In My Meditation Today: I was struck recently by how difficult it is for me to welcome love into my life. A kind gesture or expression of love from almost anyone results in an internal conversation that questions motives. This questioning points to the deep-seated belief within me that I am not good enough. This emptiness – a stubborn refusal to let in the knowledge that I am an expression of the divine and that I am as perfect a reflection of source as a beautiful sunset or a moonlit sky.
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.
We are at the last episode in the Grand Story of the Divine Mother. Nishumbha has been killed, and the vast armies decimated. Shumbha is left to face the Devi by himself.
Defiant in defeat, Shumbha yells
“ O Durga, puffed up with misplaced pride in your own strength of arms, don’t be so haughty! It is by relying on the strength of others that you fight, with this inflated sense of your own importance!”
Durga responded with
“ I alone exist here in the world; what second, other than I is there?
O wicked one behold these my manifestations of power entering back into me!”
The seven shaktis that Devi had called forth reenter her body and the Goddess says,
“ When I was established here in many forms, it was by means of my extraordinary power. That has been withdrawn by me. I stand utterly alone. May you be resolute in combat.”
The last terrible battle in the myth begins after these words of encouragement from Devi. Shumbha hurls many weapons at her, and she retaliates; she destroys his shield and sword and kills his horse; he rushes towards her and pounds her on the chest with his fist; she returns the blow, and he falls to the ground. He then jumps up and seizes Devi and climbs “high into the sky.” The two battle there until Devi decides that it is time to end it. She throws him to the ground, and as he gets up and rushes towards her, she pierces his chest with her spear. He crashes to the ground causing the entire earth to tremble. Once he is dead, the ominous clouds that had gathered clear, the rivers begin to flow within their banks and a sense of deep peace and calm envelops the world.
As I mentioned in the last post, Nishumbha represents attachment and Shumbha represents our ego. Dr. Wayne Dyers defines ego as “Edging God Out” -it is essentially our refusal to admit that we are perfect as we are. The edging out or EGO results in the sense of emptiness inside which we attempt to fill with everything except a sense of being enough. Shumbha and Nishumbha tried to fill the emptiness by conquering heaven and earth and collecting the best of everything. Despite all of this, when they heard about the Devi and her beauty, they had to have her because all that they had gathered for themselves still left them feeling empty; they had edged God out, and all the goods in the world could not fill the void caused by that edging out. Their encounter with Devi is, in fact, their first step back into their own divinity. They fight it with all that they have because as we have seen before, it is easier to live with a sense of unworthiness and lack than to acknowledge your greatness. Once you recognize your greatness, you have to live up to it, and that is unknown and scary territory. It is important to note that none of these stories advocate poverty or suffering. So, the message is not a diatribe against the desire for material goods, but an acknowledgment that possessions of any kind cannot / will not resolve the yearning that we feel inside to feel whole and good and worthy. That only comes from the understanding that we are expressions of divinity, perfect just as we are in this moment and the next.
A couple more points to make. Devi blesses Shumbha to be resolute in battle just as she did before starting the final battle with Mahishasura earlier. These are some of my favorite lines in this myth. Despite his wickedness which she also acknowledges, she respects him and wishes him well in his misguided life, Secure in the knowledge that she alone exists in the world and that therefore that he is, in fact, one with her.
The statement “ I alone exist here in the world” is considered the “Mahavakya” – the great saying or essence of the Devi Mahatmya – the message – that all of us are expressions of that singular entity. It is the full understanding and total acceptance of that message that will allow me and you to allow the love and kindness that comes our way into our unquestioning open hearts.
That, dear readers, is my wish for you this holiday season.
May your heart open and acknowledge your perfection this holiday season.