For Sivarathri, we stay awake the whole night worshipping Bhagavan Siva (Lord Shiva). For Amma’s children, staying awake one whole night is nothing extraordinary or difficult. In fact, with all humility, we can say that it is Amma’s children who really observe Sivarathri. At Amritapuri and Amma’s programs at many branches, there are days when the Darshans (divine blessings) go on late into the night and get over only in the morning.
And Amma’s Divine Presence makes it easy for us to keep awake. Thinking of Siva is the most important part of Sivarathri. Drinking extra glasses of tea and watching films to fight sleep and keep awake does not serve the purpose. Remembrance of Lord Siva is Sivarathri.
We have Sivarathri and Navarathri for remembrance of Siva and remembrance of Devi. Night is a time of enjoyment and rest. One sacrifices both and thinks of the Lord and says “Bhagavan, your remembrance is my only joy. All Enjoyments are temporary, fleeting joys. And even when I enjoy, let me remember that all these objects of enjoyment have been gained by me, not because of my intelligence, strength and efficiency, but because Your Infinite Grace alone. O Bhagavan, I am thankful!” This is the attitude a true devotee has on Sivarathri, Navarathri and at all times of his or her worship.
Of the many festivals in the Bharat Bhoomi (the land of India), Sivarathri is very important. The other rathri is Navarathri. Rathri or night is the time for enjoyment and rest. Man, after a hard day’s work, comes back home and thinks, “With my intelligence and strength, I have worked and earned money. Now I am going to enjoy.”
In fact, Sivarthri is more a Vratha or vow than an Utsava or festival. We stay awake the whole night in prayers and worship of Siva and fasting. The majority of the people cannot sit awake the whole night in worship, so a lot of devotional music, dance and drama are brought in to keep the devotees awake.
But, it should not be forgotten that remembrance of Lord Siva is what Sivarathri is and not just keeping awake and watching entertainment programs.
Unfortunately, Man sitting in front of his enjoyment objects thinks, “With my intelligence and my strength, I have achieved all these.” On Sivarathri , instead of enjoying and resting, devotees stay awake and remember, realize and pray, “O Bhgavan Siva, it is by Your Infinite Grace alone that I have been able to achieve all that I have!” With this Bhava or attitude, we pray to Lord Siva to remove all our sufferings and sins and lead us to Prosperity and Moksha or Liberations.
This is wrong thinking. All our powers of intelligence and physical strength were given to us by Siva, the Supreme Being. On Siva’s night, Sivarathri, we remain awake and think of Bhagawan and worship him. This worship removes our ego and we feel Bhagawan’s Grace and Blessings in the form of peace, joy and physical energy filling our bodies.
Secondly, Rathri (or night) is the time when all forms and names are dissolved as we go to sleep, but when we wake up from deep sleep, we say, “I enjoyed a good sleep.” That ‘I’ is the witness, the Chaithanyam. Siva is always awake even when the body and the mind stop functioning.
Swami Vidyaranya was the guru of King Krishnadeva Raya of the famous Vijayanagar kingdom. Once the King requested his Guru to teach him all about meditation and truth. The Guru arranged a drama. In those days of no electric bulbs, the stage was lit by a huge lamp kept at the border of the stage. After the show, the Guru explained that just as the lamp illumined all the actors’ entrance and their exit and the empty stage, so too the Pure Consciousness in us illumines the entrance and exit of all our thoughts and the absence of all thoughts in deep sleep. Thoughts come and go, but the Consciousness is only a witness and our real nature.
Idol worship and temple worship are very scientific. God is both Nirguna (formless) and Saguna (with form). Our Vedas say that the entire creation manifested from the Supreme Being! The entire creation is the cosmic body of Lord Siva. All forms are His! We cannot see water vapor, but when it becomes water and ice we can see and touch. So too is Lord Siva. He is formless but takes form to bless us. This taking form is called Avathar or Incarnation. We begin with Worship of God with form, and once our mind become sufficiently pure and concentrated we start worshipping the formless God. We feel His Presence behind every power in this universe. Sivalinga is the best example of Form to Formless worship. Amma says Sivalinga is both form and formless.
Bhagavan Siva is like the vast like Ocean and we are like bubbles or pieces of ice floating on the ocean. With this understanding let us worship Lord Siva on Sivarathri and feel His Presence within us and all around us – in everyone and in everything and pray to him to give us health, prosperity, long life and finally Moksha or Liberation.
Death is the end of a form and its corresponding name. Like Gold necklace is melted and made into bangles etc., but the Gold always remains the same, so too all names and forms constantly are born and die, but the substratum, the Pure Consciousness is never born and never dies.
On Sivarathri day, we remember Siva, the Chaitanyam, Pure Consciousness in each one of us – Siva who is of the Nature of Infinite Bliss, Peace and Strength. Sivarathri, spent in remembrance of Siva fills us with Peace and Bliss, rejuvenates and energizes us.
Under Amma’s Divine and Loving Guidance, Amrita technology is growing into a huge Banyan tree which will provide shade to millions of youngsters in the near future.
Author: Swami Amritageetananda Puri