The Indian Magna Mater
I have dealt with the nature of Shiva-Shakti and the evolution of
power as the Universe, and now will say a word as to the relative
ending of the world on its withdrawal to reappear again, and as to
the absolute ending for the individual who is liberated.
In Hindu belief, this Universe had a beginning, and will have an end. But it is only one of an infinite series in which there is no absolutely first Universe. These Universes come and go with the beating of the Pulse of Power now actively going forth, now returning to rest. For the World has its life period, which, reckoning up to the Great Dissolution, is the duration of an outgoing"Breath of Time." In due course another Universe will appear, and so on to all eternity. This series of Worlds of Birth, Death, and Reincarnation is called by the Hindus the Samsara, and was named by the Greeks the Cycle of the Becoming (kuklos ton geneson). All selves which are withdrawn at the end of a world- period continue to reappear in the new worlds to be until they are liberated therefrom.
The picture now described depicts The Mother-Power which dissolves — that is, withdraws the World into Herself. This is another aspect of one and the same Mother. As such She is Mahakali, dark blue like a rain cloud. Nada is in Her head-dress. She is encircled by serpents, as is Shiva. She holds in Her hands, besides the Lotus and two weapons, a skull with blood in it. She wears a garland of human heads which are exotically the heads of conquered Demons, but are esoterically the letters of the alphabet which as well as the Universe of which they are the seed-mantras, are dissolved by Her. She stands on the white, inert Shiva, for it is not He but His power who withdraws the Universe into Herself. He lies on a funeral pyre, in the burning-ground, where jackals—favorite animals of Kali — and carrion birds are gnawing and pecking at human flesh and bone. The cremation ground is a symbol of cosmic dissolution.
In a similar picture, we see The Mother standing on two figures, the Shiva, and Shava previously explained. On the Corpse the hair has grown. The Devas, or"Gods," as they are commonly called, are shown making obeisance to Her on the left, for She is their Mother as well as being The Mother of men. There are some variations in the imagery. Thus Kali, who is commonly represented naked—that is, free of her own Maya—is shown clad in skins. Her function is commonly called Destruction, but as the Sanskrit saying goes," the Deva does not Destroy." The Supreme Self withdraws the Universe into Itself. Nothing is destroyed. Things appear and disappear to reappear.
To pass beyond the Worlds of Birth and Death is to be Liberated. Human selves alone can attain liberation. Hence the supreme worth of human life. But few men understand and desire Liberation, which is the Experience-Whole. They have not reached the stage in which it is sought as the Supreme Worth. The majority are content to seek the Partial in the satisfaction of their individual interests. But as an unknown Sage cited by the Commentators on the Yoginihridaya and Nityashodasika Tantras has profoundly said," Identification of the Self with the Non-Whole or Partial (Apurnam-manyata) is Disease and the sole source of every misery." Hence one of the Cakras of the Shri Yantra which I have shown you is called"Destroyer of all Disease." Eternal Health is Wholeness which is the Highest Worth as the Experience-Whole. The"Disease of the World"refers not to the World in itself, which is The Mother in form, but to that darkness of vision which does not see that it is Her. As Upanishad said," He alone fears who sees Duality."This recognition of the unity of the World and The Mother has its degrees. That Whole is of varying kinds. It is thus physical or bodily health as the physical Whole which is sought in Hathayoga. Man, as he develops, lives more and more in that Current of Energy, which, having immersed itself in Mind and Matter for the purpose of World-Experience, returns to itself as the Perfect Experience, which is Transcendent Being-Power. With the transformation of man's nature his values become higher. At length he discerns that his Self is rooted in and is a flowering of Supreme Being-Power. His cramped experience, loosened of its limitations, expands into fullness. For, it must be ever remembered, that Consciousness as it is itself never evolves. It is the Immutable Essence, and Shakti the"Wave of Bliss' as they each are in themselves. Evolution is thus a gradual release from the limitations of Form created by Being-Power. Interest in the Partial and Relative Wholeness gives way to a striving towards The Mother as the Absolute Whole (Purna) which She is in Her own spaceless, and timeless, nature.
This complete Liberation is the Perfect Experience in which the Self, cramped in Mind and Body, overcomes its mayik bonds and expands into the Consciousness-Whole. The practical question is therefore the conversion of Imperfect (Apurna) into Perfect (Purna) Experience. This last is not the"standing aloof" (Kaivalya)"here" from some discarded universe"over there," upon the discovery that it is without reality and worth. For the World is The Mother in Form. It is one and the same Mother-Power which really appears as the psycho-physical universe, and which in itself is Perfect Consciousness. Liberation is, according to this system, the expansion of the empirical consciousness in and through and by means of the world into that Perfect Consciousness which is the Experience- Whole. This can only be by the grace of The Mother, for who otherwise can loosen the knot of Maya which She Herself has tied?
The state of Liberation can only be approximately described. Even those who have returned from ecstasy cannot find words for that which they have in fact experienced."A full vessel," it is said," makes no sound." It is not in this system an experience of mere empty"being," for this is an abstract concept of the intellect produced by the power of Consciousness. It is a concrete Experience- Whole of infinitely rich"content." The Mother is both the Whole and, as Samvid Kala, is the Cause and archetype of all Partials (Kala). She is Herself the Supreme Partial as She is also the Whole. So, She is the Supreme Word (Paravak), Supreme Sound and Movement (Parashabda Paranada), Supreme Space (Paravyoma),Supreme or Transcendental Time (Parakala) the infinite"limit"of that which man knows on the rising of Sun and Moon. She is again the Life of all lives (pranapranasya). She thus contains within Herself in their"limit"All the realities and values of worldly life which is Her expression in Time and Space. But over and beyond this, She is also the alogical Experience-Whole. This experience neither supersedes nor is superseded by experience as the Supreme Self. This Alogical Experience is only approximately spoken of as Infinite Being, Consciousness and Joy which is the seamless (akhanda) Experience-Whole (Purna). Relative to the Supreme Self the Perfect Experience, She as His Power is the Perfect Universe. In the alogical transcendent state in which Shiva and Shakti are mingled as the One, She is the Massive Bliss (Ananda-ghana) which is their union, of which it has been said: Niratishaya premaspadatvam anandatvam, which may be translated: "Love in its limit or uttermost love is Joy." This is the love of the Self for its Power and for the Universe as which such Power manifests.
She is called the Heart of the Supreme Lord (Hridayam Parameshituh), with whom the Shakta unites himself as he says Sa'ham—"She I am."
If we analyze this description we find that it can be summed up in the single Sanskrit term Anandaghana, or Mass of Bliss. The essence of the Universe is, to the Shakta, nothing but that. Mystical states in all religions are experiences of joy. As I have elsewhere said, the creative and world-sustaining Mother, as seen in Shakta worship (Hadimata), is a Joyous Figure crowned with ruddy flashing gems, clad in red raiment Lauhityam etasya sarvasya vimarshah, more effulgent than millions of red rising suns, with one hand granting all blessings (varamudra), and with the other dispelling all fears (abhaya-mudra). It is true that She seems fearful to the uninitiated in Her form as Kali, but the worshipers of this Form (Kadimata) know Her as the Wielder of the Sword of Knowledge which, severing man from ignorance—that is, partial knowledge—gives him Perfect Experience. To such worshiper the burning ground—with its corpses, its apparitions, and haunting malignant spirits—is no terror. These forms, too, are Hers.
Hinduism has with deep insight seen that Fear is an essential mark of the animal, and of man in so far as he is an animal (Pashu). The Shakta unites himself with this joyous and liberating Mother, saying Sa'ham—"She I am." As he realizes this he is the fearless Hero, or Vira. For he who sees Duality, he alone fears. To see Duality means not merely to see otherness, but to see that other as alien non-self. The fearless win all worldly enterprises, and fearlessness is also the mark of the Illuminate Knower. Such an one is also in his degree independent of all outward power, and Mrityu—jaya, or Master of Death. Such an one is not troubled for himself by the thought of Death. In the apt words of a French author (L'me Paienne, 83), he no more fears than do the leaves of the trees, yellowing to their fall in the mists of autumn. An imperishable instinct tells him that if he, like the leaves, is about to fall he is also the tree on which they will come out again, as also the Earth in which both grow, and yet again (as the Shakta would say) he is also, in his Body of Bliss, the Essence which as The Mother-Power sustains them all. As that Essence is imperishable, so in the deepest sense is its form as Nature. For whatever exists can never altogether cease to be. Either man's consciousness expands into that Lordliness which sees all as Itself, or he and all lower beings are withdrawn into the Womb of Power, in which they are conserved to reappear in that Sphurana or Blossoming which is the Springtide of some new World.
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