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Shiva and Shiva Ratri, an all-night vigil of chanting and prayer

Shiva, the destroyer, Brahma, the creator and Vishnu, the preserver, make up the supreme trinity of the Hindu pantheon. Shiva is known as the deity responsible for all forms of destruction. While this can be terrifying when one is attached to the world of form, Shiva, as the god of yogis, is also the destroyer of ego, that illusory entity that identifies with form. In reality, Shiva is the destroyer of all illusion; all that remains is Shiva’s true nature, the formless essence out of which all forms arise, but which is itself timeless and unchanging. As satyam, shivam, sundaram or truth, goodness and beauty, Shiva represents the most essential goodness. This is also our true nature.

Shiva Ratri, the fourteenth day of the lunar fortnight when the moon is waning and the sun is in the sign of Pisces, is the day when devotees of Shiva around the world gather in communal sadhana. This may take many forms including prayer, ritual, kirtan and the austerities of abstaining from food and sleep. These are all aimed at attaining the dispassion and peace that arise with the reduction of egocentric desires and attachments that keep us from knowing our true nature, the essence of Shiva.