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Spiritual Wing - Navarathri - Dassera

"All festivals observed by Bharatiyas have marvellous inner meanings. But men in general view them in terms of external observances and celebrate them with feasts and frolic. These festivals were really intended to be used for the exclusive worship of the divine, to enjoy the bliss of that devotion and overcome pain and sorrow. These holy days were instituted for the purpose of getting rid of ignorance and cultivating right knowledge, the higher wisdom and cosmic consciousness."

The festival of Navarathri and Dassera (literally meaning Nine Nights and Ten Days respectively) is a very special occasion that highlights the spiritual significance of worshipping God as Mother, and God as the Primal Divine Energy (Shakthi). To many Sai devotees around the world, Dassera is also a time to offer love and gratitude to the Trinity of Sai Avatars: Shirdi Sai Avatar who took Mahasamadhi on the Vijayadasami day in 1918; Sathya Sai Avatar who as the embodiment of Siva Shakthi walked amidst us showering immense love and bliss; and Prema Sai Avatar who, our Lord Bhagawan Sathya Sai has said, will grace the earth as an embodiment of Shakthi!

Dassera brings to mind many glorious events in the Divine Presence of our Lord in Prasanthi Nilayam. If in the 1940s and 50s it was the famous ‘palanquin processions’ when many devotees experienced the darshan of Bhagawan Baba as Mother Goddess Lakshmi, then in the latter decades it has been the unique weeklong Yagna (Veda Purusha Sapthaha Jnana Yagna) that was presided over by our dear Lord Sathya Sai Himself and conducted by an army of renowned Vedic Scholars and Sages for the welfare of humanity. Bhagawan Baba would herald the inauguration of this sacred festival by hoisting a flag, and said on one occasion-

“To celebrate the Navarathri, new(Nava) as well as nine(Nava), at Prasanthi Nilayam, is indeed a rare chance, replete with wonder and joy. For this is the Abode of Peace, the peace that ensues when six enemies are destroyed forever. The Prasanthi flag, which now will be hoisted, is the symbol of this consummation-the conquest by man of the six enemies and the illumination within him of the flame of wisdom installed in the Lotus of the Heart. It is the flag of Swaraj, dominion over oneself, the true independence, when you genuinely claim to be the Master of the realm most related to you.” SSS 9-20

Other events around this majestic festival- such as the Poornahuthi (Final Offering) when our dear Lord would create precious gems to the wonder and amazement of the multitudes gathered, and offer them in the Sacrificial Fire of the Yagna as ordained in the scriptures; the Abhishekam (sacred bathing) of Shirdi Sai Idol that He would perform to the delight of everyone in the Poornachadra auditorium; the Narayana Seva (feeding the poor) in which He took special interest and personally participated in feeding the poor in their thousands; the various performances by renowned artists and poets in the evenings; the numerous scintillating Discourses that Bhagawan Baba delivered during this period to educate and uplift all mankind; and in more recent times, the Grama Seva (Village Service) during which more than 50000 rural homes are visited and the people are given fresh food and new clothes with great love and care by His Students under His Direction- all these and many other associated happenings feasted every eye and filled every heart with love, happiness, courage and vigour.

In Bhagawan’s Divine Presence, we learnt thus that Navarathri is a festival which celebrates the victory of good over evil. Not just in an external sense, but more importantly in each of our hearts. Swami explains to us that the celebration of the Dassera festival is meant to encourage us to control our senses, thereby purifying the actions performed by our dasendriyas (5 senses of action and 5 senses of perception).

"During the ten days of Dasara, the Rakshasas (demons) in the form of wicked qualities have been routed. Rakshasas do not mean demonic beings. The bad qualities in men are the demons. Arrogance is a demon. Bad thoughts are demons. Ravana is depicted as the king of Rakshasas. He is said to have ten heads. He was not born with ten heads. Who is this Ravana and what are his ten heads? Kama (lust), Krodha (anger), Moha (delusion), Lobha (Greed), Mada (pride), Maatsarya (Envy), Manas (the mind), Buddhi (intellect), Chitta (Will) and Ahamkara (ego) - these ten constitute the ten heads. Ravana is one who has these ten qualities." SSS 24-25

Bhagawan also reveals to us that Para Shakthi, The Divine Primal Energy that pervades the entire cosmos, is in fact inherent in each one of us as Dynamic Action (Kriya Shakthi), Will Power (Iccha Shakthi), and the Intellectual Power of Discrimination (Jnana Shakthi). He points out Kriya Shakthi is related to our inert body which is material, Iccha Shakthi to the mind that activates the body and makes it vibrant, and Aathma is Jnana Shakti that induces the vibrations of Iccha Shakthi. With the help of these, He assures us it is possible for each one of us to achieve the much coveted victory of good over evil.

"Navarathri is celebrated in honour of the victory that the Parashakthi (the goddess of energy, immanent in the microcosm and the macrocosm) achieved over the Asura of evil forces, as described in the Devi Mahatmayam and Devi Bhagavatam. That Parashakthi is in every one as the Kundalini shakthi, which is able to destroy, when awakened, the evil tendencies inside the mind; so the Navarathri is to be dedicated by all, for the propitiation of the outer as well as inner divinity, in order that the outer and the inner worlds may have peace and joy. By means of systematic spiritual exercises (sadhana) it is possible to tap the inner resources that God has endowed you with, and elevate yourselves to the purer and happier realm of the reality." SSS 7-30

During the Dassera festival, it is traditional to adore God as the Divine Mother in the forms of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi. Bhagawan explains that Mother Durga is the embodiment of Supreme Energy (Shakthi Swaroopini) who confers on us physical, mental and spiritual powers; Mother Lakshmi is the embodiment of Supreme Prosperity (Aishwarya) who confers on us the wealth of Life (Prana Aishwarya), Knowledge (Vidya Aishwarya) and Wisdom (Jnana Aishwarya); and Mother Saraswathi is the embodiment of Supreme Wisdom who confers on us the power of intellect (Viveka), the power of discrimination (Vichakshana) and the power of word (Vaak).

"Every human being in this world has to perform some kind of karma. The presiding deity or the driving force behind these actions is Devi, who is the personification of energy. She is the bestower of all kinds of energy to perform various kinds of karma by the human beings. Goddess Lakshmi bestows various kinds of wealth like money, food grains, gold, different kinds of objects, vehicles for movement, etc., to human beings so that they can lead a happy life in this world. The third facet of the divine female principle is Saraswati, the goddess of learning and intellect. Thus, the Trinity of Durga (goddess of energy), Lakshmi (goddess of wealth) and Saraswati (goddess of learning and intellect) are worshipped during this festival of Dasara. This is the underlying principle of worshipping this Trinity of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati during this Navaratri (9 day) festival. It is essential that man worships all these three facets of the Divine Principle." SSS 41-16

Whilst it is no doubt important to worship these Supreme Deities with great faith and fervour, Bhagawan Baba cautions that these efforts to earn the Divine Grace will be futile if one neglects or is disrespectful towards one’s own mother.

“Navarathri festival is intended to make us realise the importance of the mother, to love our mother and to go on the path that will please our mother. On the other hand, people buy some flowers and offer worship to the idols of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi, ignoring the aspect of one’s own mother. Mother who has given birth to you is the very embodiment of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi. We should never make our mother shed tears."

In accordance with our dearest Bhagawan’s directions, during the ten days of Dasara festival, lets us strive to convert our Ichchaa Shakthi (Will power) into a yearning for God, our Kriyaa Shakthi (dynamic action) into a force for doing divine actions and our Jnana Shakthi into the Divine Itself! Let us offer this worship as our loving gratitude at the Divine Lotus Feet of our Divine Mother.

Wishing all brothers and sisters a Happy Dassera!

Dr. Mahesh Narayan
Chairperson, Eastbourne Sai Group, UK