Children, temple festivals, celebrations and group worship play an important part in making people turn towards God. When a group of people pray and remember God together, it creates good vibrations in the atmosphere. When a person prays alone, it might be difficult for him to overcome the negative vibrations in the atmosphere. Through group worship, the atmosphere itself becomes favourable for focusing on God. As a result, the culture of spirituality is fortified in people.
The true goal of temple festivals is to create a sturdy foundation for thinking about and worshiping God beyond the few days of the celebrations. One of the important celebrations like this is Sivaratri. Sivaratri reminds us of the importance of getting rid of negative thoughts and totally immersing ourselves in thoughts of God. It reminds us to strive to attain the most important goal of human birth.
Sivaratri is a festival of renunciation and austerity. Fasting is usually observed during the day, and at night people forgo sleep and sing bhajans. Most people are not ready to give up food or sleep. But Sivaratri encourages even laypeople to awaken their love for God. It inspires them to forgo food and sleep and spend time meditating and singing bhajans.
Once, a gopika went to Nandagopa’s house to fetch fire to light the lamp evening oil lamp. She was also hoping to see baby Krishna. Upon entering the house, she sharpened the wick of her lamp and started to light it by touching it to the flame of the lamp in the house. Just at that moment, her eyes fell upon baby Krishna in his cradle. Her complete attention turned to Krishna. She became totally obliviousto the fact that her own fingers were going towards the lamp and beginning to get burnt.
After waiting some time for her daughter to return, the gopika’s mother went to Nandagopa’s house in search of her. The sight she saw was unbelievable. Her daughter was so immersed in the vision of baby Krishna that she was holding the burning wick with her own fingers instead of with the lamp. The gopika’s mother ran to her, moving her away from the fire. “What are you doing, my daughter?” she asked. Only then the gopika became aware of the external world. Seeing Krishna, this gopika had forgot everything else. In that exalted state of devoted ecstasy, she did not feel any pain. This story teaches us that if we cultivate love towards superior goals, we will gain strength to overcome all mental and physical weaknesses.
Through the observance of Sivaratri rituals, may we develop love for God and become perfect vessels to receive the grace and blessings of Lord Siva, who is the embodiment of renunciation, austerity and knowledge.
Amma, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi