Shivaratri

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Shivaratri By Sri Swami Sivananda

Introduction

The Story of King Chitrabhanu

Spiritual Significance of the Ritual

Lord Shiva's Assuarance

 

Introduction

This falls on the 13th (or 14th) day of the dark half of Phalgun

(February-March). The name means "the night of Shiva". The ceremonies take

place chiefly at night. This is a festival observed in honour of Lord Shiva.

Shiva was married to Parvati on this day.

People observe a strict fast on this day. Some devotees do not even take a

drop of water. They keep vigil all night. The Shiva Lingam is worshipped

throughout the night by washing it every three hours with milk, curd, honey,

rose water, etc., whilst the chanting of the Mantra Om Namah Shivaya

continues. Offerings of bael leaves are made to the Lingam. Bael leaves are

very sacred as, it is said, Lakshmi resides in them.

Hymns in praise of Lord Shiva, such as the Shiva Mahimna Stotra of

Pushpadanta or Ravana's Shiva Tandava Stotra are sung with great fervour and

devotion. People repeat the Panchakshara Mantra, Om Namah Shivaya. He who

utters the Names of Shiva during Shivaratri, with perfect devotion and

concentration, is freed from all sins. He reaches the abode of Shiva and

lives there happily. He is liberated from the wheel of births and deaths.

Many pilgrims flock to the places where there are Shiva temples.

The Story of King Chitrabhanu

In the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata, Bhishma, whilst resting on the bed

of arrows and discoursing on Dharma, refers to the observance of Maha

Shivaratri by King Chitrabhanu. The story goes as follows.

Once upon a time King Chitrabhanu of the Ikshvaku dynasty, who ruled over

the whole of Jambudvipa, was observing a fast with his wife, it being the

day of Maha Shivaratri. The sage Ashtavakra came on a visit to the court of

the king.

The sage asked, "O king! why are you observing a fast today?"

King Chitrabhanu explained why. He had the gift of remembering the incidents

of his previous birth.

The king said to the sage: "In my past birth I was a hunter in Varanasi. My

name was Suswara. My livelihood was to kill and sell birds and animals. One

day I was roaming the forests in search of animals. I was overtaken by the

darkness of night. Unable to return home, I climbed a tree for shelter. It

happened to be a bael tree. I had shot a deer that day but I had no time to

take it home. I bundled it up and tied it to a branch on the tree. As I was

tormented by hunger and thirst, I kept awake throughout the night. I shed

profuse tears when I thought of my poor wife and children who were starving

and anxiously awaiting my return. To pass away the time that night I engaged

myself in plucking the bael leaves and dropping them down onto the ground.

"The day dawned. I returned home and sold the deer. I bought some food for

myself and for my family. I was about to break my fast when a stranger came

to me, begging for food. I served him first and then took my food.

"At the time of death, I saw two messengers of Lord Shiva. They were sent

down to conduct my soul to the abode of Lord Shiva. I learnt then for the

first time of the great merit I had earned by the unconscious worship of

Lord Shiva during the night of Shivaratri. They told me that there was a

Lingam at the bottom of the tree. The leaves I dropped fell on the Lingam.

My tears which I had shed out of pure sorrow for my family fell onto the

Lingam and washed it. And I had fasted all day and all night. Thus did I

unconsciously worship the Lord.

"I lived in the abode of the Lord and enjoyed divine bliss for long ages. I

am now reborn as Chitrabhanu."

Spiritual Significance of the Ritual

The Scriptures record the following dialogue between Sastri and Atmanathan,

giving the inner meaning of the above story.

Sastri: It is an allegory. The wild animals that the hunter fought with are

lust, anger, greed, infatuation, jealousy and hatred. The jungle is the

fourfold mind, consisting of the subconscious mind, the intellect, the ego

and the conscious mind. It is in the mind that these "wild animals" roam

about freely. They must be killed. Our hunter was pursuing them because he

was a Yogi. If you want to be a real Yogi you have to conquer these evil

tendencies. Do you remember the name of the hunter in the story?

Atmanathan: Yes, he was called Suswara.

Sastri: That's right. It means "melodious". The hunter had a pleasant

melodious voice. If a person practices Yama and Niyama and is ever

conquering his evil tendencies, he will develop certain external marks of a

Yogi. The first marks are lightness of the body, health, steadiness,

clearness of countenance and a pleasant voice. This stage has been spoken of

in detail in the Swetaswatara Upanishad. The hunter or the Yogi had for many

years practised Yoga and had reached the first stage. So he is given the

name Suswara. Do you remember where he was born?

Atmanathan: Yes, his birthplace is Varanasi.

Sastri: Now, the Yogis call the Ajna Chakra by the name Varanasi. This is

the point midway between the eyebrows. It is regarded as the meeting place

of the three nerve currents (Nadis), namely, the Ida, Pingala and the

Sushumna. An aspirant is instructed to concentrate on that point. That helps

him to conquer his desires and evil qualities like anger and so on. It is

there that he gets a vision of the Divine Light within.

Atmanathan: Very interesting! But how do you explain his climbing up the

bael tree and all the other details of the worship?

Sastri: Have you ever seen a bael leaf?

Atmanathan: It has three leaves on one stalk.

Sastri: True. The tree represents the spinal column. The leaves are

threefold. They represent the Ida, Pingala and Sushumna Nadis, which are the

regions for the activity of the moon, the sun and fire respectively, or

which may be thought of as the three eyes of Shiva. The climbing of the tree

is meant to represent the ascension of the Kundalini Shakti, the serpentine

power, from the lowest nerve centre called the Muladhara to the Ajna Chakra.

That is the work of the Yogi.

Atmanathan: Yes, I have heard of the Kundalini and the various psychic

centres in the body. Please go on further; I am very interested to know

more.

Sastri: Good. The Yogi was in the waking state when he began his meditation.

He bundled up the birds and the animals he had slain and, tying them on a

branch of the tree, he rested there. That means he had fully conquered his

thoughts and rendered them inactive. He had gone through the steps of Yama,

Niyama, Pratyahara, etc. On the tree he was practising concentration and

meditation. When he felt sleepy, it means that he was about to lose

consciousness and go into deep sleep. So he determined to keep awake.

Atmanathan: That is now clear to me; you certainly do explain it very well.

But why did he weep for his wife and children?

Sastri: His wife and children are none other than the world. One who seeks

the Grace of God must become an embodiment of love. He must have an

all-embracing sympathy. His shedding of tears is symbolical of his universal

love. In Yoga also, one cannot have illumination without Divine Grace.

Without practising universal love, one cannot win that Grace. One must

perceive one's own Self everywhere. The preliminary stage is to identify

one's own mind with the minds of all created beings. That is fellow-feeling

or sympathy. Then one must rise above the limitations of the mind and merge

it in the Self. That happens only in the stage of Samadhi, not earlier.

Atmanathan: Why did he pluck and drop the bael leaves?

Sastri: That is mentioned in the story only to show that he had no

extraneous thoughts. He was not even conscious of what he was doing. All his

activity was confined to the three Nadis. The leaves, I have said before,

represent the three Nadis. He was in fact in the second state, namely, the

dream state, before he passed into the deep sleep state.

Atmanathan: He kept vigil the whole night, it is said.

Sastri: Yes, that means that he passed through the deep sleep state

successfully. The dawning of day symbolises the entrance into the Fourth

state called Turiya or superconsciousness.

Atmanathan: It is said that he came down and saw the Lingam. What does that

mean?

Sastri: That means that in the Turiya state he saw the Shiva Lingam or the

mark of Shiva in the form of the inner lights. In other words, he had the

vision of the Lord. That was an indication to him that he would realise the

supreme, eternal abode of Lord Shiva in course of time.

Atmanathan: So it appears from what you say that the sight of the lights is

not the final stage?

Sastri: Oh no! That is only one step, albeit a difficult one. Now think of

how the story continues. He goes home and feeds a stranger. A stranger is

one whom you have not seen before. The stranger is no other than the hunter

himself, transformed into a new person. The food was the likes and dislikes

which he had killed the previous night. But he did not consume the whole of

it. A little still remained. That was why he had to be reborn as King

Chitrabhanu. Going to the world of Shiva (Salokya) is not enough to prevent

this. There are other stages besides Salokya. These are Samipya, Sarupya and

finally Sayujya. Have you not heard of Jaya and Vijaya returning from

Vaikunta?

Atmanathan: Yes, I have understood now.

Lord Shiva's Assuarance

When creation had been completed, Shiva and Parvati went out to live on the

top of Mount Kailas. Parvati asked, "O venerable Lord! which of the many

rituals observed in Thy honour doth please Thee most?"

The Lord replied, "The 14th night of the new moon, in the dark fortnight

during the month of Phalgun, is my most favourite day. It is known as

Shivaratri. My devotees give me greater happiness by mere fasting than by

ceremonial baths and offerings of flowers, sweets and incense.

"The devotee observes strict spiritual discipline in the day and worships Me

in four different forms during each of the four successive three-hour

periods of the night. The offering of a few bael leaves is more precious to

Me than the precious jewels and flowers. My devotee should bathe Me in milk

at the first period, in curd at the second, in clarified butter at the

third, and in honey at the fourth and last. Next morning, he should feed the

Brahmins first and, after performing the prescribed ceremonies, he can break

his fast. O Parvati! there is no ritual which can compare with this simple

routine in sanctity."

Parvati was deeply impressed by the speech of Loid Shiva. She repeated it to

Her friends who in their turn passed it on to the ruling princes on earth.

Thus was the sanctity of Shivaratri broadcast all over the world.

The two great natural forces that afflict man are Rajas (the quality of

passionate activity) and Tamas (that of inertia). The Shivaratri Vrata aims

at the perfect control of these two. The entire day is spent at the Feet of

the Lord. Continuous worship of the Lord necessitates the devotee's constant

presence in the place of worship. Motion is controlled. Evils like lust,

anger, and jealousy, born of Rajas are ignored and subdued. The devotee

observes vigil throughout the night and thus conquers Tamas also. Constant

vigilance is imposed on the mind. Every three hours a round of worship of

the Shiva Lingam is conducted. Shivaratri is a perfect Vrata.

The formal worship consists of bathing the Lord. Lord Shiva is considered to

be the Form of Light (which the Shiva Lingam represents). He is burning with

the fire of austerity. He is therefore best propitiated with cool bathing.

While bathing the Lingam the devotee prays: "O Lord! I will bathe Thee with

water, milk, etc. Do Thou kindly bathe me with the milk of wisdom. Do Thou

kindly wash me of all my sins, so that the fire of worldliness which is

scorching me may be put out once for all, so that I may be one with Thee-the

One alone without a second."

At the Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, the Shivaratri festival is celebrated in

the following manner.

1. All spiritual aspirants fast the whole day, many of them without taking

even a single drop of water.

2. A grand havan is performed for the peace and welfare of all.

3. The whole day is spent in doing the Japa of Om Namah Shivaya and in

meditation upon the Lord.

4. At night all assemble in the temple and chant Om Namah Shivaya the whole

night.

5. During the four quarters of the night the Shiva Lingam is worshipped with

intense devotion.

6. Sannyas Diksha is also given on this day to sincere seekers on the path.

Offer this inner worship to Lord Shiva daily: "I worship the jewel of my

Self, the Shiva residing in the Lotus of my heart. I bathe Him with the

water of my pure mind brought from the river of faith and devotion. I

worship Him with the fragrant flowers of Samadhi-all this so that I may not

be born again in this world."

Here is another formula for the supreme worship of the Lord: "O Shiva! you

are my Self. My mind is Parvati. My Pranas are your servants. My body is

your house. My actions in this world are your worship. My sleep is Samadhi.

My walk is circumambulation of you. My speech is your prayer. Thus do I

offer all that I am to you.

 

SIVA -THE MYSTIC NIGHT

by Swami Krishnananda

 

A talk given on 22nd of February, 1973, a week before Maha-Sivaratri.

We conceive God as glory, as creativity and as austerity. Vishnu is glory

and magnificence; Brahma is creativity force; and Siva is austerity and

renunciation. You might have heard it said that God is the embodiment of six

attributes of which renunciation is one. You will be wondering how can God

renounce things. He is not a Sannyasin (renunciate). He is not an ascetic

like a Vairagin (a dispassionate person) or a Sadhu. What is he going to

renounce? How do you conceive Siva as an austere Yogin or a renunciate? What

does He renounce? The all-pervading Almighty, what has he to give up or

abandon? Here is the secret of what renunciation is! It is not renunciation

of anything, because there is nothing outside Him; renunciation does not

mean abandonment of an object. If that had been the definition of

renunciation, that cannot apply to God. God does not renounce or abandon any

object, because all objects are a part of His Cosmic Body. Then how do you

represent God as an embodiment of Vairagya (dispassion)? Bhagavan, who is

endowed with 'Bhaga' or glories of a sixfold nature, is also an embodiment

of Vairagya. Do you identify Him with a Sannyasin, possessing nothing? No,

never. God is the possessor of all things. Then, how can you call him a

renunciate, a Sannyasin or a Vairagin? The secret behind the concept or the

consciousness of Vairagya, renunciation is here, in the identification of

this attribute with God. It is only when we interpret things in terms of God

that things become clear. Otherwise, we get confused, we cannot know what

goodness is, we cannot know what evil is, we cannot know what virtue is,

unless we refer all these values of life to the concept of God in His

Perfection. The only standard of reference for us in all matters of life's

value is the existence of God. So, the concept of renunciation, which has

been very much misused, also gets rectified, clarified and purified when it

is understood with reference to the existence of God-whose special

manifestation, in this context, is known as Lord Siva.

God does not renounce anything. Then, in that case what is renunciation, in

this context? It is the freedom from the consciousness of externality. This

is called Vairagya. How can you abandon things? All things are there in

front of you, like trees in a forest, stones in the jungle. There is nothing

like abandonment of things, because they are internally related to you.

Nobody can renounce anything, because everything in this world is connected

to everything else. Then what is Vairagya? Vairagya is not renunciation of

any object; it is impossible. Everything clings to you. But the idea that

things are outside you, makes you get attached to them. This false

attachment is Raga and its absence is Vi-raga. The condition of Viraga is

Vairagya. As God has no consciousness of externality, because everything is

embodied in Him, there cannot be a greater renunciate than God. And in as

much as this Consciousness of God is the highest form of Wisdom, He is the

repository of Jnana.

In our religious tradition, Lord Siva is represented as an aspect of God,

the Almighty. He presents before us the ideal of supreme renunciation born

of Divine Realisation. Renunciation born of Divine Realisation, not born of

frustration, not born of an escapist attitude, not born of defeatism, but

born of an insight into the nature of things, a clear understanding of the

nature of life and the wisdom of existence in its completeness. This is the

source of Vairagya or renunciation. You do not want anything, not because

you cannot get things, but because you have realised the interconnectedness

of things, and the unity of all purpose in consciousness. All desires get

hushed, sublimated and boiled down to the divine Being only when this

realisation comes. God does not possess things. Possession is a relationship

of one thing with another thing. But, God is super-relative. That is why we

call Him as the Absolute; He is not relative. Anything that is related to

something else comes under the category of relative. God is not related to

anything else, because He is All-comprehensive. And, thus, in His

all-comprehensive Absoluteness, which is height of wisdom conceivable, there

is also the concomitant character of freedom from the consciousness of

externality, and therefore, as a corollary, freedom from attachment to

anything. Thus Lord Siva is the height of austerity, Master Yogin, portrayed

as seated in a lotus-pose, as the king of all ascetics; not that He has the

desire for self-control but He is what is self-control itself. He does not

practise self-control. Self-control itself is symbolised in the personality

of Lord Siva. Such a wondrous concept of a glorious majestic picture of the

Almighty, as Lord Siva, is before us for adoration during the Maha

Sivaratri.

We observe fast during the day and vigil during the night. The idea is that

we control the senses, which represent the out-going tendency of our mind,

symbolised in fast, and we control also the Tamasic inert condition of sleep

to which we are subject everyday. When these two tendencies in us are

overcome, we transcend the conscious and the unconscious levels of our

personality and reach the superconscious level. While, the waking condition

is the conscious level, sleep is the unconscious level. Both are obstacles

to God-realisation. We are shifted from one condition to another. We are

shunted, as it were, from waking to sleep and from sleep to waking everyday.

But the super-conscious is not known to us. The symbology of fast and vigil

on Sivaratri is significant of self-control; Rajas and Tamas are subdued,

and God is glorified. The glorification of God and the control of the senses

mean one and the same thing. Because, it is only in God-Consciousness that

all senses can be controlled. When you see God, the senses melt, like butter

melting before fire. They cannot exist any more. All the ornaments become

the solid mass of gold when they are heated to the boiling point. Likewise,

in the furnace of God-consciousness, the sense-energies melt into a

continuum of universality.

In the famous Rudra-Adhyaya or the Satarudriya of the Yajur-Veda, we have a

majestic, universalised description of Lord Siva, a chant which we are

accustomed to everyday in the temple. Only those who know what Sanskrit is,

what the Vedas are and what worship is, can appreciate what this Satarudriya

chant also is. It is one of the most powerful prayers ever conceived by the

human mind. It is filled with a threefold meaning. According to the culture

of this country, everything is threefold,-objective, subjective and

universal. Everything in the world, from the smallest to the biggest, has an

objective character, a subjective character and an universal character.

Objectively you are something, subjectively you are another thing and

universally you are a third thing. It all depends upon from what point of

view you interpret a particular thing, person or object. When you

objectively interpret a thing, it looks one thing; when you subjectively

analyse it, it is another thing; and from the universal point of view, it is

something third altogether. Likewise, this Mantra, the Satarudriya of the

Yajurveda, a hymn to Lord Siva, has an objective meaning, a subjective

meaning and a divine, supreme, supramental, universal meaning. Objectively,

it is a prayer for the control of the forces of nature. Subjectively, it is

a prayer for self-control and the rousing of the spiritual consciousness.

Universally, it is a surge of the soul towards God-realisation. It has an

Adhiyajnika, Adhibhautika, Adhidaivika and Adhyatmika meaning, as we usually

put it. It has a tremendous meaning. The Vedas, the Mantras of the Vedas,

are filled with such threefold or fourfold meaning. Hence it is difficult to

understand the full meaning of any Mantra of the Veda. "Ananta Vai

Vedah"-Infinite is the meaning of the Vedas. The meaning of the Veda is

infinite. It has no end at all. It is mathematics, it is chemistry, it is

physics, it is Ayurveda, it is psychology, it is metaphysics, it is

philosophy, it is spirituality, it is meditation, it is love, it is ecstasy.

You will find everything in every Mantra of the Veda. All depends upon how

you look upon it, how you feel it. A person can be a father, he may be. a

brother, he may be a son, he may be a friend, but all the while he is one

and the same person. Attitudes are different on account of various

relationships connected. So the Rudra Adhyaya is before us, a majestic

prayer for world-peace, international-peace, subjective peace, universal

peace and God-Consciousness.

It is difficult to chant this Veda Mantra called the Satarudriya, because it

requires a training, as in music, for example. Everybody cannot sing. It

requires a tremendous training for years together. Likewise, the chanting of

the Mantras of the Veda requires training for years together, not for a few

days only. Just as one who does not know how to sing, will make a jarring

noise and you will like to get up and go away rather than listen to it, so

also when you chant the Mantra wrongly, Gods will get up and go away. They

do not bear it any more. So, it requires training. But once it is properly

learnt, it becomes a protection for you from catastrophies of every

kind,-physical, psychological and what not. So, those who know may chant it,

recite it and take part in the recitation of it everyday in the temple, at

least during the worship on Mahasivaratri.

Those who cannot do this because it is difficult, can chant the Mantra 'Om

Namah Sivaya', the Panchakshara Mantra of Lord Siva with Om preceding it. It

is a Kavacha; a kind of armour that you put on. This armour will protect you

from danger of every kind. It will protect you and also all those whom you

want to be protected. It will protect your family, will protect your

country, will protect the whole world. It can cease wars and tensions of

every kind, provided you offer the prayers wholeheartedly from the bottom of

your heart. Collective prayer is very effective. If a hundred persons join

together and pray, it will have a greater effect than one person praying. Of

course, if that single person is very powerful, even one person's prayer is

alright. But, where personalities have their own weaknesses and foibles, it

is better that people have congregational prayer. When all the minds are put

together they form a great energy. It surges forth into God. So during this

period preceding Sivaratri prayer is to be, offered to Lord Siva, as the

Master of Yogin, as the incarnation of all virtues and powers, as a facet of

the Almighty Lord. The glory of Lord Siva is sung in the Siva Purana, in the

Yajur Veda Rudra Adhyaya as I mentioned, and in the Mahabharata. You will be

wonderstruck at the force with which Vyasa and other Sages sing the glories

of God, of Vishnu, of Narayana, of Siva, of Devi in the various Puranas and

Epics, because these masterpieces have been written by those who had the

vision of God. Only one who has the vision of God can express in soulful

force. Otherwise, it will be an empty sound without much significance and

thought. So, chant the Mantra 'Om Namah Sivaya' as many times as possible

everyday, mentally or even verbally as is convenient, with self-control,

which means to say without any thought of sense-object. If you chant the

Mantra together with the thought of sense-objects, then there is divided

devotion. It is like dividing the course of a river in two different

directions so that the force of the waters gets lessened. Suppose you have

five sense-objects and towards all of them your senses are running, and you

are thinking of God also at the same time. Then, you know, energy is

divided, concentration becomes weak and meditation is not successful. No

meditation will become successful, if the senses are active; because, the

senses are the opposite of the effort at meditation. While meditation is the

collective force of the mind concentrating itself on God-consciousness, the

senses, when they are active, do the opposite of meditation and you become a

tremendous extrovert. You are connected to the objects of sense, rather than

the universal concept which is God. God is unity, whereas sense objects are

multiplicity. They are the opposite of what you are aiming at in your

spiritual life. With moderate behaviour in every manner in your spiritual

life, you will attain to success. As the Bhagavad Gita beautifully puts it,

'moderate in your eating, moderate in your activity, moderate in your

speech, moderate in your sleep'-form the golden mean, the via-media, the

golden path. God is the harmony of all powers in the universe. Harmony means

the middle course, neither this extreme nor that extreme. You cannot say

whether it is or it is not. We don't know what it is. As Buddha said: "

'Nothing is', is one extreme; 'everything is', is another extreme. God is in

the middle. Truth is in the middle." So, the middle path is the best path,

which is the path of austerity with understanding. This is the

characteristic of the middle path. When there is understanding without

austerity, it is useless. When there is austerity without understanding,

that is also useless. There must be austerity with understanding and

understanding with austerity, knowledge with self-control and self-control

with knowledge, that is wisdom. Knowledge with self-control is called

wisdom, whereas knowledge without self-control is mere dry intellectuality.

That is of no use. And austerity without understanding is a kind of

foolishness. It will have no proper result. So, Lord Siva is not merely an

austere Being but also a repository of Knowledge. All worshippers of

knowledge also worship Lord Siva, as He is the God of all students, scholars

and seekers of wisdom and knowledge. Thus, Maha-Sivaratri is a very blessed

God-sent opportunity for us. So on this day, pray to Lord Siva with all your

heart, with all your soul, fully trusting on the might of God, wanting

nothing from the objects of sense and delighted within that the Kingdom of

Heaven is at hand. God is bound to come. The powers of the cosmos are

everywhere and they can be invoked at any time by us, provided we are strong

enough in our will and in the method of invocation. We are blessed because

we live in the Kingdom of God. We are blessed because we are seekers of

Truth. We are blessed because we are disciples of a great Master. We are

blessed, thrice blessed, four-times, five-times blessed because we are

seeking God who also seeks everything in this creation. God seeks the world

and the world seeks God. This is the mystery of creation, the subtlety of

the spiritual path and the glory of the meditative life. Jnana and Vairagya

combined is Lord Siva who is worshipped on Mahasivaratri day.

Lord Siva is easily pleased. He is called Asutosh. Asutosh means 'easily

pleased'. He is not a difficult Person. You can quickly please Lord Siva. If

you call Him, He will come. Sometimes He is also called 'Bhole Baba', very

simple, not a complicated Person. He comes to help you even unasked. He did

help the Pandavas. The Pandava brothers were in war with the Kauravas in the

battle in the Mahabharata. And Lord Siva helped them without their knowing

that the help was being offered. Lord Siva helped the Pandavas invisibly and

why not He help us? He helps all those who tread the righteous path. So let

us tread the path of righteousness and be recipients of Divine Grace.

We may look at the whole thing from another angle of vision. The Sanskrit

word Sivaratri means 'the night of Siva'. On this holy day we are to fast

during the day and keep vigil during the night. You may be wondering why

Siva is connected with the night and not with the day, in which case we can

observe vigil during day-time and fast during the night! Instead of that why

the whole thing has been put topsy-turvy! Siva being connected with night

has a highly spiritual and mystical connotation. It is not that divinity as

manifest in the form of Lord Siva has any special connection with the period

we call night. If you study deeply the Upanishads and such mystical texts of

high spiritual significance, you will realise that the Supreme Being, the

Absolute, is designated in its primordial condition as a supreme Darkness

due to excess of light. This adjective or qualification 'due to excess of

light' must be added. It is darkness because of the excess of light. When

you look at the sun for a few minutes with open eyes and then look

elsewhere, you will see only darkness. The sun has dazzled you to such an

extent that all appear as darkness. It is said in the Mahabharata that when

Lord Sri Krishna showed the Cosmic Form in the court of the Kauravas,

everything was dark, as it were. The intensity of the light was such that it

looked like darkness to the eyes of man. So, in one of the famous

creation-hymns of the Rigveda we have a similar reference made to the

original condition of creation. There is the hymn of the Veda called the

Nasadiya Sukta, wherein it is said: Tama asit tamasa gudhamagre-"Darkness

there was; at first concealed in darkness." According to us, light is

perception of objects, and therefore non-perception of objects is regarded

by us as night. Because, knowledge or consciousness unrelated to the

perceptional process is unknown to the human mind. Generally, to know is to

know an object; and if it is not to know an object, it is not to know

anything at all. For example, take the state of deep sleep. Why do we fall

asleep? Do you know the reason? What is the cause for our going to sleep

every night? Where is the necessity? The necessity is psychological and to

some extent highly metaphysical. The senses cannot always continue

perceiving objects, because perception is a fatiguing process. The whole

body, the whole nervous system, the entire psychological apparatus becomes

active in the process of the perception of objects. And without our knowing

what is happening the senses get tired. They cannot go on contemplating

things all the twentyfour hours of the day. Why should they not be

contemplating objects of sense throughout the day, all the twentyfour hours

of the day? The reason is that perception is an unnatural process from the

point of view of consciousness as such. Perception of an object is the

alienation-of an aspect of our personality through the avenue of a

particular sense in respect of its object. All this is difficult. for many

to grasp. This is a highly psychological, secret. Consciousness is

indivisible. This is a simple fact. Many of you would have heard about it.

Consciousness is undivided, incapable of division into parts. So it cannot

be cut into two sections, of subject and object. On the basis of this fact

there cannot be a division between the seer and the seen in the process of

perception. To make this clear, let us see what happens in dream.

In dream we see objects like mountains, rivers, persons, etc. But they are

not there. Things which are not there become visible in dream. Now, did the

mountain you saw in dream exist? It did not. But did you see it? Yes, you

saw it. How did you see, when it was not there? Is it possible to see a

non-existent object? How can non-existent things be seen? It is

contradictory statement to say that non-existent things can be seen. What do

you see when things are not there? You will be wonderstruck! What happens in

dream is that there is an alienation of the mind into the objects of

perception; and the mind itself becomes the mountain there. There is tension

created due to the separation of a part of the mind into the object and a

part of it existing as the perceiving subject. That is why we are restless

in dream. We cannot be happy. It is neither waking nor it is sleep. It is

very difficult to be happy in this condition because a tense situation of

consciousness is created. What happened in dream, the same happens to us in

the waking condition also. Just as the mind in dream divided itself into two

sections, the perceiving subject and the object that was seen, in the waking

state also, it divides itself into the subject and object. It is like a

divided personality. It is as if your own personality has been cut into two

halves, of which one half is the 'seer' and the other half is the 'seen'. It

is as if one part of your personality gazes at another part of your own

personality. You are looking at your own self as if you are a different

person. You are objectifying yourself, you alienate yourself. What can be

more false and undesirable than this situation? It is a mental sickness.

Now we are able to understand this situation in dream on account of the

comparison that we make between waking and dream. When you wake up, you do

not see the dream objects and then you begin to analyse the condition in

which you were when you were dreaming. We say, when we are awake, we are in

a world of reality, whereas in dream we were in a world of unreality. How do

you know that the world of dream was a world of unreality? Merely because,

we compare it with the waking condition which we consider as real. How do

you know that the world of waking is real? You cannot say anything about

this, because there is nothing with which you can compare it, as you did in

the case of the dream. If you can know another standard of reference, higher

than the waking condition, you would have been able to make a judgement of i

t, whether it is real or unreal, good or bad and so on. When you are

dreaming, you do not know that the objects are unreal. You consider them as

real and you take it for granted. The comparison between the dream and the

waking world, is responsible for our judgement of the unreality of the dream

world. But with what will you compare the waking world? There is at present

nothing to compare it with, and therefore we are in a condition which is

self-sufficient, self-complacent and incapable of rectification. When you

feel that you are perfectly right, nobody can teach you. Nobody can set you

right, because you think that you are right. The question of teaching arises

only when you feel that you are ignorant and you need teaching. The waking

world is only an indication to us as to what could be happening or what is

perhaps happening. We cannot know what is happening actually, unless we

transcend this condition, which we have not done yet. But, by the conclusion

that we can draw from an analysis of the dream-condition, we can conclude to

some extent that in the waking state also we are in a fool's paradise. What

is the guarantee that we will not wake up again from this waking world, into

something else? As in dream you did not know that you were dreaming, in this

waking also you do not know that you are in a state similar to dream. You

think that this world in waking is a hard fact and a solid reality, just as

you believed the world of dream also to be. Now to the senses an absence of

perception is, equal to darkness, the darkness that we experience in deep

sleep.

Let us come back to the subject of Sivaratri, the night of Siva. When you

perceive an object you call it waking. When you do not perceive it, it is

darkness. Now you see in the waking condition, the so-called waking world,

present before us a world of objects as we are intelligent. In dream also

there is a sort of intelligence. But in sleep there is no intelligence. What

happens? The senses and the intellect withdraw themselves into their source.

There is no perceptional activity and so the absence of perception is

equated to the presence of darkness. The cosmic Primeval condition of the

creative will of God, before creation,-a state appearing like darkness, or

night-is what we call the condition of Siva. It is very important to

remember that the state of Siva is the primordial condition of the creative

will of God, where there is no externality of perception, there being

nothing outside God; and so, for us, it is like darkness or night. It is

Siva's night, Sivaratri. For Him it is not night. It is all Light. Siva is

not sitting in darkness. The Creative Will of God is Omniscience,

Omnipotence, Omnipresence, all combined. Sometimes we designate this

condition as Isvara. The Supreme Absolute, which is indeterminable, when it

is associated with the Creative Will with a tendency to create the Cosmos,

is Isvara in Vedantic parlance and Siva in Puranic terminology. This is the

very precise condition described in the Nasadiya Sukta of the Veda as Tamas

or darkness. This is to repeat again, darkness due to the excess of the

Light of the divine Absolute. If you look at God, what will you see? You

will see nothing. The eyes cannot see Him. Because He is such dazzling

light. When the frequency of light gets intensified to a very high level,

light will not be seen by the eyes. When the frequency is lowered, comes

down to the level of the structure of the retina of the eye, only then you

can see light. There are various kinds of lights, various intensities or

frequencies, and the higher frequencies are incapable of cognisance by the

senses on account of their structural deformity. So if you see God, you will

see nothing.

As a matter of fact, we are seeing God even now. But we are not able to

recognise Him. The world that we see before us is God Himself. There is no

such thing as the world. The world does not exist. It is, only a name that

we have given to the Supreme Being. Call the dog a bad name and then hang

it. Who asked you to call it a world? Why do you give such a name? You

yourself have given it a name and say, 'Oh, this is the world!' You can call

it by another name. You are free to give any name to it. Really there is no

such thing as a world. It does not exist. The world is only a name that we

give to a distortion created in the perception of our consciousness due to

its isolation into the subject and the object.

To come back to the analogy of dream again, the mountain that we saw in

dream was not a mountain; it was only consciousness. There was no mountain.

But it looked like a hard something in front of you, against which you could

hit your dream head. You see buildings in dream. It was consciousness that

projected itself into the hard substance of bricks and buildings, mountains

and rivers, persons and animals, etc., in dream. The world of dream does not

exist. You know it very well, and yet it appears. What is it that appears?

The consciousness itself, projects itself outwardly, in space and time

created by itself, and then, you call it a world. Likewise, in the waking

state also the Cosmic Consciousness has projected itself into this world.

The world is Cosmic Consciousness. The Supreme Divinity Himself is revealed

here in the form of this world. As the dream world is nothing but

consciousness, the waking world also is nothing but consciousness, God. This

is the essence of the whole matter. So you are seeing God. I am right in

saying that. What you see in front of you is God only. It is not a building.

There is no such thing as a building. But we call it a building due to an

error of perception, due to ignorance and due to not being able to analyse

the situation in which we are involved. We are caught up in a mess, in a

paradox, in a confusion and the confusion has entered us, entered into the

bones, as it were, into the very fibre of our being and made us fools that

we are today. It is to awaken ourselves from this ignorance and to come to a

state of that supreme blessedness of the recognition of God in this very

world, that we practise Sadhana. The highest of Sadhanas is meditation on

God.

On Sivaratri, therefore, you are supposed to contemplate God as the creator

of the world, as the Supreme Being unknown to the Creative Will, in that

primordial condition of non-objectivity which is the darkness of Siva. In

the Bhagavad Gita, we have a similar verse which has some sort of a

resemblance to this situation. "Ya nisa sarvabhutanam tasyam Jagarti

samyami; yasyam jagrati bhutani sa nisa pasyato muneh." 'That which is night

to the ignorant, is day to the wise; and that which is day to the wise, is

night to the ignorant.' The ignorant feel the world as day light and a

brightly illumined objective something, and that does not exist for a wise

person. The wise see God in all His effulgence and that does not exist for

the ignorant. While the wise see God, the ignorant does not see Him; and

while the ignorant see the world, the wise do not see it. That is the

meaning of this-verse in the second chapter of the Gita. When we see

sunlight, the owl does not see it. That is the difference. The owl cannot

see the sun, but we can. So, we are owls, because we do not see the

self-effulgent Sun, the pure Consciousness. And he who sees this Sun, the

pure Consciousness, God, is the sage, the illumined adept in Yoga.

So Sivaratri is a blessed occasion for all to practise self-restraint,

self-control, contemplation, Svadhyaya, Japa and meditation, as much as

possible within our capacity. We have a whole of the night at our disposal.

We can do Japa or we can do the chanting of the Mantra, Om Namah Sivaya. You

can also meditate. It is a period of Sadhana. Functions like the Maha

Sivaratri, Ramanavami, Janmashtami, Navaratri are not functions in the sense

of festoons and celebrations for the satisfaction of the human mind; they

are functions of the Spirit, they are celebrations of the Spirit. In as much

as we are unable to think of God throughout the day, for all the 365 days of

the year, such occasions are created, so that at least periodically we may

recall to our memory our original destiny, our Divine Abode. The glory of

God is displayed before us in the form of these spiritual occasions.