Auspiciousness of Times
The new moon of 19th/20th Sept. is a special day for ascension rites to honour the departed souls of familial lineages, as per the Vedic soli-lunar calendar. This particular new moon (Mahālayā) is immediately followed by the auspicious nine-night period (Navarātri) leading up to the Victory Day. Thereafter, the auspicious Śaradiyā-navarātri or a nine-night period dedicated to the worship of the Divine Mother will be celebrated. The culmination of this nine-night period ushers in Vijayā-daśamī or the tenth day of victory.
Devotees and seekers of truth continually search for higher applicable wisdom in an effort to establish deeper spiritual values which in turn enrich their lives. If one were to ask a spiritual aspirant what is most precious in their lives, the prompt answer might be ‘time’ itself. Sanskrit spiritual philosophy teaches us to live every moment fully. For an aspirant, each moment is momentous. In meditation, our sense of time is lost and there is the tranquility.
Relief comes in as a flood of peace overcoming the internal chatter. The awareness regains its unbounded freedom. A natural pure state of mind is reclaimed when calmness prevails. Therefore, seekers who have had experiences of tranquility always affirm the preciousness of time in daily life and wish not to fritter away the power of mindfulness.
Though every moment is momentous for a spiritual seeker, special time periods are recognized within our daily calendar to be especially conducive to our practices and participation. We embrace meaningfully special times of the year which are deemed auspicious. As our biorhythms and diurnal cycles are in synergy with and related to the soli-lunar calendar (Vedic jyotiṣa calculations), so are the relationships manifested between us and higher worlds during specific time periods. The Sanskrit literature elucidates on how these relationships are more meaningful at specific time periods.
Honouring the Afterlife
The fortnight leading into the new moon on 19th/20th September has been dedicated for the familial lineages and forefathers (pitr̥-paxa). During the fortnight leading up to this New Moon, the families get a chance to correct any deficiency in previously undertaken last rites and redeem themselves through spiritual observances and charities. This facilitates the ascension of previous generations who bore us unto this earth. The Sanskrit tradition urges us bring about a closure to the unfinished ceremonies aimed at appeasement of departed souls resting and ascending in peace into the subtle worlds.
Under normal circumstances, the higher quarters of air and space (vāyu-maṇdala and vyoma-maṇdala) above the earth cannot be easily penetrated by the subtle bodies of departed souls who might like to revisit their grieving families or any graves. Vedic sages reveal to us that during this dedicated fortnightly time period, which comes once a year, the higher realms become porous to the subtle bodies. Thus the departed souls can take a closer peek at their progeny as if descending to the lives on earth! Therefore, this time period has been deemed important for remembrance of the departed elders and rounding up any unfulfilled last rites meant for peaceful ascension.
Thereafter the new moon ushers in a special celebration of motherhood wherein inspired seekers get to honour the divinity in motherhood for nine consecutive nights of Śāradiyā-navarātri followed by the tenth day heralding the oncoming of victory, the overcoming of virtues over vices. According to the Vedic soli-lunar calendar, the Navarātri start time is calculated based on the overlap of lunar and solar coordinates in a particular latitude and longitude.
Thus this Navarātri count would begin on 21st Sept in India but may be observed from 20th Sept in California. Even though there are 40 such nine night periods in an average soli-lunar year of 360 days (a lunar year is shorter by about ten days than a solar year), this particular nine night period is deemed especially significant due to it succeeding the fortnight dedicated to honouring the family lineages.
The ability of departed souls in their subtle bodies to partially descend through the perforated subtle layers on earth reveals the secrets of a higher dimension of our earth and environment. This New Moon then allows a crossover to a period when we utilize this subtler perspective in honouring our mother earth during Navarātri by way of Divine Mother worship. This celebration encompasses all aspects of our thoughts, actions and learning (see footnote).
An alert seeker also nurtures the body by honouring the environment, by fully understanding the interrelationship between the dharma of the body and living in harmony with the environment. Thus our meditation and spiritual practices during this auspicious nine night period are more meaningful when we tread the path of environmental empathy utilizing the impetus of rites and remembrances for our departed lineages.
Mending the Body by Healing the Earth
Vedanta philosophy proclaims that the immortal essence or the consciousness cannot be mindfully introspected by those who are physically weakened (nāyāmātmā balahinena labhya). The mindful seeker then considers the gift of a healthy body as a venerable support for introspection and thereby serves for the healing of the earth by recognizing that the body is like wet earth (or soil) in subtle balance with the oxygen and prāna of the higher quarters above earth. The breath of life and vibrant cruelty-free food is very much dependent on a clean environment and sustainable living.
This Navarātri is then an ideal time to participate in healing the earth through the meditation and worship of the Divine Mother. A Vedic fire ceremony or Homa as an offering by devotees and aspirants beholds an immense promise of reciprocation. Meditation mass and fellowship services invoking the Divine Mother with her attributes (see footnote) are a good addition to our personal meditation routine. Many seekers consider affirmations related to targeted community service, such as planting trees or working with farmers as meaningful service to honour the mother.
An ardent seeker is not focused on personal gains from giving charity and spiritual offerings at temple altars, but is more inclined to share resources through mindful practices and meditation that is compassionately healing to the earth (Bhudevī). Such a seeker is after all guided by the revealing signs from the higher quarters of space during the fortnight of forefathers that precedes the honouring of mother-nature during the following Navarātri. Obviously, it is no longer possible to take our lives on earth for granted. Our environment has become severely impacted due to inflicted pollution and mindless experimentation motivated by power and greed. Seekers are beginning to feel concern about their families.
The thriving prāna of micro-clustered water and oxygenated breath is verily rare nowadays. Any mindful prayer or meditative reflection rests upon able bodied application of intellectual force (puruṣārtha) which in turn is sustained by clean water and fresh air alongside sustainable organic food. The prāna or energy resources required for prānāyāma techniques (consisting of various breathing exercises) need replenishment now more than ever. Such is the prevailing sense of urgency.
It is time to extend our goodwill for the sake of future generations of seekers. The children are losing their innocence with a rude awakening as we do not extend our mindfulness to repair our surroundings that are our very seats of meditation. The worship of the Divine Mother includes venerable nurturing of mother earth, without which our bodies cannot sustain the spiritual practices. Those who sacrifice for the greater cause have truly understood the core principles and spiritual values that guide our service or sevā. It is not enough to seek benevolence for oneself by breaking coconuts and offering jewelry to the Divine Mother, but better still to undertake genuine spiritual practices of honouring and serving that elevate our minds and fulfil our hearts without wanting anything in return. After all, a mother wants hardly anything from the child!
This Navarātri will again fructify results of many offerings and spiritual practices by the virtue of its auspiciousness and through the blessings of the Divine Mother. However, a genuine seeker of truth will contemplate on the greater realms and reach out to the core of motherhood and mother earth, and mindfully recognize the grace of this life and plenitude. Such a seeker will recognize that life cannot go on without invoking wisely proactive practices for greater service to the world, albeit brought about through mindful resolution and meditative repose.
Saaradiyaa-navaraatri Meditation Period (USA Pacific Time Zone)
|19 Sept||New Moon||Sarva-pitr̥-āmāvasyā|
|20 Sept – 29 Sept||9 lunar nights||Śāradiyā-navarātri|
|30 Sept||10th lunar day||Vijayā-daśami|
Please note that lunar day length and sunrise time overlap determine the duration of the period. This time, in California, the otherwise typical nine-night period lasts an extra day, because there are technically two 8th (aṣtamī) lunar days. In such a situation, one needs to add the spiritual practices for an extra day. However in India, the New Moon is on 20th Sept and the Victory Day is on 30th Sept without any extra solar day to account for during this period.
If you wish to further study the transition of dates for your own area (local latitude and longitude), feel free to explore these links at your own risk. Even though the original Sanskrit significance might not be discernible, the calculations are fairly reliable. Please remember to fill in your local city and year for correct results on applicable day breaks or transitions.
A reliable website that is a good resource for relevant dates, is also worth studying.
Those practising a daily routine of meditative penance, sublime recitations, or community sevā, can structure their time equally into ten days of steady participation. One tenth of all spiritual practices are deemed as a correction! Therefore nine days of practices must be followed by the tenth portion of correction in addition to any corrective measures taken to avoid distraction from mindfulness during any individual session. While evening time or even midnight time meditation is acceptable for the nine nights, the tenth concluding session should ideally be finished before dark on the tenth day (Vijayā-daśamī).
Philosophical Perspective on the Victory Day
Victory Day on the tenth day of the coming ascending cycle of the moon is of great significance and merits a deeper understanding. The Divine Mother worship of nine days (and nights) is of course divided into single days of special prayers and additionally into three three-day periods related to the trinity of Shakti (splendorous aspects of the Divine Mother). Spiritual philosophy teachings relate the nine days/nights to the nine doors of the body.
The nine doors are: two nostrils, two eyes, two ears, mouth, and the two bottom exits related to the physical organs of procreation and excretion. These doors are collectively known in the Sanskrit literature as navadwāra implying the entry points into the citadel of the soul. The tenth door is the somewhat hidden passage to the yonder abode either guiding the pathway of light to the soul or the pathway for final exit of the soul upon closure of earthly life.
A materialistic perspective might urge one to live each moment with passion and express the dream through passionate engagement with the world. Whereas a seeker of truth strives to become compassionate by transcending passion. Therefore, the twin virtues of dispassion and spiritual practice are brought about in daily life.
This is of course based on an understanding of how cultivating dispassion and persistent spiritual practices reinforce each other and the bondage of time is overcome to bring about consistent subtle feelings of freedom. The eyes show the deep peace and alert presence so apparent in one who is mindful. Herein passion is not negated but rather is transcended into compassion through the dispassion. Moreover, herein dispassion is not an antithesis to spirited participation as in mindful service (sevā). Thus a seeker’s service becomes an offering for the greater cause, and sevā heals the world every which way.
When nine doors are conquered by a meditator through dispassion (vairāgya) and persistent practice (abhyāsa), the passion to expand the experiences of the external world is transcended into compassion, and all work or action is transmuted into service. Thus the attendant frailties of egoism or egotism are transcended and the sensory delusion comes under control. This helps open the tenth door and bring forth inner victory. This is the spirit of the Sanskrit teaching.
The tenth doorway is the Brahma-randhra (lit. receptacle leading to Brahman) inside the anterior fontanel or the soft spot of the baby, which closes in after the birth. This pathway joins with and leads to the subtle body of the heart (or subtle heart) centered inside the chest directly behind the sternum. Unlike the physical heart, this subtle heart is ellipsoidal and as big as the tip of the thumb. It is just to the left of the sinoatrial node, the pacemaker of the heart.
Similarly, inside the anterior fontanel little more than an inch below the skull is the subtle body comprising the sense organs (not physical organs); this subtle body in the head (or subtle head) is relatively bigger than the subtle heart and is seated near the pituitary gland at the level of the mid-point between the two eyebrows centered inside the head, extending up to about an inch below the bregma. The prāṇa pathway connecting these two subtle bodies links the soul seated in the heart to the doorway in the fontanel that closes in after birth.
This is a short summary about the ethos of birth and death alongside the tenth door as they relate to the count of ten days from the new moon dedicated to ancestors. The Victory Day then heralds the opening of the tenth doorway after controlling the sense organs and the physical gates.
References and footnote:
See the theme of nine doors in Bhagavad Gitā ch.5/v.13 and in Svetaśwara Upaniṣad ch.3/v.18.
The invocation of the three Veda is related in the following way – R̥gveda with Mahākālī for the first three days/nights, Yajurveda with Mahālaxmī for the middle three days/nights, and Sāmaveda with Mahāsaraswatī for the last three days/nights, respectively.