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Celebrating Maha Shivratri

Today is Maha Shivratri, one of the largest and most significant among the sacred festival nights of India, coming from the Hindu tradition. This day celebrates the Grace of Shiva, who is considered the First Guru, from whom the yogic tradition originates. As a long term yoga devotee I wanted to write just a little about this festival, which is a new one to me that I just researched this year.

The legend surrounding the festival of Maha shivratri says that Lubdhaka, a poor tribal man and a devotee of Shiva, went into the deep forests to collect firewood. At nightfall, he became lost and could not find his way home.

In the darkness, Lubdhaka climbed a bel tree, and sought safety and shelter in its branches until dawn. All night, he could hear the growls of tigers and wild animals, and was too frightened to leave the tree.

In order to keep himself awake, he plucked one leaf at a time from the tree and then dropped it, while chanting the name of Shiva. By sunrise, he had dropped thousands of leaves onto a Shiva lingam (a symbol representing Lord Shiva), which he had not seen in the darkness. Lubdhaka's all-night worship pleased Shiva.

By the grace of Shiva the tigers and wild animals went away, and Lubdhaka not only survived but was rewarded with 'divine bliss.'

One thing I loved about this story was the way that the intention of Lubdhaka was simply to get through the difficult experience he was having. He did what made sense to him, and what comforted him. And he got through it. It was only afterwards that the unintended positive consequences became clear, what’s not to like about divine bliss after all.

This really chimes with my understanding of the importance of doing spiritual practices because they are authentically the right thing to do and feel congruent, not in the hope or expectation of some specific way of feeling or being, or reward now or later. When we make offerings of our time and energy, and come from an orientation of service, then the heart is open, and we are able not only to give, but also to receive.

Wishing you a very happy Maha Shivratri, and wishing you a life of grace, whatever that means in the context of your own spirituality and well-being


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