Originally posted on the Princeton Hindu Satsangam blog as part of our Navratri series.
When I was assigned to reflect on the second form of Devi, I was both excited and intimidated to meditate on the Divine as the bestower of grace and patron of spiritual seekers. Brahmacharini, the form of Devi who is honored on the second night of Navratri, is the daughter of Brahma and is revered for her austerity and divine grace. She blesses the spiritual seeker with bliss and peace and aids in austerities and spiritual practice. As I prepared to write this article, I was faced with the uncomfortable truth that right now, deep spiritual practice and spiritual joy are about as far from my experience as growing a beard. I think of myself as a spiritual person with a good sadhana and with a decent level of peace, equanimity, and joy. But when I’m being honest with myself, I really struggle to have a decent spiritual practice when immersed in my studies and seva at Princeton, and I’m far more familiar with the emotions of frustration and anxiety than spiritual joy and peace. It doesn’t feel good to be called out on my tendency for spiritual pride, but I’m grateful for the reminder to return to honesty and humility. The other reason that meditating on Brahmacharini was difficult for me today is that a non-Indian Hindu, I often feel uncomfortable with Hindu festivals and cultural traditions, especially those outside of my particular lineage of Vaishnavism. I love diving into philosophy and spirituality, but often shy away from the cultural traditions that put flesh on the bones of religion and breathe joy and togetherness into the sometimes stale air of philosophy and austerity. Brahmacharini somehow brings both together. She is that form of the Goddess who blesses and aids the spiritual practitioner and the student (whether a bhakta or a jnani). But as a form of the Goddess, She is surrounded by rich cultural traditions of intense devotion, togetherness, and vibrancy.
Tonight, on the second night of Navratri, I pray that She may fill my heart with peace and inspire me to greater austerity, devotion, and love of community.
Dadhanakara padmabhyam akshamala kamandalam
Devi prasidathu mayi brahmacharinya nuththama