Art of Living Wisdom.

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.

avataar - significance of shiva

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.

significance of shiva



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
  • vstands 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.

significance of Shiva

Celebrating Shivaratri

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:




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Art of Living Projects.

When Sri Sri Ravi Shankar launched Volunteer for a Better India, many people asked, “So what is it for? It’s a good idea broadly, sure, but what is it specifically about?” This question dwelt in their minds, and there were some very sincere attempts at finding out answers through discussions. But everybody had their own ideas and thoughts. While all this was going on, somebody put a bunch of people together and revived a dry river! That made it clear that there are those who discuss what VBI is over the dinner table and then, there are those who decide what it is.


A few months ago, Sri Sri started saying in public discourses that there were 12 crore voters who had not been registered for voting and that something had to be done about it. This thought got stuck into Dr. Vinod Kumar, a young teacher at the ashram. While he was mulling over this, one day, Sri Sri took him by the hands, looked into his eyes and told him, “You are here for a big reason. Live your life for the country. Go and shake colleges. Do something big.” Vinod left the ashram to fulfill his Master’s word.


He began from Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh and started going and meeting colleges, sharing this information with them. Everybody agreed that something had to be done. He then developed a 1 day training program for the students. The students from the first few programs launched such an intense voter registration drive that it caught the Collector’s attention, who invited Vinod to his office. Vinod was a little late in arriving due to a session he was teaching but was surprised to find the Collector waiting for him with the media. The Collector showered praise on the young teacher and asked him to share what he was doing.

Vinod explained with directness and simplicity, “We all want to make India better. Someone wants to clean a slum, someone else wants to plant trees and so on. But we do it when it suits us, at different times. If we do it together, we’ll make a bigger difference. VBI is just a platform for that. It is whatever YOU want it to be. I’m on a mission to register the maximum number of new voters.” Asked what challenges he had been facing, he shared, “I waste a half a day everyday waiting outside the Principals’ office in every college”. The Collector immediately offered to call all the principals at one place in a few days.


Meanwhile, Vinod took out all the data he needed from the Collector’s office – the number of unregistered voters in all the constituencies, the contacts of tahsildars and the colleges in those constituencies. There were 400+ colleges and 6 days to cover them until registration closed. Out of all these colleges, 44 principals showed up. The Collector introduced Vinod who plainly asked the principals, “The future of the country is in the hands of the youth and the youth are in your hands. Can you give them to me for a day? I will train them and turn them into inspired role models.” After this, his phone kept ringing.


He made a plan, marking out which college to have the training at each day. The host college had to invite colleges from neighboring constituencies as well as the tahsildars. The sessions were an eye opener for everybody, instilling pride about being Indian as well as a deep sense of responsibility towards our country. This went on for a week and created a massive wave in the whole region.

He taught the 6 hour programs in the day and then travelled hundreds of kilometers to the next place in the evening. A small detail that Vinod does not mention while telling this story is that during this time, while visiting a college he slipped on the stairs and fractured his upper back. The doctor had advised bed rest! A month later, he received a letter from the Collector’s office that the 3000+ students that he trained had gone on to register 37000+ new voters aged 18-19 years.


This story may answer some questions that you had in mind and might also give rise to some new ones. If one of those questions is, “Vinod, when can you come here?”, his number is 8123979426 and email is

Art of Living Projects.

After our picnic party was over there was just too much food left over with us.  We saw two tribal boys fighting to get hold of an empty wafer packet. Seeing their skeletal dark bodies we threw the food packet towards them from a distance. The whole group of tribals pounced on the food and it was a fight to watch out for. We kept on throwing all food packets one by one and they lapped it up with an inimitable glow in their eyes.

Tribal Children

After around twenty minutes when the whole food was over we sat in our cars and were about to start driving. Just then an elderly person came with folded hands and had tears in his eyes. I lowered the window glass and folded my hands also in gratitude. He was not moving so I thought maybe he is looking for some money. I took out a Rs 100 note and offered him. He said no thanks. Then I asked what you want as all the food is now over. He asked “Sir you did not tell me your election symbol (Saheb aapne apna chunav Chinah to bataya hi nahi)”.

At a time when India is growing in stature and Bharat is yearning for opportunities, we are celebrating our 64th Republic Day on January 26 2014. Till India gained independence on August 15th, 1947 the country was a colony of Great Britain. However, the country did not have its own constitution and wholly depended on the modified colonial Government of India Act, 1935. Also, India was headed by King George VI, until the adoption of the Indian Constitution on January 26th 1950. The people of India truly experienced their freedom from British Rule on this historic day when the Constitution of India was officially enforced, making India a sovereign, secular, and democratic nation where all its citizens are equal.

FIrst Independence of India

For a whole generation born in independent India, the value of the bitterly fought independence and equality remains confined to history books. At times news tickling from parts of the world still fighting for independence and equality like Arab uprising and Tibetan protests does make us realise how lucky we are. The nature of celebration needs to be broadened and made more inclusive from just being official programs and parade to participatory ones from every citizen of this country.

We as a nation have made giant strides in the field of science and technology bringing material comfort and solace to a billion people. We are far safer, secure and prosperous what we were 64 years ago.  But we have also seen deterioration of moral fabric and human values which were our hallmark for centuries. The sense of ownership comes only when we contribute. The sense of contribution comes only when we are committed to higher causes in life. When a person has a commitment to a higher cause in life, it brings a shift from gaining to giving. In society, if everyone keeps thinking, ‘What can I gain?’ rather than ‘What can I contribute’, then it degenerates into depressed and corrupt society.

We need to have this shift in our attitude, from ‘What can I gain?’ to ‘What can I contribute? If we care for each other from our heart, then we will have to wake up now. The battle against Agyan (ignorance), Anyaay (injustice), Abhav (shortage ) and Asuchita ( uncleanliness ) can only be won by involving one and all. We might not be born in the times of Mahatma Gandhi and Chandrasekhar Aajaad but like they laid their lives for motherland we can at least devote a part of our life for volunteering for a better and prosperous India.

 Republic Day is also the time when exemplary achievements are recognized and rewarded throughout the country. Selected children are awarded the Children’s Bravery Awards on this day. Soldiers who have performed exceptionally are awarded the bravery medals, Param Veer Chakra, Veer Chakra and Maha Veer Chakra. Why not also honour people who have inspired others to contribute selflessly towards society. This day can be re invented as  Seva Day nationally and an occasion to honour those who have made our society a better place to live.

When spirituality in our country was at its peak, its financial condition was also very strong. When spirituality fell, so did the economic condition of the country. Around two to three hundred years back, one third of the world’s wealth was in India. It is said, that the connection between spirituality and the economic health of the country goes like Lakshmi (symbolism of wealth) following Narayana.


Reviving the spiritual traditions and rekindling the spirit of service is the need of the hour. The nation as a whole has to become volunteer for a better India. Let each one of us take responsibility to multiply ourselves into groups of thousands of volunteers, to bring the message of a crime-free, corruption-free and just India. Let’s all serve together and smile together. Let us volunteer for a better India.

Jai Hind…