The true spirit of Navratri
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
We know the story about how Devi destroyed the bull. The bull here signifies Dhumralochan (the laziness of Mahishasur, one whose eyes are clouded with small-mindedness). Only the Mother Divine could destroy this bull with the collective energy of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Just as a baby takes nine months to be born, the Devi took nine days to rest and what was born on the tenth day was pure love and devotion with which the Devi conquered the bull of inertia and dullness.
Navaratri is a time for self-referral and bringing the mind back to the source. There are 64 divine mother impulses which govern the subtle creation. These are responsible for restoring all earthly and spiritual benefits. They are simply part of one’s awakened consciousness. These nine nights are celebrated to rekindle those divine impulses and celebrate the innermost depth of our lives.
How do you go back to the source? Through means of fasting, prayer, silence and meditation, the seeker gets back to the true source. Fasting cleanses and detoxifies the body, gives your digestive organs some rest; silence purifies the speech and brings rest to the chattering mind, and meditation takes one deep into one’s own being.
We also experience the three primordial qualities that make up the universe in these nine days. Though our life is governed by the three gunas, we seldom recognize and reflect on them. The first three days of Navaratri are represented by tamo guna, the next three days to rajo guna and the last three to satva guna. Our consciousness sails through the tamo and rajo gunas and blossoms in the satva guna of the last three days. Whenever satva dominates in life, victory follows. The essence of this knowledge is honoured by celebrating the tenth day as Vijaydashmi.
The rituals begin with an offering to Ganesha, the Lord of Auspiciousness. Then we have Navgraha Homa that propitiate the nine planets, which influence various spheres of life. It nullifies the negative planetary effects. Sudarshana Homa offered to Lord removes ignorance and illumination of a new life enriched with knowledge. The legend has it that when the devotees are suffering from afflictions, Lord Sudarshana dispels his fierce form and protects the devotees.
The day of Ashtami marks the pinnacle of all homas of Navaratri. The Chandi Homa is performed to remove any obstacle or blocks in growth – both in the inner life and the material world. 700 verses are chanted adoring goddess Durga. With the recitation of each verse, 108 offerings are made in the sacrificial fire invoking the goddess to bestow her grace. Chandi Homa is about recognizing the Divinity in the whole of creation. The ninth day of Navratri honours the seers and sages of the past, present and future in the form of Rishi Homa.
Our rishis cognized whole procedures and knowledge systems to connect the macrocosm with the microcosm, where in every aspect of life is involved and revered which is called Yagnya. Many yagnas are conducted during these nine days. Although we may not necessarily understand the meaning of all the poojas and ceremonies done, we should simply sit with our hearts and minds open and feel the vibrations created in the atmosphere. The chanting with all the rituals and customs bring about purification and upliftment of the consciousness. The entire creation becomes alive and we recognize life in everything just as children see life in everything.
During these nine nights or Navratri, your mind should be absorbed in the Divine consciousness. Like a baby is in the mother’s womb for nine months before it is born, similarly, during these nine days and nights, one should go inwards and remember the source. Ask yourself these questions, “How was I born? What is my source?” You should ponder on your consciousness. These nine days of celebrations are meant to take one inward and upward.
(The author is a spiritual guru)