There are many different stories given in the Shaasthras to
explain the origin of the Shivaraathri (the night of the emergence
of the Linga form of Shiva) festival. Some of them were related
now by the persons who spoke to you. Another story is that this is
the day on which Shiva danced the Thaandava (cosmic dance) in His
ecstasy, with all the Gods and sages taking part in the cosmic
event. When He consumed the Haalahaala (death-dealing) poison that
emanated from the ocean of milk, in response to the prayers of the
worlds, which it threatened to destroy, the heat of the fumes was
well nigh unbearable, even for Him. So, it is said, Ganga was
poured uninterruptedly on His matted locks - this is the
explanation for the Abhisheka (ceremony of pouring consecrated
water, oil, milk, etc., on the idol) which is offered in all Shiva
temples for hours on end, and in some places, uninterruptedly -
but Shiva was only partly relieved. So the cool moon was placed on
the head; that gave some relief. Then, Ganga was placed on the
matted locks. That was of great help. After this, Shiva danced
with all the Gods, the Thaandava dance. That is the story but all
this did not happen on a particular day and so Shivaraathri cannot
be said to commemorate that day.
Some say that Shiva was born on this day, as if Shiva has birth
and death like any mortal! The story that a hunter sat on a Bilva
tree on the lookout for animals to kill and without intending any
worship, unknowingly, dropped the leaves of that tree, which
happened to be a Bilva, upon a Lingam beneath, and so attained
salvation, explains only the importance of this day; it does not
explain the origin! Besides we have not only Mahaashivaraathri. We
have every month a Shivaraathri, dedicated to Shiva worship.
Again, what is the significance of the Raathri (the night)?
The close Affinity between Mind and the Moon
Well, the night is dominated by the moon. The moon has 16 kalas
or fractions; and each day when it wanes a fraction is reduced,
until it is annihilated on new moon night. After that, each day a
fraction is added, until it completes itself on full moon night.
The moon is the presiding deity of the mind; Chandramaa manaso
jaathah - "Out of the mind of the Purusha (godhead), the moon was
born." There is a close affinity between the Manas and the moon;
both are subject to decline and progress. The waning of the moon
is the symbol for the waning of the mind; for the mind has to be
controlled, reduced and finally destroyed. All Saadhana is
directed towards this end. Manohara - the mind has to be killed -
so that Maayaa may be rent asunder and the reality revealed.
Every day during the dark half of the month, the moon, and
symbolically its counterpart in man, the Manas, wane, and a
fraction is diminished; its power declines - and finally, on the
fourteenth night, Chathurdashi, there is just a wee bit left, that
is all. If a little extra effort is made that day by the Saadhaka,
even that bit can be wiped off and Manonigraha (mastery of the
mind) completed. The Chathurdashi of the dark half is therefore
called Shivaraathri, for that night should be spent in the Japa
and Dhyaana of Shiva, without any other thought either of food or
sleep. Then success is assured. And, once a year, on
Mahaashivaraathri night, a special spurt of spiritual activity is
recommended, so that what is Shavam (corpse) can become Shivam
(God) by the removal of this dross called Manas.
Symbolic meaning of Words used in Scriptures
This is the purpose of Shivaraathri and so it is foolish and
even harmful deceit to imagine that "keeping awake" is the
essential thing in its observance. People try to escape sleep on
this night by playing cards, attending non-stop cinema shows or
watching plays or dramas. That is not the Saadhana which should be
intensified on Shivaraathri. That is a travesty of the vow of
'sleeplessness.' It vulgarises you and encourages evil and sloth,
wickedness and hypocrisy.
On Shivaraathri, the mind must become Laya (reduced into
nothing). Lingam means that in which this Jagath attain Laya -
Leeyathe; that into which this Jagath goes - Gamyathe. Examine the
Linga; the three Gunas (primordial qualities) are represented by
the three-tiered Peetha (platform); the Lingam above symbolises
the goal of life. Lingam means "a symbol", the symbol of creation,
the result of the activity of the three Gunas and of the Brahman
(supreme reality) which permeates and gives it meaning and value.
When you worship the Lingam, you should do so with faith in this
Every word, every form used in the Shaasthras has a symbolic
meaning, which gives it value. The word "Prapancha" which you use
so freely to indicate this "created world" means, "that which is
composed of the Panchabhuuthaas - the five elements of earth,
fire, water, wind and ether." Take the word "Hrudhayam" used for
"the heart". It means Hrudhi (in the heart) ayam (He). That is to
say, it means not the organ that pumps blood to all parts or the
body, but the seat of God, the altar where Shiva is installed, the
niche where the lamp of Jnaana is lit. Again, Shiva does not ride
on an animal called in human language, a "bull!" The bull is only
a symbol of Dharma standing on the four legs of Sathya, Dharma,
Shaanthi and Prema.
Lingam is the symbolic Form of the Godhead
The three eyes of Shiva are the eyes which reveal the past,
present and the future. Shiva alone has all three. The elephant
skin which forms His cloak is just a symbol for the elemental
bestial primitive traits which His grace destroys; he makes them
powerless and harmless; in fact, he tears them to pieces, skins
them so to say, and makes them ineffective. His four faces
symbolise Shaantham, Roudhram, Mangalam, and Uthsaaham (peace,
fierceness, auspiciousness, determination). In this way, realise
while worshiping the Lingam, the inner sense of the many
attributes of Shiva. Meditate thus on Shiva this day, so that you
may get rid of the last lingering vestiges of delusion.
Just as Om is the verbal symbol of God, the Lingam is the
symbolic form of the Godhead. It is just a form. Everything is
Maaya (delusion) and to grasp it, you must deal with Maayaa.
Otherwise you cannot realise the Maayaa Shakthi (deluding power).
God is as immanent in the universe as life is immanent in the egg.
The chicken is in every part of the egg; so too, God is in every
part of the world. I prefer the description Sarvaantharyaami
(inner ruler of all) to the description, Sarvabhuutha aanthraathma
(inmost soul of all beings). All are in this hall, each one has no
hall in him, is it not? In the same way, all are in Him; which is
better than saying, He is in all.
It is Maaya which binds and limits man; all Saadhana is to
conquer Maayaa. A bit or iron will sink in water but if beaten and
made hollow, it will float. So beat the mind and make it hollow.
Then it will float on the sea of Samsaara (worldly life). Above
all, have Viveka and do not be led into taking any false step.
Grow not only physically but also spiritually
You need not waste time in trying to discover Me and My nature.
Understand what I teach, not 'who is the teacher', for I am beyond
your intellect and your Shakthi. You will understand Me only
through My work. That is why sometimes in order to reveal who I
am, I myself show you My 'visiting card,' something that you call
a miracle. Know the Marma (the mystery) and carry out the Karma
(the duty) I assign you.
In the next fifteen years, a number of young people now growing
up will shine as devoted aspirants in the spiritual field; they
know that each of them is Nithyam, Sathyam and Pavithram (eternal,
truth and pure) and that they are Amritha-puthraas (children of
immortality). They are growing in Viveka and Vairaagya and they
are purifying themselves by Naamasmarana. But the elders are
laughing at such boys because they have taken to the godly path.
Perhaps they will be happy if their children loiter in the streets
in groups, smoking and swearing, and staring at posters.
The elders should be elated that their children are on the
royal road to real joy and contentment and that they will be
serving themselves and the world much better. You do not know how
to make an ornament out of gold; so you give it to a gold smith.
Why worry if he melts it and beats it and pierces it and pulls it
into wire and twists it and cuts it? Let Him who knows the art
shape the child into an ornament of society; do not worry.
You must grow day to day, not only physically but in the
spiritual life also. How long are you staying on in the primary
school, writing down the letters of the alphabet? Get up, demand
an examination, pass, and move forward to the higher class!
The Jeevi must master the inner World first
You are now siting on the floor of the hall; seek the means to
see the top floors too. Progress! Come forward! Then Shivaraathri
becomes a Mangalaraathri (auspicious night) for you. Otherwise it
is just another Raathri wasted.
Many might discourage you and say that meditation and worship
can be taken up after you reach a ripe old age, as if they are the
prerogatives of or special punishments for the aged. Enjoy the
world while you can and then think of the next - that seems to be
their attitude. The child takes its first few steps in the
comparative safety of the home: it toddles about inside, until its
steps become firm, until its balance is perfected, and until it
can run about unaccompanied and without fear. Then only does it
venture out into the streets and the wide world beyond.
So too, the Jeevi (living being) must master the inner world
first; become impervious to temptations, it should learn not to
fall when the senses trip its steps; it should learn the balance
of mind which will not make it lean more to one side than to the
other; and then, after mastering this Viveka (discriminatory
wisdom), it can confidently move out into the outer world, without
fear of accidents to its personality. That is why there is this
insistence on 'sleeplessness' or vigilance.
You cannot claim to be educated or grown-up unless you have
mastered the science of self-control and destroyed the root cause
of delusion. It is not this night alone that you should spend in
the thought of Shiva; your whole life should be lived in the
constant presence of the Lord.
Man's basic Nature seeks inward Contentment
Do not tell Me that you do not care for that bliss, that you
are satisfied with the delusion and are not willing to undergo the
rigours of sleeplessness. You basic nature, believe Me, abhors
this dull, dreary routine of eating, drinking, and sleeping. It
seeks something which it knows it has lost - Shaanthi (inward
contentment). It seeks liberation from bondage to the trivial and
the temporary. Every one craves for it in his heart of hearts. And
it is available only in one shop - Contemplation of the highest
self, the basis of all this appearance.
However high a bird may soar, it has sooner or later to perch
on a tree top, to enjoy quiet. So too, a day will come when even
the most haughty, the most wilful, the most unbelieving and even
those who assert that there is no joy or peace in the
contemplation of the highest self will have to pray, "God, grant
me peace, grant me consolation, strength and joy."