Guiding Light: The destruction of ignorance

Ritesh AswaneyUpdated: Friday, September 30, 2022, 06:51 PM IST
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As we prepare to welcome Devi Durga in our midst with the start of Durga Puja today, we prepare for our senses to be overwhelmed by the lights, sounds and fragrances that will abound. Light is transformational, in that it can dispel darkness in an instant. Darkness may have pervaded a cave for thousands of years, but the first fillip of light dispels it instantly. Such is the power of Shakti.

The first day of the Puja started with Akal Bodhon, which is gently awakening the Goddess, before Bilva Nimantran, which quite literally is inviting the Goddess to reside in the sacred kalash or the Biva Tree, which is most dear to Lord Shiva. Lord Rama invoked the Devi in this way, to propitiate her before he went into battle with the personification of greed and ignorance, Ravana.

Saraswati Avahan is performed on the second day, which is invoking and welcoming the Goddess of learning, she who rules the fine arts, literature and all learning. Knowledge is power, and brings the light that can destroy ignorance, which is why the ceremony of initiating children into learning, Vidyarambham, is accorded so much importance in the tradition. The first peetha that Adi Sankara set up at Sringeri was also dedicated to Ma Sharadamba, a form of the Devi Saraswati and to this day remains an important centre of ancient vedic learning.

The force of Shakti is directly proportional to the level of ignorance. When we invoke the Devi’s blessings during this sacred period, she blesses us with the gift of knowledge, helping us to use our intellect to dispel the darkness that is born of ignorance and other human limitations. When ignorance grows to dangerous proportions and takes the form of a demon like Mahishasura, who made life miserable for the righteous, she descended directly in her Durga swaroop and slayed him in battle, allowing the light to return to the afflicted realms.

Invoking the Goddess is akin to inviting her divine powers of transformation to uplift us for the better. Change, however, isn't always comfortable and sadhna does have the ability to fast forward karma and burn it more intensely and quickly than usual. One must therefore be prepared for this mentally and physically and only invoke her divine grace in ways that one is prepared for.

Oftentimes people are lured by the occult and can end up performing forms of worship that result in consequences that they are just not prepared for, whilst in the role of a householder in this material world. It’s best to approach the Shakti as the Mother, and invite her gentle loving grace to elevate our innate consciousness gradually, until we are eventually prepared for the intense gaze of her light to dispel our human ignorance completely.

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