By Tasha Friedman
At night, all distinctions disappear. Falling asleep to the outside world, you awaken to the life within.
Shivaratri (the “night of Shiva”) is a festival celebrated on the night between the 13th and 14th day of every month in the Hindu calendar, corresponding to the new moon. Of these 12 Shivaratris, Maha Shivaratri, the “great night of Shiva,” is the most important, and it is considered one of the most auspicious days of the year. Shaivas (devotees of Shiva) see this moonless night as an opportunity to overcome spiritual darkness or ignorance.
The new moon represents Shiva: the void, the singularity of consciousness, the black point in the middle of the eye. You look for the moon in the sky, and you don’t find it; you look for truth in external objects, and you don’t find it; you look for yourself in your reflection in the mirror, and what do you see? Only this luminous emptiness, this sense of missing something so intimate and obvious, yet you can’t put your finger on it.
In the monthly lunar cycle, the new moon is a time of withdrawal and reabsorption—as between cosmic cycles or the pauses between breathing cycles— in which all forms dissolve in order to be born again.
Hindus fast during the day of Maha Shivaratri, and many spend all night in a vigil of prayers, chanting, and offerings. We have often held such vigils at Hridaya, staying up to meditate, sing Shiva bhajans, and contemplate the mystery of the night.
What is this fascination with the unknown? What is there moving inside your soul when you stare up at the night sky without a sliver of moon, only stars scattered across that vast darkness?
To go into the Heart is to go into the unknown, or, rather, into the unknowable—into that undiscovered country from whose borders no traveler returns, because to go there means that the one who goes dissolves. Gone, like a flame when the candle is blown out.
And yet, this void calls to you.
Close your eyes to the world of forms, if only for one night. Open the eye of your heart. There is light within the darkness and darkness within the light, now and always.