A Study Of Mahaa Shiva Raatri 

With Special Reference to Rishi Bodh Raatri [Rishi Enlightenment Night]

 

Today, Friday, March 1, the Arya-Hindu World is celebrating Mahaa Shiva Raatri, along with Rishi Bodh Raatri.  Some temples celebrated on Wednesday, February 28.  The important point is that many people are questioning the substance of this festival, and they have been asking for an explanation of its significance.  I invite you to study the following paragraphs.

 

If God truly exists [and, for sure, He does], then we need to find Him and know Him.  We cannot keep worshipping a Being whom we do not feel and experience.  To help people connect with God, Christians say you need to believe in and accept Jesus Christ as your savior.  Muslims say you need to accept Allah as the One God and Muhammed to be His final prophet.  Hindus advocate, among other things, to either reverentially offer a flower or fruit, pour water or milk and wave lights, or make Ghee and Saamagri offerings on Havan fire.  When skeptics and agnostics hear of these methods suggested by religions, they ask: Are these enough to discover God? Is worshipping a Moorti, performing Havan, accepting Jesus Christ, or honoring Muhammed enough?  After these initial questions are asked, we seriously need to find answers to some other important questions, like the following:

Who is God? 

Where is He? 

What is He like? 

What does He do for us? 

How can we find and know Him? 

How can we build a relationship with Him?

 

Vaidik Sanaatan Dharma [Hinduism] has given us many mechanisms to find answers to the foregoing questions.  One of these is this current festival called Mahaa Shiva Raatri [the so-called Great God Night].  Popular Hinduism presents the well-known figure of Shiva as part of Shiva Raatri celebrations.  This picture contains a great lesson involving the Trishool [3-pointed weapon], the water flowing out of Shiva’s head, his blue skin, and the tiger-skin seat where he sits.  Looking at these symbols introspectively, we must ask as follows:

Do I have valid knowledge flowing from my mind in a water-like manner, as the picture suggests?

Have I overcome my three pains [physical, emotional, atmospheric] as Trishool suggests?

Have I controlled my animal tendencies as the tiger seat suggests?

Have I swallowed the poison [as Shiva’s blue body suggests] that permeates human relationships at home and in society?

 

In addition, the scenario with the young boy Mool Shankar in the Shiva Temple in the year 1837 adds to the challenge that Mahaa Shiva Raatri presents to every worshipping Soul.  Mool Shankar was encouraged by his dad to fast and observe vigil all day and night so he could “see” God.  He didn’t.  It’s like you and I promising our child that Santa would come on Christmas Eve to fill stockings with gifts at midnight.  The next morning, the child wakes up and says: “Mommy, stayed up all night but I did not see Santa.”  A very significant statement of fact, indeed!  Have you and I found God after so many years of living, working, and attending houses of worship?  Can you and I find God in the so-called inert forms we have been connecting with all the years of our lives?  Rishi Bodh Raatri [Rishi Enlightenment Night] is increasing the intensity of the challenge that Mahaa Shiva Raatri poses to us.  It’s not that saints and sages did not find God – they did!  And you and I, if we can re-enact the Shiva Raatri Drama of 1837, we too can begin a serious inquiry into God and ultimately find Him.  Rishi Bodh Raatri [Mahaa Shiva Raatri] of 2024 is asking that we not wait for another Great Night to come again in 2025.  Let’s begin now with some simple spiritual practices as follows:

Satyam Vada – Speak the Truth

Dharmam Chara – Walk the Path of Virtue

Swaadhyaayaan Maa Pramadah – Never neglect the study of sacred writings. 

Maatri Devo Bhava – Treat your mother as a goddess.       

Pitri Devo Bhava – Treat your father as a god.       

Acharya Devo Bhava – Treat your teacher as a god.       

Atithi Devo Bhava – Treat your guest as a god.       

 

I strongly believe that this is the simplest path that anyone can follow.  Not all of us would want to accept Christ or Muhammed.  But everyone will choose to see godly qualities in mom, dad, teacher, and guest.  We can only “see” godly qualities in others when we are godly in our minds.  We can give birth to godly children only if we are godly parents ourselves.  We can have godly friends and neighbors only if we are godly ourselves.  So, let’s continue to observe Mahaa Shiva and Rishi Bodh Ratri today, tomorrow, and all the other days until March 2025, and see the godly change that takes place in our persona.  Happy Mahaa Shiva-Rishi Bodh Raatri!!!

 

DR SATISH PRAKASH

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