Maha Shivratri

Today is the second to the last waning crescent moon before the last new moon of winter.  Tonight and tomorrow are the celebration of Maha Shivratri.  Now, why do I care and why write about it?  The answer, of course, like everything else on this blog, has to do with yoga.  Shiva is especially important to my yoga practice even as a practicing Utah Mormon.

First, a short background on Shiva for those who don’t know his story.  He’s a crazy, wild guy and he’s peaceful at the same time.  He’s known as the Guru of Gurus.  He taught his beloved consort, Parvati, all about the guru-disciple relationship.  She, in turn, shared what he taught with everyone.  He’s part of the Hindu trimurti of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.  They represent creation, preservation and destruction or transformation.

I studied with Bhagavan Das for a weekend and he said something that has stuck with me.  “I’m not telling you these myths and legends to get you to believe there is a guy running around with an elephant’s head and four arms.  These stories talk about the ability that you already have within you.  They are a way for you to learn about who you really are.”  At the same time, these stories and legends are often based on real people and real places.

Back to Shiva and his place in my practice.  There was once a fellow by the name of Lakulish who lived sometime between 100 BC and 4 AD.  Lakulish was said to have been the 26th or 28th incarnation of Shiva and established the Pashupata lineage of Shaivism.  Fast forward to India in 1932.  An old sadhu takes a young boy of 19 under his wing and teaches him yoga.  The young boy becomes a swami.  He later sees a beautiful youth at the feet of the Himalayas who says, “Swami, it’s me.  This is the divine body that you see.”  The old sadhu had become a young man.  The young swami then went to Kayavarohan to rebuild the temple there and the villagers said, “Swami, come see!”

There, Swami Kripalu—Bapuji—saw a jyotirlingam with a young man sitting before it.  He recognized his guru, Dadaji, and learned that the firgure was Lord Lakulish.

Lord Lakulish—Shiva

He had finally learned his guru’s name:  Shiva.

Now, I wasn’t present for any of this and, when I first read the story, I was very skeptical of it all.  What I do know is that Dadaji taught Bapuji.  Bapuji taught Gurudev and Gurudev taught me.  What Gurudev taught me transformed me so completely that it isn’t a stretch to say it destroyed who I thought I was.  It was not some outside force or power that wrought the transformation I experienced; rather, it was the uncovering of who I always have been that changed everything.

These three men, who have been so instrumental in helping me experience this transformation, all say the story above is true.  I, like Bhagavan Das, am not trying to convince you that there’s a guy out there with a crescent moon in his hair named Shiva.  What I do want to convince you of is that YOU are Shiva.  The power is in you.

Jai Bhagwan