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The Story Of Shivratri

Acharya Dr. K.B. Subbarayudu

Sri Maha Shivaratri is celebrated on the 14th night of the Krishna Paksha of Phalguna month and this year it falls on Friday 12th of February. On this auspicious day, devotees observe fasting and keep a vigil all night.

What does Shiva ratri festival mean?

There is a story: Once upon a time Brahma the creator of the world and Vishnu the sustainer of the world were having an argument regarding who was greater. Brahma said he is greater then Vishnu and Vishnu said he is the greatest in the world. To destroy their ego, a stone we call – Lingam, come out from the earth between Brahma and Vishnu and grew very high. Brahma and Vishnu were both are confused and they were afraid. They stopped fighting about who was superior and they decided that they would settle the argument by finding out who could find the beginning or end of the lingam. Who ever was successful would become superior in the world. Brahma went up into space following the lingam and Vishnu went down into the earth to find out where this lingam was coming from. Vishnu came up from earth and said that he did not find a beginning point of the lingam. Brahma came back from space and said that he found how tall lingam was, because he caught a flower falling down from lingam’s head in the middle of the way.

A few seconds later a voice came from the lingam saying that Brahma is a liar, because he did not reach the lingam’s head. Shiva came out from the lingam and said to Brahma that due to his lying he would not be worshipped by people and no temple would be built for him. That is why there are no famous temples for Brahma and why nobody on earth worships him .

The story illustrates that a liar cannot get respect and having an ego is not good. Shiva states that anyone who worships this lingam form of me, pleases me and I destroy the darkness of ignorance and give light of knowledge and prosperity.

The other name of Shivaratri is Jnana ratry enlightened night. Shastra said “Jnanam Mahehwaraat icched” Knowledge comes only from Maheshwara. That is why we celebrate the birth day of Shiva as the lingam form. This is the first night of the Shiva Lingam being born on earth. There are twelve Swayambhu lingas, which appeared on different occasions and different places, 11 in India and one in Nepal. They are called Dwadasha jyotirlingas. Otherwise Shiva has no birthday, because he is eternal and he did not have an avatar like Vishnu has avatars. Shiva ratri is a very special day and at night people stay awake and do pooja, meditation and mantra japa of “Om Namah Shivaya”.

Why do people do Abhishekam with water and milk etc on Shiva lingam?

There is another story that answers this question:-

Shiva consumed the poison of this world, which emerged during the churning of the milky ocean. He held the poison in his throat to prevent the poison from entering his system but also to relieve the world of this misery. The poison caused severe burning all over Shiva’s body. Shiva’s devotees were distraught by his poison fire and attempted to reduce the burning by pouring milk, honey, sugar, yogurt, ghee and water through out the night. Shiva was very happy and blessed all his devotees.

Ok! We under stood these stories but we don’t understand why Shiva appeared as a lingam?

Yes, you are right and this is very important question. Everyone must know the secret of the stories.

This is the secret:-

The creator Brahma had five heads but after some time he lost one head and now he has only four heads. Vishnu always has one head except for vishwa roopa time in the Maha Bharata. Shiva appeared as lingam which has no limbs at all. Every day we are passing through three states, waking, dreaming and sleeping. In the wakeful state we experience gross forms of the world through the five senses. In the dream state we experience the same world in the subtle form through the one mind. During sleeping state we don’t have experience of any form at all, but only the darkness of ignorance which was experienced in the sleeping state. After awaking we say “I slept very well, I did not know any thing.” This is due to the lack of mind. There is only ignorance which is the cause of all our problems like birth death etc. How long ignorance exists in our life. Again in the morning we see our world, again we sustain in dream subtle world and in the sleeping state we destroy our worldly forms by going into deep sleep and staying in ignorance. This is a circle of life and we are worshipping life circle Gods as a Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar.

Shiva is lord of the fourth state which is called turiya, enlightened state. “Shantam Shivam Advaitam chaturtham manyante sa Atma”. When we worship Shiva lingam, Shiva appears from lingam in the form of knowledge of light and the darkness of ignorance finishes forever.

The essence of this discussion is that Atman or Brahman is the subtlest form among the subtle things in the world. From Atman or Brahman creation happened which is called the world. Upanishad said “Yato va imani bhutani jayante” etc. Now we need to go back to reach Brahman through the Gross form of the world to the subtle form of Brahman. That is why the Creator Brahma has four heads he is in the wakeful state, then Vishnu has one head, dreamful state and Shiva lingam has no limbs, sleeping state. After that when we deeply meditate on the Shiva lingam, Shiva appears from the lingam, then the lingam also disappears. Shiva is the embodiment of knowledge of light. When light comes darkness disappears . In this same way, when knowledge is obtained, ignorance destroys itself. This is the purpose of pooja ,Abhshekam, yoga and meditation. We need to practice our meditation from the gross from to subtle form like Sthula Arundhati nyaya logic. At the end of a marriage ceremony the priest shows the Arundhati star to the couple to obtain blessings for a long family life. Vashishta star is the gross form and Arundhati is the subtle form. It is very hard to see the Arundhati star. That is why the priest tells the couple to concentrate first on vasishta star and after that he says that near the Vasishta star there is an Arundhati, a small twinkling star you can see. This is the secret of Hindu mythology. There are some Gods that have five heads (Gayatri) some have four heads (Brahma), some have three heads (Dattatreya) some have two heads, one head, and no head.

We can worship and practice every day and night Shiva to destroy our ignorance and poverty and to bring knowledge and prosperity into our life. Shiva is a very kind God among all Gods. That is why all beings, humans, gods and demons worship Shiva. Shiva’s family is balanced one.

May Shiva bless you and your family and bring balance and peace in your family life.

You can join  the celebration of this auspicious day, click here for more information. Five Shiva Pujas which includes Linga Abhisheka (offering milk, water, flowers etc to the shiva lingam) and Aarthi will be done through out the night. Stay for all five pujas or just the first one, but we sincerely hope to see you there. If you wish to participate in the puja or perform abhisheka, please contact us in advance.

(Acharya Professor Subbarayudu K.B., Ph.D, well known in the Boston area, is a leading scholar in Vedanta and Sanskrit Literature. Acharya Prof. K.B. Subbarayudu, Ph.D Center for Vedic Sciences 1 Trapalo Road, Belmont, MA 02478. Email:centerforvedicsciences@yahoo.com Phone: 617-232-0456 Cell:617-999-5612 )

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