ON February 27 this year is Mahashivratri, a night of great spiritual significance with a deep scientific rationale. At the Isha Yoga Center in Coimbatore, this is a grand celebration – a night of music, dance, meditation and rapture.
When I say ‘spiritual’, I am not referring to anything other-worldly. This is not about subscribing to a belief system, an ideology or a philosophy. Nor is this some cultural antic or about joining a Shiva fan club.
What makes this night so significant? There are 12 Shivratris in a year. The 14th day of every month, the day before the no-moon, is called Shivratri. Of all these Shivratris, the one that appears in the lunar month of Magha, around February-March, is called Maha-shivratri. On this day, in the northern hemisphere, there is a natural upsurge of energies in the human system. Every human being can make use of this if he keeps his spine erect.
In evolutionary development, a significant step is the shift from invertebrate to vertebrate. Another important step is the movement of the spine from the horizontal to the vertical position. As human beings, we are the only species to have graduated to the level of an erect spine. And on this day when planetary positions are such that there is a natural upsurge of energies, keeping the spine vertical all night has immense benefits – not just for spiritual seekers but also for those seeking material success.
Culturally, the festival means different things to different people. Ascetics see this as the night when Shiva became absolutely still and attained the peak of his perception. Householders see this as the night when Shiva married Parvati. The ambitious see it as the night when Shiva vanquished all his enemies. But this festival was essentially created so we could make use of this natural planetary assistance to move towards a higher possibility within ourselves.
If you exist here as mere physicality, you will know only two dimensions of life: self-preservation and procreation. These are essential, but never enough. A human being is always longing to be more than who he is right now.
There is a difference between ‘knowledge’ and ‘knowing’. Knowledge is information gathered in bits and pieces. If you pass a flowering plant and you know the chemistry of its fragrance, that is one dimension of knowledge. If you know the experience and ecstasy of that fragrance, that is another dimension of knowledge. But if you become the fragrance, that is true knowing.
The human struggle is just this: you are unwilling to shake off the bits and pieces of knowledge you have acquired, because these give you some sense of security and identity. For a tiny bit of knowledge, you are giving up the cosmos!
Science tells us existence is energy. It could be physical, mental, emotional, or it could be dark energy. Scientists spoke earlier of ‘dark matter’, but recently they have started saying that the basis of everything is ‘dark energy’, which is in constant collaboration with dark matter.
Way back in history, this culture spoke of ‘dark energy’ too. This is not new for anyone who has looked within himself. The way the individual is made is the way the cosmos is made. Both come from the same manufacturing unit. It is in the lap of that darkness that everything is born. We called this dark energy ‘Shi-va’, or ‘that which is not’.
So, Mahashivratri is the darkest night of the year in the northern hemisphere. And only those who consciously approach this darkness will see light. Every human being has a choice: to exist here just as a piece of creation or to exist here as the source of creation. The source is always approachable, but it is much more approachable on this particular day.
Grace is not something that is turned on and off, but on this night, transmission lines function that much better, so it is a tremendous opportunity to become receptive. And being receptive to grace is being receptive to life and the very source of life.
Sadhguru, a yogi, is a visionary, humanitarian and a prominent spiritual leader (www.ishafoundation.org)