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Maha Shivarathri

The festival of Maha Shivarathri is one of the most important festivals in India. It falls on the 14th day of the (Krishna Paksha) dark fortnight of the Magha month of the Hindu calendar. The very word ‘Shivarathri’ means auspicious night. All over the country, people throng Shiva temples and spend the night in worship and contemplation of the Divine. According to Hindu belief, the moon is the presiding deity of the mind and the 16 phases of the moon represent the 16 aspects of the mind. On Shivarathri, which falls a day prior to the new moon, only a streak of the moon is visible. This is symbolic of the waning influence of the mind, when 15 aspects have already merged in the Self and only one aspect remains. Hence on this day, it is easier to control the mind and direct it towards God. Therefore, the night is spent in contemplation and adoration of God, so that the vagaries of the mind can be totally subdued and transcended to attain realization of the Atman.

Maha Shivarathri is generally celebrated by performing Akhanda Bhajana (continuous devotional singing) throughout the night. Shivarathri, as a festival has gained a lot of importance in Prasanthi Nilayam because it is during this festival that Baba, the supreme Iswara (Godhead), chooses to reveal His divinity. Baba, out of His infinite love for humanity, materializes lingas (an oval shaped object which is the fittest symbol of divinity) in the Shivarathri evening from within His being. This emergence of the Linga is called ‘Lingodbhavam’.

Baba has explained, “The Linga is just a symbol, a sign, an illustration, of the beginningless, the endless, the limitless - for it has no limbs, no face, no feet, no front or back, no beginning or end. Its shape is like the picture one imagines the Niraakaara (Formless) to be. In fact, linga means - leeyathe (that in which all forms and names merge) and gamyathe (that towards which all names and forms are proceeding, to attain fulfillment). It is the fittest symbol of the All-pervasive, the All-knowing, the All-powerful”.

Excerpts from Bhagawan’s Discourses:

“Today we are celebrating Shivarathri. ‘Shivarathri’ means "Auspicious night". At least on this day, one should chant Shiva's name all through the night. At least on one day in a year, chant the Lord's name. This night, devotees are expected to stay awake by chanting the sacred name of Shiva. Keeping awake in any other way is purposeless. Spending the night reciting the Lord's name sanctifies one's life”.

- Divine Discourse: February 25, 1998

“The lesson of Shivarathri is that devotees should foster good and sacred thoughts. They should be filled with godly thoughts. They should seek to become one with the Divine by reflecting on their inherent divinity. If you constantly chant the name of God, God realization will come in due course.

Whatever other things they may possess, men suffer from lack of peace and bliss. These two can be obtained only from God. It is for these two that men should pray to God and not for anything else, because God alone can give them. When these are secured, all other things will come of their own accord by the grace of God. People should yearn for God. All other desires are worthless”.

- Divine Discourse: February 26, 1998

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