Are you Committing Spiritual Suicide

In My Meditation Today: In truth – suicide is not just the ending of one’s physical life. Giving up on our dreams and settling for a life that is safe but mediocre if not downright unhappy is not that different. That is still a slow but sure death of your spirit. And perhaps that is the worse death?

The Grand Story of the Divine Mother is told in three parts. Each part 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 a battle to live from your highest potential is hard and ugly and metaphorically bloody and gory.Kaushiki

The eighth chapter of the myth is the third episode in the last section of the Grand Story of the Divine Mother. This is the second post on this Chapter of the Myth. In the last post, we saw that Devi had called in reinforcements to fight the massive army that Shumbha & Nishumbha had sent out.
The seven goddesses with Devi are running roughshod over this vast army and just as it seemed as if they were getting the upper hand, a powerful demon called Raktabija walked into the battlefield. Raktabija was a demon with a unique power. Every drop of his blood that fell to the earth created another fully grown demon who was as powerful as him. As the different Goddesses begin to attack him with their weapons, he bled, and hordes of cloned Raktabijas filled the battlefield. As the Gods saw this, they were filled with terror. The all – knowing Devi senses their terror and laughs. She summons Kali – the terrifying version of her who appeared in response Shiva’s unsolicited appearance on the battlefield. “Chamunda, Open your wide-mouth and quickly drink up the blood from my weapons. Roam around the battlefield and devour the great demons sprung from Raktabija. So shall this daitya drained of blood, go to his destruction.”   The strategy works in the battle, and Raktabija is vanquished. I have avoided describing a lot of the grisly scenes in the myth, but it seemed important to dip into the gore in this case.

Traditional explanations of the allegory talk about Raktabija representing desire – insatiable desire. According to many traditional interpretations, desire is wrong and never satisfied and therefore the place to aspire to is to be without desire. I find that a deathly boring place to be. Who wants to live without desire? That is equivalent to living without dreams and hopes.

A much better description of Raktabija and his hordes, I think is the unstoppable power of the mind to take you into a downward spiral of thought which is particularly noticeable when you are in a negative spiral. It is equally true when you are busy living in the future. In both cases, our mind and thoughts are taking us away from the only moment that matters – the present moment. Thus the role of Raktabija is to create a web of ideas that makes you feel unsure of yourself; takes us away from the present moment. It makes you lose trust; that is what the fear of the Devas represents. Here they have the Goddess who has fought so many successful battles for them; the Devi they prayed to for support and at the first sight of trouble they began to imagine a future with a defeated Devi.
Raktabija represents our mind that creates that loss of faith; that wants to intervene after we have said that we are surrendering the outcome of a crisis to God.
Devi, on the other hand, is not bothered either by Raktabija or the loss of trust of the Devas. She knows her power. She is committed. If you call on her, she will be there as a thought, a person in your life, a book you find or even a post on FB. She will not give up on you even when you want to give up on yourself. Remember that the next time you are tempted to give up a dream.

The 1500 Year Old Feminist Angle

In My Meditation Today. This is less meditation and more contemplation. The stories we tell our children, ( or the television shows or movies we watch with them), are more than “fun” activities. The stories we select, the characters we like, the commentary we provide as part of these rituals are codes. The codes tell them what we like and what we do not; what makes us happy and what makes us sad; what we are comfortable with and what makes us nervous; what our expectations are and what disappoints us. Whether it is sexism, racism, homophobia, hamsa-symbolor  Islamophobia, we do not have to teach our children prejudice and or shame. explicitly. It is all learned through osmosis.

The Grand Story of the Divine Mother is told in three parts. Each 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 a battle to live from your highest potential is hard and ugly and metaphorically bloody and gory.

The eighth chapter of the myth is the third in the last section of the Grand Story of the Divine Mother. I am devoting two posts to it because there are two distinct aspects of it that I want to explore. In this post, I examine the surprisingly feminist slant in this myth that was written almost 1500 years ago.

In this chapter,  Shumbha & Nishumbha’s battle with Devi continues. Despite her victory over Dhumralochana, Chanda & Munda, Shumbha & Nishumbha refuse to admit their powerlessness. They continue to send in bigger and bigger armies to try and capture her. It is almost as if Devi is enticing more and more demonic forces to battle with her. Can you see how this could be the description of a spiritual journey? As one steps onto the path and expresses a willingness to do the work, more and more of our hidden inadequacies and fears rise to the surface to be acknowledged and accepted and brought into the fold. It is important to understand that in Hindu Mythology, it is a blessing to be killed by the Divine Mother ( or any divine entity) because it ensures that your energy then becomes one with hers. Thus there is no rejection or destruction. There is instead a welcoming into all that is.

As Shumbha & Nishumbha send in their biggest army yet, Devi summons reinforcements. She calls forth seven energies from Hindu “ Male “ deities Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Indra, and Kumara. Three from Vishnu ( Vaishnavi, Varahi, & Narasimhi), Brahmani from Brahma, Maheshwari from Shiva, Aindri from Indra and Kaumari from Kumara. Each goddess is equipped with weapons associated with her particular male counterparts. Although the actual shape or name of the weapon may be different, each one is a tool to help the aspirant go from ignorance to true knowledge. For instance, Brahmani carries a pot filled with water and her role on the battlefield is to sprinkle this water on the demons. The water – knowledge- renders them powerless – releases them from ignorance.

In his book “ Encountering The Goddess” Tom Coburn describes how the myth emphasizes the supremacy of the Goddess over the over the “male” deities whose power she summoned. The text is very clear about the fact that the powers Devi calls forth from the God’s are powers she has invested in them. That she is the source of all of creation is re-emphasised in chapter nine just before her epic battle with Shumbha.

The fact that the army that is about to fight the vast array of male demons consists of just seven Goddesses that Devi summons and herself is not the only exquisitely feminist angle in this chapter. After she has prepared her army, and is about to go into battle, seemingly out of nowhere, Shiva comes to her and says – “ Let the asuras be slain quickly for my satisfaction.” Devi who has managed the entire battle so far is not about to mDurga_2eekly accept Shiva’s command.
As Shiva finishes speaking, much like in the last chapter, a terrifying version of her emerges and says to Shiva, “ You, yourself become my messenger to Shumbha & Nishumbha and tell them to go to the netherworlds or let my jackals feast on their flesh.” She does not give a quarter, puts Shiva in his place and earns the name “ Shivaduti” – she who has Shiva as her messenger.

These are powerful images that show female mythological characters who are completely at ease with their power and care little about how they appear to the world, and I never heard them as a young girl.
There were a lot of strong women role models, but there was not a single one who was comfortable with or even wanted to be seen as a POWERFUL woman. I sensed how nervous men and especially women around me were even thinking about powerful independent women. I learned through osmosis that it was unsafe to be a powerful female.

I have largely overcome that legacy or a lot of it. I just wish that the generations after me can get to where I am with less pain and more speed. Perhaps one way to do that is to examine the stories we are telling our young girls and boys and becoming aware of the covert agenda that is inherent in our choices.