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Maha Shivarathri – The Night for Sacred Vigil

Maha Shivarathri has been among the most spiritually signifying events in the festive-galore Prasanthi Nilayam. …and the festivity has had a unique trail to this Divine Abode that dated back to the early 1940s when the Master Indweller of this Home of Supreme Peace, had come out with the most significant declaration after the times of Bhagawan Sri Krishna, revealing The Sai Advent. Shivarathri in the immediate Divine Presence of Lord Shiva Himself is the uniqueness of the festivity in Prasanthi Nilayam.

The Festival of Austerity

Maha Shivarathri is the holy occasion when the jiva remembers and adores Shiva, who is the life of lives and the Lord of all souls, who through His cosmic dance, a metaphorical representation of life on earth, conglomerates the three acts of the Godhead, namely, creation, preservation and destruction.  Bhagawan has said: all that you find in this world, mobile and immobile, is nothing but the Cosmic Dance of Shiva. This is wonderful, blissful and beyond human comprehension…

Maha Shivarathri means 'the Great Night of Shiva'. According to the Sivapurana, this holy day falls on the Krishna Chathurdasi day which is on the fourteenth day during the waning of the moon in the month of Megha, though in some years it may occur in the month of Phalguna.

Rudram Chanting

Morning, February 23, 2009

An unprecedented gathering converged in Prasanthi Nilayam during the occasion, thoroughly unmindful of the inconveniences that is natural for an assemblage of gigantic proportions, is an apparent testimony to the inner urge of man to realise his essential Truth. The enthusiastic devotees filled every inch of space available in Prasanthi Nilayam from two days in advance in the run up to the festivity. One could see long disciplined queues making a beeline, much before the first rays of the Sun peeped through the eastern horizon, to ensure a place on the coveted occasion in the Sai Kulwant Hall. Anticipating a surge of devotees, arrangements had been made to put up huge screens to show the programmes live to those who could not have a good view from their spot. Such screens were projected on both sides, ladies’ and gents’ side in the Sai Kulwant Hall and in the Poornachandra Auditorium.

On the auspicious morning, Bhagawan came out at 8:30 moving gently among the devoted assemblage, completing one full round, reaching the dais…Craning necks, glued eyes, folded hands and prayerful lips, minds attuned to the ecstatic vibrations and hearts beating to the melody of souls…He was the focal point….for the weak and the meek, rich and the poor, men and women…for one and all…The special Shivarathri Cakes prepared by the overseas group of devotees as well as by the students were blessed and cut by Bhagawan before He He came onstage granting blissful darshan.

Over a thousand Youth from Karnataka, well trained in Rudram chanting were blessed by Bhagawan to chant Rudram in the Divine Presence on the auspicious morning.

His Glory does not require any catalyst to express…Sai Kulwant Hall that was filled to capacity reverberating with the Vedic chants, with every single heart beating for the form of the formless one with eyes glued in rapt attention. Bhagawan sat through the session for nearly an hour conferring Divine benediction on the privileged folk of Prasanthi Nilayam, His students and the youth and the multi-thousands thronged to have a glimpse on the auspicious morning! With the chanting of Rudram reaching its crescendo, the Sai Kulwant Hall became verily transfixed in the world of Lord Shiva, with the form of the formless Shiva sitting right in the middle, most nonchalant, presiding over the proceedings. After almost an hour long sitting, Bhagawan called for Arathi and before leaving advised the boys and youth to assemble at 3 o’ clock for the evening session.

Speeches, Divine Discourse and Commencement of Bhajans

Evening, February 23, 2009

An electrifying Divine Discourse, inspirational rhetoric by seniors followed by Akhanda Bhajan were the highlights of the glitzy Shivarathri evening at Prasanthi Nilayam in the immediate Divine Presence. In the afternoon the hall was occupied by the students, staff and other devotees much before the scheduled hour. Bhagawan in His resplendent yellow robe gave darshan to all assembled before occupying the centre stage on the dais. An Ice Lingam, an apt representation of the Holy Kailash Mountain, the dwelling place of Lord Shiva, was brought to the front as specially instructed by Bhagawan for the complete public view. The gigantic lingam brought with special care by the Youth from Karnataka was made up of 600 kgs of Ice, 20 Litres of milk and was 5.08 ft in height.

The session began with an address by former Vice Chancellor Sri SV Giri who dwelled upon the greater significance of the sacred night, calling the festivity as a cultural representation of the country, Bharath. Sri. V. Srinivasan, All India President, Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations was categorical in expressing the greater benediction that befell on the capacity crowd assembled in Prasanthi Nilayam to celebrate the festivity in His Divine Presence. The third speaker, Mr. Ajith Popat gave an electrifying speech, an appetizer warming up for the lofty Divine Discourse that was in waiting.

Hailing Mother India and her greater cultural heritage, Bhagawan said, having been born in Bharath, people of the country have the responsibility to upkeep her cultural heritage. Referring to the auspicious Shivarathri Night, Bhagawan was candid in expressing that many nights that we pass could not be compared with the auspicious Shivarathri Night. The holy night should be utilized in chanting His Divine Name. Exhorting to listen to the glory of Lord Shiva, He said, when you spent the night in constant contemplation, it verily becomes Shivarathri. Shiva is beyond physical form. We assume Him a physical form out of our imagination. Hari and Hara are beyond the physical.

Dwelling upon the story wherein Mother Parvathi, being prodded by Goddess Lakshmi, questions Lord Shiva of His odd credentials to be her husband, Bhagawan brought home the point quoting Lord’s reply to Mother Parvathi that Lord was beyond names, caste and lineage; He has no name and no form; He is changeless; He has neither birth nor death; neither beginning nor end; He is eternal and Atma Swarupa.
Talking about the greater importance of meditation, He said one should advance through the three levels of concentration, contemplation, and thereafter Meditation. Meditation is resulting out of a steady unwavering mind. True identity with the Divine could be achieved only by sacrificing action leaving the feeling of doer ship. May you experience any amount of discomforts, never give up the consciousness. As a prerequisite to attain peace one needs to start with Sathya and Dharma by rooting out all negative tendencies/qualities.

Referring to all the criticism being poured unto Him, He asserted that He is not affected by any of them and He remains to be the same. He only has Love to give back to all of them as he does not have any trace of hatred or anger. Bhagawan exhorted the assemblage of devotees to follow the path of Sathya and Dharma and to Love All and Serve All. When Sathya joins Dharma there comes Prema…While singing Prema Muditha Manase Kaho…think of Him, meditate upon His Name wholeheartedly with Love. He concluded the Divine Discourse calling upon the devotees to Be Happy.

Conclusion of Bhajans and Narayana Seva(Serving of Prasadam)

Morning, February 24, 2009

The Sacred Vigil that began with the conclusion of the Divine Discourse continued into the early hours of the 24th. It was nearing 8:40 a.m. All eyes were glued to the pathway leading from Bhagawan’s Residence…and lo! The dazzling maroon clad Divine Form emerged out of Yajur Mandiram!…Bhagawan moved along the entire pathway, through the assemblage of devotees on to the dais. On His way some of the staff members requested him to consecrate the prasadam to be served to all devotees and the Lord obilged. Bhajans continued for some more time as the prasadam was being shifted to the designated location before Bhagawan called for Aarathi. This was followed by special prasadam, tamarind rice and laddu, served to the entire assemblage of devotees. Bhagawan sat through for more than half an hour watching the prasadam distribution proceedings before retiring to Yajur Mandiram.

“Shivarathri was the festival which manifested most of the God that Baba is” wrote Sri N. Kasturi in his narration about the festivity of the seventies and eighties. If God is Love and if that Love has embodied in human form, He is bound to shower that Love…and it was that all-encompassing Love, all-conquering Love that probably precipitated in the hearts of the tens of thousands of men and women assembled on the Shivarathri occasion, to treasure as most valued…to carry home…and further on…in the journey ahead.