Mahashivratri : the great night of Shiva

Wishing everyone an Auspicious Shivaratri

Maha Shivaratri Celebration
Shivaratri – ‘Union of Shiva and Shakti’

There are two concepts of ‘Spiritual Illumination’. One is that ‘Shakti’ awakens, goes up ‘Sushumna Nadi’ and unites with ‘Shiva’ is ‘Sahasrara Chakra’. ‘Shiva’ represents the ‘Higher Cosmic Consciousness’ and ‘Shakti’ represents ‘Evolution of Energy’.’ Kundalini Yoga’ is based on this concept.

The other concept is that consciousness goes to meet ‘Shakti’, and this Shivaratri. The concept of ‘Sivaratri’ is the ‘awakening of consciousness at the material level of existence’ and uniting with ‘Shakti’ at a ‘higher point in evolution’. Therefore, the word used is ‘Ratri’, meaning ‘Dark Night’.

What are the night and day of consciousness? When the individual experiences existence, the objective reality all around him, which is the day of consciousness. The night of consciousness is when the consciousness is all alone and no objective experience takes place. You don’t hear, see, fell or know anything. Time, space and objectivity – three qualities of mind – fall flat. Consciousness alone remains. That is the dark night of the soul, the stage just before illumination.

So, ‘Shivaratri’ is the symbol of the spiritual state of ‘Samadhi’. But for us, ‘Shivaratri’ means the state preceding ‘Samadhi’, Illumination.
In the Story ‘Shiva’, who lived in the forest, went to marry ‘Parvati’, daughter of the Himalayas, who lived up in the snow peaks.
He was the master, guru and controller of ghosts and demons, and so they were part of his marriage procession. Some had one eye in the back of their head, some had no eyes, or eyes in their belly. Some had only one ear; others had huge elephant ears or only holes for ears. Some walked on one leg, others on three.

Parvati’s family sent out a reception party to escort them to Parvati’s house, but when they caught sight of Shiva and his strange companions, they took to their heels and ran for their dear lives.
At Parvati’s house they related what they had seen in awe and horror. ‘Oh, he is terrible! The son-in-law has come riding on a bull. He is naked and his body is smeared with ash. He has snakes all over him and his companions are most hideous.” Parvati’s mother was so upset. How could she accept such a horrible son-in-law? But Parvati remained calm and resolute.

The moment Lord Shiva’s procession entered the Himalayan kingdom, he and his funny companions turned into dazzling divine beings with beautiful faces, fine clothes, fragrant flowers and so on. The demons changed into lovely people. Everything was transformed in the twinkling of an eye, and so the marriage took place.

‘Shiva’ is Symbolic of ‘Consciousness’. For the individual, Consciousness is moving higher and higher towards ‘Shakti’. It moves along with the instincts and animal propensities, with all that we are. Even as you practice yoga, everything is still with you – fear, anger, passions, worries, anxiety – you are moving with all your companions. Your soul is also evolving, progressing.
Along with your companions. But there comes a point in spiritual life when all the companions are transformed, and the same instinct becomes intuition.

During the course of Spiritual evolution, you try many times and fail – you go to the church for the wedding but when you get to the door, you find that the bride is not there and you have to return home disappointed. You have inspirations, you may catch a glimpse of the higher state, but it is not complete. When the time comes and the transformation occurs, the ugly companions turn into divine attendants with suits and ties! The horrifying aspects of your personality become your ornaments, your helpers.

‘Parvati’ symbolises the higher energy. She also symbolises the ‘Kundalini Shakti’ in ‘Tantra’.
The ‘Divine Union’ which takes place when ‘Shiva comes to meet Shakti’ represents enlightenment in absolute darkness.
Shivaratri, the cosmic merger of Shiva and Shakti, is celebrated on the dark moon of Magha .

This union symbolises the concept of Kundalini Yoga in which Shiva goes to meet Shakti.
It represents the awakening of consciousness at the material level of existence and uniting with shakti at the higher point in evolution.
The word ‘ratri’ used here refers to the ‘dark night of the soul’, the state just before illumination.

As the Story goes, on Shivaratri, the darkest night of the year, Shiva, lord of yogis, sets out for the home of Parvati, daughter of the Himalayas. Shiva is the ascetic; he comes riding on a bull, naked, smeared with ash, and covered in snakes.

His marriage party of demons and ghosts, symbolising the instinctive and animal propensities of whom he is controller, is equally horrendous. Some have no head, some walk on only one leg or maybe three. Some have huge elephant ears which flap in the breeze, others have a red eye in the middle of their forehead or in their belly. However, no sooner do Shiva and his companions enter Parvati’s Himalayan kingdom then they are all instantly transformed into lovely beings with beautiful faces, fine clothes and glittering ornaments. The same instinct becomes intuition.

Thus the marriage takes place amidst great wonder, joy and merrymaking. Then Shiva and Shakti go up to the top of Mt. Kailash, symbolising sahasrara chakra, where they embrace and merge in the highest bliss of cosmic consciousness.

After consummating their marriage, Shiva and Shakti descend together, symbolising that highest consciousness is now manifesting on the plane of duality. Shiva and Shakti having become one are now able to act in the world as two.

This event is of great significance for the evolution of all beings for it also represents the process taking place in every aspirant who experiences a spiritual awakening and then returns with heightened awareness to work in the world.

In tantra Shiva represents the male principle, consciousness, beyond all action and change. Shakti represents the female principle, eternal evolution through action. She is negative to his positive; he initiates, she receives and transmits. Shakti is the creative energy that manifests the universe in response to the inspired consciousness of Shiva. We perceive them as two, but really they are the complementary aspects of the One, for energy without consciousness is dissipated and consciousness without energy is impotent.

They are inherent in each other- like brightness in the sun – and their union is the primal image of blissful communion, and awareness of oneness through duality.
~ Sri Paramahamsa Swami Satyananda Saraswati (Bihar School of Yoga)

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