Covid header banner

Darkness as enlightment



MAHASHIVARATHRI is a day, or rather a night of many possibilities. The 14th day of every month, which is known as a Shivarathri, is the darkest day of the month. Marking Shivarathri on a monthly basis, and the particular day, Mahashivarathri, al­most seems like the celebration of darkness.  

Any logical mind would resist darkness and natu­rally opt for light. But the word “Shiva” literally means “that which is not.” “That which is,” is exist­ence and creation. “That which is not” is Shiva.  

That which is not means, if you look around, if your vision is for small things, you will see lots of creation. If your vision is really looking for big things, you will see the biggest presence in the exist­ence is a vast emptiness. A few spots, which we call galaxies, are generally much noticed, but the vast emptiness that holds them does not come into eve­rybody’s notice. This vastness, this unbounded emptiness, is what is referred to as Shiva.  

Today, modern science also proves that every­thing comes from nothing and goes back to noth­ing. It is in this context that Shiva, the vast empti­ness or nothingness, is referred to as the great lord, or Mahadeva.  

Every religion, every culture on this planet has always been talking about the omnipresent, all-pervading nature of the divine. If we look at it, the only thing that can be truly all-pervading, the only thing that can be everywhere is darkness, nothing­ness, or emptiness.  

Generally, when people are seeking wellbeing, we talk of the divine as light. When people are no longer seeking wellbeing, when they are looking beyond their life in terms of dissolving, if the object of their worship and their sadhana is dissolution, then we always refer to the divine as darkness.  

Light is a brief happening in your mind. Light is not eternal, it is always a limited possibility because it happens and it ends. The greatest source of light that we know on this planet is the sun. Even the sun’s light, you could stop it with your hand and leave a shadow of darkness behind.  

But darkness is all-enveloping, everywhere. The immature minds in the world have always de­scribed darkness as the devil. But when you de­scribe the divine as all-pervading, you are obviously referring to the divine as darkness, because only darkness is all-pervading. It is everywhere. It does not need any support from anything.  

Light always comes from a source that is burning itself out. It has a beginning and an end. It is always from a limited source. Darkness has no source. It is a source unto itself. It is all-pervading, everywhere, omnipresent. So when we say Shiva, it is this vast emptiness of existence. It is in the lap of this vast emptiness that all creation has happened. It is that lap of emptiness that we refer to as the Shiva.  

In Indian culture, all the ancient prayers were not about saving yourself, protecting yourself or doing better in life. They have always been “Oh Lord, de­stroy me so that I can become like yourself.”  

So when we say Shivarathri, which is the darkest night of the month, it is an opportunity for one to dissolve their limitedness, to experience the un­boundedness of the source of creation, which is the seed in every human being. Mahashivarathri is an opportunity and a possibility to bring yourself to that experience of the vast emptiness within every human being, which is the source of all creation.  

On the one hand, Shiva is known as the destroyer. On the other, he is known as the most compassion­ate. He is also known to be the greatest of the givers. The yogic lore is rife with stories about Shiva’s com­passion. The ways of expression of his compassion have been incredible and astonishing. So Mahashi­varathri is a special night for receiving, too.  

It is our wish and blessing that you must not pass this night without knowing at least a moment of the vastness of this emptiness that we call as Shiva. Let this night not just be a night of wakefulness, let this night be a night of awakening for you.  

n Ranked amongst the fifty most influential people in India, Sadhguru is a yogi, mystic, visionary and bestselling author. Sadhguru invites you to the Ma­hashivratri celebrations on February 13 at Isha Yoga Center, Coimbatore in presence of Adiyogi – the Source of Yoga.