Siwaratri, everytime I arrive at this day, the question which always hit my face are, are you fasting? what type of fasting are you conducting ? still you drink water ? when should we start fasting? up until what time?
It’s so funny, in Indonesia, every holiday people end up with debating rather than understanding and having contemplative observations about the deeper meaning and the message which’re hidden underneath the ritual. Forget about majority tradition in this country, even Hindus do the same. During Siwaratri, above questions commonly asked in many community discussion which should not be the main concern addressed by the elders. Siwaratri should be a reminder for us that contemplative practice hold an important role in our life. The elder also attached a narrative story along with this reminder. Our ancestors were a kind of genius story tellers. They always transmit their knowledge through narrative stories in order to stimulate our intelligence by triggering our curiosity.
In Siwaratri, there is a story about a hunter Lubdaka. His everyday life was spent in the forest hunting, killing many animals to be eaten and sold. One day, he could not find any animal in the forest up until late of the evening, and also without food, not even a bit. He couldn’t be back home with an empty hand. Therefore he decided to stay in the forest until sun rose up to the sky. To prevent the animal attack, Lubdaka climbed a tree and tried to stay awake, so he would not fall down from the tree and wouldn’t be eaten by the wild animal. In order to keep his eyes open, he picked the leaves of the tree all night long. Unconsciously Lubdaka threw the leaf on top of a Shiva Linggam located beneath that tree. The story also said that the night Lubdaka experienced that, was the night where Lord Shiva was also doing His meditation, the seventh dead moon night, and also known as the darkest night, in the year. By throwing the leaves to the linggam, he unconsciously was doing japa to Lord Shiva. This has made Lord Shiva pleased to Lubdaka. The next morning, Lubdaka finally went back home empty handed and extremely exhausted and then fell sick and died. The story said that Lubdakas soul was captured by the Lord of the death Yama and ready to be punished in hell because of his deeds, spending his life in killing animals every day. Lord Shiva heard this and asked Indra to take Lubdaka and brought him to heaven because he had spent his Sivaratri Night by unconsciously doing Shiva Japa by overing the leaves to the Linggam.
This make Balinese people believe that during this Siwaratri night we have to stay awake along the night to purify our sin. Is this enough?? As a Balinese which always be inherited with a lot of narrative stories by our genius elders, we have to keep our curiosity on to every belief, in order to sharpen our intelligence and find peace. For those who put contemplative practice as an important aspect of their life, will immediately understand what messages lies beneath this story obviously. Believe or not every single details in this story has a very deep contemplative meaning.
Let start with the words:
Siwaratri which means The Great Night of Lord Shiva and
In Sanskrit name Lubdhaka means hunter/seeker or the star of Sirius.
In Balinese tradition it’s sometimes translated as those who has got rid of the residues of their actions, Lub (get rid of) from the root Celub(put into the water/cleaning up) and Daka from the root Daki(dirt/residues of our action which become the obstruction in the mind)
Both has a similar essence in meaning as a hunter or a cleaner of the obstacles in the mind, spiritually of course.
He spent his life in the forest hunting animals.
The forest is always symbol of our mind. It’s dark (to see our mind close your eyes, it’s dark right?) and full of animals which’s representing the content of our mind like thoughts, memories, desires, anxiety, fear etc. Is this what we do every day? the condition of every human being in their day to day life?, being lost in the dark forest of the mind, even in the dream world during sleeping. Entering forest consciously, in Patanjali Yoga School of philosophy, is always a symbol of Prathyahara practice (closing the senses in order to face to face with the mind), like in Ramayana and Mahabarata story. And a hunter especially a great archer, like Rama and Arjuna, is a symbol of those who are successfully practice Dharana (perfect focus), which’s required for every archer to be able to hit their target perfectly. Hunting or arching the animals is a symbol of our ability to get rid all residues of actions in the mind, like thoughts, memories, desires, anxiety, emotion,sadness, fear etc. And to do this, focus and control are strongly required, because the nature of our mind is very wild, running, flying and crawling, many time unconsciously.
One day, he could not find any animal and end up in the tree, tried to keep awake by trowing the leaf.
This is obviously a symbol of Dhiana sate of the Mind, where it’s directed to one pointed focus (the mind is empty from its contents) and fall into a complete stillness (climbing the tree) and leaf is the object of Japa which is used to direct the mind to this one pointed state, our breath. And when you are on the Tree (deepest stillness), keep awake all night long (mind full/aware/Nirodha) of wild animal which probably come (The seed of the mind content/Citta Vrtty) and at last your Leaf (breath) finally fall into the Linggam(Consciousness) you’ll find Heaven because we realize our true nature as Shiva. This is what Patanjali called as Samadhi.
Now you understand, when you fall into this stillness, how could you do any other activity like eating or traveling ? Obviously you will do fasting automatically. You don’t have to debate what you may or may not eat, how long should you do the fasting. Just start the practice and you will fast by your self automatically, could be in a hour, a day, even years like the great yogis in Himalaya.
And also remember, in Balinese tradition, there is no concept as sin and punishment of the sin, there is only concept of Action, both positive and negative (Karma) and all of it has its own Responsibility(Pala). Therefore, there is no purification of the sin, there is only purification of our action, not in the sense that all residues of the actions (positive and negative) will dismiss just by awaking in one night. The purification will always come from its responsibility(pala). We can not escape from this responsibility whatsoever. The question is, what is the purpose of this Contemplative practice then? As I explained above, everything which has been done in life, soon or later, must be paid, however by training our mind to focus, our capacity in accepting the result of our action in the past, will be upgraded. As my teacher said. Karma-Pala is like trowing a spoon of salt in to the water, we can chose to be a glass of water, or a lake. Contemplative practice is our opportunity to upgrade our self from a glass of water into a lake or even an ocean as we reach Shamadi, so that the taste of a spoon of salt, which we must receive as the Pala, have no impact anymore as we grow. That’s how we purify our self.
Anyway this is just a commentary from someone who grew up in tantric tradition and interest in Yoga and Vedanta philosophy. Someone who is trying to make his tradition make sense. You may not accept this understanding, however this understanding brings peace to my self and becomes the path which I use as the map of my practice. I hope this also brings peace to everyone who read it. Thank you