It is important for all to know and rightly understand the real spirit and significance of Devi worship so that tangible spiritual and material benefit of a lasting character may be derived by everyone to a maximum extent.
Rightly understood, the method of this worship shows you the true way to lead the divine life. It teaches you to live in such a way as to make your life a real and practical worship and adoration of the Divine Mother. It reveals the secret of rising from darkness, untruth and mortality unto the grand realm of light, truth and everlasting life.
Devi worship or Durga Puja is the adoration of the Divine Mother of all things, who bear the seed of Universe in her imperishable womb, the Mahat-Brahma. Devi is the consciousness-power or the Chaitanya Shakti, the glory of the supreme Sovereign of the universe made manifest to the manifested Jivas in the world of creation. As the creator, the preserver and the destroyer of the universe are but one God appearing in three forms, so the power which is inseparable from God appears in its threefold aspect. Even as a person here is known from his characters and powers, God is revealed in his Shakti which is the sum total of all knowledge, will and action, visible and felt as well as invisible and beyond comprehension. The whole universe is the manifestation of the richness and the glory of its immortal creator who hails beyond the dust of the earth and the luminaries of heaven. He, the Divine Master, works everywhere with his twofold Shakti, Viz., Vidya and Avidya.
In the nine-day worship of the Divine Mother or Navratri Puja, is illustrated the process of the overcoming of the dark and blind powers of the lower nature by the splendid and intelligent powers of the higher nature. The Great War between Devas and Asuras marks the life of both the objective and subjective sides of the created universe. Vidyashakti always gains an upper hand and everywhere there is a transcendence of the limitations and imperfections characteristic of Jivahood and Asurahood by the divine Jananashakti which pierces through every quarter and cranny in its works of vanquishing unconsciousness or ignorance together with its train of effects, desire and selfish action. In the Devi Mahatmya or the Saptashati, Devi is described as the mass of the effulgent energy of the gods, headed by Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. This Shakti is released when the Devas begin to complain to these higher powers. The sense-energies presided over by intelligence, which are symbolized by the Devas together with their ruler Indra, when they are oppressed by the demoniacal, forces of passion, anger, greed, malice, etc., of a destructive nature, begin to feel actually humiliation in the forms of the pains of life and resort to the highest Nature for help. At once, the Divine principle within reveals itself in its tremendous and in its unifying absoluteness of truth an puts an end to the tempestuous life of animalism and all that is undivine or that which belongs to the realm of Avidya.
The three aspects of the Devi Puja are goodness, prosperity, and knowledge. Goodness reveals the Truth; prosperity ushers in happiness; and knowledge precedes the dawn of intuition and leads you to the goal of Sat-Chit- Ananda. To strive to bring about these three above-mentioned factors into the life of mankind constitutes the real invocation and adoration of the Divine Mother who is manifest in every form of humanity.
Ritualistic or ceremonial worship no doubt good, but it is the living worship that truly transforms and spiritualizes you more quickly and leads you on to the highest realisation. To consecrate the Divine Mother in the holy alter of your heart, to manifest Her divine power within and to live to serve and do good to all the best and the Divine Mother Durga.
To invoke the Goddess Lakshmi, you have to try ceaselessly to bring prosperity into the lives of all. Its significance is that one should be large-hearted and generous, charitable and kind. The aspirant will have to strive hard to remove the pain and sorrow and bring happiness to all as per his capacity. Those who are monetarily gifted, to them I would ask to open free dispensaries for the poor patients and feeding centers for the destitutes, to educate the illiterate and to aid and encourage through every means the increase of the wealth of the country, for where prosperity and happiness prevail, there alone Goddess Lakshmi is more easily propitiated.
Now, to manifest the Goddess Sarasvati you have to educate yourself first. You have to become a flood of light, and thereby you should radiate the Divine Knowledge to everyone. Such sincere aspirants can go to the slums and backward, illiterate localities and give free lessons on secular and spiritual matters as well. You can thus offer the grandest and worthiest form of worship to Devi Sarasvati.
O seekers of perfection in Truth! Even as you reach a destination only along a path leading to it and intimately related only through the several degrees of empirical reality which act as steps in the ladder of spiritual experience. The universe of the several planes of consciousness with their different values and grades of truth is the Shakti of God. In the worship of Asambhuti and Sambhuti leads to the gradual attainment of ultimate perfection. God cannot be conceived of as divorced from his Supreme power which appears as and governs this universe, even as you cannot have fire and heat distinguished. You know a substance through its quality. You realise God through his Shakti, who is Devi, Maha-Maya, Prakriti, the progenitress of all.
You can worship Devi either through Vaidika or Tantrika methods. She is worshipped even without rituals, through Para Puja or Pure meditation alone. Indeed, this is the highest kind of worship, where the Divine Mother is considered as his or her own by the spiritual child. The grace of the Devi is the experience of the participation of the higher Nature by the devotee on account of his conformity to the laws of manifestation in its orders of divine Shaktis or the forms of the one Divine Power. No order of the reality can be stepped into unless one fulfils the demands of the one lower to it. The Devi Upasaka, thus knowing that Devi is Parabhrahma Shakti itself, not creating a barrier between God and his Shakti, even as one does not consider the sun and his luminosity as separate, reaches the state of Brahman through the grace of Devi. It means that in the Sadhana Marga, which an aspirant follows, he has to proceed from the earthy consciousness to the higher states step by step through the transcendence of the manifested orders of phenomenal experience, without unwisely thinking that he can jump over the extremely elevated terrace without climbing the steps be low.
In this way, Devi Puja has a great spiritual meaning. Therefore, worship the Mother of the Universe, the Shakti or Brahman in its Supreme Form, or in her manifested form according to your capacity. I need not stress over the obvious fact that you should strictly practice Ahimsa, Satya and Brahmacharya, if you are to realise Devi, the glorious Divine Power of the Supreme Reality. I stress upon the moral side and the ethical side of Sadhana, because you are likely to miss it and no valuable achievement is possible without it. Without it highflying idealisms will bring nothing; they will be a waste like oblations offered on ashes. Worship of God or Goddess, if it is to result in spiritual illumination, the observance of Yama and Niyama is absolutely necessary. These form the twofold equipment to overcome brute nature and hoist the banner of spiritual victory. Offer to Goddess Durga the animal nature, the Pashu, of your inner evil traits of passion, anger and greed. Do not kill animals of the external world in the name of Balidana to the Goddess. She wants your animal-man within. No Himsa should be committed on the excuse that it is for the Devi. You have no right or justification to hurt any living creature for whatever reason. Ahimsa should be free from all exemptions whether pertaining to class, place, time or circumstance. Ahimsa is universal vow to be practiced absolutely. No worship, no prayer, no act whatsoever in life can justify injury protection cannot justify murder. Even self-protection cannot justify murder. You have to stick to the rule of universal love to the best of your ability, to the utmost extent possible. The offering of the self, the surrender of the ego to the Divinity is the supreme sacrifice. Nothing is superior to it. Nothing can be equal to it. This is the most exalted form of Divine worship. Worship the Almighty with Atma-bhava, with sarvatmabhava. This is the greatest and the most glorious thing that can ever be done bibe the knowledge or real worship of the Divine Being. May the Devi shower Her blessings upon you all!
During Navratri, observe strict Anushthana and purify your inner nature. This is the most auspicious time in the year for Mother-worship. Read Saptashati or Devi Mahatmya and Lalita-Sahasranama. Do Japa of the Mantra of Devi. Perform worship with purity, sincerity and devotion. The Divine Mother will bless you with the knowledge, the peace and the joy that know no end! May the Divine Devi, the Mother bless you all!
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