The Mother Divine
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By Principal Dr. Tarasankar Shattaoharyya

King Suratha loses his kingdom and goes to a forest on horseback where he finds the hermitage of the sage, Medha. The sage requests the king to stay in his hermitage but even the peaceful atmosphere of the hermitage cannot restore the mental equilibrium of the king. He continues to think of his kingdom, soldiers, treasury, etc. In such a state of mind, he finds a morose and melancholy vaisya (merchant) coming to the hermitage. The vaisya reveals his name as Samadhi who is driven away from home by his wife and sons. Both the king and the merchant realise that their mind is attracted by their sons and relations who are hostile to them. They cannot shake off this attraction. So, both of them go to the sage Medha and request him to explain to them the cause of this attachment to hostile relatives.

The sage replied that all animals have perception, but things perceived are revealed to the senses in difficult ways. Some animals are blind in day time, some are blind at night and some can see equally during the day and at night. Like men, lower animals have sensation and perception. Birds, though oppressed by hunger, put grains in front of their young ones. Men love their sons, hoping to get a return in old age. It is due to the influence of Mahamaya that man falls into this whirlpool of love and attraction and forgets his true nature. Even an enlightened soul may be pushed into the pit of ignorance by Mahamaya, the possessor of all glory and excellence. She is the creator of the universe and man gets liberation by Her grace.

The sage Medha here asserts emphatically that the Mother binds her children and the Mother liberates them. She is even the yoganidra i.e. sleep induced by yoga (a state of blissful inwardisation) at the time of pralaya, of Hari who protects the universe. It is no wonder, then, that ordinary mortals should be under her spell and should be in bondage. Men forget the Mother, marry, beget children and have affection for them, Man need not be afraid of evil and sufferings, ignorance, restlessness of mind and bondage in the cycle of birth and death. All these are the Mother’s gifts and the Mother can redeem one out of all evil, as soon as one surrenders to Her. She is knowledge par excellence i.e., Brahma-vidya and is the cause of freedom. The Mother, as Brahma creates the universe, as Vishnu protects its and as Rudra destroys it. The Mother is eternal.

King Suratha now wanted to know the nature, origin and activities of Mahamaya in detail. The sage replied that the Mother is omnipresent and has no birth or death. Yet She is born in many ways to help the gods to conquer the demons. In other words, though formless, she assumes various forms and appears before the gods, whenever they pray for defeating the demons. Here the sage assures us that in our struggle against evil and sin, the benign Mother is ever ready to help us, if we implore Her help.
The sage continues to say that during pralaya (the state of dissolution of the world), Vishnu was sleeping on the infinite expanse of water. This sleep of Vishnu is yoganidra, which is no other than Mahamaya. Brahma was sitting in a lotus, sprang from the navel of Vishnu. Two demons, Madhu and Kaitabha, arose from the dust of Vishnu's ears and went to kill Brahma. Brahma realised that Mahamaya is the yoganidra of Vishnu who can be roused only by the Mother. So, Brahma tried to draw the favour of the Mother by singing her glories.

The significance of Brahma's eulogy to the Mother is that She is eternal, immutable and yet finds expression as the universe. She is evaha, the mantra with which clarified butter is offered to the gods in a sacrifice. She is svadha, the mantra which pleases the pitris, or Manes.

She is vashatkara, the mantra of a sacrifice. She is Vashatkara, i.e., the fruits of sacrifices. She is consonants and vowels. She is Gayatri, the daily prayer for knowledge of the Infinite. She is the greatest Mother. She is Om, pranava, whose vibrations are all the alphabets, the Vedas, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and the entire universe.

The Mother is holding the universe, she is creating it, protecting it and is destroying it at the time of pralaya. The Mother is the universe, its creation, protection and destruction. There is nothing beside the Mother.

The Mother is knowledge or pure consciousness i.e., Brahma as pure transcendence. The Mother also is maya, the power or energy that forms the universe. As knowledge, the Mother is transcendent, as maya She is imminent into the universe of multitudinous things. She is bindu, the one all-pervasive static pure consciousness and she is nada, the dynamic unoriginated sound finding expression as the many.
The Mother is prakriti, i.e. the nature of everybody. The prakriti of beings is composed of the three gunas: sattva, rajas and tamas with the preponderance of one of them over the other two. A saint whose prakriti is pre-eminently sattvika is the Mother, a soldier in whom rajas overpowers the other two elements is the Mother and a lazy fellow steeped in tamas is also the Mother. The Mother again is Kalaratri, Maharatri and Moharatri, the dissolution of satva, rajas and tamas respectively. As Kalaratri, Maharatri and Moharatri, the mother is terrible, this terrible aspect of the Mother is very attractive to the aspirant for union with Her. The rajas and tamas are demons distracting the mind and standing in the way of ascent. The Mother kills these demons, destroys evil and sin and raises up the devotee in her blissful lap. Finally, when perfection is reached, even sattva is transcended. The perfect soul is above the three gunas andis one with the Mother as pure transcendence.

The Mother is fortune, power, and shame, cognition revealing objects, and knowledge or pure consciousness. She is aversion to blame, stoutness, contentment and forgiveness. But when Her sons forget Her in power and fortune, she chastises them in various ways and appears to be terrible. She hurls Her weapons against them. But for those who can realise that the Mother is the cause of everything and a man is but Her instrument of action, the Mother is beautiful, more beautiful and the most beautiful. She is beautiful to those who understand intellectually that all names and forms are the expressions of the Mother; She is more beautiful to those who have dedicated their lives to the Mother; She is the most beautiful to the yogi whose mind has completely sunk in the Mother. Such a yogi sees the Mother everywhere. The Mother, to him, is ever present both internally and externally. The beauty of men and other living beings is the Mother, the beauty of the lotus and the moon is the Mother.

The Mother is adorable not only to men and gods, but also to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Shiva is the greatest of all, controller of all. The Mother is pleased with the eulogy of Brahma and appears before him. Vishnu is now free from yoganidra and kills the demons Madhu and Kaitabha. The significance of Brahma being attacked by these two demons is that a man aspiring for union with God finds that the seeds of his karma are his greatest obstacles. These seeds can be destroyed only by the grace of the Mother.

The sage Medha next proceeds to say how the Mother kills the demon Mahisasura who drives away gods from heaven and occupies the throne of Indra. The gods go with Brahma to Vishnu and Shiva and narrate the evil deeds of Mahisasura. Hearing of these, they become angry and fire issues out of their lustrous bodies. Fire also emanates from other gods and the Mother appears before them, taking Her shape from all these fires. Every god draws out of his weapon a similar weapon, and the Mother is armed with all these weapons. She rides a lion given by Himayan and Her war cry shakes the earth, the mountains, the seas and the heavens. Mahisasura accepts the challenge and the Mother kills him and his allies.

After the death of Mahisasura, Indra and the other gods sing a eulogy to the Mother, saying that the Mother pervades the whole universe and is adorable to all the gods and sages. She has infinite power, crushes the evil forces of demons and saves the universe. She is happiness and fortune in the house of those who have acquired merit by performing good deeds, she is misfortune in the house of the sinful. She is knowledge. She is faith in scriptures. Her dazzling beauty and immeasurable power which destroys demons are beyond conception. She is the cause of all moving bodies. She is three gunas and is above three gunas. She is transcendent and immanent. She is the support of all. The universe is but Her part. She is the root prakriti, evolving into different things and yet She is eternally the same. The sages who have completely controlled their senses and are free from love and hate, worship the Mother to get liberation. The ever-merciful Mother is Brahma-vidya, the all-pervasive Light which repels the darkness of ignorance and therefore, is absolute freedom. The Mother raises the devotee from the sea of births. She is one without a second. The Mother is Shri and Gouri, the better halves of Vishnu and Shiva. Honour, riches, fame, religious acts and obedient sons, wife and servants are the gifts of the Mother. The Mother is the fruit of all karmas. Men can attain heaven only through Her grace. The Mother removes the fear of all living beings whenever they implore Her help. She grants metaphysical knowledge to the seeker of truth. She has a very soft heart for the poor and the oppressed. Her mercy extends even to demons. She kills them so that they may go to heaven. She is terrible in war and yet merciful to the opponent. She is unique. The gods, then, worship the Mother with devotion and offer to Her flowers, sandal paste, incense, etc. The Mother grants them the boon that She will remove all their danger and fear, whenever they will seek Her help. The gods also request the Mother to increase the wealth and happiness of men who will please Her. After this eulogy, The Mother agrees and disappears.

The sage Medha then narrates to Suratha and Samadhi how the Mother assumes the form of an exquisitely beautiful goddess and kills two demons Shumbha and Nishumbha. These two demons drive away Indra from heaven and snatch away all power and position from the gods. The gods go to the Himalayas and offer eulogy to the Mother. The Mother, the gods say, is the consciousness in all creatures. She is the intellect of all. The Mother is present as sleep in all beings. She is the hunger, ignorance, power, thirst and forgiveness that we find in all individuals. The Mother is the universal abiding in particulars. She is peace, beauty in all living beings and their fortune. The Mother is present in all individuals as their occupations. She is memory, forgetfulness, kindness and contentment. She is the mother of all living beings. She is the presiding deity of the sense-organs of all creatures. She is pervading the entire universe as consciousness. The gods pray to the Mother for extending Her grace and to deliver them from their peril. The Mother appears before them and from Her body comes out the God, Shiva.

Her unparalleled beauty attracted Chanda and Munda, two servants of Shumbha and Nisumbha. They inform their masters about the Mother. Shumbha sends an ambassador named Sugriva to the Mother. Sugriva politely narrates the glories of Shumbha to the Mother and requests her to follow him. The Mother replies politely that Her vow is to marry Her victor. Hearing this, Shumbha sends the demon Dhumralochana to drag Her to him by holding Her hair. Dhumralochana is turned into ashes by the thunderous cry of the Mother. Then the demons Chanda and Munda come to fight the Mother with a vast army. The Mother gets angry and Her face turns black. From Her forehead emanates the fierce Kali, filling the space with nada and killing and eating demons. Kali kills Chanda and Munda and offers their heads to the Mother, who says in sweet words, that Kali will be known in the universe as Chamunda, as she has slain Chanda and Munda.

Shumbha now mobilises all his forces and attacks the Mother. At this moment the powers of the gods issue out of them as goddesses and they join the Mother to fight the demons. There appear Brahmani with weapons of Brahma, Maheshwari with the dress and weapons of Maheshwara, Kaumari riding on a peacock, Vaishnavi on Garuda like Vishnu, Aindri on the king of elephants with all the weapons of Indra and so on. From the body of the Mother, a terrible force comes out crying like hundreds of jackals. The unconquerable Mother requests Shiva to carry to the demons Her message that they should return the kingdom of heaven to Indra and leave for patala (the nether regions) and that if for power and pride they would still like to fight; then may Her jackals get satisfaction by eating their flesh. As the Mother appoints Shiva as a duta (messenger), She is known in the universe as Shivaduti.

The demons reject the offer of the Mother and the fight begins. The Mother kills Raktavija, the general of the demon king. From every drop of Raktavija's blood, a demon like him is born and thousands of Raktavijas surround the goddesses. The Mother asks Chamunda to drink the blood of this demon and strikes him with Her arms. He falls down on the earth absolutely bloodless. Then Nishumbha is killed by the Mother. Seeing his brother killed, Shumbha tells the Mother in a fury that She fights depending on others and therefore She has nothing to be proud of. The Mother replies that She alone exists in the universe and that She is One without a second. All others are Her glories which merge into Her. The demon king and Mother engage then in a terrible fight. Gods and demons watch this wonderful battle. Soon Shumbha is killed and peace and tranquility reigns again in the universe.

The gods sing the glories of the Mother. The Mother, they say, is the earth, water and shelter of the universe. She is the cause of bondage as well as of liberation. She is knowledge in all its branches. She is time and change. She is the power of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Poverty, misery and danger do not torture the person surrendering to Her. The Mother is pleased with the eulogy of the gods and promises to kill the demons, whenever necessary, assuming different incarnations.

The sage Medha thus finishes the narration of the various incarnations of Mahamaya and asks Suratha and Samadhi to worship Her for enjoyment or heaven or liberation. They go to a river side, erect an image of the Mother and begin worshipping Her by the japa of Devi sukta (hymns to the Mother in the Rigveda). They perform hard austerities for three years. The Mother appears before them speaks to them and grants them the boon they want. Suratha gets back his kingdom and after death becomes the 8th Mann by the grace of the Mother. Samadhi gets knowledge, i. e., the realisation of Brahman.

The realisation of Suratha and Samadhi is a potent reply to this question, "Can God be seen"? God can be seen with our eyes. He assumes a body which is a condensed form of light and out of Grace, appears before the devotee. After such a vision, the devotee is gradually taken through various spiritual levels by God Himself and finally, knowledge or realisation of Brahman dawns on him.