Shivratri Blessings

January 2002

Shivaratri is one of the holiest nights of the year. It is the night dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva. Shivratri, Holi and Diwali are the three most auspicious nights during the year. They are the three occasions on which meditation, japa and puja are most fruitful. 

In the trinity of gods – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva – Lord Shiva is the one who destroys that which is old and impure, in order to make room for a new creation of that which is pure and divine. Lord  Shiva annihilates our egos, our attachments and our ignorance. 

Many fear Lord Shiva’s destructive capacity, and yet it is destruction for the purpose of regeneration. Without death, life cannot begin anew. Without the annihilation of old habits, attachments and ego, we cannot progress toward the goal of God realization.

Bhagwan Shiva is portrayed with ash on his forehead, and devotees of Lord Shiva frequently apply sacred ash to various parts of their body. This symbolizes two things. Everything that today has a form on the Earth once was ash in the ground and again will be reduced to nothing but ash. Therefore, the ash serves to remind us that all that we are, all that we do, all that we earn and acquire will only be reduced to  ash one day, and therefore we should live our lives dedicated to God, rather than to the accumulation of temporary possessions and comfort. When we apply the sacred ash or see it, we are reminded “Ah yes, it is only by the grace of Lord Shiva that I am still here today, and that I have not yet been turned to ash. It is his grace that my home, my family and my possessions are still with me and that they have not become ash. Therefore, I should remember Him, pray to Him and devote myself to Him.”

The stories and the messages of Bhagwan Shiva are innumerable; however, one of the most important is the story of how He – for the sake of humanity – swallowed the poison which emerged from the ocean.

The story says that the Gods and their brothers, the Demons, were churning the ocean in search of the pot of the nectar of immortality.  However, after a great deal of effort, what emerged was not nectar, but poison!! The Gods and demons knew that in order to continue churning, and ultimately to unearth the Divine nectar, they could not simply toss the poison aside.  Someone had to drink it. But, naturally, no one was willing to drink the poison. Everyone had some excuse for why he or she was too valuable to be sacrificed. Finally, Bhagwan Shiva came forward and said “I will drink the poison if it will preserve peace and enable my brothers and sisters to attain the nectar of immortality.”

However, if He swallowed the poison it would kill Him. If He spit it out, it would destroy the world. Thus, He kept it in His throat – hence the name Neelkanth – and sat peacefully in meditation for eternity.

In our lives, in our families, so much poison emerges – between parents and children, between husband and wife. We wait and wait for the divine nectar to emerge, but it seems that only poison comes. So many times people come to me, complaining, “But why should I always be the one to compromise? Why should I always be the one to give in? Why should I always say I’m sorry? It’s not fair!”

On this night of Shivratri, as we worship Bhagwan Shiva, it is also the night that we must pray for the strength to take His message to heart! Let us not only worship Him, but let us emulate Him.  He who is willing to peacefully swallow the poison, he who is willing to sacrifice for the family, for the community and for humanity is the true Mahadev.

Bhagwan Shiva went to the Himalayas, to the land now called Neelkanth to meditate after He drank the poison. The message is – when poison emerges in the home, when poison emerges anywhere in our lives, when we feel like if we swallow it we will die, but if we don’t drink it then the fight will continue – the secret is to meditate! You don’t have to go  to the Himalayas. Just create your own Himalayas. Wherever you are. First, be the one to accept the poison. Be the one to sacrifice, apologize and concede humbly.  Then go, sit and meditate peacefully. This is not weakness, but strength.

Poison always comes; obstacles always come. When we work for good causes, when we embark upon divine work, the poison always comes before the nectar. However, we must never get discouraged. We must never give up. If the Gods and demons had forfeited the churning at the sign of poison, it would have been a tragedy for humanity. Similarly, we must always have faith that the nectar WILL come. It is only a matter of time. We must be willing to churn and churn, no matter what comes – be it poison or nectar.

On the night of Shivratri as we remember the churning between the Gods and Demons for the nectar of immortality, we must take another lesson to heart. After the nectar emerged, the demons tried to abscond with it. Thus they would be ever more powerful and ever more able to destroy their brothers, the Gods. However, through a series of divine interventions, the Gods emerged the victors and the ones with the gift of immortality.

The night of Shivratri is especially auspicious for winning this same battle within ourselves – the battle between the Gods and the Demons, between right and wrong, between poison and nectar, between death and immortality. Let us use our puja, our prayers, our meditations on this night to pray for the divine intervention that within ourselves the good might vanquish the evil, that the nectar within us might emerge, rather than poison, that we too may be carried from death to immortality.

May God bless you all.







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