Good Evening everyone.
Happy you could all come and worship with us tonight on this auspicious Mahasivaratri.
Gurudeva gives a description of Mahasivaratri Festival in the "Dancing With Siva" which says:
"We observe Siva's great night by chanting Siva's names, singing his praise, chanting Sri Rudram, bathing the Sivalingam..."
And of course these activities are common to all temples that observe Mahasivaratri and Gurudeva adds two more activities, which aren't always present. one of which is meditation. And then if you're in a monastery you get to do the last one which is: Being near the monks as they strive to realize Parashiva, the transcendent aspect of God.
So those are the activities that are traditionally observed on Mahasivaratri. So stated simply, the essence of the celebration of Mahasivaratri is to have a deeper experience of God than is normally available to us. To have a deeper experience because of the group intensity of worship, because of the auspiciousness of the day. You can put in the same amount of effort on different days and have different results just because of the different auspiciousness of the day. It's, all days are not equally auspicious for the same kind of worship. So, this is a day that's the most auspicious for this kind of worship. And we have the group power helping us go deeply within.
And we received a number of e-mails today from different devotees around the world, one from a family of devotees in Mauritius and they, wishing us an auspicious Mahasivaratri. And they captured the spirit quite nicely in saying; "We and Siva are the same. He dwells in each of us."
So there's an interesting story about Yogaswami that includes a reference to Mahasivaratri that I thought I'd share. Yogaswami is our guru's guru or paramaguru. The story goes like this.
"When Yogaswami began living in the Columbuthurai Ashram he would spend the first three days of a week in meditation. He would rest on the fourth day; again he would spend the last three days in meditation."
That's quite a schedule, right? Six out of seven days meditating.
"Even after the devotees began to arrive in great numbers he would be wrapped in meditation at will. On Sivaratri Day it was his custom to meditate through the night."
So we thought of trying that this year. Let's just follow Yogaswami's pattern and meditate through the night but, the monks talked me out of it.
They said: [laughs] "No, no, no, we have to follow our regular pattern where we start at 7:30 and we end around 12:15 or so. We have to do that."
So I said: "OK. Maybe next year."
So that's Yogaswami's pattern.
"On Sivaratri Day it was his custom to meditate through the night. A few devotees, who had the good fortune to be with Swami at these times, saw a light shine where Swami's body should have been. Those devotees who saw this shining light for a few seconds, believe that this was the Divine Light that shone from his blemishless form and was his true form. Even those who could not see this shining light were amazed at the erect still form of Swami, seated like a statue without any movement. That golden form sat as still as his umbrella in the corner. On one occasion, when Swami sat like a pillar, a crow came flying, rested on his head for a while and flew away."
Meaning he was so still the crow didn't realize it was a person. Thought it was an umbrella. You know, an object. So, that's the crow.
Yogaswami would also stress the importance of meditation to his devotees and formulated a key teaching or Mahavakyam -- Mahavakyam just means great saying -- to help them meditate which is: "Know thyself." or in Tamil "Tannai ari."
Here are some of Yogaswami's sayings on knowing thyself.
"You must know the self by the self. Concentration of mind is required for this."
"You lack nothing. The only thing you lack is that you do not know who you are."
"Truth is not encompassed by books and learning. You must know yourself by yourself. There is nothing else to be known."
And that's a very important line and it's something that Yogaswami emphasized and Gurudeva emphasized often: the distinction between the knowledge of what something is and the experience of it. So, sometimes the two get confused. So, we study "Merging With Siva" and we learn that within us. in meditation, we can see a bright clear white light within our heads. So we learn: OK that's there; there's a bright light within us. But that's quite different than actually experiencing the light. So, to know the light is there is good but to experience it is even better. That's the point. So, in our tradition, called Guru Parampara, first we learn about something and then in many cases we're supposed to take it a step further and actually experience it, not just stop with learning about it.
Gurudeva began taking his monks to Jaffna in 1969 and Yogaswami, of course, had passed away in 1964. So the monks didn't have the opportunity of personally meeting Yogaswami. But we were fortunate in that Yogaswami's disciple Markanduswami, was living in a hut outside of Jaffna and when visited would share freely Yogaswami's teachings. So, in this way, many of our senior monks who went there at that time, had the opportunity to visit him and listen to his explanations of Yogaswami's teachings.
Markanduswami liked to stress the teaching that Yogaswami only gave us one work to do and would often say: "Yogaswami didn't give us a hundred odd works to do, only one. Realize the Self yourself or Know thyself or find out who you are. You can't find the truth in a thousand books or by listening to people talk; you must realize the Self by yourself."
What exactly does it mean to know thyself?
Yogaswami himself explains this beautifully in one of his letters called "Who am I?" " Naan yaar?"
He says: "You are not the body, you are not the mind nor the intellect nor the will. You are 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."
This exact thought appears in the First Sloka of Gurudeva's work, "Dancing with Siva."
The First Sloka is entitled: "Who am I? Where did I come from?" and states:
"Rishis proclaim that we are not our body, mind or emotions. 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."
Yogaswami and Gurudeva are both explaining that in the great saying "Know Thyself", Self refers to the Atma, our internal spiritual nature, our immortal soul. They are also pointing out that many people think that they are the body, 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 will power to successfully accomplish their plans. But of course, the idea is, we are deeper than that. We are a spiritual being.
So, on this Mahasivaratri we hope your worship of Lord Siva is a profound one, perhaps taking you into your inner self deep enough that at least for a few minutes there is no difference between you and Lord Siva.
As our e-mail from the Mauritius devotee stated: We and Siva are the same. He dwells in each of us.
Aum Namah Sivaya
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