The auspicious occasion of Nav Raatri and the month of Kartik herald a time of religious austerities that bring innumerable benefits to the sincere aspirant. This period presents countless opportunities for engaging in intense discipline and sacrifice that bring increased sanctity into one’s life. Fasting, mantra-recitation, havan, and other forms of worship are just a few of the many different ways that one can make offerings to the Divine, build spirituality, become attuned to the inner self and draw closer to self-realization. Outlined below are just a few of the many benefits that can be derived from fasting and performing havan.
- Fasting results in physical and inner purification, self-control and the acquisition of positive qualities.
- Fasting helps one to rise above the 24 limitations of the body, namely, the 5 organs of action, the 5 organs of knowledge, the 3 ‘gunas’(qualities), the 5 elements and the 6 tastes.
- Fasting is a form of sacrifice and results in the exhaustion of fruits of past ‘karma’ or actions, leaving a purified individual.
- Fasting develops in the aspirant an inner peaceful mind and a state of tranquillity.
- Fasting has been proven to be a prominent factor in intensifying prayer. Spiritual aspirants have discovered that abstaining from salt not only frees one to focus upon God with fresh intensity, but opens avenues of spiritual perception and understanding quite easily.
The Power of Havan
- Through the chanting of mantras and making offerings into the fire, one’s chakras are re-energised, creating a revitalised and rejuvenating effect on both the body and mind.
- Positive thoughts, words and actions then pave the way for further success.
- The combined effect of the havan-materials, when mixed in the havan produces a fumigatory response to the atmosphere, purifying the environment around.
- Negative energies are dispelled and a protective shield is built around the physical environment where havan is performed, thereby warding off any untoward energies.
- Havan induces peace, prosperity and good health, conditions which augur well for clarity of thought, increased power of discrimination and improved usage of mental faculties.
- The process of bhoot-shuddhi or purification of the tattwas or elements takes place within the individual who performs havan, thereby transforming one’s thought-patterns.
- Qualities of anger, rash and irrational thinking are replaced by calm, tranquil and controlled attitudes.
- One acquires greater control of one’s life, which offers wider scope for daily success.
- Havan is also one way of burning away one’s karma and facilitates spiritual progress.
According to schools of Shaivism and Shaktism, Parashakti is the projection of the dynamic or kinetic energy of the Infinite Divine Being, Paramshiva. This Shakti co-exists with the Infinite and is in essence one unit; a clear demonstration of unity in duality. One is but the expression of the other. Just as a word and its meaning are one, as the ocean and the waves are one, as the fire and the burning power are one, so too, Paramshiva and Paraashakti are one.
By the devolution of latent energy of Paramshiva or the primordial matter which is present before the creation of the world, Shakti manifests into the entire material world of animate and inanimate objects. This manifest world, with all its diversity of names, forms, space, time and causation is referred to as sansaar or Brahma Prapanch.
Shakti is the instrumental cause of this sansaar. It is the dynamic force animating all of creation. This universal energy is personified as Devi, the Divine Mother. She is the heartbeat of the physical world; every atom created is the manifestation of Devi Herself. Every object and being is encapsulated in forms with energy vibrating at different frequencies. Every thought, word or action is governed by this power. Without the presence of Shakti, all creation would be rendered impotent.
The following Sanskrit lines describe the all-encompassing nature of Devi:
Ya Devi Sarva Bhuteshu Sarva Rupena Sansthitaa,
Namastasyai, Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah.
Prostrations again and again to You Devi who abides in every form of creation.
Devi And The Manifest World
The factors of space, time, causation, together with the three qualities of nature or ‘gunas’: ‘sat’(purity), ‘raj’(egoism) and ‘tam’(lethargy) and the main functions of creation, sustenance and dissolution all constitute the entire created world. These nine factors also explain the significance of the number nine as it relates to Devi.
While all schools of Hindu philosophy maintain that man’s Supreme Objective is to transcend this material world and attain the state of Divine Consciousness, it may be instructive to consider the varying views on the significance of the manifest world in achieving this goal. Shri Shankaracharya of the Advaita Vedanta School of thought enunciates that the created world is unreal or false.
‘Maayaa’ or an illusion of individuality is the condition ascribed by Shaivism to the individual whose consciousness remains firmly entrenched in the mundane. The power that identifies with such worldliness, materialism and objectivity clouds man’s vision from identifying with divinity. Such a power is referred to as ‘Maayaa Shakti’. This is opposed to ‘Chid Shakti’, the power of pure consciousness, a state to which everyone should strive to attain.
The school of Shaktism postulates that the gross material world is a necessary pathway that must be traversed in the journey towards Divinity, to the state of Chid Shakti. This school also places prime emphasis on the human body, as a blessed vehicle for spiritual unfolding. On such a journey, Devi facilitates the transcendence over materialism. Devi symbolizes the higher self, the state of positive qualities, purity, awareness and spirituality. She is the personification of Chid Shakti. Through the worship of Devi, Maayaa Shakti is transformed to Chid Shakti. It is Devi who takes one to Shiva.
This merging of Shiva and Shakti is iconographically represented in the form of Ardhanarishwar, which means half Devi and half Shiva. Most certainly, the mother knows who the father is and none but the mother can take the child to his/her father.
Main poojaa karo tumhaaree
Jaba Kaartika maaso aayee
Tana thara-thara karpata saaree
Rishiyon nay bidhi yay bataayee
Agni pooja karavaayee
Aura chha mukha diyana baaree
Phulon say mandapa saajee
Baray jagamaga jagamaga saaree
Mana daykhi daykhi harashaayee
Shree Raamachandra ghara aayee
Bana chowdaha varsha bitaayee
Sanga Lakshmana Seetaa maayee
Jaba deepa maalika aayee
Parvata naalay nadiyaan mein
Diya chha ko jismayn baaree
Kaha Avadhapuri mayn nara naaree
Prabhu dhanya hai bhaagya hamaaree
I worship You, O Lakshmi Maataa
The bestower of wealth.
In the auspicious month of Kaartik
Everyone worships You with great fervour
The sages and holy ones taught man
To perform Agni poojaa.
Deyas are lit in rows.
Flowers decorate everywhere
There is brilliance everywhere
The devotee’s mind is engulfed in happiness.
On this day, many years ago, Shre Raam returned home
With Seeta and Lakshman
After spending fourteen years in exile.
Lights were lit everywhere to mark His return.
In the mountains, rivers and streams
Everywhere was lit up with the deyas
Every man and woman of Ayodhya
Offer gratitude to the Lord for such good fortune.