THE INDIAN CONCEPT AND THE WORSHIP OF THE DIVINE MOTHER
by Sri Swami Sivananda
Since the dawn of civilisation, when the primitive man lived in a matriarchal society, the worship of the Divine Mother came into practice. Later on, as civilisation progressed, the matriarchal pattern gradually faded out, and the father became the head of the family unit, where he was treated as the man in authority and to whom everyone looked for guidance and approval. Consequently, there was a change in the concept of God as such; the Fatherhood of God was established. But Mother worship persisted simultaneously, since this concept was psychologically more appealing to the devotee, the mother being nearest in filial affection to the child. Subsequently, a synthetic harmony between the Motherhood and Fatherhood of God was developed by the Hindu religion; the people worshipped Sita and Rama, or Radha and Krishna together.
The concept of the human mind is based on relative experience. Subjective idealism, therefore, in its initial stages, takes the aid of objective and relative analogies. God is neither limited to abstract or concrete concepts. But it is easier to establish a conscious relationship with the Providence in terms of benevolent fatherhood or affectionate, kindly motherhood than by the concept of an unfathomable void. God is devoid of qualities, in reality, but a relative superimposition of the positive ideals of goodness and virtue is essential for self-culture and spiritual progress of the aspirant.
Mother is very kind to her child. You are more free with your mother than with anybody else. It is the mother who protects you, nourishes you, consoles you, cheers you and nurses you. She is your first preceptor. She sacrifices her all for the sake of her children. In the spiritual field also, the aspirant has very intimate relationship with the Divine Mother.
The Upasana or the worship of the Universal Mother leads to the attainment of knowledge of the Self. The Yaksha Prasna in Kenopanishad supports this view. Approach Her with an open heart. Lay bare your mind with frankness and humility. Lay your thoughts be pure and sublime. Become as simple as a child. Pulverise your individual entity, the egoistic nature, cunningness, selfishness and crookedness. Make a total, unreserved, ungrudging self-surrender to Her. Chant Her Mantras. Worship Her with faith and devotion.
Navaratri is the most suitable occasion for doing intense Sadhana. These nine days are very sacred to Mother. Plunge yourself in Her worship. It is an occasion symbolizing the victory of the higher, divine forces over the lower, negative qualities that find their expression in injustice, oppression, aggrandisement, greed, selfishness, hatred and a host of other undivine forces that add to the suffering of man.
Worship the Mother in all Her manifestations. She is the creative aspect of the Absolute. She is symbolised as Cosmic Energy. Energy is the physical ultimate of all forms of matter and the sustaining force of the Spirit. Energy and Spirit are inseparable. They are essentially one. The five elements and their combinations are the external manifestations of the Mother. Intelligence, discrimination, psychic power and will are Her internal manifestations. Humanity is Her visible form. Service of humanity is, therefore, the worship of the Divine Mother.
Feel that the Mother sees through your eyes, hears through your ears, and works through your hands. Feel that the body, mind, Prana, intellect and all their functions are Her manifestations. The one, universal life throbs in the heart of all. How can there be any room for hatred and selfishness, when by hating another you are but hating the Mother, when by being selfish to another you are but denying your own self. Drive deep this consciousness within your heart. Always meditate and practise this ideal of divine oneness.
Mother’s grace is boundless. Her mercy is illimitable. She is pleased with a little purity of heart. The sacred Navaratri is approaching. Do not lose this glorious opportunity. Make a definite and sincere attempt to obtain the grace Of the Mother. She will transform your entire life, and bless you with the milk of divine wisdom, spiritual insight and Kaivalya!
May you all obtain the grace of Mother Durga!
THE WORSHIP OF THE DIVINE MOTHER
Devi is synonymous with Shakti or the Divine Power that manifests, sustains and transforms the universe as the one unifying Force of Existence. In fact, worship of Devi is not sectarian, it does not belong to any cult. By Drive or Shakti we mean the presupposition of all forms of existential power, the power of knowledge, of omniscience. These powers are the glorious attributes of God—you may call Him Vishnu or Siva or as you like. In other words, Shakti is the very possibility of the Absolute’s appearing as many, of God’s causing this universe. Shakti and Shakta are one; the power and the one who possesses the power cannot be separated; God and Shakti are like fire and heat of fire.
Devi-worship or Shakti-worship is therefore worship of God’s glory, of God’s greatness and supremacy. It is adoration of the Almighty. It is unfortunate that Devi is misunderstood as a bloodthirsty ‘Hindu Goddess.’ No. Devi is not the property of the Hindu alone. Devi does not belong to any religion. Devi is the conscious power of the Deva. Let this never be forgotten. The words Devi, Shakti, etc. and the ideas of the different forms connected with these names are concessions given to the limitations of human knowledge; human comprehension. Bhagavan Sri Krishna says in the Gita, “This is only my lower nature Shakti, beyond this is my higher nature, the Original Shakti, the life principle which sustains this entire universe.” The Upanishad says, “The Para Shakti, the Supreme Power of this God is heard of in various ways, this power is the nature of God manifesting as knowledge, strength and activity.” Truly speaking all beings of the universe are Shakti worshippers, for there is none who does not love and long for power in some form or other. Physicists and scientists have proved now that everything is pure imperishable energy. This energy is only a form of Divine Shakti which exists on every form of existence.
Since Shakti cannot be worshipped in its essential nature, it is worshipped as conceived of in its manifestations, viz., creation, preservation and destruction. Shakti in relation to these three functions is Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Kali. These, as is evident, are not three distinct Devis, but the one formless Devi worshipped in three different forms. Navaratri is the festive occasion of the ‘nine-day-worship of Maha-Kali, Maha-Lakshmi and Maha-Sarasvati’ the Divinity of the Universe adored in three ways.
Sarasvati is cosmic Intelligence, cosmic consciousness, cosmic knowledge. Worship of Sarasvati is necessary for Buddhi-Shuddi, Viveka-Udaya, Vichara-Shakti for Jnana for Self-illumination. Lakshmi does not mean mere material wealth like gold, cattle, etc. All kinds of prosperity, glory, magnificence, joy, exaltation or greatness come under the grace of Goddess Lakshmi. Sri Appayya Dikshitar calls even final Liberation as “Moksha Samrajya Lakshmi.” Hence worship of Lakshmi means the worship of Divinity, the power that dissolves multiplicity in unity. The worship of Devi is therefore the explanation of the entire process of spiritual Sadhana in all its aspect.
During Navaratri, observe strict anushthana, and purify your inner spiritual nature. This is the most auspicious time in the year for Mother-Worship. Read Sapthasathi, or Devi Mahatmya and Lalita Sahasranama. Do Japa of the Mantra of Devi. Perform formal worship with purity and sincerity and absolute devotion. Cry for the Darshan of Mother Devi. The Divine Mother will bless you with the knowledge, the peace and the joy that know no end. May the Divine Mother bless you all!