President, Inter Religious Organisation
There is the famous adage: "Science without spirituality is blind and spirituality without science is lame". I have contemplated and went into deep silence and meditation to understand this phrase which I may agree with in most part. However, I also think that spirituality itself is a science which once explored brings great gratification.
Lets us look at the self and our relationship with God. I also want to specifically focus on the auspicious and unique celebration of Shivaratri and its impact on humanity.
We often describe without a doubt that we are all spiritual beings, children of the one and only God. Though He may be called by a variety of names, mainly due to languages, we all agree that there is only one God.
Who is He? Though He may also be remembered or worshipped also in the female form, we mainly refer to God as He or male or Father. Time of course is changing in terms of household and the world of work, etc. However, we maintain the custom of calling God as He.
GOD is the formation of three letters and its meaning can be very significant as it relates to His attributes, as is also the names of even human beings. G–Generator, O–Operator, D–destroyer.
What does God generate?
Generate can be better explained as empowerment or restoring ones innate qualities. He is remembered as the benefactor and merciful One, the giver of peace, love, happinness, etc. He is also referred to as the creator. People mainly remember, pray, meditate, worship or think of God at the time of need or want, with the expectation that their desires will be fulfilled by the expectant devotee, even if it is for the wrong reasons.
What does He operate?
Again it will be best to describe this as Sustainer. As with all good things, we would obviously prefer if it remains for a lifetime or even in the hereafter. So once we feel empowered, we will like to sustain this.
What does He destroy?
That which we do not want like–the hate, envy, jealousy, greed, anger, lust etc. That is the impurities or things that cause sorrow and pain and sufferings. So in reality, by understanding God, we can understand ourselves better. We know our needs, how it is lost and how to replenish it. But yet we are in such a mess of confusion, sorrow and fear with crime, violence and calamities in every part of the world.
In essence it is a reflection of the pain and suffering we have to endure as a result of our Karma or actions. As you sow, that you shall reap.
Shivaratri celebrated worldwide
This unique festival which is celebrated by Hindus worldwide annually, actually is relevant to all of mankind. We do celebrate our auspicious day of our birth as our birthday, but never a birth night even though we may be born in the physical night. Why then only to the One Shiva, we celebrate His descend as birth night?
The universal scripture, the Shrimat Bhagavat Gita, spoken by only God Shiva Himself, which is read mainly by Hindus in Chapter 4, verses six and seven clearly answers this question. "Whenever there is a decline of righteousness and unrighteousness is on the ascendant, I body myself forth, for the protection of the virtuous, for the destruction of evil doers and for establishing Dharma (righteousness) on a firm footing".
God does not take birth like me and you and does not go through the cycle of birth and death. If this were to be the case then He, too, would be subjected to childhood, youth, old age etc, and would be in the same state like all of us. He clearly speaks of his descend as "bodying" himself forth.
For us souls, we speak of re-incarnation, risen or the hereafter when death occurs, as we know that the soul that once lived in this body is imperishable. However, for God we say He incarnates at a specific time into this earth. So clearly, it is even now easy to logically conclude, that no human being, regardless how great or righteous or kind or possessing magical powers etc, is God, or was God or will ever be called God. God is not a human being.
In order to carry out His role when He descends, the costume He uses obviously will be that which possesses the senses with which He can communicate with us. So He uses a human body, a human being which is misunderstood to be God or thinking that He, God, is human.
Because of the three main divine task of God, of Creation, Sustenance, and destruction, He is universally accepted as the Trinity. In Hindu mytology, these three acts are defined by the usage of three beings.
Namely, Brahma (an elderly mature being) for creation, Vishnu (depicted with four arms) for sustenance, and Shankar, who is also called Mahadeo or Shiva or destruction. However, this Shiva who is depicted as the act of destruction is not God but just one of the activities of destroying the evil.
I will therefore clarify this misconception as well. Firstly as is mention before, no human being is God. This person is himself remembering God as is seen in his meditation posture with eyes half opened, and with the rosary in his hand and around his neck. The snake around his neck and the blue or mauve colour of his body, symbolises the poison or vices or evil tendencies we are consumed with and have to be renounced.
Sitting on the tiger or lion skin signifies that we have to conquer the skin or leather or body consciousness, then we can restore our natural nature and become (vikrama jheet), conquerer of the vices. Hence he is shown in the yoga posture, meditation on God to get the divine powers to even become master of the mind.
The cresent moon signifies our most degraded or lowest state which has to be restored to the full moon that is also shown in the illustration. The sign of perfection is described as 16 celestial degrees full, and is compared to the full moon in ancient time.
The water flowing from the head represents the light of knowledge and wisdom that removes the darkness of ignorance. Water does not flow from the head, rather it's wisdom or intelligence that flows from the head. Water cannot purify nor wash away your sins. Purification only happens when you are honest and surrender your weaknesses to God. Then He can replace them with His powers and virtues thereby empowering you.
The plants and natural surrounding is the kind of environment and company we follow or associate. This will influence our thoughts and our lives. The trident or trishul, the three-pointed rod represents our three eyes. The two physical eyes of the body and the most pointed being in the middle, the third eye of the soul that has to be awakend and cleansed.
So I do hope that this very simple, logical explanation will help you understand that in reality, this human being we think is God Shiva is in reality the form or posture or activity we have to keep in our mind, as we celebrate this festival or observe in our daily prayerful lives. Hinduism being the oldest tradition of thousands of years is very symbolic, scientific and simple and holds the secrets to all problems once studied and understood.
It is for this clear distinct reason that we on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri place our offerings on the non-human image called the Linga or oval shaped stone. A similar oval shaped stone or form of light is revered in all major religions across the globe and in its most auspicious places.
The oval shaped stone is symbolic of the flame or light. Also, most religions accept God as Light. Shiva the universal name means the seed, the benefactor and the light.
Shiva ratri–the night of darkness when the light of God Shiva descends. I bow to Shiva when He comes. Salutation to Shiva. Further, systematically, on this day/night of Shiva ratri the sequence of offerings are as follows:
Milk–which shows our pure intentions;
Yogurt–or curdled milk, sour tasting, which shows our internal difficulties and confusion which we have to confess in order to bring about change;
Ghee –or a state of richness and nutrition and health of all aspects which we gain. Physical, mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual, after admitting our weaknesses;
Honey–the state of contentment and sweetness of relationships.
The auk or madar flowers, datoor flower etc and other intoxicants that are offered, that are never ever offered to deities or humans are the weaknesses and poison we offer only to God to have it replaced with divinity, and to restore peace, love and happiness. In so doing we can then create a better quality of live for us all to enjoy as one divine human family, children of the One and Only God, the Supreme Soul, the Almighty authority Shiva.
May the peace and blessings of the Almighty be upon this land and the entire globe, to restore universal harmony between human and nature, human and human, and human and God.