There are three means of worship just like there are three aspects of Atman(your soul- the mini god inside of you), these three sometimes occur together and are not so discrete but at later stages of worship as the power of observation of the devotee become strong they become very discrete:
1) The creator aspect- Brahma- Vidya(Knowledge): This phase a devotee tries to get true knowledge. True knowledge is knowledge about the world, how it came into being and what all happens here, he starts immersing himself into knowledge and that knowledge of Sat(the only truth-OM) helps him develop faculty of discrimination about what is right what is wrong. He gets to know why is right right and why is wrong wrong. He gets to know of elements, karma, balance, death and life etc and this helps him to have a guard against temptation and follow further the path of truth in order to obtain salvation.But soon he realizes that knowledge is never ending and what he is looking for is beyond knowledge. Also he realizes that knowledge gets in his way as the knowledge increases so does his ego. His knowledge leads to cleverness in his thoughts which causes greed as he thinks he has lot of knowledge so he should be rewarded. Knowledge moreover gets in his way to remain in the present as he constantly keeps relating things around him to what he read or whatever he imagines them to be but because of which he is never able to immerse and get lost in the present which is utmost important to lose his false self.
2) The preserver aspect- Vishnu (bhava bhakti and trance/meditation practice):In this phase the seeker realizes that if he has to lose his self he has to actually forget everything he learned and become absolutely blank and lose himself in the ‘here and now’. So he does things with help of which he keeps getting dissociated with his self. He tries to concentrate so hard on anything he does that he forgets himself and his worry is not the result but losing himself. He does dan punya(alms giving) so it takes his attention away from self and to those around. He does meditation to lose himself(his thoughts, knowledge, past)completely through developing concentration on breath- to be in present and present alone as it is the truth. He does surrender by singing prayers and hymns and loses himself till he is not there but only that is there who is singing, only love is there and he and his lover are one. He does his karma(action) as a dharma(duty) directed towards attaining freedom from self-moksha and not for lower self- profits, richness etc. It is like an arrow directed outward always.But after all this he realized he is still there, he is very pure but still there remains one he and other something which he is not. He hasn’t been able to quite still eradicate himself as some part of him which is trying or worshiping still remains after those moments in which he is not. Then he understands in order to find himself, he has to annihilate himself completely,total devastation is what is needed.
3) the destroyer of lower self or the transformer- Shiva (burning to the end till ashes(rakh) remains-Bhasam) He is the lord of penance, the lord of destruction or transformation.The final aspect of Atman(soul) and the final door to get to the other side. That door is called destruction as he will burn everything in you till nothing remains but only purity, only love. He is the final guard to check is some part of you still there? How can he destroy that- he will give the exams to check if you hold your dear life above i.e. you(your lower self-ego) are there? or is only love or purity there- sacrifice i.e. to check if you are actually pure to enter the gate of freedom and liberation, are you free of all the dreams, the attachment, or in short are you love or not. As when everything burns, only ashes remain, so Shiva burns you till only ashes remain and ashes are the symbolic of Atman(soul)-love. He is like a fire, his ishan(third eye)is burning all desires, setting you free, burning you till at last nothing is there and then you are nothing and yet everything, You have lost yourself and found everything. He says “why are you sacred when actually nothing is, was or will be, let me burn you and show that when your body burns, none of what you are worrying about would be of any significance.” He is in remembrance of death in every breath, and that makes life a truth, a reality to know that this is actually all a dream and in the end nothing will last… nothing will last when everything burns but only your atman(soul)… Only Love….
OM NAMAH SHIVAYE..