A hunter once wandered deep into the jungle in search of game. Night fell and he realized that there was no way that he could return home, so he climbed up a tree to rest his tired limbs. As darkness engulfed the jungle he felt frightened.
A lion’s roar tore through the jungle and through his heart. The sounds of snail’s and frogs created an eerie feeling that made him sweat with fear. Every now and then, he felt something wriggling up his limbs.
So scared to death was he that he started crying profoundly. All through the night, he shed tears. While he wept he remembered Lord Shiva and said, “Oh Shiva! Why did you get me into this mess? Please save me, I am terrified.” He went through the night chanting OM NAMAHA SHIVAYA. All night he continued to chant lest he fall asleep and fall prey to a carnivore. He also plucked the leaves off the tree on which he lay and dropped them down while chanting, to be doubly sure that he didn’t give in to slumber.
As the Sun broke through the branches of the dense trees he saw that the tree on which he lay was a Bilva tree and under it was a Shivlingam. All through the night the tears that he had shed and the leaves that he had dropped had been falling on the Shivlingam! The night was the night of Shivarathri!
It is said that a king had once asked a holy man what he had done in his previous birth to have become a king. This story of the previous life of the King as a hunter was narrated to him by the holy man.
Apparently chanting OM NAMAHA SHIVAYA on Shivarathri and washing the Shivlingam with tears and offering bilva leaves, though unintentionally, earned him a rebirth as a king!
Prayer that emanates from the heart is definitely heard by the Lord. But pray just for the joy of prayer, not for the benefits you hope to get therefrom!