The All-Pervading Majesty of the Divine Mother
by Swami Jyotirmayananda
The whole universe is the sportive manifestation of the Divine Being in the Mother-aspect. The Divine Mother permeates the whole world. She is within and around us, functioning in the intellect as jnana shakti or the energy of knowledge, in the mind as ichha shakti or the energy of desire or will, and in the physical body as kriya shakti or the energy of action.
There are many names that are synonymous for the Divine Mother. These include: Devi or Goddess; Mata or Mother; Maya or the principle of Cosmic Illusion, which is inseparable from Brahman or the Absolute; Moola Prakriti or the balanced state of the three gunas (the three modes of nature—sattwa, rajas and tamas).
Mother Worship is as old as the instinctive human feeling of love for one’s mother, as old as life in the human plane. This form of worship enables a spiritual aspirant to feel and experience the compassionate hand of the Mother-aspect of God behind every event of one’s life. The Mother presents bhoga (the enjoyments of the world) and moksha (the infinite bliss of Liberation) to every individual soul.
Devi or the Goddess assumes a deluding aspect to those who are in lesser planes of evolution—those who have not yet been drawn to the higher values of life and are, therefore, entangled in worldly enjoyments. She deludes them in such a way that they ignorantly believe that their impure physical body is the pure Self. They are also deluded into the belief that their transitory life is eternal, that the painful enjoyments of the world are blissful, and that their inert mind and intellect are the conscious Self. This deluding aspect of the Goddess is called avidya or ignorance.
The compassionate Mother awaits the return of every one of Her children, or individual souls, from the world-process. Even while Her delusive force has its sway, Her compassion towards every one of Her children is unfailing. No matter how far you may wander in the forest of the world-process, you are never far away from the Divine Mother. You are ever enfolded in Her arms.
A baby sleeping on the lap of his mother may have unpleasant dreams; yet on waking he sees his mother smiling and realizes that he has been all the time enfolded by her tender care. He does not realize all this, however, until he wakes up. Similarly, every soul is being held in the compassionate hands of the Goddess, and She is closer to us than our very breath, closer than our very heart. This is so because She is the material out of which the intellect, the mind, and the senses have been fashioned. Yet, due to ignorance, one experiences a sense of separation from the Mother through the long dream of samsara, the world-process.
Those who are pure in heart and who have turned away from the world-process, the seekers of nectar, the spiritual aspirants seeking Liberation—in them the Goddess manifests Her vidya aspect—the aspect of knowledge that unveils the myriad beauties of the Supreme and reveals the profundity of Divine glory in every object of the world. The patient effort with which Nature strives to awaken every soul from the long dream of samsara is indescribable. It is a patience that only a mother could possess!
Mother Worship is also related to shakti upasana, or the worship of energy or power. As a worshipper of shakti or energy, you realize that without strength there is neither enjoyment nor Liberation. Thus, you pray to the Mother for increasing strength on all levels of your personality. The strength of the body is inferior to the strength of the mind, the strength of the mind is inferior to the strength of the intellect, and the strength of the intellect is inferior to the strength of the soul. By allowing the grace of the Goddess to operate through your entire being, you eventually become endowed with the immense strength of the soul. With this strength, you attain Liberation and merge into the Absolute.
Scriptures such as Devi Mahatmya or the Glory of the Mother, Devi Bhagavata, Markandeya Purana, and various Upanishads deal with the glory of the Mother. They contain most enchanting and profound stories about the Divine Goddess and the different manifestations that She uses for the destruction of demons, and for the bestowal of boons to devotees.
The demons, whose evil aspects are so colorfully described in the scriptures, represent the forces of darkness hidden in every human being in the form of attachment, hatred, pride, conceit, egoism, jealousy, greed, passion and the many vices that arise out of ignorance. The gods, with their graceful forms moving in aerial cars and sporting in the heavenly gardens, represent the forces of light operating through every being in the form of love, compassion, patience, selflessness, purity, renunciation, fearlessness, detachment, discrimination, and other virtues that spring from wisdom and illumination.
How does the Universal Mother intervene in the battles of the two forces and bring about the victory of light over darkness? This has been most figuratively and mystically described in the stories of the Devi. Those who have insight into human life and into the Divine force that operates through it will marvel at the exquisite intuitional vision of the Sages who, full of compassion, presented to the world these stories of Devi—stories garbed in an excellent poetic language and ornamented with mystic imagery that make Her battles with the demons so fascinating for an aspirant.
The Goddess manifests in the external universe as the destroyer in the form of Durga, as the granter of prosperity in the form of Lakshmi, and as the bestower of talent, creativity and knowledge in the form of Saraswati. Similarly, She manifests internally in each individual as the terrible Durga for the removal of all obstacles, as the graceful Lakshmi for the revival of Divine qualities, and as the luminous Saraswati to bring illumination and dispel the darkness of avidya or ignorance.
From the spiritual point of view, every event is a wave in the Absolute. The external and internal aspects are forms of the Absolute. To those who have acquired spiritual vision, the world is nothing but Brahman or the Absolute. They are free from any battle because they are established in nonduality.
All the marvels of the universe are but little in comparison to what the Divine Mother is doing in every moment of our existence. The world with all its incredible beauty gives only a mere hint of the glory and majesty of the Mother. You can then imagine, just how glorious and how beautiful the Mother must be. May the Divine Mother bless you with Shakti, Bhakti, and Mukti!
May God Bless You! Hari OM Tat Sat!