Perfect in This Moment

In My Meditation Today. I noticed that when I checked in to see how I was feeling, there was hesitation; a sense that I was not sure how I felt. There is the task I had to finish at work; I had not been in the best mood when my husband was here last weekend;  I was not sure if I was as kind as I could be to my dog and was not satisfied with my last conversation with my son! In other words, each and every interaction I had ever had with everyone had to be just absolutely right before I could allow myself the luxury of feeling okay about myself.

Learning to let go of this perfectionism so I can live my life in the now. Letting myself be okay, and yes, even lovable just exactly as I am in this moment.

The Grand Story of the Divine Mother is told in three parts. Each section describes a battle between good and evil and most often the story is interpreted as the forces of good and evil external to us. A more useful interpretation for me, however, is that it represents the battle between my basest instincts and my highest potential. The battles are bloody and gory because the fight to live from your highest potential is hard and ugly, and metaphorically bloody and gory. It is easy to settle into the space of being okay with our sense of lack, of not being enough and the self-hate and anger that an unfulfilled life generates. The inertia of that settling is represented for me by Mahakali in this story. When we let go of this inerta or work with her to let it go, magic is created.

11

Sumedhas ( Good Knowledge/insight) continues the story of the Divine Mother. The story occurs at a time when the extant universe has dissolved back into potentiality. The Hindu creation story sees the creation and dissolution of the universe as a continually recurring cycle. The cycles are long when compared to a human life. Before a world comes into existence, all that exists is energy that has the potential of assuming form. For reasons that are inexplicable :), this all pervasive energy decides that she wants to experience the limitations of form, and the endless, absolute energy takes form. Thus, everything from a pebble to a mountain, an amoeba to a human, is an expression of this Absolute. The form of the absolute that creates is Brahma; the form that maintains creation is Vishnu, and the form that dissolves it back into the Absolute is Shiva. In the Great Story of the Divine Mother, the Absolute is considered to be the energy of the Divine Mother. According to Hindu Myths, each cycle of manifest existence lasts 3 trillion human years.
This story starts when the universe has dissolved back into the unmanifest, Vishnu is in a deep sleep on the coils of a gigantic serpent that represents time and Brahma, seated on a lotus that emanates from Vishnu’s naval is in deep meditation. Two demons Madhu and Kaitabha, who have arisen from Vishnu’s ear, play around in the waters of the primordial ocean that surrounds Vishnu for a long time and eventually have questions about their existence. Seeking answers, they are led to pray and meditate upon the Divine Mother. She finally appears to them after years of penance and meditation and grants them the power of “Icchamrutyu”, i.e., the power to chose how and when to die. Thrilled  Madhu & Kaitabha decide to take on Brahma and destroy him. Awakened out of his meditative state, Brahma, who is not a warrior,  realizes that he will need Vishnu to help him defeat Madhu and Kaitabha.  But Vishnu is asleep. He is in a state of inertia induced by Mahakali.  Brahma begins to sing the praises of the Mother.  Responding to Brahma’s entreaties, the Divine Mother in the form of Maha-Kali emerges from Vishnu’s sleeping body and wakes him up. Vishnu,  aware of the runaway ambition in Madhu and Kaitabha engages them in battle. He fights them for 5000 years.  Finally, the demons intoxicated by their power, offer Vishnu a boon. “All I want is to kill you,” Vishnu says, “ What other boon could I ask for?” Looking at the ocean covering the entire Universe, Madhu & Kaitabha say, “ We grant you the ability to kill us in a space where there is no water.” Vishnu stands up, holds both Madhu and Kaitabha on his thighs way above the ocean and slays them.

Vishnu-Waking

The interpretation of the meaning of Madhu and Kaitabha varies depending on which reference one chooses. Madhu means “honey”, and Kaitabha can be translated to mean “like a bee.” Thus, the two together are thought to represent desire, unrelenting focused desire, much like bees in search of honey. Another interpretation is that the demons represent Kama = desire/lust; Krodha = anger which often accompanies frustrated desire; and Lobha = greed, which can be thought of as the worst type of desire because it results in a complete loss of empathy. The battle here then represents one between Vishnu – infinite energy and the ability of the darker aspects of desire and anger to take over our consciousness. Vishnu is asleep when Madhu & Kaitabha gain power; sleep represents a state of ignorance or a lack of awareness. Thanks to the presence of Brahma, the creative force within us, Vishnu is awakened and knowledge triumphs over unmitigated greed, anger and lust.

One of the problems with the interpretation of these myths is that we begin to label, entirely human emotions such as desire, anger and greed as “bad” and by extension, we label ourselves “imperfect” every time we are aware of these emotions within us. So instead of acknowledging the emotions, we find one more way to find fault with ourselves and keep us small. That is what my meditation today revealed. There is a sense that we are supposed to be perfect, that we should not feel any “bad” emotions.

Does the slaying of Madhu and Kaitabha mean that we never feel, desire, anger or greed again? No! Remember, the fight took 5000 years. In other words, this is a battle that we face again and again over time. It means that your creative force and your higher self, work together to make you self-aware and self-compassionate. It means you acknowledge and embrace all of you and that you overcome feelings of inadequacy again and again.

The entire myth represents a journey towards enlightenment. What is enlightenment? It is the knowledge that you are a representation of the divine. That there is nothing about you that is not okay. That you are not here by accident. That you have a purpose – which is that you live a life you love, not one prescribed by others.

The Next Level of Magnificence

In My Meditation Today. I realized that I have a choice. I can tell myself that it is unrealistic to get everything I want in my life,  suppress some of my deepest needs because of my fear of the consequences of asking for them to be met and settle. 

OR 

I can acknowledge my needs, walk through my fears and live a life that is always aspiring to the next level of magnificence. Choosing the latter.

This week we begin the  Grand Story of the Divine Mother.

Sanskrit – the Language in which the11 stories are recorded and recited is a complex one, in which accenting one consonant over another can change the context and meaning of a word. Since I do not know Sanskrit and since I have heard these stories either in one of the modern Indian languages or English, I am aware that to even attempt to translate this myth for this blog is monumentally arrogant and entirely foolish. However, that does not take away from the role these myths have played in my life. As with the SaptaShloki, the focus of this blog is to continue to interpret these stories from my individual perspective and describe the role they play in the application of spirituality to my daily living.

We hear the story of the prowess of the Divine Mother, as it is told to Suratha, a king, and Samadhi, a merchant.  A king who once ruled the entire world, Suratha defeated in war, is forced to leave his kingdom and flee to the forest.  He ends up at the hermitage of a sage called Sumedhas. As he wanders around the hermitage overwhelmed with memories of the past, and worrying about the future he meets Samadhi, a wealthy merchant who was also forced to leave home when his wife and sons usurped all his wealth. The two strike up a conversation and commiserate with each other. In a moment of mutual awareness,  they recognize the ridiculousness of their plight. Here they were in a beautiful hermitage, surrounded by beauty, peace and well-being, but they were both immersed in the lives that they had left behind. Perplexed by their inability to leave the past behind, they approach Sumedhas and ask him “Why are we unable to control our thoughts? We know our thoughts are causing us grief but we are not able to do anything about them. Please guide us.”

The seer begins by explaining to them the power of Maya.  His response begins with the first verse in the Sapta Shloki: “You are caught up in the spell of Mahamaya,” he says, and proceeds to describe the story of the Divine Mother, who is “the supreme knowledge and the eternal cause of liberation.”

(see my interpretation of Maya here – http://seeta2durga.com/2016/01/18/mahamaya/).  

To understand the allegory, we have to start with the names. The king is called Suratha  ( su = beautiful / fine; ratha = vehicle ). The five senses are considered the vehicles which bring the external world to us. Samadhi  ( Sama – equal; Dhi = sight); Samadhi = he who views everything as equal – or can witness the divinity in all.  The sage Sumedhas ( Su = good, Medhas = insight /knowledge) Thus Suratha is a state in which we have control over our senses; Samadhi represents a state in which we live in the knowledge of our divinity. Suratha losing the war and fleeing to the forest demonstrates a loss of control of our senses and the shift from awareness and control to ignorance. Samadhi loses his ability to see the divine in everything and also moves from supreme knowledge to the ignorance of separation. When we lose control of our senses and equanimity,  we seek guidance from the higher self who has insight and knowledge.

The most significant moment in the story is when both of them are lost in the misery of their condition but suddenly recognize that they are lost. The mind is completely lost in a spiral of despair and out of nowhere there is an awareness, a small separation, that allows you to see that you are lost. That is the promise. That is the intervention of grace.  

Several years ago, I was on my morning commute, completely engrossed in some new tale of misery.  In the middle of the story that I was telling myself, a little voice piped up and said, “Gosh! I wish I could stop this incessant chatter in my mind.” It startled me out of my anguish and for the first time, I recognized the impact the non-stop conversation in my head had over me.

It is worth noting that I do not remember why I was so miserable. However, the memory of the sudden awareness of the chattering mind has never left me.  It was the first time I was able to separate my inner critic from the larger ME. I knew I had to stop the chatter if I hoped to gain any sense of peace. This yearning led to reading about and practicing meditation.

The sudden awareness is what this moment in the story describes. As we lose control of our senses and thoughts, grace intervenes, and we seek answers/knowledge. Knowledge leads to liberation for the moment Brass Lampand life is magnificent.

The next moment we are lost again, grace intervenes and on it goes. Forever living a life that is always aspiring to the next level of magnificence-one moment at a time.

 

The Promise

In my Meditation TodayI realized that the essence of the promise of Krishna in the Gita is not that he would incarnate to fight injustice and evil in the outer world, but rather that he is continually incarnating to fight injustice and evil within.  Every time I pivot from despair to hope, sadness to joy,  hate to love, and separation to unity, I am experiencing a manifest incarnation of the divine within me.

 

The Sapta Shloki consists of seven verses from the Devi Mahatmyam – The Grand Story of the Divine Mother. Reciting these seven verses is considered equivalent to reciting the entire 700 verse scripture. The seventh and last verse of the Sapta Shloki is:

Sarva Bhaada Prashamanam

Trilokyasya Akhileshwari

Evam Eva Twaya Kaaryam

Asmat Vairi Vinashanam

Durga

Remove all obstacles Oh Goddess of the three worlds

You help us to defeat all our enemies

 

This verse is the 39th in the 11th Chapter of the Grand Story.  The Goddess has defeated all the rakshasas ( demons /forces of evil) that have manifested in various forms throughout the myth. This chapter is a long hymn in praise of the Goddess. Pleased by the praise of the devas ( Gods/ forces for good) who invoked her help to fight the demons, the Goddess asks if they had any last requests. This verse is their response.

For those of you who have been following my posts, it is probably obvious that my use and interpretation of these verses in my spiritual practice is often not faithful to the translation :).  This verse is not unusual in that respect.

I am very conscious of the fact that this blog is inspired. The desire to share my experiences, the format in which to share them, the verses with which to begin the blog have all been a result of that inspiration.  So I view each post  I write as an offering to the Great Mother. When I sit down to write a post, I am consciously seeking guidance, open to the message that she wants to communicate through me. 

Today, it was the line about Devi helping me to defeat my enemies that was I was led to focus on. My mind wandered through the various myths in the story.  In each one of them, as the dark forces rise, they have some leeway;  they are allowed to play; to create havoc and destruction until the countervailing forces for good are forced to take a stance. At that point,  Devi incarnates and annihilates the enemy.  

Images of events in world history that illustrate this endless cycle of the rise of evil and the overcoming of it flashed through my mind. Slavery and Lincoln;  the British Empire and Gandhi; apartheid and Mandela; segregation and Martin Luther King; the depths human depravity – the complete separation from divinity overpowered by the magnificence of the human spirit- the incarnation of God in human form and the constant dance between the two played out again and again on the world’s stage.

In all of these examples, I saw the incarnation or the manifestation of divinity as something separate from me, outside of me. The expression of man’s highest possibility as something that happened to a Gandhi or a Mother Theresa or Mandela but not me.  

“The miracle is that she manifests within me,“ I wrote as my contemplation deepened. “ Whenever my back is to the wall, my knees have buckled, and I have nowhere else to turn, there is always a rescue.” It might be a sliver of light or a big revelation. But she is there unfailingly, holding out a hand to lift me up to my highest possibility at that moment.”  The question is – Do I see the hand?  Do I trust her enough to allow myself to be lifted up? 

Even when I  do not, the promise is that her hand is ever present, waiting for the moment that I am ready to rise to my full potential. Every time I pivot from despair to hope, sadness to joy,  hate to love, and separation to unity, I am experiencing a manifest incarnation of the divine within me.

In the Power of the Myth, Joseph Campbell said,

“Heaven and hell are within us, and all the gods are within us. This is the great realization of the Upanishads of India in the ninth Century B.C. All the gods, all the heavens, all the world, are within us.”  

As I have taken you through the seven verses of the Sapta Shloki, I have tried to demonstrate how Campbell’s words are borne out in my life.  The names of the Gods you worship may be different, or you may not worship any particular god, but I hope the sentiments and my experiences still took you on a journey of your own.  Would love to hear about them.

I have some guided meditations that correspond to each of these verses and will help you overcome your inner demons.  Please connect with me through the comment section below if you would like to try the guided meditations.

 

Next week, I will start telling the actual story in the Grand Story of the Divine Mother.

Until then wishing you

Peace & Joy.