The following long blog edits together all the differents notes made during the 108 Vrata of chanting the Chandi Path every day, while still going to work... and travelling.
Day 5I reached day 5 of the Vrata (vow) to chant the Devi Mahatyam/Chandi Path every day without fail for 108 days, fairly easily all the while going off for a busy days work as a journalist.
But already a sweet miracle. I had asked as a boon that Divine Mother sends me a Murti of Herself ... and lo and behold my close friend came back from (buddhist) Thailand and said "I have a surprise for you." There was a brand new murti of Mahalakshmi! So this first impossible miracle... easily achieved.
- As the recitation takes so long (2+ hours) you are going to need to shift position unless you are a master of yoga!
- I sit on a mat in front of the puja (pic below) in 1/2 lotus, but shift legs at set intervals... so, one leg for ch1,2,3,4... then change at 5,6,7, ... back to first leg 8,9,10, second leg 11,12,13
- A puja starts the recitation, vital. Don't just dive in.
- Arati ends it, with my own special recipe of frankinsence, camphor and puja dhoop to create a fantastic flame then cloud of incense...
Day 40Day 40, and the chant goes on every day.... some difficult days recently, with waves of restlessness striking both in and out of the chant, especially as my professional life as journalist is exceptionally busy this month (June 2012) and involves some foreign travel, so I don't know how easy it will be to maintain the chant but will still be in a hotel room, proceeding.
The other day I finally managed to sit in just one asana the whole way through! In the UK we experienced a brief heat wave, and the lovely warm temperature helped loosen the joints. Also wearing a really big mala of rudraksha has a great calming effect, too (see picture below). Rudrakshas are a truly fantastic secret ally in any spiritual practice. But they only work really if your body and mind are a little bit settled. In times when i have fallen off the path in the past, rudrakshas rapidly become unbearable to wear. Ash on the skull, or sandalpaste, also really helps cool things down...
Past the half-way point (54 days) and these past 10 days have been pretty testing. I've had to chant the Chandi Path in some wierd settings: at a hotel room in Brussels, then in Frankfurt, then at the airport, then on the channel tunnel, and on these emergency occasions I've foregone pretty much all of the preparatory mantras and pujas and struggled through all of this, somehow, mostly out of dogged stubborn-ness on my part than an overwhelming surge of bhakti. That presence of the Mother has faded away, the bhakti too, and it seems a desultory half-baked offering. But one positive is that all that sitting up has really sharpened my asanas, half lotus, a bit of full lotus, etc.
Sometimes I remember, as the text says, that the Devi IS everything manifested - all the confusion, laziness, impurities that reciting has thrown up. I can see, though, how beneficial it would be to be able just to sit and recite in sattvic surroundings and not have to get up and go to work. Ho hum... parabdha karma, destiny, is unescapable. "Maybe in the next life surroundings will be more auspicious," I whisper to myself....
Day 58-59Flu, really bad. Have lost my voice and had to retreat to the ulitimate recitation fall back, sitting in bed trying to get warm, and "chanting with the eyes alone".
Day 101After much toil, tribulation, effort climbing up this enormous sacred mountain, the final week has dawned and I can begin to look back now with joy and relief at a task completed to the best of my ability. The picture above is of the Olympic flame being lit in London, and the chanting will end on the second week of the Olympics, a fitting backdrop! Some weeks earlier, I'd managed to take time off for a holiday in west Scotland, beautiful part of the world. But grand ideas of sitting by a lochside as the sun rose, touching the mountain peaks, turned out to be illusions: there were too many ferociously biting midges! Scotland is famous for them, tiny creatures with a seemingly insatiable desire for blood, my blood. In one morning session i was bitten on the legs44 painful times. A poor midge got accidently caught in the pages on the book and remains there, a mute reminder of this period.
My own advice to anyone thinking of attempting this is that if you also have to work for a living, it's a real challenge - far easier if, say, you were in an ashram or a place of retreat and could focus just on the practice.
Also there is a great saying in Tibetan Buddhism... Don't turn Gods into Demons. This has been a rich source for contemplation recently. Somewhere in all that testing period of business travel I grew to resent the task, resent the super Ego voice in me that had directed me to do such a thing. Tough tussle with inner enemies, but only through acceptance, gentless compassion, and admission of weakness has brought me back to a saner attitude of reverence and respect. Only a few days to go now...
Day 108Haribol! Jai Mata Di! The final day, truly the final day and my final recitation takes place this evening. Very hard to put into words the emotions this evokes, not just for the 108 days, but looking back to these long years of spiritual life somehow kept alive, a golden thread running through my life.
I am so grateful for the opportunity of having the darshan of this sacred text. I am grateful, too, to be moving on and back to the deep meditations which i had to put to one side for 108 days because of time constraints.
Miracles did not arise, it's fair to say. The recitation kicked up a lot of inner dust and at times it was difficult to see a way forward, but step by step the final days have come, and just before the great day of Janmastami this year 2012 CE.
Mother stayed pretty well hidden behind the chant. At one point early on it was like She was just there, just behind a curtain, but that feeling faded. I feel Her, though, as I write this, a smile, a smile just out of reach. Her universe, Her womb, Her Maya.
And so it ends
OM SHANTI SHANTI SHANTI