Aum Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam
Aum Namo Narayanaya
Aum Nama Shivaya
It was the blaring sound of the alarm clock that ruffled the tidiness of night. With much annoyance I glanced at the time, which mockingly relayed a gloating 1:30 am which seemed to be a record breaking sprint from 21:00 when I last remember placing my head on the pillow. This sudden deviation from my routine sleep was to facilitate an early morning flight departure. Having checked out of the hotel briskly, I was at the gate with enough time to spare. In due time they announced the boarding of the plane and soon we were all seated and buckled up. The deferred sleep seemed make a welcomed visit but was rudely interrupted by the pilot who announced that there was a 45 minutes delay due to a passenger who did not arrive at the gate. The process was therefore to remove his bags from the plane.
We have many choices in life, like tonight there many people who would be sleeping, entertaining themselves in casinos, cinemas and malls, some maybe in nightclubs whilst a lot of people will be amongst holy company celebrating Mahashivarathri. In our spiritual journey similar to the episode mentioned above, even if we comply with all the religious requirements, the company we keep may delay our spiritual progress. I recall fondly here the life of Girish Chandra Gosh, who was a notorious libertine and drunk, who by the mere company of the Master Sri Ramakrishna was able to transform his life.
There is a practical explanation as to why devotees gather at temples on a particular day to observe certain prayers as compared to merely observing these within the confines of your home. It stated in our scriptures that when devotees gather at a particular place with pure intent to worship then the vibrations created are phenomenal and overwhelming. The date or thithi is also important because we tend to prepare our minds in order to observe a certain date that is set aside as auspicious. Therefore, when we gather in our numbers at a sacred place on a special day like Maha Shivarathri, the collective positive intent creates an oasis of divine currents that assist the devotee to transcend the body consciousness.
Once, Sri Ramachandra asked Sri Hanumanji: "What is your relationship with me?" To this, Sri Hanuman said: "Oh Lord, while I identify myself with my body, I am Thy servant. When I consider myself an individual soul, I am Thy part. But when I look upon myself as the spirit, I am one with Thee. This is my firm conviction." How beautifully Sri Hanumanji understood Himself. When we speak of God realisation - it is this realisation that we speak off.
In the midst of this world, we have purely indentified ourselves with the body. All our activities centre on pleasuring and pleasing the body. Some of us don’t even consider ourselves as servants of the Lord. As a result of this, we are caught in a quagmire of problems. Focus on the body brings attachment which results in pain and suffering, so clearly defined by Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. Taking lead from the above conversation - it then necessary to transcend the body and engage the mind and spirit if we want to enjoy the eternal nectar of bliss. Therefore Bhagawan Maheshwara smears His body with cremation ash as a reminder that the body is but a temporary vehicle and that we must shift our focus to the spirit.
The God that we all seek is right within our grasps seated in the lotus of our hearts. We must take the necessary steps to reach Him and bathe in His divine bliss. On the night of Shivarathri, devotees will notice that before the prayer starts, a special Abishegam (purification bathing) of the Lingam is performed. This is a reminder that we also need to purify our body and mind before our spiritual journey commences. Taking regular baths, reading good spiritual literature, doing seva , singing of bhajans and keeping good and holy company helps purify the body and rids the mind of evil tendencies such as lust, greed, anger, ego, hatred and falsehood. Once we have mastered this initial stage we are ready to interrogate the mind to access the spirit within. The secret, dear brothers and sisters, is practice. Those athletes who train and exercise for a marathon regularly will achieve results. In spiritual life as well, we cannot expect to live a purely material life and appear annually on the night of Shivarathri to receive the rewards. Yes indeed, every attempt counts. In a quarry, if a rock is struck just once with a chisel (annually), it will definitely break after 100 years perhaps. Yet if the same rock is struck with the chisel with regular frequency (daily), it will surely break within a week.
Regular prayer and sadhana will intensify our faith in God. This is the only way that we will be able live a life of peace and love in this turbulent world. We must gather with this intent regularly and work harmoniously with the thought of serving God in all; then alone will we develop a spiritual society. With regular practice of divine virtues, we will slowly move away from seeing Shiva in the body consciousness to the realisation of Shivoham (Shiva and I are one).
May all our consciousness one day be elevated to Shivoham is my sincere prayer. May this Shivarathri bring joy, peace and love to all our hearts. Have a blessed and rewarding Shivarathri.
With Love and Prayers always