Śivarātri: The Light of Śiva and the Night of The Soul


Once a year, on the 14th day of the 7th month – a day before the new moon –comes a holy night called Śivarātri (more correctly; Mahāśivarātri). Śivarātri is one of the most important Hindu religious celebrations in Indonesia, including Bali. This night is also popularly called “the night of sin cleansing” or “the night of redemption.” The observances during Śivarātri include staying up all night long, fasting, praying in the temples, etc.

The main source for Śivarātri in Pre-modern Indonesia (and continued in Bali) is a poetic work entitled Śivarātrikalpa (“the Precept for the Night of Śiva), written by Mpu Tanakung, approximately in the 12th-13th century.[1]

Śivarātrikalpa told a story of a hunter named Lubdhaka. Doing his duty to provide for his family, he goes to the forest to hunt. Unfortunately, all day and he catches nothing. Lubdhaka climbs a Bilwa tree by the lake. Waiting on the top of the tree with his arrow, hoping something will come up. Yet, good luck is not on his side. He decides to stay on the tree, so he will not become dinner for the tigers or other predators in the forest. To keep himself awake, he picks one single leaf and drops it. Accidentally, each leaves fall on a a Natural-Lingga (śiwalingga nora ginawe; svayambhū-lingga).

Long story short, he then get home the next day. Years goes by, and he fell sick, and die. Dying brings sadness to Lubdhaka, because what will be his children without him? He doesn’t want to die, because he loves his family too much, and he wants to take care of them.

Since he was a hunter (that kills animals), Lord Yama (the god of the underworld) instruct his army to get Lubdhaka’s soul to hell. But, turn out it’s not an easy job. Since Lubdhaka also accidentally did Śivarātri’s observances (vigil, fasting, and offerings to Śivalingga), Lord Śiva also pleased with Lubdhaka and decided he can be ascended to the Kailāsa (the Abode of Śiva). After a long battle between Yama’s and Śiva’s army, Lubdhaka was then escorted to Kailāsa.

The story of a hunter who gained grace from Śiva because of Śivarātri is quite typical in Puranic texts. In fact, Mpu Tanakung maybe adopts his story from Padmapurāṇa. Yet, it’s not news that pre-Indonesians borrow a story from Indian sources and infused it with their own ideas and teachings.

According to the Śivarātrikalpa, the main rites of Śivarātri are: 1) Meditation (anusmaraṇa); 2) Perform the worship of Siwa’s fire (śiwānalārcaṇa); 3) Worshipping Śiwa Lingga. But it’s not described further, what kind of meditation is to be performed. Neither it is clear what the “worship of Śiwa’s fire” means. According to scholars, the first and second points are also not appeared in the Sanskrit sources (Teeuw, et all, 1969:183). As for the worship of Śiwa’s Lingga, the text goes as follows: The Divine śiva Lingga alone must be worshipped inside the Realm of the Gods (bhaṭāra śiwalinga kewala sirārcaṇan i dalĕm ikang surālaya).

The Kakawin also emphasizes getting the guru’s blessing before performing Śivarātri, and accompanying the performance with fasting, silence, and staying up all night. In fact, the Kakawin emphasizes that the main rites for Śivarātri are the latter. It is said that the benefits of Śivarātri will still be obtained, “even if one does not carry out the [others] vow, and just remains conscious and simply does not fall asleep at that time.”

Those three points will be our main topic of discussion in this article. And in this article, I would like to discuss Śivarātri (the abovementioned points) from Balinese philosophical texts (known as the Tattvas). So we will not see Śivarātri merely as a “religious ritual” (external ritual) but also as contemplative practices (inner works).

The Play of Light and Darkness

Śiva in the Tattvas refers to Awareness (cetana)—an ever-shining light of awareness. In these texts, Śiva is not an anthropomorphic deity, but as a principle of reality (i.e., Śivatattva, śiva as the essence of all existence).[2] The Tattvas said that two primordial principles exist are Awareness (cetana/ śivatattwa) and Non-awareness (acetana/ māyātattwa). Whilst awareness is called “the continuous daylight (rahinasadā), acetana is identified by neverending darkness.

The Tattwajñāna states as follows:[3]

cetana means knowing and awareness, that aware without forgetting, acetana means forgetfulness, confused without any awareness. The cetana and acetana are called śiwatattwa and māyātattwa, the cetana is called śiwatattwa, and acetana are called māyātattwa.

Then, another text, Sang Hyang Mahājñāna (The Divine Great-Knowledge], states a puzzling passage as follows:[4]

There a flower blooms in the sky, riding the fire that blazes in the water… and there are sun rising in the middle of the night, all those need to be understood by those who desire Final Release.

Luckily, the text then resolves the puzzles:[5]

The pradhāna is the night, the puruṣa is the sun that rises in the middle of the night, and the soul (ātmā) is called knowledge, when you know all of it, you will come to the abode of the divine without a doubt.

Thus, Śiva-rātri represents two inseparable realities; day and night; light and dark. The dynamic of these two realities is the cause of the entire existence – the dynamic of being, as the Wṛhaspati Tattwa put it:[6]

cetana means awareness-by-nature (jñānaswabhāwa), knowing without forgetting, continually in stillness, without cover, those are called cetana; acetana means those that are without awareness, just like a piece of stone, that is called acetana; and the meeting of acetana with acetana, is the cause of all existences (sarwatattwa)

From the Tattwa’s perspective, the meeting of light and dark caused the light to conceal its own brightness and thus born all the lower tattvas. The more intense the darkness is the farther one is from its true nature as the light. Śiva (complete light) then becomes ātmā, and then becomes citta (the mind).

Thus, as explained in the Tattwajñāna, our mind exists between two tendencies; toward light and darkness. When a mind is well-trained, it will progress toward realization. Yet, when the mind is sedated by the object of the senses, it will go farther from its illuminating nature. The Mahājñāna state that the senses are called “sleep,”[7] because their objects lullabied one into dreaming, instead of waking one up to reality.

Then, a sādhanā is “to make the sun rise in the middle of the night” that is to say, to bring forth the light of awareness in our “night of the soul (i.e. a soul that forgets its true nature as the light).” Yogic sādhanā, as The Tattwajñāna, called it, is “enthroning the awareness” — to light a flame that cast the darkness.

From this perspective, Śivarātri is not about the “night” itself, but about the light of Śiva – the light of Awareness. Śivarātri is also about waking up and staying up “all the night,” instead of falling into the dream of saṃsara infused by our existence – until we awakened into our nature as “continuous daylight.”

Wake Up and Stay Up

When the light of Śiva is shining bright, when the mind awakened into its true nature as light (i.e., enlightened), then we experience ourselves as light. That is to say that we experience The Śivahood.

In the Śivarātrikalpa, it is said that Lubdhaka greeted in the Abode of Śiva (“the realm of light”) and became like Śiva himself (“being the light”).

lāwan toh tariman tĕkapta panganugraha mami ri kita ndatan salah;
astw-ānemwa śarīra mukhya sahaneng śiwapada saha ratnapuṣpaka;
mukhyāng aṣṭaguṇānimādi paḍa kasraha ri kita lawan trilocana;
salwir ning warabhūṣaṇārja  makabhūṣaṇa mami ya ta kawwate kita.

So come now, receive my mark of favor toward you without fail;
Indeed, you shall receive the noblest form of all who inhabit Śiwa’s heaven, as well as a jeweled carriage;
Firstly the eight powers (aṣṭaguṇa), to begin with, the power of becoming as small as an atom, will be granted you, as well as the three eyes;
All the kinds of worthy and fine attire which I have as my own attire will be offered to you. |29.4|

kantĕnanya tanora bheda ni hawakta lawan iki śarīra ni nghulun;
sāsing rāmya niking śiwālaya kiteka wihikana mamuktya tar waneh;
yāwat pañca mahādibhūta salawasnya-n inajarakĕn in jagattraya;
tāwat mangkana tehikĕn lawasananta tumĕmu sukha ring śiwālaya.

Clearly there will be no distinction between your body and this body of mine;
Whatever is charming here in Śiwa’s heaven you will indeed be able to enjoy, and no one else;
For as long as the five great basic elements are taught in the three worlds:
So long will you thus enjoy bliss in Śiwa’s heaven. |29.5|

From the above passage, there are a few things we need to emphasize; first, Lubdhaka assumed the body of Śiva, becoming (like) Śiva; with the same attire, power, and joy. In another passage, it is said that: “He was delighted that he had assumed a divine form and was no different from the shape of the Teacher of the World.”[8]

Second, Lubdhaka received what is called aṣṭaguṇa (eight powers) also known as aṣṭasiddhi or aṣṭaīśwarya in the Tattvas.

When the yogic journey progresses, the yogi then obtains several “power” called siddhi. The highest siddhi the yogi obtained is called Aṣṭasiddhi (eight power),[9] from being as small as an atom, to as large as the cosmos; to know the past and the future; in another word, to transcend time and space, because Śiva is beyond time and space (tan kahhlĕtan sira de niṅ kāla—The Tattwajñāna).

Just like in the Kakawin, the Tattvas also said that such grace is obtained after being in constant union with the Lord – to become the embodiment of the Lord.[10] But, of course, the way to obtain it, according to the Tattvas is through yoga.

Igniting the Śiva’s Fire

To obtain such powers (siddhi), a yogi needs to ignite Śiwa’s Fire and burn away all his sins. Or, to use The Tattwa’s words, to burn away his karma-wāsanā (saṃskāra). The Śivarātrikalpa told us that one of the main rites during the Night of Śiva is worshipping the Śiva’s Fire (śivānalārcaṇa). In the Tattvas, the divine fire also plays a significant role.

The Wṛhaspati Tattva states as follows:

Sakweh niṅ pāpa nika saṅ yogīśwara, lawan ikaṅ wāsanā kabeh, yateka tinunwan de bhaṭāra riṅ śiwāgni, ri huwusnya hilaṅ ikaṅ karmawāsanā, tan molah alaṅgĕṅ samādhi nira, tan molah bhaṭāra ri sira yaṅ maṅkana, ya ta mataṅyan cintāmaṇi sira, asiṅ sakaharĕp nira tĕka, sakahyun ira dadi, ndah wyaktinya kapaṅgih ikaṅ kāṣṭaiśwaryan de nira.

All the sins of the yogīśwara, and all of their wāsanā, are burned by The Lord in the Śiwa’s Fire (śiwāgni), and after the karmawāsanā go away, his samādhi will be still without disturbances, and surely The Lord will be inside you, and thus you become cintāmaṇi, all your wishes will be reached, all your desired will be manifested, and then, clearly, you will attain the āṣṭaiśwarya.

Just like in the Tattvas, the Śivarātrikalpa also held beliefs that by performing Śivarātri, one’s sins and impurities will be washed away:

tuhun kalĕwih ing bratenajarakĕn mami niyata maweh phalādhika;
tuwin milagakĕn saduṣkṛta tĕhĕr masung atiśaya bhoga bhāgya len;
awās tan angusir Yamāṇḍa phala ning jana gumawayakĕn tikang brata;
sapāpa nika śīrṇa de ni phala ning brata winuwusakĕnku tan salah

“However, that vow which I had taught was so excellent that it certainly bears most worthy fruit;
Not only does it eliminate all evil deeds, but it gives special  pleasure and good fortune as well;
One will definitely not go to the realm of Yama – that is the reward for a man who carries out that vow;
All his sins are destroyed by the fruit of the vow of which I have spoken, without fail.

When one ignites the Śiwa’s Fire, not only all his sins, impediments, and impurities, and the karmic impression that will be burnt away. The Tattva frequently mention that their body [as the crystalization of all the tattvas – i.e., the sarwatattwa—will be burnt too.

Now, let us take a look at another passage, cited from The Bhuwanakośa [The Sheath of The World]:

Saṅ yogīśwara sira, tumūt rikaṅ pāpaséwu, kȃṅkĕn kayu īkā, makākāraṇa ṅ jñaṇa  wiśeṣa, yȃṅkĕn-apuy, tlas pwa sira n tumunuy ri yā, kapaṅguḥ taṅ keśwaryyan denira, tār paśeṣa pwa denira, kapaṅguḥ taṅ kamokṣan ginaway-akĕn lwirnya.

The King of Yogi, chasing his thousands-sins, using it as the fire-stick, and that makes his awareness paramount, [the awareness] is what he used as the fire, and after all the sins are burnt away, he then attained sovereignty [āṣṭaiśwarya], and when all the sins are burnt without any remnants, he then attained freedom [mokṣa].

Other than similar ideas of a King of Yogi (yogīśvara) burning his sins, then obtaining the ultimate power (kéśwaryyan) and even final release (mokṣa), this passage gives us a clear insight that the Śiwa’s Fire is none other than The Fire of Knowledge (jñaṇa). Of course, Knowledge in this context is not intellectual knowledge, but The Ultimate Knowledge of our inherent nature as Śiva – a crystal-clear awareness.

Whereas in The Mahājñāna, the fire that is used to burn “the body” is Oṃkāra, as express in the following passage:

nihan deya saṅ mahyun lpasa, ikaṅ śarīra ya tunu wehĕn gsĕṅa, de nira saṅ hyaṅ oṃkāra, sira ta maṅaran apuy

(thus for one who wants freedom, burn away the body [coarse and subtle] using The Divine Oṃkāra, and [the Oṃkāra] is called the fire)

The Mahājñāna also stated that Oṃkāra is called “fire inside water (apuy ri daḷm wway). In a more elaborate manner,[11] The Mahājñāna instructs us to burn away passion, desire, anger, rage, bewilderment, greed, foolishness, jealousy, etc using the Fire of Oṃkāra, thus taking us into the state of supreme bliss and free of all impurities. And in the Tattvas, Oṃkāra is Śiva himself.[12]

So, igniting the Fire of Śiva is done through yoga, and in various Tattva Literature the type of yoga being taught is Ṣaḍangga Yoga [Yoga of Six Anchilaries]. The essence of  Yoga of Six Anchilaries are dhāraṇayoga, rendered as follows [from various text]: There is Oṃkāra inside your heart, do meditation by chanting it, and when the sound of Oṃ are no more heard [meaning, you entered the complete silence], then you realized the Śiva-as-Śūnya [Emptiness] as the Lord’s body.

Worship of The Inner Lingga

In the Śivarātrikalpa, it is said that Lubdhaka unintentionally worshipping a Śivaliṅga. The Lingga is said a non-human-made Lingga (liṅga nora ginawe). And then, at the end of the Kakawin, one of the precepts to perform Śivarātri is by “worshipping Śivalingga inside the realm of the gods (bhaṭāra śiwalinga kewala sirārcaṇan i dalĕm ikang surālaya).”

According to The Tattvas, The Soul (ātma) is the supreme lingga – and it is not made by humans. While The Mahājñāna said that the body, is considered “the abode of the gods.”[13] Equating the body with temples and the human body as the abode of the gods, as well as enshrining various deities in different parts of the body  is common notion in Balinese mysticism.

The Mahājñāna and The Gaṇapatitattva (The Teachings of Gaṇapati) emphasize the importance of the Inner-Lingga, and how its superior compared to thousand of golden external Lingga,[14] or even Lingga made of jewels.[15] The Inner Lingga also called The Lingga of The Soul (ātmaliṅga), and should be worshipped first before external worship. It is said that only the wise will weigh the importance of Inner-Lingga, while the others keep busy worshipping The Lord in the heavenly realm, temples, or statues; a such person that knows the Inner Lingga is called a yogi.[16]

hana pwa sira saṅ sādhaka, gumawayakĕn paraliṅga, apuṅguṅ maṅarccana ṅaranya, amaṅgih pwa sira phala kḍik. – The Gaṇapatitattva

(There is a sādhaka, making an external-lingga, it’s called foolish worship, and brings only little benefits).

hna wwaṅ magḷm amūjā riṅ bāhyaliṅga, ndātan wruh ya riṅ ātmaliṅga, ika ta wwaṅ maṅkana, yeka mūrkkha pamūjā ṅaranya, – Sang Hyang Mahājñāna

(there are people who find constant pleasure in worshipping the external-lingga, yet don’t know about the Inner-Lingga (ātmaliṅga), and such persons are called blind worshippers)

A Lingga, as The Mahājñāna implied,[17] is not just a phallus sign, but also a dwelling place of the Lord. Hence, the word “lingga” is synonymous with “temple.” To find such lingga inside, the texts prescribe as follows:

kaṅ paruparu, ya kamala, yeka ṅaran  praṇāla, ikaṅ tikta, ya ta ṅaran liṅga, ikaṅ śarīra, ya ta ṅaran kahyaṅan, putus niṅ sinaṅguh diwya bhaṭara, maheśwara, sira pratiṣṭhe ṅkāna. – Sang Hyang Mahājñāna

(The lungs, is a lotus, and it’s the praṇāla (a yoṇi supporting the liṅga), and the gall bladder, is called Lingga, while the body, is called Temple, and the Highest Lord, the maheśwara, is enshrined there)

sira saṅ hyaṅ tryakṣara, mwaṅ pada tlu, hana brahmāpada, mwaṅ wiṣṇupada, mwaṅ rudrapada, sira sinaṅguh oṃkāra ṅaranira, hana ta manah mapagĕh, makāśraya bhaṭara śiwa, liṅgarūpa, ya teka śiwaliṅga ṅaranya, tan paḍa ika, nihan waneh kocapanya de saṅ wruh. – Sang Hyang Mahājñāna

The Divine Tryakṣara [three sacred letters, i.e., Aṃ, Uṃ, Maṃ], and the three shrines; The Shrine of Brahma, The Shrine of Wiṣṇu, and The Shrine of Rudra, [all those] are called Oṃkāra; and there is a still heart, as the seat of Lord Śiwa, in a form of a Lingga, thus called śiwalingga, incomparable, as taught by the wise)

When we talk about “Inner Lingga” the available texts mapped three locations for the Linggas; 1) In physical organs; 2) in a certain psychological state [in this case, within a still-heart], and 3) of course, the ātma itself. To put it in other words, Inner Lingga is Physical, Psychological, and Mystical – it is our whole body, gross and subtle, to put it in a more general sense – because, as mentioned earlier, the body is a temple.

Inner-Lingga is not “a thing” but consists of layers – and in its subtlest and supreme form, it is Śiva himself. This idea can be understood by understanding the evolution of the tattvas as described in The Tattwajñāna; how The Ultimate Awareness descent into ātma (personal soul), and is later concealed in the mind (citta).

The Precept of Śivarātri According to Śivarātrikalpa

ndatan ujarĕn gatinya-n apupul-pupul manĕkakĕn sakāpti ning akung;
tucapa sirang Girīndraduhitātiharṣa rumĕngö wuwus Trinayana;
irika sirātaña krama nikang bratākhya śiwarātry aminta pajarĕn;
tĕkap ing anambuta-ng brata mapeka tingkaha lawan prayoga wangunĕn |36.1|

We need not relate how they came tagether and fulfilled all the longings of lovers;
Rather let us speak of the daughter of Girīndra, who was very joyful to hear what Trinayana said.
She then enquired about the rules of the vow which is called the Night of Śiwa, and asked to be told;
What one must do if one should want to carry out the vow, and what the rites are that one must perform.

pataña niking lanānaḍah asihta kewala miras-hiras kahulunan;
tajar-ajarĕn tĕkap ning umulahkĕnang brata kinahyunanku gawayĕn;
apan iki lingta yadyapi taman kaharṣan ikanang bratāstu katĕmu;
phala nika de nikang jana matanghi rin magha kulĕm caturdaśa hirĕng |36.2|

“I who constantly live on your favor ask this simply to make my submission complete;
Tell me in full what one has to do in order to fulfill the vow, for it is my wish to do so.
For this is what you said: ‘Even if the vow is not intended, verily its fruit,
Will be reaped by him who watches in the month of Māgha, on the fourteenth night of the dark half of the month.”

rari sipi harṣa ni twas i kakanta masku rumĕngö tañanta ri kami;
ngwang awarahe tuhan krama nikang bratādhika phalanya masku rĕngĕngen;
nguni-uni lakṣaṇā ning umulah yateka pituhun ling i ngwang i kita;
karaṇa nikang janāngusira Rudraloka luputeng kawah sukhasadā. |36.3|

“Little sister, how delighted I am, my treasure, to hear your question to me;
I shall tell you, my dear, the rules of the excellent vow – Iisten well to what its fruit is, my treasure;
And above all what the marks are of one who executes it, so you should pay good attention to what I say;
Through it a man may reach Rudra’s heaven and escape hell, to his eternal blessing.

rin eñjing i huwus ning anggĕlar anusmaraṇa ḍatĕnga rin gurugrĕha;
manĕmbaha jugāmwitānglĕkasakĕn brata sumuhuna pāda sang guru;
ri sampun ika madyusāsisiga manggĕlarakĕna śiwānalārcaṇa;
tĕhĕr duluranôpawāsa saha mona manigasana śuddhakangśuga |37.1|

“In the moring, after applying the mind to concentration on the deity, you must come to the hause of your teacher;
You should then make an obeisance and ask his leave to carry out the vow, placing the foot of the teacher on your head.
After that you must bathe, blacken your teeth and then perform the worship of Siwa’s fire;
This must be accompanied by fasting and silence, and you must put on a new, clean jacket.

ri sampun i tĕlas nikang rahina ring wĕngi niyata matanghya tan mṛma;
bhaṭāra śiwalinga kewala sirārcaṇan i dalĕm ikang surālaya;
Kumāra nguniweh Gajendrawadana-ng ruhunana sira kapwa pūjanĕn;
rikang rajani yāma pat gĕlarana krama nira manuta-ng sakabwatan. |37.2|

“After the day is done you must stay up without fail during the night and not go to sleep;
The holy lingga of the lord siwa alone must be worshipped in the world of the gods;
Kumāra and Gajendrawadana must be honoured first;
During the night the four watches must be observed in proper order, giving the ritual its full weight.

mĕnur kañiri gambir arja kucubung saha waduri putih lawan putat;
aśoka saha nāgapuṣpa hana tangguli bakula kalak macampaka;
saroja biru bang putih sahana ning kusuma halapĕn in samangkana;
makādi sĕmi ning majārja sulasih panĕkara ning angarcaṇe sira. |37.3|

“Jasmin, oleander, gambir arja, kecubung with white waduri and putat, Aśoka and nāgapuṣpa, morawer tangguli, bakula and kalak with campaka;
Blue, red and white lotuses, in fact all the flowers that there are you must then take;
First and foremost the tender shoots af the maja and sulasih should be the floral afferings of one who worships Him.

lawan sahana ning sugandha pakadhūpa saha ghṛta sudīpa ring kulĕm;
ikang caru bubur pĕhan saha bubur gula liwĕt acarub hatak wilis;
yateka pinakādi ning caru yadin dulurana phala pāṇa matsyaka;
samangkana kĕta-ng kramôlahakĕneng sawĕngi saka sayāma tan lupa. |37.4|

“And all sorts of fragrant things must be used as incense, with ghee and holy lamps in the night;
And as offerings milk porridge and molasses porridge, mixed with green peas;
All this must serve as the primary offering, though you must also accompany it with fruits, drinks and meats;
These, then, are the rules which you must observe for the whole night, watch by watch, without omitting anything.

mṛdangga sahanônyan-uyau asameni kapanalimurārip ing mata;
yadin mangucapa-ng kidung rumasana-ng kakawin apasang arja len nita;
sabhāgya kĕta yan wruhāngucapakĕn śabarakathana ring samangkana;
awas katĕmu tang padādhika tĕkap nikang akathana Lubdhakātmaka. |37.5|

“Drums and all kinds of other musical instruments played tagether should be used as a means for keeping sleep from the eyes –
Even reciting a kidung or absorbing yourself in a kakawin, performing arja or gambling;
But it is most beneficial if you can then tell the tale of the Śabara;
For it is plain that he who relates the story of the sou1 of Lubdhaka will reach the highest heaven.

ri mokṣa nikanang kulĕm ri tĕka ning rahina masunga dāna ring sabhā;
suwaṇa-śiwalingga dāna ri mahādwija paramasuśīla wedawit;
asing lwira nikang ḍatĕng sungana dāna sakawaśa hayo jugātulak;
tĕhĕr kaluputeng turū ri rahinanya sagawaya hayo kurang tutur. |37.6|

“When night disperses and day comes give presents at the court;
A golden lingga of siwa should be your gift to the great brahmans, who are supremely virtuous and expert in the Vedas;
No matter who should happen by, you must give him presents according to your ability – do not refuse them!;
Furthermore safeguard yourself from sleep during the day as well, and do not be thoughtless in anything that you do.

huwus pwa katĕkang prasiddha mangulah brata winuwusakĕn tĕkap mami;
kasor saphala ning mayajña-tapa-dāna nguni-uni-n atīrtha de nika;
ri pūrwa ni dadinya yadyapi sahasra niyuta ya mamuktya pātaka;
tathāpi ya hilang tĕkap ning umulah brata saphala śiwādisarwarī. |37.7|

“After you have successfully carried out the vow as I have described;
All the fruits of sacrificing, doing asceticism or charitable deeds, as weil as bathing in holy pools, will be inferior to this;
Even though one may have enjoyed a thousand million sinful deeds in one’s previous existence;
These will nonetheless be wiped away through the performance of the worthy vow of the eminent Night of siwa.

yadin sagati-gatya ning wwang amangun hala lumarani buddhi ning para;
dwijaghua tuwi mon krtaghna gurutalpaka mati raray utigu ring wĕtĕng;
sapāpa niki nāśa de niki-ng atanghi manuju śiwarātri kottama;
sawet ni paramaprabhāwa nikanang brata kalingan i śabda ni nghulun |37.8|

“No matter how a man has wrought evil and grieved his fellowman;
Whether he has been a murderer of brahmans, or has returned evil for good, if he has violated his teacher’s bed, or has killed a child in the womb;
All his sins are undone if he keeps a vigil when it happens to be the excellent Night of Śiwa;
Because of the supreme power of this vow – such is the meaning of what I said.

yadn tan angulah brartānging atutur tan aturu juga kāla mangkana;
sakalwiran i jāti ning wwang atuhānwama bini jalu kanyakā kunĕng;
nyameka musi ring śiwālaya mamukti sukha tan abalik prih ing hati;
sakahyuu ika wastu siddhi katĕkan katĕmu phala nikāmangun hayu. |37.9|

“Even if he does not carry out the vow, but remains conscious and simply does not fall asleep at that time;
No matter what sort of person he may be, o1d or young, woman, man or girl;
He will surely reach the heaven of siwa and taste happiness, and never have troubles again;
Whatever he desires will surely be fulfilled and he will reap the fruits of the good he has clone.”

nahan wacana sang hyang īśwara kapūhan iki sahana sang hyang angrĕngö;
Girīndratanayāsahur praṇata mintuhu ri sapawarah Jagatpati;
byatīta ri tĕlas nirāwara-warah maluwaran i ḍatĕng nikang wĕngi;
samangka tĕwĕk ing watĕk hyang amangun brata katĕka-tĕkeng jagattraya. |37.10|

Such were the words of the god Īśwara, and all the gods were perplexed when they heard them;
The daughter of Girīndra responded, bowing 1ow and giving ear to all the instruction of Jagatpati;
We pass over how they parted at the approach of night, after he had given his directions;
This was the time when the hosts of gods went to carry out the vow, even unto the ends of the universe


The night of the soul, in this writing refers to “forgetfulness of the soul.” That is when the soul (ātmā) is carried away by the mind, the senses, and their objects. The Soul undergoes “dark night” because it forgets its true nature as The Illuminating Light. This forgetfulness allows the soul to experience worldly life, and over time these experiences entrapped the soul in the cycle of suffering.

This experience is also referred to as the “sleeping soul.” It keeps dreamings instead of waking to its true nature as śiva. Thus, a call to practice vigil all night long is made – to stay up, to keep being awake and aware instead of being carried away by entrapping sweet dreams and deluding sleep. Both, the experience of the soul (a light that plays with darkness) and a call to wake up are crystalized in a compound word, Śiva-rātri.

Without diminishing the importance of the actual ritual, this work tries to see śivarātri as a yogic analogy – an inner work to accompany the external ritual during The Night of śiva, or anytime. Because overall śiva-rātri is every second of our worldly experiences. Despite all its imperfections, I hope this writing will provide insights for the fellow seeker.



[1] All the Śivarātrikalpa citation in this article is cited from Teeuw, A. et al (1969). Some translations are modified by me, hence, all mistakes are mine.

[2] In Bali, the anthropomorphic form of Śiva is often called īśwara or Bhaṭāra Guru

[3] cetana ṅaranya jñāna wruh meṅĕt riṅ tutur tan pabalik lupa, acetana ṅaranya ikaṅ lupa wyāmoha tan kahanan tutur. ikaṅ cetana lawan acetana yeka sinaṅguh śiwatattwa lawan māyātattwa, ikaṅ cetana yeka śiwatattwa, ikaṅ acetana yeka māyātattwa — The Tattwajñāna

[4] hana kambaṅ iṅ ākāśa, hawan apuy dumilah ri daḷm wway, hana ya pasmapĕs gigirnya, hana tāditya mtu riṅ wṅi, ika ta kawruhana de saṅ mahyun kalpasan — Sang Hyang Mahājñāna

[5] saṅ pradhāna sira wṅi, saṅ puruṣa sirāditya mtu riṅ wṅi, saṅ hyaṅ ātmā sira sinaṅguh jñāna, wruh pwa wwaṅ irika kabeh, tan sandehākna mulih mariṅ pada bhaṭara. -Sang Hyang Mahājñāna

[6] cetana ṅaranya jñānaswabhāwa wruh tan kĕneṅ lupa, nityomiḍĕṅ sadākāla, tan kāwaraṇan, ya sinaṅguh cetana ṅaranya, acetana ṅaranya ikaṅ tanpa jñāna, kadyaṅga niṅ watu, ya sinaṅguh acetana ṅaranya, atĕmu pwekaṅ cetana lawan acetana, ya ta maṅdadyakĕn sarwatattwa — the Wṛhaspati Tattwa

[7] anu sinaguh maturu, ika daśendriya -Sang Hyang Mahājñāna

[8] tuṣṭāmbĕknya-n amiśra dewa tuwi tan papahi lawan awak jagatguru [29.6]

[9] Aṣṭasiddhi cosist of: aṇimā, laghimā, mahimā, prāpti, prākāmya, vaśitva, īśitva, and kāmāvasāyitā. The topic is central in Pre-Indonesian yogic literature as well as Indian Literature (such as: Patañjali Yoga Sūtra)

[10] ya ta mataṅyan sadā samāhita nira riṅ bhaṭāra, lanā pweka samāhita nira riṅ bhaṭāra, satata tar pĕgat, ya ta mataṅyan pāwak bhaṭāra ri sira  WRT

[11] ndyārthanya, kāma, kahyun, krodha, glĕṅ, moha, lobha, puṅguṅ, mātsaryya, kimburu, mahyun tumuṅgalakna suta, ika ta kabeh, pūjākna ri saṅ hyaṅ brahmā, ika saṅ hyaṅ oṃkāra, sira haran apuy, uwus pwa gsĕṅ ika kabeh, suwanihśreyasa kita, tan tan katampĕlan mala // The Mahājñāna

[12] śiwa iṅaranan oṃkāra – The Gaṇapatitattva

[13] ika śarīra tulya paryyaan, i kāna ta bhaārāṅĕnaṅĕn nityaśah (human body is the abode of the gods (the temple), where The Lord is constantly worshipped) –Sang Hyang Mahājñāna

[14] norāna kadi saṅ hyaṅ ātmaliṅga, sira juga tuṅgal wiśeṣa, sahasra ikaṅ liṅga alah denira, apan sira wiśeṣaliṅga – The Gaṇapatitattva

ikaṅ liṅga mās sewu kwehnya, tan paḍa kalawan ikaṅ ātmaliṅga tuṅgal, yadyapi akṣiliṅga sewu kwehnya, tan sama kalawan śiwaliṅga. – The Gaṇapatitattva

kunaṅ saṅ dwija riṅ wwai, uṅgwan i dewatā nira, ṛṣi riṅ swargga, uṅgwan i dewatā nira, yan riṅ loka riṅ arccaliṅga pratimāśilā, uṅgwan i dewatā nira, kunaṅ yan sira saṅ wruha, saṅ hyaṅ ātmā sira dewatā – The Gaṇapatitattva

[15] sewu ta kweha nikaṅ ratnaliṅga, paḍaha ta kadiwyan lawan śiwaliṅga tuṅgal, akṣiliṅga sewu, paḍaha ta kadiwyan lawan ātmaliṅga tuṅgal, nihan waneh – Sang Hyang Mahājñāna

[16] kunaṅ saṅ dwija riṅ wwai, uṅgwan i dewatā nira, ṛṣi riṅ swargga, uṅgwan i dewatā nira, yan riṅ loka riṅ arccaliṅga pratimāśilā, uṅgwan i dewatā nira, kunaṅ yan sira saṅ wruha, saṅ hyaṅ ātmā sira dewatā. – The Gaṇapatitattva

liṅ saṅ watĕk brāhmaṇa, riṅ tīrttha kādhikāran bhaṭara, liṅ saṅ watĕk ṛṣi, riṅ ākāśa kādhikāran bhaṭara, riṅ loka pwa ya, riṅ watu, riṅ kayu, lawan liṅir pratimā kādhikāran bhaṭara, kunaṅ ri saṅ watĕk yogī, ri saṅ hyaṅ ātmā kādhikāran bhaṭara — Sang Hyang Mahājñāna

[17] ikaṅ bāhyaliṅga, lwirnya parhyaṅan, prāsāda — Sang Hyang Mahājñāna

[18] ikaṅ hati, hana śiwapada ṅaranya, ikaṅ oṃkāra ya paramaśūnya, sūkṣma pih, ikaṅ wwaṅ kumawruh ikaṅ śiwapada saṅkeṅ śarīra, ya teka tan kasandehākna, liṅ bhaṭara – Sang Hyang Mahājñāna

[19] saṅ hyaṅ oṃkāra ta sira haran garuḍa, sira tāmawa saṅ puruṣa, riṅ śiwapada – Sang Hyang Mahājñāna

[20] hana oṃkāra ṅaranira, sira parahu sabhāwanta, ikaṅ sāgarakaharan tasikta, saṅ hyaṅ oṃkāra pwa sira parahwanta, yatanyan hĕntasan ikaṅ pāpa magöṅ, hlas pwa kita ḍataṅ ri pāda bhaṭara, lawan sayogya kita, hĕntyakĕnta parahunta, apan tan ana prayojananta, an huwus lpas, prayojananta, samaṅkana juga paknanya – Sang Hyang Mahājñāna

[21] kadiwyan  saṅ hyaṅ oṃkāra, sira ḷwih saṅkeṅ mantra kabeh, sira sinaṅguh paramasūkṣma, maṅkana ikaṅ kamokṣan kapaṅguh de nira, saṅ hyaṅ oṃkāra pinakamārgga de saṅ yogīśwara – Sang Hyang Mahājñāna

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Balinese Yoga Tradition

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