Why do we worship God as Mother? – a simile to Navratra and Durga Puja
This compilation is with regards to the several pujas or the worships of “God as The Mother”~ during this month of October, we have Durga Puja (15th – 19th October, 2018) and in the beginning of November, we have the Kali Puja (6th November 2018). These are just two of the forms in which God as Mother is worshipped in the Indian subcontinent and also now, in many other parts of the world. But, besides these two, God as Mother is worshipped in many other forms as well. Right now, we are celebrating what is named as ‘Navaratri’~ (10th October – 18th October, 2018) – the auspicious nine days and the nine nights, of the year. In southern parts of India, during these nine days, three aspects of the Divine Mother are worshipped – God as Saraswati, God as Kali and God as Maha Laxmi. A few days between the Durga Puja (19th October, 2018) and Kali Puja (6th November, 2018), another one would be worshipped in Bengal and other parts of India, on the full moon night of 23rdOctober (2018) – Kojagori Laxmi Mata.
A few weeks after that, there is another aspect of Divine Mother, as the Jagadhatri ~ The Mother of the Universe (17th November 2018). And then it is worship of Mother Saraswati. So, there are many forms of Mother (Maa/ Mai) and many ways to worship, spread across the year, but the occasions are more concentrated, during this season.
That’s why ~ we should name this season as ‘The Mother Season’.
Goddess Durga is known to us in many forms, Vaishno Mata, Mahakali, Jagadhatri, Chandi, etc.; are amongst a few. Mythological stories of every religion, is as great, as the other. Let me make you aware of some Vedantic truths of Goddess Durga.
The idol of Mother Durga, that we see, sitting on the back of a lion and killing the Mahishasura, actually signifies the life long struggle that goes on within each one of us. The Mahishasura signifies the tendencies of Asuras, the KAMA, KRODHA, LOBHA, MOHA, MATSYA etc., which exist within each of us, and troubling us.
The lion signifies our Viveka, the sense of wisdom (Gyana), the knowledge, which differentiates and allows us to choose good from the evil. The Pashuraj, our Viveka, controls the evil, our greed and desire (Mahishasura), within us. We are the children of our Mother Durga, the Divine Mother, is within us, and controlling this Viveka, the lion. With her ten hands and ten weapons such as knowledge, truth, purity, detachment, concentration (dharana), love, patience etc. Mother’s left foot, is pressing down on the heart of Mahishasura, also controlling the evil within us.
When the idol is being made, you also see inclusion of idols such as the mighty Kartikeya, the Goddess of knowledge Saraswati, the goddess of wealth Lakshmi, the Guide and protector Ganesha. All, as the children of Durga, know them. Strangely, though, we also find – in the script of “Chandi Purana” that Durga was virgin. In addition, why should she call her children, when she was busy with the earth shaking war with Mahishasura? There must, therefore, be another meaning to this?
To achieve the ultimate, the blessings of Mother Durga, the “Nirvana”, we need the strength and the physique of Kartikeya. If the health is good and we are strong, we get the power to acquire knowledge, memory, intellect, Gnyana, etc. thereby implying the appearance of Goddess Saraswati. When you have acquired the knowledge, Gnyana, intellect, memory, you earn wealth, money. That is the appearance of Goddess Lakshmi in our life. Nevertheless, we must remember that when we have money, knowledge, appearance, and strength, we become proud and egoistic. To keep us away from this pride and ego, we need our protector Vighna Nashak Ganesha. When we have acquired these four strengths, and learn to control our senses, we get to achieve the blessings of Mother.
Durga Puja celebrations are normally spread over five days (from Sashthi to Dashami) during which all people without any distinction of class, creed or caste, assemble in the Puja pandals, offer their prayers to the Supreme Goddess, and participate in a variety of social and cultural functions. Thus, Durga Puja provides a platform for projection of the art and culture of India, and an informal forum, in this vast and varied land of ours; for interaction between different streams of art and culture. This kind of spontaneous social and culture interaction between different linguistic communities has also contributed surely and silently towards a national integration.
Goddess Durga is “Adya-Shakti”, the Eternal source of Supreme power; responsible for creation and its sustenance. She is all Mahamaya-the Goddess of illusion, the personification of the power of Maya. According to an episode from Purana, Indra, Surya, Pavan, Varun and Yama, could not destroy even a dry leaf of grass, with their own power; when each one of them were unaided by the Divine Mother.
We know that according to Vedanta, the ultimate reality is one. That everything is really one. That however, is really not our present experience! And because the reality is supposed to be one, it is infinite and it is undivided. But somehow, the reality that you and I experience is not undivided. It is very
much divided and it’s very much limited in many ways. Factual reality if you like. Now the study may tell us, ‘how and when did this infinite one reality, somehow, become fractured into many different realities’? Those are the realities of my existence, realities of the existence of every one of the human beings, every one of the living beings. Realities, as these appear to us, are existence of every object in this world. How did this one existence suddenly begin to appear as many different kinds of existence – whether living or non-living?
Now when did that exactly happen – no one knows! This not knowing, when did this occur, this ignorance of when did this take place ~ is in Vedantic terms ~ called ‘Maya’. It does not know when it happened. ‘Maya’ originates from the root word called ‘Mayee’. Mayee means measure. Anything that one can measure is Maya. This body, the money, the cars, the houses, the land, the property and the human relationships – whether through blood or through social arrangements, is Maya. Only Divine Love, which is infinite, is beyond measure, is beyond Maya.
Paramahansa Yogananda has written down, “Only Love can take my place.” Anything, which is measurable, is tangible, will eventually degenerate. It is ‘not permanent’; it is only ‘Anityam’, is ‘Ashubham’. But normal and ignorant people do not understand it, do not remember it and try their best through hoarding and permanent greed ~ to hold on to it. That is a mistake and the cause of our suffering and misery. Whereas, the ‘love’, what Paramahansa Yogananda talked about, cannot degenerate and is permanent.
This not knowing, when it happened, is just called ‘Maya’. Now we should know, why is it not known?
Maya is not known because in reality it does not make sense. Because if the reality is really infinite or if something is really infinite, how could it become finite? And if you could become finite, then we have to begin questioning, whether it was infinite in the first place? If something that is one and then became many, then we still have to ask, which is real? Was that one real or these many those have appeared from it and now in front of us, ‘are real’?
So this sense of mystery or wonder, of all this one whole or from the different frame of reference, when we speak about creation means that something, which is coming out of nothing. Now that’s also a form of wonder. We might like to say, “Everything is possible. Well, nothing is impossible for God?” That is just saying it. But still how could all of this come from nothing, that’s one way of expressing our question and our wonder. And a second way is, if all of this was really one and undivided, how did it become many and divided?
At present we don’t really have to go into the metaphysics of it. But there is a lot of discussion in books, whether the one really became many or appeared to be many and so on. But we cannot deny that our present experience, the kind of world in which we find ourselves, is a world filled with various kind of things, various kind of beings, various kind of species and just to consider, even the material expanse of the world. Think about the galaxies; galaxies beyond the galaxies. Even to think about it at the material level, is just mind-boggling.
So that’s our present experience. The world in which we are, we are very big, we are all different beings, all separated from one another and also if we believe that there is some such being called, ‘God’ or higher power, we and almost all of us, believe that we are separated from that higher power as well.
So Now We All Stand Separated…
Now being separated gives us some form of individuality, some amount of freedom. I think we all probably have passed through that stage, when we are growing up in the family, then going to school, or when it’s time to go to college. We have seen it in our own lives and may be in the lives of our children or our friends, that many of these young teenagers, when they want to go to college, they don’t usually wish to go to the college ~ in their own city? They just want to go to some different place. Because once you are away from the family, it just gives you a little bit of freedom, a sense of separateness, of individuality. Things like, “Yes, now I am someone. I don’t have to be always, be dependent or always be a part of something; even it might be a family. I can be on my own.”
So separateness gives us that sense of individuality, sense of personal freedom, but it also disconnects us, from the larger world. So even though you may be away from your family, you feel a sense of freedom, but you also feel the need to stay connected, in some ways, with the family. Especially, if you are a student, then you are not making money by yourself. So you are depended on your family, at least to send you a cheque once a month, to pay for your bills.
There is a sense of the joy of being separate and also the need to connect. So what do we do? When we feel our separateness from others, we try to connect with others; usually through forging of our relationships. Now some of the relationships that we have in life are purely biological. But the connection with our parents, our children, our brothers and sisters; those are just, the biological ways of connections. It was Sir Walter, who had said, “God gave me my relatives and thank God, that I can at least chose my friends.” So many of our relatives, we did not have any choices, in most of them?
But then we forged new relationships. New relationships can be through marriages, through friendship, through politics, through trade and so whether, relationship that we have found ourselves in, in a natural course of events, or relationships, that we have voluntary chosen to forge.
Jesus had said, “If ye are in love with God, Ye then shall be my brothers and sisters.”
In other words, he had condemned the relationships through blood, as not being true connections. Only love for God and a desire to get connected with God as God’s children, make the true relationship. Be that as it may, what we have now is a huge network of connections ~ relatives, friends, colleagues, associates, neighbors, fellow travelers, Facebook & WhatsApp friends and also those who love God.
Now performing relationships in life is a form of, a kind of resurrection of that one reality. So we have already become separate beings. Through these relationships, come to think of it, ‘we somehow try to come together again’.
It’s our effort, of trying to go back to that oneness, through the act of connecting with another, we try to get back to that and become ‘one’.
So, that is what spiritual seekers, the ‘Monks’ ~ try to do too. Just as we feel disconnected from one another, a devotee or a spiritual seeker feels the sense of disconnection from God.
How do we then connect with God? Because we did need that, we feel the need to create some kind of a connection with God. In fact, Swami Vivekananda defined religion as the eternal relation between the eternal soul and the eternal God. So that’s one very good way of looking at what religion is, irrespective of the specifics, of different religions.
Paramahansa Yogananda has said, “Love and truth always wins and remains real, is ever lasting. He explains “The theologies of all great religions, which have one common foundation – the searching and finding and realization of God.” But religious truth without practical realizations is limited in its value. How can the blind lead the blind?
Few men understand the Bhagavad Gita as its writer, Vyasa, understood its truths! Few men understand the words of Christ as he understood them! Vyasa, Christ, Babaji, ParamahansaRamakrishna, Ramana Maharshi and all other perfected Masters perceived the same truth. They described it, variously in different languages. In the study of the Bhagavad Gita and the New Testament, I have perceived their meanings as one.
Paramahansa Yogananda goes on to say that with the decimation of the family, the age-old religious rites of the generation fade away. When the upholding religion is annihilated, then sin overpowers the whole family.”
Essentially, what many religions try to show is what kind of a relationship ~ I as an individual have with that larger reality? Now, our tradition in India, have done a deep study of the various kinds of relationships human beings have over the centuries. All human beings have tried to think of God and connect themselves with God. The different kind of relationships they have formed with God. Now according to this classical enumeration, you will find it in many of the books of devotional schools, that there are five classical relationships people have formed with God and they stand for the five approaches or orientations towards the divine. Sometime the word, the orientation, is called ‘Bhava’.
A description is simple, for these five types of relationships! The first kind of relationship is called ‘Shanta’. Shanta means calm and detached. So that’s one way of relating to God. The example that is often given is ~ from the ancient Vedic sages, the great Rishis who inspired, to whom the Vedic wisdom was revealed. They were intensely connected with that reality. You see them, always in a state of calmness! In fact, many times, the Sanskrit word for the sages is ‘Muni’. ‘Muni’ means the silent one. So, they had this intense love for God. Some of the relationships are like that. We can see that among human beings and animals, it can be in any form and different ways, the intense love, but it’s kind of a calm and serene way. There is not much way of externally expressing it. So that’s called ‘Shanta Bhava’.
The second kind of relationship described in books is called ‘Dasya’. ‘Dasya’ means a service-oriented relationship, looking upon God, as the master and looking upon oneself, as the servant of God. You find that in the lives of any saints and mystics, “I am just a servant of God, Whatever I am doing; God is the Master of this Universe.” That’s why sometimes we see in books, we speak about the kingdom, God’s kingdom and God is the ‘Divine King’. We are all subjects of that king.
A third relationship with God is in Sanskrit, called ‘Sakha’. ‘Sakha’ means relationship or friendship. The classical example that often is given is the relationship between Krishna and Arjuna in the Gita. They were cousins but what was more dominant in their relationship, was that, they were very close friends. You can see, those of you have studied the Gita, in the 11th Chapter of the Gita, when we see that cosmic form of Krishna was revealed to Arjuna. And he is terrified and in fact we find him saying, “Please forgive me of all this faith, I just saw you as my own friend. But you seem to be someone much too big for me and way beyond even my imagination, my comprehension!”
So sometimes you can see that revelations, the form of relationship we may have with God can change, can be questioned, and can undergo modifications. If you see God in one way today, now, that’s nice and great. But don’t think that would remain the permanent way. We don’t know,with different experiences in life, the way we connect with God, the way we relate with God; may change, and might evolve.
The next way of thinking of God is called ‘Vatsalya’. That is maternal. So, we know in the lives of a few of the saints, they looked upon God as the baby. And you see that in, there are people who worship Krishna, as a child Krishna, or Rama as a child Rama. There are many temples and images dedicated to Krishna as a child. Like Yashoda Mata, Devaki Mata, Mother of Gopal (Gopaler Ma) in Gospel’s of Ramakrishna.
Finally, looking upon God as one’s own ‘Beloved’. We see that in the life of, for instance, Radha and Krishna. So, all of these different ways, it is possible to think of God, to approach God. We see great saints, as enlightened beings have emerged, following one or the other, of these classical relationships. Although it must be highlighted, this is not like you got to choose between these choices, there is no other choice. These are just five classical ways, the way it has been done. But every one of us has the freedom to think of God, to approach God, to relate with God, in a way that comes naturally to us and then, we do get connected intuitively?
In fact, it is said often that there is one kind of relationship, which encompasses, all of these five. And that is looking upon God, as Mother.
If we look upon God as Mother then every one of us, becomes God’s child. So Sri Ramakrishna called this way of seeing God, as a ‘Saantanabhava’. Looking upon oneself as the child of God. In Ramakrishna’s life we see that was his dominant connection with God. Dominant way he related to God. He saw God as Mother, he saw himself, as the child of God.
We see, in the life of Paramahansa Yogananda, related right from childhood, he related to God as the Divine Mother and granted all what he prayed for, just as a mother would. On earlier occasions we have seen how a Mother can be a very calm, loving presence, like the ‘Shanta’. A Mother can be friend. A Mother can be sometimes, especially when we were very young; we treat our Mother, almost like a servant. “Mom, get me this, get me that.” And a Mother does that. Our Mother can be a great friend. This one relationship of God as “The Mother”, brings forth to several essential and yet the most important understandings. This in turn alone, with ‘The Divine Mother’s Grace’, would take us closer to God!
- Mother is always there to grant us whatever things we want – be it gains in spiritual journey, emotional balance, heightened intellectual prowess or abundance of material / physical prosperity? At page 16 & 17 of Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda describes, I quote, “Our family moved to Lahore in the Punjab. There I acquired a picture of the Divine Mother in the form of the Goddess Kali. It sanctified a small informal shrine on the balcony of our home. An unequivocal conviction came over me that fulfillment would crown any of my prayers uttered in that sacred spot. Standing there with Uma one day, I watched two kites flying over the roofs of the buildings on the opposite side of the very narrow lane. “Why are you so quiet?” Uma pushed me playfully. “I am just thinking how wonderful it is that Divine Mother gives me whatever I ask.” “I suppose she would give you those two kites!” My sister laughed derisively. “Why not?” I began silent prayers for their possession. Matches are played in India with kites whose strings are covered with glue and ground glass. Each player attempts to sever the string of his opponent. A freed kite sails over the roofs; there is great fun in catching it. In as much as Uma and I were on the balcony, it seemed impossible that any loosed kite could come into our hands; its string would naturally dangle over the roofs. The players across the lane began their match. One string was cut; immediately the kite floated in my direction. It was stationary for a moment, through sudden abatement of breeze, which sufficed to firmly entangle the string with a cactus plant on top of the opposite house. A perfect loop was formed for my seizure. I handed the prize to Uma.
- Starting from seeking blessings and guidance on how to, love Her (more intensely), how to increase our love through increasing our understandings of Her.
- How to depend on Mother completely, called “Surrender”. And then we may go ahead and ask her for material things as well. Be strong with that understanding that after all if we cannot ask our Mother, who then can we ask? The infinite potencies of sound derive from the Creative Word ~ “AUM”, and the cosmic vibratory power behind all atomic energies. Any word spoken with clear realization and deep concentration has a materializing value.
- Mother is the closest of all other relationship, who would never leave you and go away? You always have a silent and a complete connection with your Mother; whether you keep it a secret in your heart, talk about it at all or not?
- We see many such anecdotal records in the life of Bhagwan Ramakrishna. He is rolling on the ground of the temple garden of Dakshineswar and his cheek bleeding with the rubbing of the cheek on the surface of the stones He is wailing, crying out loud, “Mother, why don’t you show yourself to me. Are you Mrinmayee or Chinmayee?” His appeal for the search for Mother, reminds me of a child, two or three years old, banging on the washroom door and crying out loud, “Mama, Ayee, Mother, where are you?” Just because mother is out of his sight, signifies to him that as if mother is not there anymore, has gone away from his world? Often, we the adults think the same way, when we can’t see God and ignorantly jump to our small-minded conclusion that ‘God does not exist’?
- She is closest to us, closest of all and yet lovingly protecting us! The most powerful of all and lovingly, unseen by most, is guiding us all. Let us pray to Mother, “Asato Ma Satgamaya, Tamaso Ma Jyotir gamaya, Mrityor Ma, Amritam gamaya. Take us Mother from unreal to real, darkness to light, ignorance to bliss and death to immortality.” She is the one, as Prakriti, as Mother Kali ~ Bhavatarini Ma’, ~ dancing on top of the infinite Shiva, who is despite being the lord of destruction of this Universe ~apparently lying helplessly beneath Mother Kali’s feet?
So we do see that, all of these different relationships, that we can form, we find some however, reflected in one-way or the other, in a Mother. So Mother therefore, we could say that according to this way of thinking, is to us, more of an all-encompassing ideal.
Now instances of Mother worship are found in all faith and traditions. But officially the practice was not encouraged in some parts of the world, after the patriarchal form of society came into being, to dominate many societies the world over.
Swami Vivekananda, once said, “What a Mother would do, if a tiger were to attack her baby?” These are Vivekananda’s words. He said, “Suppose one of you Mothers, a weak woman, sees a tiger in the street, snatching your child, I know where you will be. You will face the tiger. May be another time, even if you see a dog in the street, you may run away or even fly. But for your child, you will jump at the mouth of the tiger to save your child. Love knows no fear. It conquers all evil.” We know that. Sometimes, we may be very much afraid of things. But if the object of our love, someone we love, is in danger, we might surprise ourselves; doing the kind of things that we might never imagine ourselves doing.
Now the Divine is a feminine, formed expression, in various philosophical schools, it’s now how people in general see it. But even in schools, people like to think of these factors in a more philosophical way. We found that God as Mother, formed expressions, in many different denominations. For instance, in the philosophical school, in the Sankya School, we have what is called ‘Purusha’ and ‘Prakriti’.
‘Purusha’ is the principle of consciousness and ‘Prakriti’ is really the principle of material reality and is often seem in the Sankya, as a feminine. In ‘Tantra’ there is Shiva and ‘Shakti’. In Vedanta we speak about ‘Chit’ or ‘Maya’ or ‘Brahman’. ‘Maya’ again, not just linguistically, but is also seen as feminine. Sometime Maya is referred to as a creation of the ‘Brahman’. In fact, the icon of graphic image of Kali stands for that. So we find Shiva lying down, that’s ‘Brahman’. But all activity rarely occurs, with the power, the Kali is the power of Brahman.
All creation according to the above way of thinking comes from Mother. The Mother brings everything into being, its Mother’s power that sustains the universe and it is through, into Mother that the entire universe, returns again. In fact, once Sri Ramakrishna had said, that all incarnations are really, Shakti’s incarnation. So in some ways although, later on as the concept develops, we speak about the Shakti of an Avatar’; is also the incarnation of Shakti. After all, the activities and everything else, which happens, on this Universe, happens due to Mother alone?
This faith, this knowledge, this deep conviction can come only when we know that God is our eternal beloved Mother, who never makes mistakes. God loves us. That’s the nature of love. If, when you love someone and that someone you love asks you for something, that is not good for that person. In fact, if you know, it will harm that person. The best way to express your love is to ‘not give it, isn’t it’?
That’s a good reminder for all parents, grandparents and everyone. When youngsters or children in your family come and ask you for something. Use your best judgment and see whether it is good for them? If it is not good for them, find ways of not giving it to them. Because, sometimes love is shown through being strict. So, love doesn’t always mean saying, “Yes”.
May I encourage everyone, at all times, when having a Mother’s Puja, especially during this ‘Mother season’, as we go for all the pujas that had come up would be a good time, to reflect and to meditate upon ~
‘How great our Divine Mother’ is and how easily
she could be depended upon?
We do often have times, a kind of confusion in our mind, when a puja is going on, many of us probably, do not know exactly, what ritual is occurring or what exactly is happening? Although we do feel nice and a pleasant sense of sanctity, whether or not we may not understand every little detail of the offering of flowers, the ritualistic worship of the Mother which are performed. But that time is well spent, even when the Mother is being invoked and worshipped, to look into our own hearts, to find that a little child within is seeking the Divine Mother, were she permanently resides.
And to ask oneself, these questions:
- Who am I?
- Who really is this ‘Me’?
- What are the guiding principles of my own life?
- Where do I find strength and wisdom that I have?
- What is the source? Am I able to hold on to that understanding and memory, what that source is?
- Is it that the Divine Mother came to me as my biological mother, my wife, my daughter and my neighbors?
This way of quiet and yet very distinctively perceivable reflection will bring greater sense of knowingness, peace, greater contentment and greater fulfillment in our own life.
Our Divine Mother is always with us. And yet why do we say, before Durga Puja, in Bengali, “Ma Ashche’ ~ My Mother is coming?” Similarly, I do not know what made me to meditate over a few months and compile this article? Only Mother would know.
The question therefore, in front us, is:
“To be or not to be, with my Mother?”
➢ God Talks with Arjuna ~~ Bhagavad Gita ~ Sri Sri Paramahansa
➢ Autobiography of a Yogi: Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda
➢ Understanding Vedanta: Swami Tyagananda.
➢ Meditation & Vedanta: Swami Adiswarananda
➢ Freedom of Voice: Swami Vivekananda
➢ Inner Voice. Reflection, as Guided by Divine Mother Through ~ Robbin Ghosh ~ a child of Mother ~ as you too are.