The Inner Significance of Maha Shivaratri

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The Inner Significance of Maha Shivaratri
A Study Guide based on the teachings of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

What is Shivaratri?
Today is the holy day of Shivaratri. Shiva means auspiciousness. Where there is Shiva (auspiciousness) there cannot be shava (inauspiciousness). This holy day of Shivaratri must be spent in the constant contemplation of God chanting the holy name of Shiva right from early in the morning till you go to bed. The Lord’s name must dance on your tongue.
March 8, 2005
Shiva means auspiciousness. Since Shiva resides in us, does that imply that we too must be auspicious? How do we then feel auspicious at all times?
How can we constantly remember to chant the name of the Lord on Shivaratri?

We are spending nights daily ever since we are born, but not all those nights can be termed as Shivaratri. People meditate upon, sing, and listen to the glory of the divine name and experience the divinity of Lord Shiva. Since the whole night is spent in meditation and singing the glory of the divine name of Lord Shiva, this night is called Shivaratri. Not only this night, whenever you spend the entire night meditating upon the divine name, that night is also Shivaratri. Lord Shiva is not a separate Avatar.
February 23, 2009
The night is a blessed night and in all discourses during Shivaratri, Swami has emphasized its importance. How can we better prepare ourselves for undertaking some form of spiritual exercise for this special night?

The Inner Significance of Maha Shivaratri

No one seems to have made an effort to recognize the meaning and significance of Shivaratri. In fact, the very word Shivaratri reveals its meaning. “Shiva” means auspicious and “ratri” means night. Thus, Shivaratri means auspicious night. Then the question arises: who is Shiva? The divine consciousness pervading all the living beings is none other than Shiva. This Shivattwa (divine consciousness) permeates not only human beings but the birds, beasts, and animals as well. In fact, every moment in our life can be taken to be Shivaratri. We need not wait for Shivaratri on a particular day in a year.
March 9, 2005

Today we are celebrating Shivaratri. What does it mean? Ratri (night) is associated with darkness. The Vedas declare, “Chandrama Manaso Jatha, Chaksho Suryo Ajayatha (the moon was born out of the mind and the sun out of the eyes of the Purusha).” Moon is the presiding deity of the mind. So, mind should be pure and unsullied.
February 14, 1999
Why does Shivaratri place its importance on the mind?
What relevance is the significance of Shivaratri to our daily living?

The night is only an orientation program for us to imbibe the spirit of Shivaratri and make this an integral lifestyle for the rest of our lives. What transformational changes do we want to see in ourselves? What new resolutions can we make on this night to bring a transformational change?

You will be observing Shivaratri in the true spirit of the term only when you give up bad qualities and cultivate divine love. Merely observing vigil on Shivaratri is not sufficient. You have to contemplate on God incessantly. Many people claim that they have observed jagarana (vigil) on Shivaratri night by playing cards. The fisherman goes on watching intently to trap the fish in the net. Can this be termed meditation? If one abstains from food on account of quarrel with one’s wife, can it be called fasting? No. Similarly, observance of sacred vigil on Shivaratri night is not achieved by playing cards the whole night. You should spend this night chanting the name of God, using the time in doing good deeds.
February 14, 1999

Here the emphasis Swami is making on the need to move away from mechanically carrying out rituals as opposed to appreciating the real purpose of these auspicious events. Contemplate and describe the various rituals involved during Shivaratri and find relevant significance behind each one of these acts.


The Inner Significance of Maha Shivaratri

Today is the sacred day of Shivaratri. Legend has it that when Shiva, in order to save the world, swallowed halahala (poison), He lost consciousness and fell down. The resultant heat affected the world. In order to cool down the world, Shiva created the Himalayas. Then He placed the Himalayas on His stomach. As a result, the Himalayas absorbed all the heat from His body and He got up. People celebrate this event as Shivaratri. But, this is only a worldly interpretation. Truly speaking, the Himalayas are within you. In fact, the whole world is within you. The Divinity within you has neither birth nor death. The body may undergo change, but the Divine Principle remains the same. Love never undergoes any change. It remains love always. The quality of sugar is sweetness. It does not change whether it is added to coffee, tea, water or rice pudding.
February 15, 1999
Swallowing Halahala (poison) by Shiva is a very important event. How can we relate this to daily life events?
Shiva created the Himalayas and placed in his stomach and thereby absorbed the heat. Again these can be left as stories but there is a deeper inner significance of these two events. Contemplate on the inner significance of these two events and assess how these can be relatable in daily living.
The nights you experience on other days are ordinary nights. But Shivaratri is an auspicious night. How is it auspicious? It is auspicious when you spend your time in an auspicious way singing the glories of the Lord. The mind has sixteen aspects. The moon is the presiding deity of the mind. Of the sixteen aspects of the moon, fifteen are absent today. If you sing His glory throughout the night wholeheartedly, even the remaining one aspect can also be merged with the Divine. On this day, it is possible to

get full control over the mind by contemplating on God. Hence it is considered as an auspicious night. Unfortunately, in this Kali Age, people observe the vigil of Shivaratri by seeing cinema shows or playing cards all through the night. This cannot be called Shivaratri. Every moment of the night should be devoted to the thoughts of God and chanting of His name wholeheartedly. The chanting should come from within. This is what is called the reflection of the inner being.
March 4, 2000
The most important night of all nights is Shivaratri. It appears that this is the night, with appropriate vigilance and steadfast devotion we might get a leap of consciousness. What intensity and intention should we possess in order to gain this opportunity?
How much more dedication must we pour to make the event a memorable one? What extra vigilance and steadfastness that we need this time to be sharper and more devoted to the Lord of our hearts?
Today is the very auspicious day of Shivaratri. Shiva stands for auspiciousness. What is so special and auspicious about Shivaratri? Mind has 16 aspects, of which 15 are merged on this night and only one is remaining. Make proper use of this holy night by undertaking Sadhana with devotion and steadfastness. What sort of Sadhana you must undertake? Cleanse your heart of all evil qualities. Evil qualities arise in you because of the misuse of the senses. It is the root cause of all sins. Sadhana does not mean doing Japa and meditation. You should develop pure and divine feelings in you. Consider everyone as divine. Respect them. “All are Mine and I belong to everybody.” Once you have such firm conviction, you can enjoy immense happiness in life. There will


The Inner Significance of Maha Shivaratri

be no trace of worry in your life Have Firm Faith In God.
February 21, 2001
Contemplate on the negative qualities that we have and can we be better prepared to surrender this negative traits to Lord Shiva on that night.
Imagine a life without these negative qualities in our lives. Imagine the envisaged peace and love we would experience in the future, leading a life without these negative qualities. Anchor on the possible envisaged future and readily and willingly surrender these qualities.
Therefore it is said, Truth is the life of the tongue. Righteousness is the life of hands. Non- violence is the life of the heart. Shivaratri is celebrated to teach man the significance of these values. Shiva also stands for humility. A person with humility is one of Shivam (auspiciousness). On the other hand, a person with ego is verily a savam (corpse).
March 12, 2002
Swami has said that one of the first qualities of a seeker heading towards the light of truth is humility. Shiva stands for humility. The whole objective of the night is to be vigilant and absorb the qualities of Lord Shiva. Hence contemplate in your life the incidences that made you realize that your own ego manifested in your life which resulted in the spring of anger, hatred etc. Use this auspicious night to anchor back to our innate true nature and make a commitment to always manifest humility and make humility an integral part of one’s lifestyle.

In order to rise to the level of divine, satsang is very essential. “One thought, one vision, and one action.” These three must be unified. Shivaratri is celebrated to recognise the oneness of Divinity. When you do bhajans tonight, you will have only one thought. You will experience the bliss of bhajans. It is the nondual bliss. Why is it prescribed that you should do bhajans all through the night? Bhajan is done to control the mind and focus it on Divinity. Some people keep discussing worldly matters even while they are doing bhajan. Do not go anywhere near such people.
March 1, 2003
Alignment of thought word and deed. Take a vow not to engage in any other activities but remain silent and vigilant over your thoughts. Spent this night on constant contemplation. Contemplate on this very deeply and assess how many times did the mind did not obey this injunction that you have imposed on yourself. This is the first step towards meditation. To become vigilant over your thoughts . Use this night profitably to gain a mastery over your mind.
The Shiva-consciousness is allpervading. How can we limit it to a particular time and place?
Sarvatah Panipadam Tat Sarvathokshi Siromukham Sarvatah Sruthimalloke Sarvamavruthya
(With hands, feet, eyes, head, mouth and ears pervading everything, He permeates the entire Universe).
If we carefully analyze this aspect once, it will be obvious that all that we witness around is Shiva consciousness, and nothing else. Shiva does not mean a particular form with matted hair and tiger skin. Wherever we look and whichever form we come across


The Inner Significance of Maha Shivaratri

–whether a child or an elderly person, whether a woman or a man– in every form, the Shiva consciousness is resplendent. How can you describe that all-pervading Shivaconsciousness or limit it to a particular time and place? People display a particular dance form to portray the Shiva Tandava (the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva and Parvati). But this is only symbolic and does not portray the real Shiva Tandava. How can one describe the transcendental Shiva consciousness, which words cannot describe or the mind cannot comprehend?
March 9, 2005
This beautiful extract of the speech summarizes the conclusion of the experience. Our consciousness must graduate to a point in which we confine the term Shiva to a particular form, space and time. All whom we see must be seen with auspiciousness. All whom we encounter must be with auspiciousness. How can we evolve to the level of consciousness?

Develop virtues and lead an ideal life. Only then will Swami be pleased with you. If you make Me happy with your ideal conduct, I will confer much more happiness on you. Your happiness is My happiness. Wherever you go, earn a good name for yourself. Your character is very important for Me. Hence, make every effort to mould your character and be an ideal to others. This is the message I would like to give you on this auspicious day of Shivaratri. The day on which you experience eternal bliss is Shivaratri for Me. I shower My blessings on all of you on this holy night of Shivaratri. Sing the Divine Name throughout the night. To the extent possible, spend the night in contemplation of God. Only then can you experience divine bliss. You can even witness the manifestation of divine effulgence. Sing the Divine Name wholeheartedly. You may sing any name, but you should understand its inner meaning.
February 26, 2006
What new ideals can I form on this?

Significance of Lingam
As Bhagawan was continuing with His discourse, He started showing signs of uneasiness as the emergence of the Atma Lingam was imminent. He sat down and signalled the students to start singing Bhajans. After a few moments, a golden lingam emerged from Bhagawan’s mouth, and He held it aloft for everyone to see. As Bhagawan
was continuing with His discourse, He started showing signs of uneasiness as the emergence of the Atma Lingam was imminent. He sat down and signalled the students to start singing Bhajans. After a
few moments, a golden lingam emerged from Bhagawan’s mouth, and He held it aloft for everyone to see. During the process of Lingodhbhavam (the emergence of the lingam), the body, of course felt some strain.

The Inner Significance of Maha Shivaratri

However, I assure you that you need not be worried about it. Suffering for the body is quite common. It just comes and goes like passing clouds.
February 18, 2004
During the emergence of the Linga, Swami says the body goes through some strain. But Swami does not feel the pain. What is the pertinent lesson for us here?
There is the principle of Hiranyagarbha within every individual. Hiranya means gold. When gold is mixed with other metals such as copper, silver, brass, it loses its brilliance, value, and identity. Then it becomes impossible to ascertain whether it is gold or silver or brass or copper. Similarly, man’s heart, which is Hiranmaya, is losing its brilliance, value, and identity on account of its association with vishaya vasanas (sensual desires). Consequently, it is impossible to ascertain whether one is a human being or an animal or a devil or a demon.
February 14, 1999

This Principle of Love is Hiranyagarbha. This Hiranyagarbha is situated on the right side of the human body, with the physical heart is on the left. The physical heart on the left side has to be left one day or the other, in some circumstance or the other. Hiranyagarbha, located on the right side of the human body is always right. It is immortal, divine, eternal, and all-encompassing. It is present not only in human beings but also in birds, beasts, and all other living beings. The Vedas declare: “Eswara Sarvabhoothanam (God is present in all living beings),” “Isavasyam Idam Jagat (God pervades the entire cosmos).” Love is the reflection of Hiranyagarbha and originates from it. The three principles of reaction, resound, and reflection have also originated from Hiranyagarbha.
February 15, 1999
Love usually pours from the heart and here Swami is saying that if love poured from Hiranyagrabha, it will be immortal, divine, eternal and all encompassing. How can we cultivate this quality of love?

What is the significance of understanding this Hiranyagarbha?
How can the heart of man lose its brilliance and value by associating with sensual desires? Provide examples and evidence that this phenomenon is really taking place.
By our thoughts, words and deeds how will Swami judge us – human being or an animal or a devil or a demon?

How do we contemplate and ensure that the understanding of reaction, resound and reflection is embedded in all my day to day living activities?
What is the significance of Lingodbhava? God is known as Hiranyagarbha (one having a golden womb). The golden essence (rasa) present in His womb undergoes a vigorous churning process and assumes the shape of a Linga. Linga means a symbol or a sign. [Showing the golden Linga that He created in the beginning of His Discourse, Bhagawan said] As you can see, it has no distinctive features like eyes, face, etc. It has neither feet nor head. It can be placed in any manner. It symbolizes the formless Divinity. Leeyathe Gamyathe Ithi Lingaha. It is the basis of everything. The golden essence (rasa),


The Inner Significance of Maha Shivaratri

after assuming the shape of a Linga, emerges out. You need fire in order to melt gold. Similarly, the fire within melts the gold and moulds it into the shape of a Linga. Hence, the difficulty at the time of its emergence. It has to assume the form of a Linga and come out.
March 13, 2002
The linga is said to be the “formless” form. How can Linga be considered the basis of everything?
The process of manifesting the linga appears to be a deep inner message for us. How can we draw the significance of this message and relate to daily living?
This body is an Angamu (limb) of society. There exists a Sangamu (association of attributes) in Angamu, a Jangamu (individual soul) in Sangamu, and Lingamu (Paramatma) in Jangamu. Linga is Atma, which is our very life principle. That is why the Atma is considered to be of the form of Linga. A Linga has neither a beginning nor an end. It has no head or feet. Hence, when you perform worship, you can keep it anyway you like. The Atma has a name but not a specific form. Bliss is its true form.
March 1, 2003
Discovery of the self (Linga) appears to be the fundamental basis for our forming relationship with self, family and society. The answer to the world’s problems perhaps lies in the fact that all our association with the world is perhaps devoid from our connectivity with our Atmalinga. Contemplate on this fact and assess if this is the truth and if so how do we make this connectivity.

Purpose of Fasting
You must free yourself from all thought of food and concentrate on the thought of God. If thoughts of food bother you, if pangs of hunger disturb you, then, it is much better to eat and then start Sadhana. Upa-vasa, the word for the vow of fasting, means “living in the proximity of God” (Upa-near; vasa-living) and so, the vow is meant to liberate you from the worry and bother of preparing and eating food, so that you might dwell more intimately with God. Remember that the purpose of Fast is spending time in the contemplation of God and not simply punishing the body by cutting a meal or a series of meals. Vows, vigils, fasts, etc. along with all kinds of voluntarily imposed or involuntarily suffered hardships are to be looked upon as promoting spiritual strength, not as weakening physical stamina.
February 1966
You will be observing Shivaratri in the true spirit of the term only when you give up bad qualities and cultivate divine love. Merely observing vigil on Shivaratri is not sufficient. You have to contemplate on God incessantly. Many people claim that they have observed Jagarana (vigil) on Shivaratri night by playing cards. The fisherman goes on watching intently to trap the fish in the net. Can this be termed meditation? If one abstains from food on account of quarrel with one’s wife, can it be called fasting? No. Similarly, observance of sacred vigil on Shivaratri night is not achieved by playing cards the whole night. You should spend this night chanting the name of God, using the time in doing good deeds.
February 14, 1990
What is the purpose of fasting which is prescribed in most rituals? We can substitute abstinence due to other reasons but the real reason should be develop self-control. Sleep can be


The Inner Significance of Maha Shivaratri

overpowering and yet if we dedicate our efforts towards having spiritual stamina and strength to overcome sleep then we are exerting self-control. Is this really necessary? What benefits can be accrued by this effort?
What other activities can we undertake in preparation for this great night?

Unity in Diversity (Shiva’s Family)
In the divine family of Lord Shiva, there are only four members, namely, Lord Easwara, his consort Parvati, and the two sons, Subramanya and Vinayaka. This is an ideal family. There is no difference of opinion whatsoever either between husband and wife or the two brothers. There is perfect accord and harmony in their family. Mother Parvati and Lord Parameswara wanted to set an example to the whole world in the matter of a most harmonious, perfect and loving relationship between a wife and husband and between brothers. A family is the most important functional unit in the world. If the family is running on sound lines, the world will also run smoothly. If the unity among the family members suffers even to a small extent, the world will face the repercussions. Unity gives strength to the lives of the family members. Therefore, every family should strive for achieving unity and harmonious relationship among its members. Every family should strive to emulate the example of Lord Shiva’s family. Today, even if there are only two sons in a family, there is no harmony between them. Similar is the case of husband and wife. This is not the position in respect of Lord Shiva’s family. The vehicles they ride, the circumstances in which they function, the wealth they possess - in fact, in every aspect, the members of this divine family set an example to the whole world. For example, Lord Shiva’s vehicle is Nandi, the bull. Mother Parvati’s vehicle is the Lion. The younger son, Subramanya’s vehicle is the

peacock, whereas the elder son Vinayaka’s is the tiny mouse. They move about the whole world on such strange vehicles, which are antagonistic in nature, they but still lead a perfect and harmonious family life.
March 2, 2003
The night is a reminder to assess how harmonious is our own family. Dedicate some time and exert effort in order to gain greater harmony and peace in the family. The diverse family members with different animals can create havoc. It is a message that family harmony is vital and is necessary to have peace and love in the family. This night is also a night to reflect how much am I contributing to the harmony of my family. These questions can help:
Am I an ideal son or daughter?
How can I be a better son or daughter to my parents?
What efforts can I take before Shivaratri to settle any outstanding issues with my family members in order to achieve peace and love?
How can I be more humble and create peace among members of the family?
Can I amend rifting relationships and be a source of peace and happiness for others?


The Inner Significance of Maha Shivaratri

Never criticize God. Never deny Him. Everything is the manifestation of Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheswara. All are divine. This is what you have to learn on this auspicious day of Shivaratri. There is nothing other than Divinity in this world. The principle of Divinity present in a grain of sand and in a big laddu (a sweet) is one and same. Once you realize this truth, you become Brahma verily. You do not need to search for Brahma elsewhere. You are Brahma, you are Vishnu, you are Shiva, you are the very embodiment of the Divine Trinity. It is only your feeling that assumes the form of Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheswara. You are subjected to unrest and suffering because of your dualistic feeling. You perceive unity as diversity, instead of visualizing unity in diversity. Unity confers purity, which will in turn lead to Divinity. Hence, all of you must stand united. You belong to the human race. You belong to one family. Hence, you must conduct yourself like brothers and sisters. Absence of such spirit of unity will diminish purity and take you away from Divinity.
February 26, 2006

Lord Shiva has no special ornaments on His body. All his ornaments are the serpents that He wears round his neck, the matted locks, the crescent moon, the cool water of the Ganga and the vibhuti (holy ash) that he smears all over His body. This Divine form of Lord Shiva is beautifully portrayed thus:
Lo! Behold The Lord of the icy peak Crowned with crescent moon Glistening matted locks, Bedrenched by heaven descending Ganga Flaming eye in the forehead, Venomous potion - poison - Halahala purpling the beauteous neck Live bracelets of wriggling Serpents and a belt of Cobra holding up the Elephant hide, His sole garment. Pearly ash smearing the chest A blinding white spot of vermilion on the Forehead beside the searing eye Ruddy lips smeared by Fresh chewed betel, Diamond studded earrings Of purest gold, dancing like Stars twinkling in the sky, Vision negating form The fair person of the Lord Radiating Effulgence Divine. (Telugu Poem)

Why does Swami stress on the principle of Unity?
What does it mean when Swami says that our restlessness and suffering is due to dualistic feeling?

Lord Shiva has donned this divine form in order to teach a renunciant outlook to the world, including his consort, Parvati. His another habit is to beg for alms. Parvati, however, did not develop any aversion or disgust toward her husband, Lord Shiva, on account of His strange attire or habits. She did not run away from Him saying, “How can I lead a family life with such a person?” She faithfully followed Him, submitting herself to His wishes and happiness. Both of them lived in peace and harmony. Now about their sons. The vehicle of the younger son, Lord Subramanya, is the peacock, which is by nature an enemy of the serpents worn as ornaments by the father. The serpents begin hissing at the sight of a peacock. They hate each other. Similarly, the vehicle of the elder son, Lord Vinayaka, is the rat, which again is


The Inner Significance of Maha Shivaratri

a natural prey of the serpent. They are bitter enemies. In spite of such divergent natures, all the members of the family of Lord Shiva lived happily in perfect peace. Each member, while discharging their duty, provided happiness and joy to others.
March 2, 2003
Contemplate on each of the symbols and relate its significance to deriving happiness and peace in daily living.
This great night is a lesson for us to destroy our enmity and not our enemies. How can we share love with all those with whom we might have a misunderstanding?

forehead. These two are conflicting forces. Yet they maintained perfect harmony and set an example to the world. Thus, there was not even slightest difference of opinion or discordant note in the universal family of Lord Shiva. It is a perfectly ideal family, which the entire world should emulate. In sharp contrast to this situation, there is bitter hatred today between one person and another. Hatred is ruling all fields in the world. Even in the same family, there is discord between husband and wife, between parents and children, and between brothers. Lord Shiva and Mother Parvati by their own example are exhorting the entire world to shed hatred and enmity.
March 2. 2003

Even in the form of Lord Shiva Himself, there are apparent contradictions. He has Ganga on His head and the crescent moon in His matted locks. These are signs of coolness. In contrast to these, He has literally fire in the third eye in His forehead. Thus, there is cool water on His head and fire below on His

The principle of Ying-Yang is emphasized here where a correct balance of the opposites is necessary to create the right balance on earth. The principle of unity in diversity becomes apparent. Contemplate on the differences you encounter in people or events which annoys or disturbs you. This beautiful message tells us that we need to change our perspectives and include everyone as the family of Shiva. This reminds us that we need to experience unity in diversity.


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The Inner Significance of Maha Shivaratri