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Maha Shivarathri – The Night Of The Destroyer February 20, 2012

Posted by Gomathi Reddy in Culture, Desi Indian, Religion, Spirituality.
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Today is Maha Shivarathri“Maha(Great) – Shiva – Rathri(Night) “ meaning the Night of the Great Shiva or the Great Night of Shiva – whichever way you look at it, it is supposed to be something great, associated with Shiva – the Hindu God who is the great leveler, the equalizer and the one who goads you to reach the next level of your personal evolution, yet tempts you with the pleasures of the body.

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He helps you appreciate your body as a tool aiding your personal evolution – slithering and coiling like the snake around his neck, welcoming the benign, caressing the wicked and playing around with the enticing nuptial called life, on this earth.  While he is often picturised as the dark one smeared with ashes from the dead, the north Indian paintings and sculptures show a sharp featured Shiva, muscular, magnetic and very macho.  The Dravidian Shiva is more like a Buddha in blue, very peaceful, friendly-looking guy who also happens to dance whenever he is happy(Anananda Nartanam) or angry(Rudra Tandavam), and he is revered as Nataraja – Nata(Dance) – Raja(King)  meaning the King of Dances implying that the cosmic forces are at play. Nataraja is the icon of BharataNatyam, a classical dance form from India.

The concepts of Gods and Goddesses is so intertwined with the day-to-day life of an average Hindu, that Hinduism is more a way of life, than a revered religion.  So you have a pantheon of Gods and Goddesses and lot of legendary around them.  All these Gods get associated with some part of your every daily actions, right from washing your face, to eating your food, to caring for your environment, to feeding birds…name it, you have it – at the crux of it all is a mechanism that goads you to good living.  There is a simple action that can earn good credits and complex actions that can earn bad credits into your “living account.”

Simple actions are just that – very simple.  You want to make good food for yourself, feed the crows, cows and people, share your spoils with the downtrodden, buy a book for an underprivileged child, take an elderly person for a walk, get to spend some time with a physically challenged person, take your work seriously and be genuine about it….…so many of your possible day-to-day actions are simple, yet fulfilling. They make you feel good and they add up to your good credits, without much effort.  You only need to be sincere about what you are doing.

Scheming against somebody, getting jealous, telling lies, being abusive of relationships, stealing….these are complex actions.  Come to think of it, these are really complex actions for the human mind, because one must think through all the actions, not only from the point-of-view of the self, but also understand how the others would think and act against you.  So one must understand defence, strategy, manipulation and what not – Life becomes stressful when you plan complex actions. And it all revolves around the assumption that the other guy is not as smart as you are, and only you have read the ArthaShastra, donning the cap of urban-Chanakya and presuming that the rest of humanity are programmable robots who are waiting to take your intelligence, lying low! In fact after all those so-called “intelligent” moves, one ends up feeling so empty and miserable, and even if you are sincere about what you are doing, you’ll end up earning bad credits, which manifests as disease of the body and mind.  So it is really a worthless situation, not worth your time on this earth – that’s the message embedded in all Hindu thought.

The legends serve the purpose of connecting the dots i.e. these Gods and Goddesses and their purpose of being around us. When my atheist friends mock at my faith and my religion, and even make sarcastic comments about the number of Gods and the number of their wives(!), I feel like giving them a small discourse which is something like, “Well of course, all Hindu gods and Goddesses are the same God or divine energy, nameless and without form – It is my human mind that can accept only a particular form and that’s how I like my Hindu Gods and Goddesses best. It is the remarkable religious tolerance embedded within the pantheon of countless Hindu gods and goddesses that allows anyone to experience the divine in the way that suits them best at a particular time. So there is a personal God or Ishta Devata, for your personal evolution, at every phase of your life. So a Hindu family can have many different personal Gods!” 

In fact, my father would’ve never gone to any other God than a Kali(because he is from the Ramakrishna Mutt school of thought), my mother didn’t believe in any God(though she was brought up in the most conservative manner by a family that were ardent Rama devotees),  my brother starts his day with a Hanuman Chalisa in the morning as if someone is chasing him at the rear, but closes his day with a bottle of beer with his friends by the end of the day, I worship different Gods for different reasons and seasons, and as I am evolving I find peace in just meditating upon the inner flame of my soul, while my son has numerous creative and mocking questions on Hindu Gods, giving me an opportunity to understand the depth (or the lack of it) of my own knowledge of the religion, as I answer his questions.  We are all Hindus, and we are all evolving!

I also personally believe that we define our Personal God with our thoughts.  At times our thoughts are mundane and abysmally mortal – So we resort to chants and mantras, and that is a form of forced positive thought! This is because, good thoughts embedded as Prayers come back to us, many times over, and so is the case with bad thoughts!  So your Personal God(which is actually your own creation) says, Thatasthu or So be it to anything you wish for.  Make sure you wish for the right things, not just for you but for everyone around you.

So in many ways, anything is okay here, as long as it is not in conflict with your sub-conscious mind and its value system.  Well, all religions state the same truth in different ways, packaging it in a way that is appropriate to the geography and its people and their perceptive knowledge about life.

It is believed across religions that all suffering is related to the mind, its perceptions and the ego “I.”  The soul itself is neutral, has no gender and has no emotions – It is the mind – that simple layer which controls your thoughts – and the body that executes these thoughts into actions which are at the centre of your sufferings/happiness. When one learns to transcend these two, one experiences bliss.  It would help to understand that the mind and body are both matter of the conscious-self.

All practices, rituals, festivals and festivities center around honing your mind and body to “empty” the bad and “refill” with the good.  Well, since we are not too good at it, we re given plenty of opportunities to refine ourselves towards this “emptying” and “refilling” process. So, that explains the numerous festivals and rituals – There is always another festival, another ritual and another practice that is just around the corner so that you can do it in patches and installments – always! J

At a more metaphysical level, it is about programming the sub-conscious mind. The sub-conscious is beyond the mundane and is higher energy, which has the capacity to elevate your soul to the next level.  By impregnating the sub-conscious with positive thoughts and vibes, one can expect to raise the level of the conscious mind and reach the supreme.  Down here, we call it the Jeevatma (Our soul) becoming one with the Paramatma (the Supreme Soul/Consciousness), and the purpose of every incarnation or birth is to inch towards this ultimate goal.

In a capsule, all rituals and observances of Hinduism are paths or frameworks towards reaching the Supreme Soul which will automatically alleviate all sufferings and give you a chance to experience bliss.  And once somebody experiences bliss, it is believed that they have very little interest in the pleasures of the body guaranteed by another mortal – because by now they’ve realized it is just transient and peripheral.  But it takes a long time to reach there, because the ego likes to assert that what it has experienced as “happiness” is THE real happiness.  If it doesn’t, then it is like accepting that the mind has been hood-winked by the ego through the previous experience, and that is something the mind can’t accept.  So as long as this tug-of-war goes on between one’s sub-conscious and conscious mind, one experiences Samsara.  Sansāra or Samsāra, literally means “continuous flow”, and it is the cycle of birth, life, death, rebirth or reincarnation within Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and other Indian religions

Actually I didn’t know today was MahaShivarathri!  As I stepped into office, I happened to read some tweets on the auspicious day, and then felt a little stupid that of all the days, today I skipped the Shiva temple in my neighbourhood and went to say “hello” to Venky – my short form for Venkatachalapthi. (an avatar of Vishnu(the God who Preserves), one of the triumvirate who shares space with Brahma (the God who Creates) and Shiva (the God who Destroys).   Incidentally Shiva is a destroyer, not of you, but your ego – An ego that blinds you from real knowledge, and hence distances you from the real purpose of your life.

But anything is okay here!  So skipping a temple visit or visiting an inappropriate Peer-Supervisor-God is fine too!  These God’s will connect the dots for you, if you can’t! It’s a lot easier to be a Hindu!

So today and everyday, whenever you feel like you can chant:


It is believed this mantra, will relieve the soul from bondage of the mind.

“Na” refers to the Gross Body

“Ma” refers to the Pranic Body

“Shi”refers to the Mental Body

“Va” refers to the Intellectual Body  and

“Ya” refers to the Blissful Body and

“OM” or the “silence” beyond these syllables refers to the Soul or Life within.

I am going to give this a try this evening 6 to 7 pm IST.  I am gonna chant it 108 times – Why 108 times? Well that’s for another blog post.

Happy chanting!

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