Since time immemorial Indians have commemorated certain days and festivals as ways and means to reunite with the Universe and remember its Divine aspect. These festivals become gateways to connect with the Divine. Shivaratri is the festival to connect with Shiva or the Shiva Tattva.
Ithihasa Purusha-Historical Personages
Among the Indian pantheon of divinities, few are historical and many others are Tattva, principles, essence in nature.
The prominent historical divinities are Rama and Krishna for which reason they are called as Ithihasa Purusha, historical personages and Avathara Purusha, those who came down to this Earth, to live with us.
Shiva, a Tattva
In contrast to this, Shiva is not an ithihasa purusha but is a tattva.
Shiva – A Tattva
Meaning of the term Shiva
The word Shiva simply means Mangalam, auspicious. Anything that is auspicious is Shiva. This auspiciousness which is all pervading throughout the universe, is a constant presence during the lifetime of this universe, before the creation of the universe and continues to be so after the dissolution of the universe.
Thus this Shiva, auspiciousness is the very life of the universe. Not just the life we see around us in a very limited perspective of life in humans, animals or plants but the very concept of life itself.
The traditional way of wishing “Goodbye” was through a phrase “Shivaasthe Panthaanaha” meaning “Let your ways be auspicious”. Ways here, meaning your paths, your deeds and ways of life.
From a metaphysical perspective, Shiva can be split as sha+ee+va where
- sha stands for Shareeram, body,
- ee stands for eeshwari, life giving energy and
- va stands for vayu or motion.
Thus Shiva represents the body with life and motion. If the “ee” is removed from Shiva, it gets reduced to sha+va or shava.
Shava means a lifeless body.
Anything with Shiva is with life and anything without Shiva is Shava or without life. Shiva is the potential of life. Making this potential manifest as matter, life and the cosmos, is Shakti the energy tattva, the female counterpart of Shiva. Without Shakti, Shiva stays as the potential. It is Shakti that triggers Shiva into manifesting as life. Shiva along with Shakti together create the seen and the unseen universe.
Shiva is auspicious, Shiva is potential and Shiva is Life. Shiva is all encompassing – the universal soul or consciousness, Chaitanya. Realizing this Shiva Tattva leads to Ananda, bliss.
Understanding Night, Ratri
This Creation resonates with a rhythm or a natural heartbeat. Every object in this Creation has its own cycle or rhythm, in which it rises to a peak and ebbs to a low. This low is called the night, ratri.
The word Ratri means “comfort giver”. It is derived from the root word “ram” meaning “to be content”, “to give contentment”.
3 Levels of Activities
Ratri is that which gives one comfort or rest from the 3 types of activities namely:
• Kayika or bodily actions,
• Vachika or speech
• Manasika or thoughts.
A person is afflicted physically, mentally and spiritually by 3 types of agents, namely
- Adhyatmika – pertaining to the self, the Atma
- Adhi Bhauthika – pertaining to the elements of Nature, the Bhuta
- Adhi Daivika – pertaining to the cosmic, the Divya
During night, as man sleeps and gets regenerated, all 3 types of actions are subdued and mind is completely at rest, free from all types of afflictions.
Hence night is called ratri or the comfort giver.
It is during the ratri or night of any being, that the being gets rejuvenated and refreshed for its next cycle or day.
Maha Shivaratri or the Great Shivaratri is celebrated annually on the Krishnapaksha Chaturdasi night. i.e. the night preceding the New Moon, in the penultimate month of the year, the month of Magha or the month of Masi in Tamil calendar, which typically occurs in the month of February – March these days.
Rishi Kahola Kaushitaki in his Kaushitaki Brahmana records that Maha Shivaratri was celebrated even during the Mahabharatha times, i.e. 5100 years ago.
In cosmology, when the entire Creation starts contracting, it is expressed as the start of the night of Brahma and the final collapse is called the Maha Pralaya. This Maha Pralaya then leads to the start of the next cycle of Creation and is thus a regeneration of the entire Srishti, Creation.
The interim state between a dissolution and a regeneration is a period of both serenity and tranquility when all bodies are calm and preparing for regeneration. Following this tranquility is the joy and celebration which comes with having been regenerated and refreshed.
Change through celebration
The change that comes with dissolution can accepted with pain or celebration. When there is resistance to a change, there is pain. Where there is willful acceptance, there is no pain. When we understand and willingly accept that a dissolution is only for a regeneration, the dissolution or change ceases to cause pain.
Shivaratri is an occasion that makes us aware of the need to change along with the ever changing cosmos and to renew our cosmic connect.
Every Shivaratri, let us connect with the Shiva Tattva and get rejuvenated to face the coming phases of our lives.
More details on various aspects of Shiva can be found in our book, “Understanding Shiva”, and a series of Bharath Gyan films, “Understanding Shiva.”
- D K Hari and Hema Hari
Also watch the 19 Short Films on ‘Understanding Shiva’ here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9QLcyiVla352leXqBX6smjKtdhJ7ZhOQ
You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/user/bharathgyan
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