Shivaratri By Sri Swami Sivananda
The Story of King Chitrabhanu
Spiritual Significance of the Ritual
Lord Shiva's Assuarance
This falls on the 13th (or 14th) day of the dark half of Phalgun
(February-March). The name means "the night of Shiva". The ceremonies take
place chiefly at night. This is a festival observed in honour of Lord Shiva.
Shiva was married to Parvati on this day.
People observe a strict fast on this day. Some devotees do not even take a
drop of water. They keep vigil all night. The Shiva Lingam is worshipped
throughout the night by washing it every three hours with milk, curd, honey,
rose water, etc., whilst the chanting of the Mantra Om Namah Shivaya
continues. Offerings of bael leaves are made to the Lingam. Bael leaves are
very sacred as, it is said, Lakshmi resides in them.
Hymns in praise of Lord Shiva, such as the Shiva Mahimna Stotra of
Pushpadanta or Ravana's Shiva Tandava Stotra are sung with great fervour and
devotion. People repeat the Panchakshara Mantra, Om Namah Shivaya. He who
utters the Names of Shiva during Shivaratri, with perfect devotion and
concentration, is freed from all sins. He reaches the abode of Shiva and
lives there happily. He is liberated from the wheel of births and deaths.
Many pilgrims flock to the places where there are Shiva temples.
The Story of King Chitrabhanu
In the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata, Bhishma, whilst resting on the bed
of arrows and discoursing on Dharma, refers to the observance of Maha
Shivaratri by King Chitrabhanu. The story goes as follows.
Once upon a time King Chitrabhanu of the Ikshvaku dynasty, who ruled over
the whole of Jambudvipa, was observing a fast with his wife, it being the
day of Maha Shivaratri. The sage Ashtavakra came on a visit to the court of
The sage asked, "O king! why are you observing a fast today?"
King Chitrabhanu explained why. He had the gift of remembering the incidents
of his previous birth.
The king said to the sage: "In my past birth I was a hunter in Varanasi. My
name was Suswara. My livelihood was to kill and sell birds and animals. One
day I was roaming the forests in search of animals. I was overtaken by the
darkness of night. Unable to return home, I climbed a tree for shelter. It
happened to be a bael tree. I had shot a deer that day but I had no time to
take it home. I bundled it up and tied it to a branch on the tree. As I was
tormented by hunger and thirst, I kept awake throughout the night. I shed
profuse tears when I thought of my poor wife and children who were starving
and anxiously awaiting my return. To pass away the time that night I engaged
myself in plucking the bael leaves and dropping them down onto the ground.
"The day dawned. I returned home and sold the deer. I bought some food for
myself and for my family. I was about to break my fast when a stranger came
to me, begging for food. I served him first and then took my food.
"At the time of death, I saw two messengers of Lord Shiva. They were sent
down to conduct my soul to the abode of Lord Shiva. I learnt then for the
first time of the great merit I had earned by the unconscious worship of
Lord Shiva during the night of Shivaratri. They told me that there was a
Lingam at the bottom of the tree. The leaves I dropped fell on the Lingam.
My tears which I had shed out of pure sorrow for my family fell onto the
Lingam and washed it. And I had fasted all day and all night. Thus did I
unconsciously worship the Lord.
"I lived in the abode of the Lord and enjoyed divine bliss for long ages. I
am now reborn as Chitrabhanu."
Spiritual Significance of the Ritual
The Scriptures record the following dialogue between Sastri and Atmanathan,
giving the inner meaning of the above story.
Sastri: It is an allegory. The wild animals that the hunter fought with are
lust, anger, greed, infatuation, jealousy and hatred. The jungle is the
fourfold mind, consisting of the subconscious mind, the intellect, the ego
and the conscious mind. It is in the mind that these "wild animals" roam
about freely. They must be killed. Our hunter was pursuing them because he
was a Yogi. If you want to be a real Yogi you have to conquer these evil
tendencies. Do you remember the name of the hunter in the story?
Atmanathan: Yes, he was called Suswara.
Sastri: That's right. It means "melodious". The hunter had a pleasant
melodious voice. If a person practices Yama and Niyama and is ever
conquering his evil tendencies, he will develop certain external marks of a
Yogi. The first marks are lightness of the body, health, steadiness,
clearness of countenance and a pleasant voice. This stage has been spoken of
in detail in the Swetaswatara Upanishad. The hunter or the Yogi had for many
years practised Yoga and had reached the first stage. So he is given the
name Suswara. Do you remember where he was born?
Atmanathan: Yes, his birthplace is Varanasi.
Sastri: Now, the Yogis call the Ajna Chakra by the name Varanasi. This is
the point midway between the eyebrows. It is regarded as the meeting place
of the three nerve currents (Nadis), namely, the Ida, Pingala and the
Sushumna. An aspirant is instructed to concentrate on that point. That helps
him to conquer his desires and evil qualities like anger and so on. It is
there that he gets a vision of the Divine Light within.
Atmanathan: Very interesting! But how do you explain his climbing up the
bael tree and all the other details of the worship?
Sastri: Have you ever seen a bael leaf?
Atmanathan: It has three leaves on one stalk.
Sastri: True. The tree represents the spinal column. The leaves are
threefold. They represent the Ida, Pingala and Sushumna Nadis, which are the
regions for the activity of the moon, the sun and fire respectively, or
which may be thought of as the three eyes of Shiva. The climbing of the tree
is meant to represent the ascension of the Kundalini Shakti, the serpentine
power, from the lowest nerve centre called the Muladhara to the Ajna Chakra.
That is the work of the Yogi.
Atmanathan: Yes, I have heard of the Kundalini and the various psychic
centres in the body. Please go on further; I am very interested to know
Sastri: Good. The Yogi was in the waking state when he began his meditation.
He bundled up the birds and the animals he had slain and, tying them on a
branch of the tree, he rested there. That means he had fully conquered his
thoughts and rendered them inactive. He had gone through the steps of Yama,
Niyama, Pratyahara, etc. On the tree he was practising concentration and
meditation. When he felt sleepy, it means that he was about to lose
consciousness and go into deep sleep. So he determined to keep awake.
Atmanathan: That is now clear to me; you certainly do explain it very well.
But why did he weep for his wife and children?
Sastri: His wife and children are none other than the world. One who seeks
the Grace of God must become an embodiment of love. He must have an
all-embracing sympathy. His shedding of tears is symbolical of his universal
love. In Yoga also, one cannot have illumination without Divine Grace.
Without practising universal love, one cannot win that Grace. One must
perceive one's own Self everywhere. The preliminary stage is to identify
one's own mind with the minds of all created beings. That is fellow-feeling
or sympathy. Then one must rise above the limitations of the mind and merge
it in the Self. That happens only in the stage of Samadhi, not earlier.
Atmanathan: Why did he pluck and drop the bael leaves?
Sastri: That is mentioned in the story only to show that he had no
extraneous thoughts. He was not even conscious of what he was doing. All his
activity was confined to the three Nadis. The leaves, I have said before,
represent the three Nadis. He was in fact in the second state, namely, the
dream state, before he passed into the deep sleep state.
Atmanathan: He kept vigil the whole night, it is said.
Sastri: Yes, that means that he passed through the deep sleep state
successfully. The dawning of day symbolises the entrance into the Fourth
state called Turiya or superconsciousness.
Atmanathan: It is said that he came down and saw the Lingam. What does that
Sastri: That means that in the Turiya state he saw the Shiva Lingam or the
mark of Shiva in the form of the inner lights. In other words, he had the
vision of the Lord. That was an indication to him that he would realise the
supreme, eternal abode of Lord Shiva in course of time.
Atmanathan: So it appears from what you say that the sight of the lights is
not the final stage?
Sastri: Oh no! That is only one step, albeit a difficult one. Now think of
how the story continues. He goes home and feeds a stranger. A stranger is
one whom you have not seen before. The stranger is no other than the hunter
himself, transformed into a new person. The food was the likes and dislikes
which he had killed the previous night. But he did not consume the whole of
it. A little still remained. That was why he had to be reborn as King
Chitrabhanu. Going to the world of Shiva (Salokya) is not enough to prevent
this. There are other stages besides Salokya. These are Samipya, Sarupya and
finally Sayujya. Have you not heard of Jaya and Vijaya returning from
Atmanathan: Yes, I have understood now.
Lord Shiva's Assuarance
When creation had been completed, Shiva and Parvati went out to live on the
top of Mount Kailas. Parvati asked, "O venerable Lord! which of the many
rituals observed in Thy honour doth please Thee most?"
The Lord replied, "The 14th night of the new moon, in the dark fortnight
during the month of Phalgun, is my most favourite day. It is known as
Shivaratri. My devotees give me greater happiness by mere fasting than by
ceremonial baths and offerings of flowers, sweets and incense.
"The devotee observes strict spiritual discipline in the day and worships Me
in four different forms during each of the four successive three-hour
periods of the night. The offering of a few bael leaves is more precious to
Me than the precious jewels and flowers. My devotee should bathe Me in milk
at the first period, in curd at the second, in clarified butter at the
third, and in honey at the fourth and last. Next morning, he should feed the
Brahmins first and, after performing the prescribed ceremonies, he can break
his fast. O Parvati! there is no ritual which can compare with this simple
routine in sanctity."
Parvati was deeply impressed by the speech of Loid Shiva. She repeated it to
Her friends who in their turn passed it on to the ruling princes on earth.
Thus was the sanctity of Shivaratri broadcast all over the world.
The two great natural forces that afflict man are Rajas (the quality of
passionate activity) and Tamas (that of inertia). The Shivaratri Vrata aims
at the perfect control of these two. The entire day is spent at the Feet of
the Lord. Continuous worship of the Lord necessitates the devotee's constant
presence in the place of worship. Motion is controlled. Evils like lust,
anger, and jealousy, born of Rajas are ignored and subdued. The devotee
observes vigil throughout the night and thus conquers Tamas also. Constant
vigilance is imposed on the mind. Every three hours a round of worship of
the Shiva Lingam is conducted. Shivaratri is a perfect Vrata.
The formal worship consists of bathing the Lord. Lord Shiva is considered to
be the Form of Light (which the Shiva Lingam represents). He is burning with
the fire of austerity. He is therefore best propitiated with cool bathing.
While bathing the Lingam the devotee prays: "O Lord! I will bathe Thee with
water, milk, etc. Do Thou kindly bathe me with the milk of wisdom. Do Thou
kindly wash me of all my sins, so that the fire of worldliness which is
scorching me may be put out once for all, so that I may be one with Thee-the
One alone without a second."
At the Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, the Shivaratri festival is celebrated in
the following manner.
1. All spiritual aspirants fast the whole day, many of them without taking
even a single drop of water.
2. A grand havan is performed for the peace and welfare of all.
3. The whole day is spent in doing the Japa of Om Namah Shivaya and in
meditation upon the Lord.
4. At night all assemble in the temple and chant Om Namah Shivaya the whole
5. During the four quarters of the night the Shiva Lingam is worshipped with
6. Sannyas Diksha is also given on this day to sincere seekers on the path.
Offer this inner worship to Lord Shiva daily: "I worship the jewel of my
Self, the Shiva residing in the Lotus of my heart. I bathe Him with the
water of my pure mind brought from the river of faith and devotion. I
worship Him with the fragrant flowers of Samadhi-all this so that I may not
be born again in this world."
Here is another formula for the supreme worship of the Lord: "O Shiva! you
are my Self. My mind is Parvati. My Pranas are your servants. My body is
your house. My actions in this world are your worship. My sleep is Samadhi.
My walk is circumambulation of you. My speech is your prayer. Thus do I
offer all that I am to you.
SIVA -THE MYSTIC NIGHT
by Swami Krishnananda
A talk given on 22nd of February, 1973, a week before Maha-Sivaratri.
We conceive God as glory, as creativity and as austerity. Vishnu is glory
and magnificence; Brahma is creativity force; and Siva is austerity and
renunciation. You might have heard it said that God is the embodiment of six
attributes of which renunciation is one. You will be wondering how can God
renounce things. He is not a Sannyasin (renunciate). He is not an ascetic
like a Vairagin (a dispassionate person) or a Sadhu. What is he going to
renounce? How do you conceive Siva as an austere Yogin or a renunciate? What
does He renounce? The all-pervading Almighty, what has he to give up or
abandon? Here is the secret of what renunciation is! It is not renunciation
of anything, because there is nothing outside Him; renunciation does not
mean abandonment of an object. If that had been the definition of
renunciation, that cannot apply to God. God does not renounce or abandon any
object, because all objects are a part of His Cosmic Body. Then how do you
represent God as an embodiment of Vairagya (dispassion)? Bhagavan, who is
endowed with 'Bhaga' or glories of a sixfold nature, is also an embodiment
of Vairagya. Do you identify Him with a Sannyasin, possessing nothing? No,
never. God is the possessor of all things. Then, how can you call him a
renunciate, a Sannyasin or a Vairagin? The secret behind the concept or the
consciousness of Vairagya, renunciation is here, in the identification of
this attribute with God. It is only when we interpret things in terms of God
that things become clear. Otherwise, we get confused, we cannot know what
goodness is, we cannot know what evil is, we cannot know what virtue is,
unless we refer all these values of life to the concept of God in His
Perfection. The only standard of reference for us in all matters of life's
value is the existence of God. So, the concept of renunciation, which has
been very much misused, also gets rectified, clarified and purified when it
is understood with reference to the existence of God-whose special
manifestation, in this context, is known as Lord Siva.
God does not renounce anything. Then, in that case what is renunciation, in
this context? It is the freedom from the consciousness of externality. This
is called Vairagya. How can you abandon things? All things are there in
front of you, like trees in a forest, stones in the jungle. There is nothing
like abandonment of things, because they are internally related to you.
Nobody can renounce anything, because everything in this world is connected
to everything else. Then what is Vairagya? Vairagya is not renunciation of
any object; it is impossible. Everything clings to you. But the idea that
things are outside you, makes you get attached to them. This false
attachment is Raga and its absence is Vi-raga. The condition of Viraga is
Vairagya. As God has no consciousness of externality, because everything is
embodied in Him, there cannot be a greater renunciate than God. And in as
much as this Consciousness of God is the highest form of Wisdom, He is the
repository of Jnana.
In our religious tradition, Lord Siva is represented as an aspect of God,
the Almighty. He presents before us the ideal of supreme renunciation born
of Divine Realisation. Renunciation born of Divine Realisation, not born of
frustration, not born of an escapist attitude, not born of defeatism, but
born of an insight into the nature of things, a clear understanding of the
nature of life and the wisdom of existence in its completeness. This is the
source of Vairagya or renunciation. You do not want anything, not because
you cannot get things, but because you have realised the interconnectedness
of things, and the unity of all purpose in consciousness. All desires get
hushed, sublimated and boiled down to the divine Being only when this
realisation comes. God does not possess things. Possession is a relationship
of one thing with another thing. But, God is super-relative. That is why we
call Him as the Absolute; He is not relative. Anything that is related to
something else comes under the category of relative. God is not related to
anything else, because He is All-comprehensive. And, thus, in His
all-comprehensive Absoluteness, which is height of wisdom conceivable, there
is also the concomitant character of freedom from the consciousness of
externality, and therefore, as a corollary, freedom from attachment to
anything. Thus Lord Siva is the height of austerity, Master Yogin, portrayed
as seated in a lotus-pose, as the king of all ascetics; not that He has the
desire for self-control but He is what is self-control itself. He does not
practise self-control. Self-control itself is symbolised in the personality
of Lord Siva. Such a wondrous concept of a glorious majestic picture of the
Almighty, as Lord Siva, is before us for adoration during the Maha
We observe fast during the day and vigil during the night. The idea is that
we control the senses, which represent the out-going tendency of our mind,
symbolised in fast, and we control also the Tamasic inert condition of sleep
to which we are subject everyday. When these two tendencies in us are
overcome, we transcend the conscious and the unconscious levels of our
personality and reach the superconscious level. While, the waking condition
is the conscious level, sleep is the unconscious level. Both are obstacles
to God-realisation. We are shifted from one condition to another. We are
shunted, as it were, from waking to sleep and from sleep to waking everyday.
But the super-conscious is not known to us. The symbology of fast and vigil
on Sivaratri is significant of self-control; Rajas and Tamas are subdued,
and God is glorified. The glorification of God and the control of the senses
mean one and the same thing. Because, it is only in God-Consciousness that
all senses can be controlled. When you see God, the senses melt, like butter
melting before fire. They cannot exist any more. All the ornaments become
the solid mass of gold when they are heated to the boiling point. Likewise,
in the furnace of God-consciousness, the sense-energies melt into a
continuum of universality.
In the famous Rudra-Adhyaya or the Satarudriya of the Yajur-Veda, we have a
majestic, universalised description of Lord Siva, a chant which we are
accustomed to everyday in the temple. Only those who know what Sanskrit is,
what the Vedas are and what worship is, can appreciate what this Satarudriya
chant also is. It is one of the most powerful prayers ever conceived by the
human mind. It is filled with a threefold meaning. According to the culture
of this country, everything is threefold,-objective, subjective and
universal. Everything in the world, from the smallest to the biggest, has an
objective character, a subjective character and an universal character.
Objectively you are something, subjectively you are another thing and
universally you are a third thing. It all depends upon from what point of
view you interpret a particular thing, person or object. When you
objectively interpret a thing, it looks one thing; when you subjectively
analyse it, it is another thing; and from the universal point of view, it is
something third altogether. Likewise, this Mantra, the Satarudriya of the
Yajurveda, a hymn to Lord Siva, has an objective meaning, a subjective
meaning and a divine, supreme, supramental, universal meaning. Objectively,
it is a prayer for the control of the forces of nature. Subjectively, it is
a prayer for self-control and the rousing of the spiritual consciousness.
Universally, it is a surge of the soul towards God-realisation. It has an
Adhiyajnika, Adhibhautika, Adhidaivika and Adhyatmika meaning, as we usually
put it. It has a tremendous meaning. The Vedas, the Mantras of the Vedas,
are filled with such threefold or fourfold meaning. Hence it is difficult to
understand the full meaning of any Mantra of the Veda. "Ananta Vai
Vedah"-Infinite is the meaning of the Vedas. The meaning of the Veda is
infinite. It has no end at all. It is mathematics, it is chemistry, it is
physics, it is Ayurveda, it is psychology, it is metaphysics, it is
philosophy, it is spirituality, it is meditation, it is love, it is ecstasy.
You will find everything in every Mantra of the Veda. All depends upon how
you look upon it, how you feel it. A person can be a father, he may be. a
brother, he may be a son, he may be a friend, but all the while he is one
and the same person. Attitudes are different on account of various
relationships connected. So the Rudra Adhyaya is before us, a majestic
prayer for world-peace, international-peace, subjective peace, universal
peace and God-Consciousness.
It is difficult to chant this Veda Mantra called the Satarudriya, because it
requires a training, as in music, for example. Everybody cannot sing. It
requires a tremendous training for years together. Likewise, the chanting of
the Mantras of the Veda requires training for years together, not for a few
days only. Just as one who does not know how to sing, will make a jarring
noise and you will like to get up and go away rather than listen to it, so
also when you chant the Mantra wrongly, Gods will get up and go away. They
do not bear it any more. So, it requires training. But once it is properly
learnt, it becomes a protection for you from catastrophies of every
kind,-physical, psychological and what not. So, those who know may chant it,
recite it and take part in the recitation of it everyday in the temple, at
least during the worship on Mahasivaratri.
Those who cannot do this because it is difficult, can chant the Mantra 'Om
Namah Sivaya', the Panchakshara Mantra of Lord Siva with Om preceding it. It
is a Kavacha; a kind of armour that you put on. This armour will protect you
from danger of every kind. It will protect you and also all those whom you
want to be protected. It will protect your family, will protect your
country, will protect the whole world. It can cease wars and tensions of
every kind, provided you offer the prayers wholeheartedly from the bottom of
your heart. Collective prayer is very effective. If a hundred persons join
together and pray, it will have a greater effect than one person praying. Of
course, if that single person is very powerful, even one person's prayer is
alright. But, where personalities have their own weaknesses and foibles, it
is better that people have congregational prayer. When all the minds are put
together they form a great energy. It surges forth into God. So during this
period preceding Sivaratri prayer is to be, offered to Lord Siva, as the
Master of Yogin, as the incarnation of all virtues and powers, as a facet of
the Almighty Lord. The glory of Lord Siva is sung in the Siva Purana, in the
Yajur Veda Rudra Adhyaya as I mentioned, and in the Mahabharata. You will be
wonderstruck at the force with which Vyasa and other Sages sing the glories
of God, of Vishnu, of Narayana, of Siva, of Devi in the various Puranas and
Epics, because these masterpieces have been written by those who had the
vision of God. Only one who has the vision of God can express in soulful
force. Otherwise, it will be an empty sound without much significance and
thought. So, chant the Mantra 'Om Namah Sivaya' as many times as possible
everyday, mentally or even verbally as is convenient, with self-control,
which means to say without any thought of sense-object. If you chant the
Mantra together with the thought of sense-objects, then there is divided
devotion. It is like dividing the course of a river in two different
directions so that the force of the waters gets lessened. Suppose you have
five sense-objects and towards all of them your senses are running, and you
are thinking of God also at the same time. Then, you know, energy is
divided, concentration becomes weak and meditation is not successful. No
meditation will become successful, if the senses are active; because, the
senses are the opposite of the effort at meditation. While meditation is the
collective force of the mind concentrating itself on God-consciousness, the
senses, when they are active, do the opposite of meditation and you become a
tremendous extrovert. You are connected to the objects of sense, rather than
the universal concept which is God. God is unity, whereas sense objects are
multiplicity. They are the opposite of what you are aiming at in your
spiritual life. With moderate behaviour in every manner in your spiritual
life, you will attain to success. As the Bhagavad Gita beautifully puts it,
'moderate in your eating, moderate in your activity, moderate in your
speech, moderate in your sleep'-form the golden mean, the via-media, the
golden path. God is the harmony of all powers in the universe. Harmony means
the middle course, neither this extreme nor that extreme. You cannot say
whether it is or it is not. We don't know what it is. As Buddha said: "
'Nothing is', is one extreme; 'everything is', is another extreme. God is in
the middle. Truth is in the middle." So, the middle path is the best path,
which is the path of austerity with understanding. This is the
characteristic of the middle path. When there is understanding without
austerity, it is useless. When there is austerity without understanding,
that is also useless. There must be austerity with understanding and
understanding with austerity, knowledge with self-control and self-control
with knowledge, that is wisdom. Knowledge with self-control is called
wisdom, whereas knowledge without self-control is mere dry intellectuality.
That is of no use. And austerity without understanding is a kind of
foolishness. It will have no proper result. So, Lord Siva is not merely an
austere Being but also a repository of Knowledge. All worshippers of
knowledge also worship Lord Siva, as He is the God of all students, scholars
and seekers of wisdom and knowledge. Thus, Maha-Sivaratri is a very blessed
God-sent opportunity for us. So on this day, pray to Lord Siva with all your
heart, with all your soul, fully trusting on the might of God, wanting
nothing from the objects of sense and delighted within that the Kingdom of
Heaven is at hand. God is bound to come. The powers of the cosmos are
everywhere and they can be invoked at any time by us, provided we are strong
enough in our will and in the method of invocation. We are blessed because
we live in the Kingdom of God. We are blessed because we are seekers of
Truth. We are blessed because we are disciples of a great Master. We are
blessed, thrice blessed, four-times, five-times blessed because we are
seeking God who also seeks everything in this creation. God seeks the world
and the world seeks God. This is the mystery of creation, the subtlety of
the spiritual path and the glory of the meditative life. Jnana and Vairagya
combined is Lord Siva who is worshipped on Mahasivaratri day.
Lord Siva is easily pleased. He is called Asutosh. Asutosh means 'easily
pleased'. He is not a difficult Person. You can quickly please Lord Siva. If
you call Him, He will come. Sometimes He is also called 'Bhole Baba', very
simple, not a complicated Person. He comes to help you even unasked. He did
help the Pandavas. The Pandava brothers were in war with the Kauravas in the
battle in the Mahabharata. And Lord Siva helped them without their knowing
that the help was being offered. Lord Siva helped the Pandavas invisibly and
why not He help us? He helps all those who tread the righteous path. So let
us tread the path of righteousness and be recipients of Divine Grace.
We may look at the whole thing from another angle of vision. The Sanskrit
word Sivaratri means 'the night of Siva'. On this holy day we are to fast
during the day and keep vigil during the night. You may be wondering why
Siva is connected with the night and not with the day, in which case we can
observe vigil during day-time and fast during the night! Instead of that why
the whole thing has been put topsy-turvy! Siva being connected with night
has a highly spiritual and mystical connotation. It is not that divinity as
manifest in the form of Lord Siva has any special connection with the period
we call night. If you study deeply the Upanishads and such mystical texts of
high spiritual significance, you will realise that the Supreme Being, the
Absolute, is designated in its primordial condition as a supreme Darkness
due to excess of light. This adjective or qualification 'due to excess of
light' must be added. It is darkness because of the excess of light. When
you look at the sun for a few minutes with open eyes and then look
elsewhere, you will see only darkness. The sun has dazzled you to such an
extent that all appear as darkness. It is said in the Mahabharata that when
Lord Sri Krishna showed the Cosmic Form in the court of the Kauravas,
everything was dark, as it were. The intensity of the light was such that it
looked like darkness to the eyes of man. So, in one of the famous
creation-hymns of the Rigveda we have a similar reference made to the
original condition of creation. There is the hymn of the Veda called the
Nasadiya Sukta, wherein it is said: Tama asit tamasa gudhamagre-"Darkness
there was; at first concealed in darkness." According to us, light is
perception of objects, and therefore non-perception of objects is regarded
by us as night. Because, knowledge or consciousness unrelated to the
perceptional process is unknown to the human mind. Generally, to know is to
know an object; and if it is not to know an object, it is not to know
anything at all. For example, take the state of deep sleep. Why do we fall
asleep? Do you know the reason? What is the cause for our going to sleep
every night? Where is the necessity? The necessity is psychological and to
some extent highly metaphysical. The senses cannot always continue
perceiving objects, because perception is a fatiguing process. The whole
body, the whole nervous system, the entire psychological apparatus becomes
active in the process of the perception of objects. And without our knowing
what is happening the senses get tired. They cannot go on contemplating
things all the twentyfour hours of the day. Why should they not be
contemplating objects of sense throughout the day, all the twentyfour hours
of the day? The reason is that perception is an unnatural process from the
point of view of consciousness as such. Perception of an object is the
alienation-of an aspect of our personality through the avenue of a
particular sense in respect of its object. All this is difficult. for many
to grasp. This is a highly psychological, secret. Consciousness is
indivisible. This is a simple fact. Many of you would have heard about it.
Consciousness is undivided, incapable of division into parts. So it cannot
be cut into two sections, of subject and object. On the basis of this fact
there cannot be a division between the seer and the seen in the process of
perception. To make this clear, let us see what happens in dream.
In dream we see objects like mountains, rivers, persons, etc. But they are
not there. Things which are not there become visible in dream. Now, did the
mountain you saw in dream exist? It did not. But did you see it? Yes, you
saw it. How did you see, when it was not there? Is it possible to see a
non-existent object? How can non-existent things be seen? It is
contradictory statement to say that non-existent things can be seen. What do
you see when things are not there? You will be wonderstruck! What happens in
dream is that there is an alienation of the mind into the objects of
perception; and the mind itself becomes the mountain there. There is tension
created due to the separation of a part of the mind into the object and a
part of it existing as the perceiving subject. That is why we are restless
in dream. We cannot be happy. It is neither waking nor it is sleep. It is
very difficult to be happy in this condition because a tense situation of
consciousness is created. What happened in dream, the same happens to us in
the waking condition also. Just as the mind in dream divided itself into two
sections, the perceiving subject and the object that was seen, in the waking
state also, it divides itself into the subject and object. It is like a
divided personality. It is as if your own personality has been cut into two
halves, of which one half is the 'seer' and the other half is the 'seen'. It
is as if one part of your personality gazes at another part of your own
personality. You are looking at your own self as if you are a different
person. You are objectifying yourself, you alienate yourself. What can be
more false and undesirable than this situation? It is a mental sickness.
Now we are able to understand this situation in dream on account of the
comparison that we make between waking and dream. When you wake up, you do
not see the dream objects and then you begin to analyse the condition in
which you were when you were dreaming. We say, when we are awake, we are in
a world of reality, whereas in dream we were in a world of unreality. How do
you know that the world of dream was a world of unreality? Merely because,
we compare it with the waking condition which we consider as real. How do
you know that the world of waking is real? You cannot say anything about
this, because there is nothing with which you can compare it, as you did in
the case of the dream. If you can know another standard of reference, higher
than the waking condition, you would have been able to make a judgement of i
t, whether it is real or unreal, good or bad and so on. When you are
dreaming, you do not know that the objects are unreal. You consider them as
real and you take it for granted. The comparison between the dream and the
waking world, is responsible for our judgement of the unreality of the dream
world. But with what will you compare the waking world? There is at present
nothing to compare it with, and therefore we are in a condition which is
self-sufficient, self-complacent and incapable of rectification. When you
feel that you are perfectly right, nobody can teach you. Nobody can set you
right, because you think that you are right. The question of teaching arises
only when you feel that you are ignorant and you need teaching. The waking
world is only an indication to us as to what could be happening or what is
perhaps happening. We cannot know what is happening actually, unless we
transcend this condition, which we have not done yet. But, by the conclusion
that we can draw from an analysis of the dream-condition, we can conclude to
some extent that in the waking state also we are in a fool's paradise. What
is the guarantee that we will not wake up again from this waking world, into
something else? As in dream you did not know that you were dreaming, in this
waking also you do not know that you are in a state similar to dream. You
think that this world in waking is a hard fact and a solid reality, just as
you believed the world of dream also to be. Now to the senses an absence of
perception is, equal to darkness, the darkness that we experience in deep
Let us come back to the subject of Sivaratri, the night of Siva. When you
perceive an object you call it waking. When you do not perceive it, it is
darkness. Now you see in the waking condition, the so-called waking world,
present before us a world of objects as we are intelligent. In dream also
there is a sort of intelligence. But in sleep there is no intelligence. What
happens? The senses and the intellect withdraw themselves into their source.
There is no perceptional activity and so the absence of perception is
equated to the presence of darkness. The cosmic Primeval condition of the
creative will of God, before creation,-a state appearing like darkness, or
night-is what we call the condition of Siva. It is very important to
remember that the state of Siva is the primordial condition of the creative
will of God, where there is no externality of perception, there being
nothing outside God; and so, for us, it is like darkness or night. It is
Siva's night, Sivaratri. For Him it is not night. It is all Light. Siva is
not sitting in darkness. The Creative Will of God is Omniscience,
Omnipotence, Omnipresence, all combined. Sometimes we designate this
condition as Isvara. The Supreme Absolute, which is indeterminable, when it
is associated with the Creative Will with a tendency to create the Cosmos,
is Isvara in Vedantic parlance and Siva in Puranic terminology. This is the
very precise condition described in the Nasadiya Sukta of the Veda as Tamas
or darkness. This is to repeat again, darkness due to the excess of the
Light of the divine Absolute. If you look at God, what will you see? You
will see nothing. The eyes cannot see Him. Because He is such dazzling
light. When the frequency of light gets intensified to a very high level,
light will not be seen by the eyes. When the frequency is lowered, comes
down to the level of the structure of the retina of the eye, only then you
can see light. There are various kinds of lights, various intensities or
frequencies, and the higher frequencies are incapable of cognisance by the
senses on account of their structural deformity. So if you see God, you will
As a matter of fact, we are seeing God even now. But we are not able to
recognise Him. The world that we see before us is God Himself. There is no
such thing as the world. The world does not exist. It is, only a name that
we have given to the Supreme Being. Call the dog a bad name and then hang
it. Who asked you to call it a world? Why do you give such a name? You
yourself have given it a name and say, 'Oh, this is the world!' You can call
it by another name. You are free to give any name to it. Really there is no
such thing as a world. It does not exist. The world is only a name that we
give to a distortion created in the perception of our consciousness due to
its isolation into the subject and the object.
To come back to the analogy of dream again, the mountain that we saw in
dream was not a mountain; it was only consciousness. There was no mountain.
But it looked like a hard something in front of you, against which you could
hit your dream head. You see buildings in dream. It was consciousness that
projected itself into the hard substance of bricks and buildings, mountains
and rivers, persons and animals, etc., in dream. The world of dream does not
exist. You know it very well, and yet it appears. What is it that appears?
The consciousness itself, projects itself outwardly, in space and time
created by itself, and then, you call it a world. Likewise, in the waking
state also the Cosmic Consciousness has projected itself into this world.
The world is Cosmic Consciousness. The Supreme Divinity Himself is revealed
here in the form of this world. As the dream world is nothing but
consciousness, the waking world also is nothing but consciousness, God. This
is the essence of the whole matter. So you are seeing God. I am right in
saying that. What you see in front of you is God only. It is not a building.
There is no such thing as a building. But we call it a building due to an
error of perception, due to ignorance and due to not being able to analyse
the situation in which we are involved. We are caught up in a mess, in a
paradox, in a confusion and the confusion has entered us, entered into the
bones, as it were, into the very fibre of our being and made us fools that
we are today. It is to awaken ourselves from this ignorance and to come to a
state of that supreme blessedness of the recognition of God in this very
world, that we practise Sadhana. The highest of Sadhanas is meditation on
On Sivaratri, therefore, you are supposed to contemplate God as the creator
of the world, as the Supreme Being unknown to the Creative Will, in that
primordial condition of non-objectivity which is the darkness of Siva. In
the Bhagavad Gita, we have a similar verse which has some sort of a
resemblance to this situation. "Ya nisa sarvabhutanam tasyam Jagarti
samyami; yasyam jagrati bhutani sa nisa pasyato muneh." 'That which is night
to the ignorant, is day to the wise; and that which is day to the wise, is
night to the ignorant.' The ignorant feel the world as day light and a
brightly illumined objective something, and that does not exist for a wise
person. The wise see God in all His effulgence and that does not exist for
the ignorant. While the wise see God, the ignorant does not see Him; and
while the ignorant see the world, the wise do not see it. That is the
meaning of this-verse in the second chapter of the Gita. When we see
sunlight, the owl does not see it. That is the difference. The owl cannot
see the sun, but we can. So, we are owls, because we do not see the
self-effulgent Sun, the pure Consciousness. And he who sees this Sun, the
pure Consciousness, God, is the sage, the illumined adept in Yoga.
So Sivaratri is a blessed occasion for all to practise self-restraint,
self-control, contemplation, Svadhyaya, Japa and meditation, as much as
possible within our capacity. We have a whole of the night at our disposal.
We can do Japa or we can do the chanting of the Mantra, Om Namah Sivaya. You
can also meditate. It is a period of Sadhana. Functions like the Maha
Sivaratri, Ramanavami, Janmashtami, Navaratri are not functions in the sense
of festoons and celebrations for the satisfaction of the human mind; they
are functions of the Spirit, they are celebrations of the Spirit. In as much
as we are unable to think of God throughout the day, for all the 365 days of
the year, such occasions are created, so that at least periodically we may
recall to our memory our original destiny, our Divine Abode. The glory of
God is displayed before us in the form of these spiritual occasions.