During Navarathri we pray to Mother Durga, Luxmi and Saraswathi, and each of the deities make up 3 days of the 9 days. But what does that mean? It doesn’t mean you must come here every day, sing bhajan, eat supper and leave. It means you must come every day and slowly change who you are so you can become knowledgeable like Saraswathi.
We start with Durga, with all your arrogance and all your problems. For the first 3 days after hawan, bhajan, and singing to the Mother, you get some prosperity in your journey. By getting that prosperity you then pray to Mother Luxmi. After you attain the highest prosperity from Mother Luxmi, you worship Her. Luxmi does not mean finances only, it means personal prosperity and good health. After that, you attain knowledge in the worship to Mother Saraswathi. In those 3 days we're supposed to become very knowledgeable beings. Hindus do everything in 9s. In 9 days you can become super-human. But it’s only possible if you tune yourself to becoming super-human. It’s not possible when you say that you can’t wait for the 9 days to finish.
Sometimes God likes to punish, but God punishes very subtly. Partassi finished yesterday and Navarathri begins today which means you must continue your fast. Navarathri has started like this so we can purify ourselves. That is why we fast. For the Tamil people, they say it feels like God is killing them! ‘God is punishes us!’ is what runs through their minds. ‘Hey, the jol starts now!’ is what is heard in the workplace. Why? Partasi and Pitarpak are over now, and the pitars have been fed. Now there is the desire to feed the human pitars. That’s us – we are just like pitars too. But, here we come for 9 days to purify the mind. The faculty of the mind is the most destructive faculty that this body has. You are better off without mind. You will be healthier without mind. You will be more prosperous without mind. We teach you here, and we do the pooja here; we do japa, recital and sing bhajan so we can excite your bhakti, your devotion, so you can become spiritual beings. During a discourse in 1951 with Paramahansa Yogananda, His devotees said to him, ‘We love you Guruji! We love you so much, we can’t live without you.’ He sat for a moment, laughed aloud and said, ‘But you don’t love yourself, how can you love me?’
That is why we've come for the nine days: we need to purify ourselves. When we say 'purify' we are talking about the physical self and this manamaya kosha (mind body). It is the most destructive thing if we don’t use it properly. The sages, in their wisdom, have given us the second half in the year to pray, pray, pray. I heard someone ask not so long ago, ‘Guru, tell me, why do the sages do this? We've just finish Ganesha Chaturi, then we have Luxmi pooja; we finish Luxmi pooja then we have partasi; we finish partasi now we have Navarathri. Is God trying to kill us?’ My answer was, ‘I didn’t know that if you don’t eat meat you’ll die.’ God doesn’t want to kill you. God wants you to live a good life, that is why he took the meat away.
What we did there (in the main shrine) was hoist the flag so that everybody knows we are observing Navarathri pooja. This flag-hoisting also has another very important meaning. It means that each one of you have come here and developed the courage to change. This flag is your victory flag - showing that each one of you has made this move. In the olden days when they won over parts of the land, they put up a flag to say that they had conquered the land. This flag means that you have conquered the mind and mind stuff, and that is why you have chosen to observe this Navarathri pooja.