A mothers love is so unfathomable, even God is amazed by its depth and intensity. Every relationship, with the exception of the Mother-Child relationship, demands something in return. A mother expects nothing in return for her love. She loves effortlessly and unconditionally. This love is inspired by the Divine Mother Adi Shakti and is seen even in animals. A mothers love is instinctive and boundless.
Navaraatri is the special period set aside for worshipping and reflecting upon the glory of the Divine Mother. It comes twice every year, once in the spring (Vasant Navaraatri) and once in autumn (Sharad Navaraatri). This period lasts for nine nights, hence the name Navaraatri. Nava means nine and Raatri means night. Additionally, an extra tenth day is celebrated. The tenth day is referred to as Vijay Dashmi meaning victory on the tenth day. Sometimes this period lasts for only eight days, this is due to the duration of the Tithis or Lunar days according to Hindu astrology. However, the worship of the Divine Mother should be a part of our everyday life and not be restricted to these ten days only.
During the first three days, the Divine Mother is worshipped as Durga or Kali, the next three days as Lakshmi, and the last three days as Saraswati. In the form of Durga or Kali, she eradicates all impurities of the mind such as jealousy, anger, greed and hatred. In the form of Lakshmi, she bestows spiritual as well as material prosperity. As Saraswati she grants knowledge and enlightenment.
The first day of Vasant Navaraatri is also the first day of our New Year. This should be the day we make our resolutions. Our resolutions should be, O Ma, please destroy all impurities of the mind and bless us with virtuous qualities, let us be forgiving, compassionate, truthful, loving and kind to all and let us see you in everything.
Asatoma sat gamaia — lead us from unreal to real
Tamasoma jyotir gamaia — from darkness to light
Mriytyorma amritam gamaia — from death to immortality
This should be our foremost resolution. Everything falls into place when one seeks the guidance of the Divine Mother. Let us inculcate enough faith to know that a Mother would never cause misery to her children, and that she will always be there to carry them in times of need. All suffering stems from previous negative karmas (actions). We must be aware of the fact that, the results of karma are inevitable. Prayers assist in reducing the effects of negative karma and accentuating the benefits of positive ones. If a conscious effort is made to be a better person, the Divine Mother automatically becomes the Divine Miracle Worker in your life.
The best way of worshipping Durga or Kali Ma is to develop a positive attitude towards things that seem apparently destructive. From the destruction of a seed, a beautiful plant is born. In the same way, in order for us to unfold the limitless power within, there must be adversity. When faced with problems, it is very important to be patient and not to be bitter, because negative behavior only leads to more karmic bondage. Adversity is necessary for spiritual development. We should try to look for the good behind these apparently unpleasant happenings. In order to exhaust negative karmas, adversities must be endured with patience.
Whenever an unpleasant situation arises, try to be calm and look beyond to see the divine drama that is taking place. Everything will take on a new appearance as you begin to realize, that people are being used, as instruments to teach you a lesson. These lessons of endurance, patience, faith, compassions etc are necessary ingredients for spiritual growth. There are countless lessons being taught everyday for the sole purpose of spiritual development. We, therefore, seek the blessings of Durga Ma to destroy the veil of ignorance that prevents us from recognizing these lessons.
The dreaded demons Mahishasur, DhumraLochan and Rakthabeej that resides in us, in the form of lust, arrogance and hatred, are destroyed by Durga Ma. This is what she kills, our bad habits. Durga Ma does not need a dead body. She wants our life, meaning we should be in communion with her at all times, we should surrender to her. Every action must be an offering to her. There are numerous austerities and sacrifices to be performed everyday in our life. Durga Ma prefers these austerities of patience, of love, of compassion, of one-pointed vision for self-realization. She determines the severity of these austerities and sacrifices by the way in which we react to them. Durga Ma does not want us to starve ourselves all day and then hate someone, this is useless. She wants us to be starved of hatred, jealousy and anger. She wants us to sacrifice our longing for material gains and our desires for the transient objects of the world. Therefore, it is necessary to seek her help, for the destruction of all these degrading traits.
The Divine Mother, in the form of Lakshmi Ma is worshipped during the next three days. In this form as Lakshmi Ma, she bestows all forms of prosperity, spiritual as well as material. Lakshmi is derived from the word Lakshan meaning characteristics, traits, qualities etc. She grants her devotees divine wealth in the form of compassion, purity of heart, endurance, humility, love and straightforwardness. Material wealth is given as well, to aid in the accumulation of spiritual wealth. It is very important to remember at all times that everything belongs to her. We are just the medium through which it is being dispensed.
Becoming proud or conceited of any material or spiritual wealth loaned to us, is an insult to her and can be taken away if she so wishes. The wealth is for our spiritual evolution and for the good of humanity. This does not mean praying all the time or giving away everything. It simply means that it is to be used wisely. In order to be spiritually evolved, one must have a healthy body and a healthy mind. For the body, the wealth should be used for good nutrition, beautiful surroundings and exercise and for the mind, prayers and good deeds. All wealth is given for the benefit of making us better and to teach us to be charitable, one very important divine virtue. Lakshmi Ma provides all these opportunities to enable us, her children who have strayed, to get back to her.
The true meaning of prosperity is the promotion of shubha samskaras or divine impressions. The way we react to a situation reveals the state of our subconscious. Efforts to promote only positive impressions should be an ongoing process. The entire subconscious, the most magnificent of mansions, should be reconstructed with the divine wealth that Lakshmi Ma provides. A constant and close watch on our inner collection of treasure should be kept in the same way we guard the outer one. Try to add to the collection of inner treasures everyday. Even little things like helping to carry an old ladys bag, shoveling the snow on the neighbors driveway, or simply allowing someone to go ahead at the checkout register helps to build this collection. We dont have to go out of our way to look for opportunities to help someone. Lakshmi Ma is always providing these and, in order to recognize them, we have to seek her grace. The universe is made in this way, always providing ways to enable us to reach our ultimate goal of self-realization.
The worship of Saraswati Ma comes next. In this form, the kind and loving mother grants wisdom to her children. Saraswati Ma blesses us with creativity and inspiration and is referred to as the Goddess of Knowledge. There are two types of knowledge, Para Vidya (Brahman) and Apara Vidya (worldly), and it is important to know both. With the blessings of Saraswati Ma, one is able to differentiate between real and unreal. Pride must not enter us when we discover that she has graced us with something wonderful. The power within us is boundless and by adoring Saraswati Ma we are blessed with the knowledge to realize this. She is the Goddess of Speech and presides over the tongue and intellect. This power must be protected at all times and used righteously. If this privilege is abused, Saraswati Ma can simply retrieve it. We have to be extremely careful with our gift of speech. It should be revered and treasured, used to encourage others, to soothe their worries and fears away, to enlighten them, to make the world a nicer place. It should not be used to make someone sad or unhappy and should not be used to create disharmony or dissention.
In order to control speech, it is necessary to restrain thoughts. The Divine Mother should always reside in our Budhi (intellect) and guide our thoughts and actions. We should always be aware of her presence and let her participate in our decision making process, for she can never be wrong. Every time a negative thought comes, analyze it and try to replace it with a good one. It would be very difficult in the beginning, but once the effort is made, the Divine Mother takes over and completes the task. In this way the subconscious becomes a mansion of good impressions only. We become as pure as Saraswati Ma, a purity that is reflected through our actions and our very presence. There is a certain aura of comfort around you and people feel safe in your company. You walk into a room and heads automatically turn in your direction because your very being radiates purity and divinity.
Saraswati Ma is always seen with a veena. The veena produces beautiful music if the strings are properly tuned, symbolizing that the human personality has to be balanced in order to unfold the divinity within. There should be some sort of rhythm in our lives. This cannot be achieved without the blessing of the Divine Mother. She bestows relative as well as absolute knowledge, both of which are required for our evolution. Once this knowledge becomes clear, we are ready to celebrate Vijay Dashmi —victory over all the evils of the world and then onward to the ultimate victory, Moksha or Self-Realization union with the Divine Mother.
Jai Mata Di