Navarathri began 3 days ago (nava = 9, rathri = night; the festival of 9 nights), a celebration of Shakti in all Her forms. Although there are numerous stories associated with Navarathri, the most well-known is from the Devi Mahatmyam, where the divine mother is adored in her three main forms: as Kali or Durga the first 3 days, Lakshmi the next 3 days, and Saraswathi the last 3 days.
There is a deep symbolic significance to this, paralleling one’s own spiritual path. A well-known daily prayer from the Brihadarinyaka Upanishad seems to capture the entire significance of Navarathri:
“Asato ma sadgamaya, tamaso ma jyotirgamaya, mrityorma amrintangamaya”
“Lead me from untruth to truth, from ignorance to light, from death to immortality”
Ignorance of our true nature leads us to believe in the separateness of the ego-self, the mother of all untruths. Veiled by the darkness of this ignorance (of our true nature), entrenched in untruth (of identification as the separate self), we become stuck in the cycle of birth and death (of the present moment being colored again and again by past conditioning, in an endless loop).
Kali/Durga is the primordial form of Shakti that slays egoic conditioning so the past can be left behind and the present can be lived (from death to immortality). Lifting of that egoic darkness of conditioning by Kali simultaneously lets in Lakshmi, who embodies all goodness and abundance (from ignorance to light). Rigorously prepped thus by Kali and Lakshmi, superior knowledge takes birth in the form of Saraswathi, who reigns over subtle discrimation between the real and unreal (from untruth to truth).
In our own paths, bhakti and surrender lead us to ever-deepening spiritual practices and openings, ripening us. The seeker’s Navarathri begins in earnest with letting go of egoic tendencies. Asking, “Is this true?” in a given circumstance invariably leads to seeing that nothing in the transactional world is ever absolutely true. Digging deeper, we are led to, “If this isn’t true, what made me think that?” bringing us face-to-face with our own delusions. As Kali mercilessly slays each delusion as it comes up, Lakshmi blesses us with fortitude and abundance. The pristine Saraswathi finally makes an appearance as we are led to deeply inquiring, “Who is this I..?”
The 10th day of Navarathri is called “Vijayadashmi” (vijaya = victory, dashmi = the 10th day of the new moon), signifying the end of the journey of the individual soul – that which was previously deluded to be the separate ego-self has now come to rest in it’s supreme knowledge of itself as That.
Shakti, through her own Maya, creates the illusion of duality. It is through her playful Maya that we come to believe ourselves to be the separate self. And in this primary belief, we go through endless cycles of suffering, pain and joy, with nothing remaining permanent. It is through her Grace that we are drawn to re-discover our true identity, are led to teachers and teachings, to practices and to openings. And it is through her Grace that her own play of duality is finally seen through.
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