A couple of days ago, we talked about “Why Yaksha,” the weeklong celebration of the Indian classical arts at the Isha Yoga Center. Yaksha culminates in the rapturous night of Mahashivarathri, and so, today, we take a look at the significance of this day and its importance as a stepping stone in spiritual evolution.
Sadhguru: Mahashivarathri is a day of many possibilities, or rather a night of many possibilities.
The 14th day of every lunar month, the day before the Amavasya or new moon, is referred to as Shivarathri. On this night, people on the spiritual path usually perform sadhanas (spiritual practice) of special significance. Of the twelve Shivarathris that occur in a calendar year, the one that occurs in February-March, in the lunar month of Magha, is called Mahashivarathri because it is the most powerful of the twelve Shivarathris.
On this day, there is a huge assistance from nature itself. The planetary positions are such that it is most conducive for a person to seek his spiritual nature and raise his energy to its peak. Because of this natural upsurge of energy, there are many benefits if a person is awake with his spine in a vertical posture throughout the night. Sages, seers and many others in the history of this land have made use of this upsurge and attained to their ultimate. Even at Isha, this day is particularly significant to us for this reason.
On Spiritual Evolution
From being just a biological entity to becoming spiritual, what is needed is an upward movement of energy. When we exist here, catering to a certain aspect of nature which is our body, we become just survival and procreation. The physical dimension of existence really has no other purpose. If you look at every creature on this planet, you will see that everything is constantly aspiring to survive and to procreate so that life just goes on. But once you have become a human being, once you have your spine erect, you know that life merely “going on” is not sufficient anymore.
Biologists have pointed out that one of the biggest steps in the evolutionary process for an animal is to move from a horizontal to a vertical spine. It is only after this step that your intelligence flowers. So, by making use of this natural upsurge of energies on the nightlong festival of Mahashivarathri, with the right kind of mantras and meditations, we can move one step closer to the Divine. The raising of energies takes place even if there is no sadhana in a person’s life, but especially for those people who are into some kind of yogic sadhana, keeping the body in a vertical position, or in other words, not sleeping on this night is very important.
On Shiva, the Adiyogi
Mahashivarathri is very significant for people who are on the spiritual path, and also for people with ambitions in the world and in family situations. For people living in family situations, Mahashivarathri is worshiped as Shiva’s wedding anniversary. The ambitious see it as the day Shiva conquered all his enemies. But in the yogic tradition, we do not consider Shiva as a god, but as the first guru or Adi Guru – the one who started the yogic process. The word “Shiva” means “that which is not.” If you can keep yourself in such a state that you are not yourself, and allow Shiva to be, then the possibility of opening up a new vision into life and looking at life with total clarity is possible.
On Mahashivarathri at the Isha Yoga Center
What we refer to as Shiva is nothing but the very embodiment of ultimate perception. It is in this context that Isha Yoga Center celebrates Mahashivarathri. In many ways, in the Yoga Center, the whole year is a way of looking forward to the Mahashivarathri day. It is an opportunity and a possibility for all to raise their perception by at least one notch. It is an opportunity to not be embroiled in thoughts, emotions, or conclusions that you have drawn about life. This is what Shiva is about and this is what yoga is about.
May this Mahashivarathri night not just be a night of wakefulness, but let this also become a night of intense aliveness and awareness for you. It is our wish and blessing that you make use of this wonderful gift that nature offers us on this day. I hope all of you ride this upsurge and know the beauty and ecstasy of what it means when we say “Shiva.”