Spiritual Import of Religious Festivals : Ch-2. Introduction.

Ch-2.  Siva – The Mystic Night : ( Maha Sivaratri )

Introduction : Today  is : ( Tuesday, February 17, 2015.) - Maha Sivaratri.


"Nature specializes in a kind of Paradox: Nature destroys and her destructions are all always constructive destructions. The bud is destroyed when the flower blooms, and the flower fades when the fruit emerges, and the fruit decays when seeds are scattered and seeds decay when plants sprout.

This process of constructive destruction is Shiva, the annihilator. This Shiva-Ratri is the destruction of the ego (PFT attitude) in the discovery of the Self (Shiva).

May all devotees come to experience at least the shy rays of the early dawn at the end of one's inner ratri, in emerging beams of Shiva spirit in us.

Be quiet. Be silent within. Blind.Deaf, Mum - be. Invoke. Be expectant.
Let Shiva happen - TRY."

-Swami Chinmayananda


Shiva rathri celebrates the event by which Shiva saved the world. During Palazhi madhanam while everyone was eagerly awaiting Amruth or the nectar of eternity, a deadly poison called kala koodam or Halahalam was produced, which could potentially destroy everything. Siva consumes it in a gulp and saves the world. Parvathi and the Devas stayed awake, fasting and praying while he contained the deadly poison in his neck to become Neelakanta.

We need to understand the story in the context of our life. All Hindu festivals were celebrated with the idea of refining oneself and his attitude to the society. Today life is rife with violence, terrorism and killings in the name of God ,creed and colour. This attitude of hatredness symbolises the kala- koodam of our times. Siva should not be mistaken for a person, idol or deity. He represents the Peaceful, Meditative, Strong Mind that can resist the poisons of this material world. Siva means auspiciousness and is the representation of Harmony in Oneself and with his Outside world . Meditation helps to increase the concentration of the mind and helps it to remain unaffected and act positively against the violence around the world.

Consciousness existed before time. Time is defined as the interval between two experiences. Just as distance is the interval between two points. Time, therefore, comes into existence at the second experience. The consciousness , however , existed at the very first experience. Hence,Consciousness is said to be beginningless.

Swami Udit Chaithanya.



Today is a very auspicious day. A day of worship of Lord Shiva not only during the day but in the night also. It is called Shivaratri because Shiva in Sanskrit means auspiciousness and Shivaratri means an auspicious day, in which we are supposed to worship the Lord and remove the night (of darkness). Darkness is nothing but samskara.

According to Vedanta, we are supposed to be in the night – Ajnana Nidra. We are supposed to be sleeping in Ajnanam of sleep and by worshipping Shiva we are supposed to get knowledge and really wake up. It is the night in which Ajnanam is destroyed. So, today on Shivaratri day we worship Lord Shiva.

In Puranic literature there are many stories – one of which is when both Brahma and Vishnu wanted to find the limits of Shiva. And both of them could not find out. They were both tired and frustrated and Shiva appeared to them as Lingamurthy – a form coming from Lingam on Shivaratri day.

Shiva is represented as an infinite God and not a small figure with a nama and rupa or in the form of an idol. The lord is Anantham. Unlike other days, this day is for tapas. There are two kinds of festivals – some are celebratory and for rejoicing while the other is practicing tapas. Deepavali is for rejoicing and merry making. While festivals like Shivaratri are service oriented in nature- vratha pradhana. That is why, Shivaratri is not an occasion for rejoicing. We do not buy new clothes or sweets but it is an upasana. Upasana means staying nearby. Staying nearby menas not near food but avoid cooking and spending that time in parayana or puja. All these are necessary for gaining Athma Jnanam. Like in all festivals, in this also there is idol worship. Idol worship is an important part of the scriptures and it will give maximum benefits when certain conditions are fulfilled.

The worship of the Lord as an idol is graded in to three levels according to Bhagavatham.

Lowest level (tamasic level). Here a person wants to do harm to other people – black magic or worshipping for pomp and show. That I have a lot of money and I spend on God just for the sake of competition. If my neighbour spends Rs. 1000 on a puja, I spend Rs. 2000 and make sure it is videotaped. Or a person who does puja and gets angry. A puja involves a lot of strain. Camphor may not be available and one has to do many namaskarams. He sees the Lord as different from himself. Such a puja is tamasic. That tamasic puja sees the Lord only in the idol thereby confining the Lord to a small entity. He is a short sighted person as he does not see the Lord in other devotees. If reverence to life and other beings is not there, even if he is the greatest bhaktha, it is only a lowest type of Bhakthi.

If a person disrespects, insults other people, plants, animals, insects (the Lord is present in all idols and all beings and objects) does puja, it is only a fake or fraud worship (deceptive worship). He scolds all the beggars, the auto drivers with the foulest of words and goes to a temple with a forehead smeared with vibhuthi and rudraksham! Lord Krishna says that it like doing yagna with ashes. How fruitless and futile that yagna will be. So when you worship the Lord in a temple respect other people. Otherwise it is not meaningful.

Suppose there is a starving person and you offer naivadyam and do not share it with others, then the Lord says that HE is not happy at all with a Bhaktha.

This does not mean abolish all temples and do only social welfare. That is also not correct. Temple worship is required and so is naivadyam (honey, ghee, milk etc.) but don’t neglect people in front of your eyes who are suffering. They need some medicines and some food. By neglecting them it is adharmic type of worship. The Lord is not happy at all with such a worship.

Madhyama or Rajasic worship: these devtees have devotion to the Lord and have compassion to the mudahs – those who are not well educated. He does not laugh at them. Even to those who are inimical or hostile to him, the bhaktha must not have hatred. No tit for tat or tooth for tooth attitude.

Even when the other party is wrong, we must not stoop to their level. Therefore, I ignore them. Such a bhakthi is only madhyama. He does not harm or hurt others. But this person has a problem. All his pujas are done only for materialistic pursuits – for progeny, house, wealth, promotion, long life, for the sake of wife and children. O! Lord satisfy my desires as well as all the desires of my family. He wants fame, wealth, prosperity and dominance over others.

With such an attitude he does puja. Do this for me and I will perform the Lord’s wedding! Or I will donate Rs.10,000 in the hundi. Or I will offer my hair. All vows are this kind of devotion alone. There is not motiveless devotion. This is rajasic devotion. But at least he is better off as he does not harm others.

The second problem with madyama devotion is that the bhaktha sees the Lord and himself as separated. Not Advaitha bhakthi. He will have fear (bhayam) and death (mrutya) stares him in the face. Because as long as differences are there, there will be finitude and mortality. Bheda budhi is Madyama.

Uttama Bhakthi. For a full benefit of a puja adopt this attitude. I want to remove my impurities (raga-dvesha, kama-krodha), my ignorance and shortsightedness. I am doing a puja to remove all these dosas. I remember this fact all the time while doing puja. I offer naivadyam to the Lord for all that HE has provided me. I am not interested in any wordly things. According to scriptures, we are supposed to do this puja until we die. Puja is nitya karma. It must be done daily and can be stopped only at the time of death or while taking sanyas. Otherwise puja must not be stopped at all.

The Lord has commanded us to do puja and I am servant of the Lord and therefore I do puja. Do daily puja and on Shivaratri day do special puhja. Something simple everyday- like lighting a lamp, or doing some parayanam, or by offering flowers and doing namaskarams.

Doing this puja is not enough. One must also remember that every being is an abode of the Lord. Not only the Lord in the temple but in every living being is a temple of the Lord. Therefore, whenever you see a person (that is why, we put vibhuti and chandanam to remind others that is an abode of the Lord), you do a namasthe. I will be friendly with everyone.

Some people complain that Hindus do not do social service but instead slend money on litres of milk, ornaments etc. it is not the defect of scriptures but a lopsided attitude of the worshippers. It is not the limitation of the religion but the limitations of the followers.
Along with puja have love for all is what the Lord wants us to do. Universal love and charity are very important values. Friendship and Advaitha budhi ( I am You and You are Me). Even a beggar has consciousness in him. Mentally worship all the people with respect. Eshwara in the form of Jivatma in everyone.

The Uttama bhaktha is one who sees the Lord in everyone and everyone in the Lord. One who has this vision is a Sattvic bhaktha. A person must do puja (in the formof parayanam or namaskara) to the Lord on a daily basis and he must also ask this question – Do I respect my servant or car dirver or even my wife, elderly people, children etc.? Do I have respect for everyone? If such a bhakthi is there, it will help a person to go beyond trigunam. It leads a person to moksha which is Nirguna Brahman.

Thus the three grades of bhakthi is talked off in the Bhagavatham. The highest bhakthi will not come in the beginning itself. And if that attitude does not come it does not mean that you should stop worshipping. Start with the lowest tupe of bhakthi. Lowest mechanical puja is better than no puja at all. Thus there are four grades of bhakthi.

- No puja
- Tamasic puja
- Rajasic puja
- Sattvic puja

Between no puja and tamasic bhakthi, tamasic is better. Slowly it will become rajasic bhakthi. And later to Sattvic. Until a person sees the Lord in everyone or until one reaches the highest state of Brahman, he should confine to lower levels of bhakthi.

Some people ask, “ If the Lord is everywhere, why should one go to temples?” Then you ask, “ Do you see the Lord everywhere?” If that is the case, then puja can be dropped. But sine a person has not reached that state, he should start with the lowest type of bhakthi.

So on this ausoicious Shivaratri day, all these values are equally important. Whenever we are doing any puja one should ask – Is it changing my character and my attitude to other people. If we are not already doing any puja, then start doing puja. And if you are already doing puja, let Lord Shiva bless us to grow from lower level of puja to a higher level of puja.

Swami Paramarthananda

Arsha Vidya Gurukulam

To be continued  ...

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