The Oneness is Seeking Us Also

chandī path durga sadhana Apr 03, 2024
Durga Spring Navaratri Image by Tanuj Adhikary


The One who bestows the three

holding them tenderly

in Her never-ending smile.

Your three fingers

granting us all wisdom

gestures to the Sky.

Your soaring home towering

beyond suffering

where we aspire to roam freely.

You conquered our fears with Your might.

You vanquished the demons

troubling even the Gods.

Roaring on Your lion throne.

You are the invincible Heart of Totality

Yet bending low to comfort us gently.

~ Mā Umā-Pārvatī

The myriad sādhanas of Śrī Vidyā display the many forms of the Divine Mother with the intricacy and beauty of a kaleidoscopic mosaic. Dimensional and alluring, each aspect shape shifts with time, place, and circumstance, revealing timely wisdom and timeless subtlety to each practitioner. Every deep plunge in the cycle of sādhana hints at even greater mysteries to taste in the endless Oneness.

Navarātrī allows for a deep plunge into sādhana, which is the time many practitioners look forward to most.

Through direct experience, we know our devotion, ardor, and discipline will encounter an encompassing and palpable collective atmosphere.

The astronomical alignment that signals Navarātrī amplifies the dimensions and depth of sādhana, opening a doorway to more bliss from the dazzling depths of this mosaic mystery. Each Navarātrī is calibrated to different aspects of the Divine Mother, which is further attuned to the season's particular rasa (flavor, mood) that adorns Her. This display of an ever-changing mosaic paradoxically discloses Her unchanging Oneness through Her constantly changing forms.

When viewed from the outside, these celebrations are often seen as agricultural festivals or social gatherings for rural populations. On one level, this is true and meaningful for many. Yet, there is another unique alignment that these nine nights open for practitioners, giving them an opportunity for deeper and intensified sādhana. Traditionally, there was a Navarātrī for each of the six seasons that the Indian calendar notes. However, most lineages acknowledge four Navarātrī to accompany the four main seasons of the modern calendar.

Of the four main Navarātrī, the Spring and Autumn ones are the most popular and celebrated in India and the two main ones for honoring Durgā Mā.[1] Durgā is the beloved mother and protectress throughout the Indian subcontinent and to many sādhikās worldwide.

While there is no shortage of affairs that people desire protection from, we sādhikās seek protection essentially from our own ignorance and deluded perceptions.

We also aim to uncover and nurture our strength to meet challenges and difficulties from everyday life and the deeper entanglements from patterns of defending a nonexistent Self. An inner resilience rebounds from Her imagery and mantra, recovered from where this busy world's endless activities and sensory influx often bury it.

We become further inspired by listening to the tales of Her exploits in the Devī Māhātmyam, which is a guide to our inner process. Devī Māhātmyam is an epic tale of the Divine Mother's manifestation and battles that gain us protection and liberation from our entanglements and suffering. It translates to the Glory of Devi. It's a wondrous, sonorous, time-bending tale written in a secret code that reads as a narrative on one level, is a sonic prescription of mantras on another level, and is a poem of metrical beauty and accuracy telling the story of our beloved Divine Mother.

To me it's a marvel that we get to hear about Her life and how She restored power and harmony to even the gods, which is to say, how we recapitulate our powers from a fearful and miserly existence.

The time-bending aspect is evident as the first sentence frames the story in the past while discussing events that will occur in the future. Encoded in the sentence, in this curious time-lapse phrase, is the Tantric Praṇavabīja sound Hrīṁ [2]. And likely many have decoded as I have the heart bija mantra of Tripurasundarī in this exact phrase. It's a fascinating convention to frame a story in this curious time sequence, at the start perhaps pointing to the temporality of Consciousness and the power of the Mother to grace us in the temporal and nontemporal. She is beyond limits. It might also point to the simultaneity and dimensionality of Oneness.

In Tantra, there is an understanding that everything is contained within everything. This means an infinite, unending entanglement of all things. Nothing is static. It's alive, ever oscillating, and ever renewing itself. This dynamism is a quality of Her power. As Durgā, She wields this power effortlessly and masterfully, usually without breaking Her smiling countenance.

The syllable Dur refers to words that mean fortress—secure or inaccessible places.

Durgā is the One who is inaccessible in Her secured position and, from there, creates a fortress for us to take refuge in Her strength.

This refuge allows us to understand our minds and see through the imposed veils of distorted perception from an overactive and discursive mind. She also gives us the courage to meet our root existential fears. Portrayed as a warrior, Durgā conveys the strength and fortitude in Her energy matrix with the power required to combat our internal weaknesses and delusions. Durgā is an expression of Śakti- the primordial force of Consciousness and its reflective light of totality. While there are endless manifestations of this Oneness not only mathematically but creatively, as this is Her sport, there is an underlying warrior quality to all forms of Śakti. 

Śakti impels Herself with strength and vigor, and Her movements have an innate purpose- to express is to create anew.

Creativity and manifestation are Her delights and chosen sport, just as we may enjoy hiking or playing tennis. The best example of this expression is children. Everything from them is inherently creative. Consciousness expands with directed strength and creativity in the mode of development and growth. Creativity's essence is fearlessness, as are children at play. Imaginative, expansive, and unburdened by efficiency and demands of productivity, they fearlessly create worlds from which they integrate and make sense of this world. While Durgā embodies and emphasizes this fearlessness and strength, it underlies the movement of Śakti herself.

Often, we question the meaning of life. And the question that has puzzled many of us since we were young is, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Indeed, I will not answer these intriguing and important questions with my understanding as the point is in individual recognition and resolution. As we each reconcile this in proper embodied knowledge, (not just mentally, which rarely satisfies or only until the subsequent undoing leaves us in doubt and dissatisfaction,) something is fulfilled.

Our felt and known understanding reconciles and allows Her general vector and thrust of expansion and movement to continue creatively, thus propelling our lives with value. The question churns up an impetus to know and to dismantle what we think we know. To approach this question is to act with direction and strength.

Śakti is the fortitude to inquire about what we think we know, and Durgā is the strength and organized intelligence to dismantle and reconstruct meaningfully.

She is seen as a mother, embodying the maternal principle of responding to us. She is legendary for reacting quickly, as any mother would to her child in crisis or difficulty. She brings in Her response- Consciousness's limitless and unbounded possibilities beyond the realm of the human maternal instinct. One of Her most accessible and well-known manifestations is in groups of nine called Navadurgā. There are likely many sequences of nine, and I have heard whisperings about nine streams of nine, but I am only directly familiar with three main transmission streams. Of these three, one is most commonly known. In this stream, the nine Durgā are: Śailaputrī, Brahmacāriṇī, Candraghaṇṭā, Kūṣmāṇḍā, Skandamātā, Kātyāyanī, Kālarātrī, Mahāgaurī, Siddhidātrī. Though this sādhana stream includes Kālarātrī, who reveals Herself in a terrific form, it is still considered a benign sequence. Benign because of how She dismantles our fears and ignorance and the ease and accessibility of Her power and presence. The other two sequences of the three Navadurgā schemas increase in wrathfulness and intensity of sādhana.

Numbers are not random or only symbolic in this philosophical system. They are calculations of precise qualities and equations that reveal how the dynamic operates successively, revealing different dynamics or qualities as the equation changes. Three is the essential number, as creation and our human existence happen in triads.

The undifferentiated unifying state of Consciousness unfolds within itself to create the many from the One. The Absolute moves from one to three and continues in a triune descent in materialization.

The primary triad of knower, knowing, and the known is experienced in the three states all humans (and, according to the Tantras, all incarnated beings) experience: waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. The first triad of the knower, etc, experiencing the above three states of Consciousness, gives us nine permutations of interaction and thus the equation of number nine attributed to the Divine Mother. 

The nine forms of Durgā Mā, most widely known as Navadurgā, mentioned above represent a different equation of nine. They display the underlying triune attribute of Absolute Consciousness as sat-cit-ānanda interacting with the tri-gunas. They give us the previously mentioned stream of nine, primarily Durgā's gentle emanations. Sat-cit-ānanda (saccidānanda) is the triadic description or pointer to Absolute Consciousness. The Absolute expresses itself in three attributes or expressions- Sat chid, and ānanda. Sat - wholeness and chid - beingness merge and unfold together as ānanda. Usually understood as bliss, this makes sense if we don't confuse bliss with fleeting everyday happiness. Bliss isn't more of a permanent happiness but the unending experience of the highest state of unity. Permanent isn't possible in a matrix of impermanence, where we dwell in the relative world.

Bliss gives freedom, fullness, and mastery, as represented in the multifarious forms of Śakti. She is the unity, freedom, and fullness masterfully sporting in and with the world.

Another system sees Navadurgā as conquering the existential fears in the mind that are veiling our inner light. These fears prohibit our crossing into unifying void states. Left unmet and undissolved, they fragment in the layers of our body and mind.

We must overcome these deep-seated fears that can be confronted sequentially and precisely in the nine nights of Navarātrī, plunging us deeper into previously unknown and often feared realms of the psyche.

This excavating of existential fears results in a fiercer display of Durgā, culminating in the very wrathful and uncompromising manifestation of Chandi. The transmission lineages of this Navadurgā expression delve precisely into the state of waking, dreaming, and sleeping, as well as the forms of Durgā that can remove illusions and delusion from the subconscious and unconscious. These nine forms are beyond fierce manifestations! This extraordinary wrath is necessary to dismantle the profoundly inaccessible layers of our being. Therefore, I only hint and do not name the sequence here.

Another calculation involving nine is in the nine seed syllables of the Divine Mother's root mantra, the Navarna (nine colors/qualities) mantra. Each bija is a force of the Divine Mother's unsurpassable power and dismantles our delusional perceptions, revealing the underlying Oneness. Through the Navarna mantra, She contains the summit of Her triadic power displayed in the power of Mahālakṣmī, Mahākālī, and Mahāsarasvatī. Again, we experience them as modes of power and expression in the waking, dreaming, and deep sleep states, giving us 3x3= 9. We see that the number nine is inextricable from Her sādhana methodology. Nine is the basic structure of reciting the Chandi path, the colloquial and affectionate name of the Devī Māhātmyam, which is Her foremost sādhana.

When I was young, I was fascinated that yogis of different traditions outside and sometimes even antagonistic to the Shakta point of view would recite Devī Māhātmyam at Navarātrī. It seems, to all  She is the Mother. On Her Navarātrī, in a descriptive legend, we hear that Durgā will leave Her heavenly Himalayan abode (meaning at the summit and out of material reach) and descend into our lives.

With Durgā comes strength, intelligence like a strategic war commander, and its accompanying perseverance. Yet, She responds to us out of Her motherly compassion.

The Oneness is seeking us also.

And though life sometimes or often feels like a battlefield, it is not barren of Mother's benevolence, Her tender gaze, and Her ever-present hand ready to uplift us. And like human mothers, She runs to us because we are Her children.

There is no more excellent qualification than our existence.



[1] In Śrī Vidyā, the spring Navarātrī is dedicated to Tripurasundarī. However more common is to Durgā

[2] Famously decoded by the great Śrī Vidyā polymath Sri Bhāskarāya.

Photograph by Photo by Tanuj Adhikary on Unsplash