Durga Maa/ Mata
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Devi Mahatmayam/ Durga Saptashati
The worship of the Mother is an occasion to celebrate, bond and invoke the sacred feminine principle as the fountainhead of all creativity. The Puranic lore of the Durga Puja celebrations tells of the Mother being welcomed back as a daughter, from her husband’s abode in the Himalayas, for these few days in the month of Ashwin. Tradition defines this relationship with God as Mother, as a heart-to-heart bond between bhakt and bhagwan, as is between a child and mother.
The ‘Devi Mahatmayam’, the adoration of the Devi, also known as ‘Durga Saptashati’, sings of the glory of the Mother, which the ancients believed to be an allegory of the evolution of the soul. The mind metaphor in the Saptashati sees Durga as an evocation of an Intelligence that will awaken one to a dimension beyond the instincts of the body and mind. The destruction of Madhu-Kaitabh, demons believed to have emerged from the dirt of the ear of Vishnu, represents the removal of the grime of kama, krodha, lobha – lust, anger, greed – which covers consciousness. This victory of the seeker is personified as the worship of Maha Lakshmi, the first stage in the search for truth.
The second stage, destruction of Mahishasur and Raktabij, is the metaphorical destruction of the vikshepa, distractions, of the mind, which throws up a thousand images to distract, just as Raktabij kept coming to life. This is personified as the worship of Maha Kali, who sucks in the ‘chameleon mind’. The last stage, destruction of Shumbh-Nishumbh is the allegorical destruction of avidya avaran, veil of ignorance, personified as the worship of Maha Saraswati, dispelling the darkness of obliviousness with the light of higher wisdom and vision.
The worship of the Mother has been at the heart of both spiritual and ritual sadhana. The Tantric traditions see Shiv, the Absolute, as virtually shav, corpse, without Shakti, consciousness. Vedanta views Shakti as time, space and causation; Kundalini Yog sees Shakti as the manifestation of the inner energy, channelised in each being through the ida, pingala and the sushmna nadis. Vivekanand often described this Absolute-Energy matrix in Vedantic terms, stating that the Absolute can be viewed as a calm sea without a ripple, so to say, when one goes deeper into the sea. But the same sea with waves symbolises the Divine Mother, Prakriti, in motion.
Sri Ramakrishna brought alive this grace and lila of the Mother in his own life, in his reaching out to Her, as a child would reach out to his mother. He brought this awareness of the Mother as Consciousness-Energy to his Advaita guru as well, the ascetic Totapuri, who was made to understand that a fully monistic state of mind, where consciousness itself is interiorised, is not possible without the grace of that energy itself which pervades consciousness.
This personification of energy as a feminine principle, and the invocation of the Divine as Mother is to understand the nature of this manifest universe in all its myriad forms, and to transform our nature from merely instinctual living to an awareness of the higher intellect and purpose of this life.
How Lord Brahma and the deities pray to the Mahadevi
The pleasant autumn has set in, ushering a new beauty to this part of the world. The beauty is amplified with the periodic descent of Maa Durga – the incarnation of Shakti, to the earth. The ‘Durga Saptashati’ describes this cosmic manifestation.
On the appearance of the Devi, the creator, Brahma, prays to this splendorous form of energy: “You are Swaha – the divine power that cannot be burnt by fire – the materialistic heat energy. You are Swadha – the self-energy that connects the self with the rest of the world – a truly many-body phenomenon. You are Vashatkara – the phase transformation that describes creation, conservation, growth, peak, decay, and annihilation, death. You are Swaratmika – the music that embodies the soul. You are Sudha – the nectar that is imperishable and eternal. You are Tridha – Om, Tat and Sat – the beginning, the selfless and the eternal, which commence and sustain the yajna, sacrifice and tapa, meditation.”
The form of the exalted being bewilders the gods of heaven. They pray, “O Mahadevi, may we have the kindness of knowing you?” She replies, “I am the Supreme Absolute. I am the origin of the Universe and beyond, the eternity and the perishable. I am the void as well as the fill. I am the bliss and the bliss less. I am science and the nescience. It should be known that I am both the Ultimate Reality and the extremes of imagination. I am the five elements – earth, water, air, fire and the void. I am the visible infinite and the invisible infinite. Thus, I am the infinite duality of nature.” She continues, “I am the energy that is transparent and the space that transcends. I am also the energy that is unfathomed and the space that is incomprehensible. In other words, I am the dark energy and space. I am unimaginable and indescribable. Yet I am understandable by unflinching devotion.”
The gods pray, “O Devi, we salute you. O Mahadevi, we offer to you our endless salutations. You are the natural embodiment of calmness, kindness, grace and gentleness. You are the limits of integration, the zero and the infinity. The possibilities hidden in these limits are infinite.”
They further continue, “You are the underlying mechanism of the dualities of life, the concepts and the anticoncepts. You manifest in our learning, consciousness, intelligence, sleep, hunger, shadow, energy, illusion, shyness, peace, faith, glow, wealth, profession, memory, kindness, contentment and you are our mother who nourishes us in every respect. You are the basis of Srishti, creation; sthiti, conservation; and laya, destruction.”
The above analysis describes the female divinity. The Bhagwad Gita too describes the above aspects. However, representing the male divinity, the Gita ascribes all these attributes to Krishn, the Supreme Lord of Indic philosophy. Thus Indic philosophy gives equal importance to the male and female divinities; no less and no more. Indeed female divinity has an edge over the male divinity in the sense that it nourishes motherhood.
Let us welcome the Divine Mother who spreads beauty and festivity all around. Let us pray to her for protection and our well-being.
The writer teaches physics at Berhampur University
The Durga Saptashati proclaims: “Ya Devi sarva bhuteshu Shakti rupena samsthita“ The goddess who is in every being as the Supreme Energy . The Divine Feminine pervades all space and time as the indestructible energy , taking care of the well-being of one and all, protecting the world.
The stability of any physical system depends on how the overall energy of the system is balanced. Consider, for example, our climate. There are lots of discussions on climate change and global warming. The earth maintains an optimum temperature because the heat energy absorbed by it from the sun is balanced by the energy reflected by the earth and the atmosphere.
Energy reflected is less than energy absorbed. Hence we have some stored energy . The space and time average of this stored energy gives an optimum temperature to the earth because of which there is order and stability here.Any change in the energy can either increase or decrease the temperature.During the last few thousand years, the temperature almost remained constant.However, of late, there are concerns about global warming due to lifestyle changes, which, if not checked, could lead to catastrophic conditions. In divine terms Durga might transform into Kali the Destroyer.
In the form of Mahalakshmi, she has neither beginning nor end Adyantarahite Devi. She is the smallest and the largest.She is Mahashakti. She is the reliever of the greatest sin. She knows all. She gives the greatest of boons. She is annihilator of wicked and unrighteous demons. She is the destroyer of disorder and she is also the supreme restorer of order. In the form of Saraswati, she dispels ignorance. If Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara, the Trimurti, do their respective jobs of creation, preservation and destruction, they do these by virtue of the powers vested in them by Saraswati, that is, by their learning and skills. Her appearance is brighter than even the Ocean of Milk and her smile pales the full moon of the autumn.
As Mahakali, she carries a severed, bloodied head, warning that it could be the fate of the wicked. She also carries a skull cup and wears a garland of heads and skulls. She is ever ready for war with the demons in order to annihilate them and liberate the world of negativity.
She may be the greatest annihilator; yet she dispels fear from all those who follow righteousness in their conduct, and she is mother of all Janani barabhaya haste. When Maha Yogeshwar Krishna was born to Devaki in jail, the goddess was born as Yogamaya from the womb of Yashoda. Both mothers were ignorant of these divine births. The newborns exchanged themselves in order to delude the wicked king, Kamsa.When wicked people rule the world, the earth suffers. We call this earth as Dharitri the Mother Earth. When the mother is in distress and her children are helpless, then Goddess Durga appears to protect the righteous people and annihilate the unrighteous ones.This happens from time to time.
The goddess, who is beyond description and imagination, gives everything to those who repose faith in her: good luck, health, happiness, beauty , victory and fame. She shows the right direction for a meaningful life. Salutations to Shakti Durga at the conclusion of navaratri, the nine sacred nights, when she is propitiated in all her forms and glory.