THE SIGNIICANCE AND OBSERVANCE OF SHIVARATHRI
The significance of Sivarathri is that it is a time when one can get closest to Bhagawan, because the moon, which represents the mind, has shed fifteen of its phases (kalas) and is about to shed the last (sixteenth) phase. The ancient sages, who explored the link between numbers and the Divine, found that the letters in the name of Sivarathri amounted to a total of eleven, which was the number of the dark forces called Rudras (those who make people cry). The Rudras enter the intellects of people and turn their desires towards worldly things, thereby giving rise to attachments and hatreds and pursuit of sensuous pleasures. As they turn the minds of people away from God and towards evil, they were called Rudras. The sages declared that whoever is able to keep the Rudras in check on the sacred day of Sivarathri will be able to experience Divinity. This means that control of the senses is the primary requisite for realising the Divine and attaining liberation. Control of the senses is not easy. Even an evolved person like Arjuna confessed to Sri Krishna that sense-control was extremely difficult. The sages knew this well from their own experience. Hence, they suggested that even if control of the senses was not possible all the time, it should be practised at least on sacred days like Sivarathri. If one has nothing to do, the mind wanders in all directions. Hence the sages prescribed continuous absorption in thoughts of God on Sivarathri night. Repetition of the name of God and meditation on His glories would keep the mind away from other trivialities and promote control of the senses.
The proper way to observe Sivarathri
Sophisticated intellectuals of today look upon Sivarathri only as a night when they should try to keep awake. They do not see the need to observe it as a pure and holy day to be dedicated to thoughts of God. As keeping awake the whole night is their sole idea of Sivarathri, they try to spend it seeing three film shows or playing cards with their friends or playing with dice with their kith and kin the whole night. Keeping awake in this manner, they come home in the morning to have a hearty meal. Is this the way to observe Sivarathri? Not at all. It is a caricature of what should be a sacred occasion for contemplating on God. What kind of vigil is it in which there is no purity of mind and no meditation on God? The stork that stands on one leg waiting to catch a fish cannot be regarded as doing penance. The drunken sot who is oblivious to the world cannot be equated with one who is absorbed in the divine. The man who gives up eating after a tiff with the wife cannot be described as observing a fast.
The eleven Rudras man has to conquer
The auspicious and sacred Easwara principle is present in every man. This divine principle can be manifested only through the practice of pure thoughts and actions. Today’s Sivarathri observance conveys a significant lesson. According to numerology, the three letters “Si”, “va” and “Raa” make up eleven (“Si”=5, “Va”=4 and “Raa”=2). These eleven are known as the Ekadas Rudras, the eleven Rudras. The fourth syllable “thri” means “three”. Thus Sivarathri is the day devoted to overcoming the eleven Rudras by adoring the Supreme Lord, who is master of them all.
The Rudras turn the buddhi (intellect) towards sensuous objects and thrust the individual in the sea of samsara (worldly life). The Paramatma (Supreme Spirit) is master of all the Rudras. Only the man who has conquered the eleven Rudras can expect to realise the Supreme. Who are the eleven Rudras? They are the five karmendriyas (organs of action) the five Jnanedriyas (organs of perception) and the buddhi. Man must seek to control as much as possible these eleven organs. From ancient times, the sages have stressed the supreme importance of sense-control as the means to God-realisation.
Aim of all sadhana is to eliminate the mind
We have not only the Mahasivarathri once a year, we have a Sivarathri every month, dedicated to the worship of Siva. And, why is the rathri (the night), so important? The night is dominated by the Moon. The Moon has 16 kalas (fractions of divine glory), and each day or rather night, during the dark fortnight, one fraction is reduced, until the entire Moon is annihilated on New Moon night. From then on, each night, a fraction is added, until the Moon is full circle on Full Moon Night. The Moon is the presiding deity of the mind; the mind waxes and wanes, like the Moon. “Chandrama-manaso jaathah” ―Out of the mind of the Purusha (Supreme Being), the Moon was born.
It must be remembered that the chief aim of all sadhana (spiritual striving) is to eliminate the mind, to become a-manaska. Then only can maya (illusion) be rent asunder and the Reality revealed. During the dark fortnight of the month, sadhana has to be done to eliminate each day a fraction of the mind, for, every day, a fraction of the Moon too is being taken out of cognisance. On the night of Chathurdhasi, the 14th day, the night of Siva, only a fraction remains. If some special effort is made that night, through more intensive and vigilant sadhana, like puja or japam or dhyana (ritual worship, one-pointed repetition and holy names, and meditation), success is ensured. Siva alone has to be meditated upon that night without the mind straying towards thoughts of sleep or food. This has to be done every month; once a year, on Mahasivarathri a special spurt of spiritual activity is recommended, so that what is shavam (corpse) can become Sivam (God), by the perpetual awareness of its Divine Indweller.
Visualise Siva as the inner power of all
Resolve, on this Holy Sivarathri, in the Presence of Siva Sai, to visualise the Siva as the inner power of all. With each breath, you are even now, asserting “Soham,” “I am He,” not only you, but, every being that breathes, every being that lives, everything that exists. It is a fact which you have ignored so long. Believe it from now on. When you watch your breath and meditate on that magnificent Truth, slowly, the I and the He (the Sah and the Aham) will draw nearer and closer, until the feeling of separateness will fade away―and the Soham will be transformed into OM, the Pranava, the Primal Sound, the Fundamental Formula for God. That OM is the Swaswarupa―the Reality behind this “relative reality.”
- Sri Sathya Sai Baba, March 8, 1986
- Sri Sathya Sai Baba, February 23, 1990
- Sri Sathya Sai Baba, February 1969
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