Navrātri – Day 5

Someone asked me today – you follow Bengali rituals, Punjabi rituals, processes from the South of India…where are you from exactly?

As predicted, today may have been the hardest. I didn’t find it too hard though. The lack of food has not been a problem, given my fasts on Ekādashi, and I surprisingly have not missed the caffeine one bit. Not a single headache.

Also went about work as usual. Or, how much my son let me do really.

Anyways, today I was reading about Devās and Asurās.

They both originated from Rishi Kaśyapa, who had two wives – Diti and Aditi. Devas or Suras were the offspring of Aditi and Daityas/Asurās were born of Diti. The battle between Devās and Asurās has continued for many yugas, and will continue for many yugas to come.

That is the story that you may have heard. Here is the explanation that you may not have heard…

Kaśyapa means “Clear vision”. He has two wives, Diti which means “division” or “duality”, “alienation” and Aditi which means “undivided”, “unseparated”, “integrated”, ”unified”.

The offspring of Aditi are the Devas /Suras who represent the forces of integration, unification, non-duality, harmony and order.

The offspring of Diti are the Daityas/Asuras who represent the forces of chaos, disorder, separativeness and confusion.

In Sanatana Dharma, the eternal universal binary is not good vs evil (as in many religions) but order vs chaos. Chaos contains the sum total of all possibilities, both positive and negative – some of the Daityas were good guys like Prahlada and Vibhiṣaṇa, and some were evil like Rāvana and Hiraṇyakaśipu. From chaos, order and beauty arises (Lakshmi).

Chaos is necessary to bring out order and order has its reference to chaos, a balanced life is one in which both chaos and order are in balance — neither can exist without the other. As humans we have a predilection of walking on the edge – finding excitement in chaos but security in order. Chaos leads to confusion and deterioration in life, order creates defined goals, aspirations and the discipline to succeed.

The nectar of immortality amṛta is obtained only when the two work together in unison and cooperation. Cooperation is inextricably linked to competition – so at times the Devas and Asuras cooperate but most of the time they compete.

In Sanatana Dharma, everything is a depiction, a metaphor for something deeper. From the images of the devās, to the rituals, customs and rites, all are meant to tell you a higher truth, through an easy-to-understand allegory.

Rituals are largely based on location and possible conditions during which they originated. For instance, not having rice on a few days during Navrātri would have originated post our hunter-gatherer phase. Rice would have been seen as the staple food (it still is, but in those days, they used to worship it), and these nine days would have given respite to the stomach and to the depleting stocks of rice, going into the winter season.

In Bengal, even non-veg is eaten during Kāli Puja, and in Punjab, one does not think twice to eat and drink and make merry during Diwali. Rituals don’t make us…we make rituals. And so follow the ones you identify with, the ones that make you feel good, the ones that make you feel connected. Discard the rest, since you may be only going through the motions and that does not help anybody.

When in Rome, be like the Romans. When on a voyage of self-discovery, only tread those paths that you wish to take. Keep it simple…

This is Day 5 of the Devi Mahātmayam series…Mahishasuramardini

ॐ देवी स्कन्दमातायै नमः॥

Om Devi Kushmandayai Namah॥

या देवी सर्वभू‍तेषु माँ स्कन्दमाता रूपेण संस्थिता। नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः॥

Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu Ma Skandamata Rupena Samsthita। 
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah॥