(Spoken on October 14, 1983.)
Twice in a year usually the religious custom of the country observes a unique festive worship in the name of the great Mother of the universe, these two occasions of worship being called the Vasanta Navaratri and the Sharada Navaratri festivals. These seasonal changes in spring and autumn are generally periods when the body of the living being cannot easily accommodate itself with the changes of nature. People often fall ill during spring and autumn, one of the reasons for this phenomenon being the inability of the physical organism to adapt itself to the conditions of natural seasonal changes.
The great bestower of bounty and the benefactor of all, the protective power of creation, is invoked as a remedy and panacea for the ills of life during these occasions especially. These two periods of the year also happen to be the occasion of harvesting throughout the country. In spring there is one kind of harvest, and in autumn there is another kind. It is a symbol of Dhanalakshmi, the divinity of prosperity, abundance, wealth and cattle, health and long life, and everything that we can consider as life’s magnificence. This is a natural and well-known reason behind the worship of the great divine power which is envisaged in religious devotion as something which is inseparably related to the protective forces that sustain all living beings.
It is very interesting here to bestow some thought on the very careful analysis which the ancients have made in this regard when they prescribed this worship of the Mother of all things as the sustainer, the protector, the guardian and the caretaker of everyone. There is something very specific about divine protection as distinguished from the security that we expect in human society and are accustomed to in our day-to-day life. The type of security and protection that we expect in this world of human beings is based on the humanly conceived notion of what is good and necessary for the welfare of all people. But God cannot be equated with human notions of any kind, and the human notion of welfare and good need not necessarily be the same as God’s divine vision. Therefore, the insight of the ancient Masters visualised the great power of divine protection as a threefold activity designated in religious parlance as Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati.
This is something very pertinent and appropriate when our worship has to be an inward attempt of our deepest recesses to be in communion with the ultimate truth of all things. Our vision of life, the human concept of well-being, as I mentioned, need not necessarily be in harmony with the divine view of all things. Divine justice, though it be impeccable and utterly impartial, may not be appreciable to the whimsical notions of man in regard to his well-being and satisfaction. Our worship is, of course, a worship of that which is truly there as the ultimate fact of existence; therefore, the ultimate in us has to be roused into action, and not merely our sentiments and social notions of welfare and security, because human beings have, very unfortunately, been shackled to the conditions of the human species, while the human species is only one species in the vast creation of God.
We are told in our scriptures that there are perhaps eighty-four lakhs of species of living beings, out of which the human should be considered as one. But the human being regards himself as the only valuable species and the only worthwhile living creature on Earth, as if other living things do not exist at all and their welfare need not be taken into consideration. This is not the right vision of things.
Human justice is sometimes limited to mere national justice. It may not even extend itself beyond a particular geographical limitation one calls one’s own country. Sometimes with great effort it tries to extend itself to the region of all mankind, but that is done with tremendous effort and not in a voluntary and spontaneous fashion. Even if this be considered as a possible success that the human mind can achieve, that is, the extension of its consideration to the whole of humanity, that would not be equal to divine vision because God creates, sustains and transforms. The creation of the world is a threefold process taking place at the same time. Something originates, something is maintained in a particular position, and it then gets transmuted into a condition which is the purpose of this very process. The universe is not a static, stale existence. It is a movement towards God. The universe is the path which living beings tread in the direction of the achievement of the union of the Maker of all things.
So the universe is a movement, a process. It is also a balancing of two scientific processes: stasis, which is mere position in a particular spot of space, and dynamis, which is activity or motion. Naturally the universe is not stasis, and it is not merely dynamis. In scientific parlance there is no concept of this balancing of stasis and dynamis. We have the science of kinetics and the science of the fixity of things, but these two terms correspond merely to what are generally known as rajas and tamas.
There is another thing called sattva, which balances all things. We maintain a position as an identical individual in our own personalities, notwithstanding the fact that we are continuous rivers that flow and maintain ourselves in an apparent position while we are a moving process. We have grown from the embryo to this adult condition of our mature bodily existence by a process of utter transformation and a perpetual rejuvenation, a coming and going of living cells in the body. The origination, the maintenance and the destruction of many living organisms have gone to constitute this bodily personality of ours.
There is, therefore, a stasis and a dynamis; there is an activity perpetually going on in our psychophysical organism which is the reason behind the growth of the personality, but it is not a growth with the cutting off of the parts of the process called the growth. There is a fixity and a status that is maintained. We may live and stay in one place continuously with a consciousness of self-identity, though we have been moving within ourselves in our organismic processional growth right from babyhood to this present condition of ours.
So there is activity and also there is fixity, but there is also an awareness of this process. It is not merely mechanical action that is taking place in the universe. We are sometimes told in the language of classical science that the world is like a huge machine and it works systematically like a computer or a kind of arrangement of parts which are modelled or patterned in such a way that the pattern of the arrangement of the parts of the machine can decide the nature of the activity of the machine and also the output of the operation of this machine.
But although in its visible form the world appears to work like a machine and there is a connection of the past with the future through the present, there is a transcendent element in the world. It is non-mechanistic. From the point of view of biological studies, our bodies may be determined by the laws of biology; thus, we may say our body is a machine and it is mechanistic. Similarly, from the point of view of one type of psychological study, our mental activity also can be considered to be mechanistic in its operation. Nevertheless, we are none of us a machine. There is an element in us which surpasses the mechanical activity of the body as well as of the mind.
This description of the internal processes of the human individual mentioned in these few words applies also to the cosmical process where there is the coming and the maintenance and the destruction of all things, and God is the superintending principle directing this process for a purpose which is He Himself. There is a terror in this world. It is not all beauty. That is Durga, a relentless direction for action for the fulfilment of the only purpose that can be justified in the world, and any other purpose is to be subsumed under this final purpose.
This necessary action which the power of God takes for the purpose of the fulfilment of the only aim of things is inexorable law operating in the world. It is relentless and unexceptional in every way; therefore, it is a terror to the ego-bound human individual. There is a fear whenever a change takes place. There is a tendency in the human mind to resist every kind of change, to maintain the status quo whether or not it is going to be towards the progress of the very same body in the future. But the law which operates in this manner inexorably has only one viewpoint before it, which is nothing but the justice of the cosmos. So like the sword of Kali which is supposed to come some time in the future, the weapons of Durga operate like the knives of the surgeon and the medicaments of the physician.
These activities of the transforming power are not specially intended to look to the welfare of any particular individual or a group of people in some corner of the world to the exclusion of others. It is an impartial tendency to the prosperity of all: sarvabhūtahite ratāḥ (Gita 5.25). Therefore, sometimes we say Lakshmi is fickle; she never stays in one place. Wealth moves from one possessor to another possessor. People generally say that nobody keeps Lakshmi or wealth under one’s control perpetually or perennially for eternity, and there is perhaps some truth in it. No one can possess all prosperity, inasmuch as the thing called prosperity belongs to no individual person. It is a general well-being of all things which appears to shift from individual to individual on account of the subjection of individuals to the process of transformation and change during evolution. Lakshmi is really not fickle, but appears to be moving from location to location on account of the human individual’s involvement in the process of evolution.
Tamas and rajas, fixity and action are balanced by sattva, which is not actually one of the properties as we are often told. It is a transcendent property. It balances the action and the operation of both rajas and tamas. Hence, it is inclusive of whatever is worthwhile and meaningful in the activities of tamas and rajas. The story of Saraswati in the Devi Mahaymya is, therefore, a transcendent description inclusive of all that was glorious and magnificent in the narrations concerning Durga and Lakshmi. So in our worships during the period of the Navaratri, we worship the true God, and the untrue gods leave us one day or the other.
The selfishness of man is so very inveterate in its possessiveness and attitude of controlling all things for one’s own self that it permits not an equal welfare of other people also. There is a secret urge in every individual to have everything for one’s own self, and there is a secret impulse in every individual to be a ruler of the whole world, which means to say, to subject everybody else to oneself. This tendency is not going to be finally sanctioned by the law of nature because no one can be subjected to another inasmuch as everyone is subjected to a central operation. There is a mutual cooperation of action among individuals. In that sense of mutual servicefullness and charitableness of feeling and action we may be subservient to one another, but we are not possessors of one another. No one is a belonging of somebody else. Hence, this attitude is not permitted by Durga. She will destroy its very root.
But the great prosperity that will be awaiting us one day or the other is Moksha-Samrajya-Lakshmi, the prosperity of liberation from bondage. To have the capacity to subject everyone else to one’s own self as an emperor of the world cannot be considered as liberation from bondage because a king is a bound soul in the sense that he is bound to the necessity to keep others under his subjection. Individually he is like anybody else. The subjection of the people whom he is supposed to rule is the power that he wields, so naturally he cannot be a real power.
In the divine sense at least, prosperity, Lakshmi, is not mere mortal gold and silver, though God is not in dearth of even gold and silver. Everything is abundant there. Even that will be showered upon us, as Bhagavan Sri Krishna showered it upon Sudama, and we have instances of that kind galore. God can rain down gold and silver upon us if He feels the need and has the will to do that. He can shower upon us anything that we need, but our needs are paltry. They are a child’s desires, and the wise parent who is the Almighty knows very well the futility of our askings. Therefore, the power of sustenance, which is the real caretaker, comes into action and puts an end not only to our possessions but even to the body itself. Death takes place. So the action of Durga is a complete transformation of not only what we seem to possess as our belongings, but even of ourselves as a false individuality in this world of interrelationships and a mutual fraternity of a kingdom of ends.
There was a great insight indeed in this institution of worships by the ancient Masters, who created occasions at different periods of the year when we will be in a position to search our own hearts, to be true to our own selves and thus, be able to be true to others also. When we are true to ourselves, really true to our own deepest self in us, we shall be able to be true to other people in a similar spirit. Then we shall be true to the Almighty God because God is the sustaining link between ourselves and everybody else. The world outside and the seer of the world, yourself and myself, the seer and the seen, are brought together by the universal linkage of God-existence. Therefore, he who is true to himself can also be true to others and, at the same time, be true to the Almighty God.
So in these worships we search our hearts to bring our roots to the surface of our consciousness. We begin to see ourselves face-to-face as if in a mirror, and root out any hypocritical tendency that may be within us because Durga shall see them and destroy them for sake of the entering of Lakshmi, the prosperity which is true and sustaining, which can be possible only on illumination, which is equated with the coming of Saraswati, the goddess of learning – learning not in an academic or bookish sense, but in the sense of true wisdom and insight into the truth of all things.
Also, we are accustomed to read a great meaning into this drama of the nine days of worship as an endeavour of the soul of man to overcome his bondage as involved in the processes or gunas of prakriti – tamas, rajas and sattva. We fight, as it were, in this arduous sadhana which the whole of life is, and disentangle the soul from its involvement in the coming and going of things, samsara chakra, which is the process of birth and death, transmigration or metempsychosis.
Whoever is involved in this goodness of prakriti shall have to come and go. Purnavati cannot be avoided. But the sadhana of the true spirit that is within us, the deepest soul that is in us, is and has to be a piercing endeavour to press through the fortress of gold, silver and iron – the Tripura, as it is sometimes known in the Puranas, which were shot through by a single arrow by Rudra, Siva, who is known as Tripura Samhara. Many a name is given to this kind of involvement: avidya, kama, karma, the granthis, and tamas, rajas and sattva. We may call it the gold pot, silver pot and iron pot of the Tripura’s items, or Brahma-granthi, Vishnu-granthi, Rudra-granthi. There seems to be a threefold involvement which philosophers call the entanglement of the soul in prakriti, purusha involved in prakriti. This is shot through by the arrow of Rudra, and Rudra did not act singly. Brahma and Vishnu also combined with him in this action. We can read the story in the Siva Purana, and also in the Gaura Parva of the Mahabharata, of how the Tripura Samara took place, how Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva jointly broke through the threefold fortress of the Tripuras, and there was the rejoicing of the gods. The angels regained their position, which means to say, the gods in our senses enter the Virat instead of getting locked up in our physical bodies, and liberation is attained. That is the success, the victory, the vijaya which is the tenth day, called Vijaydasami. Dasami is ‘the tenth day’, and vijaya is ‘victory’; therefore, it is the day of victory of the seeking spirit.
Many connections are made regarding the nine days worship and the tenth day’s Vijayadasami as having been the saga of the Ramayana, the destruction of Ravana by Rama, and many other things we read in the Puranas, all which finally focus upon a single truth and purpose, namely, the ardent march of the soul of man to the realisation of Godhead.
The Tantra Shastra is an elaborate description of these processes through which the soul has to pass in the practice of sadhana, whereby the creation of God is recognised as a part of God only, not something outside God. God could not have made this world out of material external to Himself. “Where is the wood and the timber, where is the iron and the cement with which God could have manufactured this great cosmos?” asks one Sukta in the Veda. There is no material. God has no cement factory to manufacture huge structures. Therefore, the creation which we call this universe could not have been outside the body of God Himself.
Sometimes religions say that God Himself appears as this world because nothing else can appear as the world, inasmuch as outside God nothing can be. Sometimes it is said that God created the world out of nothing. The biblical story of Genesis perhaps makes out that God did not transform Himself into this world, nor was there a material. “Let there be light,” He declared, and there was light. But from where did it come? It came from nowhere. So the world is nothing, finally. It is a kind of hollow balloon. The substance of the world is zero. This is one interpretation of mortal existence. Basically it is a hollowness. Everything in the world is a tinsel, a meaningless substance. The world is a vale of sorrow. It is a tragedy finally, where everyone weeps and goes. This is one way of looking at things.
But the other way around is, it is God resplendent, splashing Himself forth as this Viratsvarupa, and radiance of the Almighty is seen with our own physical eyes in the form of these substances that stand before us as the mountains and the trees and the sun and the moon and the stars.
The sadhana of the soul, according to the Tantra Shastra particularly, is that there is nothing to reject in this world inasmuch as God could not have created anything which is undivine. If He created anything undivine, there must be something other than God, which cannot be. Therefore, the world is divine. It is the power of God, it is Shakti, and therefore, Shakta, the owner of the Shakti, is reached only through Shakti. The Almighty, the Creator, is reached through the creation. Narayana is reached only through Lakshmi, Siva can be seen only through Parvati, and the great God of the universe, the Protector, the Creator, Sustainer, is capable of communion and encounter only through His creation. Nature evolves though a graduated step-by-step process, and the meticulous calculation of the details of the steps or processes of graduated ascent is the beauty of the tantra sadhana. It is not a sudden jump into the skies.
All these little ideas I have placed before you in honour of this glorious occasion of the worship of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati, which is a vast religious field of contemplation for us. The more you think about it, the more glorious it will appear before you. Thus be our humble adoration to Mother Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati. Hari Om Tat Sat. God bless you all! Om Namo Narayanana.