The Tree of Knowledge
The Sublime Plan of Navaratri
Navaratri means both “nine nights” and “new nights”. Creation happens in darkness, in the womb of the Mother and underneath the soil. Nine months in the womb are like nine long nights where the spirit takes human form. Night provides rejuvenation and rest. People come home from work at night and celebrate, rejoice, and pray. At night, the entire creation goes to sleep. These nine nights of Navaratri are precious; they are enriched with subtle energy. Sixty-four impulses of the Divine Mother govern the subtle creation and are responsible for restoring all earthly and spiritual benefits. These impulses are contained within one’s awakened consciousness. The nine nights of Navaratri are celebrated to rekindle those divine impulses and to renew the inner depth of our lives. Cleanse your body and cleanse your soul. Cleanse your body with water. Cleanse your soul with Knowledge, Pranayam, Sudarshan Kriya, and meditation.
As we take nine months in our Mother’s womb before we are born, we take these nine days to go back to our source. These nine days are to be spent in worship, meditation, satsangs, silence and knowledge. In the Mother Worship ceremony, the Divine Mother, or Goddess, or Devi, is worshipped for nine days and nights. Although the Divine Mother is ONE, she is adored in three aspects — Durga (another name of Parvati), Lakshmi and Saraswati.
During the first three days, the emphasis is laid on the removal and destruction of the grosser forms of obstacles by Goddess Durga. The heart of an aspirant is tainted by impurities in the form of anger, greed, hatred, lust, pride, jealousy, etc. These invaders must be rooted out and the building cleaned up or levelled before a proper house can be constructed and occupied. It is Durga, riding on a tiger, who enters the heart of an aspirant and mercilessly slays all those impurities residing within. This levels the old complex personality and clears the way for the construction of a healthier personality in which divine virtues can unfold.
During the next three days of Navaratri, the same Devi is worshipped in Her constructive aspect as Goddess Lakshmi. Seated or standing on a lotus blossom and holding lotuses in many hands, Lakshmi symbolises unfoldment. She is seen as the embodiment of gentleness, harmony and goodness, and an aspirant recognises Her Grace through circumstances of material and spiritual success and glory.
Once Durga has levelled and cleaned up the dilapidated old structure of personality, a constructive process can now begin. A plan is made, a foundation is laid, a house is built and the gardens landscaped. As you see more and more beauty unfolding, it fills your heart with joy. This represents the stage in spiritual movement characterized by the advent of Lakshmi. Lakshmi is the sustainer and nourisher of the constructive expressions of the soul. Durga destroys a dilapidated ruin; Lakshmi erects a shining mansion. Durga removes jagged rocks; Lakshmi produces a green meadow. Durga performs surgery by removing the diseased part of the mind; Lakshmi performs the work of healing.
Lakshmi is the Goddess of material and spiritual prosperity. She is symbolic of Divine Glory. This phase is marked by the development of divine qualities such as compassion, dispassion, purity, renunciation, charity, universal love, unity, magnanimity of heart, balance of mind, etc. Lakshmi brings steadiness of mind by enriching the spirit and removing distraction.
The last three nights of Navaratri are devoted to the worship of Goddess Saraswati, the bestower of wisdom. Saraswati comes forth to enlighten you by revealing the latent powers and potential grandeur of the soul. Saraswati is described as having a complexion that is white like the Himalayan snow. She shines effulgent as all her garments and brilliant ornaments emit pure, snowy light. This implies that the Goddess abounds with sattwa. When sattwa develops in the human personality, it brightens the intellect and leads to intuitional enlightenment.
Saraswati is further compared to the jasmine flower. This flower is not only white, but also fragrant. Where there is purity there is also fragrance and luminosity. She holds in her hands a veena, symbolic of the harmonization of the personality. Saraswati, Goddess of Wisdom, enables you to go beyond the walls of your ego and look into the transcendent dimension. The moment you do so, creative faculties begin to unfold. Ultimately, Saraswati destroys ignorance and reveals the splendour of consciousness.
By reflecting upon the Divine Mother during the nine nights of Navaratri, we see the innumerable manifestations as she guides the aspirant in evolution, internal as well as external. The entire prakriti (nature) is Her sporting ground and all the manifestations of heaven and earth are Her glories. Her Divine ways of guiding the soul are mysterious, yet always deeply compassionate. The climax of Devi worship — attainment of Self Realisation — is symbolised by the celebration of Vijaya Dashami, the celebration of Devi’s final victory over all the demons on the tenth day of Navaratri.
And when we move from Tamo through to Satva, victory happens; victory over our own devilish tendencies, like RaagDvesh (cravings-aversions), Raktabijakshur (inherent ‘tendencies in our DNA: which can be changed, only through satsang) and Dhumralochan (the laziness of Mahishasur, the bull; one whose eyes are clouded with small-mindedness). At the end of the nine-day Aradhana, let there be newness in us.
Nav also means new. These are nine new nights. Krishna used to do a lot of Devi Pujas during Navaratri. He said: “I take a dip in my own Prakriti (nature), and come out to create new.” So, take a dip in your own nature and come out fresh and new. By the Grace of Divine Mother, the more we go deep within ourselves, the more this Creation rejoices in celebration. So, be within yourself during these nine days. The diverse aspects of the Holy Spirit are invoked during these nine days. And like the nine months of formation spent in the womb, spend these nine days within and form a new spirit. Then all the bad karmas and impressions are washed away. Navaratri purifies the individual consciousness and then the universal consciousness, the creation.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
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