ŚHIVA RĀTRI – Night of Śhiva
Bābājī tells us the aim of Śhiva Rātri is dispassion. Through dispassion, the many-coloured veils we perceive our world through, begin to fall away and then comes the dawning of “real” knowledge.
By fasting, kīrtan, prayers and the yajña ceremonies, we focus our concentration and devotion towards that aim. Through meditation, the tendency of the mind to go outward is sacrificed. Through kīrtan – a form of prāṇāyāma – we purify and calm the mind. In pratyāhāra, withdrawing the senses from the world, we sacrifice our mind’s natural inclination to follow any thoughts as they arise. By staying awake through the night, we are sacrificing bodily comfort and making a deep shift in our consciousness. In all these ways, we begin to recognize the bondage of the world and consciously apply our energies to spiritual achievement. The aim of ritual is to enable us to reach out and bridge the gap between ourselves and our Higher Self or Universal Consciousness by removing our separateness; our mistaken identity.
Śhiva – the Lord of Destruction, destruction of ego, attachment and desires; Śhaṅkara – Giver of Peace – “real” peace attained through renunciation, discipline and our spiritual practice or sadhana. We honour Śhiva and give the Lord a night’s rest so we can resolve to keep our mind engaged in thoughts of God. All parts of the nights’ vigil deal with powerful, subtle forces. The presence of God has been invoked. The main room has become our temple and is used for the sādhana practices – treated with respect and whole-hearted concentration.
Anyone needing to rest or stretch should go to an adjoining room through the lobby – keeping moving “in and out” to a minimum. Each of us is part of the whole and share the responsibility of keeping the energy focused.