God’s Love

In My Meditation Today: God’s love is not a soft, gentle, fluffy Santa Claus emotion. It is fierce and unyielding. She does not flinch while stabbing you in the gut or hitting you with a metaphorical 2X4 if that is what is needed to wake you up. She does this as she breaks your fall, and holds you broken and bruised, waiting with infinite patience and unflinching faith to welcome you healed, whole and fully established in your power on the other side of what seemed like an impassable chasm.

The Grand Story of the Divine Mother is told in three parts. Each part durgadescribes 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 coming down to the last two episodes of the Grand Story of the Divine Mother. With Rakthabija, Shumbha and Nishumbha have lost their last great general, So the fight is now between the two brothers and what is left of their army. In this chapter, the battles alternate between Nishumbha and Shumbha.
At first, both of them rush at her showering her with arrows. Devi is unphased. She blocks all the weapons coming her way and drops Nishumbha unconscious to the ground with a volley of arrows. Seeing his brother knocked to the ground, Shumbha is enraged and rushes towards the Goddess. This battle goes on with Shubha rising when Nishumbha is on the ground and Nishumbha rising as Shumbha falls unconscious on the ground. Then, after a long battle with Nishumbha, Devi ends it by piercing him through the heart.The next chapter describes the slaying of Shumbha and marks the end of the central part of the Myth.

Nishumbha and Shumbha are shown to be very closely allied in the description of this battle. As one falls the other rises. Nishumbha represents “mamata” or attachment (also the word used to describe a mother’s love for her child). Shumbha is the ‘ ahankara” or sense of self – more correctly the sense of a separate self. Shumbha is everything which makes one feel separate from all that is. Nishumbha represents our attachment to everything that Shumbha uses to establish that separateness – gender, nationality, physical appearance, likes and dislikes, family roles, etc. These are powerful forces within us, and consequently, the description of the two brothers in the myth does not depict the “demons” as ugly, pathetic abhorrent creatures. It gives them their due. “ He shone forth and filled the entire sky with his eight incomparable arms.” IT acknowledges their power.
It is the sense of separateness and one’s attachment to all of these characteristics that we use to distinguish ourselves one from another that maintains the illusion of separation from all that is.

So when Devi pierces and penetrates Nishumbha’s heart, she is killing Shumbha’s attachment to his separate identity. As Devadatta Kali says as she describes this slaying in ” In Praise if Goddess. The Devimahatmya and It’s Meaning”,

“Sometimes spiritual awakening dawns only after the experience of great pain, a severe wounding of the heart.”

Unlike earthly mothers like me, Devi can do that because she rests in the truth that Spirit is eternal. So it is that she does not flinch while stabbing you in the gut or hitting you with a metaphorical 2X4 if that is what is needed to wake you up. She does this as she breaks your fall, and holds you broken and bruised, waiting with infinite patience and unflinching faith to welcome you healed, whole and fully established in your power on the other side of what seemed like an impassable chasm.

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.

Sometimes I am a B*tch and that is A-OK.

In My Meditation Today: Sometimes I am a bitch, and that is A – OK. No part of my life deserves to be pushed away. It is time to stop beating up on myself for getting angry, or not being in a good mood, or being demanding. Every moment that I live and every emotion I feel in each of these is a moment of life, and that is to be revered and appreciated.

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 a fight to live from your highest potential is hard and ugly and metaphorically bloody and goryblack-mahakali

The seventh chapter of the Grand story of the Divine Mother is one of the bloodiest in the myth. Shumbha and Nishumbha are in a frenzy after Devi’s summary dispatch of Dhumralochana and his army. So they send Chanda & Munda with a much bigger army to bring in the “vile woman” unharmed if she will submit or beaten into submission if necessary,
When they reach the foothills of the Himalayas where Devi has taken up residence, they find her riding her lion. She has a smile on her face until the demon army rushes towards her. As they move towards her with swords raised and bows drawn, Devi’s peaceful demeanor changes. She scowls and screams and Kali, her expression of invincible power coupled with unabashed rage emerges from her scowling brow. Kali is not a pretty sight. She has a gaping mouth and a long tongue that hangs out, she is emaciated and black as night; Her eyes are red; she carries a skull-topped staff and wears a garland of human heads; her breasts are uncovered, and she wears a tiger skin as a skirt. Kali screams and stomps and rushes towards Chanda & Munda’s vast army and devours them both literally and metaphorically. She is shown flinging hoards of demons, chariot, weapons and all into her mouth and pulverizing them with her teeth; others she slices with her sword or pounds with her skull-topped staff. As she single-handedly destroys his army, Chanda rushes towards her in a rage. She gets him by his hair and chops off his head. Munda meets the same fate in the next few minutes. With both their leaders slain, the rest of the army flees. Kali then picks up the heads of Chanda & Munda and hands them to the Devi saying “ Here is a present from me to you, Chanda & Munda the beasts. You can now take care of Shumbha & Nishumbha yourself.”

The image of Kali is highly symbolic.  Kali is the feminine form of Kala – which means both dark or blue-black as well as time. The darkness is considered a representation of primordial energy – the womb of creation. At the other end of the spectrum, time is the ultimate destroyer, the force that turns mountains into sand, then a seabed, a forest and a desert in an endless cycle of creation and destruction. Her long disheveled hair represents freedom from convention; the severed head she carries in her hand is the severed ego – everything that is stopping us from realizing the magnificence of our being. The garland of  50 heads she wears represents the 50 alphabets of the Sanskrit language and symbolizes her knowledge and wisdom.  Her unblinking eyes represent unbroken awareness of the truth of all existence. In the context of our inner world, Kali is understood to be the force that creates, if necessary forces transformation. She annihilates demons such as fear, self-doubt and a lack of self-love and forces one to step into one’s power.

Besides the symbolism in Kali’s form, what I love about this story is the unabashed display of power, yes feminine power. Kali is not worried about how she looks. She is not worrying about what someone else thinks of her. She is angry and not ashamed about it. She is hurting and killing people but is not apologetic because she knows that that is what is best for them. She is focused on getting her task done regardless of how it ugly and violent it may seem to others.

The story is not about advocating violence and actual killing of enemies. As we have mentioned before, the entire myth is an allegory, and the battle is in your mind. Every time you hesitate from doing something you know is right because you are worried about hurting someone, or even worse because you are unwilling to live with the discomfort of sometimes being a “bitch” – you deny the Kali within you. You are stopping her from manifesting and creating the change, killing the demon that needs to be killed for you to move to the next phase of your spiritual evolution.

This story for me is about learning to be completely comfortable with all aspects of me. In particular, it is about being comfortable with my anger and my power. It is first about acknowledging the power I have and being willing to wield it regardless of what anyone else thinks. That is what Devi does when she unleashes Kali on the army. She knew her power. She was aware that it was ugly, in fact, it was the polar opposite of the indescribably beautiful, smiling image the demons first encounter. She is completely in love with all aspects herself and therefore does not hesitate to reveal her ugly, angry, bitchy self.

Could you imagine how different young women would be if they grew up with a story like this that gave them permission to be ugly, powerful, angry and demanding?
The interesting thing is that I grew up thinking about Kali as a person not to be like.  When I was little and I ran around with unruly hair – which was quite often – I was often told not to be “ Bhadrakali.” Women who get angry and yell are often referred to as Kalis where Kali is used as an example of a person not to be. The docile and amenable Seeta, on the other hand, is what everyone wants their daughters to grow up to be. She is pleasing; she does not make you uncomfortable; everyone loves her and you for having created this lovely little princess who does everyone’s bidding.

The notion that there are some emotions that it is right to experience and others that are wrong is so ridiculous if you think about it. Every moment that I live and every emotion I feel in each of these is a moment of life, and that is to be revered and appreciated. So sometimes I am a bitch – and that is A-OK.

Stop Seeking it Outside..

In My Meditation Today: I noticed how a part of me was forever seeking validation from the outside – from my spouse, my children, my co-workers, – wanting assurances from them that I was ok – that I was worthy of being loved and admired. I decided to turn that search for validation inward and validate myself every time I noticed myself looking outward. I am more than OK, I am an amazing human being, and I deserve not only to be loved, but I deserve to be cherished. Most importantly – I do not need anyone else to do it for me.

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 the fight to live always expressing your highest potential is hard, ugly and metaphorically bloody and gory.

In the fifth chapter of the Grand Story of the Divine Mother, the Devas find themselves in a familiar situation. The demons Shumbha and Nishumbha and their armies have taken over their kingdoms and driven the demi-gods out. Dispossessed and desperate the Gods remember the Divine Mother’s promise to respond to any entreaty for help in their time of need, and they travel to the foothills of the Himalayas to pray to her. The hymn that the Devas recite to ask for Devi’s help is one of the most significant sections of the myth for me. It is the most explicit description of the presence of the Devi in all that we see and experience in the world.

You are sleep and awareness; hunger, and thirst; shadow and light; abundance and misery; intelligence and the confusion that causes errors; power and humility. You are everything that is manifest physically, emotionally and spiritually they say.

As the Devas finish praising the Goddess, she appears in front of them and reassures them that she will take care of Shumbha and Nishumbha. She sets up residence in the foothills of the Himalayas. Her radiance and beauty are irresistible, and Chanda & Munda – Shumbha & Nishumbha’s servants who are Durga_2passing by are dazzled by her beauty. They go and tell their Masters about this most beautiful example of womanhood and urge Shumbha and Nishumbha to add her to their collection of superlative objects. Intrigued by the description of this unsurpassed beauty, the demon kings send a messenger to invite Devi to their kingdom to marry one of them. Sugriva, the messenger, approaches the Devi. He starts off with a description of his Master’s wealth and prowess and ends his message with the invitation from Shumbha to marry one of the kings.
Devi responds “ Everything you say about Shumbha and his brother is true but I am afraid I cannot accept the invitation yet. You see, in my youthful foolishness, I promised that I would only marry a man who can defeat me in battle. So before I can marry either Shumbha or Nishumbha, they will have to face me in battle.”
Astounded by the temerity of a “mere woman” challenging his masters to battle, let alone suggesting that they might lose to her, Sugriva threatens to drag Devi off by her hair. Unperturbed, Devi reiterates the fact that she cannot break her vow. Anyone who wants to marry her must defeat her in battle. The chapter ends with Sugriva stomping off in a rage after uttering several threats to Devi.
I LOVE this part of the myth at so many levels. In the first place, there is the reiteration of truth that the Divine Mother manifests as all of our experiences. There is thus no experience or emotion in life that is to be pushed away or rejected as inferior or bad, Therefore my developing concept of “Radical Self-Acceptance.”

Then, there is a clear demonstration of the objectification of women in Chanda & Munda’s description of the most beautiful woman in the three worlds.

Finally, there is the perfect response to the objectification in the delicious conversation between Sugriva & Devi – an excellent example of a woman who is so confident about her worth and herself that she had no qualms in clearly stating the price for winning her over. This depiction of a female protagonist is one of the many reasons I fell in love with the Grand Story of the DiKaushikivine Mother. In so many ways it is the complete antithesis of the myths that most young Indian girls grow up hearing and being encouraged to emulate. The heroine in Ramayana – the mythological character most often cited as the role model for a Hindu wife, is shy, docile, needy and completely powerless. Her biggest virtue is her chastity and loyalty to her husband. She is a safe and non-threatening role model. Even though she is an incarnation of the Goddess Lakshmi, she is never depicted as a woman who wields the power of the Goddess. Small wonder then that it is Seeta who is held up in Hindu households as the ideal wife. It is a model that will not upset the status quo and will allow the patriarchy to go unchecked.
On the other hand, the heroine of this myth is powerful, purposeful and focused. Devi knows her value; she understands her power; she is clear about her purpose and never wavers from it. She does not look to the outside world for validation; she does not need it; she is complete in herself.

After years of unconsciously seeking to be a Seeta, I know that I am well on the way to becoming a Durga when I begin to understand that I am an amazing human being, and that I deserve not only to be loved but to be cherished. It is especially clear when I know that I do not need anyone else to do it for me.

Gathered Up Inside.

In My Meditation Today:  I was shown once again that the conversation that I am carrying on with God is a two-way conversation. I just have to be present and pay attention to hear it. Recently, I was in a funk. I felt tired, drained and very unsure of several life-altering decisions I had made over the past several years. Feeling unsettled, afraid and fragmented, I sought solace in reading. I had started Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” a couple of days ago. She is almost at the end of her journey when she encounters a deer who walks quietly towards her.

“It’s Ok,” I whispered to the deer, not knowing what I was going to say until I said it: “ You’re safe in the world.”

“You are safe in the world” -The words went straight to my core and stitched me up. I felt a sense of calm and trust returned. The words that come to us that we do not know are within us are the clearest evidence of our two-way conversation with God. It is he/ she speaking to us and through us. She spoke
to Cheryl in that instance as Cheryl was in the last stretch of her journey and he spoke to me through her.

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 last post described the beginning of the battle of the Goddess with the demon Mahishasura and his vast army. In this chapter, she destroys his army
and then him. The first 20 verses of this chapter in the Grand Story of the Divine Mother describes her battles with various demons with evocative names such as Tamra – darkness and oppression,  Andhaka – the blind one,  and Ugrasya – the terrible lord.  The battle is fierce, and Devi is fully present, involved. The demons hurl their mightiest weapons at her but she dispatches them with ease. Untouched by these battles physically and emotionally,  she uses anger and aggression when she needs it but is not used by her anger and aggression.  The entire army is destroyed or scattered when she turns her attention to Mahishasura.  Mahishasura is not a trivial character and the sage narrating the myth gives him his due. He is wild and uncontrollable. He shakes up the earth, roils the rivers, uproots mountains and shatters them. Like all of his generals, he fights hard. He fights Devi’s army, scares them off and is finally face to face with Devi.

The conflict between Devi and Mahisha begins with her throwing a lasso at him to rope him in. As the noose falls around his neck, he changes his form, becomes a lion and slips out. As she cuts the lion’s head off, he assumes the shape of a man; as Devi showers the man with arrows,  he becomes an elephant and drag’s Devi’s lion away; as she cuts off the trunk of the elephant, he reverts to his buffalo form.  Mahisha is by now dizzy with his success at thwarting the Goddess; she having come to the end of her period of play with him, states her intention to finish the battle. Devi pauses to drink wine — considered imagery to suggest that she is now inhabiting supreme consciousness- while warning Mahisha Mahishasura-Mardini
to prepare for his death. She leaps up, pins his neck down with her leg and pierces his heart with her sword. As her sword pierces him, his true form is revealed and he is beheaded by the Devi. 


Several things to note about this battle. As I pointed out earlier, the sage does not minimize the strength of Mahisha. The battle is hard fought; you may remember earlier in this myth, Vishnu is said to have fought Madhu & Kaitabha for 5000 years before finally slaying them. At the same time, once the intention is set, once the decision is made that it is time to end the battle, the beast is vanquished in no time at all.  The setting of the intention is like flipping a switch. The question for us is how do we flip the switch and invoke that highest self  (Vishnu or Devi)to help vanquish the beast that is dragging us down?

The first step is recognizing the beast. Mahisha and his changing form represent our mind and its infinite capacity to generate thoughts that keep us focused on the outside,  maintaining the fragmentation of our energy, refusing to settle into the safety of our higher selves. So we fight and fight hard. Our fragmented energy takes different forms. We point fingers, blame, yell, and scream. We judge, we complain. Anything that will keep us from turning inward.  We dwell in the classic energy of victimhood.  Mahisha refused to acknowledge the chaos he was creating. He focused on maintaining his separation from all that is which he thought was his power.  

In his translation of this myth ( In Praise of the Goddess – The Devi Mahatmya and It’s Meaning Published By Nicholas Hays, Berwick, ME,USA),

Devadatta Kali writes

“Durga triumphs over Mahisha only when he is forced to reveal his true form. Her act of pinning down his neck underfoot is a potent metaphor because even today in English to “pin down” means to find out, to ascertain or to determine. From this point on there is no evasion.”

In other words, the switch is flipped when we finally face ourselves. When we can look at all of our fragments, the good, the bad and the ugly; the past, the present and the future; look ourselves and our lives in its entirety; acknowledge and embrace all of it and rest in our wholeness, then we access the full power of our being and the Mahisha in all his forms is annihilated.  That for me is what  Cheryl Strayed (http://www.cherylstrayed.com/)  describes happened to her after her encounter with the deer.

“I felt fierce and humble and gathered up inside like I was safe in this world too.”  

That is the destination we all seek. To be gathered up inside and know that we are safe in this world too.



 

 

Loving Ourselves Anyway – That is the Lesson

In My Meditation Today:  There is an active, engaged part of me that is entirely focused on protecting me from failure and its emotional consequences. I am constantly blown away by her cleverness in making sure that I do not keep my word to myself. She comes up with the most logical, irrefutable arguments to convince me that promises to myself were made foolishly and need not be kept. This morning, she told me that I should not spend more than 20 minutes on meditative writing. Clever, because the timer visible from the corner of my eye showed 20 minutes. She wanted me to stop and get back to mindless browsing so I could stop feeling the fear and anxiety about the election and all of the new ways in which I was stepping out – the teleseminar series, the blog, the possibility of coaching clients, etc.

As I became aware of her intention, I decided to acknowledge, but ignore her, and feel into the space in my body where I felt the discomfort and breathe into it.  As I did,  it struck me that perhaps the problem was that I had the wrong names for the emotions that I was feeling. What if I decided that the fear was excitement? What if what I named what I was feeling – “anxiety flavored with joy, excitement, and anticipation” instead of “anxiety tinged with fear and inertia”?  

Naming is a powerful act and almost immediately there was a small crack in the fear. As I breathed into that crack and focused on joy instead of worry – the lock jam in my brain was released, and I could think clearly again.

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 the easiest thing to do is to settle into the space of being ok with our sense of lack and not being enough and the self-hate and anger that an unfulfilled life generates – so a battle to live from your highest potential is hard and ugly and metaphorically bloody and gory.

The second section of the Myth – is the story of Mahishasura. He is a demon who is a shapeshifter but mostly presents himself as a raging bull. When the story starts, he has taken up residence in the heavens and displaced and usurped the authority of Surya, the Sun God, Indra the Rain God, Agni, the Fire-god, Vayu the Wind God, Chandra the Moon God, Varuna the Sea God, and all others. The displaced demigods approached Brahma the creative force, and he led them to Vishnu and Shiva to ask for a solution. As the hapless Gods recited their woes to Vishnu and Shiva, their face contorted in anger and the radiance of the all-powerful mother that was within these Gods formed itself into Durga, an almighty, powerful Goddess. Armed with weapons from  Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and the 30 other displaced Gods, she rides into Mahisha’s territory on a lion ( a symbol of Dharma – right action) and roars. The sound of the roar is said to have sent shock waves across the earth and the heavens. The Gods rejoice at its sound, but the asuras (demons) who occupy the entire world now react with resistance and anger and prepare for battle. Mahisha himself does not appear in this story. He sends out his army with several high-ranking demons with very evocative names Chiksura – the inflictor of pain, Chamara -bestial, Mahahanu –  coarse, Baksala – bellicosity, hostility, Parivarita – concealed, veiled and Bidala – fetid, impure.

Durga Devi is said to have responded to the hundred of weapons that were thrown at her with her armaments. It says that for Durga this was “Lila”  – it was play. She who knows that everything is a manifestation of herself has no rancor or anger. She does destroy the demons, but she is acutely aware that she, in fact, destroys nothing because as they die, the spirit in all of these demons just coalesces and become one with her.  The demons are very aware of the separation. They are angry and hostile; coarse and impure and fighting hard to maintain their separation, for without it they do not exist.  Although it is play for Devi, she is not playing. Her intention is to kill the demons, and she and her lion kill without guilt or restraint.

The description of the scene of the battle is vivid and shocking.  The narrators do not hold back in their description of the goriness or the brutality of the war. Devi means business. The demons have no place in her world, and they are annihilated.

A lot of people  ( including me) who read these stories at first like to distance ourselves from the violence. We think of ourselves as peaceful individuals. The mass shooters and terrorists are outside of us – they are beyond our empathy or understanding.  The fact that this is not true was brought home to me very vividly over the last couple of weeks.

I remember feeling very disappointed about an FB post of a dear friend who posted a political view that was diametrically opposed to mine.  I did not respond because I noticed how angry I was at her dismissing what in my mind is possibly the most significant movement of my adult life – the Sanders’ campaign. The more important point about it, however, was that I noticed that as I began formulating arguments against her post in my mind, my desire truly was to annihilate her opinion and in a sense her sense of well-being. I wanted to swat her off like a fly and feel her being defeated in the argument. Do you recognize that? Do you realize how violent our intention is when we are fighting to uphold our viewpoint? It is because our entire identity is tied to our view and someone challenging that is akin to them questioning our whole being. So the natural response then is to challenge their being & existence. That is violence – whether we use a gun or not, it is still the energy of war. It is one we shy away from facing by justifying our anger and disappointment more and more loudly as we feel more and more threatened. Perhaps what we are most frightened about is the capacity of violence with us. Maybe all of the shouting and protesting we do helps us not face this demon inside us that wants to protect our identity by killing the other. It is the same with every other demon represented in this story – bellicosity and hostility, coarseness and dishonesty – Notice that these demons have to displace all of nature to take control. A perfect metaphor for the displacing of the higher, wiser, all knowing self when the bellicosity, hostility, coarseness, and dishonesty take over. Once displaced, they fight hard to maintain the separation between our larger, wiser self and them. 

What if we recognized those parts of us and separated ourselves from it? What if we invoked our divinity and looked with compassion at these little-frightened part of ourselves that are projecting so much violent energy to preserve what they see as their very being?  What if we recognized those parts of us, acknowledged them, allowed for our ability and tendency towards violence, hostility, coarseness, and dishonesty and still loved ourselves anyway?

Loving ourselves anyway – that is the lesson.

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.

 

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

Until then wishing you

Peace & Joy.

 

Connection & Commitment

In My Meditation Today: I became very conscious of the force that holds me back from manifesting the biggest vision I have for myself. Recognize that I am terrified about what achieving fame and full financial freedom might mean for me and my marriage, for my time with my children and grandchildren. So I hold back. Instead of giving everything I do my all, I put in just enough effort to be moderately successful; opting for the safety of mediocrity rather than the perceived danger of excellence. Committing to excellence today. Releasing the restraints and letting myself soar.

Goddess Durga, Maa Durga, wallpapers, images, Maa Ambe, Happy NavratriThe 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 sixth verse of the Sapta Shloki is

 

 

Rogan Aseshan Apahamsi Tushta

Rusta tu Kaman Sakalan Abhistan

Tvam Aashritanam na Vipannaranam

Tvam Aashrita Hya, Aashrayatam Prayanti

 

When pleased you destroy all afflictions

When displeased you thwart all aspirations

No calamity befalls those who have taken refuge in you

One who seeks refuge in you, herself becomes a refuge for others.

 

Of the seven verses in the Sapta Shloki, this one is special because it has both has the most troubling and the most uplifting thought of all seven verses.

Let us tackle the troublesome thought first.  I do not like the idea of a displeased God / Goddess. I find the idea of suggesting that a displeased Goddess robs you of your aspirations more disturbing, even abhorrent.  Over the years, I have come to terms with this by interpreting the “displeasure” as an experience of disconnection with the divine force within me. A disconnection with my highest potential which in turn results in a thwarting of my aspirations and ambitions.  

The most uplifting line, the line that for me describes my purpose in the world is the last line of this verse.

One who seeks refuge in you, herself becomes a refuge for others.

For me, this describes the effect of connection. The result of knowing and resting in the knowledge of my divinity is that I become a refuge for others in need. I achieve my full potential by being a solace and support to society.

Over the last couple of years, I have done several things that I believe are helping to move me closer to achieving my dreams. I enrolled and completed a creative non-fiction writing certificate;  started on a memoir; enrolled in a personal life coaching program; began coaching with a business coach to develop an online business and attract my ideal clients – those for whom I will become a refuge while they find their purpose and Iearn to shine, and I started this blog. I  have also started training and developing my physical strength and stamina. I ran a 5k and am now training for a 10k. So I have been breaking several mental barriers that said  – “ You are not a real writer”; “You are not a business woman”; “ You are not an athlete.”  As I break each mental barrier, I release and allow myself to get closer and closer to my full potential.

As I have been doing all of this, throughout the year, I also have several times been making promises to myself to stop drinking alcohol. The promises have varied from saying that I will only have a drink a day to saying that I will not drink anything at all for “X” number of days. I have been breaking my word to myself the same day that I make it. Every morning I decide that I will not drink and every evening I have been telling myself,

“ Oh come On! – You are never going to stop. You like your alcohol, so who are you fooling?”

Last Thursday, I spent some time trying to figure out why I was having so much trouble with keeping this commitment to myself. As I meditated and wrote, what became abundantly clear was that I was scared to commit fully to my well-being. I was so committed to success in other areas of my life; it was as if I needed something every day to remind me that I was not so great. That I sucked at something, and there was a weird comfort in that because as long as I was using something to keep my self-worth in check, it meant that I would not experience runaway success. The full import of Marianne Williamson’s lines

 

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,

talented and fabulous?

 

dawned on me. I was terrified of fully committing to my success because there is a deep-seated belief that I can only get to my full potential if I lose something. The displeasure this verse speaks about is that disconnectedness with my divine potential that feeds that belief. That disconnectedness is causing me to thwart my aspirations and keep a lid on them. With this clarity, it has been easy to stay away from the alcohol. The little voice still pipes up every evening, but now I recognize it for what it is. The small, scared part of me that would rather keep me small and safe. It is now easy to hold and comfort her while I stick to my commitment to be my best self.