The Mother Divine
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By Tarak Nath Chakrabarti  


'Duty to Parents' is a stock subject on which boys and girls are asked to write essays in schools and colleges. Generally, it is a theme for school composition and the subject is supposed to be below the College standard. One feels however that it is a theme, for serious discussion by thoughtful adults as well. This is proved by the emphasis it receives in the Holy Books of all races, religions and creeds. 
"Honor thy father and thy mother" is one of the commandments solemnly urged as obligatory on all devout and pious people in the Bible. Our Shastras go a step further and enjoin that father and mother should be literally worshipped as the very embodiments of God. Witness the Taittiriya Upanishad: 

 "Take your mother to be God; take your father to be God." Look again what Bhagwan Manu says(Manu- Samhita, II, 225-237): "Father is the image, the incarnation of Brahma the creator;Mother, that of Earth. One must not insult them even if they treat one shabbily; one ought to submit to every oppression at their hands. A son cannot even repay the debt he owes to his parents in a hundred years. It is his duty to please them by all means. To please them is to please all and to reap the harvest of all austerities.    There cannot be a greater form of austerity or papaya than devoted service to parents. Without theirpermission, a son should not undertake any religious duty to serve mother is to be master of this world; to serve father is to be master of the next.   So long as they live, no form of religion need be observed; only they should be attended to and such things ought to be done as may please them One’s entire duty ceases with service to father, mother and Guru.   This is the supreme Dharma.   Every other dharma is pseudo-dharma." 

Duty to Parents
The Kurma Purana emphasizes the very same message (Chapter 11):

   "Of all superiors, fiveare especially to be worshipped.   Of the five again (namely, father, mother, spiritual preceptor the eldest brother, and he to whom you owe your livelihood), the first three are the greatest. Of them again it is your mother to whom the greatest reverence is' due." 

 "Those who care for prosperity and welfare must by all means even at the risk of life, should that be necessary — should worship these five and that in a special manner." 

 "As long as the parents live, a son should leave every duty aside and devote himself exclusively to them. If they are pleased with the son, that alone will fetch him dharma of every sort. There is no Deity equal to mother, no Guru equal to father — the good they do to the son can never be repaid on earth." 

So "you should do such things as may please them and practise no other dharma — except with their permission"  

 Finally, we may refer to Bhisma's words to Yudhishthira in the "Shanti Parva" of the Mahabharata where too this supreme duty of devotion to parents is insisted upon as the greatest Dharma. Yudhishthira asks, "Oh Bharat 1 The way to Dharma branches forth in various directions. Of all these Dharma which do you consider the fittest to observe". Bhisma replies, "According to me, it is the supreme Dharma to worship parents and Gurus." He goes on to say that a son ought to do whatever they ask them to, without regard to propriety or otherwise of their wishes. 

 "Practice no other dharma" (says Bhisma) "except at their behest.   The greatest Dharma is to do what they desire or order."   Bhisma becomes more specific when he says: "Don’t go to bed before they have gone to bed; don't eat before they have eaten; never find fault with them; always wait upon them.   That is the very best from of piety." 

And then he frankly owns that he dedicates whatever he performs or earns to them — he moans his parents and Guru ; and that, he points out, is why everything he does multiplies ten times, why ten times — a thousand times in fact, and as a result the three worlds stand entirely revealed to him. He rates father higher than all other superiors, mother even higher and Guru is for him easily the pretest of them all. The Mother is greater than the entire world, which is why there is hardly a greater Guru than the mother.   To quote his own words: - 

As for your spiritual preceptor, he is according to Bhisma still greater. For to father and mother you owe your birth, your mortal body while the Guru by the act of initiation favors you with a second birth, a birth on a spiritual plane, a birth which is transcendental, immune from decay and death. 

So Bhisma recommends devotion to parents as the one Dharma of paramount importance and therefore to be observed rigidly by sons. And by devotion he means service obedience, worship, a spirit of total surrender to them, looking after them, feeding them, standing all attention to the least little wish that occurs to their hearts, in one word, worshipping them as visible and concrete manifestations of the Supreme.   He describes this teaching of his as the crystallized essence of the message of the Vedas, for that matter of all forms of Dharma. 


In the foregoing section we have dwelt on the views expressed in sacred tests on the great duty of devotion to parents. That should be the starting point of one's enquiry into any theme concerning dharma. The fact is that an individual requires being aware first of his own littleness, his own in significance before he proceeds to discuss dharma. Humility is an essential pre-condition to the attainment of wisdom. Once you feel humble, you feel the need of the guidance of the holy texts. For many centuries there has been a trend in another direction, and we are apt to stress our own competence in dealing with lofty topics of dharma. The essence of dharma however is realization. It is not enough to know what is right: you have got to act up to it. And to act up to it is not to follow it once or twice — casually or fitfully — but to carry it out to the letter and in the spirit, to live it every moment of your life. Theoretical knowledge is worse than ignorance, so far as questions of dharma go. Knowledge in the domain of dharma is not knowledge at all so long as it falls short of intimate and firsthand realization. Now, it is all very easy to know what is proper and improper. The question is how to follow it unflinchingly and with steadfast loyalty in actual and every-day life. That makes intellectual subtlety worthless. How little it means whether you can argue with ingenuity or discourse brilliantly on a subject. There is no point in scholarship or brilliance unless it leads to positive realization. What if you, have read all about the systems of philosophy. What, if you have the head, of a Plato or a Kant, unless you live your ideas and of course your ideas require to be conducive to and consonant with dharma. You remember the story of the Holy Man by Tolstoy — or was it by Frank Harris? (One forgets; it is by Frank Harris perhaps but it is very like Tolstoy, if not actually Tolstoy) where a Bishop goes to teach the message of Christ to an aged man in a far-off, out of the way corner of the earth only to find that the man who had never heard of the name of Christ was a truer Christian than himself. The point is that the good Bishop knew a good deal about Christ but the Holy Man he sought to enlighten had already managed to realize the message of Christ without being theoretically aware of Christ.    This is by the way. 

So much has to be said in defense of relying on the Holy texts as a guide to life which is indeed a great pity. But one feels that it may all seem meaningless this to "allude to the Holy Bible or to our Dharma Shastras. Its point becomes manifest as soon as one recognizes the simple fact that the greatest wisdom has been reduced today to a set of copy-book maxims or Common places of pious platitude which we all have known but systematically disdained to follow in life. And the irony of the whole thing is that there is no sense in knowing them unless they are followed, assimilated and made bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. To cull a teaching from the Holy Writ is not merely to have it, but to have it together with all the spiritual force that went into its making or its formulation. "When Bhisma utters an advice, it receives from him the full force of his own practice of it and acquires thus a momentum that enables it to pierce it way into the core of your heart BO that you come to he shot through and through with it. To profit by it, you have of course to read it from the Shastras time and again, to ponder and meditate on it, to let it permeate your very being through repeated reading. So, the words in the Shastras are charged with a force that must influence you if you ever care to read them. Do you disbelieve it?   well try it for yourself.   Bead and you will realize. 


After this brief or is it not brief enough interlude of a digression, we pass on to our theme. A question may very well occur as to why the Bhastras make so much of this simple thing. Yes, parents are entitled to respect. But why this pother about worshipping them as very God and all that? Well, it is not for us to answer. They know best the sages that uttered them and the saints that have confirmed them down the ages.   This, incidentally, is not a little curious. Saints have never been found of lending their emphatic support to these messages of the Shastras. And surely, they excel us all in wisdom and veracity. ~ If you have ever known a saint, you will at once admit the truth of this statement. If not, ask any of your acquaintances that may have been a saint and you will know that a saint is incapable of any exaggeration or distortion of truth far less to speak of a deviation from truth. And undoubtedly the best answer is to practise what they say and then see whether they are in the right. If you think that the Holy texts do not tell the truth, well, verify it for yourself by personal experiment. But you have no right to deny or dispute it unless and before you experiment with it and see the result for yourself. We throw out tribe challenge to Poetics and cynics, to materialists and half-believers of casual creeds — because we have made our experiments with the Shastras and been convinced of their absolute veracity. 

It is possible however to look at the problem from a much humbler plane. It is a truism of psychology that filial affection is peculiar to man while parental affection is common to animals as well. When father and mother love their child, they do what animals also do. Parents' love for children is an instinct derived from nature; the instinct is due to nature's concern for race-perpetuation. If creation is to go on, parents, animal as well as human, have to look after children until they can take care of themselves. This urge leads to affection for children. Hot that parental love is precisely the same in quality and quantity in human beings as it is in animals. Far from it. Still the fact remains that there is a basic affinity however slight — between the two, as for filial love, however, it has nothing to do with nature's concern for the propagation of the species. Bo animals are not by instinct impelled to look after their parents. Isolated instances may be there of a stork saving the life of its parent &t the expense of its own life. But these limiting instances are few and far between; they only prove the rule. It follows then that filial affection is part of man's prerogative. Not merely that — it is, as some psychologists contend, the basis and fountainhead of many of his essential human virtues. Indeed, it is the roof of his humanity. For it does not proceed from a natural impulse but comes of a sense of duty or conscience. Those virtues which arise from instinct are not virtues at all. That is a virtue which is independent of instinct, which goes counter to instinct and is born of a sense of duty- The more one cultivates a virtue of this sort, the more one controls, masters and transcends instinct. The more one exercises judgment and sense of duty, the more one develops character. Conversely it follows that those who are wanting in filial affection are to that extent wanting in humanity and — what is worse — wanting in the very possibility of ever developing a high moral sense and a worthy character. If man requires rising above animality, he has to acquire, develop a sense of filial duty. 


Lives of saints as also their teachings, as already discussed, point to this supreme need of doing one's duty by one's parents and that in a devout spirit of religious practice of worship. That great saint of the south who blessed the North of India, Benares to be exact, with his divine presence, Tailanga Swami, was the picture of a devoted go as we learn from his biography, and would not renounce the world so long as his parents lived. Sri Ramakrishna, as his "Gospel" shows, loved and revered his mother very dearly and asked others to follow suit. He lost his father too early to leave behind a record of his devotion to father. "Is one's mother a small thing, eh", he would repeat — and by that -he meant that the utmost devotion is due unto one's mother. Bijoy Krishna G Goswami was also deeply 'devoted to his mother. Sri Balananda Brahmachari, the saint of Deoghar, would ask his disciples to bow daily to their parents. He had renounced the world at a very early age, bat when his mother came over to him in 'Tapovan' near Deoghar, he kept her with him and served her with all devotion. Her name stands enshrined and perpetuated there in the beautiful hillock of 'Tapovan.' This is how our saints have left a rich legacy of devotion to 'parents to inspire us and to induce i.e. to follow in their foot-steps. If even those who abjure all family ties and take to a life of total renunciation thus practise the sacred duty of worshipping their parents, how much more obligatory the duty is on us. 

The sponsor of this religious monthly — it may he noted in passing — has been -justly renowned for his extra-ordinary devotion to parents. He has dedicated more than one book to the hallowed memory of his parents and the language of his dedication is an eloquent testimony to his profound devotion to them. We have still another record of sis devotion to father in the first chapter of his first book, Pagaler Kheyal, or Moods of a Maniac, An English translation of this chapter occurs in the life of the Master. We beg to quote a relevant extract: 

"A year is gone. A year since I lost my father. Father! Father 1 Father 1 I don’t know where, at whose house, you may have been born and whether I may be privileged to meet you again in this life." 

It may be parenthetically noted that he has had this privilege to meet his late father and mother reborn on earth as he has given us himself to understand. But this is by the way. 

Of the Master's devotion to his mother, his step-mother to be sure, his biographer remarks, "How he worshipped her literally as the Goddess in human form.   Even today you find him going around her with folded hands (this it may be noted was written while his stepmother had been alive) and lying prostrate at her feet three times a day. This is Pradakshin and pranam, Circumambulation and Prostration. Even today he worships her and offers flowers at her feet and dips her toe in water and drinks it, which is called Charanamrita. One great message of the Master to the world is that if a Bon worships his father and mother and looks upon them literally as Jagat Pita and Jagat Mata, as the Supreme Father and the Supreme Mother, if he serves and adores them in this spirit, that in itself would be enough to bring Consummation at his door, he need not perform any other austerities ; he need not seek to attain God, God comes to him on His own initiative and meets him and talks to him and confers boon on him. Such a son, says the Master, need not solicit God, God solicits him. And this is by no means an exaggeration. The Master means what he says; he means every word of it in literal fact.   He loves truth too well to exaggerate it.  If by nothing else, by simple devotion to mother could the Master attain his consummation." 

Devotion to parents is thus according to the sacred tests and the testimony of saints alike an all-sufficing mode of tapasya capable of leading you to the supreme goal of life. The question is how it may be capable of doing so. It may be ethically proper; it may be essentially human; but how may it also be spiritually so potent? How may it be a road to the Divine?    How may it be a sufficient means to realization, to supreme wisdom? 

The answer is not far to speak. We have first to ask what ignorance is and what, by contrast, is wisdom. Ignorance is, or lies in, the perception of variety, diversity or plurality; wisdom is, or lies in, finding the One in all apparent disparities. So long as you see the 'many', you are ignorant: as soon as you see the 'One', you are wise. It is not a question of rational or theoretic construction: it is a matter of constant visualization, of intimate and continuous realization. Science speaks vaguely of a unity in the diversity of phenomenal around us; philosophy infers a unity in the midst of diversity. But neither science nor so-called philosophy is wisdom, is. For wisdom dawns only when you directly see that there is absolute unity everywhere, that what seemed to be multitudinous has only been the One and only One pulling our legs, as it were, playing, so to speak, at hide and seek, assuming multifarious garbs only to befool as and all for a grand sport 1 The Rishis of the Upanishads had this wisdom and they declare: -

— "All this verily is the Supreme".

Lord Krishna refers to this perception as the hallmark of true wisdom.   He calls it the sense or realization of the fact that — "all is Vasudeva"-

 Sri Sri Chaitanya Deva define it as the vision of Krishna everywhere: — 

— "Wherever the eye may fall, there is always Krishna appearing to view." 

Sri Sri Ramakrishna Deva described it as finding the cosmic Mother in all objects. Sri Sri Sitaram sums it up as: — "In all am I and all I.” 

This realization is wisdom and the object of every spiritual exercise is to obtain this, realization. The first and all-essential step towards this realization is to have "Jyoti” and 'Nada', and by 'Jyoti' is meant non generated light and by 'Nada', non-generated sound. The senses which we call the gateways to knowledge are actually hindrances on the way to wisdom. They tell you of differences and diversities, while wisdom insists that differences are illusory and diversities nonexistent that there is naught but the One. They, moreover, distract and dissipate the mind while wisdom requires you to concentrate. Note what Gerald Manley Hopkins says in his poem "The Habit of Perfection": 
"Elected Silence, sing to me 
And beat upon my world ear, 
Pipe me to pastures still and be 
The music that I care to hear, 
Be shellid eyes, with doble dark  
And find the uncreated light: 
This ruck and reel which you remark  
Coils, keeps, and teases simple sight." 
All that you hear and see is so much distraction, delusion none of it being real perception, for real perception must be the perception of reality which is One. Wisdom beckons us to that 'One’ and one feels tempted to quote Hopkins again: 

"There is one, yes I have one (Hush there!);Only not within the seeing of the sun, somewhere else where there is ah well where ' one, One." It is to the One that you must turn if you care for wisdom. The One is within you. To get to the One you require minimizing your pursuits and objectives and devoting yourself exclusively to a few specific objects. Service to Parents is one such objective. It is a worthy objective, deserving of steadfast attention. Parents have done so much for us, they have loved us so dearly and sacrificed so much for our sakes that it seems natural for sons to be grateful to them and to serve them sincerely and with devotion as a humble token of gratitude. There is beside the possibility that the example of filial duty that you show to your children may inspire them, in future, to do the same towards you in your old age. And what happens when you devote yourselves to the services of your parents? You automatically get to concentrate on that great all-absorbing task of yours. Tour mind naturally turns away from all external attractions and fixes itself on that sacred task. you achieve thus a gradual concentration which is bound to lead you to those precious experiences, namely of Jyoti and Nada. And once they arrive, they will draw you nearer and nearer to the centre of your being. So, a day must come when this gradual but unceasing progress towards the centre of your being will fix you there into the very core of it and you will have 'darshan' of the Supreme. 

Does it read like a fantastic tale? No, it is not. I have it from a great saint who explained it in the manner suggested above. But in case you do not feel convinced, start experimenting with it and see if worship of and service to parents can bring you the Fulfillment for which we all consciously or unconsciously aspire. Dharma is a practical affair. Theoretical controversy has little relevance here. 'Do and see for yourself ought to be the motto with us.