Esoteric meaning of the festival of the Goddess- Navratri (falling on 21st September 2006) -As per Hindu Vedantic Philosophy
The hindu festival of Navrathri (the nine nights of the Cosmic Goddess) is just around the corner (starting the 21st of September 2006). A little research on the internet and here is the esoteric significance of the festival.
The first three nights of the festival is dedicated to Goddess Durga (The Goddess beyond Reach).
Esoteric meaning The esoteric meaning of the festival can be found in the ‘occult poem’ (as I would call it here) Devi Mahatmyam, which is recited during Navarathri. Occult means hidden knowledge and this Sanskrit Epic Poem of the Goddess’ fight against demons, has hidden esoteric meanings… The Hindu understanding of human life is that the soul yearns for Union with the Ultimate (God, Infinity, Nature whatever one prefers to call it). This yearning is manifested in perverse ways as Desires. This is because the elements of Prakriti or Nature is made of Tamas, Rajas, and Sattwa. (Eg. Sleep is Tamas in nature, but essential; and when excessive, causes discomfort) . These three qualities manifest in Mother nature and individual nature as well. Due to these qualities of human nature, the yearnings of the human soul get perverted or disoriented towards yearning for outwardly things like money, love, sex etc. In the first part of the Epic poem, Goddess Adi-Shakti awakens a sleeping Maha-Vishnu to kill the two demons who have cropped up from the dirt of his ear- Madhu and Kaitabha. These two demons are manifestations of the “lower” desires of human nature- Kama (desire), Krodha (anger), and Lobha (greed).. viz, the Tamas aspect of Nature. Ancient masters have told us that Mala or dirt of the psychological structure (anger, greed etc) can be removed by Karma Yoga, by unselfish and dedicated service… (says Krishnanda) In the second part of the Epic poem, Goddess in the form of Lakhmi asks Kali (The Goddess of Cosmic Time- the Goddess in the terrible and fearsome form) to usurp Mahishasura and Raktabija.
These two demons symbolise Vikshepa Sakthi- The Tossing nature of the Mind or the restlessness of the Mind, viz the Rajas aspect of Nature. “Every minute the mind changes its forms which multiply in millions. You read in the Devi-Mahatmya, how this demon Mahishasura changed his form. Now he is an elephant, now he is a buffalo, now he is something else. If you hit him in one form, he comes in another form. And this is your inexhaustible opponent. His energies are incapable of being exhausted. However much you may try to oppose the Vikshepa Sakti, it will manifest in some form or other. This is described in the form of the demon Raktabija, whose drops of blood were seeds of hundreds and thousands of demons like himself coming up. When the Devi severed the head of one Rakshasa, the blood fell on the ground profusely and from that blood, millions cropped up. And when She killed them, again another million cropped up. So there was no end for it. If you cut off one or two desires, the desire is not over. The root is still there. The branches are only severed. Unless the root is dug out, there is no use of merely severing the branches of the tree. So what did the Devi do? She asked Kali to spread her tongue throughout the earth, so that there is no ground at all for the Rakshasas to walk over. They had to walk over the tongue of Kali. So huge it was. And now the Goddess started cutting their heads and when the blood fell, it fell not on the ground but on the tongue of Kali. So she sucked everything. Chariots and horses and demons and everybody entered her mouth. She chewed all chariots into powder. So likewise, we have to adopt a technique of sucking the very root of desires and not merely chop off its branches.” explains Krishnananda. Once a spiritual aspirant gains control over his lower nature, he has to gain mastery over the distraction of the human Mind( the root of all desires). These can be attained by Upasana i.e. Worship of God. In the third part of the Epic poem, the Goddess in the form of Saraswati (the Goddess of Learning, Knowledge and Wisdom) kill Sumbha and Nisumbha. “While Mala represents Tamas, Vikshepa represents Rajas.
Now, Sattva is also a Guna, unfortunately. We always praise Sattva and regard it as a very desirable thing. But it is like a transparent glass that is placed between us and the Truth. You can see through it, but you cannot go beyond it. Because, though the glass is transparent, it can obstruct your movement. It is not like a brick-wall, completely preventing your vision, as Tamas does; it is not like a blowing wind which simply tosses you here and there, as Rajas does; it is a plain glass, through which you can have vision of Reality, but you cannot contact Reality nevertheless. How can you contact a thing when there is a glass between you and the thing? Yet you can see it. So they say even Sattva is an obstacle, though it is better than the other two forces, in the sense that through it you can have a vision or an insight into the nature of Reality which transcends even Sattva. There is a glass pane and you can see a mango fruit on the other side of it. You can see it very well, but cannot get it, you cannot grab it. You know the reason. Even Sattva is a subtle medium of obstruction, which acts in a double form; as complacency or satisfaction with what has been achieved, and an ignorance of what is beyond. These two aspects of Sattva are indicated by the two personalities of Sumbha and Nisumbha. They have to be dispelled by the power of higher wisdom, which is Maha-Sarasvati”… Krishnanda explains.
Thus a Spiritual aspirant is able to pierce through the veil of Maya or disillusion, by Selfless Service, Fixing attention on the God, and Knowledge- that in my opinion can be gained by Meditation.
Once one overcomes Sattwa through Wisdom, a spiritual aspirant has triumphed which is celebrated as Vijaya Dashmi (the tenth day of Victory)… The festival consists of nine nights as 1 to 9 are the only digits in arithmetic; and after nine comes 0 or infinity- the symbol of whole or nothingness as in Buddhism- nirvana.
“In the beginning, what happens to a Sadhaka(spiritual aspirant)? There is a necessity of self-transformation. The quality of (excessive) Tamas has to be overcome. It is all hardship, rubbing and cleaning, washing, sweeping, etc. That is the first stage through the worship of Maha-Kali, who brings about a destruction of all barriers. Then what happens? There is tremendous prosperity. You become a master and a progressive soul commanding all powers, getting everything that you want. This is the second stage…. by removing the barrier of Tamas, you become prosperous. Nobody can be as rich as a Yogi, you know. He can command all the powers. By a thought he can invoke all things, and this is Goddess Maha-Lakshmi working. When Maha-Kali has finished her work of destruction of opposition, Maha-Lakshmi comes as prosperity. A great Yogi is also like a royal personality, because of his internal invocations, though unconsciously done, of cosmic powers. When prosperity dawns, it looks as if the whole universe is a heaven. In the first stage, it looked like a hell. Afterwards, in the second stage, it looks like a heaven, when Maha-Lakshmi begins to work. But this also is not sufficient. Knowledge should dawn. It is not heaven that you are asking for. You want the realisation of Truth. Sarasvati will come for help and a flood of light on Truth will be thrown and you will see things as they are.” Krishnanda explains.
Thus is the purport of the Great festival of Navratri which begins from the night of 21st, the night after Amavasya or No-moon day (symbolizing ignorance). Each day signifies the progression of a aspirant to enlightenment or God-Realisation which remains the objective of Hinduism which is expressed in its festivals and rituals.
(My gratitude to website http://www.dlshq.org/religions/devi_mahatmya.htm and Swami Sivananda’s disciple Swami Krishnanda whose article I relied upon while writing in here)