|Essential Elements Regarding MAHASHIVARATRI, the Great Festival of Shiva|
In India, Mahashivaratri, the spiritual night of Shiva, is traditionally consecrated to Paramashiva (the Supreme Shiva). Shiva's devotees unanimously consider it as being the most sacred night of the year.
The night of Mahashivaratri is the night before the day of the New Moon in February - March (according to the Indian astrological system – the lunar month, PHALGUNA). The yogis welcome this grandiose celebration as an exceptional spiritual opportunity. For this reason, they fast during the entire day and they stay awake for the entire night, meditating intensely using the MANTRAS of SHIVA (LAYA YOGA). The non initiates meditate simply by repeating Shiva's name continuously, with transfiguration, or by piously chanting songs of adoration to Shiva, or by adoring the famous symbol, the Shiva Lingam, aspiring with all their hearts towards PARAMASHIVA, THE HOLY FATHER.
The Vedic scriptures say the following on this subject: "Our Omnipotent and Omnipresent Lord is permanently present, hidden deep in the hearts of all human beings. In His grace, benevolence and love, He offers spiritual liberation to all conscious beings who - full of love - turn their face to Him".
According to Hindu beliefs, it is very important to live near a temple; this is why they built so many holy places. They consider the construction of a temple a praiseworthy act before GOD, which brings blessings to the person in this life and also in the following ones. In the religious life of the Hindus, the temple is the main centre of the physical level. Here, in the “house of GOD”, we can easily take care of our relationship with the Holy Father, God.
As the Hindus are full of faith, they do not want to be far away from GOD for too long. They go to temple at least once a week. They do their best to participate in all important spiritual holidays during those special periods of the year when the different Shaktis of God (FEMININE FORCES OF MANIFESTATION) manifest themselves in their plenitude and with all their power. Every day the devotees of Shiva do PUJA (frenetic adoration of Shiva) in the temple. For this reason, almost all devotees of Shiva go to His temple on the most sacred day of the year - Mahashivaratri, the celebration dedicated entirely to Shiva. At this time of the year they go to the temple full of adoration and humbleness, as for each of them the temple represents The House of God.
The Vedas say: "May our Holy Father be pleased by our songs of adoration. Like a wise man among ordinary people, may the aspirant bring, with full fervour, the well-deserved offering to the divine beings! Oh, Lord, Your name is great, overwhelming, and full of mystery." AUM NAMAH SHIVAYA
This profoundly mysterious and sacred night of Mahashivaratri is about to come. Let us all do our best to make this extraordinary night one of the most important spiritual events in our lives. Let us at least remember in every moment of this night that our essential goal in this life is the realization, HERE and NOW, of God the FATHER, and let us come closer Shiva, with our hearts burning with love. Let us climb, full of gigantic Aspiration, the mountaintop of Kailasa, which is permanently present inside us, at the coronary centre ( Sahasrara). Let us experience the mysterious presence of Shiva within us as profoundly and as completely as possible, as our Immortal Self, Atman, continuously present in the entire MACROCOSM.
Let us be prepared for the coming of this great spiritual celebration by doing our Sadhana (yoga practice) perfectly. During this day, let us constantly keep in mind that a life lived in the spirit of the perfect and ecstatic Divine Truth has an enormous force. Each human being is a microcosm that reproduces the MACROCOSM. Let us purify our whole being, as profoundly as possible, and in this night let us make our hearts a pure stream of divine love, at the same time aspiring to live in complete harmony with the great spiritual family of this yoga school to which we belong. From now on, let us think of Shiva as often as possible, thus purifying our mind and heart with the help of GOD, in order to ascend to the peak of God realization from our being (SAHASRARA) as fast as possible.
One of the most sacred spiritual nights of the year is about to come, and if we are properly prepared it can transform us profoundly and forever, through Shiva's mysterious grace. If we are prepared, then we will receive many spiritual gifts during the most uplifting spiritual celebration of the year. We all have that wonderful opportunity that only waits to be manifested in us in its full splendour. Therefore, it is in our power to choose this MIRACULOUS opportunity, HERE and NOW. So, let us strongly aspire that this night brings us as close as possible to Shiva, The Great Divine Saviour. In fact, did we not come to this planet to fully discover God? In this sacred night, we can transform our mind into an altar consecrated to God. In this way, we will see how all the other thoughts become naturally insignificant.
Let us keep mental silence during the sacred night of Shivaratri. This will help us to do Laya Yoga with a Mantra of SHIVA that will put us in a profound resonance with Him. Let us also remember that first of all the night of Shivaratri means Sublime and Divine Joy. Authentic spiritual life is above all a life full of joy. The more joy and happiness we radiate to the people around us, the more we prove to be closer to the Supreme and Infinite Source of Beatitude.
For instance, in the ashram of SWAMI SHIVANANDA from Rishikesh (INDIA), the night of MAHASHIVARATRI is celebrated as follows:
1. All devotees fast for the entire day.
2. A great collective spiritual ceremony takes place with the participation of all the yogis from the ASHRAM, with the aim of bringing about peace and well-being.
3. For the entire day, the devotees do Japa Yoga continuously with the mantra AUM NAMAH SHIVAYA and they periodically meditate on Shiva.
4. At night they gather in the temple and repeat the mantra AUM NAMAH SHIVAYA until morning.
5. The Shiva Lingam, the secret symbol of Shiva, is venerated with great devotion by all of them, during the entire night, for 45 minutes in unison, every 3 hours.
6. The devotees who are prepared receive the initiation named Sannyas Diksha (they are offered the title of Sannyasin) from their spiritual Master.
Here we offer two examples for a daily, inner meditation, realized traditionally for the adoration of Shiva:
1) "I worship with all my love the sublime pearl of my Divine Eternal Self, ATMAN. I worship with ardour Shiva, who is permanently present in the Lotus of my Heart. I bathe Him in the purest water of my purified mind, pure water taken from the inexhaustible river of faith and devotion. I worship SHIVA NOW with the fragrant flowers of the state of Samadhi (DIVINE ECSTASY). I do all these full of aspiration, in order to liberate myself forever from selfishness, ignorance and suffering."
2) "Oh, Shiva, in reality You are always present in me, in my Immortal Self (ATMAN). My mind, overwhelmed by my love for you, is Parvati, Your beloved Shakti (FEMININE ENERGY OF MANIFESTATION). My PRANIC energies are Your servants. My body is Your House. The actions in this world, the fruits of which I unconditionally offer you, are acts of Your adoration. My sleep is Samadhi (DIVINE ECSTASY). I walk only near you. Everything I say is inspired by You as a prayer to You. Here and now, I offer you, full of love and humbleness, everything I have been and everything I am."
Knowing all these, it is worthwhile to be as happy as possible in the night of Mahashivaratri. Especially then, we should aspire to experience the divine bliss in our burning hearts, to feel and to see God in everything and everywhere. So, in this night, let us forget about all the mundane concerns and all our past or present sufferings. If we fast, we will be able to feel the ecstatic mysterious communion with the Omnipresent Shiva. During this night, let us constantly think of the mysterious Shiva, and nothing else but Him. This night, to all those who pray to Shiva, it shall be given to them. Let the supreme grace of Shiva be bestowed upon us this night, and fill our being forever.