Mahashivratri is one of the largest and most significant among India’s the sacred festivals and for any spiritual seeker, staying awake on this night is enormously beneficial for one’s physical and spiritual wellbeing. Yogi, visionary and renowned speaker Sadhguru explains what makes this night so important, and how we can make use of it
In the Indian culture, at one time, there used to be 365 festivals in a year. In other words, people just needed an excuse to celebrate every day of the year. These 365 festivals celebrate various historical events, victories, or certain situations in life, like harvesting, planting, and reaping. For every situation there was a festival. But Mahashivaratri is of a different significance.
The fourteenth day of every lunar month, or the day before the new moon, is known as Shivaratri. Among all the twelve Shivaratris that occur in a calendar year, Mahashivaratri, the one that occurs in February through March is of the most spiritual significance. On this night, the northern hemisphere of the planet is positioned in such a way that there is a natural upsurge of energy in a human being. This is a day when nature is pushing one towards one’s spiritual peak. To make use of this, we establish a certain festival which is nightlong. One of the fundamentals of this nightlong festival is to ensure that you stay awake. To allow this natural upsurge of energies to find their way, you remain with your spine vertical.
An Opportunity to Experience Oneness
Mahashivaratri is very significant for people who are on the spiritual path. It is also very significant for people who are in family situations, as well as for the ambitious. Why this day and night are held in such importance in the Yogic traditions is because of the possibilities it presents to a spiritual seeker. Modern science has gone through many phases and arrived at a point today where they are out to prove to you that everything that you know as life, everything that you know as matter and existence, everything that you know as the cosmos and galaxies, is just one energy which manifests itself in millions of ways.
This scientific fact is an experiential reality in every Yogi. The word “Yogi” means one who has realised the oneness of the existence. When I say “Yoga,” I am not referring to any one particular practice or system. All longing to know the unbounded, all longing to know the oneness in the existence is Yoga. The night of Mahashivaratri offers a person an opportunity to experience this.
The Darkest Night of the Year
Shivaratri is the darkest day of the month. Celebrating Shivaratri every month, and the particular day of Mahashivaratri, almost seems like a celebration of darkness. Any logical mind would resist darkness and naturally opt for light. But the word Shiva literally means “that which is not.” “That which is,” is existence and creation. “That which is not” is Shiva. If you open your eyes and look around, if your vision is for small things, you will see lots of creation. If your vision is really looking for big things, you will see the biggest presence in the existence is a vast emptiness. A few spots which we call galaxies are generally much noticed, but the vast emptiness that holds them does not come into everyone’s notice. This vastness, this unbounded emptiness, is what is referred to as Shiva. Today, modern science also proves that everything comes from nothing and goes back to nothing.
Every religion, every culture on this planet has always been talking about the omnipresent, all-pervading nature of the divine. If we look at it, the only thing that can be truly all-pervading, the only thing that can be everywhere is darkness, nothingness, or emptiness. Generally, when people are seeking wellbeing, we talk of the divine as light. When people are no longer seeking wellbeing, when they are looking beyond their life in terms of dissolving, if the object of their worship and their sadhana (spiritual practice) is dissolution, then we always refer to the divine as darkness.
Darkness – The Basis of Existence
Light is a brief happening in your mind. Light is not eternal; it is always a limited possibility because it happens and it ends. The greatest source of light that we know on this planet is the sun. Even the sun’s light, could be stop stopped with your hand, leaving a shadow of darkness behind. But darkness is all-enveloping, everywhere.
The immature minds in the world have always described darkness as the devil. But when you describe the divine as all-pervading, you are obviously referring to the divine as darkness, because only darkness is all-pervading. It is everywhere. It does not need any support from anything. Light always comes from a source that is burning itself out. It has a beginning and an end. It is always from a limited source. Darkness has no source. It is a source unto itself. It is in the lap of this vast emptiness that all creation has happened.
So when we say Shivaratri, which is the darkest night of the month, it is an opportunity for one to dissolve their limitedness, to experience the unboundedness of the source of creation which is the seed in every human being. Mahashivaratri is an opportunity and a possibility to bring yourself to that experience of the vast emptiness within every human being, which is the source of all creation. It is our wish and blessing that you must not pass this night without knowing at least a moment of the vastness of this emptiness. Let this night not just be a night of wakefulness, let this night be a night of awakening for you.
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Sadhguru is a yogi, mystic, visionary and a New York Times bestselling author. Named as one of India’s 50 most influential people and one of Watkins Mind Body Spirit’s 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People in 2021, Sadhguru’s work has touched the lives of millions worldwide through his transformational programmes.
Hosting a blend of traditional Indian music, guided meditations, contemporary bands and dance acts, Mahashivratri is celebrated through a holistic, online, all-night festival for these challenging times. For more information on the Mahashivratri online festival, please click here.
Sadhguru’s and Arundhati Subramaniam’s book Adiyogi, The First Yogi presents the myth and reality of Adiyogi’s (Shiva’s) offerings in a relevant context for the modern reader. It invites us to inquire into Adiyogi’s fundamental message – “In is the only way out.”