A very happy, auspicious Maha Shivaratri to every one here!
A few years back, over a cup of cappuccino, one devotee came to meet me. As usual I asked him who was he! And he went on to give an elaborate reply such as that “firstly, he was a devotee of the latest Incarnation who brought the idea of harmony, love, peace and sacrifice to Society – Sri Ramakrishna”. He added that he also presents “a radio program on Hindvani, an Indian community based Radio station in South Africa”. He “had written a Religious Review on Sri Ram‘s Puja method”.
He in all seriousness continued to say that he was “a schoolteacher by profession – with some thirty years of experience. That is – two generations”. So he proudly announced to me that he has “a fair idea of how the older ones thought, and how the younger ones are thinking now”.
In a striking way he concluded, “That is how most people see me – from the distance. A closer look – how I see myself – Not just a mass of cells, not just a mind-intelligence complex – but a spark of the Divine. My journey of inquiry is still continuing
– who am I?”
Yes, its a treat to discuss with him on many philosophical matters and of course English, the language. He does come often to ashram and is extremely helpful in busy Puja schedule of mine. The other day he quickly brought out the charming similarities between Master and Mahadeva. I thought by placing here the same, our minds would be absorbed in thinking about Shiva and Shambhu on this wonderful Shivaratri night !
In the Shiva Purana, Lord Shiva manifested as a column of light when Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu were each proclaiming himself as the greatest among the deities. This particular manifestation of Lord Shiva is known as Lingodbhava-murti.
In Kamarpukur, Chandramani, the mother of Sri Ramakrishna, saw a flood of light emanate from the Shivalinga and enter her body. And she felt that she was with child! Thus, Sri Ramakrishna was born in this age as the lingodbhava, the light of Shiva.
Sri Ramakrishna was born three days after Shivaratri, on 18 February 1836, a few minutes before the sunrise. Just as at the birth of the incarnation of this age, a light spread over the world, so, even today, the light of knowledge is spreading to every corner of the world, dispelling the hordes of darkness in the forms of ignorance.
As soon as the baby Ramakrishna was born, Dhani, the midwife, placed him on the floor to attend to the mother. On turning her attention to the child, she was surprised to find that he had somehow rolled into the fireplace, and was lying there all covered with ashes – like Lord Shiva! If our goal is God, the ashes symbolise the turning away from (or burning of) the sensual, a renunciation of the worldly to attain the spiritual. One Puranic story tells how Lord Shiva burnt to ashes the god of love (that is, sensual delights). Describing Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother said that renunciation was the jewel of Sri Ramakrishna.
Kshudiram, the father of Sri Ramakrishna, named the child ‘Shambhuchandra’, one of the names of Lord Shiva.
Sri Ramakrishna performed various sadhanas and re-affirmed the validity of each. But he realised Lord Shiva without any effort. When he was nine, Sri Ramakrishna was asked to play the role of Lord Shiva in a dramatic performance on the night of Shivaratri. As he was adorned as Lord Shiva, he soared into a divine consciousness. And the devotees themselves were transported, as it were, to the very abode of Lord Shiva. Sri Ramakrishna remained in that ecstatic state for three days!
In the samudra-manthana episode, Lord Shiva took in the poison that emanated from the churning of the ocean by the gods and demons to obtain the nectar of immortality. At the end of his earthly life, Sri Ramakrishna had throat cancer. One viewpoint is that it was the result of Sri Ramakrishna’s swallowing the poison of the karmas of the millions of struggling souls who were seeking his shelter. Both drank the poison and kept it in the throat for the welfare of the world.
Sri Ramakrishna used to say: Jiva is Shiva, and Shiva is jiva. In other words, we ordinary beings are really Shiva but ignorant and bound. Our goal in life should be to reclaim our Shivahood.”