The word ratri in Sanskrit means that which relieves you from three types of agony – ethereal, mental and material. This brings rest to the three instruments: the body, mind and speech.
‘Shivratri’ literally means that night which infuses the Shiva tatva, or the transcendental principle, into the three instruments. Samadhi is often referred to as Shiva Sayujya, the presence of Shiva, a concept that’s difficult to explain. Kabir Das calls it koti kalpa vishram – a billion years of rest consolidated in a moment. It is a state of deepest rest with alertness which brings freedom from all identities.
Shiva tatva is omnipresent. Realisation is to be conscious of it in its depth, yet to be awake to its non-dual glory in one’s awareness, in the depth of Samadhi. It is as if a wave is being skillfully conscious of the vastness of the ocean. The jagran in Shivratri is not just forcing oneself to be awake or singing bhajans aloud. It is about keeping awake and being inward and being consciously aware of the inner rest that sleep anyway brings everyday. When you surpass a certain layer of sleep, the rest of samadhi or Shiva sayujya happens.
Jagran means turning your mind inwards and keeping it awake. The moment you turn the mind inwards, it is habituated to go into sleep, unconsciously. Many a time, when people go into meditation, they do not know whether they slept or meditated. When they come out of it, they experience a certain pleasantness and reduced entropy, which brings an unusual freshness to the mind and senses.
There is a story related to Shivratri, about the union of Shiva and Shakti. The primordial and dynamic energy is wedded to the transcendental. Shiva is the silent witness, the chidakasha and Shakti is chitti or chidvilasa, the energy that plays and displays in the infinite space. Shiva is the formless Being; Shakti is the manifestation in the field. This is the recognition of the dual aspect of matter and energy, prakriti and purusha, the dravya and guna – substance and its qualities. Recognising the underlying non-dual nature of Brahman is Shivratri.
It is only wakefulness that brings out this knowledge in the consciousness and Shivratri is the night to celebrate the wakefulness of one universal consciousness without falling into the unconscious sleep state. Breaking the pattern of unconscious sleep gives you a glimpse that you are not a mechanical apparatus but a legend in the creation. To recognise the Shiva tatva, you have to be awake.