Navratri – Celebrating the Divine Mother

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By Tasha Friedman

Navratri begins today! It is one of the most important Hindu festivals, spanning nine nights of devotion to Durga, the Divine Mother.

Durga contains many aspects: fierce and gentle, beautiful and terrifying, destroyer and creator, the ascetic and the lover. She might come in blazing with fire and weapons to defeat negative forces, or peacefully point the way to enlightenment. Each night of Navratri is devoted to a different form.

The Goddess is often depicted with a lion. Sometimes in life, you might feel like you’re riding the lion, and sometimes, more like you’re under its claws. But always, Mother Durga reminds us, you can feel this lion’s heart beating in your chest.

Stepping out on the spiritual path calls for tremendous courage: you must leave aside everything that conventional society and even your own rational mind tells you is so important. You must be willing to jump into the void, to let yourself fall from that tree (as Ramakrishna would say) without tensing a single muscle.

Yet in this surrender and availability to life, you discover that you are completely without fear, because you understand there is nothing to fear. The terrific power of the Divine Mother—the same power that burns in the molten core of the Earth, that gives birth to stars and devours them, that causes the universe to explode into being—is alive within you.

And while Durga’s many hands are bristling with weapons, as she charges into battle against buffalo demons and forces of darkness, she does not represent violence or struggle.

When you burn a candle, darkness dissolves around you, not by your fighting with it but by the sheer presence of light.

In the same way, you can spend all your time and energy trying to fight headlong against your own inner “demons”—your traumas, contractions, and negative tendencies—only to find they have become more real than ever. Yet in the light of awareness, all of these monsters are revealed for what they are: simply forms arising against a background of stillness and love.

In fact, no different from Love itself.

When Durga destroys a demon, she is showing that the only real enemy is our perception of a demon, our perception of an “otherness” and a threat from outside of ourselves.

The world now seems full of dangers and division. For the body and the personality, of course, there are real dangers and we must take care of ourselves and others. But is it possible to walk through it all without fear? Without recoiling from or denying anything, just being present and offering ourselves, grounded in trust as unshakeable as the daughter of the Himalayas.

Happy Navratri!

 

Tasha is a Hridaya Yoga teacher and a frequent contributor to our blog. You can read all of her posts here.

© Banner image copyright Biswarup Ganguly

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