by Swami Krishnananda
A talk given on 22nd February 1973, a week before Mahasivaratri.
We conceive God as glory, as creativity and as austerity. Vishnu is glory and magnificence, Brahma is creativity force, and Siva is austerity and renunciation. You might have heard it said that God is the embodiment of six attributes of which renunciation is one. You will be wondering how God can renounce things. He is not a Sannyasin. He is not an ascetic like a Vairagin or a Sadhu. What is He going to renounce? How do you conceive Siva as an austere Yogin or a renunciate? What does He renounce? The all-pervading Almighty, what has He to give or abandon? Here is the secret of what renunciation is! It is not renunciation of anything, because there is nothing outside Him; renunciation does not mean abandonment of object. If that had been the definition of renunciation, that cannot apply to God. God does not renounce or abandon any object, because all objects are a part of His Cosmic Body. Then how do you represent God as an embodiment of Vairagya (dispassion)? Bhagavan, who is endowed with 'Bhaga' or glories of a sixfold nature, is also embodiment of Vairagya. Do you identify Him with a Sannyasin, possessing nothing? No, never. God is the possessor of all things. Then, how can you call Him a renunciate, a Sannyasin or a Vairagin? The secret behind the concept or the consciousness of Vairagya, renunciation is here, in the identification of this attribute with God. It is only when we interpret things in terms of God that things become clear. Otherwise, we get confused. We cannot know what goodness is, we cannot know what evil is, we cannot know what virtue is, unless we refer all these values of life to the concept of God in His Perfection. The only standard of reference for us in all matters of life's values, is the existence of God. So, the concept of renunciation, which has been very much misused, also gets rectified, clarified and purified when it is understood with reference to the existence of God whose special manifestation, in this context, is known as Lord Siva.
God does not renounce anything. Then, in that case what is renunciation in this context? It is the freedom from the consciousness of externality. This is called Vairagya. How can you abandon things? All things are there in front of you, like trees in a forest or stones in the jungle. There is nothing like abandonment of things, because they are internally related to you. Nobody can renounce anything, because everything in this world is connected to everything else. Then what is Vairagya? Vairagya is not renunciation of any object; it is impossible. Everything clings to you. But the idea that things are outside you, makes you get attached to them. This false attachment is Raga, and its absence is Viraga. The condition of Vi-raga is Vairagya. As God has no consciousness of externality, because everything is embodied in Him, there cannot be a greater renunciate than God. And in as much as this Consciousness of God is the highest form of Wisdom, He is the repository of Jnana.
In our religious tradition, Lord Siva is represented as an aspect of God, the Almighty. He presents before us the ideal of supreme renunciation born of Divine Realisation – not born of frustration, not born of an escapist attitude, not born of defeatism, but born of an insight into the nature of things, a clear understanding of the nature of life and the wisdom of existence in its completeness. This is the source of Vairagya, or renunciation. You do not want anything, not because you cannot get things, but because you have realised the interconnectedness of things and the unity of all purpose in consciousness. All desires get hushed, sublimated and boiled down to the divine Being only when this realisation comes. God does not possess things. Possession is a relationship of one thing with another thing. But, God is super-relative. That is why we call Him the Absolute – He is not relative. Anything that is related to something else comes under the category of relative. God is not related to anything else, because He is All-comprehensive. And, thus, in His all-comprehensive Absoluteness, which is height of wisdom conceivable, there is also the concomitant character of freedom from the consciousness of externality, and therefore, as a corollary, freedom from attachment to anything. Thus Lord Siva is the height of austerity, Master Yogin, portrayed as seated in a lotus pose, as the king of all ascetics; not that He has the desire for self-control, but He is what self-control is itself. He does not practise self-control. Self-control itself is symbolised in the personality of Lord Siva. Such a wondrous concept of a glorious majestic picture of the Almighty, as Lord Siva, is before us for adoration during Mahasivaratri.
We observe fast during the day and vigil during the night. The idea is that we control the senses, which represent the outgoing tendency of our mind, symbolised in fasting, and we also control the Tamasic inert condition of sleep to which we are subject every day. When these two tendencies in us are overcome, we transcend the conscious and the unconscious levels of our personality and reach the superconscious level. While the waking condition is the conscious level, sleep is the unconscious level. Both are obstacles to God-realisation. We are shifted from one condition to another. We are shunted, as it were, from waking to sleep and from sleep to waking, every day. But the super-conscious is not known to us. The symbology of fast and vigil on Sivaratri is significant of self-control; Rajas and Tamas are subdued, and God is glorified. The glorification of God and the control of the senses mean one and the same thing, because it is only in God-consciousness that all senses can be controlled. When you see God, the senses melt like butter melting before fire. They cannot exist any more. All the ornaments become the solid mass of gold when they are heated to the boiling point. Likewise, in the furnace of God-consciousness, the sense-energies melt into a continuum of universality.
In the famous Rudra-Adhyaya or the Satarudriya of the Yajur Veda, we have a majestic, universalised description of Lord Siva, a chant which we are accustomed to every day in the temple. Only those who know what Sanskrit is, what the Vedas are and what worship is, can appreciate what this Satarudriya chant also is. It is one of the most powerful prayers ever conceived by the human mind. It is filled with a threefold meaning. According to the culture of this country, everything is threefold – objective, subjective and universal. Everything in the world, from the smallest to the biggest, has an objective character, a subjective character and an universal character. Objectively you are something, subjectively you are another thing and universally you are a third thing. It all depends upon the point of view from which you interpret a particular thing, person or obj ect. When you obj ectively interpret a thing, it looks like one thing; when you subjectively analyse it, it is another thing; and from the universal point of view, it is a third something altogether.
Likewise, this Mantra, the Satarudriya of the Yajurveda, a hymn to Lord Siva, has an objective meaning, a subjective meaning and a divine, supreme, supra-mental, universal meaning. Objectively, it is a prayer for the control of the forces of nature. Subjectively, it is a prayer for self-control and the rousing of the spiritual consciousness. Universally, it is a surge of the soul towards Godrealisation. It has an Adhiyajnika, Adhibhautika, Adhidaivika and Adhyatmika meaning, as we usually put it. It has a tremendous meaning. The Vedas, the Mantras of the Vedas, are filled with such threefold or fourfold meaning. Hence it is difficult to understand the full meaning of any Mantra of the Veda. "Ananta vai vedah": Infinite is the meaning of the Vedas. The meaning of the Vedas is infinite. It has no end at all. It is mathematics; it is chemistry; it is physics; it is Ayurveda; it is psychology; it is metaphysics; it is philosophy; it is spirituality; it is meditation; it is love; it is ecstasy. You will find everything in every Mantra of the Veda. All depends upon how you look upon it, how you feel it. A person may be a father, he may be a brother, he may be a son, he may be a friend, but all the while he is one and the same person. Attitudes are different on account of the various relationships. So the Rudra Adhyaya before us is a majestic prayer for world peace, international peace, subjective peace, universal peace and God-consciousness.
It is difficult to chant this Veda Mantra called the Satarudriya, because it requires a training – as in music, for example. Everybody cannot sing. It requires tremendous training for years together. Likewise, the chanting of the Mantras of the Veda requires training for years together, and not for a few days only. Just as one who does not know how to sing will make a jarring noise and you will like to get up and go away rather than listen to it, so also when you chant the Mantra wrongly, the gods will get up and go away. They will not bear it any more. Hence, it requires training. But once it is properly learnt, it becomes a protection for you from catastrophes of every kind – physical, psychological and what not. So, those who know may chant it, recite it and take part in the recitation of it every day in the temple, at least during the worship on Mahasivaratri.
Those who cannot do this because it is difficult, can chant the Mantra 'Om Namah Sivaya', the Panchakshara Mantra of Lord Siva with Om preceding it. It is a Kavacha, a kind of armour that you put on. This armour will protect you from danger of every kind. It will protect you and also all those whom you want to be protected. It will protect your family; it will protect your country; it will protect the whole world. It can cease wars and tensions of every kind, provided you offer the prayers wholeheartedly from the bottom of your heart. Collective prayer is very effective. If a hundred persons join together and pray, it will have a greater effect than one person praying. Of course, if that single person is very powerful, even one person's prayer is all right. But where personalities have their own weaknesses and foibles, it is better that people have congregational prayer. When all the minds are put together they form a great energy. It surges forth into God.
So, during this period preceding Sivaratri, prayer is to be offered to Lord Siva as the Master of Yogin, as the incarnation of all virtues and powers, as a facet of the Almighty Lord. The glory of Lord Siva is sung in the Siva Purana, in the Yajur Veda Rudra Adhyaya, as I mentioned, and in the Mahabharata. You will be wonderstruck at the force with which Vyasa and other sages sing the glories of God – of Vishnu, of Narayana, of Siva, of Devi in the various Puranas and epics – because these masterpieces have been written by those who had the vision of God. Only one who has the vision of God can express with a soulful force. Otherwise, it will be an empty sound without much significance and thought. So, chant the Mantra 'Om Namah Sivaya' as many times as possible every day, mentally or even verbally as is convenient, with selfcontrol – which means to say, without any thought of sense-object. If you chant the Mantra together with the thought of sense-objects, then there is divided devotion. It is like dividing the course of a river in two different directions so that the force of the waters gets lessened. Suppose you have five sense-objects, and towards all of them your senses are running, and you are thinking of God also at the same time – then energy is divided, concentration becomes weak and meditation is not successful. No meditation will become successful if the senses are active, because the senses oppose the effort at meditation. While meditation is the collective force of the mind concentrating itself on God-consciousness, the senses, when they are active, do the opposite of meditation and you become a tremendous extrovert. You are connected to the objects of sense rather than the universal concept which is God. God is unity, whereas sense objects are multiplicity. They are the opposite of what you are aiming at in your spiritual life.
With moderate behaviour in every manner in your spiritual life, you will attain success. As the Bhagavadgita beautifully puts it, "Moderate in your eating, moderate in your activity, moderate in your speech, moderate in your sleep" – form the golden mean, the via-media, the golden path. God is the harmony of all powers in the universe. Harmony means the middle course – neither this extreme nor that extreme. You cannot say whether it is or it is not. We do not know what it is. As Buddha said, "'Nothing is', is one extreme; 'everything is', is another extreme. God is in the middle. Truth is in the middle." So, the middle path is the best path, which is the path of austerity with understanding. This is the characteristic of the middle path. When there is understanding without austerity, it is useless. When there is austerity without understanding, that is also useless. There must be austerity with understanding and understanding with austerity, knowledge with self-control and self-control with knowledge; that is wisdom. Knowledge with self-control is called wisdom, whereas knowledge without self-control is mere dry intellectuality. That is of no use. And austerity without understanding is a kind of foolishness. It will have no proper result.
Lord Siva is not merely an austere Being but also a repository of Knowledge. All worshippers of knowledge also worship Lord Siva, as He is the God of all students, scholars and seekers of wisdom and knowledge. Thus, Mahasivaratri is a very blessed God-sent opportunity for us. So on this day, pray to Lord Siva with all your heart, with all your soul, fully trusting on the might of God, wanting nothing from the objects of sense, and delighted within that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. God is bound to come. The powers of the cosmos are everywhere and they can be invoked at any time by us, provided we are strong enough in our will and in the method of invocation. We are blessed because we live in the Kingdom of God. We are blessed because we are seekers of Truth. We are blessed because we are disciples of a great Master. We are blessed, thrice blessed, four-times, five-times blessed because we are seeking God who also seeks everything in this creation. God seeks the world and the world seeks God. This is the mystery of creation, the subtlety of the spiritual path and the glory of the meditative life. Jnana and Vairagya combined is Lord Siva, who is worshipped on Mahasivaratri day.