Durga Puja or Navaratri is the most suitable occasion for doing intense Sadhana. These nine days are very sacred to Mother. Plunge yourself in Her worship. Practise intense repition of the Divine Name, having a regular "quota" of repitions per day and the number of hours spent on it. Navaratri is an occasion symbolising the victory of the higher, divine forces over the lower, negative qualities that find their expression in injustice, oppression, aggrandisement, greed, selfishness, hatred and a host of other undivine forces that add to the suffering of man. Perform special worship on Navaratri days.
Outwardly, the nine-day worship of the Mother is a celebration of triumph. This celebration of nine days is offered to the Mother for Her successful struggle with the formidable demons led by Mahishasura. But to the sincere spiritual aspirant the particular division of the Navaratri into sets of three days, in order to adore different aspects of the Supreme Goddess, has a very sublime, yet thoroughly practical truth to reveal. In its cosmic aspect, it epitomises the stages of the evolution of man into God, from Jivahood (the state of individual life) to Sivahood (the state of union with God). In its individual import, it shows the course that his spiritual practice should take.
Let us now consider the first three days, during which the Mother is adored as supreme power and force, as Durga, the Terrible. We pray to Mother Durga to destroy all our impurities, our vices, our defects. She is to fight with and annihilate the baser animal qualities in the spiritual aspirant, the lower, diabolical nature in him.
Also, She is the power that guides and protects his spiritual practice from its many dangers and pitfalls. Thus, the first three days, which mark the first stage or the destruction of impurities and the determined effort to root out the evil tendencies in us, are set apart for the worship of the destructive aspect of the Mother.
Once you have accomplished your task on the negative side that of breaking down all the impure propensities and old, vicious habits-the next step is to build up a sublime spiritual personality, to acquire positive qualities in place of the demoniacal qualities. The pure, divine qualities that the Lord enumerates in the Gita have to be acquired. The aspirant must cultivate and develop all the auspicious qualities. He has to earn immense spiritual wealth to enable him to pay the price for the rare gem of divine wisdom. If this development of the opposite qualities is not undertaken in right earnest, the old demoniacal nature will raise its head again and again. Hence, this stage is as important in an aspirant's career as the previous one. The essential difference is that the former is a ruthless, determined annihilation of the impure egoistic lower self; and the latter is an orderly, steady, calm and serene effort to develop purity. This pleasanter side of the aspirant's spiritual practice is depicted by the worship of Mother Lakshmi. She bestows on Her devotees the inexhaustible divine wealth or Daivi Sampath. Lakshmi is the wealth-giving aspect of God. She is purity itself. Thus, the worship of Lakshmi is performed during the second set of three days.
Once the aspirant succeeds in rooting out the evil propensities, and develops pure, divine qualities, he becomes competent to attain wisdom. He is now ready to receive the light of supreme wisdom. He is fit to receive divine knowledge.
At this stage comes the devout worship of Mother Saraswathi, who is divine knowledge personified, the embodiment of knowledge of the eternal Absolute. The sound of Her celestial veena awakens the notes of the sublime utterances of the Upanishads, which reveal the Truth, and the sacred monosyllable, Om. She bestows on the aspirant the knowledge of the supreme, mystic sound and then gives knowledge of the Self as represented by Her pure, dazzling snowwhite apparel. Hence, the propitiation of Saraswathi, the giver of knowledge, is the third stage. Besides the books representing Saraswathi, all musical instruments and other implements, like typewriters, printing machinery, etc., are worshipped on the ninth day.
This arrangement also has a special significance in the aspirant's evolution. It marks the indispensable stages of evolution through which everyone has to pass. One naturally leads to the other; to short-circuit this would inevitably result in a miserable failure. Nowadays, many ignorant seekers aim straight at the attainment of knowledge, without the preliminaries of purification and acquisition of the divine qualities. They then complain that they are not progressing on the path. How can they? Knowledge will not descend until the impurities have been washed out and purity is developed. How can the pure plant grow in impure soil? So, adhere to this arrangement. Your efforts will be crowned with sure success. This is your path. As you destroy one evil quality, develop the virtue opposite to it. By this process you will soon bring yourself up to that perfection which will culminate in identity with the Self, which is your goal. Then all divine knowledge will become yours; you will become omniscient and omnipotent, and you will feel your omnipresence. You will see your Self in all. You will have achieved eternal victory over the wheel of births and deaths, over the demon of worldliness-no more pain, no more misery, no more birth, no more death! Victory be yours!
Pray to Her fervently. She will be easily pleased. Do not ask Her for petty worldly things; pray for Moksha or final liberation. She is ever ready to rush to you. Only you have to accept Her! Clear your mind of all dross and install the Mother in it on a Golden Thrown. Give up your little ego at Her Feet. Pray, "Thy will be done Mother! I want nothing!" She will take you by the hand and lead you to Moksha!