Nine nights of dance and transformation
What we call as the calendar year has a deep effect on the energies we work with. The earth breathes in prana from the sun for six months and exhales it for six months. Thus what we call as a year is the breath of the earth. The earth takes this prana into its core and rotates it through different layers in an upward movement, releasing it into the atmosphere. The quality of the prana changes every one and a half hour, these changes in the prana are called as ‘chaughadiya’. When we study our inhalation and exhalation of breath, we can see that in each movement of the chest and lungs, there is a brief pause within the inhalation or exhalation. With the inhalation is a sense of pause as the breath hits the lungs and the lungs in turn, the rib cage. With each exhalation there is a feeling of emptiness at one point as the lungs completely empty. These two pauses cannot be measured but can be sensed at the level of sensitivity. Truth can be sensed from two angles, one where it is full and whole and the other as emptiness or ‘shunyata’. Thus, in our inhalations there is
the feeling of filling in and in the exhalations that of emptying. In shastras, these two are called as ‘laya’ and ‘pralaya’.
When the earth inhales and exhales there are two brief pauses, each of which in our calendar days translates into two nine day periods. These are called as the Chaitra (spring) navratri (nine nights) and the Asho (fall) navratri. In Gurdjieff’s terminology, these are two intervals in the two octaves of inhalation and exhalation. In these intervals, the quality of the prana that the earth is either breathing in or breathing out changes radically. For every disciple or student of spirituality, these are good times to intensify their practices because the energies of the earth will help them to achieve a lot in very little time.
The fall navratri is marked by great dancing and celebration. The goddess Durga is worshipped and everyone dances the ‘raas’ or the dance of creative energies. Raas is the art of transforming the creative or sex energy into the energies of sensitivity. As the dancer gets lost in his dance, the creative energy rises and is sensed at each sense organ and felt in the heart. In its base-form, the creative energy is a victim of excitement but in this transformation it is freed from being excited. This is a very powerful transformation and to the person who has engaged in this dance over nine days, the new energy lasts for the rest of the year.
The word ‘durg’ means a fort – something impenetrable. Durg also means a difficult demon and the goddess that kills this demon is called Durga. The name of this demon is ‘Mahishasura’. Mahish means the male offspring of a buffalo. The buffalo symbolises ‘tamas’ or the prison of inactivity. We are surrounded by the fort of our desires, attachments, and negative emotions; our whole life we have done nothing to be free of them. The goddess is our creative shakti (energy), which we use during these nine nights to free ourselves from the hypnosis of desire and attachment. Durga takes nine days to kill the demon and during these nine days, her shakti goes through nine different transformations, called the ‘nav durgas’. The word ‘shakti’ comes from the root ‘shak’ – to be able to do. Thus, Durga is the new will of the disciple to be free of negativity, desire, and attachment. Mahishasura has captured ‘swarga’ or the heavens. This symbolises that our whole psychic space has been occupied by negativity and in nine days we transform these energies and free our psychic nature from their hold. The god Vishnu creates the goddess Durga by saying ‘AHH’. From his mouth,came an effulgence came that gave birth to the goddess. This is that moment in the life of a disciple when he is tired of the hypnosis of life and wants to work towards awakening.
Durga rides a lion, symbolising that she has tamed all the energies of the animal world. She has three eyes representing the sun, moon and fire – channels where energy rises and is transformed. She is holding a shell which is symbolic of air and prana being turned into the mantra Om – the power of breath and mantra. She carries arrows signifying the one-pointedness of attention and a bow which is the symbol of the backbone where energies are channelized. She has a thunderbolt showing the intensity of power the student will need to have to achieve victory over negativity. The lotus in her hand stands for how the energy when transformed will bloom a thousand fold. Her trident indicates mastery of physical, emotional, and mental centres. She is in the pose of non-fear saying that to work with his negativity the student has to master fear. Durga is a female, symbolising the feminine energy of receptivity and that surrender is the key to victory.
The fall navratri is the period of transformation of negative energies into positive ones and is a period of transmutation. One changes the transformed energies into higher substances; in alchemy this is called turning mercury into gold. Every spiritual aspirant should diligently use these two navratris (periods) in our calendar year. The right thing to do would be to go into a place of isolation and solitude. For nine days, one should not use the phone or communicate with anyone one knows and all masks should be dropped for these nine days – stop being a father, a husband, a wife, a mother, so on. Long walks should be taken and a sense of nature should be had. One should then plan the day by deciding what practices one wants to do and interspersed the practices by some yogic exercises, preferably the refining exercises. The benefits and effects can be compounded if the practices can be synchronised with the three step rhythmic breathing.
Next we will take the energies of each of the individual nine days and their importance in our spiritual progress.