Significance of Navratri and Fasting

Health is the function of well-being and well-being is the reflection of authenticity. To be authentic is to be spiritual.

The chapter “Medicine and Spirituality” – book Meditation The Cure, 

Author Naveen Varshneya

Navratri comes twice a year. On the change of season. Before Diwali and before Holi. This is the reason that fasting during Navratri became popular in the regions where there are four distinct seasons and two significant changes of climate. Popularity is always based on utility. Where there is no change in season, why would someone bring a change in lifestyle but be in harmony with nature on account of the change in climate? A case in the example would be the South of India or the coastal region of India.

You zoom fast on the highway and slow down on slippery roads. You walk with an umbrella in the rains to be protected against the shower of nature. This is what Navratri does; and much more.

NAVRATRI Festival – a product designed by mystics to bring intrinsic changes in our body for it to adapt to the forthcoming change in nature to dispel distress, disorder, and disease; which may be caused to the body if out of sync with nature.

The roots of this festival come from the ancient wisdom of our mystics, but this specific festival is more a health and wellbeing issue than spirituality. However, there is no significance of health and wellbeing if that is not driving spirituality in us. 

The only spirituality, which is true to humanity, is the one in which we discover our authenticity and that lies in the wisdom that life is a journey, to flow from moment to moment, witnessing experiences.

Being attached to anything and creating belief adds to the toxicity of the spirit which through energy and emotions finally reflects as toxicity in the body. Therefore, attachment and addiction are toxicity. 

This is normal human nature. Therefore, from time to time, we need processes, which help us de-addict and restore our spirit. How we breathe through the day and not what we do in those moments defines a lifestyle. Lifestyle defines wellbeing and wellbeing is directly proportional to health. Since it is a lifestyle issue, it has its roots in Ayurveda. Ayurveda was the most comprehensive system of health and wellbeing resting on four pillars as stated below.

“Lifestyle was built around four pillars, to have an optimal level of well-being:

  • Dharm: Righteous duty
  • Arth: Wealth and abundance (survival)
  • Karm: Desires and aspirations
  • Moksh: Enlightenment

Lifestyle, for Ayurveda, meant that one should pursue wealth and abundance, doing their righteous duty with the desire and aspiration to attain enlightenment.

Desires and aspirations could not go wrong if one were rooted in the vision of enlightenment, which was served by faith. Faith ensured that desire and aspiration were in accordance with one’s journey and that would ensure righteous duties. When everyone did that, it brought about harmony and peace.

“Chapter Medicine and Spirituality, Book – Meditation The Cure”

As life evolved, our consciousness and curiosity evolved too. This affected our emotions. Wisdom from one generation to another was eroding and as it required lifestyle to adopt changes, it was hard for every new generation to carry out rituals and processes. Since then, until now, our lifestyle has changed significantly. Therefore, there is a need to understand the science of this festival to be able to personalize it for our contemporary lifestyle; such that it fulfills the purpose for which it was conceived.

Objective: Its objective is in restoring the spirit- body, and mind, which grounds the toxicity from the body through the run of the two preceding seasons. This restores the immunity of the body and prepares it to adapt to the change. It is similar to sending the car for regular servicing. How to restore the spirit-body-mind balance?  Although it is nothing but the state of meditation (Yog Nidra) for a mystic, for the survivor, festivals such as this were created, traditionally.

This restoration is done in this festival through withdrawal and absenteeism and threatening the programming (called belief). Here is the multifold approach packed in this festival.

  1. Fasting: The body’s usual pattern of survival is challenged and altered, thus bringing one’s attention to the belief around this simple necessity of life – food.
  2. Change in food: New ingredients are chosen in such a way that they are light on the system, thus easy to digest; in order to restore the balance in chemicals and hormones. This resonates well with the Ayurveda principles of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
  3. Eating routine: Discipline of eating only at the fixed time was meant to endure hunger to expedite de-addiction to surviving.  Enduring was through breathing hunger and not by suppressing it by diverting the mind.
  4. Absenteeism from sex: This was done to avoid indulgence and regulate senses.

All of it is done to help people detach and turn inward and prepare for the next six months’ run. Now, withdrawing, and practicing absenteeism from food and sex is necessary but not sufficient. Channelization of accumulated energies that are now not consumed in various material indulgence requires a regulation.

The mechanism of turning inwards and restoring faith was the key to clearing up negative thoughts and emotions accumulated over the last six months. Therefore, worshipping was introduced. Fasting or light food helps in the movement of energy upwards, which essentially means the activation of the Agneya chakra, which implies the clearing of the subconscious. 

Absenteeism from sex means turns inwards to seek union within. Do not get addicted to seeking bliss through others. Lead a simple life where you do not consume energies rather transmute them to lead the life of a “semi-mystic”, to restore the spirit-body-mind balance and thus boost immunity.

Our lifestyle has changed and many of the rituals are distorted or adopted by different regions. Being obsessed with the menu of the next meal, distracting the mind to some activity to avoid feeling hunger or carrying out daily routine as it was before indicating the continuity in the imbalance in mind, emotions, and body. Such fast is more a punishment than a gift.

Lighting lamps 24 hours is like keeping the engine, of a parked car, turned on.  You are disturbing your sleep by doing it and there is no good you attain through this. Disturbed sleep has more impact on the balance of the spirit-body-mind than the restoration, which is desired from a few days of fasting.

Finally, it is a festival to turn silent. It is faith, which needs to be celebrated. Coming together and being loud is against the spirit of the festival. Coming together to inspire each other to turn silent turns this practice into a celebration.

Questions you never asked?

Ancient India lived a more holistic life. They had seasonal fresh food, cleaner air, and an entire ecosystem, which would keep their emotions and thoughts grounded. Then why would they do this fast to boost immunity? They were much healthier than we were in any case.

Are we saying we need it more than them? Are we falling sick more often than they do because fewer people are fasting? In addition, those who fast also do not do a proper fast. Are we more advanced and evolved people than them and so we do not need such obsolete rituals?

 

Responses

  1. Dhanyavaad Sir for sharing this with all of us. Beautiful expression and decoding of Navratri festival through importance of food, abstinence and turning inward. What is striking is the innate connection between the festival and ancient wisdom of Ayurveda stressing upon awakening the spirit through Aahar Sudhi ( Purifying Physical Body), Vichar (Purifying Mental Body) and Bhav Shuddi (Purifying Emotional Body) to be available for Dhyan (turning inward).

    Pranam.

  2. Thank you for this wisdom Naveenji! Never thought of it this way…always dismissed it as ritualism. Could you share what would be the ideal routine for the 9 days of Navratri please? Thank you. Pranam.