The Nature of Mahasivaratri

Mahasivatri Upadesha. March 3, 2019


Mahasivaratri is right before the new moon signifying we're beseeching the blessings of God Siva to benefit our inner spiritual identity. The core of the soul is one with God; a treasure hidden within us, omnipresent consciousness and transcendent reality. You are the Atma. The devotees' path is to merge into the Self, God Siva. A guru is very helpful. "When the mind has resolved all of its differences through worship, penance, dharana, dhyana, then the inner, which is stillness itself, is known." Gurudeva.

Natchintanai of Yogaswami: Naan Yaar.

Master Course Trilogy, Dancing With Siva, Slokas 1, 28.

Self and Samadhi, Chapter 3

The Guru Chronicles, Chapter 26

Hinduism Today Publisher's Desk: Claiming Your Omnipresence.

Unedited Transcript:

Good evening everyone.

Still awake?

Talking a little bit about the nature of Mahasivaratri.

The focus of most Hindu festivals is on attaining the blessings of the deity to benefit our external life. Human nature what it is. Mothers are praying for their daughters to get married. Husbands are praying that their business enterprises will be successful. So we're going to the temple on most festivals and trying to get the deity's blessings to help our and other members of our family's lives go better, right? It's very common.

But Mahasivaratri's a different type of festival. Because we're beseeching the blessings of God Siva to benefit our inner life not our outer life. Has a different nature. So I'll just touch on what I went in more detail on last year and that's the idea of new moon and full moon. Thats, most Hindu festivals are right before the full moon, right? And the full moon is the time where the energy is such that it blesses your external life. Whereas Mahasivaratri is right before the new moon and the energy of the new moon is such that it's conducive to your inner life.

So we, one of our devotees wanted to put her house on the market. And I said: "You have to wait till after Sivaratri." Sivaratri is not a great time to put your house on the market. You need more external energy. Sivaratri's a good time to meditate about putting your house on the market but not to actually do it.

So those, those energies are called nivritti and pravritti. Pravritti is when energy is flowing out and benefits our similar festivals, festivals before the full moon. And nivritti is turning within. It's when energies naturally are withdrawing. So Gurudeva, for example, his Mahasamadhi was right before the new moon which makes sense, right? For a great yogi a great time of passing would be at a time when the forces are at maximum withdrawal mode. So that's good...

Well the importance of Mahasivaratri is underscored by two teachers in our own parampara. My understanding is that Paramaguru Yogaswami only allowed the festivals of Mahasivaratri and Ardra Darshana to be celebrated in the Sivathondan Nilayam on KKS road in Jaffna. So he's giving importance to just two festivals, they're both Siva festivals and they're kind of different. Mahasivaratri is going within and Ardra Darshana is more a getting the blessings at the full moon time for our external activities.

Came across an interesting perspective a few years ago to the group of followers, small group of followers of Kashmir Saivism I met that are in the Los Angeles area. And one of them explained that: "We're different than other Hindus cause we just focus on Siva and the only festival we celebrate is Mahasivaratri." So that's like a North Indian Saivite tradition, they're just totally focused on this festival, Mahasivaratri. And of course their guru is Swami Lakshmanjoo, now deceased, so there's no guru in that lineage anymore. He's quite a character. Have a quote from him. So he uses the word Bhairav which is short for Bhairava which is a form of Siva. And a protective form of Siva, very prominent, Kashmir Saivism to see shrines for Bhairava.

Says: "I am Bhairava and the entire world is my offshoot. (Oh!) His friend Siva is the only great God and all others are his manifestations."

So that's what Gurudeva was talking about, interesting that ties in with Gurudeva's audio, he was saying that: Siva, what does Siva create first? He's set by himself. He creates a God. That's his first creation. Then the Gods create their helpers and then Siva creates souls. So Siva creating God is exactly what he said.

"...Siva is the only great God and all others are his manifestations. God is the inner being. The entire world is his external being."

So as Gurudeva was saying in his tape there is external dance.

So the monastery takes a few phase astrology newsletters and one of them had a good description of the kind of practice that's appropriate for Mahasivaratri. This is current so from their point of view there's a few difficult months coming up.

"In anticipation of some possibly difficult months ahead we have the auspicious opportunity to do sadhana on Mahasivaratri. This Hindu holiday is seen as perhaps (qualifying it) the most auspicious day of the year to do spiritual practices... (We would say: Definitely is) ...meaning their benefits are greatly enhanced by the astrology as well as the collective prayer that will be happening."

Nicely said.

Gurudeva gives this description in Dancing with Siva:

"Mahasivaratri is the night before the new moon day in February-March. We observe it both as a discipline and a festivity, keeping a strict fast and all-night vigil, meditating, intoning Siva's 1,008 names, singing His praises, chanting Sri Rudram, bathing the Sivalinga and being near the vairagis (which means the swamis) as they strive to realize Parasiva." Which is the highest aspect of Siva, that's Absolute Reality.

So that's just a nice background on the nature of Mahasivaratri and terms of my particular theme, the theme is: Mahasivaratri is a good day to turn within and strengthen our inner spiritual identity. Inner spiritual identity. So, going to explain in the next section what that means.

"Many people start out in this life with just one identity which is the external identity. To think: 'I am a person who has a body, emotions, intellect and will. That's who I am'. If an individual focus on different aspects of this human external identity. Many people just focus on their bodies. How they look is who they are. Others identify with the emotions and memories of their mind and still others think they are the intellect. The reasoning part of the mind and the willpower to successfully accomplish their plans. Hinduism of course teaches that that is not all you are. You also have a spiritual identity, your soul, commonly referred to in Sanskrit as the Atma. Furthermore Hinduism stresses that this second identity, the soul is actually who you are."

I noticed this a few years ago when I thought I'd include it in this talk, I found it interesting that both Gurudeva and his guru Yogaswami start their respective writings stressing this very point. "You are the Atma!"

So Yogaswami's writings, they're collected up in a volume called Natchintanai which means good thoughts and it's a collection of both his songs, primarily his songs, but also some of his letters to actual people. This is Yogaswami's first letter which is entitled "Who am I?" of course in Tamil is Naan Yaar and reads:

"You are not the body, You are not the mind, nor the intellect, nor the will. You are the Atma. (The Atma) The Atma is eternal. This is the conclusion at which great souls have arrived from their experience. Let this truth become well impressed on your mind. But there is one thing to which you must give attention. Never swerve from the path of dharma. Let it be your practice to regard every life as the holy Presence of God. He is both within and without."

Then we have Gurudeva's first sloka from Dancing with Siva:

"Who Am I? Where Did I Come From?"

And the answer given is:

"Rishis proclaim that we are not our body, mind or emotions..."

Sound familiar? Sounds like they both coordinated on what to say.

"We are divine souls on a wondrous journey. We came from God, live in God and are evolving into oneness with God. We are, in truth, the Truth we seek. Aum."

So that's, that's a first idea. For those who are interested in spirituality or in religion they don't just have their external personal identity of body, emotions, mind and will; they have an inner spiritual identity as well. So we're dealing with two identities.

The next idea is that not only are we the soul and not the body mind, emotions and will but that the core of the soul is one with God. So this is different idea. The core of the soul is one with God.

Gurudeva states this idea in the 28th sloka of Dancing with Siva which asks the question:

"How Is Our Soul Identical with (God) Siva?"

He answers:

"The essence of our soul, which was never created, is immanent love and transcendent reality and is identical and eternally one with God Siva. At the core of our being, we already are That--perfect at this very moment. Aum."

And he explains further:

"At the core of the subtle soul body is Parasakti, or Satchidananda, immanent love; and at the core of that is Parasiva, transcendent reality. At this depth of our being there exists no separate identity or difference--all are One. Thus, deep within our soul we are identical with God now and forever. These two divine perfections are not aspects of the evolving soul, but the nucleus of the soul which does not change or evolve. From an absolute perspective, our soul is already in non-dual union with God, but to be realized to be known. We are That. We do not become That..."

So, Gurudeva's explaining a key concept which is that we're already one with God as omnipresent consciousness and transcendent reality. Nothing has to happen for this to be the case. It's just that its at the core or the nucleus of the soul and we're not able to go there. Most people aren't able to go there. So it's like a treasure hidden within us that we're not able to access at this moment in time. That's doesn't negate the fact that it's still there. We don't have to do anything to be one with God; we just have to find that part of us that's already one with God. Makes it sound easier, like a treasure hunt.

So I, interesting this next quote from Yogaswami. I started a talk about, think three days ago I started writing it. And I stuck in this next quote from Yogaswami. And this morning as is customary, I go over to the Yogaswami Shrine after the monks meditation is over and I open "Words of Our Master." And I opened to this very quote that I stuck in the talk. Say whoa! Must be important. It's so simple but it's so profound.

"You and I are one. Eternal bliss is already acquired."

That's his way of saying you're already one with God. He just says things so simply you might miss the point. He's just saying eternal bliss, ananda, is already acquired. And you and I are one. So if Yogaswami and you are one that means both of you are in the core or nucleus of the soul. That's the only way both of you can be one. And if you're there then eternal bliss is already there. Thought it was a nice, nice way of looking at that.

So the next quote from Gurudeva , it's the idea of the Sun and the Earth and a few celestial bodies. And in this case the Earth represents our external human identity and the Sun represents our internal spiritual identity. That's what we're looking at here.

"When one looks at the Earth and the Sun, one thinks more of the Earth than of the Sun, which is so far away..."

Right? So that's like, here we are. We think about our external human identity much more than we think about our inner spiritual identity and our inner spiritual identity feels like it's very very far away like the Sun. And that's the starting point for where lots of people are.

"...Traveling through space toward the Sun, the Earth fades into a distant speck and one contemplates the Sun as it looms larger and larger as he draws nearer and nearer. There is no intellect here, you see, for the intellect is connected to the Earth in its exterior ramifications of worldliness..."

That's a nice phrase. "...exterior ramifications of worldliness." That's our ordinary talk.

"The devotee's path is to merge into the Sun. The devotees path is to merge--in the totality of his awareness, willpower and life force--into the Self, God, Siva. Siva is the ancient name of the Self, God. Mystically, Si (the syllable Si) is the Absolute state. Va is the All-Pervading Self flowing through the mind..."

About those of us Sivaya Namah in the Panchakshara, so Si and Va are the first two letters of Sivaya Namah. Read that again:

"...Mystically, Si is the Absolute state. Va is the All-Pervading Self flowing through the mind..."

So those are the two aspects of Siva that also were at the core of our soul. Si--Va.

"...It is only when the devotee, through yoga disciplines under the direction of his satguru, traverses the thought strata of his mind that he begins to experience what he has been learning philosophically..."

So, that's pointing out there are two steps. First he has to, when it comes to Hindu truths, it's natural to first learn about them intellectually. At the core of the soul resides omnipresent consciousness and absolute reality. He's memorized it. Okay. So he hasn't experienced it, right? So Gurudeva's distinguishing, well first we intellectually learn it but then to actually experience it a guru is very helpful.

"... Then the Sun, his Siva the Self God, blooms paramount before his vision. Earthiness, worldliness, humanness, instinctiveness fade into a speck within his memory patterns; and like the astronaut hurtling through space toward the Sun, awe-struck as to the impending annihilation of the remnants of his identity, the devotee piercing his inner depths awes at the magnificence of Siva."

Nice inspiring quote. But to try and bring that into a more practical statement, that's more an inspirational statement, also we're saying we have two identities. External personal identity and an internal spiritual identity which is the soul and the essence of the soul. And when we start out with our practices, you know, we could take some numbers, say we're 90 percent identified with our external human nature and 10 percent identified with our internal spiritual nature, tends to be about right for someone who's getting going. They don't [1179 sec...??] otherwise they wouldn't be motivated to practice.

Well the goal of Hindu practice is to gradually shift these percentages. So that the spiritual identity increases and the human identity decreases. So you start out 90-10, 85-15, 80-20 [1203sec...??] these very numbers. You're increasing the inner percentage and decreasing the outer percentage.

So there's a quote from Gurudeva on that very point:

"When the mind has resolved all of its differences through worship, penance, dharana (concentration) dhyana (meditation), then the inner, which is stillness itself, is known. Then the inner is stronger than the outer..."

Oh! That's like 55 on the inside, 45 on the outside. 45/55 split. So the inner is stronger than the outer, that's good. That's kind of a tipping point. When the inside manages to become stronger than the outer then the outer takes on a different, what would you say? the outer is handled in a more contemplative way.

Gurudeva explains this point.

"...It is then easy to see every other person going through what has to be gone through during his or her particular stage on the path. Opposites are there, but no opposites are seen. This is why it is easy for the wise--made wise through spiritual unfoldment--to say, 'There is no injustice in the world. There is no evil, no sin.' "

And, I have a quote from Yogaswami to conclude this section:

So for those of you who don't know, Yogaswami, our Paramaguru in his latter years had a broken hip. He was playing with the cow and the cow got rambunctious and knocked him over. As cows can do. Cows, our cows have the monks and are knocked over sometimes and it's very scary. The cow up there, sitting on the ground.

So, he was in the hospital for a long time getting his hip repaired and cause he was older it never healed to the point where he could walk. So he was kind of in a wheelchair and you see some pictures of him, he looked disheveled sometimes, his hair was all up. This was how he looked, really put together and kind of fiery. Ten years before or so.

So this is a statement he makes in that point.

"This (meaning Swami's illness) is a gift..."

Okay, he's ill and he says it's a gift. But why is it a gift?

"...Karma must be gone through..."

So, it's a gift because it's a way of going through karma. Then he makes the point which ties in.

"...I have no connection whatever with this body..."

So he's probably 95/5. He's as far identified with the inner as you can go still have a physical body. So he's just hanging in there. "I have no connection whatever with this body."

So it's a beautiful statement which shows what a great soul can do in terms of the inner realities that all he thinks he is. You have to still have a body but doesn't really relate. Doesn't really relate to the answer to the question: "Who am I?"

See how where we are we on time. Okay, three more minutes. Okay, it's got time for two quick points.

Well how do we change the percentage so the inner becomes greater and the outer becomes lesser in our sense of who we are. Well the answer is here:

"Every time we connect strongly with our inner spiritual identity we increase our identity with it and decrease our identity with the external human nature."

So strongly. So, for example on Sivaratri we have a strong inner connection with our inner self, that's going to lessen our identity with our outer self and increase our identity with our inner self. That's what happens. So, by strong connections we automatically change this relationship of who we think we are and we become more the inner and less the outer.

So Mahasivaratri is an excellent time to accomplish this as was explained at the beginning.

And then, a quote from Yogaswami that I used in a recent "Publisher's Desk" called: "Claiming Your Omnipresence." If you haven't read it, "Claiming Your Omnipresence" was January I think? Think it's in the January issue. Kind of an outlandish title, trying to get attention. Claiming your omnipresence. Why not?

So Yogaswami's quote points out part of the challenge.

He said:

"I am everywhere... (He's omnipresent consciousness, right? That's pretty good.) You are everywhere, but you don't believe it."

So we have to convince ourselves that it's really true before we can find it, right? It's natural for human nature to kind of say: "Oh, I'm so flawed; I did this, I did that, I just couldn't possibly be divine being on the inside and then the quote. I couldn't possibly be identical with God; you don't know what I've done."

But it's true for everyone. That's the point is we can't let any negativity that resides in our external nature about who we are. The gate, this great truth that resides within our soul. We are already one with God in terms of omnipresent consciousness and transcendent reality.

Thank you very much. Time's up.

Aum Namah Sivaya.

Photo of  Gurudeva
Find the permanency within you that has never changed through the ages, and you will realize that change is only in the ever-changing mind.
—Gurudeva