From the Book:
This is an extract from a long letter written by Sri Swami Chinmayananda from Uttarkasi (Himalayas) on 20th October 1950, which happened to be the Vijaya Dasami Day, to Sri. P. B. Menon of Ernakulam, Kerala. It is interesting to note that Sri Swamiji started writing this letter around midnight and completed it at 4 am, the sacred Brahma-Muhurta on the Vijaya Dasami Day. We are grateful to Menon's family, who made the precious manuscript available to us for our use.
Religion without philosophy is superstition. Philosophy without religion is mere theory. And nowhere is the wedding of these two so perfect and enduring as in the great religion of Hindusim.
Religion, everywhere, includes three sections: the ritualistic forms and symbols, the mythology and the philosophy. These three are the three stages regular, systematic, measured and graded. A deluded Jiva (embodied soul) is to be taken from the first, through the second previous ones also must have for their basis the essence of the last. This is true in Hinduism. All our rituals and mythology represent the God-consciousness is the message, be it in the ritualistic stage or in the mythological stage of evolution.
In this light let us view Navaratri, the nine day's Devi Puja and glorious end of it all on the tenth day, the Vijaya Dasami. What do we do in these nine days? Every house is cleaned, and there is an all of festivity in the entire village or town. Each houses is converted for these ten days to serve as a Temple. For ten days there is regular Pooja, Kirtans, Songs, and reading of the spiritual books.
Now what exactly is the procedure? These nine days are divided into three sections, each of three days;; the first three days are dedicated for Durga or Kali, the second for Lakshmi (the Raja Rajeshwari) and the last three days for Goddess Saraswathi. The nine days' Pooja ends in the great grand festivity and joy inexpressible, on the tenth day-the Dassera Day, the Vijaya Dasami Day. Thus the ritual, with forms and symbols-"the burning of the Devil" at the dawn heralds in the Vijaya Dasami, and the merry laughter and joyous feasting.
"It is all very well. At best it is a crude communal festivity, once a year, just after the harvest season is over for the winter". This is the opinion generally of the blind, college-trained-illiterates of our young brethren! They known not what they are criticising : they understand not and so they cry down; because to own "I don't understand" needs honesty, a stout heart and a sincere thirst to know! In this age of intellectual idleness, among a generation of newspaper-wise amoeba-men, the generality has neither leisure nor the spirit of enquiry to make them think and understand. All their understanding ends with the Korean situation, or the price of gold in Canada or the way the cannibals mate or eat! Wrecked in their own negativity, a sick generation has reached the depth of deprivation and animalism where to feed newspaper columns they make world ward!
Lord, Thy Leela is an humourous and laughable to one who known Thee and witness Thy Play, as it is agonising and dreadful to those who know Thee not and have come to forget themselves in the part they play!
But let us be honest to ourselves and make an investigation into this exact ritual, most popular even today among us. Some light might come out of all honest and persevering enquiry.
To a hasty reader the arrangement of topics in this compilation may appear haphazard, especially in the beginning. Hence a few words about it.
When Pujya Gurudev, Swami Chinmayanandji directed us to bring out a Souvenir on the "GLORY OF THE MOTHER", we did not know how and where to begin, for, to Vedanta students, the subject is as complex as the Universe itself, without a beginning or end. Luckily, we came across a precious manuscript, a long letter written by Gurudev way back in 1950, explaining the significance of the three aspects of the Mother Divine as kali, Lakshmi and Saraswati, as well as the popular festival of Navaratri wherein these aspects of the Mother are invoked and worshipped. This gave us a starting point to proceed with the compilation of the volume. Gurudev's letter has, therefore, been set as the first chapter of the book.
The three aspects of the Mother, so graphically described in the above letter, are symbolic representations of the three Gunas. Viz. Tamas, Rajas and Satwa respectively. The second chapter is devoted to explain these Gunas and their functions.
It may be noted that there is an incessant tussle between the three Gunas for gaining supremacy over one another, and this takes place in all shades and depths in the bosoms of all men and women in all periods of time. These tussles are dramatised by the sages and seers in the form of stories, which are found in all the sacred scriptures of the world, more so in the vast body of our ancient Indian literature sheer brilliance of their spiritual appeal. One such elevating narration is about the Glory of the Mother, contained in the folds of Sri Markandeya purana. It is held very sacred by the devotees and spiritual seekers for its immeasurable capacity to purify and strengthen the mind. This narration is known as Durga Sapta-sathi or Devi Mahatmyam and deserves to be studied and contemplated upon. And so, we prepare to glide into this Purana from the third chapter onwards.
However, we do not gate crash clumsily into the Purana or the Devi Mahatmyam contained therein, but, as per tradition of the Rishis, we first bathe our minds in the refreshing waters of a meaningful invocation. Thereafter, we offer a few flowers of respect to Sage Markandeya, the towering personality of this Purana and its chief narrator. After this we enter the text and briefly recount the events that lead to the unfoldment of the Glory of the Mother by sage Sumedhas. Thereafter, we delve into the theme of the book which is spread over thirteen chapters of the Markandeya Purana, from Chapter 78 to 90.
A number of commentaries are available on Devi Mahatmyam. However, a scholarly commentary surpassing all others and written some four centuries ago, has been brought to light and published by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Trissur, Kerala. The name of commentator is not know; perhaps he never bothered to mention his name anywhere in the book. But the depth and fervour would indicate that he was both a Vedantic scholar and an ardent spiritual Sadhak. We are grateful to Sri Ramakrishna Math for allowing us to draw on this masterly commentary. We also offer our respectful "pranams" to the unknown author.
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