Every moment in the life of a lover of God is a moment of festivity because the joy of God descends into us; trickle by trickle, streams by streams; rivulets by rivulets by rivulets, in tides of oceans it arises inside ourselves when we are lovers of God. Yet, we select certain times when we realize our oneness with that source of all celebration and festivity. Some festivals are celebrated outside us, arounds us, in social forms as many of us observe, say, Christmas; Holi, the festival of colors; Diwali, the festival of lights; and many others. But the celebration of the Shiva night is purely an internal one. It is a night when something happens within us. A day of silence, a night of contemplation.

Silence is of many kinds as I have said before. Fasting is a silence; celibacy is a silence. Silence is a fast; silence is a celibacy. Silence of mind goes deeper and deeper until it becomes what St. John of the Cross has called “The Dark Night of the Soul.” It is a phrase not understood by the modern man; St. John is not talking of something fearsome, but something to celebrate – a stilling of the senses.

God, God, God has many many faces. Thou art the flowing cooling Waters. Thou art the all-encompassing Space. Thou art the supportive Earth. Thou art the Tao, the Self, the Atman. In all of these many names, we see the forms, and in all of these many forms, we this One permeating all. When we see God as we would like to see ourselves, when we have reached our ascetic urge at its maximum, at its fullest, that being of ourselves, one with the supreme Self is Shiva, the King of Ascetics.
Shiva is the Lord of the meditator, the very identity of the meditator. The earliest iconography in human history is a meditative one as divinity sitting in the meditative posture. It is the iconography of Shiva. It is that one by whose grace we are drawn to a life of renunciation, to go up the mountain, for he is the dweller of Mount Kailash, the dweller of the highest mountain within us, the head. From his matted hair the gushing river of inspiration, knowledge, and wisdom flows. The very river descends from the highest of the heavens, comes right into our fontanel, and from there flows downwards into the seven worlds (chakras), the seven continents, the sevens oceans, and becomes our very kundalini. That Shiva. To Him I dedicate myself today by the chant, “Om namah Shivaya.”

At this time in India, literally millions of people are walking. On well adorned bamboo poles on their shoulders, they have hung pots of different sizes on both sides. Pilgrims are walking from their villages, some as far away as 300 miles. Some walk all the way to Gomukh, the source of the river Ganges, from where they will take the water, the holy water. They will arrive back on Shivaratri night and pour this water – this form of purity, inspiration, aspiration for holiness – in a stream on the deity in their village temple as on offering. It is an offering of themselves, a flowing offering, a stream of the internal Self offered, onto that Shiva being.

On Shiva night we worship Shiva. When we worship externally, we worship Shiva in an amorphous form of an oval shape (lingam). It, the formless form before the universe has diversified, becomes as it were, a golden orb from where many faces of divinity appear. Sometimes we see one face, sometimes we see five faces, sometimes we see three faces all different ones emerging out of that amorphous form. This is our very linga sharira, subtle body. When it is viewed as luminous, amorphous, a sort of an oval form, from which our physical body emanates, sprouts, as it were, our limbs, that very being of God in the form of our subtle body is Shiva. Stripped of all adornments of our physical body, not interested in what is offered through the opening of the senses, eyes closed. This is the identification of ourselves as Shiva when we sing Shivoham, Shivoham, Shivoham, Shivoham, Shivoham, Shivoham, Shivoham. Millions of the people are walking toward Rishikesh at this time or have already taken their water from the Ganges and are walking to the temples up in the mountains. Many of them chanting, “OM NAMAH SHIVAYA, SHIVOHAM” (I AM SHIVA).

It would be the height of arrogance to call oneself Shiva and then offer worship to Shiva. Are we offering worship to ourselves? Not to our selves, but to our very Self. This very Self who becomes an ascetic even for a night had to doff the clothing to the identification with the physical body. It has freed itself and sat on the mountain Kailasha in the dome of the skull (not necessarily the real Mount Kailasha which is under Chinese occupation at present, though some pilgrims do travel to it in guided groups).

That Shiva is called Shiva because he sits and rests and meditates within us. He is called Hara, the plunderer. The one who plunders all that is of the exterior attractions within us. He is called Pashupati, Lord of his cattle, for we are his “pashu.” In South Indian Shaivism, Tamil Shaivism, there are these three figures in the theology: Pati, Pashu, and Pasha.

Pati: the Master, the Lord
Pashu: We, his animals, creatures, herd
Pasha: the snare with which we are bound

When we drop these snares, these ropes, these tethers with which we have confined our infinity into finiteness, then we are one with Shiva, and only then there arises in us, “Shivoham, Shivoham.” (I am Shiva, I am Shiva)

I used to sing in the early days of The Meditation Center.

“I am not the mind. I am not the intelligence. I am not the ahamkara, the ego. I am not the chitta, the mindfield. I am not the ears, the mouth, nor the nostrils, nor the eyes, nor the skin. I am not the sky, the spaces, winds, fires, waters, earths, which up to this very day I considered myself to be constituted. I am the very Self of Pure Consciousness and Bliss. I am Shiva. I am Shiva. I am Shiva. I am Shiva. I am Shiva.”

Shiva is not worshipped alone. “Shiva shaktya yukta” Shiva always together with Shakti, the very power that makes Him Shiva without which he is Shava (as in shavasana), a corpse. Not until this Shiva has Shakti vibrating is he truly Shiva. The “i” in the mantra-shastra, the mantra science, represents the feminine force. In the Shiva Purana, we read all that you view as masculine is Shiva, all that you view as feminine is Shiva – Shakti.

The Lord of all realms is Shiva, the very realm is Shakti. That which is to be heard is Shakti. The listener is Shiva. The one who questions is the spirit of the universe in you as Shiva. And all that is to be questioned is Shakti herself. All that is taste and flavor is She, the taster of the flavors is He. All the substance that are to be contemplated is She. The contemplator is He. All that is to be known is She. The knower is He. All the words and sounds are She. All the reality expressed by the words is He. Whatever is the power, the capacity, the “ness” expressed by this suffix, abstract in the language, is She. That in which that power resides is He. And the twain are ever One. When in you the twain have become One, then there is no left nor right, no front nor back, no below nor above. Then you are dikshita, an initiate.

We speak in the tradition of Shambhavi Diksha. We speak of the Shakti diksha. We speak of the mantric diksha (mantra initiation). Greater, much greater than that is when the river Ganga flowing from the matted hair of the Guru flows into the disciple in as much as the vessel called disciple can contain – Shakti diksha. Shambhavi diksha is when the fulness cannot be identified within ourselves because the vessel is not is not broad enough, not deep enough, not cleansed enough. Then by a touch, by a glance, the Guru passes a part of this energy into our selves. Sometimes this is passed into you when you sit in your meditation. This is called Shambhavi diksha.

When one reaches the supreme reality within oneself, then for him meditation ceases to be an effort. The tantric text on the Mrityunjaya mantra, the Netra Tantra (about which I am planning to do a seminar whenever I visit you next), teaches us, “Neither am I” nor is there any other to be meditated upon because the mind having entered the ocean of joy (ananda) has become One in which all things have coalesced. Therefore, do not meditate above or below or in the middle. Neither inside the body or outside. Nor looking at the empty space nor looking down the nose. There is no closing the eyes, no tying up the vision to an object. Neither having an object nor not having an object. Neither senses, nor beings, nor elements, nor experiences. Abandoning it all in samadhi one becomes One.

When such wisdom arises we realize that we are beings, not of two eyes, but of three eyes. Actually, the name of the tantra explained in Shiva’s meditation mantra is Netra Tantra. Netra is one of many Sanskrit words for eyes – that which leads. And this particular mantra, Mrityunjaya mantra is also called a netra mantra, a mantra of the eye, or the mantra that is the eye, or the mantra that is the eye. What is the eye?

Try-ambakam, the three mothers are one and the same as the three eyes. “Three mothers?” you ask. Who can be born of three mothers? And all at once! We are born of three mothers in the three Shaktis: Iccha Shakti, Jnana Shakti, and Kriya Shakti.

Iccha Shakti: the power of volition in the divine being
Jnana Shakti: the power of knowledge in the divine being
Kriya Shakti: the power to activate in the divine being

Also known as Five Acts of Divinity: srsti (creating), sthiti (maintaining), samhara (dissolving), tirodhana (concealing), anugraha (grace and revelation).

Having created the entire universe, He has made the universe into a veil that He has drawn upon Himself and hides behind it. Concealing, hiding all parts except the small toe of His left foot from which emanates as light beams as a million worlds. One hundred and eighteen of them. You may sometimes see in a beam of light particles of dust. That is what planets are relative to this universe. Now we are not talking of these worlds, not when we are Shivoham – when we are Shiva. The three Shaktis are the three eyes.

Try-ambakam yajamahe: I sacrifice myself, sacrifice myself. Being his pashu, his cattle, his creature, I make myself into a sacrifice into that one who has the three shaktis, the three eyes, the three mothers who are one and the same with Him. Unto him I sacrifice myself.

Su-gandhim: To Him the fragrant one. Because when I first begin my sacrifice I begin at Muladhara Chakra which is the seat of the earth element and the container of all fragrance. Unto Him, the fragrant one, for my God is a fragrant One. My Shiva is a fragrant God.

Pushti: From that fragrant One comes pushti – nourishment. I need no other nourishment. No nourishment but the fragrance that is the milk by my mothers. He nourishes me. “Nourishes me” means the kundalini shakti rising. And that which was initiated in me becomes filled with nourishment. I starve then for nothing. I crave for nothing for I am fully nourished and thereby…

Vardhanam: He makes me grow. He increases me.

Urvarukam-iva: Melon-like fruit.

Mukshiya: is a prayer: May I attain moksha, may I attain liberation. May I be released like a fruit (a melon-like fruit, urvarukam-iva) dropped from a vine. From what would I be released…?

Bandhanat, mrytoh: (These two words are not adjectives of each other and they are not opposite of each other. The words are in apposition.) From bondage that is death. From death that means bondage. Every moment that I am bound, I am in the grips of death that stands there with its jaws open. May I be released from this death called bondage so that I may attain moksha, final liberation.

Ma-amrtat: May I never be divorced from my real nature of immortality. May I ever dwell in that, for I am Shiva. Shivoham. Shivoham. Shivoham.

I wish for you that when you sit for these twenty-four hours, you become the namesake of Shiva, the deity meditating within you so you do not have to meditate. So that your exterior self has to make no effort. That you become true to another name of Shiva. On this Shivaratri night, we recite one thousand names of Shiva. We recite each name with Namah: unto him, not mine; unto Him I pay homage; unto Him I surrender. All things I have claimed as mine are no longer mine. Shivaya namah, Haryana namah, Sthanave namah, etc.

One of his names is Sthanu. Sthanu is what is sounds like: stationary, stable, unmoving, unflickering, unwavering and untwitching like the stump of a tree, like a rock. For at least this Shiva night become an icon of Shiva – unwavering, unflickering, firm in your identification with the divinity within yourself, so that every part of you can say, “I am Shiva.” And remember Shiva is not alone. He is the one known as ardha-narishvara – half-male and half-female entwined as One. Be that one today, tonight, and for many nights and days to come.

God bless you.

Swami Veda Bharati

Nirvana Ashtakam – Hymn to Shiva by Adi Shankara

1) I am not manas (mind), buddhi, ahamkara or chitta,
nor ears, mouth, nose, eyes,
nor sky (space), earth, light (fire), air –
cit and ananda – I am Shiva, I am Shiva.

2) I am not called the Prana, nor are the five wind mine,
nor seven dhatus (bone, blood, etc.), nor the five sheaths,
nor speech, hands, feet, organs of generation or elimination –
cit and ananda – I am Shiva, I am Shiva.

3) Attractions and aversions are not mine, nor greed and confusion,
nor pride, nor petty malice,
no dharma, no artha, no kama, no moksha –
cit and ananda – I am Shiva, I am Shiva.

4) Neither vice nor sin, no pleasure, no pain,
no mantra, no pilgrimage (and sacred places), nor Vedas, no sacrifices,
I am not food, an object to be enjoyed, nor the enjoyer (diner) –
cit and ananda – I am Shiva. I am Shiva.

5) To me there is no fear of death, no differences by birth (castes, etc.)
no father, no mother, nor ever a birth.
no kinsman, no friend, no guru, no disciple –
cit and ananda – I am Shiva, I am Shiva.

6) I am free from all oscillations of the mind, without (name), shape or form,
I, pervading all, remain master over the senses;
Ever equanimity to me, no bondage and no freedom (therefrom),
Purest consciousness (cit), Supreme Joy (bliss/ananda),
I am Shiva, I am Shiva.

Śrī Śiva Sahasranāma Recitation by Swami Veda Bharati

Śiva Mānasa Pūjā Recitation by Swami Veda Bharati

Editor’s Note:

[This is an address given by Swami Veda Bharati on 16 February 1996.]