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Maha Shivarathri - the Night Rituals

Shiva performing the Tandava
Shiva is portrayed as a transsexual.
Shiva is both male and female,
though sometimes separated.
Maha Shivarathri occurs on the month just before the Spring (next month is the equinox).  So, later this month, we will be celebrating Maha Shivarathri. It is a day for understanding ethics, and the logic of conscience, through Yoga. This is the day that Shiva performed the self-sacrifice of drinking Halahala (literally, "time puzzle" - the poison that resulted during the churning of the universal milk), it is also the day when Shiva performed the Tandava dance (the dance of simultaneously creating, sustaining and destroying), this was the day of Shiva's love and multiple weddings to his wife's several Avatars - and the same day marks other great events for Shiva, as well. The purpose of tying all events to one day is to build continuity in Time and Space, sanctifying the moment in an act of simultaneous Vaishnavism and Brahmanism: these events remembered, too, indicate unity between the three: it was by becoming a Vaishnava that Shiva overcame Yama in his dance, and by becoming a Brahman that he won the love of his wife, etc.

There are minor Shivarathris (Maha means great or major). These are recognized monthly, at the mid-day night of each lunar month. These serve as echoes of the Maha Shivarathri. There are also even more minor Shivarathris, recognized nightly. Devotees of Shiva will mark these times by combining the practices of Vaishnavaism and Brahmanism through Yoga. Just as devotees of Vishnu and Brahma will undertake their own celebrations of Shiva. Some devotees (like Gotama) will practice fasting, even daily after the mid-day meal. Or simply on the mid-month night. Or on the annual Maha Shivarathri. The night is also marked by meditation on ethics and the study of logic, the practice of social harmony, acts of love and friendship (especially to spouses), and of course celebrations of Shiva appropriate to the sect of the particular Devotee, their Ashram practices, and other personal factors.

But also special to the nighttime, and especially the mid-month night, and the annual night, is the storytelling. Remembering the existences and non-existences of Shiva, those who have been and remain dear to Shiva - and our own existences, and those of whom have been or remain dear to us. It is a time to remember opponents, past, present and future - and to rejoice in the opportunity of striving. To remember our greatest opponent of all is ourselves. Yet it is not merely an introspective exercise, but an extroverted expression of love and friendship, even in enmity.

If you can love yourself despite your faults, if you can love your spouse and family and friends despite their faults, can you not also love your opponent? Do not hesitate a moment to do your duty, to do what is right - regardless of the pain or pleasure which will result.  This is a good day for striving.  And before beginning any opposition, or striving, it is good to practice Shivarathri: an analysis of ethics.