"A gory comic book"
So who or what is Durga?There are many curious features about the Chandi Path. When in the introduction we hear about the Devi, there are a few cautionary shlokas that set out Her omnipresence, and manifestation in many different forms. This stress on the Devi's universality is important to remember in what follows.
The very first ritual struggle sees the Devi's presence only noticeable when she actually moves from Her interpenetration of the sleeping Lord Vishnu. I can imagine what the strict Vaishnavas would say about this! But it is a symbolic way of pointing out that until sadhana really begins, the individual will have no clue how their lives are interpenetrated by the Mother, in the form of Maya, illusion. The Mother keeps us bound until She moves away, and in the first episode this is at the request of the creator, Lord Brahma.
We next read how She as Durga was created, in a very colourful way, by all the Devas in various stages of rage, panic, determination and collaboration. Thus, Durga is always manifesting from something else - again we read how she manifests from a bathing Parvati in Ch 5. Thus, Durga, the divine Principle of overwhelming upliftment, is moving, active, and engaged. This tell us that when we do do battle with our inner enemies, the active principle of the Devi, that part which upholds and saves, is immediately enlivened. The doing the battle, or sadhana, is the trigger and catalyst.
The first victory
What is the victory?
Is it legitimate to chant in order to get worldly benefit?Now of course the seeker, if they are deepening their relation to the Mother can legitimately plead for an improvement in life circumstances. The Mother is the Mother, after all. Sometimes life circumstances can be so grim - joblessness, homelessness, illnesses, that we do need to naturally cry out and say "help me!" Nothing wrong with that at all. But the mistake here is to think that a simple but heartfelt prayer to the Mother is less effective than the Chandi Path!
People generally have absolutely no faith in the power of their own prayers. They prefer top seek out "powerful mantra", "most powerful chant" and all this sort of dubious rubbish. When every letter of the alphabet is sacred, what is more sacred than any other? As for "powerful mantra for..." kind of thinking, do you think that God is more stupid than you are, and your servant to command by "powerful mantra?"
So for 90pc of the people thinking about reciting the Chandi Path, I advise you think again and simply pray, in your own words, but genuinely and honestly. Just do it! Trust the process. Ask for relief.
For the other 10pc, well, these are the mountaineers who come prepared to scale the cliff with ropes and equipment - meaning life experience, wisdom, and a clear-eyed determination. No mountaineer worth their salt is going to climb something they have not thoroughly researched and studied. Same with the Chandi Path.
The preparation I did all those years ago was painstakingly go through each verse, noting where pronunciation would be particularly testing, made sure I understood the meaning (the Sri Ramakrishna version has the best English translation, the Swami Satyananda version/Devi Mandir has the text to chant, which is fantastic,but an idiosyncratic translation which becomes hard to follow at times), and understood what chants were needed before and what were not.
This year I have also moved finally to a comfortable chair rather than sit in half lotus on the floor, given arthritis etc, and this helps me concentrate on the text.
Anyway: preparation, but realistic expectations. Only chant it if you want to love God. Do not chant it as a thief wanting to steal great fortunes.