Illness and Meditation [Title MWS]
Last Transcription at the Retreat
Swami Veda Bharati
Adhyatma Retreat, Rishikesh, India
March ??, 2002
I'll take a few more minutes on the topic that we have been discussing, on the Marks of Spiritual Progress.
I briefly mentioned the attitudes to illness. I find illness to be a time of very great blessing because I am free from all the other duties and responsibilities, and I can lie in bed, or sit in bed, and I have a perfect excuse for not seeing people and can use that God-given time for God, to go in the interior, to stay in the interior, during the time of illness, to do my japa, and what ever else I do for the deepening of my spiritual experience. So that, illness becomes a time of blessing.
By going deep into the self during the illness, I derive two benefits, or three. One benefit is that from the depth of my mind, I can look at my body; and it is through illness, in those moments of meditation during acute illnesses, that I have learned about anatomy and physiology, that, from within I can examine my body, I can look at my body, I can understand my metabolism, I can understand what changes are taking place in me, what is happening inside my body and how I can monitor those changes and gradually, slowly, modulate them.
Now, on this last point "modulate them,” that means that the time of illness, for me, it is a time for monitoring the changes happening in the body. It becomes a time of modulating, which means self-healing. Self-healing in two ways: by sending the commands to the body to heal itself, and along with that, just another aspect or expansion of that, that through the presence of a becalmed and unwrinkled mind, the prana warps are soothed out, the prana knots are loosened, so that the prana energy flows through the body, unhindered, unobstructed.
And, that then leads to quicker healing. And, in the process, I learn what I need to do with my body. And the third benefit I derive is a spiritual benefit. And, that is of having unimpeded, undistracted time for days upon days to remain in the self.
In the common languages of India, in all the languages of India, the word for someone in good health is sva-stha, and the word for health is svaasthya. Sva-staha: someone who is dwelling within sva, within one's Self, within one's own nature, and, then that condition, the abstract noun, which comes from that adjective is svaasthya, "health.”
So, for illness to be changed to a healthier condition, this mental condition of being sva-stha, dwelling within one's Self, in one's true nature, not the alterations of nature, dwelling within That. And, I would say a fourth benefit, which is incidental, which simply happens, is that one goes beyond the surface pains. One understands the nature of pain, without having to study basic neurology.
What exactly is physical pain? It's simply a message from the outposts of the body, to the headquarters that there is an invasion, or there's a breakdown, a breakdown caused by an external invasion, or breakdown caused by something internal to the body.
So, from that particular area of the outer wall of the fortress, the outer wall of the city, you send a message to the headquarters. And, the message goes in the form of chemical and electrical signals. Now, it is for the headquarters, for your consciousness principle to say "Message received. Thank you. Don't keep sending me the same message over and over. Stop it!” That's what we fail to do, when we just dwell on our pain. "Send me that message again. Come on, come on! Make it clearer, more intense." We are absolutely in love with our pains.
The same applies to our emotional pains. We love to go alone and lie down in a corner, and bury our head in a pillow, and now: "What was that favorite emotional pain of mine? Let me capture it again. It's so comforting!" So, once you have received the message, your brain and your mind have received the message, that's it, cut it off!
I was sitting with a very wise disciple of Swami Rama – and, those who know my physical condition, that I have to take several injections during the day. I take it anywhere – and, I put the injection needle in and took it out and put it back, and he looked at me and said, "You give an injection like you are injecting somebody else's body." I have no emotional reaction to it.
So, one learns in this way, two things. One, that the Bhagavad Gita speaks of samaha sukha dukhayahu, being, “even-minded in pleasure and in pain,” so that, both the pleasures of the senses, and the pains of the senses and the body are perceived as happening only on the surface. They are happening only on the peripheries of your city.
You have a stomach problem. The rest of your body is just fine, enjoy that! You had a fractional heart failure, one part of the heart is not working. Well, 75 percent of your heart muscle is still working. Well, work with that. You have a pain in the fingertip. We run around to the whole world, "Mummy, mummy, it's hurting, it's hurting. Come, give me some sympathy." That is not the way of a sadhaka, of one on a spiritual path.
So, on one hand, one learns to be even minded about these peripheral, (which to you at that time appear to be very deep), peripheral pleasures and pains. And, you learn to go deeper than that periphery. And, by going deeper than the periphery, that you avoid your consciousness crossing the paths of those messages, and you dwell in that part of pure consciousness, non-physical consciousness, non-physical mind, non-physical chetana, where these chemical and electrical messages do not penetrate.
So, your attitude towards pain undergoes a change. Your attitude towards illness undergoes a change. When I go and consult my doctors about my physical ailments, and I like to tell you, in 1992, my doctor's in Germany said "if this man sits in an airplane, he's dead". Well, I take two or three round the world trips every year. Obviously, I am not dead yet!
By resorting to these interior strategies, by using illness as an opportunity for my spiritual development, and for improving my knowledge of the body, and my doctors tell me "We have nothing to tell you". "We have nothing to advise you". "You are already doing what we would have advised you to do". I was in hospital, for my triple bypass in Germany, in 1991, and the doctors sent their diabetes expert, and they said "Well, how do you control your diabetes?", and I told them what and what I did, and how I do it. And he said "Who taught you and where did you learn that? And I said, "No one taught me; I worked out the systems." He said, "It’s not possible, these are our most latest, most up to date systems. Somebody must have taught you." I showed them my graphs which I make for myself. So, now they have nothing to tell me. Saves me money! <laughs>.
I was giving somebody a foot massage. I charge $100 per hour for a foot massage, OK? And, they said, "I'd like to read the book where you learned the foot massage.", and I said that I don't read the book, I read the foot. I read my foot.
So, coming back, you rise above your, shall I say, "addiction" to pain. And, your addiction to pleasures, because the two are one and the same. They are addictions to body sensations. That is not to say you become insensitive. But, you are in control. Sometimes I teach people, people who are close to me have seen, how to use one sip of orange juice, for going into deep meditation. One sip of orange juice. One touch on the finger tip. With concentration, with total absorption. You people, you have never tasted orange juice. No one here has tasted orange juice. No one here has tasted milk. No one here has tasted anything. You don't know how to enjoy your food, because you are not concentrated.
Emotional pains are caused by our attachment to our psychological conditioning. "I am an introvert. I have great difficulty in talking to people." "I am an extrovert. If I don't have somebody to talk to, I suffer greatly." "I have a psychological identification with the small stature of my body. I'm small, and I'm scared of tall people." I have seen a lot of tall people walk bent. I've seen this in all cultures. A lot of tall people walk bent, because they are so conscious of being tall.
These are all psychological conditionings. They are our mental habits. “The way my mother and father treated each other conditioned my mind. The way my mother and father treated me. What happened with me at that time has conditioned me. And, I am divided. On one hand. I do not like what they have done, when I am conscious of it. But, at the same time, I find myself doing the same thing to my children.”
These are all psychological handicaps. They prevent your progress; they prevent you from rising above your present spiritual station. So, a person who is on the spiritual path, who is a sadhaka, gradually, slowly, by constant self-observation, dis-identifies with his or her psychological conditioning.
Every event can have many interpretations. We give each event in our life, the kind of interpretation that we choose. And, thereby, either enjoy a pleasure, or we suffer a pain. I always tell people. This time, I haven't read any of my poems to you. A person is in solitary confinement in a prison, being given bread and water. A person is in a solitary cell in a monastery, being given bread and water. What a pain! What a pleasure!
What's the difference? Both are in the same six by six cell. Both are living on bread and water. For one, it is a punishment; for the other, it is the reward. If I lock you up in your room, and I say, "Now, you are not allowed to leave this room for seven days." Well, there will be a rebellion. You'll pack up from here in the next hour. Out you'll go. You'll call your own taxi.
Sometimes I stay in my room, in my cottage, two weeks at a time, month at a time, even here. Coming out of there is a chore. It's a disturbance, copic(?) kind. [Note: the transciptionist could not make out the word where "copic" is written.]
People come here, they want to go here, they want to go there, they want to see this, they want to see that. They've come for sadhana. And, when the body is in one place, the mind is going here, the mind is going there.
A person is hungry because someone has deprived him of food. A person is hungry because he is taking a fast on a sacred day. What's the difference? So, it's the difference between the tiredness of a tourist and the tiredness of a pilgrim.
So, you reinterpret the events of your body, of your mind, of your relationships. So, nowadays, I see in the courts, I don't know how it is in India, but I see it in the USA, and perhaps in Europe. The attorney argues in the court "Your lordship, this person has abused his children, because you see how his childhood history was, how badly he was abused." And, that serves as an excuse. I don't give a penny for that kind of a thought.
If someone, let us say your parents, have abused you, you have two options. You see, we work on the knowledge, on the basis of the knowledge, that Atman is the abode of freedom of will. It takes whichever option it wishes to take. That freedom of will is filtered into our mind frame. So, the mind also has the same freedom, to take this option, or to take that option. Whether I take to the solitary cell in a prison, or I take to the solitary cell in a monastery, makes no difference whatsoever.
So, "I was abused as a child", you say. Well, you have two options. One is to choose to be vengeful. "Someday, I am going to take it out on somebody." And, who do you take it out on? Your own children.
Or, if you have a sattvic mind, you take the option, and you say "My, it was so painful. I shall never inflict this on somebody else.”
That choice is entirely yours. How that particular event, or series of events conditions your mind, and what reaction it brings from you, that is where your freedom of will, freedom of mind, which is infused with the spiritual force, comes in.
Another thing that happens, along with that, is that you learn to take your psychological experiences, your mind experiences, your experiences of events, which, looked at in one way, would be difficult ones. You realize one principle. Since divinity is all pervading, all weakness (this I have said many times before), all weakness is a weakening of some strength. All weakness is a weakening of some strength!
All evil is a warping of some good, twisting of some good. A person who is a sadhaka, who wants to change his peer group and sit along with the saints, which is the only ambition worth having, worth cultivating, such a person looks at that, some source of dissatisfaction, some source of pain, mental one at this time, and finds "of which particular pleasure principle, of particular drop of ananda, divine cosmic bliss, is this a warping, is this a knotting", and he unknots that.
So, someone who has missed the love of the mother in childhood can go around the rest of his life, crying, looking for women, if he is a man. Or, he can convert that pain into some creativity.
There's an artist in India, a world famous artist, the top artists. For those who are not familiar with the constitution of India, the Indian parliament is two houses, the lower house, and the upper house. The upper house is elected from the lower house, where the lower house is elected direct from the people. And then there are some nominations to the upper house. And there are eight seats in the upper house of Indian parliament, which are assigned by the President. Someone who is a top poet, or top artist, or top scholar. And there are eight seats like that. This artist I am talking about, Husain, has been, I don't know if he still is, a member of the upper house of parliament because of his achievements in art. He's world famous.
And, he repeatedly, repeatedly in his paintings, brings out women, in all different forms of divinity. And, in some places, in his paintings, there is a figure of a woman, who is empty, just a figure, just a configuration. When he was small, in some village… You know sometimes women in India put their babies in a basket, and keep the basket on the back, tie it on the shoulder. The mother went out to some marketplace in some village, and this, while she was busy with something, this three-year-old climbed out of the basket and wandered off. And never saw his mother again. Got lost and never saw his mother again.
He says, in all of these female figures, "It's my mother that I paint." "Was it like this?" "Maybe I'll paint her this way. Was she like that? Maybe I'll paint her that way. And, sometimes, I've left just the configuration."
That pain has been made into a source of his art, his creativity. Others spend their lifetimes crying over their orphan state, and don't know what to do with it. Some choose to worship the mother divine, and then identify with the mother divine.
So the person on spiritual path rises above his psychological personality. This is the most important point. He does not remain confined to his psychological conditioning. And that is how his reaction changes.
Towards the same things that used to make him angry he changes his conditioning. And, what does he see when an angry person comes in his presence? He does not see it as that person attacking him. An angry person who is attacking you, he is not attacking you. You just happen to be by. You just happen to be there. It has nothing to do with you, unless you have really done something to offend. But, if you are really clear in your mind, if you know that you have done something to cause offense, then don't react to anger with anger, but react with humility, and ask for forgiveness. Gently, lovingly, sincerely. Have that element of repentance in you. But, if you know that you have really caused no offense, and the person is unreasonably angry, please understand that the anger is not - very seldom is our anger about the particular event or about the particular person. Anger simply is. That's all. From other sources, from other causes, built up from the way you have chosen to interpret your experiences from the very childhood. And, this particular event, and this particular person simply triggers that.
This has been explained in the Sutras, in chapter II. You can read my commentary on Sutra 4 of chapter II. "It was there in you, upon finding something to react to, you reacted."
So, the angry person is suffering from some kind of pain, and he does not know how to overcome that pain, the pain expresses itself in the form of that anger. And, if you understand that, you will understand why your mother was unfair with you, why your father was getting angry so often. And, you will go back, and you will look for that pain. If that can be assuaged, fine. If it cannot be assuaged, then you have an understanding. And then, that suffering, caused by your father's unjustified anger will not make you suffer.
One rises above one's psychological conditioning by applying one's spiritual insight. Then, the spiritual insight grows, and the same things that you used to get you angry, or defensive, or self-protective, those very situations will trigger a very different, and a very positive response from you. You see the person coming, and your first reaction to the angry person is "I wonder what the best way is to soothe him?”
You look at the person, and now that your mind is a sattvic mind, it can see through the person. You may not understand the details, you may not know all the details that has lead to his generally angry condition in his mind, but you would know how to soothe him, and he will go away smiling. And, you have one more notch in your series of conquests of the universe.
You know, the religion in India called "Jaina"?
Not many people know about this religion. They are not people who go out and propagate. It is the most ascetic religion in the world. And, one branch of that religion, the monks, stay absolutely naked; walk absolutely naked.
There was one monk who came to visit, and they do not ride vehicles. Because vehicles crush insects. So they walk. We had the presence of a monk of that tradition here in Rishikesh some years back, and I took the people from here, and I was a little bit apprehensive. The people here in India know about it, so it's OK, but I was a little bit apprehensive with our American and European ladies, how they would react.
And, I asked them later, "Did you feel you were in the presence of a naked man?" And, they said "No.". Because of that purity. To reach that position you have to go through so much sadhana! Even in the winter of Rishikesh, they are not allowed to cover themselves with a sheet in the night.
And, their title, for one who has reached perfection is "Jina", which means "the conqueror". That is the real conquest! Conquest of the lesser parts of our psychological personality makeup. And, changing your psychological personality so that it becomes something much more elevated, beyond your identification as a male, as a female, as a tall person, as a short person, as a fat person, as a lean person, as an ugly person, as a hansom person, as an attractive, charming young lady, or being rich, or being poor, or having had to struggle all your life. Or having been unfortunate in never having the mother's love. Or having been betrayed, so often! The person who has made the conquest, it's not as though those events are not there in his memory, but they are not the source of his reaction anymore. He is still tall, he hasn't operated on his femur, his thigh, to make him shorter, or stretched himself from short into tall. But, he has changed his mind. That is the core of this phrase that we constantly pronounce in our fire offerings. Those who have participated in them namah, "not mine".
Mr. Raghavan here recites these verses so beautifully, perhaps on Shiva Ratri night we'll ask him to recite. We uncultured North Indians, we can't recite with the correct intonation.
One last point about the marks of spiritual progress.
This last part is the most difficult that I have said: to rise above one's own personality and change it. So that you are neither an introvert, nor an extrovert. Whatever is needed at any given time to help others, you are that! And, to someone who needs father, there is father. And someone who needs a mother, there is mother. And, then, someone who needs a slap, you can give a slap without incurring any bad karma. I assure you of that.
My master, Swami Rama of the Himalayas, so gentle, so forgiving, so loving. He'll give you a hug, you just got lost in infinity. Those who have had his love will tell you. And, Savitri will tell you about the first time she got a hug. That we can't, we can't match that!
Such infinity in that pure love he would confer on you. And, one glare purified you immediately. Made you realize something. Two men walked into the Himalayan Institute. I don't know how many of you were there in those days. I only heard about it. Two men walked in there, thinking there are lots of single women living in the area, and they started bothering the receptionist. She was called Kamala and said "go and tell Swami Rama", and he came down.
Now, he had this ability to look short or tall, or this way or that way. And he was a Kung Fu master, among other things. Let Ingo tell you about that. With one flick he threw Ingo on that sidewalk there.
And, so he came down looking tall like a mountain, and held the two together by the neck and hit their two heads together and threw them out. And, then walks away as though nothing happened.
The sutra, chapter 4, sutra 7. "The yogi’s action is non-white and non-black". That's not in this volume. The Yogi's action, the yogi's karma, ashukla, akrishna, non-white, non-black.
Of others it is three kinds, white, black, and mixed. Mostly mixed.
When you are not acting from psychological conditioning, but from the essence as to what is needed for the most benefit, then you do not incur karma. Only the actions you perform from your psychological conditioning become karma. But, when you rise above your karmas, sanskaras, and vasanas, then you are free. Then you can walk down and hold two people by the necks, and hit their two heads together, and throw them out, and walk away as though nothing happened to something.
And, along with that comes the vow of Boddhisattva. In my own life, that vow has played the most part. The vow of a Boddhisattva. You reach a point where there is not one single selfish thought. Where there is not one single thing that is just for one's own pleasure or satisfaction. And, every thought, every sensation of your body, every movement, every act, every word, every tone, every glance is only for removing the pain and ignorance of others.
I never asked my guru for moksha, and I have no desire for moksha, liberation, not to be born again. My prayer is to be born again and again, as a liberated being.
I'll read you two of my poems. They are not just poems, they are my real prayers. For myself, that is my prayer.
I seek liberation, because someone who is bound cannot liberate others. If my hands are tied, and there is a whole crowd around whose hands are tied, one of us has to say "come on, let me remove my bonds, so I can remove everyone else's bonds and ropes." That is the only reason for seeking moksha, not because you are seeking escape from your pains.
So that I may loosen my bonds, and since you have been working on them and working on them while others have been sitting there and saying "what can we do, we are tied, we are bound?"
And, you are now about at a point, maybe in this life, or maybe in the next life, your knots will open, and then you are free.
Then what? You walk away? People ask yogis, spiritual teachers, "Why do you work so hard?" "Swami, you are not well, why don't you stop?" It just doesn't occur, the thought doesn't occur. Your baby is crying, you are a mother, you are sleeping. The baby is sick. Does anyone ever say "Why don't you go to sleep?” A person who is making spiritual progress becomes the mother to the whole universe, and sees everyone crying in pain. There's no time to sleep.
That is the vow of a Boddhisattva. There are, in the Buddhist tradition, names of Boddhisattvas who have chosen to live in Hell. They have the freedom to choose Heaven or Hell. They have chosen to live in Hell, to soothe the pains of those who are there involuntarily, as the result of their actions. I don't know if there is a place called Hell. That's also a condition of cosmic mind.
This little piece was written back in 1954, in London. It was originally written in Hindi, and later was translated. By the way, The Light of 10,000 Suns now has an Indian edition, so it's not as expensive as it once was, available in India.
Many have asked for the joy of a moment in the chambers of heavenly maidens, and many have prayed for the privilege of sipping but a drop of the drink of immortals. They have given up their comforts, forsaken their gardens, and smeared their limbs with the ashes of penance today, hoping for a morrow of reclining under the shades of the Parijata, the heavenly tree, and of weaving a garment of dreaming moments.
But, I, I shall not beg for those heavenly fruits when the day of my release comes. I am saving up my joys, so that I may carry a coffer full of them to scatter among those who have known none.
And, I am filling up my pouch with the healing breezes of ungiven love, so that I may release them, to soothe the wounds of those who endure the endless tortures of the lower world.
Send me not to heaven when I take leave of my leaking shelter of a hermit.
Oh guardian of the scales of my action, write not many good deeds of my name in the book of memory, for I wish not to have my salty tears of compassion choked to death by the laughter of a sweet flowered youth of paradise.
If you wish to grant me a favor, command thy messengers to Hell, where I may change the cries of piercing agonies into happy smiles.
That is the ambition of a person on the spiritual path. There is another one, a long one, "Songs of Silent Worship". I've read it many times. I'll only read one paragraph from it.
God grant me this wish, that I enroll as a soldier in some tyrant's army. He gives an order to start a march of conquest. I salute him, along with the rest of soldiers company. His glance accidentally falling on me, a white dove flutters in his heart. He calls a halt to the march and sends a message of peace to the weak neighbor land. Never knowing me as the cause, he disbands all his battalions, and I enroll in another tyrant's army. Oh God, may it be so.
Then, there is this paragraph:
God, grant me this wish, may I become flesh in endless rebirths, only in the most difficult of centuries. And I, unknown, ease the century into a time of comfort, then ease myself out of my flesh, to dwell in you, until the next difficult times. Oh God, may it be so.
Enough for today. I promise one lecture on the sutras, OK?
You can take these cassettes, and listen to them back home, make notes for yourself. They will serve you as a philosophy for your personal life. And, that is the purpose of these. They are not given for the sake of a lecture.
Maybe someone can translate then in Hindi. I need Hindi translators here. Anyone who is good at translating from English to Hindi, I can use.
We have. Tomorrow we have announced a lecture for the public, so it will be more general. And, day after tomorrow, is Shiva Ratri? On the twelfth is the night.
What is this Shiva?
I would like to recommend one book to you. I have done this many times before. Especially for people from the West. It's titled The Presence of Shiva, by a lady named Stella Kramrisch. ISBN 0-691-01930-4, Princeton Paperbacks. It's more suitable for the Western mind, but English speaking people can read it. I don't know if it's available in India.
Stella Kramrisch was one of those very, very few Western academicians who lead a spiritual life and gave the tradition spiritual interpretation of the texts and the tradition, without loosing her academic position, but rather enhancing it. Must have required quite a magic to do that. It's not easy to do that in the Western academic world. People like myself and people like Anne, we're refugees from that world. We cannot do both.
She was an Austrian artist, a dancer. In Vienna, Rabindranath Tagore, the great poet, saw her, and invited her to India. She came to Tagore's institution, "Shanti Niketan" and then came the war, and as a German she was caught here, in the sense of not being able to go back, which was just a godsend for her.
And, she has written some of the most authentic works on the spiritual meanings of Indian art. She was living in Calcutta, and had met a tantric master. Begged him to initiate [her]. "Yes, I'll initiate you." But, these masters, they have a very cruel habit of dangling the carrot in front of you for a very long time. "It's yours, it's yours, you can have it…" "Yes, you will have it. Here, take it." So, "Yes, yes, I will initiate you, of course. Who else? You are very worthy." And, you try to tie them down, and they disappear. You can't tie them down. They are waiting for something. Something to happen inside of you. Till then, nothing.
So … I'll tell you of my experience with my master. So, she waited.
I was very fortunate, I got everything the easy way actually. Everything from my master the very easy way. The first time I asked him, the first time that I met him, within a week or to I realized my guru had come, and I said "Swamiji, what do I have to do to be worthy of the adhikara of a yoga diksha?" "You are ready." Then, I didn’t ask more. Thank God I had the good sense to not ask "so, when?"!
I didn't ask. I just waited. Didn't say anything. This conversation was sometime in the end of December, 1969, just a few months after I went to Mauritius the first time. Actually, the waves of Swami Rama had begun to touch my while I was in Mauritius. I still remember that trip. I cannot describe those waves. When we speak here, it is those waves that speak.
So, anyway, on the 25th of February I get a phone call. "I am calling for Swami Rama, and he is coming to initiate you tomorrow morning."
"Where is he?"
"I am not at liberty to tell you."
So, I received the easy way, I didn’t' have to wait. Everything that has been given to me has been an act of infinite grace.
One day I was driving him in the city of Minneapolis, and I said "Swamiji, your disciples are back in the mountains, sitting there, doing their sadhana and doing all there… and here I am running around the cities, driving cars. When am I going to have my chance to go and do my sadhana?"
"Why do you want to do that?"
"Well, same reason you're other disciples are doing it."
He says, "I've done it all for you. I have already [this was in 1971] transferred you the fruit of 10,000 gayatris. Did you not feel it?"
I said "Yes"
"So, what are you complaining about?"
So, then I stopped asking. He said, "This is our tradition. I was taken through a lot of hard times by my master". "It's a tradition that the next one gets the easy way, and the following one gets the hard way. The one you will give to, you will really give them a hard time."
Me, give somebody a hard time? I am now learning. What I am learning now is how to give a hard time to my students. That is the next step in my sadhana. I learned to give smiles, now I have to learn to give slaps. That's very hard.
So, Stella Kramrish. So, one morning the master knocks at her door, and says "Come with me." You don't ask where. She picks herself up and walks behind him, through the streets here, there, wherever. I don't remember the exact which one, which cremation ground. I don't know if you people have been to an Indian cremation ground. If not, it's an experience. Where we put logs of wood, and we put the body, and cover it with logs, some sandalwoods, some ghee, some fragrant herbs, camphor, and set it alight. And, you see the logs burning.
So, he took her to a cremation ground, where he had this funeral pyre ready. Logs lying ready for burning somebody. So he says, "Climb up". So, she climbs up. "Sit down", so she sits down. "Go into meditation". And, he lit the pyre. And, the flames began to rise, and she sat, unflinching she sat. And so, "Alright, give me your hand, come down. I'll initiate you."
So, what she has written is from that personal experience. So, The Presence of Shiva is the best book for a Westerner to understand what this concept of Shiva is.
Simply, for those on the path of Yoga, the divinity meditating within you is named "Shiva". The divinity that is in the state of meditation, in you, at all times. Sitting on the mount Kailasa, is Shiva. And, that's why we sing "Shivo'ham, Shivo'ham", "I am Shiva."
So, Shiva Ratri the Shiva night is the night of worship of that aspect of God, that aspect of divinity. Pandit Dabral will instruct you. We will have worship here, 6:00-9:00 here, and then we will move to Sadhaka Grama, and we will have worship there. Better take a little sleep during the day because the way the Indian time divisions divide the day and the night, it's divided into "praharas". Three hour watches, as it were. There's a worship, four times, at three hour intervals. And, people sit, and keep the vigil, all night, recite, chant, meditate. And, normally, have a very, very good time. So, we'll have the Shiva Ratri celibration.
Many people fast until the next mornings worship, but we'll not enforce that. You're not used to it, and it becomes sort of a 24 hour fast. Don't force your body. Do take a little sleep during the day.