October 17th marks the commencement of perhaps the most spiritual period of the Santana calendar: the Navaratri, or the nine nights of the Divine Mother, culminating in Deepavali and the Night of Mother Kali. This is a period that is most auspicious for the spiritual aspirant and most conducive to spiritual sadhana. Pratipada Day one of Navratri is devoted to Goddess Shailputri. This avatar of goddess Durga is the embodiment of the collective power of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. O Thou, Divine Consort of the Supreme One,Who makes manifest the Unmanifest,Who creates the play of Time in the Timeless,To Thee, this night of our adoration, O Sublime DaughterOf the Mountain, blessed Might of the Three who are One! Glory to Thee, Divine Mother, May we always live worthy of Thee! ॐ देवी शैलपुत्र्यै नमः॥ Dwitiya Day two of Navratri is devoted to Goddess Brahmcharini, the second avatar of Ma Durga. She is blissful and endows happiness, peace, prosperity and grace. Filled with bliss and happiness, she is the way to liberation or moksha. O Thou, Divine Goddess, O Thou, Force of Askesis,Thou dispenser of Divine Calm and Bliss, By a single touch of Thy Feet all bondages break, By Thy Grace, the soul soars above in sovereign release – O Thou Mother of Supernal Peace, Glory to Thee!May we always live worthy of Thee! ॐ देवी ब्रह्मचारिण्यै नमः॥ Tritiya Day three of Navratri is devoted to Goddess Chandraghanta. She represents beauty and grace and is worshipped on the third day for peace, tranquility and prosperity in life. O Thou Resplendent Mother, Goddess of Divine Beauty and Calm,Fount of Wisdom, fount of Bliss, Golden-hued, crescent moon between Thy eyes, Thou who dost hold the Great God in Thy vast embrace,Come and smite this heart with Thy Grace! Glory to Thee, Divine Mother, May we always live worthy of Thee! ॐ देवी चन्द्रघण्टायै नमः॥ Chaturthi Day four of Navratri is devoted to Goddess Kushmunda. This avatar of the goddess is considered the creator of the universe. It is believed that she created the universe through laughter. O Thou Mother of Divine Bliss, Thou who art the fount of all creation, Thy Laughter ripples across all space and time,Bearing this vast Universe in a vaster AnandaTowards Thy Supreme Light – Glory to Thee, May we always live worthy of Thee! ॐ देवी कूष्माण्डायै नमः॥ Panchami Day five of Navratri is devoted to Goddess Skandamata. She is the mother of Skanda, or Karthikeya, who was chosen by the gods as their commander in the battle against the demons. O Thou Supreme Protection, Supreme Grace,Thou who standst upon the battle fields of existence,Devouring a thousand demons in a single breath,Shielding those who are Thine with the all-consuming LoveOf a Divine Mother – Glory to Thee,May we always live worthy of Thee! ॐ देवी स्कन्दमातायै नमः॥ Shasthi Day six of Navratri is devoted to Goddess Katyayani. The goddess was born to the great sage, Kata, as an avatar of Durga. Dressed in orange, she exhibits immense courage. O Thou orange-hued Force of Truth, O Thou Divine Warrior of Light,Thou who bringst to our human heart the gold-flame of CourageAnd indomitable Will – Glory to Thee,May we always live worthy of Thee! ॐ देवी कात्यायन्यै नमः॥ Saptami Day seven of Navratri is devoted to Goddess Kalratri. This avatar of the goddess has dark complexion, disheveled hair and a fearless posture. She is the most fierce form of goddess Durga, and she is dressed in white, a color that represents peace and prayer. O Thou White Flame of Divine Truth, Dark-robed, fierce, Thou doth descend into our NightTo kindle the fire of the Symbol SunIn the deepest caves of our obscure Sleep – Glory to Thee, Divine Mother, May we always live worthy of Thee! ॐ देवी कालरात्र्यै नमः॥ Ashtami Day eight of Navratri is devoted to Goddess Maha Gauri. This eighth avatar of Maa Durga represents intelligence, peace, prosperity and calm. O Thou Divine Mother, Glorious Grace of Supreme Truth,Felicity of resplendent dawns, Thou dost pour Thy gold LightInto the voids of our minds and hearts – Glory to Thee, O Mother,May we grow worthy of Thee! ॐ देवी महागौर्यै नमः॥ Navami Day nine of Navratri is devoted to Goddess Siddhidatri, commonly known as Saraswati. The name Siddhidatri literally means the giver of siddhi or enlightenment. The goddess is known for having supernatural healing powers. The goddess represents the blissful state of mind, just like the sky on a clear day. O Thou Divine Grace, bestower of all boons, giver of ForceAnd Light, Thou who art Ishvar and Ishvari, Thou SphereOf Divine Effulgence, grant us Thy boon of Supreme Light, Of Truth and Perfect Being; Glory to Thee, Divine Mother,May we always live worthy of Thee! ॐ देवी सिद्धिदात्र्यै नमः॥
The Witnessing Self This world that we perceive, experience and live in is made up entirely of thought, or thought constructs. Even the personality we believe ourselves to be is a thought construct. A thought construct is a mental formation or fabrication that has no existence outside of the mind. The world of our daily experience is made up of thought constructs. Consider the fact that the thought of an object precedes the recognition of the object. Without the thought of the object, there would be no recognition. Likewise, the thought of a relation precedes and determines the relation. “My wife”, “my husband” or “my mother”, as much as “my home”, “my country” or “my job” are thoughts that we use for reference, for recognition and for psychological security. We do not realize it so much, but there is tremendous security and comfort in recognizing, in being able to place objects, people and relations in neatly defined psychological cubbyholes. This is the comfort of the known. In direct contrast, the unknown threatens; we are afraid of the unknown, of that which does not or cannot fit into our neat cubbyholes. Let’s reflect on the truth of the common statement we make to ourselves: “I love my wife” (or husband, mother, father, brother, friend, job, nation et al.) What does it really mean? There are three terms involved in this statement: I and its derivative my, love, and wife. If observed closely, all three will be seen as mere thought: “wife” doesn’t really exist as a real entity; it is a thought that signifies a certain “relationship”, a certain association in temporal experience. In fact, this is true of all relationships: a relationship is real only in memory, only in terms of past experience and its projection into the future: and all that is thought-construct. The I, the personal self, too is a succession of images, impressions, memories: thought-constructs of past experience, past associations and relations, people, places and things, events and memories of events — all these strung together like so many beads of a necklace on a thread of continuity that we refer to as “self”. If we look carefully, we shall see that this “thread of continuity” is a witnessing consciousness that remains outside the whole field of experience and has no “personality”, no sense of being someone with certain defined qualities and character: it is simply an observing consciousness — detached, aloof, equal to all that happens or does not happen. The “personal self” that we know and identify with, is, therefore, a succession of thoughts in a causal sequence that we identify as our personal life narrative. It is this narrative that evokes in the mental-emotional consciousness such a powerful and persistent sense of being someone, an individual amongst other individuals. As long as we are concentrated and identified with the succession of thoughts in our personal narrative, the beads strung on the necklace, we are caught up in the illusions of individuality and personality; it is only when we take our gaze off the beads and start concentrating on the invisible but ever-present thread, that we begin to discern the witnessing consciousness behind the whole play of experience and the narrative in time. We begin to see that the narrative is something entirely outside of us, like a play scripting itself out on the world-stage and generating characters continuously out of its own narrative. We also begin to see that the narrative and the characters are fictional in a fundamental sense: in the sense that they do not abide, they do not persist beyond a few temporal frames; and even in the few temporal frames they do persist, they keep changing and moving in a continuous flux. The world and self are both impermanent. In the Upanishadic sense, reality, or Sat, is that which abides, is eternal; and conversely, asat, unreality, is that which does not abide, which changes and passes. Thus, we see two “selves”: One, the character generated by the temporal narrative of experiences; the persona, the psychological self, the construct of thought. The other self is the witness, the observer, the spectator of the narrative: the one that is aware of change but does not change with the changing scenario of the play of experience; the one that is aware of all flow and flux of experience but itself does not move with the flow. This is the unchanging and abiding witness that watches the play but does not get involved in it. This “witnessing self” is the opening of the passage to the true Self.