"There is a special significance in this arrangement. When Devi is worshipped by a devotee in this order, as Durga, She destroys the evil propensities that lurk in his mind, then as Lakshmi, She implants therein the divine qualities conducive to spiritual unfoldment, then as Saraswati, She bestows true knowledge on him.
"The tenth day commemorates the victory of knowledge over nescience and of goodness over evil. It is the day on which boys are put into school. Aspirants are initiated on this day. On this memorable Day of Victory, the carpenter, the tailor, the mason, the artist, the songster, the typist and all technical workers worship their instruments and implements. They behold and recognise the Shakti or power behind these instruments and worship Devi for their success, prosperity and peace".
In these trying times, we would do well also to adopt the following prayer which was read from the Divine Life Society Prayer Book, "O compassionate Mother, I bow to Thee. Thou art my saviour. Thou art my goal. Thou art my sole support. Thou art my guide and the remover of all afflictions, troubles and miseries. Thou art the embodiment of auspiciousness. Thou pervadest the whole universe. Thou art the storehouse of all qualities. Do Thou protect me. I again and again salute Thee. All women are manifestations of Thee. Mind, egoism, intellect, body, Prana and senses are Thy forms. Thou art electricity, magnetism, force, energy, power and will. All forms are Thy forms only. Reveal to me the mystery of creation. Bestow on me divine knowledge".
Our Master explains further, "During Navaratri, earnest spiritual aspirants of Durga observe a fast or take milk and fruit only, on all the nine days or at least once in each of the three-day periods. Brahmins are fed and prayers are offered for the protection of health and property. Durga Puja is the greatest Hindu Festival in which God is adored as Mother. Hinduism is the only religion in the world which has emphasised to such an extent the motherhood of God. One's relationship with one's mother is the dearest and the sweetest of all human relations, Hence, it is proper to look upon God as mother".
In the book, Sivananda's Gospel of Divine Life we read, "The Master talked to suit time, place and circumstance. He said the right thing at the right time. Addressing the staff and students of the Central Hindu Girls' School, Madras, he began with charming innocence. What shall I talk to you about? You are my first Guru. Everything man has learnt from you. The child asks, 'Mother, what is this? Ma, what is that? and learns everything. You are the Guru of Gurus'. Slowly he picked up sequence and speed and, before he ended his speech, made the exhortation, 'Let patience be your necklace. Let love be your apparel. Don't forget that the Atma is the beauty of beauties. There is no need for external beautification at all. How can you beautify beauty itself? Wear the divine virtues as ornaments. Self-restraint, modesty, simplicity, patience, generosity—these are your real ornaments'."
Swami Sivananda did not do any formal worship of the Divine Mother. He himself clarified this point when a learned pundit of South India remarked that he must have attained perfection in Sri Vidya Upasana and that was why he succeeded in all his undertakings. "I have not done any formal Sri Vidya Upasana," the Master told him. "I repeat the Mantra, along with several others, after my daily bath. I repeat the Mantras only once. But perhaps you are right when you say that I have done Sri Vidya Upasana. It is of a different kind. Whenever I see a woman, I mentally prostrate to her and mentally repeat some Devi Mantra like, Om Sri Durgayai Namah. I look upon all women as embodiments of the Divine Mother. When I apply the sacred vermilion to my forehead, I repeat, Om Hrim Om. This constitutes my Sri Vidya Upasana."
Our Divine Master never failed to apply the teachings of our ancient Hindu Dharma to our daily life. This is what he wrote in one of his poems:
WOMAN-LAKSHMI OF THE HOUSE
Woman is the Lakshmi of the house.
She is goddess.
Without her, there is no charm,
There is no happiness in a house.
She is the soul of the house.
She radiates joy and love to all
She ably manages the house.
She comforts the husband, children and guests,
She serves and makes others happy.
She is full of sacrifice and surrender.
She is very patient, humble and gentle.
She has more endurance than man.
She is the first Guru for her children.
She moulds their destiny.
Glory to women!
Prostrations to women,
The Manifestations of Para Sakti.
Perhaps, a different type of worship of the Divine Mother may be seen in Pagal Haranath's article on "Females". Herewith, excerpts from a letter he wrote to a devotee: "The entire body of females in the universe represent a particular aspect of the vast and boundless force known as original and unformed matter. There is a saying that "the horns of a ram are crooked but they are straight when fighting." Similarly, all females are alike in nature. All women are the same although their faces are different. This is quite correct in whatever sense it be taken.
"Forget not to show due respect to every woman in this world. Like state officers, whose call is to arrest or pass orders of execution or release, they are performing their respective missions. They cause the downfall of those who wish to slide down to hell, in the guise of loose women, 'rakshasis or pishachis'; and again, it is they who are sustaining our lives with their blood and leading us to the path of liberation. It is women who, standing at the gates of egress and ingress, conduct us to our desired destination.
"Wife is not a plaything. Her name is Sahadharmini; females are true representatives of Lakshmi. Slighting them in any way, one is apt to lose one's good luck. They are the life of the Universe and the receptacles of Bhakti and Prema. Ill-used, they present their hideous aspect, as dreadful Kali, and destroy all. Loose women reflect their all-destroying form in miniature.
"To insult a female is to covet instant destruction. History, ancient and modern, will show this to you. Draupadi's disgrace was the cause of the destruction of the Kauravas. Sita's dishonour culminated in the total annihilation of the race of the Rakshasas. Helen's disgrace brought about Troy's ruin; and the indignities suffered by Sarojini, ended the reign of the Mohammedans in India. Such glaring instances can be had in almost every house. You will not have to go far to seek them. Where females are not honoured, peace and contentment quickly depart therefrom".
In the book, Glory of Guru's Grace, Pujya Swami Sahajananda wrote of how the Divine Mother poured Her Grace upon him. It happened immediately after Pujya Swamiji completed the monumental task of compiling the 9 volumes of Yoga Lessons for Children. Swamiji states: "All the nine volumes were now output on film and the work was complete. It was something like attaining Samadhi or Moksha! Perhaps the Master took pity on Swamiji at this stage and decided to reward him with the gift of transformation. A short time after that, about the end of May, just over four years ago, Swamiji woke up one morning with the distinct feeling that he was a new person, that some great change was taking place in him. Because it was so sudden and overwhelming, he was struck with awe and wonder. Swamiji can only say that the Master came to him in the form of the all-compassionate Divine Mother and began pouring into him some great power.
"For several weeks copious tears began pouring from his eyes as he felt that he did not deserve such boundless Grace. He knew that some great change was taking place. How the Divine Mother worked cannot be revealed. As the process of transformation was going on, the Master was also giving Swamiji a formula to repeat from time to time, in order to stabilise it".
Swamiji said that during this period, whenever he looked at Sri Gurudev's picture, he saw only the Divine Mother. Swamiji did not differentiate between Gurudev and the Divine Mother. In the Kirtan "Mataji, Mataji" also, Pujya Swamiji included a line referring to Gurudev as the Divine Mother.
The quality of our online Navaratri Satsangs was further enhanced by the melodious singing by Divine Life Society devotees as well as the appropriately selected audio recordings of Bhajans and Aratis in adoration of the Divine Mother. It had an uplifting and soothing effect on the minds of devotees.
Devotees from many parts of the world enjoyed our online Satsangs. This is what TS of London wrote about the Navaratri Satsangs,
"I have just listened to the uplifting Navratri Satsangs this week and this has brought great calmness to me afterwards. The uplifting online Satsangs throughout the lockdown have helped me maintain a connection with Divine Life Society of S.A. and Gurudev, even though I am so far away. I only have to log on and I am transported to the Ashram in Reservoir Hills, South Africa. At this time where all our social activities and travel are restricted, it has helped my spiritual routine greatly to have access to the Satsangs. I hope this continues in the future too".
She continued, "Swamiji (Swami Sahajananda) was very correct about us having the best facilities for spiritual growth. I haven't seen any place in the UK that has the same level of organisation and availability of resources that the Divine Life in South Africa possesses".
We conclude with the Master's words, "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 all strive to attain victory of goodness over evil and in so doing, worship the Divine Mother in the daily battle of life. Let us jointly strive to make the world a better place.