Happy Full Moon! For worshippers of Mahādeva Śiva, tonight’s full moon is a wonderful time beginning the auspicious period leading up to Mahāśivarātri, the holy night on February 24th.
It is, however, also a lunar eclipse, which means that we taper down our usual celebrations by eating lightly, staying indoors as best as possible, and basically rest and lay low until things are back to normal.
On this full moon, Shaivites (worshippers of Śiva) honor Mā Gaurī, the cosmic mother and beautiful wife of Lord Śiva. Those who primarily worship Devī, the goddess, honor this moon as Lalitā Jayanti, in honor of Lalīta, who is also a form of Śiva’s beloved.
We begin our worship of Śiva by first honoring his Śakti, his divine power, as embodied by the goddess. Take a moment to be with the image of Gaurī below.
Gaurī personifies the bliss of contentment. She is the embodiment of pūrṇatā, fullness. You can see on her face the gentle joy and deep peace that radiates from her being.
The Sanskrit for contentment is saṃtoṣa, and it is considered a very sacred and powerful state of being. When we are content, we are also free – nothing can manipulate someone who is content. Contentment is also an inherently peaceful state. There’s no such thing as a contented murderer, or a contented addict. It’s only if we feel that we are lacking that we become susceptible to all kinds of harmful tendencies.
Normally, we think contentment comes from getting whatever we want, whenever we want it. Take a moment to think about this though – when you placate a desire, how long does your contentment last? Whether you got a slice of cake or a new car or a new relationship, how long does your happiness last? Are you really content?
On the other hand, remember a time when you felt truly, deeply content.
Most likely, that experience of contentment had nothing to do with whether or not your every desire was being met. Contentment usually requires two things: First, we feel it when experience a deep sense of connection, when we are totally present. Second, we understand that whatever is happening is part of the natural flow of life and we embrace that completely.
This is the divine state – to recognize that all things are connected parts of one’s own great Self, and secondly, that every moment is part of the play of existence. This innate understanding is why Śiva and Gaurī are eternally content, eternally free, and most of all, eternally happy.
It seems almost maddeningly simple – every single thing we do is so we can be happy, and we never quite seem to get there. On the other hand, the tradition says we’ll only be really happy when we stop pushing to gratify every single desire and instead pause to experience our own BEING.
Like Lord Śiva and Gaurī, when we can completely embrace the fullness of our being, we too can taste contentment. We too can be free from an inner and outer world that keeps promising happiness and instead pushes us further and further away from it. We too can be happy.
It’s so simple… but so powerful.
Practice: Honor Gaurī, Honor Śiva
The traditional practices for today are to honor the Goddess, specifically Gaurī.
-You can do a pūjā for Gaurī or Lalitā. Offer fruit, flowers, flame, incense, and any prayers. It is also traditional to ask the Mother for her blessings for a kind and dharmic partner or for children if that is something you are seeking.
-Another traditional practice is to recite Śrī Lalitā-Sahasranāma, the thousand names of the goddess.
-If you will be making offerings to Śiva each night up until Mahāśivarātri, you can set up your altar and have tonight be the first night of practice.
-People often do a fast for Gaurī, eating only fruits, nuts, and milk for a day. Instead of focusing on consumption and digestion, fasting allows the mind-body to rest and focus on the divine.
-As one of the goddesses of meditation, you can also honor her by making time today to meditate.
-As you go about your day, let your experience your own pure being, Śiva in your heart. Understand that everything that happens is part of a divine whole… let yourself experience contentment.
May you have a peaceful, insightful, and liberating experience during this sacred Mahāśivarātri period!