The Times of India
Tonight's the Night, Savour the Darkness
08 March, 2005
By Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev
Mahashivratri is a night of many possibilities. It is the darkest night of the month. Its very darkness is cause for celebration. Normally, we tend to resist darkness and opt for light. On Shivratri, however, darkness is venerated as the symbol of creation and destruction.
The word Shiva literally means that which is not. That which is, is existence; that which is, is creation. That which is not is Shiva. That which is not means, if you open your eyes and look around, if your vision is for small things, you will see lots of creation. If your vision is really looking for big things, you will see that the biggest presence in existence is a vast emptiness. Just a few spots — which we call galaxies — are noticed, not the vast emptiness that holds. This vastness or unbounded emptiness, is Shiva. Science today says that everything comes from nothing and eventually goes back to nothing. As the vast nothingness, Shiva is referred to as the great Lord or Mahadeva.
When you describe the Divine as all-pervading, you're obviously referring to the Divine as darkness, because only darkness is all-pervading. It is everywhere; it does not need support from anything. Every religion, every culture on this planet has been talking about the Omnipresent, all-pervading nature of the Divine. The only thing that can be truly all-pervading is darkness — nothingness or emptiness.
Generally, when seeking well-being, we talk of the Divine as the light. When we no longer seek well-being, we are looking beyond our life in terms of dissolving. If the object of our worship and sadhana is dissolution, then, we refer to the Divine as darkness. The greatest source of light we know is the Sun. But you can stop the Sun's light with your hand. Not so with darkness — it is everywhere. By merely putting your hand out you will not be able to obliterate darkness for darkness has no source; it is present everywhere, it doesn't need support from anything.
Light always comes from a source that is burning itself out. It has a beginning and an end. It is always from a limited source. Darkness has no source; it is a source unto itself. It is all-pervading, everywhere, Omnipresent.
So when we say Shiva, we are referring to this vast emptiness of existence. It is in the lap of this vast emptiness, that all Creation has happened. Our ancient prayers are not about saving yourself, protecting yourself, or about doing better in life. The prayers have always been about 'Oh lord, destroy me, so that I can become like Yourself'. So when we say Shivratri, which is the darkest night of the month, it is an opportunity for us to dissolve our limitedness, to experience the unboundedness of the source of Creation, which is the seed in every human being. Today is an opportunity to bring yourself to that experience of the vast emptiness within every human being, which is the source of all Creation.
Shiva is known as the destroyer. He is also known as One who is most compassionate. Shiva is the greatest of givers; yet, He doesn't particularly like those who keep asking for things. The asking people never got along with Shiva. So Mahashivratri is a special night for receiving too.
Spiritual sadhakas and devotees live a life of exuberance and intensity. But people who lend 'normal' lives have many duties to fulfil. They have earthly commitments and chores to do. Despite this, if they do endeavour to also pursue the spiritual path, it is truly wonderful. To turn to the spiritual path even while remaining busy with the daily business of life requires a great deal of even-mindedness and dedication.
So don't lose heart. Don't pass tonight without knowing at least a moment of the vastness of this emptiness that we call as Shiva. Let this night not just be a night of wakefulness; let it be a night of awakening for every one of us.
Shiva by other names...
Lingodbhava: The pillar of fire that spans all, with neither beginning nor end.
Nataraja: Divine Cosmic Dancer.
Ardhanarishwara: The man-woman, Shiv-Shakti, prakriti-purusha Oneness principle.
Neelkantha: The blue-necked one, having consumed the poison that arose from the sea, saving the world from destruction.
Shankara: Doer of good.
Ashutosh: One who fulfills wishes instantly.
Bholenath: The forgetful, kind-hearted One.
Mahamrityunjaya: One who has conquered (fear of) death.
Omkara: The creator of the primeval sound Om.
Parameshwara: The first among lords, the Supreme.
Pashupati: Lord of all living beings.
Rudra: The terrible One who destroys evil and sorrow.
Vishweshwara: Lord of the universe.
Swayambhunath: The One who takes self-birth.
Trimukha: The Three-faced One who creates, sustains and destroys.