Questions and Answers
** Mahishasura Mardini **

(Jacek pollner)
At site of Mahishasura Mardini there is statement which I don't understand well but which seems to me the most important clue of this spiritual story :
"In order to access that Power, the Gods must reverse the downward unfolding of Divine manifestation,i.e. cosmic tattvas...."
How to understand this in practical manner? Would you be so kind to explain me this sentence.. Later is statemnt ("Not coincidentaly ,this is also the goal of any sadhana...") I understand in this way that "Gods" our internal powers radiated energy which created appearance of Devi Durga...because She is Divine Sakti...But exactly what means this sentence "reverse downward unfolding.."

Namaskar Jacek

You are correct that your question about Mahishasura Mardini addresses perhaps "the most important clue of this spiritual story." You ask: "'In order to access that Power, the Gods must reverse the downward unfolding of Divine manifestation, i.e. cosmic tattvas...' How to understand this in practical manner? Later is the statement, 'Not coincidentaly ,this is also the goal of any sadhana...' If it is..the sentence is very important."

Yes, it is very important. The doctrine of the tattvas is complex; too complex to properly explain in a Group post. Suffice it to say, they are the mystical stages in which creation unfolds, usually considered by Shaktas and Shaivas to be 36 in number, although some systems posit fewer.

Think of the unfolding of the tattvas as a kind of doctrinal Big Bang Theory. We begin with an undifferentiated point of potentiality -- that is the Cosmic Union of Shakti-Shiva. And then Shakti begins to create -- or to devolve, if you will, into the diverse Creation. Her various forms, the devis and devas, the heavenly abodes, space and time, the visible universe -- each stage denser and more materially oriented than the stage that preceded it, each stage less thoroughly sentient (i.e. less infused with the Chit, or Cosmic Consciousness of Devi), on downward to the almost entirely insentient minerals of the Earth.

All that is created consists of the interplay three subtle elements, or gunas. They are: Sattva, or the spiritual tendency upward toward the original union of Shiva-Shakti; Tamas, or the material tendency downward toward the Earth; and Rajas, the tendency of movement, which can accelerate a being's progress in either direction.

When we engage in sadhana, what we are trying to do by all of our techniques -- regardless of whether our path is Vedic, Tantric, Bhaktic, etc. -- is to reverse the downward unfolding of Creation. We are, in essence, trying to swim against the current; to shed our "Tamasic" tendencies, and employ the energy of Rajas to move upward, back toward our Source -- Devi, the Cosmic Mother. In so doing, we shift the balance of the gunas within us; becoming more sattvic; increasing our access to Her Chit, and thus actually becoming more sentient than the human being who does not engage in sadhana.

This movement is most dramatically represented in the doctrine of Kundalini Yoga, which envisions the process in terms that recall the formulations of Physics, and electrical theory --Kundalini (the latent energy of Shakti) is seen as a serpent coiled around the Linga (the latent Shiva), who is enticed by various techniques to awaken and climb upward through the sushumna nadi, through the seven chakras (again, topics too complex to address here), to finally unite actively with Siva in the thousand-petalled lotus chakra at the top of the head. The sadhak who accomplishes this has effectively escaped from the downward flow of the tattvas; different traditions might express this by saying that she or he has achieved moksha, or perhaps broken the bonds of karma (another way of expressing the downward pull of Tamas).

So anyway -- now to relate all this back to the Devi Mahatmyam and Mahishasura Mardini. The gods, or devas -- who exist higher in the Tattva scheme than humans, but still not quite at the top (see the Uma Haimavati incident in the Kena Upanisad) -- are unable to defeat the Demon (Asura) Mahisha. They are to dissolute, so to speak; too watered down; too far down the devolutionary scale from the Divine force that creates and sustains them. And so each takes his own power (or shakti) and offers it back upward toward the larger force (Shakti) that originally devolved those powers unto them.

Who is that Source? The DM desribes it thus: "An exceedingly fiery mass like a flaming mountain did the Gods see, filling the firmament with flames. That peerless splendor, born from the bodies of all the Gods, unifying and pervading the triple world with its lustre, became a Woman." (DM, 2.11-12). She is, of course, Maha Devi, the Great Goddess, the Mother of all beings, divine and mortal, and She easily defeats Mahisha, who is also Her child, like the devas.

One lesson we might draw from this episode is the truth that we all harbor Mahishasuras within us; the Tamasic forces that ever retard our spiritual progress and drag us downward, toward the lower Tattvas. Through our sadhana -- through our spiritual practices -- we follow the example of the devas in offering ourselves back to our source. We reach our hands upward, seeking aid in reaching the higher realms that beckon us. In so doing, we surrender to Devi -- dedicating all of our actions to her glorification, understanding that our every movement occurs only through Her grace, engaging in a "dynamic surrender" wherein we do our best to meet the challenges that face us, but ultimately detach ourselves from the result, leaving it to Devi's will. The Devi Mahatmyam contains the precious promise that, if we are able to achieve that, She will effortlessly scoop us up and carry us the rest of the way toward our goal. That's my perception, at least: I hope all that was of some use to you.

Aum Maatangyai Namahe

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