By H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
This whole creation is a play of Shiva, the dance of one consciousness, one seed, which has manifested into a million species in the world. The whole world moving in an auspicious rhythm of innocence and intelligence is Shiva. Shiva is the permanent and eternal source of energy, the only eternal state of Being.
Shivratri is when the Shiva tatva and Shakti become one.
There is a story related to Shivratri, about the union of Shiva and Shakti. The primordial and dynamic energy is wedded to the transcendental. Shiva is the silent witness, the chidakasha and Shakti is chitti or chidvilasa, the energy that plays and displays in the infinite space. Shiva is the formless Being; Shakti is the manifestation in the field. This is the recognition of the dual aspect of matter and energy, prakriti and purusha, the dravya and guna – substance and its qualities. Recognising the underlying non-dual nature of Brahman is Shivratri.
Shivratri is the night to celebrate the wakefulness of one universal consciousness without falling into the unconscious sleep state. It is an occasion to awaken the self from all sorts of slumber. The jagran in Shivratri is not just forcing oneself to be awake or singing bhajans aloud. It is about keeping awake and being inward and being consciously aware of the inner rest that sleep anyway brings everyday. When you surpass a certain layer of sleep, the rest in samadhi or Shiva sayujya happens.
Shiva is symbolically represented by the linga. The Divine is beyond any gender, so the Divine is called Ekalinga, or one gender. That one gender is the Self, the Atma. Beyond the body, mind and intellect, and beyond likes and dislikes, that Self is only one, it is Ekalinga.
Shiva has been associated with destruction. Transformation can only happen after destruction. Shiva is that factor of transformation.
Shiva is a very simple lord, he is innocent – Bholanath. One just needs to offer bel-patra to him. But in this simplicity is a deep message. Bel-patra offerings signify the surrender of all three aspects of ones nature – Tamas, Rajas and Sattva. You have to surrender the positives and negatives of your life to Shiva and become free. The greatest offering is yourself. To offer ones self is the key to happiness in life.
Kailasa is the legendary abode of Shiva. Kailasa means where there is celebration. So wherever there is happiness and celebration, Shiva is present. Whether in sanyasa or sansara, you cant escape Shiva. Feeling his presence all the time is the essence of Shivratri. Lord Shiva is always depicted with eyes closed with a snake around his neck. He may appear to be sleeping but this indicates his inner state which is fully awake, like a snake.
He is always painted blue in pictures. Blue signifies the vastness of the sky. The moon on his head depicts everything within him. So all the ghosts, dead, devil, everything is included in his gana. In Shivas procession all types of people are present. So also in this world, all belong to that supreme soul. Its said “Sarvam shivamayam jagat”. This whole world is Shivamaya.
Shivratri signifies being aware of everything you have and being grateful about it. Be grateful for the happiness which leads to growth, and also for sadness which gives depth to life. This is the right way of observing Shivratri.