CONVERSATION WITH AIYA (6)
A perfect evening was slowly merging into the welcoming night. I saw Keerti in the living room, trying to take out the Playstation-3 from the cup-board. She must have read the question on my curious face.
‘Dad…. I thought we may stay awake tonight. After Sivaratri puja, we usually try to stay late in the night, is it not? I also want to show Jayanth Anna some games’.
I nodded in agreement and turned quickly to the dining-table where Jayanth and Uma were conversing with Aiya.
Jayanth is my nephew, who was on a visit to London for a conference. Aiya, you may all know by now, is a very dear friend, philosopher and guide to us.
It was Sivaratri. Soon I had to perform the usual puja, something which I humbly follow, from the tradition in our family.
My father used to perform a special puja on the night of Sivaratri. My parents used to fast for the day and after the puja, eat only some boiled sweet potatoes. I am not sure if they would continue to recite the names of Siva for the whole night, but I definitely recall playing board-games with my sisters and brothers, in order to stay awake as late as possible. These days, Uma and I try not to miss on such special days. Our children know that we perform puja on Sivaratri and also it is a night of celebration, more so for the permission to stay late at night.
‘Yes, those days we used to play snake & ladder to pass the time. These days, there is non-stop TV and computer-games’, saying thus I sat next to Jayanth.
‘What is the point of this Uncle, I do not see any use of these rituals. Better go to bed on time, as the busy-next-day is coming soon’, said Jayanth.
It is a bit strange for me to see Jayanth, not showing interest in such topics these days. I have always known him as someone who takes special interests in understanding the traditions and beliefs especially those of spiritual doctrines. ‘Questioning’ used to be his first-name! As a great fan of Lord Siva, with unending interests, he would ask for the legends of Siva to be told again and again. How many times I was trapped into repeating the same story like an old-recorder, only because young Jayanth wanted yet another take on the same story! Now a busy man, with his cherished medical profession, Jayanth has understandably, different interests and priorities.
Keerti said, ‘Anna, the point is, parents don’t ask you to go to bed at 10:00! So we can watch more TV or play games’.
She was still struggling to get the game-console out of the cup-board.
I looked at Aiya. He could give a different perspective to this. He usually does.
‘Yes Jayanth. No point in staying awake just because it is a ritual. It is better to hit the bed on time’.
After a pause Aiya continued.
‘Especially, if our activities on this holy-night are only not to fall asleep, then there is no point.’
‘Aiya, Is this not a significant night for the dance of Lard Siva?’ I asked reverently.
‘I do not know. But then, are you saying Lord Siva does not dance on other nights?’
Sometimes one cannot answer Aiya easily.
‘Mmm…. Aiya, I mean, Sivaratri is to mark a special remembrance of God’, I hesitated.
‘Perhaps, but I am no body to know the secrets of God. Yet we all know, at least once every month we have some festival in our heritage, only to systematically inspire us towards spirituality’
‘How’, asked Jayanth.
‘What is the meaning of Sivaratri? Who is Siva? What does His dance signify, and why is He dancing in the night’
These were Aiya’s questions, to which Keerti quickly added.
‘And why are we asked stay awake?’
Such questions reverberate in all our minds too; so we all waited for Aiya to answer.
‘I know the word ratri means night’, said Keerti.
‘Yes, it refers to the darkness and the night when we usually sleep. Deep sleep is when we detach the entire world from our consciousness. Isn’t? All our sensory perceptions and the mind seem to have disappeared during deep sleep. There is only our existence but that too under a spell of total ignorance’, said Aiya.
‘Yes, ratri or darkness also refers to total ignorance’, I said.
‘So Sivaratri means Siva’s total ignorance!’ Keerti asked.
‘Yes, but the total ignorance is under the complete control of Lord Siva. That is how we should infer.’
‘Who is Siva? What is his dance?’ asked Jayanth.
His question was loaded with desires to learn. He was as if back with his elements – questioning!
Aiya looked at Jayanth.
‘What is light?’
‘Well, it the energy without which we cannot see! In fact, without Sunlight, there is no life’.
‘What is darkness?’
‘It is when there is no light. That means, we cannot see.’
‘But when you cannot see an object, you are in fact seeing the darkness.’ said Aiya.
‘Yes, I see darkness’, said Jayanth.
‘But there is no light. If you require the light to see anything, how can you see the darkness?’
‘This is difficult to answer. Light cannot show darkness’, said Uma.
‘Exactly! Any external light, even the Sunlight, cannot show darkness. But the life-principle within each of us can show both light and darkness. That is the light of all lights.’
‘The point is…’ Jayanth was curious.
‘The point is, there is an eternal light which illuminates everything – all that is light and all that is darkness. That eternal light, if we take our personal perspective, is within us, it is the Atma. From the universal perspective, it is the Paramatma. That is Sivam, unique non-dual principle’
Aiya was smiling.
‘Why do we say that Siva is dancing in the darkness? If He is eternal light, where is darkness?’
‘Sivam is the eternal light. It is the Supreme truth and It is non-dual. Therefore in Its full glory, there is nothing other than Sivam; so there can be nothing else to see. In other words, there is darkness! Do you understand, it may be quite intricate?’
‘Kind of…… perhaps tell me on the individual perspective, as I struggle to visualize the universal aspect’, said Jayanth.
I too thought likewise.
‘OK, when you are in deep sleep, do you exist?’
‘Of course Aiya, it is just that I am sleeping and my sensory perceptions and mind do not work during the time of deep sleep’.
‘But during your deep sleep, you are not aware of your existence…’
‘Correct, but it is only because I am ignorant of anything around me at that time.’
‘But you are not aware of yourself also at that time!’
‘Ok, granted! I am totally ignorant during deep sleep’.
Saying thus Jayanth changed his posture, reflecting his deeper involvement in the discussion.
‘That is the darkness, total ignorance. It is known as avidya! Call what you may, it is a sheath of complete ignorance that takes the control of you. In a way it is good because, deep sleep, which is something you are given to, offers you the rest that you badly need in order to get back to your tiresome activities of life. That is why, ignorance can be a blessing’.
‘Does a similar thing happens to the Lord?’, asked Keerti.
‘Yes, there is a deep sleep or ‘Supreme Ignorance’ that perpetually covers the world. It is Maya. The difference is, in our case, we are controlled by avidya, the darkness; but the Lord controls Maya, the ‘Supreme Darkness’.
‘What does it mean?’
‘It means, forever, the Lord remains Supremely-Conscious. He is above darkness’
‘If I understand you correctly, deep sleep takes over me and I am thus lost into ignorance. Although Maya takes over the world but God is above Maya, Is it how you compare?’ asked Jayanth.
‘Yes. Perhaps, if we are also able to remain conscious during deep sleep, then we may understand and ultimately attain the state of supremely-conscious. By being so, we could enjoy the bliss of deep sleep as it happens and not as a mere recollection later’
‘Is it possible?’
‘Certainly, but only for those who desire and strive for such supreme realization.’
‘What is the benefit of such realization?’ asked Keerti.
To her, everything must give returns. She is studying Economics, you see.
‘Supreme realization gives you, yourself. It is complete freedom, complete fulfilment. That is emancipation or liberty. With such self-realization, life becomes a mere play; nothing affects those seers of the Self’.
‘Where is the dance of Siva?’
‘Well, by dance, the dynamics of all changes in the world are meant. As Sivam is all-filling, there can be no movement. So, Sivam is eternally static yet elegantly poised. It is the divine play, as the scriptures show that the Sivam resonates within Itself; that primordial resonance, also known as the ‘AUM’ fills all, its harmonics penetrates every atom of the universe and vibrations constitute all forms, shapes, objects and the worlds. In other words, the dance of Siva is the ever-going dynamics of the universe.’
‘Are you saying all vibrations in the world are nothing but His dance’?
‘Yes! There is nothing that does not have the eternal resonance inside’
‘Even in the dead-bodies and minerals….’
‘Yes, decaying is also a resonating process. All changes are due to the dance of Sivam. According to scriptures, only with the resonance of Siva-dance, Shakti, the power of Sivam performs Her divine play.’
‘Aiya, please tell me where is the dancing Siva inside me?’, asked Keerti.
‘Great question kid, and do not let go of this question; but the answer is something only you can realize, by meditating on yourself.’
‘At least give me a clue’.
‘When someone had asked about true meditation, Bhagavan Ramanar pointed out that finding the meditator within is the true meditation. So, if you keep asking the question, who is that within you is asking the question, you will be eventually steered to the sweet spot of Sivam’.
‘Is He dancing inside me, how?’
‘Yes, in every one of us. His dance is the non-stop pulsation within each of us. It is the ‘I-Consciousness. It is there all the time. It constantly meditates ‘I, I, I’ etc. This intrinsic pulsation within the consciousness is known as ajapa japam or a non-meditative-meditation. ’
‘Is that the reason we should not sleep tonight?’ asked Keerti.
‘No Keerti; you can go to sleep whenever you want to; But go to sleep, with the true awareness, that is to awake from the illusive sleep of ignorance. True awakening is being with the Supreme-consciousness at all times. Sivaratri is a celebration to remind us of this wonderful secret of life. That is why it is not a religious ritual to a section of the society, but a call for all mankind.’
Jayanth was sitting with his eyes closed.
Keerti had put back the game-console in the cup-board. It looked as if she had a change of plan for the night.
Uma and I got up to go to our prayer room. I had to perform the puja, but there was a lingering thought, ‘should I instead be listening to the ajapa japa’.
As if nothing happened, Aiya was reading a book.
17 February 2015