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The Supreme Joy of Shivarathri

On March 6 this year falls one of the most sacred festivals in the Indian calendar, Maha Shivarathri. Why is this day celebrated? And what is the real significance of this occasion? Swami elaborated on these questions in great detail in a beautiful Message on this festival day in 1969. Here are a few excerpts from that revealing discourse:

Many stories are told in the Shastras, to explain the origin and significance of the Mahaa Shivaraatri Festival. Bharat, the name for this land (India) from ancient times, means 'the land of those who have rathi (Love) towards Bha (Light or Bhagavaan). So, for the people of this land, all days are sacred; every moment is precious…

The Holiness of Shivarathri

Sathya Sai Speaks

Some ascribe the holiness of the Day to the fact of its being the Birthday of Shiva, as if Shiva has birth and death, like any mortal. The story that it commemorates the salvation attained by a hunter who sat on a bilva tree on the look-out for animals to kill, and without any intention to worship, unknowingly dropped some of its leaves on a Linga that lay beneath, does not make clear why this Day is especially sacred. Another story is that this is the Day on which Shiva danced the Taandava (Cosmic dance) in the ecstasy of His Innate Nature, with all the Gods and Sages sharing and witnessing that Cosmic Consummation.

When He consumed the Haalahala poison that emerged from the churning of Ocean and that threatened to destroy the Universe, the heat of the fumes was well-nigh unbearable, even for Him. So, Ganga flowed uninterruptedly on His matted locks; but, that gave Him only partial relief.

The Moon was placed on the head. That was of great help. Then, Shiva danced the Taandava with all the Gods and Sages. All this they say, happened on the same day and so, Shivaraatri, was held in commemoration of this occasion.

The Ultimate Aim of all Sadhana

We have not only the Mahaa Shivaraatri once a year; we have a Shivaraatri every month, dedicated to the worship of Shiva. And, why is the Raatri (the night), so important? The night is dominated by the Moon.

The Moon has 16 kalas (fractions of Divine Glory), and each day or rather night, during the dark fortnight, one fraction is reduced, until the entire Moon is annihilated on New Moon night. From then on, each night, a fraction is added, until the Moon is full circle on Full Moon Night. The Chandra (Moon) is the presiding deity of the mind; the mind waxes and wanes, like the Moon. Chandramaa-manaso jaathah - Out of the manas of the Purusha (Supreme Being), the Moon was born.

Sathya Sai Speaks

It must be remembered that the chief aim of all sadhana (spiritual striving) is to eliminate the mind, to become a-manaska. Then only can Maya (illusion) be cut asunder and the Reality revealed.

During the dark fortnight of the month, sadhana has to be done to eliminate each day a fraction of the mind, for, every day, a fraction of the Moon too is being taken out of cognizance. On the night of Chathurdasi, the 14th day, the night of Shiva, only a fraction remains.

If some special effort is made that night, through more intensive and vigilant sadhana, like puja or japam or dhyaana (ritual worship, one-pointed repetition and holy names, and meditation), success is ensured. Shiva alone has to be meditated upon that night without the mind straying towards thoughts of sleep or food.

This has to be done every month; once a year, on Mahaa-Shivaraatri, a special spurt of spiritual activity is recommended, so that what is shavam (corpse) can become Shivam (God), by the perpetual awareness of its Divine Indweller.

Linga is the Simplest Symbol of God

This is a day dedicated to the Shiva that is in each of you. Since thousands pray here and elsewhere in lakhs and crores, the Linga is emanating from Me, so that you may derive the Bliss that pervades the world through Lingodhbhava (Emergence of the Linga).

The manifestation of the Linga is a part of My Nature. These Pundits (scholars of spirituality) explain it as reminiscent of an epochal event in the past when Shiva challenged Brahma and Vishnu to gauge the height and depth of the Linga Form He assumed. They failed and had to accept defeat. But, the Linga emerges, as a result of prayer and Grace. You have to recognize in this event a glimpse of Divinity, a sign of infinite Grace. Just as Om is the sound symbol of God, the Linga is the Form symbol or the visible symbol of God - the most meaningful, simplest and the least endowed with the appendages of attributes.

Sathya Sai Speaks

Lingam means, that in which this jagat (world of change) attains laya (mergence or dissolution), Leeyathe. All Forms merge in the Formless at last. Shiva is the Principle of the Destruction of all Names and Forms, of all entities and individuals. So, the Linga is the simplest sign of Emergence and Mergence.

Live in the Constant Presence of Shiva

Every form conceived in the Shastras and scriptures has a deep significance. Shiva does not ride an animal called in human language, a bull. The bull is the symbol of Stability standing on four legs, Sathya, Dharma, Shanti and Prema (Truth, Righteousness, Peace and Love). Shiva is described as having three eyes, eyes that see the Past, the Present and the Future. The elephant skin which forms His cloak is a symbol of the bestial primitive traits which His Grace destroys.

In fact, He tears them to pieces, skins them, and they become totally ineffective. His Four Faces symbolize Shantam (Equanimity), Roudram (Terror), Mangalam (Grace) and Uthsaaham (elevating energy). While adoring the Lingam on this Lingodhbhava Day, you must contemplate on these Truths of Shiva that the Linga represents.

It is not this night alone that you should spend in the thought of Shiva; your whole life must be lived in the constant presence of the Lord. Endeavour - that is the main thing; that is the inescapable consummation for all mortals. Even those who deny God will have to tread the pilgrim road, melting their hearts out in tears of travail. If you make the slightest effort to move along the Path of your own liberation, the Lord will help you a hundred-fold. That is the hope that Mahaa Shivaraatri conveys to you.

Man is called so, because he has the skill to do manana, which means, inner meditation on the meaning and significance of what one has heard. All the joy you crave for is in you. But, like a man, who has vast riches in the iron chest but has no idea where the key is, you suffer. Hear properly the instructions, dwell upon them in the silence of meditation, and practice what has been made clear therein; then, you can secure the key, open the chest and be rich in Joy…

Those who deny God are only denying themselves and their glory. All have Love in them, in some form or other, towards someone or other, or their work or goal. That Love is God, a spark of the God in them. They have Aananda (bliss) however small or temporary, and that is another spark of the Divine. They have inner peace, detachment, discrimination, sympathy and the spirit of service. These are Divine in the mirror of their minds.

- Divine Discourse on Shivarathri Day, February 1969

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Vol 6 Issue 03 - MARCH 2008
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