Nava-raatri is a call for spiritual awakening
Hindus are currently observing one of our very and perhaps most sacred and auspicious festivals—Nava-raatri. In its literal sense, it is nine nights of worship, prayer, introspection and scriptural recommitment.
Religious observances, traditional worship have, at times, more than one significance.
Apart from them being the adoration of the Divine, they are commemorative of thrilling bygone events, allegoric when interpreted from the occult standpoint, and are significant pointers guiding man on the path of God-Realization.
Nava-raatri is one such event. Outwardly, the nine days of worship are featured with wide performances of ritualistic worship. It is dedicated to worship of God as Mother—the feminine aspect in three prominent names, viz, Durgaa, Lakshmee and Saraswatee.
However, underlying all outward engagements during this occasion, there must be a more sublime and profound inward transformation of life, that every spiritual aspirant seeks to undergo. This deeper purpose of Nava-raatri is captured in its division of three sets of three nights each, to which the spiritual aspirant in his life of spiritual pursuits adore the different aspects of the Supreme Goddess. This has got a very sublime, yet thoroughly practical, truth to reveal. In its cosmic aspect, it epitomizes the stages of the evolution of man into God, from manhood to Godhood. In its individual import, it shows the course that his spiritual pursuits should take.
The central purpose of existence is to recognize your eternal identity with the Supreme Spirit. It is to grow into the image of the Divine. The Supreme One embodies the highest perfection. It is spotless purity, “Niranjana”. To recognize your identity with That, to attain union with That, is verily to grow into the very likeness of the Divine.
The spiritual seeker has, therefore, as the initial step, to get rid of the countless impurities and the un-divine elements that have come to cling to him in his embodied state. This transformation is to be had during the first three nights (first segment of Nava-raatri), where the Supreme is worshipped as Mother Durgaa. Then he has to acquire lofty virtues and auspicious divine qualities. This happens in the second three nights of the season, wherein the Goddess as Lakshmee is adored. Thus purified and rendered full of purity and goodness, Knowledge flashes upon him like the brilliant rays of the sun upon the crystal waters of a perfectly calm lake. This is to be had in the final section of Nava-raatri in which Saraswatee is worshipped.
This arrangement has also a special significance in the aspirant’s spiritual evolution. It marks the stages of evolution which are indispensable for every seeker of spirituality, through which everyone should pass. One naturally leads to the other, and to short-circuit this would inevitably result in a miserable failure. Nowadays, many ignorant spiritual seekers aim straight at the appropriation of Knowledge without the preliminaries of purification and acquisition of divine qualities, and complain that they are not progressing in the path. How can they? Knowledge will not descend till the impurities are washed out and purity is developed. The pure and good plant can grow on no impure soil.
Therefore, Nava-raatri if observed as pointed out above brings man to realize his higher self and to feel the Supreme Spirit within— all of which helps in the journey of realizing the Ultimate Goal—to merge with the Supreme. There are two birds on the same tree. One is perched at the top and the other below. The bird which is sitting on the top is perfectly serene, silent and majestic at all times. It is ever blissful. The other bird, which is perching on the lower branches, eats the sweet and bitter fruits by turns. It dances in joy sometimes. It is miserable at other times. It rejoices now and weeps after some time. Sometimes it tastes an extremely bitter fruit and gets disgusted. It looks up and beholds the other wonderful bird with golden plumage which is ever blissful.
It also wishes to become like the bird with golden plumage, but soon forgets everything. Again it begins to eat the sweet and bitter fruits. It eats another fruit that is exceedingly bitter and feels very miserable. It again tries to become like the upper bird. Gradually, it abandons eating the fruits, and becomes serene and blissful like the upper bird.
The upper bird is God—the Supreme Spirit within. The lower bird is the individual who reaps the fruits of his deeds, viz., pleasure and pain. He gets knocks and blows in the battle of life. He rises up and again falls down as the senses drag him down. Gradually he develops dispassion and discrimination, turns his mind towards God, practices meditation, attains Self-realisation and enjoys the eternal bliss of God, which is the end goal of life. Nava-raatri must foster and help in meeting this end.
In essence, Nava-raatri is a call for spiritual awakening.
Pandit Charranlall Nandalall
Sanatan Vaidic Dharma Pandits’ Sabha, Region 3