About the Book:
Our first relationship in the world is through the mother. The Earliest memory of any person is that of clinging to the mother's breast and looking into her love-filled eyes. The comfort and security, which the infant gains from this relationship, lasts with him all his life. In the mother is centered a whole world of tenderness, comfort and sustenance. To transfer this concept to a cosmic being was a natural step, which all the ancient cultures took. Therefore the concept of the Divine as the Mother is as old as life itself. Devi is the Divine Mother, the eternal womb of all creatures- human, sub-human and animal. She cradles her children in her loving arms, suckles them and nurtures them with her infinite love. Wherever you see maternal love, in a bird or animal or human, know that to be the love of the Devi for her children, for she is the universal mother. This book takes us on ancient quest to unravel the mystery of the Divine Mother in all her manifold aspects.
From the Jacket:
How do I love thee?
Countless are the ways.
From the tumultuous locks on thy forehead,
To the tips of they lotus feet.
Drenched am I in the radiance of thy form.
Thy arched brows thy shell-like ears,
Thy upper lip of exquisite beauty,
The lower one- a treasure trove of desire.
Soft and sweet like the petals of a rose.
Thy determined chin,
Thy slender neck,
Thy golden breasts,
The tinkling bells around thy waist,
Above all thy doe-like eyes melting with love,
Holding my own in thrall.
O Queen of Desire- Kameswari,
Accept this gift of love,
Filled with the wondrous tales of thy glory,
Timidly I lay this book,
This holy book,
At thy golden feet,
My humble offering of love.
Mata Devi Vanamali - Mataji, as I shall refer to her hereinafter, is a fit person to write about the Divine Mother of the Universe. Mataji is a deep devotee who is also filled with India's ancient concept of wisdom or jnana. Because my own devotion to God finds particular expression to the Divine Mother, I was deeply touched when Mataji asked me if I would write a few words of introduction to this beautiful book.
There are two aspects of the important subject of the cosmic Mother: the scriptural and the experiential. Mataji has rightly given us the scriptural slant on the subject. In this age, when most of us think of God as 'He', it is necessary to point out, as Mataji has done, that God is neither male nor female, and at the same time God is both! In the words of a great Kaali bhakta of Bengal, Ram Prasad, “A thousand Vedas declare that my Tara (a name for the divine mother) is nirakara (without form)."
Yet religion in these times has become too rationally formal and therefore too rational altogether. Years ago in America, the inspiration came to me to spread the concept of God as Mother and not only as Father. I wasn't thinking of the virgin mother only, as is more common in the West but of the formless Infinite in its motherly aspect. I went to many Western shrines dedicated to the Divine Mother and worshipped there. I received in each of them great inspiration and love. And I say now, is it not time for dogmatic religion to be replaced by devotion and love? There has been too much thinking about God. Mankind must learn to love Him, to talk with Him and to experience Him. And that 'Him' needs to be understood, first in its higher impersonal aspect, then brought down to earth in its more truly personal aspect as the Divine Mother.
For god in 'His' different aspects, though one in essence, is different in every aspect. It matters not only how we ourselves look upon God and define Him in our minds, it is a question also of how God views us. If we invoke God as the Divine Mother, She comes closer to us. The Infinite - beyond all sexual differences, is the maternal as well as paternal principle - opens its heart to us when we appeal to it as Mother.
There is a story from the life of that same poet, singer and saint, Ram Prasad. He was mending the fence before his house. At one point, someone, he thought was his own daughter, came up to him and offered to help with his job. He had been singing. She said to him, "Whom have you been singing to Papa?"
"I've been singing to my Divine Mother," he replied. "But She's very naughty. I keep calling and calling Her but She won't answer!"
"If She doesn't answer, Papa, why do you waste your time calling to Her?" The little girl then ran off with a childish laugh.
When Ram Prasad came indoors later on, he told his wife how their daughter had come and helped him with the fence and talked to him playfully.
"But that's not possible," answered his wife. "Today she's gone to visit the other side of our village."
"But I know it was she," he exclaimed. Later on, when their daughter returned home, he pressed her, "Wasn't it you helping me with our fence today?"
"Why, no Papa. You can ask anybody, I was with friends on the other side of our village."
Thus did Ram Prasad come to know that the Divine Mother Herself had come to him and teased him.
"O my Mother!" He cried, "what a naughty dear you are! Though you pretend to be inaccessible, you are ever near me and Mother, ever dearest to me."
All aspects of God hear us when we pray, but the Divine Mother listens to us - I don't say more so but more particularly. For we are her children.
She cares for each one of us in a special way. When we err, she will spank us through the law of karma. But when we love her, she also forgives. For she is ever anxious for us to understand that we may return with outstretched arms to her lap of infinity!
The ancient sages of India looked at this amazing world, filled with beauty; filled with fascinating and horrifying forms and wondered what it was all about. Was this the only face of the creator or was there something beyond this? Somehow they were sure that this extraordinary universe with its myriad structures was only the mask that hid the visage behind.
The Rig Vedic hymn says,
"By a golden lid
Is hidden the face of Truth,
Uncover it o Sustainer!
Let the seeker behold it!"
There are many paths laid in the scriptures for discovering the truth underlying the phenomenal world as well as the truth of one's own self and these are known as yogas. But what we should remember is that all the paths of yoga are only different methods by which this golden lid can be removed.
Hindu philosophy asserts that the Brahman is the Supreme Reality underlying both the manifest and unmanifest states of Being. It is an integrated state, which is changeless, indivisible, without distinctions and utterly beyond human comprehension. It can only be known by direct experience by penetrating through and transcending the levels of the mind on the material plane. By this, consciousness becomes aware of its own real, undying nature, which is also the nature of the Supreme unmanifest. The individual spirit or atman is a centralised or contracted expression of the Brahman. It contains the whole in a potential form. Even though it is nothing but an expression of the Supreme Consciousness, it has been obscured by the limited, mental world of the individual. When Pure Consciousness descends to the individual frame, it begins to relate to its limited body and displays itself in different ways according to its inherent nature and thus plays its own distinct role in the drama of manifestation. Although these centres of consciousness in the individual frames appear to be many, they are actually not separate. In the manifested realm they function separately through the agency of their separate minds. In the realm of the unmanifest, however, they cannot be considered as separate since they have emanated from the One Supreme Consciousness. This is a divine mystery, which can only be solved by the direct realisation of the source from which they have sprung. Thus, a reverse process is possible and the jivatman (embodied soul) is capable of withdrawing inwards to its central source through yoga and contemplation and developing to its full divine status. Cosmic evolution proceeds from the Absolute, super conscious, unmoving, unknowable, and unmanifest to the conscious, moving, knowable and manifest microcosm. Human evolution is a return journey from the gross physical plane of the microcosm back to the Absolute. In one case the force is centrifugal and in the other centripetal. Thus, all embodied souls represent different expressions of the Ultimate Reality of the Brahman, which is whole, indivisible and integrated through different centres of consciousness.
Brahman is the uncaused cause of everything, the one source of all qualities and forms, though in itself it has no qualities or forms. From this basic standpoint, Hinduism gives us freedom to worship God in whatever shape that appeals to us. Each individual is given the liberty to accept any form of the divine that appeals to her or him as her personal aspect of Reality, dearest to her heart. The logic being, that which is formless, can take any form. This is the basis of the great tolerance found in the Hindu religion. Since the Brahman is formless and qualityless, any form can be worshipped as 'Its' form.
The Vayu Purana asserts, "He who fanatically affirms the superiority of one deity or incarnation over another is a sinner."
The purpose of life according to Hinduism is to return to the source from which we have come. The embodied soul (jivatman) comes from the Brahman and goes through the dramas of its many lives and then at last desires to return to its origin. All Hindu scriptures and epics, all Hindu ceremonies and festivals are charged with this spiritual connotation. They have an esoteric significance which is far-reaching and which is not apparent in the outer rituals and show. Every ritual- even those, which we perform automatically - is a spiritual dedication of the soul for that single aspiration which it has been enshrining within itself from eternity. This significance is brought out in all our scriptures. Unfortunately, the casual reader does not understand this.
In India, therefore, there was no contradiction between science and religion. The ancient rishis or philosophers were both scientists as well as spiritualists. This was so because from ancient times these rishis understood that the basis of all matter was spiritual. Their investigation into the material world took them to the spiritual without any difficulty since they did not have any preconceived notions in their minds about a world that existed apart from its spiritual foundations. Modern western science however started from the unfortunate hypothesis that nature, man and God were totally unconnected, so it took a very long time for them to understand this truth. Even now they have not fully grasped it. It was only in the twentieth century that glimpses of this have been perceived.
Not long ago it was thought by advanced thinkers that science would ultimately overthrow all age-old spiritual concepts and reconstruct human society on a purely materialistic basis. But now we see that a totally different . picture is emerging.
Einstein himself said, "The most beautiful and the most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his mind and eyes are closed. The insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it may be with fear, has given rise to religion. To know that, what simpenetrable to us, really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling is at the centre of true religiousness."
This is the knowledge that the rishis of ancient India experienced through deep personal understanding brought about by intense austerity and meditation.
Indian thought is famous for its symbolism and from ancient times the pictorial representation of God took the form of both male and female. The universal form of the motionless Absolute came to be associated with the manly structure and the manifested energy of nature with the female form. The Absolute and Nature are therefore not two, but two-in-one. They are necessary to each other as complementary manifestations of the One.
In the Skanda Purana, Indra, the king of the gods, asks Vishnu how the Brahman projects itself as male and female.
Vishnu replies, "Listen o indra, the male and female are eternal principles involved in the projection of the universe. They are never separate. Fundamentally they are one, as gold and ornaments made of it are one."
Brahma Sutras (77)
Yoga Vasistha (81)
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