Maha Shiva Ratri Demands Us To Fight Ignorance And Egoism

Lord Shiva Invites Us To Stay Awake!

By Zile Singh

“Heaven and Hell are Within the Heart”

My friend, Krishan, met me in the YMCA Gym, Langara, Vancouver.  So far our meeting places, only once in a while, are the Gym and the temple.  My visits to the temple are few and far between. He enquired,   “Mr. Singh, are you going to the temple next Monday, March 4th?”    I asked, “Is there any special occasion?”  Krishan informed me that  Maha Shiva Ratri will be celebrated.  After pausing for a minute I enquired “Krishan, I am not aware as to  why ‘Ratri’ is associated with Lord Shiva? Ratri is the name of   darkness and also a symbol of   ignorance.   Shiva, the Mahadev, cannot be associated with darkness and ignorance.”  He affirmed my statement and asked me to find out because it was  worth knowing.

The name of the festival that roughly translates to the ‘great night of Shiva’ is celebrated with great fanfare and enthusiasm by the Hindus across India, Nepal and worldwide, where there is a significant number of Hindu population.  Lord Shiva is part of the Hindu Trinity, along with Vishnu and Brahma.  In Shiva, the opposite meets.   Shiva, the destroyer is a necessary part of the Trinity because, without destruction, there can be no recreation and preservation.   Unlike most Hindu festivals which are celebrated during the day, Shivaratri is celebrated during the night.  There are different legends which describe the significance of Maha Shiva Ratri.  According to one, this is the night when Lord Shiva performed the dance of creation, preservation and destruction of the universe. According to another, this is the night when Shiva and Parvati got married.  According to a third legend, this is the night when Shiva awakened his consciousness at the material level of existence.  At this stage of consciousness, no objective experience takes place and the mind is transcended.  The meditator transcends time, space and causation.  Some say that on this day Shiva saved the world by consuming the pot of poison that emerged from the Samudra Manthan.  Lord Shiva is an embodiment of love as well.  Unmarried girls observe fast to appease Shiva to get a good husband.

A significant incident related to Maha Shiva Ratri is that of Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati,  the founder of Arya Samaj. While performing the Puja on  Shiva Ratri, he witnessed that a rat spoiled the Parsadam offered to Lord Shiva.  This forced him to introspect  seriously and to leap out of the darkness and ignorance. He preached against idolatry and the conduct of the priestly class.  It will not be out of place to quote here a piece of  sage advice, “Pay heed to  an ox in front, to a horse behind, to  a priest/preacher  on all sides.”

After spending enough time in diplomacy and less in mythology, let me borrow the following from Sadhguru’s book “Adiyogi”.

“There is too much Shiva in the air, It is an epidemic, calendar art, television serials, pop literature, science fiction.  He is everywhere.  Why keep harping on our ancient heritage?  It’s all too zeitgeist.  Too revivalist. He is apparently older than Apollo, the Olympian god of the Greeks, with whom he shares several characteristics as healer, archer, the figure of beauty, harmony and light, symbolic of the sun, contemplation and introversion.  He seems older that Dionysus, the other Greek deity who shares many of his characteristics as the god of ecstasy, delirium, dance, libido, intoxication, dissolution, protector of the freedoms of the unconventional, divine conduit between the living and the dead.  Shiva has been seen as supreme godhead, folk hero, benevolent boon-bestower, shape-shifter, trickster, hunter, hermit, cosmic dancer, creator and destroyer.  The epithets are endless.”

According to  Kashmir Shaivism, people believe that on this day, Shiva is said to have appeared in the form of Jwala Linga or Linga of Flame in the  Kashmir region.  Today, when the festival is being celebrated all over, the people of Kashmir, irrespective of their religion are feeling a sense of uncertainty and darkness.  A sense of insecurity is at large. Future, to them, seems bleak.  The Indian security forces are the worst victims.  On the international day of love, i.e. the Valentine Day, February 14, more than 40 Indian security personnel were blown up in a terrorist attack of which a Muslim terrorist organization, based in Pakistan took responsibility.  Taking advantage of the “Night”, the Indian Air Force surgically struck  several terrorist camps killing  hundreds of them. Subsequently, air strikes were exchanged  causing damage  on both sides. Display of diplomacy ran amok to prove  as to who is right  and who is wrong.  However, according to Adiyoga, it is  “Better to get hurt by the truth than comforted with a lie.”    Let Mahadev, from this Maha Shiva Ratri to the next take care of the safety, security and welfare of the people of  Kashmir.

Finally, Maha Shiva Ratri demands us to fight   ignorance and egoism.    Lord Shiva   invites us to stay awake, alive and responsive.  Religion is a rule to “save the  life” and not a tool to “cause the  death”.

Mr. Zile Singh is much respected Link Columnist, writer, a Vipassana Meditator and has a Post-Graduate Diploma in Human Rights.  He can be reached at zsnirwal@yahoo.ca

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