Which of the 18 Major Puranas is the "Devi Bhagavad Purana"?

Devi Bhakta

Hi Yeshe O!

You asked: *** within which of the 18 Major Puranas is the "DeviBhagavad Purana" that holds the Devi Gita? ***
The Devi Bhagavata Purana is a separate purana, all on its own, andnot included within any of those listed in this listing of the 18 "Maha-Puranas". You should realize that the listing of 18 is variable, depending uponthe sect that promulgates the list.Among Shaktas -- devotees of Goddess -- the Devi Bhagavata Puranatakes the place of the Bhagavata Purana (a Vaishnava text) among the18 Great Puranas.

However, sects focusing worship upon Shiva or Vishu(Krishna, Rama, etc.) tend to consider the Devi Bhagavata as anUpa (i.e. Minor) Purana.C. MacKenzie Brown, a scholar of the Devi Bhagavata Purana (and authorof the best English translation of the "Devi Gita") notes:"With the exception of the Devi Mahatmyam [contained in] theMarkandeya Purana, the 'Great Purana' tradition seems to overlook theGreat Goddess, however much, in its later phases, it may have beeninfluenced by Shakta ideas."Unfortunately, the Maha Puranas largely belong to the realm of patriarchal Hinduism.

And so, as Shaktas, we must get used to ourscriptures being relegated to the "Goddess ghetto." But not to worry: For a Shaiva or Vaishnava Hindu to dismiss a Shakta scripture as "minor" is not much different than a Christian considering the Jewish Old Testament as being inferior to the NewTestament, or a Muslim considering the New Testament as being inferiorto the Quran. None of these views are absolute -- which is the "bestscripture" depends entirely on the faith on the person you ask.

We are Shaktas here and, for us, the Devi Bhagavata Purana isabsolutely a Maha Purana. It developed between 500 and 1,000 yearsafter the elemental Devi Mahatmyam, and does much to refine andelaborate upon Shakta theology. It is a beautiful, inspiring anderudite scripture.If you can find a copy (it's out of print), Brown's "The Triumph ofthe Goddess" (State University of New York Press, 1990) is an excellent way to get a handle on this important Purana
Aum Maatangyai Namahe

Colin

devi_bhakta wrote: C. MacKenzie Brown, a scholar of the Devi Bhagavata Purana (and author of the best English translation of the "Devi Gita") notes: " With the exception of the Devi Mahatmyam [contained in] the Markandeya Purana, the 'Great Purana' tradition seems to overlook the Great Goddess, however much, in its later phases, it may have been influenced by Shakta ideas."

Actually there is a lot more praise of the Goddess in the 'Great Puranas' than C. MacKenzie Brown seems to know. I'd mention the Lalita Mahatmyam in the Brahmanda Purana; the Uma Samhita of the Shiva Purana; and the Prakriti Khanda of the Brahma-Vaivarta Purana.

Om Shantih,

Devi bhakta

Thanks for that, Colin!

Your posts are always tantalizing -- filled with fresh perspectives, original thinking and hinting at new and untapped sources of inspiration. For instance, I had no idea about any of the books you just mentioned -- and would love to hear as much about them as you are willing and able to share!

For starters, let me ask you this: Brown was referring strictly to the "Great Goddess" tradition in the comment I quoted; i.e. Devi as Brahman, the One without a second, etc. Do the books you mention have this concentration also? Because Brown acknowledges that the Puranas -- especially the late Puranas -- were very much influenced by Shaktism; however, that Devi is only given absolute *supremacy* in the Devi Mahatmyam and Devi Bhagavata Purana. In the others, he says, she is either relegated to consort or otherwise subordinated to a male deity, however subtly.

On another subject, I've found a few interesting new passages on the "permissible" bhavas in approaching Devi as a bhakta. I'll try and get those up this week; would love to hear your perspective. Some of your great posts on the subject went when the Club was destroyed, but I'm pretty sure Nora has them archived somewhere. I'd love to get that discussion back on track again.

Aum Maatangyai Namahe

Colin Robinson

Namaste Devi bhakta,
Please excuse my delay in responding for your courteous request for further information on puranic texts about the Devi.

You wrote:Your posts are always tantalizing -- filled with fresh perspectives, original thinking and hinting at new and untapped sources of inspiration.

Certainly a lot of shakta sources from India have remained largely untapped by western seekers of the Goddess. The sources are neither my inventions nor my discoveries, but I do what I can to help people connect with them.

I had no idea about any of the books you just mentioned -- and would love to hear as much about them as you are willing and able to share!

I'll begin by summarizing a story from the Uma Samhita section of the Shiva Purana.

The Vedic gods, led by Indra, had won a big victory against the asuras, and were very proud of themselves. Returning from the battle, they encountered a mysterious form of light. They sent the god Vayu, the god of wind, to find out what it was. The being of light placed a straw before the god of wind, and challenged him to blow the straw away. Vaya found he was unable to move the straw. He returned to the gods, chastened and baffled. Similar things happened to other gods, until Indra himself approached the being.

Indra saw "the goddess Uma, consisting of existence, consciousness andbliss...in the centre of that mighty tower of splendour... she exclaimed, 'I am truly Brahman!'... Mahamaya spoke, she whose form is the inner guide of all, the witness in every creature... 'Neither Brahma, nor Vishnu, who is the gods' delight, nor lord Shiva, enemy of Pura, are entitled to pride before me in any way. Why speak of other gods? The supreme Brahman, the sun on high, the syllable OM encompassing the pairs of opposites -- all this am I. There is no one higher than I... sometimes taking the form of a lovely woman, sometimes of a man, sometimes both, I am the goddess who assumes all forms... It is by my power alone that you have defeated all the sons of Diti.' "

(Shiva Purana, Uma Samhita, Chapter 49. The extract in quotes is from the translation of this episode in the book _Classical Hindu Mythology_ by Cornelia Dimmitt and J.A.B. van Buitenen, published by Temple Uni Press, Philadelphia, 1978. A full translation of the Uma Samhita is found in Volumes 3 and 4 of the series _Ancient Indian Tradition and Mythology_ edited by J.L.Shastri and first published by Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1969 (Vol3) and 1970 (Vol4).)

For starters, let me ask you this: Brown was referring strictly to the "Great Goddess" tradition in the comment I quoted; i.e. Devi as Brahman, the One without a second, etc. Do the books you mention have this concentration also? Because Brown acknowledges that the Puranas -- especially the late Puranas -- were very much influenced by Shaktism; however, that Devi is only given absolute *supremacy* in the Devi Mahatmyam and Devi Bhagavata Purana. In the others, he says, she is either relegated to consort or otherwise subordinated to a male deity, however subtly.

It is not always easy to tell whether the authors of a particular text see the Devi as supreme over all gods, or co-supreme with the highest god, or subordinate to him. For instance, in the Devi Mahatyam, Devi is refered to as "Vishnumaya" (chapter 5 verses 14 to 16). It is debatable whether this name means the maya that is Vishnu's attribute, or she whose maya overcomes even Vishnu, or both. I don't know of any verse in the Devi Mahatmya that actually says Devi is Brahman.

In the passage above from the Uma Samhita, Uma describes herself as Brahman and declares that none is higher than her. However, other parts of the Uma Samhita represent Shiva as supreme, with Uma as his Shakti. Perhaps the most sensible conclusion to draw is that the supreme divinity can be encountered and worshipped either as Shiva or as Uma.

The Uma Samhita also contains a section describing and naming the 18 major Puranas. One of the eighteen works it mentions has the _two_ names "Bhagavata Purana" and "Devipurana" and contains stories about Durga. (Shiva Purana Uma Samhita Chapter 44 verse 129)

Is that enough for now?

Om Shantih,

Devi_bhakta

Thanks for a great response -- and sorry for my own delay in replying.

The story you summarize from the Uma Samhita section of the Shiva Purana goes back to the Upanishads. The goddess of the "mysterious cloud of light" was originally seen as a messenger of Brahman, then later identified as Uma, who was later came to be equated (in Shakta writings, at least) with Devi as Brahman Herself. Unfortunately, I'm sitting in my office without my books to refer to, but I'm pretty sure that's a fair representation of the situation. I'll gladly dig up the details later if they'd be useful to you.

*** It is not always easy to tell whether the authors of a particular text see the Devi as supreme over all gods, or co-supreme with the highest god, or subordinate to him. ***

Yes, a lot of it is what we would today call "spin." The same stories are told over and over, but with subtle (or not-so-subtle) tweaks to make clear that one Deity or the Other is Supreme.

*** Perhaps the most sensible conclusion to draw is that the supreme divinity can be encountered and worshipped either as Shiva or as Uma. ***

Absolutely. I have had conversations with several members over how strongly I should push the "Shakta" orientation of this Group. "After all," the argument goes, "Shiva and Shakti are One." Well, yes, but in all of the literature, as you point out, one half of that Unity is less equal than the other.

For me, it's like asking whether a Christian Group should push the "Christ" orientation of the Group. Without getting into the Exclusivity Doctrine and all that, the fact is, the Christians are people who have embraced Christ as Supreme. The Shaktas are people who've embraced Shakti as Supreme.

While Brahman is surely vast enough to encompass any and all human conceptions of the Supreme Divine, we humans must choose a path as our individual "template" for spiritual endeavour. As Hindus, we believe broadly that any conception will get you there. As Shaktas, we have chosen Shakti as our particular route.

To simply equate Her with Shiva without thinking through the huge implications of that equation -- well, it diminishes *both* conceptions.

As OmPrem wrote elsewhere, very incisively:

"There are some who say ... that you can spend time engaging in the practice of one spiritual path and later switch to another spiritual path. ...

"Spiritual path switching is unproductive and self-defeating. It causes confusion in the mind of the aspirant. It prevents the aspirant from entering into the most profound aspects and teachings of the [given] spiritual path."

OmPrem then quotes Swami Sivananda, who said, "Listen to all, but follow one. Respect all, but adore one." So it's for us to decide, I think: Is Shakti our ideal of the Supreme, or is Shiva? Even in Tantra, where the equality of Shakti-Shiva is most pronounced, don't we have to lean one way or the other? Or am I being too inflexible about this?

I'm curious about this because I am currently researching -- yes, still! -- an upcoming article on what are the "permissible" bhavas (modes of devotion) for Devi devotees, and why these limitations exist (both from theological and social perspectives). It's a fascinating study, and your input is always most helpful.

Thanks again, Colin ...

Aum Maatangyai Namahe

Colin

Devi Bhakta wrote: Your posts are always tantalizing -- filled with fresh perspectives, original thinking and hinting at new and untapped sources of inspiration.

Thank you! I appreciate your openness to fresh perspectives and new sources.

For instance, I had no idea about any of the books you just mentioned -- and would love to hear as much about them as you are willing and able to share!

I don't have copies of the mahapurana material with me right now, and am reluctant to say a lot about it without the primary sources in front of me. I will be willing and able to share more about the writings when I get a chance to visit the library again, probably in a few days.

For starters, let me ask you this: Brown was referring strictly to the "Great Goddess" tradition in the comment I quoted; i.e. Devi as Brahman, the One without a second, etc. Do the books you mention have this concentration also?

A fragment I noted down some time ago from a translation of the Uma Samhita of the Shiva Purana -- it describes the Goddess as "the inner guide of all, the witness in every creature, whose nature is the supreme Brahman".

On another subject, I've found a few interesting new passages on the "permissible" bhavas in approaching Devi as a bhakta. I'll try and get those up this week; would love to hear your perspective. That's good to hear. I look forward to reading them.

Om Shantih,



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