Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati are seen as three dimensions of the feminine, symbolizing the earth, the sun, and the moon, or tamas (inertia), rajas (activity, passion), and sattva (transcendence, knowledge, purity), respectively.
Those who aspire for strength or power, worship forms of the feminine like Mother Earth, Durga, or Kali. Those who aspire for wealth, passion, or material gifts worship Lakshmi or the sun. Those who aspire for knowledge, dissolution, or the transcendence of the limitations of the mortal body worship Saraswati or the moon.
The nine days of Navratri are classified according to these basic qualities. The first three days are dedicated to Durga, the next three to Lakshmi, and the last three to Saraswati. The tenth day, Vijayadashami signifies the triumph over all these three aspects of life.
This is not merely symbolic, but true on an energy level as well. As human beings, we arise from the earth and are active. After a while, we fall back into inertia once again. This happens not just to us as individuals, but also to the galaxy, and the entire universe. The cosmos emerges from a state of inertia, becomes dynamic, and subsides into inertia once more. However, we do have the capability to break the cycle.
The first two dimensions of the Devi are needed for human survival and well-being. The third is an aspiration to transcend, to go beyond. If you have to bring Saraswati down, you have to strive. Otherwise, you cannot reach her.
Navratri – 9 Days, 3 Qualities
There is no physical entity without all these three dimensions. Not a single atom is free of these three dimensions of a certain static nature, of energy, and of vibrance. Without these three elements, you cannot hold anything together; it will break up. If it is just sattva, you won't remain here for a moment – you will be gone. If it is just rajas, it’s not going to work. If it’s just tamas, you will be asleep all the time. These three qualities are present in everything. It is just a question of to what extent you mix these things.
Significance of the First Three Days of Navratri – Tamas
The first three days of Navratri are tamas, where the goddess is fierce, like Durga and Kali. Tamas is the nature of the Earth, and she is the one who gives birth. The gestation period that we spend in the womb is tamas. It is a state which is almost like hibernation, but we are growing. So tamas is the nature of the Earth and of your birth. You are sitting on the earth. You must just learn to simply be one with her. You are anyway a part of her. When she wishes, she throws you out; when she wishes, she sucks you back.
Significance of the Middle Three Days of Navratri – Rajas
Once rajas come, you want to do something. Once you start doing something, if there is no awareness and consciousness, the nature of rajas is such that it’s good as long as the going is good. When the going gets bad, rajas is going to be super-bad.
A rajasic person has a tremendous amount of energy. It is just that it has to be channelized properly. Every action that you perform can be either a process of liberation or entanglement. If you perform any activity with absolute willingness, that activity is beautiful and creates joy for you. If you perform any activity unwillingly for whatever reason, that activity creates suffering for you. Whatever you are doing, even if you just sweep the floor, give yourself to it and do it with total involvement. That is all it takes.
When you are passionately involved with something, nothing else exists for you. Passion does not mean “man-woman” passion. Passion means unbridled involvement with something. It could be anything – you can sing passionately, you can dance passionately, or you can just walk passionately. Whatever is in touch with you right now, you are deeply passionate about that. You breathe with passion, you walk with passion, you live with passion. Your very existence is with absolute involvement with everything.
Significance of the Last Three Days of Navratri - Sattva
Moving from tamasic nature to sattva means you are refining the physical, mental, emotional, and energy bodies. If you refine this so much that it became very transparent, you cannot miss the source of creation that is within you. Right now, it is so opaque that you cannot see it. The body has become like a wall that is blocking everything. Something so phenomenal – the source of creation – is sitting here but this wall can block it because it is so opaque. It is time to refine it. Otherwise, you will only know the wall; you will not know who lives inside.
How to Celebrate Navratri?
The best way to approach Navratri is in a spirit of celebration. This has always been the secret of life: to be non-serious but involved. The cultures that traditionally venerated the goddess knew that there is much in existence that can never be understood. You can enjoy it, celebrate its beauty, but never understand it. Life is a mystery, and will always remain one. The festival of Navratri is based on this fundamental insight.
Source; Isha foundation, Sadhguru
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