WORSHIP OF THE DIVINE MOTHER

                           Worship of 
the Divine Mother
The  highest
philosophy of the Upanishads is embodied in such declarations of the Sruti
as अहं ब्रह्मास्मि ( I am the Brahman)  तत्त्वमसि (That thou art) सर्वं खल्विदं ब्रह्म (All this is verily Brahman) and प्रज्ञानं ब्रह्म (Knowledge is Brahman). But the Brahman of
the Advaitin indicated by sachchidananda (Absolute
Existence-Knowledge-Bliss) is realised by rare souls.  It is the experience of the great seers of
India that the Truth can be realised by Selfless Work, Worship (Devotion or Bhakti)
and spiritual Knowledge, though these are not mutually exclusive. These paths
are known, respectively as कर्मयोग, भक्तियोग and ज्ञानयोग (Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga and Gnana yoga).
The right
attitude to work is epitomized in the Gita as:
                  कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
         (karmaNyevaadhikaaraste maa
phaleshu kadaachana
)    
‘ You have only
the right to action, not to the fruits thereof’.  In Karma Yoga one engages himself  in selfless action which is his dharma,  mentally offering the fruits thereof to the
Lord.
Worship involves
putting oneself in harmony with the Power immanent in the Universe  as embodied in one’s favourite deity and
surrendering oneself to the divine will. 
The Gita says
                   ईश्वरः सर्वभूतानां हृद्देशेऽर्जुन तिष्ठति।
                  भ्रामयन् सर्वभूतानि यंत्रारूढानि मायया॥
           
       Eashwarah sarvabhootaanaam hruddeshe
arjuna tishthati
     
Bhraamayan sarvabhootaani yantraroodhani maayayaa
God  abides in the heart of all beings,
controlling all their activities by the power of His Maya, as if they are
mounted on a mechanical contraption. 
                   सर्वधर्मान् परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं व्रज।
                   अहं त्वां सर्वपापेभ्यो मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुचः॥
                   Sarvadharmaan parityajya
maamekam sharaNam vraja
                   Aham twaam sarvapaapebhyo
mokshayishyaami maa shuchah    
“ Lord Krishna says
“Leave aside all dharma and take refuge in me alone surrendering
your self to me.  I will liberate you
from all sins; do not grieve.”
Selfless Work and
Worship (Devotion) will purify one’s heart and will lead to Right Knowledge
which alone can lead to the Truth.  This
realisation of Truth is not an intellectual comprehension of it  but an intense living spiritual experience of
it.
It is extremely difficult
for the human mind to comprehend the Nirguna Bhrahman (Brahman
without attributes).  The Gita says that
                     क्लेशोऽधिकरस्तेषां अव्यक्तासक्तचेतसाम्।
             Klesho adhikatarasteshaam avyaktaasakta
cetasaam
“Those who have set
their hearts on the Unmanifest Brahman, for them the path is                              
very difficult indeed”
it is here that the
worship of the saguna brahman (brahman with attribute) comes
in.  Lord Krishna says in the Gita:
                    
                       ये यथा मां प्रपद्यन्ते तांस्तथैव भजाम्यहम् ।
         Ye yathaa maam prapadyante
taamstathaiva bhajaamyaham               
“O Arjuna! Howsoever
men approach me even so do I seek them.” The Absolute takes on the form which
the devotee likes to worship.  The
worship of the Divine as the Sakti comes under saguna upasana.  The Sakti aspect of the Divine has
been brought out by sri Ramakrishna in the following words:
“When the
Supreme Being is thought of as actionless neither creating, sustaining or
destroying – I call Him by the name of Brahman or Purusha. But
when I think of him as active – creating, sustaining and destroying – I call Him
by the name of Sakti or Maya or Prakriti” (1)
In his Soundaryalahari
Sankara says-
                शिवः शक्त्या युक्तो यदि भवति शक्तः प्रभवितुम्।
                न चेदेवं देवो न खलु कुशलः स्पन्दितुमपि  ॥
 “Siva is capable of action only when he is
united with Sakti, otherwise he cannot   cause even a vibration.”
The Gita also says:
                प्रकृतिं पुरुषं चैव विद्ध्यनादि उभावपि।
                विकारांश्च गुणांश्चैव विद्धि प्रकृतिसंभवान्॥
       
                Prakritim purusham chaiva vidhyanaadi
ubhaavapi|
                Vikaaraamshca guNaamshcaiva
viddhi prakruti sambhavaan                           
“Arjuna! know that
Prakriti
and Purusha are both without beginning.  The manifest world of forms and gunas
has come out of the prakriti.”
From this it should not
be understood that Siva and Sakti represent two different tattwas (तत्त्व). Again in the words of sri Ramakrisha:
“The distinction
between Siva and Sakti is really a distinction without a difference. Brahman
and Sakti are one (अभेद), just as fire
and its burning power are one.  Brahman
and Sakti are one, just as milk and the whiteness of milk are one.
Brahman and Sakti are one, just as a gem and its brightness are one.” (2)  
The Divine can be
approached in different ways depending upon one’s mental, emotional and
spiritual make-up.  The Bhagavata
says that different people attained the Lord in different ways:
             गोप्यः कामात्भयात्कंसः द्वेषाद् चैद्यादयो नृप। 
             संबन्धात् वृष्णयः स्नेहात् यूयं भक्त्या वयं प्रभो॥
 Gopyah kaamaat bhayaat kamsah dweshaat
chaidyaadayo nripa
 Sambandhaat vrishNayah snehaat yooyam bhaktyaa
vayam prabho
“The gopis attained the
Lord by love. Kamsa through fear, Sisupala and others by enmity, the Yadavas
through kinship, Arjuna and the other Pandavas through friendship and Narada
and others through bhakti (devotion)”
So the important thing
is to direct one’s thoughts towards God whatever may be the emotion associated
with it.
 
Sakti takes on many
aspects, as creator, sustainer and destroyer of the universe.  Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Annapoorna, Kali –
these are some of the aspects in which Sakti is worshipped. Sri Ramakrishna
worshipped Sakti as the Divine Mother.  He
could see only the Divine Mother in every female of whatever age.  Once a devotee asked him why he did not lead
the life of a householder with his wife. 
Sri Ramakrishna replied:
“Ganesh one day
happened to scratch a cat with his nail. 
On going home, he saw that there was a mark of the scratch on the cheek
of his divine mother, Parvati.  Seeing
this he asked her, “Mother, how did you get this ugly scar on   
your cheek?”. The
mother of the universe replied : ‘This is the work of your hand; it is the
scratch of your nail.’  Ganesh asked in
wonder: “How is it, Mother? I do not remember to have scratched you at any time”.  The Mother replied, ‘Darling, have you
forgotten the fact of your having scratched a cat this morning? Ganesh said, ‘Yes,
I did scratch a cat, but how did your cheek get the scratch?’  The Mother replied, ‘Dear child, nothing
exists in this world but myself. The whole creation is myself; whomsoever you
may hurt, you only hurt me.’  Ganesh was
greatly surprised to hear this; and then he determined never to marry.  For, whom could he marry? Every woman was
mother to him.  Realising thus the
motherhood of woman, he gave up marriage. 
I am like Ganesh.  I consider
every woman as my Divine Mother.” (3)  
All of us have felt and
experienced the love of a mother.  As
Sankara says in a hymn to the Divine Mother
                  “कुपुत्रो जायेत क्वचिदपि कुमाता न भवति”
                   “kuputro jaayeta
kwachidapi kumaata na bhavati
“A bad son may be born,
but a bad mother can never be.” The love of the mother for the offspring is
manifest not only in human beings but also in animals.  It is this motherly instinct which sustains
the whole world.  Therefore the hymn to
the Goddess says
                   या देवी सर्वभूतेषु मातृरूपेण संस्थिता।
                   नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै  नमो नमः ॥
              Yaa devi sarvabhooteshu maatr
roopeNa samsthitaa
              Namastasyai namastasyai
namastasyai namo namah
“Salutations to the
Goddess who resides as the motherly instinct in all beings.”
It is easy for
one to conceive of the Divine as the Mother, ever loving, ever compassionate
and ever forgiving.  The Absolute is
forbidding but to those who approach it as the Mother, it verily becomes the
Mother as exemplified in the life of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.  One becomes, 
before the Mother, childlike, pure and simple, stripped of all ahamkara
(ego).  It is significant that the
first name of the Goddess in Lalita Sahasranama is श्रीमाता, emphasising the Mother aspect of the
Divine.            
In spite of being the
greatest of Advaitins, Sankara has poured forth his heart into many beautiful
hymns to the Divine Mother.  He comes
down from the high pedestal of advaita  to a relative plane and recognises that the
Supreme is above the individual soul when he says
                   सत्यपि भेदापगमे नाथ तवाहं न मामकीनस्त्वम्।
                   सामुद्रो हि तरङ्गः क्वचन समुद्रो न तारङ्गः ॥      
               Satyapi bhedaapagame naatha
tavaaham na maamakeenastwam        
                Saamudro hi  taranga: kwachana samudro na taaranga:
 “Though there is no fundamental difference  (between You and me), O Lord, I am Yours  ; You are not mine.  The wave is of the ocean, the ocean is not of
the wave , though essentially both are one.”
Two of the well known
hymns of Sankara to the Divine Mother are 
Ananda Lahari  (Waves of
Bliss) and Soundarya Lahari (Waves of beauty). In  Ananda Lahari  Sankara says

              अयः स्पर्शे लग्नं सपदि लभते हेमपदवीं

             यथा रथ्यापाथः शुचि भवति गङ्गौघमिलितम्।
             तथा तत्तत्पापैरतिमलिनमन्तर्मम यदि
              त्वयि प्रेम्णा सक्तं कथमिव न जायेत विमलम् ॥
            Ayah sparshe lagnam sapadi labhate
hemapadaveem
              Yathaa rathyaapaathah shuchi
bhavati gangaughamilitam
            Tathaa tattatpaapai-ratimalinam-antar-yad
             
Twayi premNaa saktam kathamiva na jaayeta vimalam       i
“A piece of iron turns
into gold when it comes into contact with the ‘’philosopher’s stone’.  The street water becomes pure when it mingles
with the surging waters of the Ganga.   How can my heart (mind), polluted as it is by
many sins, fail to become pure when it is attached to you by the bonds of love.”
Finally, the Acharya
says at the end of Soudarya Lahari-
            प्रदीपज्वालाभिर्दिवसकरनीराजनविधिः
                 सुधासूतेश्चन्द्रोपलजललवैरर्घ्यरचना।
            स्वकीयैरम्भोभिः सलिलनिधि सौहित्यकरणं
                 त्वदीयभिर्वाग्भिस्तवजननि वाचां
स्तुतिरियम् ॥
          
Pradeepa jwaalaabhi:
divasakara neeraajana vidhi:
Sudhaasooteh chandropala
jalalavaih arghyarachana
Swakeeyairambhobhi:
salilanidhi sauhitya karaNam
Twadeeyaabhirvaagbhi:
tawa janani vaachaam stutiriyam                     
Just like waving of a
small lamp to worship the sun which is the source of all light, offering arghya
(oblations with water) to the moon from the water from the chandrakanta
stone (which melts away under the moons own rays) and offering ritualistic
water to the ocean from its own water, 
this hymn to you, O mother! is made of your own words which you have put
into my mouth.
The Gita also says:
    
               ईश्वरः सर्वभूतानां हृद्देशऽर्जुन
तिष्ठति
               भ्रामयन् सर्वभूतानि यंत्रारूढानि
मायया।
              
               Ishwarah sarvabhootaanaam hruddeshe arjuna
tishthati
               Bhraamayan sarvabhootaani
yantraarooDhaani maayayaa   
                   
O Arjuna! The Lord
abides in the hearts of all beings and, by the power of his Maya, He whirls
them around (makes them act according to their karma and vasanas)
as if they are mounted on a  yantra (mechanical
contrivance).
In the words of sri
Ramakrishna, this is the attitude of one who has realised the Divine.
May the grace of the
Divine Mother illuminate our lives and lead us from Untruth to Truth, from
Darkness to  Light and from Mortality to
Immortality
                    असतो मा सद्गमय
                    तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय
                    मृत्योर्माऽमृतं गमय
                   Asato maa sadgamaya
                   Tamaso maa jyotirgamaya
                   Mrutyormaa amrutam gamaya                      
_______________________________________________________________________
References:
(1)[“Sayings of
Ramakrishna”, Sri Ramkrishna Mutt, Mylapore, para 853, page 265]               
(2) [“Sayings of
Ramakrishna”, Sri Ramkrishna Mutt, Mylapore, para 857, page 266]
(3) [“Sayings of
Ramakrishna”, Sri Ramkrishna Mutt, Mylapore, para1070, page 342] 

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