Why do we celebrate Shivaratri?
Hari Poorna Bhakta Shiva at The Ashram
Shree Peetha Nilaya, 04 March 2019
Gurudev gave an inspiring satsang on Maha Shivaratri morning right after the abhishekam on Hari Bhakta Poorna Shiva inside the main entrance to Shree Peetha Nilaya. He spoke about why we actually celebrate Shivaratri and why Shiva is so important.
Jai Gurudev, everyone and Happy Shivaratri!
So, Shivaratri actually, the word ‘ratri’means night, you know, darkness. Why do we celebrate Shivaratri? Because you see, every month there is a Shivaratri. This is Maha Shivaratri. This night symbolises the darkness of the mind. You see on Shiva’s head there is always the moon, no? The crescent. So, that crescent itself symbolises the mind with which we understand things. It is the same mind which engrosses you into Maya, but it’s the same mind which elevates you when you have bhakti and surrender.
So you see, we talk about the mindless state and Shiva represents that mindless state. When we look at Him, He is always in deep meditation, no? Someone who is mindless, who doesn’t have a mind, on whom shall He meditate? So, He is meditating upon Sriman Narayana. That’s why Lord Shiva here is called Poorna Bhakta Shiva, which means the ultimate devotee of the Lord. Bhagavan Shiva and Sriman Narayana have a great relationship together. There is this verse which says ‘Vaishnava Naam Yatha Shambhu’ which means Lord Shiva is the greatest Vaishnava. Very often people may think we are Vaishnavas, so why do we have this big deity of Lord Shankar here, no? Why do we celebrate Shivaratri? But Krishna Himself said, ‘Those who are dedicated to My devotees are dearest to Me.’ So, Bhagavan Shiva symbolises that complete surrendered mind, that mind which is always focused upon the Supreme Reality; that’s what He calls people to focus upon. He is not focusing upon an emptiness, He is not focusing upon the void which many people think about. He is focusing upon the Supreme Lord. And this is the ultimate reality for the mind to focus upon. It’s a reminder that our mind, even if we transcend it, there is always a little bit that stays. That mind which is surrendered is the crescent on His head, and that mind is focused only on the Feet of the Lord Himself. So, like I said, Sriman Narayana and Bhagavan Shiva have a great intimate relationship. Every time the Lord descends upon the Earth, Lord Shiva is always eager also to come, either to have His blessing or to manifest to serve Him. Like when He came in the form of Rama, Lord Shiva came in the form of Hanuman.
The ultimate reality for the mind is to focus upon the Supreme Lord.
There is this beautiful story, I think I told the story once, when Lord Krishna incarnated. You see, there were many demons which Kamsa sent to kill Lord Krishna, but he was very unsuccessful. So, after 12 days, Lord Shiva decided, ‘I should go down. It’s not often that the Supreme Ultimate Lord Himself incarnates on Earth, so I must have His Darshan, I must go to see Him.’ So, first He decided, ‘Okay, if I go like I am, you know, it will be – you know, everybody will recognise me.’ It would have been obvious that Lord Shiva had left Kailash and came to have Darshan of Lord Krishna. So, He took the form of a brahmin. Then He was not feeling too happy about it, you know, even if He disguised Himself as a brahmin. He said, ‘He is the Supreme Lord and He knows who I am. Let me go and worship Him as I am, as how I look.’
So, He appeared in front of the door of the house of Nanda and Yashoda and asked for alms.
He was asking for alms, and of course, Mother Yashoda came, ‘I will give you rice, I will give you whatever you need.'
Lord Shiva said, ‘I don’t want anything. My wife is Annapurna, I have enough of it. You know, She feeds me enough. So, I just want one thing. I want to see your son.’
Hearing that, Mother Yashoda said, ‘Not possible. He is small and I don’t want to bring Him out.’ In her mind she was thinking that many demons have come and tried to kill her baby, but by Divine providence, well, she didn't know that He is the Supreme Lord Himself. So she was being safe. So, again Lord Shiva said, ‘I don’t want anything. I only want your child. I want only to have a glimpse of your baby.’
Imagine somebody insisting so much, you say no to that person and then that person who has a snake around his neck and matted hair like that, you know, and all white, covered with ash on his body, and coming in front of you—I’m sure you would not show your baby happily to that person. So, in spite of Him asking several times, she refused.
But you see, when a devotee has that eagerness inside, that strong desire, not for the world, not for Maya, but the strong desire to see the Lord, how can they refuse him? Of course, the Lord also is very tricky sometimes. He likes to test His devotees, because He likes to make them His object of everything, you see? Even He wanted to test Lord Shiva, ‘How long do you want Me? Will you just get upset and leave? Or no matter what, will you only want Me?’
So, then Lord Shiva said to Yashoda, said, ‘Mother, you are refusing me the Darshan. I am leaving right now, but you will call me afterwards.’
So, the moment Lord Shiva left, baby Krishna started crying nonstop. You see, even He fails. When someone has such devotion towards Him, even the Supreme Lord, as supreme as He can be, He fails in front of that bhakti of Lord Shiva. So, after she tried everything, baby Krishna would not stop crying. You see, just as a devotee has this deep longing for the Lord, the Lord also has deep a longing for His devotee. First the Lord said, ‘Okay, I will test you.’ And then the devotee said, ‘I also will test you.’ But not in the same manner. Because when the Lord tests, He stands always by you. But when the devotee has this longing and says, ‘Okay, You are mine, you know, I will play the game You are playing with me. You desire me, I desire You also. You want to keep me away? Okay, fine, I will go away.’
So, like He said to Mother Yashoda, ‘You will call me.’ She tried and she was unsuccessful. Then there was one sakhi, one devotee. She came and said to Mother - actually it was Parvati Herself in the disguise of one old lady called Lalitha – she said to Yashoda, ‘Remember when I went to Kailash for pilgrimage? I told you about this great yogi which I met.’ You see, funny enough, even Yashoda could not recognise Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva came with all His attributes: trishul in the hand, matted hair, crescent on the head, you know, just as how you see Him, but even Yashoda could not see Him; she could not recognise Him being Lord Shiva. Why? Because she was so absorbed into the Madhurya Bhav, you know, that sweetness of the parent's love for her child, that it was very difficult for her to perceive even Lord Shiva in front of her. So, when Parvati came in the form of Lalitha and said, ‘For sure you have let somebody go away from the house empty-handed.’ You know, in the Hindu tradition you should never let somebody who has come to ask for alms go away empty-handed. ‘So, by your offending, by doing this offence, I think that’s what the baby is reminding you of.’
So, Yashoda said, ‘Yes, there was this baba.’ And she described how He looked. And then of course Mother Parvati went to look for Shiva, and He was sitting on the bank of the Yamuna waiting for the Lord to call Him.
So, finally when He came, Yashoda gave baby Krishna to Lord Shiva. The moment He held baby Krishna, Krishna stopped crying. He started playing, laughing, smiling with Lord Shiva. It was strange for Yashoda to see that. Then she was relieved, you know, she felt that it was a blessing that this sadhu was giving to Lord Krishna. Of course, in the mother’s eyes, He is still the baby. So, then she said to the sadhu, Lord Shiva, ‘You can’t go home empty-handed. So, I will give you some butter.’ Then something clicked in the mind of Shiva, ‘Oh, yes, Parvati wanted to come, but because of the journey she said that I should bring some butter from Vraj for her.' He said, ‘Okay, I will bring it.’ But Shiva was so much in ecstasy after meeting Lord Krishna, that only Krishna was in His mind. You know, Krishna loves butter so much that, on the way to Kailash, without realising it, Lord Shiva ate all the butter.
So, upon Him coming home, Parvati asked, ‘Where is my butter?’ Then He realised, ‘Oops!’ He gave the pot to Parvati. Then He realised, ‘Oops, there is no butter in it.’ He said, ‘I ate it.’ Parvati became very upset. But as He was in deep ecstasy and not realising what He was doing, the merciful Lord refilled the pot itself so that Mother Parvati could also enjoy that bliss.
So, this is only one instance. And then of course, you know the story when the Maha Raas happened how Lord Shiva disguised Himself and took the form of a gopi, but He was so huge, you know, and with lots of muscles; how would you hide that? Even wearing the sari, it would show!
So, He came and Lord Krishna accepted Him. Even Balarama, His own brother, was not accepted. But Shiva was accepted. How is this relationship between Them, you know? This is what single-pointed devotion is. You know, that focus that, ‘The Lord is my everything’. People say, ‘Yes, I love You, God’, you know, ‘You are my everything.’ But it’s not true. Your 'everything', you are always focused only on things which you hold dear to you. That’s what you love. Of course, you say you love God because that’s what people have to say, but that intense longing for Him the way the saints, the way the true devotees of the Lord long for Him, that’s what makes the Lord visible for His devotees.
It is through that devotion that the Supreme Lord becomes one reality.
That’s why Krishna praises bhakti. It is through that devotion that the Supreme Lord becomes one reality. When we look in Vraj, for example, Lord Shiva took the form of the gatekeeper of Vraj. So, He is protecting the four sides, you know. In Vrindavan He is called Gopeshwar; He is enjoying the Leela like the gopi. In Mathura He is Bhooteshwar, He is like a ghost. In Kamyavan, He is Kameshwar, Lord of Love. In Nandagaun, He is Nandeshwar. Govardan, He is Chakreshwar, the One who holds the chakra also. Here Shiva doesn’t hold a chakra, but when He is associated with Sriman Narayana, He takes the same aspect as His object of focus, His Beloved one.
You see, when you are so engrossed in remembrance of your Beloved (I’m not talking about your beloved physically, you know, that doesn’t mean much) when you are so focused on Guru and God, you start to transform into their image. You can see very often in those who have the single-pointed devotion. In India you will see the disciples (here I’m using the word disciple because only a disciple reaches to that level) start to really look like their Guru. Once we were in Tara Peeth, and we went to have Darshan of Goddess Tara, then nearby there was the ashram of Anandamoyi Ma. So, I said, ‘Look, we are passing there, we must have Darshan of Ma also, no?' So, we went there and there was one lady in particular, she was a disciple of Anandamoyi Ma. She was very small, she grew up with Mother. Funny, she was like a copy of Anandamoyi Ma. There is no relationship between them. At first I thought, I even asked her, ‘Are you her niece or a family member related to her?’ She said, ‘No, I don’t have any blood relation to mother, but mother is my everything.’
And such was her devotion that she looked exactly like her.
So, this is what happens when the mind is fully absorbed into the Lord Himself. Like Meerabai said, you are drenched in His colour. Holi is about that, no? You are drenched into His Love so that you don’t exist, it’s only Him that exists. And that is the reality. When we look at Lord Shiva sitting in deep meditation, not aware of anything outside but engrossed in His deep remembrance of His beloved Lord Sriman Narayana, then they look alike. Look at Him and look at Krishna, is there any difference? If Krishna had matted and tied hair, He would look like him. They are the same colour, the colour of infinity. And they play the roles so well. Sometimes He is the bhakta. Sometimes the Lord shows how He Himself has great devotion to Lord Shiva and praises Lord Shiva, you know. Like Rama Avatar, He praised Lord Shiva, and did great prayers to Lord Shiva. In the mind, you would say, ‘Okay, yes, they are similar and he is a bhakta, but why should He worship His devotee?' But He is not worshipping His devotee. He is worshipping this bhakti inside of them.
So even the Lord Himself takes that aspect of bhakti to show to humanity that one’s mind must be fully absorbed in the remembrance of Him, no matter what, you know. If you have that Grace, if you have that chance, you should not lose that, because you don’t know when that chance will come again in your life or lives. If ever it comes. So, that’s why Lord Shiva, on this day of Shivaratri, reminds all that no matter how dark this world can be, never let your mind deviate from the Feet of the Lord. No matter what comes on your way, never let that mind wander left and right. And we pray to Lord Shiva that such bhakti may awake inside of everyone’s mind because it is through the mind that you go through life, no? It is the mind itself that enjoys the goodness and not so good things.
Shivaratri is a reminder that no matter how dark this world can be, never let your mind deviate from the Feet of the Lord.
So, if that mind is centred in the Ultimate Supreme, like He is fully absorbed into that Supreme Reality, what can deviate one from that path? Nothing. But very often, even sometimes devotees of Narayana, create offence by saying, ‘Oh, you know, Lord Shiva, we should not pray to Lord Shiva, because He is tamas guna’, you know, He symbolises that tamasic nature. When we look at Him, He is surrounded by the ghosts, goblins and so on, you know. So, we see that He is a symbol of that. But you see, tamasic, rajasic, sattvic – they all go together. They are all allocated; each one has their own duty to do, you know. And also, Lord Shiva is doing His duty.
You know King Daksha Prajapati who is the father of Sati. We see how he offended Lord Shiva so that Lord Shiva took the fierce form of Virabhadra and killed him by cutting his head off. But even Daksha, being such a great devotee of Sriman Narayana, was so focused on Sriman Narayana, he didn’t want to get involved with Lord Shiva. When Sati said, ‘I want to marry Lord Shiva', he was shocked! He said, ‘How can you marry a person like that?’ So, being such a great devotee, when he offended even a greater devotee, you know, of course, the Lord Himself doesn’t interfere. He said, ‘You must be punished, and you will be punished for that.’ That’s why, when Lord Shiva took the form of Virabhadra and cut off the head of Daksha Prajapati, Sriman Narayana didn’t interfere, and said, ‘Here, punish him, he deserves it.’ Why? Because of the pride.
Because, you see, very often spiritual pride awakens in devotees also. And that’s why we have to guard ourselves, because when we are very near to the Guru, we are very near to God, we think that we know Him. And this is a mistake that one makes. How can you know the One who is infinite? So, Daksha being so proud about himself he created that offence by offending Lord Shiva. That’s why when He came afterwards, Sriman Narayana said to Lord Shiva, ‘Please, bless him, you know, he is a great devotee and he realises his mistake' and he asked for forgiveness to Lord Shiva, realising that, between Lord Shiva and Sriman Narayan, there is no difference, because Shiva lives in the heart of Narayana and Narayana lives in the heart of Shiva. So then how can They be different?
Such bhakti unites your hearts together, you know. When the heart is so full of that love and longing, there is this unity of the lover and the Beloved. And this is the eternal relationship that exists when He calls all of you to be devotees. It’s not random. It’s a reminder only that you belong to Him. But you must continuously remind yourself of that. Otherwise pride, the ego, Maya, will take you away from Him. And then there will be such a distance that it will take even thousands or millions of lives to catch up.
Note one thing: He is endless, He is timeless, He is ultimate and He is eternally patient, He will wait for you. But when Grace comes and knocks at your door, embrace it, don’t reject it. Don’t be like Daksha Prajapati. Even being a great devotee, when the Grace of having Lord Shiva Himself as a son-in-law came to knock at his door, his pride, his ego was so great. Not that the Lord has to take a fierce form to remind you. Very often He does, you know. Why? Because He loves you dearly and He wants you fully for Him. That’s why He takes a certain aspect in your life, you know. He will take an aspect to remind you that you belong to Him as He belongs to you.
So, I wish you all a happy Shivaratri and, like Lord Shiva’s mind is always absorbed in the remembrance and the Leela of the Lord, may your mind also be completely soaked in His Love. May your heart awaken in His longing, you know, and may your body be eternally in service to Him. And here I’m saying may your body be eternally in service because, when you reach that level, like I have explained earlier, you have a spiritual body, and that spiritual body resembles Him; all have become Vishnu. So, by His Grace, may your devotion to Sriman Narayana, may your devotion to the Lord, becomes single-pointed and may your heart be consumed with real Love.