I’ve come out of my scholarly slumber to post this, so obvees it’s gonna be special. All the details and schedule are posted here:
Sivaratri is one of the grand and important festivals held each year at the temple. This year we will be holding the all-night vigil on February 19th. During the vigil, there will be continuous worship of Lord Siva in His Linga form, chanting of the sacred Panchakshari Mantra (Om Namah Sivaya), and kirtan.
In the Puranas (ancient Hindu books of stories regarding the creation of the Universe, of Gods, Sages and Kings etc) there is a saying: “Abhisheka priya Siva” – ritual bathing is dear to Siva. Siva, as the great Yogi, churns within himself tremendous fire, called tapas, which has immense power, heat, and infinite potential. It is through this fire that He creates and destroys the universe. Siva’s intense inner fire is an infinite reservoir of creative energy that anyone can ‘tap’ into through personal tapas for healing, regeneration and spiritual growth. His destructive nature refers to the removal of the veils of ignorance that cloud our perception. When the veils of ignorance are burned away by the fire of knowledge, we can enter into the non-dual reality of sat-chid-ananda, pure truth, consciousness and bliss. Siva’s destruction is one that brings transcendent peace.
During Sivaratri, the devotee bathes Siva in order to cool His burning heat – for if He is too hot, he is difficult for us to approach, like approaching a huge roaring fire. Ritual worship, called puja, in its most pure manner, is done to please the Lord. Siva has an intense inner fire, so bathing Him with cooling substances such as milk, yogurt, ghee, honey, sugar and fruit juices is said to be pleasing to Him.
The substances also have inner significance, and represent the different states of consciousness which we experience daily: waking, dreaming, deep sleep. There is also a plane of existence beyond these three, called Turiya, which is transcendent, and is not a state as it has no change, transformation, or object – it is purely subjective, pure witness consciousness. Milk, if churned, turns to yogurt; from yogurt we can make butter, and then ghee. These are the first three states. In the Chandogya Upanishad, honey is compared to the Self of all beings, due to its liquid, golden sweetness, so all of the sweet things offered, such as honey, sugar and the like, signify the different levels of Self awareness.
During the all-night vigil, all the attendees and devotees will have the opportunity to bathe the Linga in the sanctum during the chanting of the Vedic mantras, and participate in this ancient and profound ritual.