These days, I have found myself attracted to the Aparajita Stotram (full text here, online course here), which Shree Maa and Swamiji gave us as a sankalpa a couple of years ago. I am going to return to this stotram for the Western holiday season and for the beginning of 2018, starting with a 90 days repetition. I invite you to join me in this sankalpa for those of you who are reading.
You may have some reservations at first, and that is understandable. Perhaps you feel uncomfortable with your Sanskrit pronunciation. You may feel a bit embarrassed at first, and that is okay. Just remember that chanting is the prime way to get better at pronunciation and efficiency. After all, that’s how Swamiji learned, and he came to understand and translate every syllable of the Chandi and many other famous hymns! So don’t expect the pronunciation to be perfect the first time around: it will take many repetitions for the recitation to become smooth.
Now let me say something about the Aparajita Stotram. Just from my acquaintance so far, it has an aspect of valiantly overcoming all difficulties and a second aspect of receiving divine protection. You will note some of the names of the highest divinities, particularly related to Devi and Vishnu, but you will also note the names of other deities, celestial spirits, the various vahanas, etc. The hymn, for me, evokes the whole unseen cosmos, all of the divine beings, as the devotee brings them into the room, so to speak.
As for the practical import of the mantra for this time and place, we may have made some progress towards our goals in 2017. We may have made some wise investments, completed some good work, and done well by our families and our spiritual traditions. But can we truly say that we gave a complete effort? Did we seek entire victory or just a modicum of improvement? The Aparajita Stotram asks us to aim for the highest values, to raise our level of energy to a higher valence. It is the ritual enactment of victory.
As we enter the new year (at least according to the secular calendar), we want to not just survive, but to thrive! We want to not just half-heartedly do our sadhana, but to take it to a new level. We want to not just go through the motions in our work, but to creatively pursue avenues for success that we previously didn’t even know were there. We want to be more generous with our time and effort in all aspects of our lives.
Now, our egotistical selves will protest that there are, after all, only so many hours in the day. The ego will recall instances from the past in which we give it our all and failed. Remember that the ego is all about self-protection and self-aggrandizement. It fears failure above all. But the spirit of the Aparajita Stotram is to rise above all that: it reminds us that the divine retinue will be there, providing support and encouragement. It has that same energy as the Bhagavad Gita, which encourages us to give life our all and let the consequences fall where they may.
So this is a very compact devotion that sloughs away all excuses and brings our minds into the energy of complete attainment. We want to not just say the mantras but also live them, to become one with the energy of the devas in everything we do. The recitations make these mantras ring in our minds, and we also bring that vibration into every action, into every thought, word, and deed. Chandi Maa Ki Jai! Jai Maa! Jai Swamiji!