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The Song of the Goddess

“Devi Gita teaches both the worship of the deity with form and the meditation on the Cosmic Divinity beyond form and knowledge. It is a compendium of spiritual disciplines constantly weaving its tapestry of harmony so that all actions in life become expressions of the longing for the highest attainment"

The Song of the Goddess
The Song of the Goddess:
The Devi Gita: Spiritual Counsel of the Great Goddess

“The Song of the Goddess: The Devi Gita: Spiritual Counsel of the Great Goddess by C. Mackenzie Brown (State University of New York Press) provides a translation, with introduction, commentary, and annotation, of the medieval Hindu Sanskrit text the Devi Gita (Song of the Goddess). It is an important but not well-known text from the rich Sakta (Goddess) tradition of India . The Devi Gita was composed around the fifteenth century C.E., in partial imitation of the famous Bhagavad Gita (Song of the Lord), composed some fifteen centuries earlier. The Song of the Goddess makes available a contemporary translation of the Devi Gita, with an historical and theological analysis of the text in the introduction. The book is divided into sections of verses, and each section is followed by a comment explaining key terms, concepts, ritual procedures, and mythic themes. The comments also offer comparisons with related schools of thought, indicate parallel texts and textual sources of verses in the Devi Gita, and briefly elucidate the historical and religious background, supplementing the remarks of the introduction.

To avoid any confusion and also be aware, there are two other devi gitas. The first of which is found in the Kurma purana. This is a conversation with Parvati and Himavan, introduced by Lord Vishnu as Kurma. Goddess Parvati is praised here by 1008 names and She grants him two cosmic visions and instructs him. The other devi gita is found in the Mahabhagavata purana, which actually refers to the conversation of Parvati and Himavan as Parvati Gita. The narrator of this section of the Mahabhagavata Purana is Lord Shiva. However, by Devi gita, we refer only to the gita found in the Devi Bhagavatam.

The magnificent dialogue between Himalayas and the Divine Mother, when She declared that She would take birth in his house as the Goddess Parvati. Himalayas asked,” How shall I act when I become the father of the Divine Mother? What will be my attitudes towards life? What will be my spiritual discipline? How can I remember Your divinity all the time?“The answers to these and other questions are presented in English translation.

Devi Gita teaches both the worship of the deity with form and the meditation on the Cosmic Divinity beyond form and knowledge. It is a compendium of spiritual disciplines constantly weaving its tapestry of harmony so that all actions in life become expressions of the longing for the highest attainment.

It is an excerpt from a much larger work, the Srimad Devî Bhagavatam. This self-contained text describes an incarnation of the Devi, the Goddess. She discourses on her nature, and how she wants to be worshipped, particularly with Yogic practices, meditation and rituals.

Devi Gita constitutes the last ten chapters of the seventh Skandha of the Devi Bhagavatam. In the puranas, one will find several gitas and many mahatmyas. The differences are that in the mahatmya, the glorification of the deity is by recounting the various deeds of the God and offering praise to the divinity. A gita, on the other hand, is a direct revelation of the truth from the disciple, which often includes the manifestation of the cosmic form. While mahatymas emphasize bhakti, gita stresses a balance of bhakti and jnana.

The setting of the Devi Gita is introduced by Janamejaya's query to Vyasa regarding the supreme light who became manifest on top of the Himalaya mountain. Vyasa talks about the demon Taraka, who has obtained a boon that he can be killed only the son of Lord Shiva, knowing fully well that Sati has immolated herself. Therefore, the gods became scared and went to Himalayas and worshipped Her asking to born and marry Lord Shiva. Shakti then appears before them and grants them a boon that her manifestation will be born as Gauri as the daughter of Himavan. Himalaya becomes choked with emotion when he hears that She, whose belly contains millions of universes, is about to become his daughter. He requests as follows,” Proclaim to me your nature, and declare that yoga conjoined with bhakti and that jnana in accord shruti whereby you and I become one.”

In the Devi Gita, following Himalayas request, the Devi proceeds to describe her essential forms. The Devi declares that prior to creation, She is the only existent entity, the one supreme Brahman and is pure consciousness. Then She outlines the basic evolution of the causal, subtle and gross bodies of the supreme Self when enjoined with maya. The treatment here is very similar to that of Vedantasara and Panchadasi, but in much more simpler terms than the latter. Then She reveals Her forms (both the frightful and pleasing) to the gods and Himalaya . Then follows a detailed summary of the yoga, the stages of bhakti and the ways to attain Her.

Devi Gita is both simple and profound. It is different from other gitas in the respect that statements are clear and can not be reinterpreted according to one's taste. For example, several commentaries have been written on the Bhagavad Gita of Krishna , wherein each commentator feels differently regarding bhakti and jnana. For example, it required Madhusudana Saraswati to explain krama mukti in clear terms (though Shankara mentions it also) of bhakti. But Devi Gita is clear: “Even when a person performs bhakti, knowledge need not arise. He will go to the Devi's Island (similar to Brahmaloka). Till the complete knowledge in the form of my consciousness arises, there is no liberation.”Similarly, the words of 'coming' 'going' 'becoming' cause confusion since one can not 'become' Brahman, if one is already one. The Devi Gita provides a clear explanation that all these terms are applicable only as long as one in maya. It is the clarity of these terms and the simple explanation of complex vedantic and philosophical questions that makes Devi Gita unique.”


The Song of the Goddess:
The Devi Gita: Spiritual Counsel of the Great Goddess

"Our whole cosmic quest of the world and beyond starts from the point of panchabhuta (five elements) which then manifests in an enjoining manner to form the life force and then, later, those five elements disintegrates to ensue a celestial traverse at the Paramanu (atom) level.

However, we will first try to understand these five elements which are Earth or Prithvi; Water or Jal ; Fire or Agni; Air or Vayu and then Ether or Akasha. Each of these Five elements has its own character and celestial elements which we will gauge in the following lines.

Earth (Prithvi): One can touch earth and smell it too ! However, there are two types of earth one is Eternal or (nitya) which are in the form of atom (Paramanu). The other type is perishable (anitya) which exists in the form of Karya or Work at animate and inanimate levels. Symbolically speaking our body, sense organs are the earth which as a whole get the shape of Jiva or life but those are perishable. But elements or atoms are eternal as after death may we bury, or burn the body, all the atoms get disintegrated to come back to its original eternal form. So our body and its Karya or Work are perishable as the mountain or rock forms but the atom remains which are eternal.

Water or Jal is the second element which again has two characters as in the Earth i.e. eternal in the shape of atom and Karya (Work) be it as river, pond or sea are perishable. As from sea or river water evaporates to be in the sky as cloud then again in the shape of rain it comes down on earth. So the eternal atom is only changing its karya or shape of work and what we see is the perishable form. From the sense organ perspective we can touch it to feel and taste it as well.

The third element is Air or Vayu. Again it has two levels as earth and water i.e. eternal atom and perishable Karya. One can feel air, as we breath in or out. We feel the storm or strong breeze which are temporary but air at atomic level remains around us eternally. In the Purana there is a mention of 49 types of Maruts or winds. Seven are important namely 1. Pravaha 2 Avaha; 3,Udvaha 4. Samvaha; 5 Vivaha; 6 Parvaha and 7.Paravaha. The wind which takes the water from the ocean is called Udvaha.

Fire or Agni is the fourth element of Indian Panchabhuta. Again it has eternal and perishable elements as we have seen above. The essential character of Fire is to generate heat. According to Hindu Mythology, Agni is one of the Eight guardians who guards our universe and is known as Asta- dik-palakas (Asta-eight, dik—Zone, Palaka-Guardian). The Fire is posited in the South East of the Universe.

However, in Indian mythology there are mentions of various types of fires. The four important ones are fire of the earth, fire of the sky, fire of the stomach (can mean hunger and digestive power as well) and the fire we commonly use.

Then comes the last of the Panchabhuta or five elements which is sound or ether. Ether is unique as it has only one character i.e. eternal. Ether is the carrier of sound be it man made or otherwise. One can hear it. As ether is the only eternal element of the five elements it attracted the attention of various sages. The concept of Akashvani or Divine sound which is heard by sages of higher order is related to this Ether or Akasha. The primordial mantra AUM then in modern times Raam or Shyaam are to work as linkages between Jivatma (life force—atman or soul) to Paramatman or (Omnipotent of supreme soul).The concept of sound and Mantra will be discussed in the next issue. Now we should concentrate on elements, other than five mentioned above which are very important to Hindu theological perspective. Those are Time(Kala) and Space (Sthan or Dik i.e. place and direction); Soul and Mind.

Like ether Time and Space are eternal. Time or kala is common cause of all actions of all the elements and is eternal link of predetermined actions and happenings. Thus in Hindu astrology the whole world and its course are equated with"time.” The Direction or Dik are part of Space and North, South, West and East are eternal no matter the Universe undergoes whatever changes.

Then the other element is Soul which is related with the knowledge system of man as jivatman and the eternal Knowledge of God or Paramatman (omnipotent). The last of the nine main elements is the manas or Mind. Its the sense-organ or path to experience the world eternally and otherwise. These sense organs are in the shape of eternal paramanu or atom and works is combinations to derive pleasure at worldly levels. These are the brief out line of main five elements and other four primary elements. It is said that our universe was created out of the manifestation of five elements. This was described in the Devigita very elaborately.

Devigita proclaims that Shakti went about creating the world with 24 tattvas or elements. The five elements were born out of the primordial principle of unmanifested Sakti. The ether through which sound traverse was first element, which is also known as Sabda-rupa (form of sound). Second was Air or Vayu (Sparsharupa or a form which is felt) The Air or Vayu give rise to Agni so it called Vayoranih. Then sense of taste or 'rasrupa' the water element came. The the gandharupa or the source of smell came—the earth.

Pauranic Expert Vettam Mani said that the universe remained in embryo form or in the bijarupa.”These Panchabhutas{five elements} were first divided into two (each was divided into two). Then by a process of the combination of these ten parts different substances were born....Each half of each of these five bhutas (elements) is again subdivided into four parts. These 1/8 parts are joined to the other halves and by combining them in other fractions of the material bodies (sthulasariras) of all beings are made.”wrote Vettam Mani.

The cosmic body is the grand total of those material bodies discussed above. The first and pure manifestation of those five elements are the inner conscience and bodily organs like ear etc. However, the inner conscience or Antarkaranas assumes four state or forms. Once conception and doubt arise it is called Mind. But when there is no doubt arises is called Buddhi. The process of examination and re-examination of a subjects belongs to the state of intellect called citta. But with the feeling of“I“The ego or ahamkar bursts out. So we find the pure five elements gave rise to the inner conscience or Antarkarnana and then there are four states within it namely mind, buddhi, citta and ego.

Vettam Mani explained"From the coarse (rajasic) aspect of the five sense organs originate the five organs of action like word, foot, hand, excretory and the genital organ, and also the five pranas (breaths) called prana, apana, samana, udhana and vyana.

Prana is located in the heart, apana in the anus, samana in the nabhi (navel)udana in the throat and Vyana all over the body. .... (Organs of knowldege 5, of action 5, and pranas 5,and buddhi 1,mind 1, the bodly is composes of these 17 factors.”

The sukshmasaria or the subtle body has two nature or Prakrati namely maya wherein the god is reflected. The other is Avidya seen by Jiva or living being who is receptacle of sorrows. Through Vidya (Eternal Knowldege) and Avidya (ignorance) three forms of body emerge. Mani explained 'He who is attached and is pround about the material body is called visva; he who attaches importance to the subtle bodly is called Taijisva, and who is aware of casual body is called Prajna.' Likewise we see how the five elements manifested itself into 22 tattva (materials) which all go towards creation of a body. In the Devigita it is said that eighty-four lakh species of living beings have manifested from these five elements. In the next article we would take up the ether or sound elements in mantra perspective which has only single and eternal entity and dwells in Hindu theology vibrantly.

Let us look into the Panchabhuta and its divisions which created all the things. Pauranic Encyclopaedia while discussing Isvara quoted Devigita extensively to explain concept of creation and Godhead. Devigita announces that from primordial principle the five elements were born. Those are Air, Fire, Water, Ether and Earth. These five elements got divided into two part each giving a total of 10 parts. Then half of the five elements divided itself in four parts. 'These 1/8 parts are joined to the other halves and by combining them in other fractions, the material bodies (sthulasriras) of all being are made' said Vettam Mani. Then the Cosmic Body, which is the sum total of those individual material bodies went towards creating inner conscience and body parts like ear etc. Mani further said that“Antahkarana, due to differences in state assumes four forms. When once conception and doubt arises in a subject, then it is called mind. When there is no doubt, but there is assuredness it is called understanding (buddhi).”

Then came from coarse (sthula) five sense organs and five organs of actions namely mouth for words, foot, hand, excretory and genital organs. Devigita also mentions about five pranas or breath of life and their location in human body. Those are Prana located in the heart, apana in the anus, samana in the navel, udana in the throat and Vyana all over the body.

Thus we see ancient sages during their discourse tried to reach the sukshma or fine aspects from the sthula the gross aspect. Though in the context of modern Genetic Engineering, they were on a different track, but for sure they give us the tattwa jana or knowledge of composition and materials which are a definitely a pointer for modern researchers.”


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