Scene from the Veda Purusha Jnana Yajna held during Dasara, October 1988
(Esoteric Significance of the Veda Purusha Jnana Yajna)
In the human body, the Divine flows through all the limbs as the divine essence (rasa) and sustains them. This divine principle is called the Embodiment of Divine Sweetness (Rasaswaroopini, or Angirasa). These divine principles that permeate and sustain the physical body should also be worshipped as mother goddesses. Then there are the great sages (maharishis), who investigated matters relating to good and evil, right and wrong, what elevates man or degrades him, and, as a result of their labors and penance, gave to mankind the great scriptures, indicating the spiritual and mundane paths and how humanity could redeem its existence. These sages have also to be revered as divine mothers.
The cow, the earth, the presiding deities for the body, the sages, and the guru are all worthy of worship as the embodiments of the divine Motherhood. Although these five appear in different forms and names, they have one thing in common with the mother. They play a protective and sustaining maternal role for mankind and hence should be revered and worshipped as divine mothers.
Conversely, the mother of every child displays in relation to the child the attributes of these five entities. The mother nourishes the child, provides the necessaries for its growth, teaches the child what it should know and what it should avoid, and leads it on the path of righteousness.
The life of a man who cannot respect and love such a venerable mother is utterly useless. Recognizing one's mother as the very embodiment of all divine forces, one must show reverence to her and treat her with love. This is the true message that this nine-night festival (the Navaratri) gives us. The supreme Shakti manifests herself in the form of Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati. Durga grants to us energy --physical, mental, and spiritual. Lakshmi bestows on us wealth of many kinds --not just money but intellectual wealth, the wealth of character, and others. Even health is a kind of wealth. She grants untold riches to us. And Saraswati bestows intelligence, the capacity for intellectual inquiry, and the power of discrimination on us. The Navaratri festival is celebrated in order to proclaim the power of the goddesses to the world. One's own mother is the combination of all these divine beings. She provides us with energy, wealth, and intelligence. She constantly desires our advancement in life. So she represents all the three goddesses that we worship during the Navaratri festival.
The term Devi represents the divine power that has taken the passionate (raajasic) form to suppress the forces of evil and protect the serene (satvic) qualities. When the forces of injustice, immorality, and untruth have grown to monstrous proportions and are indulging in a death-dance, when selfishness and self-interest are rampant, when men have lost all sense of kindness and compassion, the Atmic principle assumes the form of Sakthi, takes on the passionate (rajasic) quality, and seeks to destroy the evil elements. This is the inner meaning of the Dasara festival.
When the divine Goddess is in dreadful rage to destroy the wicked elements, she assumes a fearful form. To pacify the dreaded Goddess, her feminine children offer worship to Her with sacred red powder (kumkum). Seeing the blood-red kumkum at her feet, the Goddess feels assured that the wicked have been vanquished and assumes her benign form. The inner meaning of the worship of Devi with red kumkum is that thereby the Goddess is appeased.
During the ten days of the Dasara, the demons (rakshasas), in the form of wicked qualities, have been routed. Rakshasas do not mean demonic beings. The bad qualities in men are the demons. Arrogance is a demon. Bad thoughts are demons. Ravana is depicted as the king of Rakshasas. He is said to have ten heads, but he was not born with ten heads. Who is this Ravana, and what are his ten heads? Lust (kama), anger (krodha), delusion (moha), greed (lobha), pride (mada), envy (maatsarya), the mind (manas), intellect (buddhi), will (chitta),and ego (ahamkara) --these constitute the ten heads. Ravana is one who has these ten qualities.
Each one can decide for himself whether he is a Ravana or a Rama, according to his qualities. Rama is the destroyer of bad qualities. When engaged in this act of destruction of bad qualities, He manifests His passionate quality (raajo-guna). But His passionate quality is associated with His serene (saatvic) quality. Even in cutting off Ravana's ten heads, Rama showed His love. This was the only way Ravana could be redeemed.
When the Lord metes out a punishment, it may appear harsh. But what appears externally as passionate (rajasic) is in reality serene (satwic). In a hailstorm, along with rain there will be hailstones. But both the rain and hailstones contain water. Likewise, there is serene quality even in the Lord's passionate actions. Similarly there may be passionate quality even in slothful (thaamasic) actions. These depend on the time, place, and circumstances in which the Lord acts. Butter can be split with a finger. But a powerful hammer is needed to break a piece of iron. The Lord deals with serene persons in a serene way. He applies the passionate weapon against passionate persons.
People worship the Lord as Roudrakara, attributing dreaded forms and qualities to the Divine. This is not proper. The Divine has only one attribute: the embodiment of love. It has been said, "Love is God. Love pervades the Cosmos." Hence, one should not view the world from a worldly point of view. It should be viewed through the eyes of love.
Embodiments of Divine Love!
All the festivals of Indians (Bharatiyas) have been designed to promote divine love among the people. It is to confer such love on the people that the Lord incarnates on earth. He Himself demonstrates how love should be expressed. He showers His love and teaches everyone how to love. Hence, experience this love and joy in your life and live in peace.
Indians (Bharatiyas) have been celebrating the Navarathi festival from ancient times as a mode of worship of Devi, the Divine as mother. They worship Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati during those nine days. Who are these three? These three forms have fascinated man. Their esoteric significance is represented by three potencies (sakthis): karma, devotion (upaasana) and spiritual wisdom (jnana).
The significance of Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati has to be rightly understood. The three represent three kinds of potencies in man: will power (ichchaa sakthi), the power of purposeful action (kriya sakthi), and the power of discernment (jnaana sakthi).
Saraswati is manifest in man as the power of speech (vaak). Durga is present in the form of dynamism. Lakshmi is manifest in the form of will power. The body indicates purposeful action (kriya shakthi). The mind is the repository of will power (ichchaa shakthi). The Atma is the power of discernment (jnaana shakthi). Purposeful action comes from the body, which is material. The power that activates the inert body and makes it vibrant is will power. The power that induces the vibrations of will power is the power of discernment (jnaana shakthi), which causes radiation of energy. These three potencies are represented by the mantra, Om Bhur Bhuvah Suvaha. Bhur represents the earth (bhuloka). Bhuvah represents the life force, conscience in man. Suvaha represents the power of radiation. All three are present in man. Thus, Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati dwell in the human heart.
Men are prone to exhibit passionate (rajasic) qualities like anger and hatred. They are the menacing manifestations of Durga. The extolling of the Divine in song and poetry and the pleasing vibrations produced by them indicate the power of Saraswathi. The pure qualities that arise in man, such as compassion, love, forbearance, and sympathy, are derived from Lakshmi.
When people worship Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswathi externally in pictures or icons, they are giving physical forms to the subtle potencies that are within them. The unfortunate predicament of man today is that he is not recognizing the powers within him and developing respect for them. He goes after the external, attracted by the physical forms. The relationship between the material and the subtle has to be understood. The remedy for man's life is contained within himself. But man seeks remedies from outside.
What should do during these ten days of the Navarathri festival? Convert your will power (ichchaa shakthi) into a yearning for God. Convert purposeful action (kriya sakthi) into a force for doing Divine actions. Convert your power of discernment (jnana sakthi) into the Divine Itself.
Navarathri means "nine nights". What does the nine signify? There are nine planets (grahas), according to astrology. The human body has nine openings. If a deep inquiry is made, it will be found that mankind is dependent on the planets. Although astrologers speak about nine planets, in reality, only two "planets" matter: attachment (raga) and hatred (dwesha).
In the worship of the deities during Navarathri, one of them should be worshipped each day, not externally but with one's heart and soul. Bodily actions are ephemeral. The body derives its value from the spirit within. Hence it should be regarded as a sacred temple. During the Navarathri festival, for the purpose of eradicating one's demonic tendencies, the deities were worshipped with sacred powder (kumkum). The red powder is a symbol of blood. The meaning of this worship is that one offers one's blood to the Lord and receives in return the gift of peace from the Lord.
Therefore, the Navarathri festival is observed by contemplating on God for ten days, cleansing one's self of all impurities, in order to experience the divinity within. The penultimate day of the festival is dedicated to what is termed "worship of weapons (ayudha puja)". The weapons to be worshipped are the divine powers in man. When the divine is worshipped in this way, one is bound to progress spiritually.