Monday, 20 February 2012

It’s Shivratri Every Day

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

   Shiva is where the mind dissolves. There is no need to go on long pilgrimages to find the Divine. Be established wherever you are. If you don't find God where you are, then it is not possible to find him elsewhere. The moment you are established, centred, you see that there is Divinity present everywhere. This is meditation.
   Shiva is Virupaksha – one who is formless yet who sees all. We know there's air all around us; we can feel it. But what if the air also starts feeling us? Space is all around us, we identify space. But what if space also recognises and feels our presence? This happens. Only, we don't know it. Scientists know this and they call it the theory of relativity. The one who sees and that which is seen are both affected when seen. The formless Divine, Shiva, is all around you and is seeing you. He is the seer, sight and the seen. To wake up and experience this Shiva tattva is Shivratri.
   Usually when there is celebration, awareness is lost. Deep rest in celebration with awareness is Shivratri. When you face some problem, you become aware and alert. We are at rest when everything is well; on Shivratri we rest with awareness. It is said that a yogi remains awake when everybody else is sleeping. For a yogi, everyday is Shivratri.
   Adyantahinam, the One without beginning or end; Arvada – He is Bholenath who is present everywhere, always. He is eternal. He is the fourth state of consciousness, the turiya avasta, the meditative state, that is beyond the waking, deep sleep and dream states. He is the non-dull consciousness that is present everywhere. That's why you have to dissolve yourself in Shiva to do Shiva puja. Being Shiva, you do Shiva puja. As Chidananda rupa, He is consciousness that is pure bliss. He is Tapo yoga gamya, one who can be known through tapa and yoga.
   The Shiva tattva can be experienced in knowledge of the Vedas. The state of Shivoham (I am Shiva), Shiva kevaloham (there is only Shiva) is attained. On Shivratri experience a wave of joy and contentment. Without yoga, Shiva can't be experienced. Yoga doesn't mean only asanas or physical postures but the experience of the Shiva tattva through meditation and pranayam.
   Panchmukha, Panchtattva – there are five faces to Shiva: water, air, earth, fire and space. Understanding these five elements is tattva gyana, knowledge of the five elements. Worshipping Shiva is dissolving in the Shiva tattva and then wishing for universal good.
Divinity permeates everything on Earth. Puja is not complete without honouring trees, mountains, rivers and people. Honouring everyone is Dakshina. Da means to give and dakshina means giving something that will cleanse us of all impurities. When we act in society with skill, free from distortions of mind, all negative tendencies such as anger, worries and sorrow are destroyed. Give away your tensions, worries and sorrows as dakshina. And how does that happen? With sadhana or spiritual practices, seva or service and satsang or company of truth. 

   The tradition of Shivratri, of moving from many to one is so unique. Yoga and meditation is necessary for that. Without meditation, the mind is not calmed. Shiva is the cause of all causes. 

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Shivaratri - Rituals and their Cosmic Meanings


Shivaratri, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is celebrated on the moonless night of the month of Phalguna, which is the fourteenth day in the krishnapaksha or dark half. Owing to a special planetary conjunction, spiritual practices done on this day are considered to be especially auspicious and beneficial. There is a reference to this in one of the Puranas, where Shiva himself tells Parvati Devi [the Divine Mother] that this day is particularly dear to him, and that those who perform the prescribed austerities on this day will be freed from all sins.

One popular story from the Puranas goes like this: There was once a poor hunter from Varanasi. His name was Suswara. He lived with his wife and child in a small hut. Theirs was a hand-to-mouth existence. Suswara would go to the forest and hunt whatever game came his way, and thus feed his family. One particular day, he caught many small animals and birds, which he put into a sack. Encouraged by the catch, he wandered deeper into the forest in search of more game. Soon darkness set in and he turned to go home. He was a little worried as the forest was infested with dangerous animals. He did not like the idea of spending the night there. Soon it became very dark. Unable to find his way back, Suswara climbed a tree to be safe from the wild animals.

Attracted by his scent, animals came lurking under the tree. Hoping to scare them away, Suswara plucked some twigs from the tree and threw them at the animals, but to no avail. Throughout the night the animals kept prowling beneath the tree.

Suswara was unable to get even a wink of sleep. He kept vigil throughout the night. He plucked leaves from the tree, which happened to be a bilva tree, and dropped them on the ground. Unknown to Suswara, there was a Shivalinga at the foot of the tree; and so, although he was unaware of it, by dropping the sacred bilva leaves, Suswara was making a sacred offering to the Shivalinga. That night happened to be Shivaratri. So the hunter had unknowingly kept a night-long vigil and worshipped Shiva.

According to the Shiva Purana, the Mahashivaratri worship should incorporate six items: offering bilva leaves to the deity after giving it a ceremonial bath, which represents purification of the soul; applying vermilion paste on the linga after bathing it, which represents virtue; offering food, which is conducive to longevity and the gratification of desires; lighting incense, which yields wealth; lighting an oil lamp, which signifies the attainment of knowledge; and offering betel leaves, which marks satisfaction with worldly pleasures. These six items form an indispensable part of the Mahashivaratri worship, be it a simple ceremony at home or grand temple worship.


Significance of the Rituals

The story above is an allegory. Just as the hunter sought to kill wild animals, the spiritual seeker tries to overcome lust, anger, greed, infatuation, jealousy and hatred. The jungle is the mind where all these negativities roam about. A spiritual aspirant must kill these "animals" to be free.


The name of the hunter was Suswara, which means "one of melodious voice." This indicates the purity of intent and speech, which, in turn, imply a level of mental purity.

The hunter was born in Varanasi. Vara refers to the forehead while nasi is the nose. The point where both meet is Varanasi, in other words, the point midway between the eyebrows. This point is also called the ajna chakra and is regarded as a nexus of the three nadis: ida, pingala and sushumna. A spiritual aspirant who concentrates his or her mind on this point gains concentration and gradual control over his senses. The killing of the animals thus indicates control over one's vasanas [latent tendencies].

The bilva tree corresponds to the spinal column. The tree's leaves are special: each stalk has three leaflets. The three leaflets represent the three nadis mentioned above. The climbing of the tree represents the ascent of the kundalini shakti from the muladhara to the ajna chakra.

Keeping awake is symbolic of the kind of awareness and oneness of purpose that a spiritual aspirant needs to reach the goal. He cannot afford to be slack even for a moment.

Shiva is the Supreme Consciousness that illuminates the three states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep. Offering the threefold bilva leaves to the Shivalinga heralds the return to a level of consciousness beyond the three states, which is the fourth state, turiya. The dawning of that state is consonant with the awakening of the individual.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

A Succinct Apology for all that Ails India

"I apologise for the Partition of India; for the lingering Jammu and Kashmir issue and for not resolving it at Simla in 1972; I apologise for India spurning the offer to join the Security Council as a permanent member when it was offered at the time of independence; for the defeat of India in the 1962 war with China and the vexed boundary problem; I apologise for the Hindu rate of growth of 3% for the first three decades of Independence and for all the poverty, deprivation and inequality; I apologise for the massacre of Sikhs in the country in 1984; I apologise for the more recent events like the Army Chief's age row; for the Antrix-Devas deal and for punishing scientists of the eminence of Madhavan Nair without giving them an opportunity for explanation; for the PMO not keeping the PM informed of the 2G scam; for the Supreme Court cancelling the 2G licences; for the CWG scam, the Air India scam, the KG Basin scam, the Adarsh Society scam and for all the other scams for which this government is being wrongly blamed. 

I apologise for the policy paralysis in the government, for the rising fiscal and current account deficits, for the slowing down of the economy. "

Saturday, 4 February 2012

I've learned ~ By Andy Rooney

These are written by Andy Rooney, a man who had the gift of saying so much with so few words.

  • I've learned.... That the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.
  • I've learned.... That when you're in love, it shows.
  • I've learned.... That just one person saying to me, "You've made my day!" makes my day.
  • I've learned.... That being kind is more important than being right.
  • I've learned.... That you should never say no to a gift from a child.
  • I've learned.... That I can always pray for someone when I don't have the strength to help him in some other way.
  • I've learned.... That no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.
  • I've learned.... That sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.
  • I've learned.... That simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.
  • I've learned.... That we should be glad God doesn't give us everything we ask for.
  • I've learned.... That money doesn't buy class.
  • I've learned.... That it's those small daily happenings that make life so spectacular.
  • I've learned.... That under everyone's hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.
  • I've learned.... That to ignore the facts does not change the facts.
  • I 've learned....That when you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you.
  • I've learned.... That love, not time, heals all wounds.
  • I've learned.... That the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.
  • I've learned.... That everyone you meet deserves to be greeted with a smile.
  • I've learned.... That no one is perfect until you fall in love with them.
  • I've learned.... That life is tough, but I'm tougher.
  • I've learned.... That opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss.
  • I've learned.... That when you harbour bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.
  • I've learned.... That one should both soft and tender, keep his words because tomorrow he may have to eat them.
  • I've learned.... That a smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.
  • I've learned.... That everyone wants to live on top of the mountain,but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.
  • I've learned.... That the less time I have to work with, the more things I get done.

Andrew Aitken "Andy" Rooney (January 14, 1919 – November 4, 2011) was an American radio and television writer. He was most notable for his weekly broadcast "A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney," a part of the CBS News program 60 Minutes from 1978 to 2011. His final regular appearance on 60 Minutes aired October 2, 2011. He died one month later, on November 4, 2011, at age 92.