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At the Feet of The Mother

Rituals and Festivals (1) A Land of festivals

Looking at the long list of festivals, one often sees India as the land of festivals. There are festivals and celebrations around a host of events, from the most ancient times to the more recent ones. The events on the earthly planes are celebrated alongside events on the subtle planes. The physical, the social, the psychological and the occult exist side by side, making it almost impossible for an average Indian to discern between these different strands of existence that are woven inextricably as one in the very fabric of Indian life.

Looked at from one angle, especially from the perspective of the modern mind, many of these festivals and the celebrations around them appear as antiquated things, a mass of blind superstitions and rituals. Looked at from another angle, the whole of Indian life, from birth to death and the hereafter, seems like a sacerdocy, a ceaseless worship to various cosmic powers whose origins lie in profound yogic experiences reproduced and verified by countless sages and seers, experiences still verifiable, if, like a scientist, we fulfil the required conditions and have the patience to study and observe and understand the workings of these cosmic powers within us and in the creation.

While it is well understood that since we are a part of creation, any cosmic power working in creation automatically works within us, yet there is a difference between the two kinds of workings. The individual human being, unlike the rest of creation, has the possibility of drawing these forces consciously, to choose which way he can use the forces that they bring to us and finally to extend the workings not merely to outer events but also and more importantly to inner psychological and spiritual dimensions of our vast and complex existence. It is this that truly interests a spiritual aspirant.

For the rest, there are festivals and festivities that man’s vital nature loves to indulge in though a task is done unconsciously in the process. That task is to preserve some profound truths in the memory of the race for generations to come. In this sense, festivals are like a book that documents and preserves an experience that was once of value and still may be or those who can understand its secret language. For it is true that the script is now lost to us and the formulas of wisdom grown stale or have been covered and distorted by several unclean and unchaste minds that have added their own readings into what was once given in its pristine purity.

That is why it is perhaps important for mankind to pass through a phase of disbelief during which it can cast out the encrustations and recover the truths behind the rituals and the festivals linked to them. We already witness a movement in this direction wherein there are attempts to understand and justify a ritual or a festival from a certain symbolic perspective. Interesting though these efforts suffer from a fundamental error which is to accept the body of ritual and festivity as the main truth and taking the lead from there tries to discover its secret meaning.

The effort can lead us only up to a point and no further since a ritual is merely an outer body and to understand its secret from this outer body as we find it today is somewhat like trying to understand the soul by a meticulous and anatomical study of the human body. They exist in different dimensions even though they are linked and connected. The only true way to discover its secret is to follow the way that it originated, by reproducing in oneself the original experience, or at least the aspiration that gave birth to it. Once we do that the next logical step is to give to the truth a new body, a form appropriate to the Age that we live in.

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It is not the personality, the character that is of the first importance in rebirth — it is the psychic being who stands behind the evolution of the nature and evolves with it.