‘Nava’ means ‘nine’ and ‘ratri’ is made up of ‘ra’ which also means ‘night’ and ‘tri’ meaning the three aspects of our life – body, mind and soul. There are three types of botherations or problems that may affect a person – physical, mental and spiritual. That which gives you relief from all these difficulties is ‘ratri’. ‘Ratri’ or night relieves you of misery and brings comfort. The night relaxes everybody; whether happy, unhappy or miserable, everybody goes to sleep. The nine-day period of Navratri is marked by a series of Yagna and Homas. These Yagnas nullify all the misery, sorrow and pain in the world. Each day of this nine-day period has special implications and yagnas and homas are performed accordingly. In life, there are positive and negative qualities that affect us.
"Navratri represents how the negativity can be conquered by the inherent positive qualities in an individual so that one emerges as a Divine being." - Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
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 meditation, satsang, silence and knowledge. With Navratri Package you can experience the blissful silence of the Navratri special Advanced Meditation Course (AMC) and the auspicious Homas which would happen at The Art of Living International Centre, Bangalore.
Navratri Day 1, 05.10.2013 Saturday
“Just as when spring comes, nature celebrates, When Navratri comes, the Spirit celebrates.” – Sri Sri
The celebration started with Rudrabhisheka, where we worshipped Shiva in the form of Lord Rudra.
During the Nine nights & Ten days of Navratri we honour different aspects of Mother Divine called as the Nava Durgas or Nava Shaktis and Dashamahavidyas
The First among the Navadurgas is Shailaputri
Her worship takes place on the first day of the nine divine nights. “Shaila” means stone, putri means daughter. Praying to her brings strength like a stone. It brings commitment. When the mind is wavering, chanting the name of this Devi helps the mind to be centered and committed. It gives us strength, courage, and composure.
The First among Mahavidyas is Mahakali
In sanskrit, maha is maginificent and kala is time. Mahakali is the divine force that is beyond time and controls time. The energy that gives you steadfastness, contentment, serenity and dispassion is Mahakali. Without dispassion, desires hinder us in every stage. They do not allow the mind to be in the present moment and in this sense they take us "out of time". Mahakali reins in desires allowing the mind to be in the "now". Everything in creation happens in the 'now', in the magnificent presence of Mahakali - the witness and propeller of action in this creation.
Story from Devi Bhagavatam - Madhu Kaitabh
Once Lord Vishnu was resting on water when from the wax in his ears, two demons Madhu and Kaitabh were born. Both of them were very powerful and caused a lot of disruption. They even challenged Lord Brahma to war. Brahma pleaded with Vishnu for help. Vishnu fought with them for thousands of years but was not able to defeat them. He then worshipped Mother Divine and with Her blessing, was able to kill Madhu and Kaitabh inside water.
Questions to Ponder
1. What does the demons' birth from Vishnu's ear wax signify? 2. Why was he not able to defeat them? 3. What does the blessing of Mother Divine signify, with which Vishu was able to win the war inside water?
Navaratri Day 2, 06.10.2013 Sunday
Today is the second day of Navratri. Our journey of silence, celebration and joy continues. As Sri Sri says, this is the time to move beyond words to the silent abode of our Self, for silence is the mother of all virtues and wisdom.
During Navratri the seeker gets back to the true source through fasting, prayer, silence and meditation. While fasting detoxifies the body, silence purifies the speech and brings rest to the chattering mind, and meditation takes one deep into one's own being.
Everyday the pundits here are chanting Lalita Sahasranam – the thousands names of the Divine Mother. These thousand names signify thousand glorious attributes of the Divine Mother. When we chant and think of these they also blossom through us.
The Second among the Navadurgas is Brahmacharini
Today, on the second day of Navaratri, the second Navadurga Brahmacharini is worshipped and honoured.
Brahmacharya is celibacy. Celibacy brings strength, lot of strength. Brahmacharya has higher meaning than just celibacy. Brahma means “infinity” charya means “moving” – Brahmacharya means “moving in infinity.” Knowing your vast nature, not thinking that you are just the body; you walk like you are a glow of light; you move in the world as though you are space. The more joyful you are the less you feel the body. The more you are in the infinite consciousness the less you feel the tension or the physical weight of the person – that is “Brahmacharya”.
This aspect of the Mother Divine is present in the Svadhisthana Chakra. Invoking the qualities of this Devi our consciousness is expanded to infinity; starts moving in infinity, in our true nature; in that space you become vast and powerful with a lot of vigour, valour and strength.
The Second among Mahavidyas is Tara
Everything in Creation, including the breath, has a sound vibration. This vibration or energy is Tara. The breath and the mind are linked. Breathing exercises, pranayama, Sudarshan kriya are all techniques that manifest the Tara energy in us. Tara is also one who helps us to navigate and cross over difficulties. Through breath control and chanting, these mantras and primordial sounds that are the manifestation of tara energy help us to move towards harmony within ourselves.
De brief – Madhu Kaitabh Story
These two demons, Madhu and Kaitabh were born out of the dirt, the ear wax in Narayana’s ears. Narayana bore these demons on his body and was fighting them all his life. But if you understand the meaning, this story becomes very interesting. Madhu means craving and Kaitabha means aversion.
So cravings and aversions are born out of the ears; you hear about something and you develop an aversion to it. And because it was born out of Narayana, he could not win over it. With your own cravings and aversions the more you fight with them the more they grow stronger and you are unable to win.
When Narayan goes to Mother Divine he is going to spiritual energy. With the help of spiritual energy his heart blossoms. Water means love. In Sanskrit apah means water and love. So when you are immersed in love, cravings and aversions simply disappear. You can destroy them with love.
Story from Devi Bhagavatam - Mahishasura Mardini
Mahishasura was born out of the union of the Asura king Rambha and a buffalo. When he became king, he performed severe penance to please Lord Brahma, who eventually appeared and asked him to choose a boon. "Immortality", said Mahishasura. Brahma explained that nobody could be immortal and he should ask for something else. "Let no god, man or asura be able to kill me."
Strengthened by this boon which he thought was practically as good as immortality, Mahishasura waged a war on the gods and defeated them, taking away all their portfolios. The gods pleaded before Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva when suddenly a great energy started emanating from the Trinity. The gods also contributed their energies to this field, which soon took the form of neither a god, nor a man nor an asura but a woman, who was called Maa Durga.
Mounted on a lion, She made such a loud roar that it shook the three worlds. She challenged Mahishasura to war, who sent all his armies and generals to fight with her. The Devi killed all of them and then eventually Mahishasura.
Trivia: 'Mysore' is actually a distortion of 'Mahishasura' and this place in Karnataka was the demon's capital. The Devi temple there has this statue of Mahishasura as well.
Questions to Ponder:
1. What does Mahishasura being a buffalo mean? 2. He defeated the gods and took over their portfolios. What does this mean? 3. What do Mahishasura's armies and generals represent? 4. What does the Devi slaying Mahishasura signify?
Navaratri Day 3, 07.10.2013 Monday
Many times we have pondered about - what is this creation? Who am I? Navratri is the best time to get a glimpse of the unseen aspect of Life / Creation.
According to the Vedic tradition, the entire creation, the Prakriti is considered as a manifestation of the Mother Divine. The Navratri Celebrations honour and worship the Divine Mother in all her varied aspects. Everything in this creation is made up of the three gunas or qualities: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Sattva is associated with calmness, clarity of mind, enthusiasm and peace. Rajas is needed for action but often creates feverishness. Tamas is inertia and is needed for rest. Yet an imbalance in tamas can lead to laziness, dullness and even depression.
The nine days of Navratri are also an opportunity to rejoice in the three primordial qualities that make up the universe. Though our life is governed by the three gunas, we seldom recognize and reflect on them. As we saw yesterday, the first three days of Navaratri are attributed to tamo guna, the second three to rajo, guna and the last three to sattva guna. Our consciousness sails through the tamo and rajo gunas and blossoms in the sattva guna of the last three days. Whenever sattva dominates in life, victory follows. The essence of this knowledge is honoured by celebrating the tenth day as Vijayadashmi.
The Third among the Navadurgas is Chandra Ghanta
On the third day of Navratri, the Divine Mother is worshipped in the form of Chandra Ghanta. This form of Devi is depicted as wearing an bell-like ornament in the shape of the moon. The moon is connected the mind and the Ghanta or the bell is an instrument connected with alertness. The ringing of the bell brings the mind to the present moment. Just as the moon waxes and wanes the mind also wavers. Chanting the name of this Devi the mind is in our control with alertness.
When the quality of alertness and steadfastness arises the mind is like an adornment. It adds beauty to one’s Nature. Chandraghanta represents this aspect of beauty in the mind. A beautiful mind is an adornment.
The Third among Mahavidyas is Bala Tripura Sundari
The third of the Dashamahavidyas, Bala Tripura Sundari is honoured today. Bala in sanskrit means young. When the mind is young, it is unconditioned and does not hold on to concepts. It is fresh. Beauty dawns when there are no concepts in the mind. Only such a mind can understand the depth of the present moment which is the basis of divinity. The Bala energy brings up an undivided unified consciousness in all 3 states. There is complete wakefulness and no sign of inertia or jadatva.
De brief – Mahishasur Story
Mahishasura represents dullness, inertia and is thick skinned like a buffalo. When tamas (inertia) reigns it overshadows all +ve qualities. Only Devi Shakti can destroy this tamo guna. We need every tool in our tool-kit, akin to Devi's weapons, to overcome inertia - the tools of Sudarshan kriya, pranayama, yoga, meditation, wise company, right food, seva and satsang! The inertia developed from association with bad tendencies (like the vast armies of demons) like wrong company, alcohol, intoxicants, etc. When tamas is destroyed we are filled with the enthusiasm and joy of the victorious Devi Durga who resides in us.
Story from Devi Bhagavatam - Shumbha Nishumbha
Shumbha and Nishumbha were two powerful asura brothers who defeated the devas and starting ruling the three worlds. Dhumralochana (smoke in the eyes), Chanda and Munda were their army chiefs. Chanda was a strong headed asura who would oppose everything he was told. Munda, on the other hand, never used his head. All that he was told went above and through him.
In the battle between the Devi and asura armies, Kali just made the sound "hmm" and reduced Dumralochana to ashes. She subdued Chanda and Munda with Her subtle paasha or noose of light. Having sacrificed Chanda and Munda in this battle that was a maha yagna, She came to be known as Chamundi. Finally, Shumbha and Nishumbha were also killed by the Devi who severed their heads and limbs.
Questions to Ponder:
1. What does Dhumralocana represent and why was he destroyed by just the "hmm" sound? 2. What do Chanda and Munda represent? 3. Why were they subdued with a noose of light? 4. What do Shumbha and Nishumbha represent? 5. Why was this battle called a maha yagna?
Navaratri Day 4, 08.10.2013 Tuesday
The Fourth among the Navadurgas is Kushmanda
Today is the day to honour the Mother Divine in the form of Kushmanda, the fourth Navadurga. “Kushmanda” means pumpkin. A pumpkin has so many seeds and each seed contains the potential for so many more pumpkins. This is representative of the creative power and its eternal nature. The whole Creation is like a pumpkin. As Kushmanda, the Devi contains the entire Creation within her. She is the Devi who can give you the highest “prana.”
The Fourth among the Mahavidyas is Bhuvaneshwari
The fourth Mahavidya aspect of Devi that is honoured during Navratri is Bhuvaneswari. Iswari is the one who 'rules'. Bhuvaneswari is the one who has lordship over the whole world. She is the energy that transcends matter yet is present in every particle of creation. The world is made up of the five elements : Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Space. The energy that we experiences through the five senses in this world is Bhuvana. It is so tangible, yet infinite. When we are constantly dealing with matter, it drains our energy. Association with Bhuva energy elevates and refines the quality of our consciousness.
De brief - Shumbha Nishumbha Story
"Shumbha" and "Nishumbha" - doubting everything. "Shumbha" means doubting oneself and "Nishumbha" means doubting others. Doubting at every step. When the mind is clogged with doubt about one self or others, neither peace nor progress is possible. That is why they are the kings of the asuras.
"Chanda" and "Munda". Chanda means opposite head. Chanda will oppose anything you say. One who cannot agree with anything. Argumentative people. "Munda" does not have a head at all. Whatever you tell them, it will all go in air. There is no reasoning at all. Wrong logic and perception prevail. The noose of light represents wisdom. True knowledge also purifies like fire along with establishing the mind in the light of the Self. True knowledge has irrefutable special logic. You can't oppose or reason. It simply uplifts.
"Dhumralochana", "Dhumra" means smoke and "lochana" means eyes – smoky eyes. They see everything hazy. There is no clarity of perception. This happens as we accumulate stresses. Saying "hmm" dissolves barriers in the mind. Breathing techniques, Sudarshan kriya free us from stresses and allow us to see things as they are.
Negative forces come up only due to lack of Shakti. When you are full of energy and enthusiasm none of these asuras (demons) can come in you. This battle is a maha yagna because it is the great purifier.
Story from Devi Bhagavatam - Rakta Bijasur
Raktabija was another sinister asura who believed he was invincible and came to battle the Devi and her army of all the shaktis(energies). He did not believe that beauty and valor could be together and refused to acknowledge the power of the Divine mother. Rakta means blood and bija is seed. From every drop of blood spilt, one more raktabija would emerge. Soon there were thousands of raktabijas in the battlefield. To end this proliferation once and for all, the devi chamundi drank every drop of blood before it touched the earth as the various Shaktis attacked him. Finally Raktabija himself was destroyed and it became clear that the divine power is the only invincible force in this creation.
Questions to Ponder:
1. What does Raktabija signify? 2. How can we be free of a negative force like Raktabija?
Navaratri Day 5, 09.10.2013 Wednesday
The Fifth among the Navadurgas is Skandamata
Today we honour the Divine Mother in the form of Skandamata, the fifth Navadurga. Skandamata is the mother of Skanda or Subramanya. She is depicted as riding a lion with the baby Skanda on her lap. This signifies courage and compassion. Skanda is the skillful one. Often with skill arrogance comes. But here the skill is combined with a humility that nurtures innocence.
The Fifth among the Mahavidyas is Chinnamasta
The fifth Mahavidya is Chinnamasta. Chinna means 'severed' and masta is head. The severed head is a symbol of complete ego-lessness. pure unconditional love is Chinnamasta. She is the pure field of energy wh ere ego cannot reach. She is depicted as holding her head in her hand signifying that the ego is in control. She cuts asunder the ego and establishes us in the space of love, naturalness and harmony. She is dancing over kama (desire) and rati(feverishness). Having a say over our desires is a blessing of Chinnamasta.
De brief - Rakta Bijasur Story
Rakta bijasura - is like gene in blood. Sometimes your behaviour is not in your control, its in your genes. Sudarshan Kriya and Meditation are required to tackle Raktabijasura. When such energy comes to us, transformation happens, the gene changes.
The Devi Mahatmya begins with King Suratha who has lost his kingdom meeting Samadhi - a Vaishya (businessman) who has been driven out of his home by his family. They meet and together approach Rishi Sumedha (proper intellect) who tells them story of the Devi and her conquest of the Asuras.
Hearing this both Suratha and Samadhi pray to the Devi and she appears to them as the Devi Chandika and asks them to choose their boons.
Both heard the same story yet the king saw the Devi vanquishing the Asuras. He saw that the people who had usurped his kingdom had done an evil act. So he was inspired to pray to the Devi for justice. He asks to become ruler not only in this birth but also in the next. The Devi blesses him to become the Manu in the next Manvantara - Manu Savarni.
Samadhi is a businessman. Yet his name suggests otherwise. Being in the material, his sights are firmly on the spiritual. All it takes is a little push for Samadhi to come searching for truth. Realising that the negative forces are within, he seeks pure wisdom and devotion which is the highest wealth. The Devi is pleased and grants his wish too and the Vaishya is enlightened.
The Devi is like a wish fulfilling tree. It is up to us what we seek.
In this puja, in the most auspicious presence of our beloved master, it is time for us to dive deep, experience victory over any negative forces in our mind and soak and rejoice in his love and wisdom.
Navaratri Day 6, 10.10.2013 Thursday
Today, at the Navratri Celebrations at Ashram we had people from 71 countries as diverse as US, Russia, Brazil and China as we started a series of Homas from this morning.
These Homas are for the wellbeing of the whole of humanity.
Today we are all participating in the Ganesha Homa.
The Lord of diverse universe is called Ganesha. The whole universe is nothing but groups of atoms, groups of qualities, of energy. Gana means group and a group cannot exist without a Lord. Like the queen bee, whose mere existence brings forth the honey comb, this diverse Universe in itself is enough evidence of Ganesha’s presence.
Ganesha was born from unmanifest transcendental consciousness, the Self, called Shiva. Just as when atoms bond, matter comes into existence; when all the fragmented aspects of human consciousness consolidate, divinity is experienced effortlessly and that is the birth of Ganesha from Shiva.
Ganseha is that infinite power, infinite life force without any attributes, the formless but magnanimous. Formless yet present in all forms, Ganseha is beautiful! Ganesha is the embodiment of innocence, bliss, intelligence and joy.
What is Yagya?
In the Bhagvad Gita, Lord Krishna says, “Yagya dana tapa karma pavnani manishinah.” Through yagyas, dana (sharings), tapa (penance) and karma (action) man is purified. yagyas are the ancient method of enriching the subtle to purify the individual and collective consciousness. Yagyas have three aspects:
Deva Puja: Honouring the Divinity in every aspect of Creation Sangatikarana: Hastening the process of evolution by unifying all the elements and people in creation. The chanting of mantras and offering of several purifying herbs into the fire help to cleanse the atmosphere and the minds of people participating. Dana or sharing enables us to be free from greed.
Importance of GANA/GROUP
Tapa or penance is of three kinds – body, speech and mind. Physical cleanliness, fasting, practice of asanas and pranayama all purify the body. The practice of silence brings purity to speech and meditation and chanting purify the mind.
However, when we do this in a group the benefits are multiplied and obtained faster. The group consciousness has the power to elevate you faster.
Recognizing the one Divinity in every form and every name is the celebration of Navratri. Hence, special pujas and yagyas honouring all aspects of life and nature are performed during the last three days. All these samuhik yagnas are very beautiful. We dress up nicely, sing, dance and meditate together. This purifies us internally and externally. It is faster than tapa. The fruits of a yagya are more immediate.
The Navagraha Homa is done to invoke the blessings of the nine planets. Miocrocosm and macrocosm are deeply connected. The 9 planets in 12 different constellation create 108 different kinds of impacts on life. Doing the homas and chanting Om Nama Shiva nullify their adverse effects.
Chandi Homa Prarambham:
Today is also the day when we start the Chandi Homa which will culminate day after tomorrow, on the eight day. We request The Devi, who resides in our heart, to arrive at the Mantap so that we can celebrate and honour her.
Sixth Among Navadurgas is Kathyayini
Kathyayini represents the nurturing aspect of the Divine Mother. She embodies the values of sharing and caring. Young girls pray to Devi Kathyayini for good husbands. Marriage comes with a sense of security, commitment, togetherness,, team spirit and belongingness. She signifies the finer qualities of being in a relationship. The ultimate relationship is the Union with the Self.
The Sixth among Mahavidyas is Tripurabhairavi
She is the brilliant energy that dispels and protects us from negativities in all the 3 states of consciousness. She is depicted with fire all around her. Fire is a purifier. Her energy purifies us from within and outside. She is the light of the knowledge that dispels ignorance and darkness from our lives.