Today is the festival of Shivratri, when Shiva is honoured as the principal symbol of all that is benevolent and Unlimited Consciousness – the innate disposition towards order in the universe.
In some regions of the Hindu world, Shivratri celebrates Shiva’s first lovemaking with Parvati. The festival is therefore spent feasting, honouring the linga – symbol of universal order, consciousness without limitation – and playing traditional games with kauri shells, which represent the yoni – symbol of the forces of creation and dissolution inherent in every aspect of existence.
Shivratri normally involves a cleansing of body and mind with a 24-hour fast, ritual bathing and mantras to quieten the thoughts. Bhang is then usually drunk using dedicatory mantras and seven hand mudras, to heighten the senses whilst in a meditative state. (Bhang is a drink of cannabis stirred into milk with honey, ground almonds, cashews or pistachios, rosewater and such spices as cloves, ginger, cinnamon and cardamom.)
Keepers of the mountain Shaiva Tantra Tradition often then spend the night meditating on their partner, for as Tagore wrote, it is in those we love that we touch “that great truth which comprehends the whole universe.”
And the purpose of all of this? To free ourselves from tamas: dullness or ‘unconsciousness’ in body-mind – the apathy and limited perception that prevents us from living and loving fully, fearlessly, joyfully and wisely, without detriment to ourselves or others.
You can read much more about the mountain Tradition from which these concepts and symbols come in Limitless Sky.