By Swami Prajñananda
It was the first Shivaratri, the Night of Shiva. All the asuras (demons) and devas (gods) stayed up with Shiva through the night. Only a few hours earlier, Shiva had consumed the deadly halaahala poison. Had it had fallen on the earth, it would have destroyed the entire universe. To save the world, Shiva drank it. Although Shiva, who is being the universe and beyond the universe, could never die, the asuras and devas stayed up all night with him just to make sure.
This year, February 21 marks the holy day of Shavaratri; technically, it is the night that is holy. The sacredness of Shavaratri is not just due to the world being saved. It is also a night dedicated to God.
In the ancient story, the Demons and Gods alike turned their minds and hearts to Shiva. That they were enemies did not matter. They came together, chanted and extolled the praises of the One Divine Reality, in the form of Shiva. This story relates to us personally, as described in the Bhagavadgita: for every human being contains a unique combination of divine and demonic qualities. Some of those qualities named by Krishna include:
- Divine Qualities: humble; forgiving; compassionate; focused; peaceful; free of need, greed & fear
- Demonic Qualities: prideful; full of anger; selfish; deluded; hateful; lost in need, greed & fear
You may recognize qualities from both lists in yourself. Yet, as you continue with your yoga, you will notice that your Divine Qualities shine through more brightly, while your Demonic Qualities fall away. This is a day-to-day, yoga-class-by-yoga-class process.
A good Marker Pose is how you drive. Perhaps, since you started yoga, you notice that you don’t speed as much. Perhaps you are more patient and generous in letting people come into your lane. Perhaps you see the difference at the grocery store or a family function. Yoga is working on you from the inside out. Every yoga class and every meditation smooths your edges. You shine brighter and brighter.
In the ancient story of the first Shivaratri night, it did not matter whether an attending being was a Demon or a God. All stayed up with Shiva. In the same way, no matter your current combination of divine and demonic qualities, you too can turn your focus to Shiva. Who is Shiva? Shiva is your own Self.
Of course, your yoga practices transform you from the inside out. Yet do not think the goal of yoga is merely about being a better person. It isn’t about “making” yourself more Divine by cultivating Divine Qualities. You already are Divine, even when your inner light isn’t shining through perfectly. It’s already there — full, whole and complete within. Nothing you do or don’t do can make you any less Shiva.
However, how do you know it? That is what yoga is cultivating: your ability to know who you are. On the holy night of Shivaratri, your ability to know Shiva is magnified. Choose to ride the energy of this holy night! Stay up doing practices. Who knows? You could even become enlightened.
Om svaroopa svasvabhavah namo nama.h