Knowledge of Devi that Liberates
"Both gitas (Devi Gita and Kapila Gita of the Bhagvata Purana) also describe four grades of devotion according to the qualities (gunas) of nature, a classification scheme derived from the Bhagavad Gita. According to the Devi Gita, the first two grades, rooted in ignorance (tamas) and passion (rajas), are practiced by those intending harm to others and seeking their own well-being, respectively. The third grade, arising from virtue (sattva), the highest of the three qualities, is performed by those who surrender the fruits of their actions to the Goddess out of a sense of duty and in spirit of loving service. Such devotion is not supreme for it still clings to false distinctions, but it does lead to the highest devotion beyond all the qualities.
The supreme devotion is described in quite paradoxical terms. On the one hand, it is characterized by total detachment, an absence of any sense of difference between oneself and others including the Goddess, and realization of the universality of pure consciousness. On the other hand, it is typified by a sense of oneself as a servant and the Devi as master, an eagerness to participate in pilgrimages to her sacred sites, and a zeal to perform her ritual worship without regard to cost. Especially paradoxical is the tension between the detached devotion associated with the knowledge of the unity of all being, and the ecstatic passion, accompanied by tears of joy and faltering voice, manifest in worshipping the Goddess while singing her names and dancing in enraptured self-abandonment. Again, while the supreme devotion is characterized by indifference to all forms of liberation, including mergence into the Devi, nonetheless, so the Goddess declares, the fruit of such devotion is dissolution into her essential nature. Such paradoxes reflect in many ways the long-standing tension in the Hindu tradition between the ideal of devotion, with its goal of loving service, and the ideal of knowledge, with its goal of realizing absolute oneness.
Formally, the Devi Gita resolves the tension by insisting that knowledge of the Goddess is the final goal of devotion, as well as of dispassion. Devotion without knowledge will lead to the heavenly paradise of the Goddess, the Jeweled Island, but no further. Dwelling in the Jeweled Island, however, inevitably leads to liberating knowledge of the pure consciousness that is the Goddess. Dispassion without knowledge, incidentally, leads only to a virtuous birth. The Devi insists that liberating knowledge can be attained here in this world, while still living. Seeking such knowledge alone makes life worthwhile, and the attainment of knowledge completely fulfils the ultimate purpose of existence."
The Song of the Goddess: The Devi Gita: Spiritual Counsel Of The Great Goddess,
C. Mackenzie Brown, State University of N.Y. Press, 2002, pg. 23-5
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