Devi Mahatmyam: The constant bloody battling [ 2004 ]

Mary Ann wrote

"I had a hard time with the Devi Mahatmyam, also, because of the constant bloody battling. Even if it's meant as metaphor, why so violent?? (This is a rhetorical question, but feel free to answer if you have an idea or two....)"

Nora :

Durga is a warrior goddess. Warriors are fighters. They are daring people. They are not afraid to die or to face their enemy. She has to face the enemy/demon who threaten the stability of the cosmos. If she doesn't kill them, they will kill her. Constant battling is the natural process of survival. If you look within our body, our immunological system for example is always in a constant battle for survival. They have to be virulent and powerful otherwise, once the immunological system paralyzed, death occur. The whole immunological system has failed to serve its function.

What you read in the Devi Mahatmaya is what you are actually reading is the real experience that is taking place within our body. Our body constant battle against the "enemy" of the body. But this is not all.

Devi Mahatmaya is the march of the human soul to its destination. It is indeed a great spiritual text and Mantra Sastra.

Once we embarked on a spiritual journey we will be face with obstacles in life. Obstacles or some may say negative forces that will try to stop us. What should we do, just push it aside and hopefully this obstacles will not bother us again. But that is not how things are. They will not, so what should we do, we have to fight. We have to prove that we are indeed worthy of this journey. We are in constant battle not only from forces that are external but internal, and the internal forces are the most virulent because we have to dive deep within ourselves. We have to clean our own wounds no matter how dirty they can be, and it take courage to do that especially to remove the dead tissue from our own body. Dead tissues are the very negativities forces that hinder our spiritual journey. They are the emotional baggage we keep accumulated within ourselves. Why do we need them? Remove them !! And that is what Devi Mahatmaya is saying: Do IT! Only then you can transcend like DURGA: The Great Goddess.

I didn't surprise me that for some they might feel uncomfortable.Its like watching a movie eh! Seeing yourself being dissected and you are to emerge not to feel anything at all.

Satish Arigela

They can't harm her. She is brahman.

Mary Ann

If she's all-powerful, couldn't she find another way to protect the cosmos? If she is brahman, aren't there other choices?

Devi Bhakta

Regard the "bloody battling" of the Devi Mahatmyam, Mary Ann asks, "If she's all-powerful, couldn't she find another way to protect the cosmos? If she is brahman, aren't there other choices?"

In seeking for answers to such questions, it might be useful to remember that Devi = Shakti, and that Shakti = Energy.

If you study the behavior of Energy in the physical sciences, you become aware of many principles. Einstein demonstrated that Energy is not merely the force that acts upon Matter; it is also the nature of Matter itself. (The Tantras, in fact, posited this understanding many centuries before Einstein).

Now, one basic principle of Energy is (to put it colloquially): THINGS FALL APART. Whether it is a molecule disintegrating into its composite atoms, a withered leaf falling to the forest floor, a person dying by accident, disease or old age, an asteroid smashing a planet, a star burning out into a cosmic cinder, or two galaxies colliding.

Whether you study the activity of quantum particles through an atomic microscope, or gaze at the extraordinary space-scapes revealed by the Hubble Telescope, you will invariably come away with the undeniable impression of an extraordinarily violent (from our human perspective), seemingly chaotic (again, from our perspective), and utterly transitory Universe. Everything is forever moving, falling apart, changing, dying ... it is Kali's Dance.

But another basic principle of Energy is that: THINGS COME TOGETHER.

All of this seeming death and violence appears to be the inevitable prerequisite for life and beauty. The molecule that falls apart frees its atoms to form new molecules; the fallen leaf decomposes to become part of a rich loam in which new trees will be born, grow and thrive; the dying animal "clears the deck" for the birth of new animals, constantly evolving and refining in nature -- the fact that no life is immortal necessitates continuous reproduction, rather than static, moribund eternal existance. The dust of pulverized galaxies become the womb in which new stars are spawned. The chaos of destruction always appears to be a prerequisite for the restored balance of Creation. It is a beautiful process in the wider view;though often violent and fearful in its particulars.

Through its doctrine of the 36 Tattvas, Shaktism describes a downward flow of Energy, beginning with the explosive union of Shakti and Shiva (call it the Big Bang, if you like!), and becoming increasingly (but never totally) dull and lifeless; sluggish and unchanging as it descends from that Union. The process of Sadhana is to reverse that flow, one being at a time. Again: The dynamic is one of FALLING APART, COMING TOGETHER.

Now, as regards your statement, "if she's all-powerful, then ..." I would reply that this is a faulty premise. She is not all-Powerful. She is all Power! She is Energy. She is Shakti. "PowerFUL" assumes that Power is what She has; but that is not quite the case. Power is what she IS. Energy is what She IS. And Energy behaves in a certain way. Shaktism calls on us to understand the terrible violence and desctructiveness of Energy in a broader sense; to see it as a magnificent and benevolent act of Eternal Creativity. In a way, it's kind of asking us to stop being pessimists and start being optimists; to see the Cosmic Cup as filling rather than emptying. It is a hard task ... but when we begin to succeed, we begin to feel the the almost unbearable force of Her LOVE. But that is where we leave mere science and cross into mysticism ... that is a function and result of Sadhana, not intellectual debate.

You also ask, "If she is brahman, aren't there other choices?" I think this formulation again unnecessarily limits our understanding. It asks us to imagine a Devi who makes a (moral?) decision that "I'm going to act violently to resolve this Mahishasura situation," rather than "Since I'm all-powerful, I'm going to simply wink my third eye, and make everything okay again without the unpleasant necessity of violence."

There is just an unnecessary dualism in that view. I agree entirely with Nora's in which she notes, "When we read in the Devi Mahatmaya, what we are actually reading is the real experience that is taking place within our body."

But I would go still further: What we read in Devi Mahatmyam is actually taking place within HER body, which is -- after all -- all that there is. And again, this is simply the nature of Energy. The asuras who oppose Devi are Her children as much as the shaktis who compose Her army. All of the blood spilled is, in the end, Her own blood (think of the icon of Chinnamasta -- the intimate interdependence of creation and destruction, sex and death). Mahisha is the force of chaos (FALLING APART) that forms the necessary prelude to achieving dynamic balance (rather than a lifeless stasis); Durga is the force of balance and re-creation (COMING TOGETHER). CHAOS behaves as it must; and BALANCE behaves as it must. What we see is not a morality tale (i.e. a tale of how we morally believe things should be), but an accurate description of Reality (i.e. a tale of how things are).

If we are to adore SHAKTI unconditionally, we must learn to accept and make peace between ourselves and this fact of what ENERGY actually is.

N. Madasamy

I see it as this : We need to make an effort if we want to achieve anything. This desire to realize HER must come from within [ a sincere and honest devotion ]


Devi is all powerful - how would we believe it unless we see the power unleashed! Ofcourse, this ultimate power should be shown on a worthy criminal and not on a weak/docile person. The bloody battles couldn't be avoided because the villain(s) have become very selfish after attaining extra-ordinary powers after penance in the form of boons. The villain is also clever while seeking a boon, that he makes sure to leave no scope for any existing technology/capability to ruin his desires. And so extra-ordinary powers become inevitable to overpower his extra-ordinary capability and save the people of pain and despair. Otherwise, I believe Devi, with her powers, could have rewritten the history so that the boon is nullified and such painful events don't occur. But, wouldn't you then doubt on her power!...:-).. Isn't life boring without the pain... If there wasn't pain, we wouldn't have realized the significance of happiness.

It is generally suggested to have a guru for proper understanding of the significance of the Hindu scriptures. Good that we have forums like Shakti_Sadhana to discuss and refine our understanding of these scriptures.

On a side note - Mahatma Gandhi said that he regularly used to read the scriptures like BhagavadGita (where Lord Krishna exhorts Arjuna to stand up and fight,) during the weak and enduring moments of his life. (Gandhi didn't physically fight the British!) Even though he was non-violent in the physical world, he needed to fight battles in his mental world by the guidance of the teachings of the scriptures. I believe Lord Jesus also had to fight a battle in his mind in accepting crucification when he had the power to make it otherwise.

Please correct me if there is a mistake in my understanding.

Mary Ann

Hello Mahesh and Everybody

: About a battle Jesus may have fought in his mind, in The Last Temptation of Christ, written by Nikos Kazantzakis (they made a movie of it), such a battle is depicted. And in the movie Donnie Darko, that theme is revisited, self-sacrifice, the necessity of self-sacrifice and of death in order to bring another reality about, or to be in touch with the truth.

This thread reminds me of something I've read by Pema Chodron in the book called Awakening Loving Kindness:

"I'm not talking about turning a hurricane into a calm day, I'm talking about realizing hurricane-ness, or if it's a calm day, calmness. I'm not talking about turning a forest fire into a cozy fire in the fireplace or something that's under your cooking pot that heats your stew. I'm saying that when there's a forest fire, don't resist that kind of power--that's you. When it's warm and cozy, don't resist that or nest in it. I'm not saying turn an earthquake into a garden of flowers. When there's an earthquake, let the ground tremble and rip apart, and when it's a rich garden with flowers, let that be also. I'm talking about not resisting, not grasping, not getting caught in hope and in fear, in good and in bad, but actually living completely."

I think this may be the point Devi Bhakta was trying to make, and Nora, also, when I questioned the bloody battles of the Devi Mahatmyam. (If I'm wrong about this, let me know.)

I know that it is important to accept something for what it is, and I also know that once that acceptance occurs is when major transformation can happen. At the moment of acceptance, there is freedom, and in that freedom, there are other alternatives to self-sacrifice and bloody battles. I feel certain of this.

Awhile back, I posted some quotes by a woman named Mary Parker Follett. (I'd repost them, but don't feel like searching the batches right now!) One quote was about the journey from war to peace. It was beautiful, and not unrealistic in its scope. Yes, it is necessary to take a stand in life many times over, but we also get caught in loops of behavior, history repeats itself, etc. Those loops, or patterns, or roles, are limiting. They are self-fulfilling prophecies. My point is that there may be another way than self-sacrifice, and bloody battles aren't the only answer. And when scriptures from the East or the West depict only battles for guidance, they may further the repeat of history, the limited self-fulfilling prophecy-type phenomenon.

N. Madasamy

"My point is that there may be another way than self-sacrifice, and bloody battles aren't the only answer. And when scriptures from the East or the West depict only battles for guidance, they may further the repeat of history, the limited self-fulfilling prophecy-type phenomenon. Re the book Nora suggested about what happens in our bodies, it sounds interesting. I will check it out soon"

Yes! of course Mary Ann there are always another way. There are many path but all leads to the same destination. To some they don't see the rational of going mountain climbing, but to me it is the most wonderful experience. The same for Sadhana, there are different sadhana for different people, thus the necessity of a guru who will prescribe the appropriate Sadhana for you. Even for Devi Mahatmyam there are different interpretation. I am relating it from my point of view.

If anybody interested to read further, there is another called : THE ESOTERIC SIGNIFICANCE OF THE DEVI-MAHATMYA By SRI SWAMI KRISHNANANDA.

Related topics :
Devi Mahatmyam and the four Sthudhis

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