“What Do You Mean By 'Primordial Mother'?”Maha-padmatavi-samstha [59th]: She dwells in the Great Lotus Forest. This means She dwells in Sahasrara. According to Arunopanisad inside this 'Lotus Flower' is the point of contact between the individual and Cosmic Consciousness. (Sri Lalita Sahasranama)
The eternal, ageless Adi Shakti
When asked what was happening to his son Kash, the Sahaja Yogi who had given him Self-Realization could only speculate that he might have reached the Primordial Mother. Kash's father had no idea what he meant and asked: "What do you mean by 'primordial Mother'?”
The Sahaja Yogi explained that there is a Great Divine Mother who is the Ultimate Reality beyond all that is known and unknown to humans. Throughout the ages She is credited to have been the Great Adi Shakti or Supreme Power of God Almighty, but very little is actually known about Her. Others are of the same opinion:Why is there so little knowledge about this Primordial Mother?
“Far too little is known about the Divine Mother of the Universe and what little of this is available comes to us in the form of either scriptural references couched in archaic language or contemporary representations of the Divine Mother emphasizing limited concepts which concern arcane metaphysics or the worship of nature and the elements. Whereas neither of these interpretations are objectionable, each presenting a portion of the picture of what She embodies, it is time, especially in this auspicious day and age when the Avatar of Durga/Kali, Sri Ramakrishna, has appeared in our midst, to offer up a more comprehensive rendering of Her all-pervasive presence and all-enthralling appearance.
In such an undertaking, we must naturally part company with those who maintain that the infinite Mother of the Universe is merely an anthropomorphic goddess, merely a nature spirit, merely a universal power, merely a concept or a symbol for Reality, merely a feminine principle. Her appearance in form always springs from Her formless essence and the two are inseparable.
The five elements are only Her tools for fashioning the universe and obey Her will. She is never restricted to the physical universe alone, but instead remains fully detached yet intrinsically involved a baffling secret which only She knows how to implement. She is the living Reality underlying and animating all sentient and insentient beings and objects, perpetually existing as their very essence and is therefore the Conceiver of all concepts, the Symbol for all symbols, the eternal Subject. Finally, She is the Shakti of the gods, pure and changeless, transcendent and genderless, permeating everything with limitless Consciousness.
Throughout the three worlds She is acclaimed as the Deva Devi Svarupaya, the essence of all gods and goddesses the ancient, primordial Mother of the Universe whose nature is non-dual Truth. This ever-present Goddess epitomizes both the bliss of unlimited Awareness, static and supine, and the diverse play of universal projection, dynamic and fascinating. She manifests countless beings abiding in an infinite set of worlds, seen and unseen, gross and subtle, hidden and exposed.
Her existence is confirmed by the holy scriptures since She is perceived intellectually by means of the six Darshanas, Her perpetually flowing streams of eternal spiritual knowledge. She is approached and contacted by the devotees through intense sadhana spiritual disciplines prescribed by the guru and She is intimately accessible through contemplation and meditation. Ultimately, She is to be realized as the essence of limitless Consciousness, infinite, indivisible, all-pervading and Absolute.
Eternal salutations to Sri Durga, to Sri Kali, the boundless ocean of spiritual Wisdom worshiped as the Divine Mother of the Universe!"1How to verify that the Woman is the primordial Mother?
So how was Kash's father to verify if the Woman that his son had met in his Sahasrara during meditation was indeed the Great Primordial Mother, the Divine Mother of the Universe?
It did not take long to find a foolproof solution.
The most reliable way would be for Kash to ask Her to take him to visit the various deities, prophets and messengers of different religions. The father knew his son knew nothing of Hinduism. If this Mother had the Power to take him to visit the Messengers of God and if Kash were then able to describe them, then there could be no doubting either Kash or the Great primordial MOTHER! After all, how would a 13 year-old kid be able to describe facts absolutely beyond his knowledge?
Over the next few weeks Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi took Kash to see every Messenger of God that he desired to see. The father was filled with awe and reverence for the Great Adi Shakti and Her Divine Deities.
This news could not be kept a secret.
That this state of mind was attained by a mere child without any religious or spiritual background and without any preparation or effort, was an astounding evolutionary breakthrough to say the least! That a young kid on his very first attempt achieved it was overwhelming and mind-boggling. Something phenomenal had happened and his father was bursting to contain this spectacular spiritual secret.
Someone had to be told, someone who would believe.
In December 1993, he typed a letter and faxed it from Montreal to Accosec Consultants Sdn. Bhd., Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was addressed to the three individuals closest to him — Vipin Kumar Kothari (closest friend and partner in Accosec Consultants Senderian Berhad), B.S. Maan (brother attached to University Hospital, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia), and Srender Kaur (spouse on vacation). They would surely believe what was taking place.
The fact that these individuals were the first to be told about the mystical experiences of Kash goes a long way to confirm the authenticity of these initial divine Revelations, and all subsequent events, in Shri Adi Shakti: The Kingdom of God. This is because at that time Kash's father was far from confirming the link between the eternal spiritual Adi Shakti in Kash's Sahasrara with the transitory, physical Adi Shakti Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi on Earth.
It actually took him nearly one year to be 100% sure that these two personalities were one and the same. This delay was caused by his constant cross-examinations, the slightest doubt triggering off a chain of questions.
The contents of the fax below is irrefutable proof that neither Kash nor his father had any idea as to what was actually taking place on Earth.
This is page 2 of the fax sent to Mr. Vipin Kumar December 1993 at his firm Accosec Consultants Sdn. Bhd. K.L., Malaysia (fax no: 011603 2328 504);(on page 2 of the original 1993 letter"he describes the following:-
1) Lord Krishna
— He is blue in color.
2) Lord Shiva
— He lives far out in the Universe in a Land completely different from ours.
— He is surrounded by mountains and He sits on the highest one.
— He has a cobra snake around His neck. The cobra snake is coiled 3 times round His neck, with its head on Lord Shiva's right shoulder.
— He has His hair tied up in a bundle on top of the head, with the rest of it falling down His neck and shoulders.
— He is holding a trishul, with another cobra coiled around it.
— There are 2 bowls on both His sides and there is smoke coming out of them.
— On one occasion Kash saw both Lord Shiva and Lord Krishna walking away after meditation and talking to each other in a language that was like the mantra he recited in i.e. Sanskrit.
3) Lord Hanuman
We just told Kash after about a week to go and meditate with Lord Hanuman but never told him what he looked like. We just mentioned the name Hanuman to him and told him to ask Mother to take him there. When he came back from the meditation after about 1/2 an hour, he told us that he saw a baby-face God. Not satisfied with Kash's answer, I later asked him to describe what he saw. Again he said he saw a baby-face God. When I told him that it could have been a monkey-face God, he immediately said it was. Kash explained that he did not want to offend us by saying that God looked like a monkey. Then he said the following:
— that Lord Hanuman has a monkey face.
— that Lord Hanuman has a tail.
— that Lord Hanuman has wings like an angel.
— that Lord Hanuman was flying around in the air.
4) Lord Ganesha
— Kash had to go through a black hole to reach Lord Ganesha and came upon another world.
— that he felt very nice after crossing the black hole and approaching His world.
— Kash then saw an open-air temple with 4 pillars and a roof, but with no walls around.
— he saw Lord Ganesha meditating in the middle.
— he saw pictures of Mother, Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva and Lord Krishna around Him.
— that Lord Ganesha has an elephant face.
— that He has 4 arms. He was meditating with 2 arms while 1 hand held a bowl from which smoke was coming out.
— that there was a mouse sitting beside Him.
— that His body was greyish in colour.
— that He has a big belly.
5) Lord Vishnu and Mahalakshmi
— that Mahalakshmi has a ring in Her nose and a tikka on Her forehead.
— that She has 4 arms.
— that She was wearing a pink coloured sari.
— that Lord Vishnu has 4 arms and in one of His hands there is a big seashell (sankh or conch.)
— that there is a 6 headed snake (Shri Shesha) standing and covering both of them.
— that there is mist emitting from around.
I don't think you guys will be able to believe all this, but better do, as I am a very skeptical person — I never before have believed anything to do with Hinduism before, given the odd-looking deities around. However since Kash has seen all of them in his meditation and has described with such clarity about deities which he has never seen before, I now believe He exists and is the Creator. Whenever Kash comes out of meditation, his face glows and his eyes radiate with bliss. He now meditates at 6:30 a.m. in the morning as well in the evening. I would want this information not to be told to every Tom, Dick or Harry — only to those who have some believe in God.
So all of you down there — I have to end here. I hope my requests can be taken care of. Please send your message via fax as it would be too expensive to talk over the phone. That is all for the time being. Take care and send my regards to all.
* Kash will be visiting other deities soon. You will all be kept informed of his journeys.”
Note: “Ganesha or Ganapati as he is more commonly known is the most worshipped god in India, though he may not be the most popular. Now that is only apparently a paradox. Ganesha holds a unique position in the religious culture of India, a position that has no parallel in any other religion.
Any ceremony, ritual, puja or new undertaking has to begin with invoking the power of Ganapati first, otherwise it is regarded as futile. Hence he is worshipped almost constantly round the clock as it were, though he may not be the ishta devta, the chosen personal god of the person so worshipping.
In the late 20th century, however, Ganapati has suddenly become one of the five most important deities actually in popular worship, and collecting images of Ganapati in various materials became a popular hobby in its own right independent of any religious feeling.
Ganapati is however not a Vedic god, not by any means. The tradition that he has to be invoked before anything is commenced is hardly two thousand years old, if that, and it has become set as an unchallenged rule for only about a thousand years.
Ganapati is a pauranic god, a god always of the common people and the artisans who delighted on sculpting and painting such an incongruity, such a resolution of paradox. For he is neither animal nor human, being more like the gods of ancient Egypt than anything in the usual Hindu tradition. He is not beautiful in any conventional sense, quite the contrary, yet every Hindu feels a surge of affection when he gazes upon this clearly impossible figure. That Ganapati has been a successful Indian export is not so well known, but from Afghanistan to Japan, you can find ancient idols that testify to his peculiar popularity. Burma, Cambodia, Java, China, Vietnam, wherever the Hindus traveled, so too did their beloved Vighneshwara, the destroyer of obstacles.”2
“This god of knowledge and the remover of obstacles is also the older son of Lord Shiva. Lord Ganesha is also called Vinayak (knowledgeable) or Vighneshwer (god to remove obstacles). He is worshipped, or at least remembered, in the beginning of any auspicious performance for blessings and auspiciousness.
He has four hands, elephant's head and a big belly. His vehicle is a tiny mouse. In his hands he carries a rope (to carry devotees to the truth), an axe (to cut devotees' attachments), and a sweet dessert ball -laddoo- (to reward devotees for spiritual activity). His fourth hand's palm is always extended to bless people.
A unique combination of his elephant-like head and a quick moving tiny mouse vehicle represents tremendous wisdom, intelligence, and presence of mind.” (www.umich.edu)
Kash was also repeatedly asked whether he was sure that there was a mouse beside Shri Ganesha. He insisted there was and that he had even seen this mouse standing on its hind legs! Yet, in spite of the spiritual evidence given by his son, the incredulous mind of the father still refused to believe in its occurrence. What did a mouse and one of the most revered of Deities have in common? In the first place, what was a mouse doing in the Spiritual World?
Although Kash could give no answer to these logical questions, he steadfastly stood by what he saw.
Only after checking at the Saul Bellow Library in Lachine, Montreal, did his father's mind settle down. The Encyclopaedia Britannica confirmed the presence of a mouse as the vehicle of Shri Ganesha.
Note: A scene from the Ramayana, the story of King Rama, who probably lived in the 8th century B.C. The original epic is ascribed to the sage Valmiki, who lived in the 2nd century B.C. Rama was later included among the incarnations of Vishnu. Shown here is Hanuman, the monkey god, a friend of Rama, one of the most popular characters of Indian mythology. The legend holds that during the war with Ravana, the demon king of Ceylon, a plant with special medicinal properties was needed to treat Rama's younger brother. Hanuman went to the mountains to search for the plant, but since he was unable to identify that particular plant, he is shown here lifting the entire mountain to bring it over to the physician.” (www.wsu.edu/)
“Hanuman is one of the seven Chiranjivis. He was the only learned scholar who knew the nine Vyakaranas. He learnt the Sastras from the sun-god. He was the wisest of the wise, strongest of the strong and bravest of the brave. He was the Sakti of Rudra. He who meditates on him and repeats his name attains power, strength, glory, prosperity and success in life. He is worshipped in all parts of India, particularly in Maharashtra.
He was born at the most auspicious hour of the morning of the 8th of the Lunar month, Chaitra, at 4 o'clock on the most blessed day, Tuesday. He had the power to assume any form he liked; to swell his body to an enormous extent and to reduce it to the length of a thumb. His strength was superhuman. He was the terror of Rakshasas. He was well versed in the four Vedas and other sacred books. His valour, wisdom, knowledge of the scriptures and superhuman strength attracted everybody who came near him. He had extraordinary skill in warfare.”3
Kash had actually said that Shri Hanuman was flying around in the air as if He had wings. The conditioned mind of his father, having seen drawings of winged Christian angels, thought he meant that Shri Hanuman had wings and wrote so. Later Kash clarified that Shri Hanuman had no wings but could still fly and hover around. (This fact was later corroborated by his brother Arwinder who, among other feats, witnessed a wingless Shri Hanuman flying and hovering around in the air.)
This misconception of the angels requiring bird-like wings to fly has the apparent influence of the ancient Near Eastern religions; for example the winged spirits of Mesopotamian belief. In all of his mystical journeys into his Sahasrara Kash has never seen anyone having wings.
who floats on the cosmic waters. 7th
Century, Balaju, Nepal.
Note: “The sayana-murti is the most common Visnu image in South India. Visnu is represented as resting on Sesa, the world-snake, attended by Sri and often also by Bhumi ... He represents the highest bliss, the state of absorption of everything in him; through his darsana one obtains highest bliss; It is the presentation of Vishnu in Vaikuntha. The snake itself is a highly symbolic figure in Vaisnavism; though it is the enemy of Garuda, it is also the symbol for eternal life and immortality, of secret power and mystery. The association of the serpent with the water is also very meaningful: water is the primeval element, the source of everything.” 4
Nearly two years later on October 29, 1995, at 10:45 a.m. Kash was again asked to describe Shri Shesha on whose coils he had sat together with Shri Mataji, Shri Vishnu and Shri Lakshmi. His father wanted information on the number of heads.
He again replied that there were 6 heads (see first fax) and that the middle head was larger than the rest. He was requested to state the number of smaller heads on either side, that is, whether two on left or right of middle head, and the remaining three on the either side.
Kash closed his eyes to recollect what he had witnessed in the past. Realizing that all the while he had not counted the larger middle head he admitted that Shri Shesha indeed is seven-headed, with three smaller heads on either side of the larger middle one.
On deciding who is to be worshipped
1-7. The Risis said :-- “O highly fortunate one ! A great doubt has arisen on your statement. This is ascertained by all the wise men as written in the Vedas, Puranas and other Sastras that Brahma, Visnu and Mahesvar, these three Devas are eternal. None is superior to them in this Brahmanda. Brahma creates all the beings, Visnu preserves and Mahesvar destroys all in due time. These are the causes of creation, preservation and destruction. The Trinity Brahma, Visnu and Mahesa are really one form, indeed, Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity.
Being endowed respectively with Sattva, Raja and Tamo Gunas they do their respective works. Amongst these, again, Purushottam Adideva Jagannath Hari, the husband of Kamala is the best; for he is capable of doing all the actions; no other than the Visnu, of unrivalled prowess is so capable. How is it, then that Yogamaya has overpowered Hari with sleep and made him altogether senseless? O highly fortunate one ! whither did, then, go that extraordinary self knowledge and power, etc., of Hari while alive? This is our greatest doubt; so kindly advise us that our this doubt be removed and our well-being be thus ensured.
8-30. What is that Sakti? Which you mentioned to us before; as well by whom Visnu is conquered? Whence is She born? What is the power of that Sakti and what is Her nature?
O Suvrata ! explain to us these fully.
How was it that Yogamaya overpowered with sleep the Highest Deity Bhagavan Visnu who is everlasting-intelligence bliss ! who is the God of all, the Guru of the whole world, the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer, who is omni-present, an incarnate of purity and holiness and beyond Rajoguna; how was such a personage brought under the control of sleep? O Suta ! You are very intelligent and the pupil of Vyasa Deva; destroy this doubt by the sword of wisdom.
Hearing this, Suta said :--“O highly fortunate Munis ! There is none in the three Lokas who can clear your this doubt; the mind-born sons of Brahma, Narada, Kapila and other eternal sons get bewildered by these questions; what can I, then, say on this very difficult point ! See, some persons call Bhagavan Visnu omnipresent, the preserver of all and the best of all the Devas; according to them all this universe moving and non-moving, is created by Visnu; they bow down before the Highest Narayan Hrisikesa Janardana Vasudeva and worship Him, whereas others worship Mahadeva Sankara, having Gauri for the other half of his body, endowed with all powers, residing in Kailasa, surrounded by hosts of bhutas, that destroyed the Daksha's sacrifice, who is mentioned in the Vedas as Sasisekhara (having moon on his forehead), with three eyes and five faces and holding trident in his hand and known as Vrisadhaja and Kaparddi.
O highly intelligent ones ! There are some other persons, that know the Vedas and worship the Sun everyday in the morning, mid-day and in the evening with various hymns. In all the Vedas, it is stated that the worship of the sun is excellent and they have named the high-souled sun as Paramatma (the Highest Deity). Whereas there are other Vedavits (the knowers of the Vedas) who worship the Devas, Fire, Indra, and Varuna. But the Maharsis say, that as Ganga Devi (the river Ganges), though one, is expressing Herself by many channels, so the one Visnu is expressing in all the Deva forms. Those who are big Pundits, declare perception, inference, and verbal testimony as the three modes of proofs. The Naiyayik Pundits add to the above three, a fourth proof which they call upama, resemblance, similitude and some other intelligent Pundits add another fifth proof called Arthapatti, an. inference from circumstances, presumption, implication. It is deduction of a matter from that which could not else be; it is assumption of a thing, not itself perceived but necessarily implied by another which is seen, heard or proved; whereas the authors of the Puranas add two other, called Saksi and Aitijhya, thus advocating. seven modes of proofs.
Now the Vedanta Sastra says that the supreme being (Param Brahma), the Prime cause of the Universe, cannot be comprehended by the above-mentioned seven proofs. Therefore, first of all, adopt the reason leading to sure belief, the Buddhi, according to the words of the Vedas and discriminate and discuss again and again and draw your inference about Brahma. And the intelligent person should adopt what is seen by perception as self-evident and what is inferred by the observance of good conduct. The wise persons say, and it is also stated in the Puranas, that the Prime Force is present in Brahma as the Creative Force; is present in Hari as the Preservative Force; is present in Hara as the Destructive Force; is present in Kurma (tortoise) and in Ananta (the thousand headed Snake) as the earth supporting Force; is present in fire as the Burning Force, is present in air as the moving Force, and so is present everywhere in various manifestations of forces.
31-51. In this whole Universe, whoever he may be, all are incapable of any action if he be deprived of his force; what more than this, if Siva be deprived of Kula Kundalini Sakti, He becomes a lifeless corpse; O grea ascetic Risis ! She is present everywhere thus in every thing in this universe from the highest Brahma to the lowermost blade of grass, all moving and non-moving things. Verily everything becomes quite inert, if deprived of force; whether in conquering one's enemies, or in going from one place to another or in eating -- one finds oneself quite incapable, if deprived of force.
Thus the omnipresent Sakti, the wise call by the name of Brahma. Those who are verily intelligent should always worship Her in various ways and determine thoroughly the reality of Her by every means. In Visnu there is the Sattviki Sakti; then He can preserve; otherwise He is quite useless; so in Brahma there is Rajasi Sakti and He creates; otherwise He is quite useless; in Siva, there is Tamasi Sakti and He destroys; else He is quite useless.
Thus, arguing again and again in one's mind, everyone should come to know that the Highest Adya Sakti by Her mere will creates and preserves this Universe and She it is who destroys again in time the whole Brahmanda, moving and non-moving; no one is capable to do his respective work be he Brahma, Visnu, Mahesvar, Indra, Fire, Sun, Varuna or any other person whatsoever; verily all the Devas perform the respective actions by the use of this Adya Sakti. That She alone is present in cause and effect and is doing every action, and be witnessed vividly.
The intelligent ones call that Sakti twofold; one is Saguna and the other is Nirguna. The people, attached to the senses and the objects, worship the Saguna aspect, and those who are not so attached worship the Nirguna aspect. That conscious Sakti is the Lady of the fourfold aims of life, religion, wealth, desires, and liberation. When She is worshipped according to due rules, She awards all sorts of desires. The worldly persons, charmed by the Maya of this world, do not know Her at all; some persons know a little and charm others; whereas some stupid and dull-deaded Pundits, impelled by Kali, start sects of heretics, Pasandas for the sustenance of their own bellies.
O highly fortunate Munis ! In no other Yugas were found acts as prevalent in this Kali Yuga, based on various different opinions and altogether beyond the pale of the Vedic injunctions.
Behold again, if Brahma, Visnu and Mahesa be the supreme Deities, then why do these three Devas meditate on another One beyond speech, beyond mind and practise, for years, hard austerities; and why do they perform Yajñas (sacrifices) for their success in creation, preservation, and destruction? They know, verily, the Highest Supreme Being, Brahmani Devi Sakti eternal, constant and therefore they meditate Her always in their minds.
Therefore the wise man, knowing this firmly, should serve in every way the Highest Sakti. O Munis ! This is the settled conclusion of all the Sastras. I have heard of this great hidden secret from Bhagavan Krisna Dvaipayan. He heard it from Narada, and Narada heard it from his own father Brahma. Brahma heard this from Visnu. O Munis it is well that the wise even should not hear or think anything to the contrary from other sources; they should with their concentrated heart serve the Brahma Sanatani Sakti.
It is clearly witnessed in this world that if there be any substance wherein this conscious Sakti does not exist, that becomes inert, quite useless for any purpose. So know this fully that it is the Highest Divine Mother of the Universe that is playing here, residing in every being.
Thus ends the eighth chapter of the first Skandha on deciding who is to be worshipped in the Mahapurana Sri Mad Devi Bhagavatam of 18,000 verses by Maharsi Vedavyasa.
Worship of the Goddess in Hinduism
by Sarah Caldwell (Harvard Divinity School)
Yaa devi sarvabhuteshu buddhi rupena samsthitaa
Namastasyai namastasyai namastasyai namo namaha
To that goddess who dwells within all beings in the form of intellect,
I bow again and again and again
— Chandi Path (Devi Mahatmya), Ch. 5, v. 20
On a recent visit to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, I wandered through the Indian art gallery. Ensconced against the southern wall of the gallery stands a glorious life-size granite image of the goddess Durga, voluptuous, lithe and graceful, her foot poised delicately on the severed head of the buffalo demon Mahishasura. Visitors meander past casting bemused glances at her soft yet powerful body and her knowing smile. Of all the images of Hindu deities, it is perhaps this conflation of supreme power and tender loveliness that most arrests the visitor's eye and challenges our concepts about the divine. It was a similar image of Durga that first caught the eye of Professor Tom Coburn, a distinguished scholar of Sanskrit who has translated the great scriptural account of Devi's triumphs, the Devi Mahatmya, in his book Encountering the Goddess. In an article written for the Indian journal Manushi, Professor Coburn has described his initial enchantment with Durga, a love affair that led to a lifetime of distinguished scholarship and study.
South Asian religions have given birth to some of the loveliest and most sublime images of feminine divinity the world has ever seen, as well as some of the most mysterious and powerful. These range from graceful miniature paintings of Sita pining for her beloved husband Rama, or Radha awaiting a tryst with Krishna in a forest grove to imposing images of Durga and Kali gracing south India's stone temples. In villages throughout the subcontinent, Devi takes the form of a simple rock, a mound of mud, a wooden carving, a bronze statue, a painting, a poster, a sword, a tree, as she receives the loving attentions of worshipers, blesses homes and agricultural fields, and watches over the fate of her children. Of the world's living religious traditions, it is only in Hinduism that such extensive worship of divinity in the female form may be found.
The Hindu goddess in all her myriad of forms has also been celebrated in poetic verses of praise for many centuries. The ancient Tamil classic, Cilappadikaram, eulogizes its benighted heroine, Kannaki, who in her rage at a king's injustice, tore off her left breast and burned the city of Madurai to the ground before rising to the sky as a goddess. The exquisite Gita Govinda of Jayadeva details in verses heavy with longing and love the ecstatic union of Krishna with the beautiful Radha. In pleading, begging, railing, desperate lines, the Bengali Ramprasad Sen explores the depth of love and despair that is the love of the dark Mother Kali. The Saundarya Lahari (often attributed to Adi Shankara) details the magnificent, radiant form of the Devi as queen of the universe, and reveals the esoteric meaning of her form as the Sri Yantra, the geometric pattern of energies that describes the inner workings of the universe.
Yet the Hindu apperception of the feminine divine goes far beyond even this almost infinite wealth of images and poetry. Hindu philosophy also includes sublime and intellectually sophisticated theologies of the Goddess. Shakta theology in particular, unlike any other living religious tradition, attributes supreme divinity, power over creation, all speech, nature, mind, and liberation, the universe itself, to Devi, the Goddess, who exceeds even the great gods Shiva, Vishnu, Indra, and Brahma, upon whose bent backs she sits in glory. In astounding philosophical terms, Shakta theology propounds a doctrine that unites devotion to the goddess's supremely attractive feminine form with subtle apperception of the inner workings of the universe. Furthermore, tantric religious traditions provide specific means for ritual worship of and yogic meditation upon the goddess, directing the worshiper to a state of complete identification and union with her. These precious traditions of Hinduism, kept secret and revealed only to a few initiates for millennia, are beginning to be known better today and to be shared with a wider circle of devotees. within this great tradition lie the potential seeds of a revolution in the way human beings conceive of our world, ourselves, and one another. It is well worth studying and understanding the great tradition of goddess worship in Hinduism, for the benefit of oneself and humanity at large.
The fundamental meaning behind all of these images is the recognition in Hinduism of divine energy as a feminine force, Shakti, which literally means"power.”This power takes a wide variety of forms, including nature, creation, life force, movement, mind, and strength, as well as the power to dominate or destroy. Early Samkhya philosophy viewed reality as fundamentally dual, consisting of Purusha, the conscious Self (seen as Male), in interaction with Prakriti, nature and the phenomenal world, including the mind (understood as a Female principle). The processes of yoga referred to in the Upanishads and formally codified in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in the 2nd C BCE are designed to extricate the pure, eternal, unblemished Self from its intricate identification with the phenomenal world, both external and internal, in the form of thoughts and perceptions. Techniques of self-control and meditation were developed to allow for the recognition of the Self's separateness from Prakriti, and to cultivate direct self-awareness free of the mind and senses.
The philosophy of Vedanta rejected the dualistic claims of the Samhkya system, reinterpreting the feminine principle of Prakriti as Maya, the illusory power of the divine Brahman (transcendental Self). The feminine Maya had no intrinsic reality, but was merely a projection of Brahman, appearing as a great seductress ensnaring the mind and senses and drawing them away from awareness of their fundamental nature as Self or Purusha. Ascetic disciplines of fasting, celibacy, and meditation detached the mind from its natural outward-moving tendency and turned it forcibly inward; intellectual disciplines such as viveka (discrimination) and vairagya (detachment) sought to penentrate and dissolve the unreality of Maya. Buddhist and Jain philosophy, which developed in the same period as the late Upanishads (around the 6th C. BCE), also relied upon this theory and hence emphasized asceticism, detachment, and the rejection of the pleasures of the ensnaring phenomenal world. Women, who were relegated socially to the role of wives and mothers, were naturally seen as antithetical to the aim of moksha or liberation from the snares of samsara, cyclical, desire-motivated existence. Thus during this influential early age of Indian religious thought, the feminine principle of divinity as well as human women were identified as obstacles to the real aim of human life, moksha, or permanent spiritual liberation from the cycles of rebirth.
Of course, while forest-dwelling ascetics and yogis attempted to break their attachments to the world, a different, life-affirming strain of Hindu practice and belief flourished unbroken from the Vedic period to the present. The fundamental symbolism of the ancient Vedic fire rituals was the creative power of the sacrifice, resulting from the coming together of the female and male life forces (symbolized by the spark created from the friction of the fire-sticks rubbing together). Human reproduction and well-being, not moksha, were the fruits sought by supplicating the divine powers in the Vedic fire ritual. Although goddesses played a relatively minor role in the Vedic ritual corpus, by the Classical period (1st-11th C. CE) of Hinduism, their presence was central. As temples and devotional Hinduism underwent a dramatic period of growth in response to the challenge of Buddhism and Jainism, goddesses rose in importance. Powerful and appealing female divinities embodying every possible aspect of existence began to be envisioned in temple sculpture and eulogized in hymns of praise.
In temples, rituals of puja (worship) were performed daily to goddesses, sometimes as wives or consorts of powerful male deities, but sometimes alone, as in the case of Durga, Saraswati, Mahalakshmi, and many others. The iconography of these female divinities drew heavily from the very ancient sculptural tradition of yakshis, female fertility spirits, whose smiling, ample, voluptuous frames adorned the gateways of early Buddhist and Jain temples from the 5th c. BC. The ideal of feminine divinity was from the beginning identified with life force, erotic beauty, sexual fertility, motherliness, and power. Even the goddess of war, Durga, was envisioned as a supremely attractive and desirable young woman at the height of her potential reproductive powers (though remaining a virgin, and hence channeling those potential powers toward other aims for the benefit of the world). Only the goddesses of disease and destruction, such as Sitala, Manasa, Mariyamman, and Kali, were sometimes shown as haggard, emaciated, and ugly; yet even these goddesses were revered and propitiated, as part of the inevitable cycle of life and death. The Hindu goddess in all her forms was always linked to this complete acceptance of the ever-changing, transformative cycle of life.
Rituals of worship to the goddess today take place in almost infinite variety, but their aim is always to propitiate and increase Shakti, divine energy, manifest as life force. This life force may take the form of health and healing from disease, the auspicious growth of plants and abundance of food, marital happiness and sexual enjoyment, reproductive health and the birth of children, wealth and success in work activities, intellectual and artistic skill and acumen, or victory over one's enemies. The force that perpetuates life is the holiest thing in the practice of Hinduism, supremely auspicious, and it is this auspiciousness that Devi represents. In her life-perpetuating form, the goddess is beautiful, benevolent, fertile, motherly, attractive, full of knowledge, compassion, and desire. She embraces and enlivens all aspects of reality. Pictured as an idealized queen and wife, endowed with supernatural beauty and virtue, adorned with magnificent ornaments and always bestowing grace and bounty, the Devi in this form is Saumya, benevolent. She is the object of desire, and is usually shown as the wife or consort of an appropriate male divinity, whose power or Shakti she is (e.g., Lakshmi-Vishnu, Parvati-Siva, Radha-Krishna, Sita-Rama, etc.).
Throughout the Hindu world, elaborate, extensive temple rituals and festivals celebrate the goddess's wedding to her divine spouse (examples include Meenakshi Kalyanam, Rama-Sita Kalyanam, Parvati-Siva Swayamvaram, etc.). The extraordinary dedication of time, resources, and priestly knowledge to the periodic reenactment of these divine weddings underscores the profound spiritual significance of the marital bond. In fact marriage is considered the most important samskara, or rite of passage, in the human lifespan. In the marriage ritual the bride is identified with the goddess Lakshmi, adorned and worshipped as the bringer of supreme auspiciousness into her new family. As she undertakes her new responsibilities as wife and mother, a woman joins the daily round of domestic worship conducted by women of the family, centering around the kitchen shrine. Upon rising in the morning she will bathe and draw a kolam or rangoli on the doorstep, to welcome the goddess Lakshmi into the home. In all her activities the wife and mother embodies the divine feminine force of life, auspiciousness, and joy. It is she who is believed to keep the husband and children alive and happy through her careful attention to their welfare and satisfaction, through cooking, fasting, prayer, teaching, and self-care and beautification. The auspiciousness of goddess Lakshmi, so necessary to life in the world, is also celebrated lavishly at Diwali, the festivals of light and life in dark times.
Sometimes it is The Mother aspect of the goddess that is emphasized in Hindu worship; here she is represented iconographically on her own, not as part of a spousal pair. The forms of the independent mother goddess are almost infinite, and are especially important on the local, village level in India. Most villages have a local mother goddess who is believed to have arisen in that particular geographic location and who is intimately tied to the welfare of the village. She functions as the protector, provider, and punisher of the village, and must be constantly propitiated, worshipped, and consulted in order to assure order and avert disease and disaster. Kali, Sitala, Mariyamman, and Durga embody the wrath of the fierce aspect of the goddess in forms known throughout India. Although this form of goddess worship is prominent in village shrines, it is also very important at the temple level, particularly in Bengal and Kerala, where temples to Kali or Bhagavati predominate. Often the temple festivals in these regions are tied to the agricultural cycle, and the goddess is believed to undergo a periodic reproductive cycle akin to that of human women. Ritual worship takes place during the hottest season, when the goddess is understood to be undergoing her menstrual cycle, and in need of sacrificial offerings and excitement before a period of rest and renewal.
Hindus show deep reverence to the earth as The Mother Goddess. From the most ancient times, rivers, mountains, hills, the sky, and in fact all of the earth, have been respected as the body of the goddess itself. The river Ganga, the most important of the Hindu river goddesses, is an embodied liquid divinity, whose grace flowing over the bather's body can be felt to empower, cleanse, purify, heal, and enlighten. The Shakti Pithas, locations where parts of the goddess's body mythically fell to earth and installed themselves, are seats of power where pilgrims can directly experience the goddess. Hills, mountains, stones, and anthills all manifest miraculous powers throughout the Indian subcontinent, and are ancient places of pilgrimage and renewal. Before building a house, undertaking cultivation of plants, starting a ritual, or beginning a dance, Hindus pray to Bhumi Devi, the earth goddess, for her blessings and forgiveness.
Perhaps the most important festival to the goddess is Navaratri, the nine nights of worship dedicated to the goddess Durga. This festival takes place in some form throughout the Indian subcontinent in the bright moon fortnight of the Hindu months of Chaitra (March-April) and Ashwin (September-October). The sacred text recounting the destruction of a series of demons by the goddess Durga or Candi, the Chandipath, is recited each evening for nine nights. On the eighth day a homa or fire sacrifice is offered to Durga Devi in celebration of her triumph over evil. The nine nights of worship are divided into groups of three, recognizing the triple form of the goddess as Durga/Lakshmi/Saraswati. Durga or Camunda is the goddess of power, destruction of negativities, and fierce strength in the face of adversity and evil. The story of her destruction of demons symbolizes the need fiercely to confront one's own limitations and negative qualities and eliminate them. Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity and abundance, represents the ability to enjoy, share, and love, made possible by self-purification and the recognition of the divine manifest in all. After cultivating moral purification and an attitude of optimism and generosity, Saraswati, goddess of higher knowledge, finally is propitiated as the one who makes it possible to realize divine wisdom and light. The festival of Navaratri, like many forms of Hindu worship, incorporates many levels of meaning. It can be a harvest festival, a time for family and friends to gather and share, a time of rest and renewal, a time of fasting and penance. Spiritually, Navaratri can be a recognition of the necessity to destroy old habits to make way for new experiences and knowledge, a celebration of growth and rebirth, and a profound experience of the goddess as one's inner power of consciousness.
A unique aspect of Hinduism not found in other world religions is the recognition of an intimate link between the goddess and the force of intellect, mind, and speech. This is reflected in contemporary Hinduism in the person of the goddess Saraswati. Portrayed in spotless white garments and seated upon a swan, Saraswati holds in her hands a palm-leaf manuscript and a veena (the Indian lute), symbolizing her power over speech, literature, learning, and the arts. School children venerate Saraswati to excel in their studies, and often place their schoolbooks and pens upon her alter toward this end. The identification of the goddess with speech and intellect has ancient roots in Hinduism. Vedic hymns recognize Vac as the power of speech, the power that inspired the production of mantras. The identification of the goddess with language is later elaborated in Shaiva philosophy, where the fifty letters of the Sanskrit alphabet are collectively referred to as Matrika Shakti, the power of the"little mothers" (the letters themselves). By calling the letters"mothers," the sages drew our attention to the creative, generative powers of language. In this concept the goddess manifests to create the universe through pulsation (Spanda), which animates the mind as subtle thoughts, and emerges on the physical plane as speech. All of material creation is also embodied in the subtle vibrations of this divine speech, and mantras, which encapsulate these energies, when properly pronounced, can actually recreate material reality.
Shaiva philosophy envisions the Godhead as consisting of the inseparable pair Shiva and Shakti, Being and Consciousness. Neither exists without the other. These two are imagined as a divine husband and wife engaged in endless erotic play. This image signifies the deeper meaning of the Self (prakasha-illumination) enjoying the manifold phenomena continually unfolded by Shakti (vimarsha-reflective consciousness). In fact the mind with its constant inner movement is nothing but a dancer entertaining the witnessing conscious self, ever still and unaffected yet deeply enjoying the play of consciousness. In this metaphor the process of conscious existence is itself a great love affair, a union of Shiva and Shakti, Being (Sat) and Consciousness (Chit), leading to inner bliss (Ananda). A shift in awareness allows us to recognize all of reality as nothing but this blissful play, the dance of Shiva and Shakti.
Shaiva philosophy explains that the potential for this awareness lies within every person, in a dormant form known as Kundalini Shakti. This divine power is envisioned as a sleeping snake coiled three times in the base of the spine, at an energy center known as the muladhara chakra. In order to realize the play of divine Being and Consciousness taking place within us, it is necessary to awaken this sleeping goddess that resides within the body, and to purify oneself through spiritual disciplines, devotion, and study. The practices of Kundalini Yoga awaken and cultivate this subtle form of the goddess, which is in fact divine consciousness, leading it toward the energy center located in the crown of the head, the sahasrara chakra, said to be the abode of Lord Shiva. When the goddess as Kundalini Shakti unites with Lord Shiva, divine bliss and permanent liberation from suffering and ignorance ensue. The practices of Kundalini Yoga are thus another form of worship of the goddess within one's own body, as one's own consciousness and true inner self.
A form of Hindu worship that unites all aspects of the goddess and aims to attain not only well-being in the world, but also supreme spiritual knowledge and ultimate liberation, is the tantric practice of Sri Vidya, the Supreme Wisdom. In Sri Vidya practice, Devi is worshipped as Tripurasundari, the Beauty of the Three Worlds. Tripurasundari is envisioned as Rajarajeshwari, Queen of the Universe, Goddess who holds the key to all knowledge and powers. She is the supreme creator; all worlds and powers dwell within her body in the form of minor Devis, who are each enumerated and propitiated through the worship. The essence of Sri Vidya practice is encoded in the texts Lalita Sahasranama and Saundarya Lahari, which are recited daily in many parts of India, but can be properly understood only through initiation by a guru of the tradition. Through the use of mantras (sacred syllables embodying the energies of the goddess), mudras (ritual hand gestures that awaken subtle energies and seal the relationship of the seeker to the chosen deity), guided meditation, and external puja (offerings of various kinds) to the Sri Yantra, a complex geometric representation of the goddess as the entire universe, an initiate installs the goddess into his or her own body and then proceeds to move backwards through the process of creation to dissolve his or her consciousness back into its source.
One feature of the worship of Hindu goddesses that is seen throughout India is the tendency to venerate groups of goddesses, who are yet understood to be emanations of a single Devi. This tendency reflects the realization that nature has the tendency to multiply and proliferate. From a single fertile cell, two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two, sixty-four cells arise through division of the the original one, leading to an almost infinite array of cells which then arrange themselves into different functions and form a human body. Throughout the natural world this tendency to proliferate and multiply signifies life. After a period of growth, decay sets in and the cells begin to decay and degenerate, eventually leading to death and reabsorption into their source, the material elements from which life arose. This basic pattern of proliferation and decay extends to all of creation, including the mineral world and the universe of stars, planets, and galaxies. It is this profound understanding of the patterns underlying the phenomenal universe that is reflected in the tendency to portray goddesses in enumerated groups. The oldest of these is the Seven Mothers (Saptamatrika), who scholars have suggested represent the Pleiades, an important constellation of the tropical night sky; others suggest that they also may represent the seven chakras or energy centers identified in the subtle physiology of Kundalini Yoga. Hindu iconography also celebrates Eight Lakshmis (Ashtalakshmi), Nine Durgas (Navadurga), Ten Great Wisdom Goddesses (Dasa Maha Vidya), Sixteen Phases of the Lunar Cycle or digits of the moon (the Nitya Kala Devis), and 64 Yoginis (esoteric female teachers). Each of these groupings has profound meaning in tantric practice. In the tenth century circular temples to the 64 yoginis were constructed in East Central India, in the center of which worshipers would conduct secret rites to identify themselves with the creator pair Shiva/Shakti. In that golden age of tantric knowledge, human females played the role of teachers and adepts as well as wives, servants, and partners to male yogis. Temples such as the Kailasnath temple in Kanchipuram, Tamilnadu, which preserve images of these human yoginis in postures of instruction and veneration, let us know that during this period, the goddess, in her aspect as teacher, sexual partner, and creator of life, was overtly worshipped in the person of human women.
The vast landscape of goddess worship in Hinduism is impossible to grasp in a single lifetime, much less in a brief essay. However the richness of this tradition, and its potential to contribute to the religious understandings of people the world over, is immense. Many people throughout the world are seeking to improve the relations of humans to their physical world, and to one another. In the profound sacred geography of Hinduism, which reveres the earth as a goddess, are plentiful resources for regenerating the ecological awareness of human beings. Whether through participation in pilgrimages to sacred rivers and mountains; through the celebration of the beauty, wisdom, and power of the manifold goddesses in the exquisite rituals of puja; through initiation into the profound mysteries of Kundalini Yoga and Shakta tantra; or simply through the recognition of divinity in the human body of every man and woman, Hindu tradition offers the world an almost infinite array of ways to sacralize every aspect of mundane existence. From cooking to business to pleasure to knowledge, Devi is the source from which all success and joy arise. For those seeking ultimate knowledge, the Sri Vidya practice is arguably the most elaborate and esoteric form of worship of the goddess, and also one of the most theologically complex. It would take many lifetimes to fully grasp the depth of the symbolism and beauty of the ritual practice encoded in its tradition. This form of understanding of goddess has great potential to expand our concept of the divine in many religions. Women, especially those raised within Hinduism, should be encouraged to read and study deeply the meanings of these great traditions, and to realize the presence of the goddess within their own minds and bodies. Men can learn to respect and revere the feminine as well as masculine qualities, and to see Devi in all women. Such an attitude, that embraces all of creation and all beings as pulsations of divine love, will heal and uplift our world.
References and Further Reading:
Bhattacharyya, Narendra Nath. The Indian mother goddess. 3rd enl. ed. New Delhi : Manohar Publishers & Distributors, 1999.
Brooks, Douglas Renfrew. The secret of the three cities: an introduction to Hindu Sakta tantrism. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1990.
Auspicious wisdom: the texts and traditions of srividya sakta tantrism in south India. Albany, NY : State University of New York Press, 1992.
Brown, Cheever Mackenzie. The triumph of the goddess : the canonical models and theological visions of the Devi-Bhagavata. Albany : State University of New York Press, 1990.
The Devi Gita: the song of the Goddess; a translation, annotation, and commentary. Albany : State University of New York Press, 1998.
Caldwell, Sarah. Oh Terrifying Mother: Sexuality, Violence, and Worship of the Goddess Kali. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Coburn, Thomas B. Encountering the goddess : a translation of the Devi-mahatmya and a study of its interpretation. Albany, N.Y. : State University of New York Press, 1991.
Dehejia, Vidya. Yogini, cult and temples: a tantric tradition. New Delhi : National Museum, 1986.
Devi : the great goddess: female divinity in South Asian art. Washington, D.C. : Published by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution in association with Mapin Publishing, Ahmedabad and Prestel Verlag, Munich, 1999.
Hawley, John S., and Donna M. Wulff, eds. Devi: goddesses of India. Berkeley : University of California Press, 1996.
Kinsley, David R. Hindu goddesses: visions of the divine feminine in the Hindu religious tradition. Berkeley : University of California Press, 1986.
Tantric visions of the divine feminine: the ten mahavidyas. Berkeley : University of California Press, 1997.
Pintchman, Tracy. The rise of the Goddess in the Hindu Tradition. Albany, N.Y. : State University of New York Press, 1994.
Woodroffe, John George, Sir. Sakti and sakta: essays and addresses. 8th ed. Madras : Ganesh, l975.
Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi
“To say you must meditate, people think it's a kind of a ritual or maybe a kind of a style of Sahaja Yoga. No. Meditation is for you to go deep down into yourself, to achieve all that your Sahasrara wants to give you. To achieve that height of detachment, of understanding, is only through meditation.
So what happens in meditation is that your awareness crosses over Agnya, goes above and is now stationed in the Sahasrara in thoughtless awareness. Then the Reality of Sahasrara, the Beauty of Sahasrara starts pouring in your own character, in your own temperament. Unless and until you meditate — not meditate just to get well or just to feel that I must meditate — but meditation is very important for all of you, that you develop your Sahasrara in such a manner that you imbibe the beauty of your Sahasrara. If you don't use your Sahasrara in this way, after some time you'll find Sahasrara will close down, you'll have no vibrations and you'll have no understanding of yourself.
So very, very important thing is to meditate... Meditation is the only way you can enrich yourself with the beauty of Reality. There's no other way. I cannot find, any other way but meditation by which you rise into the Realm of Divinity....
To get to the inner side of yourself, the subtler side of your being, you must allow the Kundalini to go through the Agnya. To cross the Agnya is a very important thing in modern times and for that you have to meditate. If you can meditate with complete faith in yourself, this Agnya can be opened up with surrendering to the Divine. You have to surrender yourself to the Divine and when this Agnya opens, you'll be amazed, your Sahasrara is just waiting to transfer to give you all the help that you need through the All-Pervading Power. Your connection of the Sahasrara with the All-Pervading Power is established and, by that, you'll be amazed how all these seven Chakras work for you, how they help you, how they try to give you whatever is the Real Knowledge about everything.
This Real Knowledge that you get is very Joy-giving. You can see this Real Knowledge in everything. You don't have to start reading any book about it. In every situation and every person, in every flower, in every natural happening you see clearly the Hand of the Divine...
The greatest thing happens to you that you become a global personality. So you start seeing the problem of every country, of every other nation where they have problems. But these problems, when you see, you don't see like other people because others may like to use it for their own purpose, maybe for media, maybe for something. What you want to see is that these problems are solved....
So your Sahasrara is extremely important. You must meditate to enrich your Sahasrara, to cure it, to make it completely nourished by the Kundalini. There's no need to do many rituals, but meditation and also little bit of taking bandhan, even now today, is necessary I think when you go out because still Kali Yuga is working its own pangs and the Satya Yuga is trying to come on. We are the ones who are going to support, look after the Satya Yuga and that's why the Sahasrara opening is very, very important.
It's very important and those who want to grow should meditate every day. Whatever time you may come home, maybe in the morning, maybe in the evening, any time, but you will know you are meditating when you can get into thoughtless awareness. Then you will know. Your reaction will be zero. Look at some thing, you'll just look at it. You won't react because you are thoughtless. You won't react. When that reaction is not there, then everything you'll be surprised is Divine because reaction is your Agnya's problem.
Once you are absolutely thoughtlessly aware you're one with the Divine, so much so that Divine takes over every activity, every moment of your life and looks after it and you feel completely secured, one with the Divine and enjoy the blessings of the Divine. May God bless you.”
Shri Maha-padmatavi-samstha Devi
Sahasrara Day Puja, Cabella, Italy — May 10, 1998
Maha-padmatavi-samstha [59th]: She dwells in the Great Lotus Forest. This means She dwells in Sahasrara. (See 21st Sloka of Saun. Lah.) According to Arunopanisad inside this 'Lotus Flower' is the point of contact between the individual and Cosmic Consciousness.
REFERNCES1. Sarada Vivekananda Ramakrishna [http://www.srv.org/mother.html]
2. Pannir, Hanuman, The Wise Trickster [http://www.swarthmore.edu/]
3. Ganesha, The Elephant Headed God [www.indiayogi.com/]
4. K. K. Klostermaier, Hinduism: A Short History, Oneworld Pub., 2000, p. 120
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