What is Maha Shivaratri ?
Maha Shivratri is the day when the Shiva Tattva touches the earth. The consciousness, the aura, or the ethereal world, which is always ten inches above the material ground, touches the earth element on the day of Mahashivratri. It is the wedding of the material with the spiritual, and that is the celebration.
Shiva is the soul (of everything) – there is no difference between the soul and Shiva.
Your true nature is Shiva, and Shiva is peace, infinity, beauty, and the non-dual one.
Ratri means ‘to take refuge’. Shivratri is taking refuge in one’s own spirit (Shiva). It is the day that we celebrate the soul or spirit (Shiva Tattva) within ourselves.
Ratri (which translates as ‘night’) is that which gives you rest, or peace. Three types of peace are needed:
- Material peace
- Mental peace
- Peace of the soul
If there is disturbance around you, you cannot be peaceful. You need peace in your environment. You also need peace in the body and mind, and you need peace in the soul.
You may have peace in the atmosphere, you may enjoy good health, and you may have peace in the mind to a certain extent, but if the soul is restless, nothing can bring you comfort. So, peace on all levels is essential. Only in the presence of all the three types of peace can there be complete peace. Without one, the others are incomplete.
Shivratri is taking refuge in the divine consciousness, which brings peace and solace to all layers of consciousness.
Resting in the Shiva Tattva is Shivratri. When the mind, intellect, and ego rests in the divine, that is the real rest, the deepest rest – complete peace. This is why it is very useful for people to meditate on this day.
The divine accepts you however you are. If you feel like you are like a thorn, you are still accepted. If you are like a leaf, you are accepted. If you are like a fruit or a flower, you are accepted. However, you are and whatever stage of evolution you are at, the one divinity accepts you, and that is truth and that is beauty. Shiva can be spoken synonymously with benevolence, truth, and beauty—and the three are inseparable.
So, tonight is the celebration of Nature rejoicing the presence of benevolence, truth and beauty.
Wherever there is truth, there is Shiva. Wherever there is beauty, there is Shiva. Wherever there is benevolence, there is Shiva. And there is not a place where the Shiva principle is not present. It is the omnipresent, omnipotent, most benevolent divinity – that is what Shiva is all about, and we are soaking in that.
In the daily hustle and bustle, we forget that from which we have come, in which we live, and into which we will dissolve – that eternal principle is forgotten. This is the most puzzling thing!
Shivratri is to remind us that we are Shiva. That is why we say, “Shivoham, Shivoham”, which means ‘I am Shiva, I am that principle, I am the truth, eternity, beauty, and benevolence‘. Shivratri is an occasion to remember this.
A Day for Meditation
Shivratri is like a new year for the spiritual seeker. It is considered an auspicious day for spiritual growth and for material attainment. The night on this day—when the constellations are in a particular position—is very auspicious for meditation. And so, it is very useful for people to keep awake and meditate on Shivratri.
In ancient times, people used to say, ‘If you cannot meditate every day, do so at least one day in a year, on Shivratri day; keep awake and do meditation’.
Wake the Divinity that is deep within you – this is the message. The Divinity is within you, let it wake up!
A Day for Fasting
Not eating too much, eating light, and doing more meditation on this day helps in the fulfillment of desires – this is the ancient belief. Like a sponge in water (a rasagulla in syrup), when the mind and body are resting in the Shiva Tattva, small wishes get fulfilled effortlessly.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen on any other day. At any time that one’s heart is open and mind is calm, prayers do get answered.
People usually eat very light, some fruits or something and do fasting. I don’t recommend fasting without consuming anything. We should eat fruits or some light easily digestible food and spend the day awake and meditate at night. We don’t need to do meditation all night, just for some time.
A Day for Chanting Sacred Hymns
Shivratri day is celebrated with Rudrabhishekam (singing of the ancient Vedic mantras, which is accompanied with a ceremony of washing the Shiva Linga with milk, curd, honey, rose water, and other auspicious offerings).
Do you know, when we chant the Vedic mantras, these mantras bring a big change in the environment! It brings purity to the environment – positivity is increased, bad karmas are destroyed, and nature celebrates. That is why this Rudrabhishekam has been performed for thousands of years – for the well-being of all.
‘Let there be timely rain, let there be a good harvest. Let there be health, wealth, wisdom, and liberation‘, with these prayers, Rudrabhishekam is performed. To strengthen one’s connection to the Divine, Rudrabhishekam is performed.