Guiding Light: Mahashivratri: The night of Shiva

“Every Mahashivratri is a wake-up call to move away from conflicts and move towards truth, beauty, peace, and benevolence – the ethereal qualities of Shiva,” says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the spiritual master and global humanitarian leader.

This sacred celebration of Shiva Tattva falls on the 14th night of the new moon, in the lunar month of Phalgun, (11 March this year). On this auspicious night, the devotees of Shiva stay awake. Some prefer performing Shiva puja, chant Vedic mantras (specifically the Rudram), practice sadhana and meditation. These sacred practices bestow a sense of peace within us and oneness with the world.

Why stay awake on Shivratri?

“On this night, people try to break the cycle of hunger and sleep. You feel hungry every day but that night, you say, ‘I am going to fast’. You feel sleepy but that night you stay awake. You demonstrate your will as being higher than that of the body. It is mind over the matter. You stay up, focused, chanting, listening to stories and keeping yourself in high spirits- that is what Mahashivratri is all about!” Sri Sri Ravi Shankar adds!

Shiva is not a person but that blissful and innocent consciousness which exists in every atom of the universe and also in us, Gurudev explains. Celebrating the ‘Shiva tattva’ in oneself is called Shivaratri. Ratri means night, the time for rest and comfort. Shivaratri is a rest not only for the body, but also for the mind, intellect and ego.

It is said that any meditation done on this day is a hundred times more effective and this night brings a sense of deep serenity and benevolence. According to Indian astrology, there are certain days and phases in a year that are conducive to spiritual growth and meditation happens more easily. Mahashivratri is one such day.

This is also considered a highly conducive time to be in silence, and thousands of spiritual seekers arrive to The Art of Living International center to participate in silence retreats.

Offering the Bilwa leaves

The meaning of ‘Kailasa’ (the abode of Shiva) is celebration. No worship is considered complete without offering something to the deity. “Shiva is a very simple lord; he is innocent — Bholenath. One just needs to offer bel-patra (bael leaves) to him,” Gurudev shares. In this simple offering is a deep message. Bel-patra offerings signify the surrender of all three aspects of one’s nature: Tamas, Rajas and Sattva, and becoming free.

(The author is a former journalist and writer for The Art of Living)

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