The Symbol of Supreme Aspiration
Sri Swami Sivananda
Blessed children of God !
The worship of the Lord Siva is a symbol of the supreme aspiration of man for the attainment of the perfections of which the Lord is the embodiment.
Renunciation and establishment in Self-consciousness are the two great features of Siva. This demonstrates that absolute Self-centredness is achieved through renunciation. Supreme attainment is the fruit of supreme abandonment. Siva is represented as one who is ever merged in Self-consciousness, which means that God is Self-identical, never different from Himself, never dividing His being into self and non-self. He is Fullness, the Goal of all, where all can find their wishes and ambitions supremely satisfied. Siva is, therefore, the ultimate consummation of life, the perfection of the self or the realisation of the truth. He is Truth itself, which has to be reached through the means of the negation of untruth, i.e., renunciation. He is also the Samharkarta, the destroyer of the universe of duality and multiplicity, the infolder of everything in the supreme Self.
Sivaratri is the night during which the aspirant tries to free himself from the normal animal and human functions, practise perfect self-restraint and attune himself to the Lord. In other words, the aspirant completely resigns his personality to the Supreme Siva and discards his lower nature. He observes ‘Upavasa’, meaning ‘fast’ in the obvious sense and ‘living near’ the Lord, in the esoteric sense. This is coupled with vigil during the night. Hence, it is a physical as well as a mental fast. It is denying food to the body as well as to the mind. In short, it is denying the necessities of the individual, person, which is the same as transcending oneself, in order to be in the ecstatic consciousness of the blissful Siva.
This divine consciousness is not easily generated in a person through ordinary means. Even as the body and the internal organs are negatively made to forgo their natural objective food, they should be positively engaged in the service of the Lord. Otherwise, they will not cease from their habit of becoming barriers to the ascent to the higher consciousness. With this end in view, the devotee or the aspirant performs worship of Siva, physically, verbally and also mentally, so that no aspect of the lower nature may find a chance to manifest its normal activity which is obstructive and even directly injurious to the spiritual aspiration of man. Rudra-Abhisheka with Navaka and Chamaka, Sahasranama-Archana or Laksha-Archana, Kirtan of the hallowed names of the Lord, reading of the Purana extolling His glories, fast, vigil, Japa of His Mantra, meditation on His Swarupa,–all these form the various methods through which the Sadhaka prevents the dissipation of energy and mental force and redirects the same, through sublimation, to the Eternal Source, the Lord, God.
The human being has his life on this earth for the sake of evolving, by means of protracted Sadhana into the Divinity that he is essentially. This truth is brought out in the observance of the Vratas and Niyamas connected with the Sovereign of this universe, the Creator, the Almighty. These vows and Pujas are meant to open the eyes of the sleepy man, now and then, and awaken him to his supreme purpose in life. In the night of ignorance, the man of the world does not see the daylight of the Atman. The gross man is turned towards God through repeated exhortations and persuasions to bring to his mind, at least occasionally, the knowledge of the fact that God is the only Reality and that the attainment of Him alone is the meaning of existence. This is done through advising man to observe disciplinary vows and perform worship. The intelligent Sadhaka, however, should utilize all His time in the pursuit of the spiritual Reality and to him, the whole of life is a continuous Vrata, an unbroken worship, a ceaseless Sivaratri! Therefore O aspirants, let the observance of Sivaratri be the forerunner of your intense and constant Sadhana for God-realisation. Let your entire life be dedicated to Siva! This whole life in this world is “Ratri” or night for you. Observe vigil during this “night” of the world, and spend this night in the worship of Siva, who is Brahman. Remember “Yasyam Jagrati Bhootani Sa Nisha Pashyato Muneh”, “That (worldly life) in which all beings are awake is night to the sage with spiritual perception.” (Gita II, 69).
May the blessings of the Parama-Siva be upon you all! May you all attain Kaivalya!