The night when you stay awake, and pray to Shiva, the ultimate Yogi.
A lot of questions may arise in our minds, when we think of Shiva, and Shivratri – or the night of Shiva.
For instance, why is Shiva synonymous with austerity? He is always depicted as a mendicant, as a renunciate – one who has given up material pleasures and one who leads an austere life. But if Shiva is God (as the West describes God), then what does he renounce? Didn’t the Vedas and the Bhagavad Gita say that God is that all-encompassing force, that pervades the Universe? Then what is there to give up?
Another question revolves around the timings of MahaShivaratri. Why celebrate a night-long vigil, when almost all the other festivals in Sanatana Dharma are celebrated in the day? Someone speaks of ‘possibilities’ and planetary conjunctions, others emphasize meditation and chanting…but the consensus is – stay awake this night.
Well, I don’t claim to know the answers, but I can put forward what I think, and what I’ve read, and hopefully we reach somewhere in our quest.
For Sanatana Dharma is a quest. It is not important to find the answer…as with any good road trip you may have undertaken, the journey is more enjoyable than the destination.
Anyways, first with the austerity.
Renunciation does not mean giving up something, as is commonly believed. Attachment to anything – an object, a person…is rāga. The absence of attachment is Vi-rāga. The condition of being in vi-rāga, is vairāgya.
When it comes to Shiva – he cannot renounce anything since everything is in him. Whatever you see around you, and whatever you don’t see as well, every single atom in the Universe is part of the Universal Consciousness that is Shiva. So when everything is within you, there is nothing to renounce. And so Shiva depicts the ultimate Yogi, the ultimate renunciate.
And In this depiction, lies a very profound truth. That you and I cannot renounce or give up anything, since we are all part of each other, and are all interconnected.
“And so vairāgya is the freedom from the concept of externality.”
It is freedom from the thought that you are different from everything else. When you think that something or someone is outside of you…that is what makes you get attracted to, or give up the thing or person. When you realize that someone or something is a part of you, what is there to attach or attract or give up?
Part 2 coming tomorrow…