its after this stage that Unmani stage of super consciousness is reached. The state of the eyes when they are neither opened nor closed is called Nilotpala or resembling a half opened water lily(lotus). To reach this state of super consciousness, one needs to detach from worldly illusions and conquer their fear of death. Hence the Lord is shown in the Abhaya mudra. His various hands hold icons of this truth, emphasizing that this illusionistic world is just a facade, the real truth behind which is probably too difficult to imagine and hence is represented by the Rudra form of the terrific Sadashiva.
But the most beautiful emphasis is made to the three eyes of the Lord - Trayambaka(release from the cycle of birth and death). The third eye is typically associated with fierceness, but in reality the eye radiates a brilliant light, a kind of eye blinding brilliance which is not there in the calm of the other two eyes equated to a blooming lotus when the moonlight falls on it. Such is the beauty of Sadashiva, where coolness of the moonlit night is experienced at the same time as the brilliance of enlightenment when the fiery third eye opens one into consciousness. Such beauty can scarcely be scary except to the ignorant who fail to see the beauty if Mahasadashiva.
A quiet path to self realization brings the brilliance of Lord Shiva's Vishwarupa darshan to the mind's eye. One where the Lord presents his all encompassing form into one - Mahasadashiva roopa.
The other surviving example of Mahasadashiva is this rock cut sculpture from Elephanta caves.
Courtesy: Gopinatha Rao, T. A. <1872-1919>: Elements of Hindu iconography. -- Madras : Law Printing House, 1914 - 1916. -- 2 Bde in 4 : Ill. -- Bd. II, 2. -- S. 371 – 374 PL CXIII and PI. CX V illustrate the description of Sadâ'sivamurti