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Thread: More on The Divine Mother

  1. #1
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    More on The Divine Mother

    Namaste,
    I am new here and am very interested in the Goddess Shakti. I would be very great full if some of you would give me some information on her. Thank You

  2. #2

    Re: More on The Divine Mother

    Namaste 4Shakti,

    Welcome to HDF- it is always a pleasure to see another who has
    felt themselves drawn to Maa (and at a relatively young age, for
    one who was not born into Sanatana Dharma)!

    Apologies for not greeting/replying sooner, but circumstances have kept my
    visits to HDF very short lately.

    As to your request: I believe it would be helpful if you might share
    what information you have come across before coming here- for though
    I would never consider myself as an authority, or anything other than
    a devotee, my experience has been that clarity of communication is
    paramount in such discussions. I would never wish that anyone
    struggle with the consequences of discovering their path has gone
    far astray of their intended destination, due to beginning the journey
    with misconceptions or erroneous ideas.

    Of course, I encourage you also to read through the older posts
    here on HDF, the answers to some of your questions may have been
    answered already in a previous discussion; but there are always
    more questions, and this is not to dissuade you from asking them

    May Maa bless your steps as you find the path She intends for you,

    JAI MATA DI
    || जय माता की ||

  3. #3
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    Re: More on The Divine Mother

    Namaste


    Firstly, to have more information on the Divine Mother, we must ask ourselves "what are the sources of information?"

    These are fourfold:

    1. Scripture
    2. Participation in ceremony and making pilgrimage
    3. Oral transmission
    4. Divine revelation


    At your current age, it may be many years before you meet the appropriate guru, thus 2 is, for now, closed to you, and 3 though rare without a guru, may be awakened by sufficient devotion (bhakti), especially if one is intensively studying the scriptures, doing the appropriate mantras, and meditating on the forms and pastimes of the Goddess. Such devotion is likely to draw you to a guru sooner rather than later.

    4. is also informed and enabled by the scriptures along with cultural traditions that you seem by the question not to be the born beneficiary of, and may not be accessible to you at your age and in your are.

    So, as far as scripture, the most prominent Shakta scriptures are:
    • Shrimad Devi Bhagavatam (Purana)
    • Sundarya Lahari (stotra (hymn) by Adi Shankara, considered one of the most influential historical figures of Hindusim, who formalized the advaita vedanta darshan (philosophical view of non-duality / monism). He was a devotee of Shiva and Shakti, learning the hard way at times stronger devotion to both.
    • Devi Mahatmya (extremely important text for Shaktas, especially in informing the performance of Durga Puja, which is a ceremony celebrated en mass by society at large. It is itself a part of the Markendaya upanishad, and it is worth pointing out that Markendaya is a revered bhakta of Shakti, Vishnu and Shiva, each in their own context)
    • Varivasya rahasya
    • Setubandham
    • Tripura rahasya
    • Stotras/bhajans, of which there are many, including:
      • Lalita sahasranama
        • Lalitasahasranamabhasya by bhaskaracharya (commentary on it)


    A large part of Shakta written tradition is in the tantras. Virtually all pujas, temple design, etc., have some or total influence from the tantras. The best source of information for tantric shaktism in English is the work of Sri John Woodroffe (Arthur Avalon), although his writing is extremely dense (not dry - there is not a word wasted, but dense ) and may/will be difficult reading - it often is for adults with college degrees. Therefore, other sources may be necessary.

    To be clear about one thing: a great deal of misinformation has been spread in the West (and, for that matter, India) about what tantra is and isn't.

    Tantra is not a sex lifestyle aid, a glorified sextoy, to help people achieve "cosmic orgasms" or somesuch nonsense. That is best described as neotantra or pseudotantra which is a Western invention that shares the name and little else, except sometimes some garbled newage spiritual baggage it drags along with it.

    Tantra is a method of spiritual practice, union & discipline emphasizing deity worship that draws upon the tantras and agamas, a class of literature typified by:

    • Jnana: Spiritual philosophy, cosmology, theology (including abstract concepts and illustrative stories - what some would consider mythology, and others allegory, and others ...) Analysis of the nature of bondage (pasha), those who are bound (pashus), and That which is free of bondage, and delivers all else from bondage (pashupati).
    • Yoga: Methods of unification and spiritual discipline, typically including:
      • Dhyana (meditation on deities)
      • Kavacha (application of divine armor, and realization of the purusha)
      • Laya yoga / bhuta shuddhi (dissolution/purification of the elements through piercing the chakras with kundalini shakti through the control of the internal winds (pranas) (Kundalini is a particularly important concept and practice for shaktas, as Kundalini Shakti is herself Adi Shakti manifested at the individual level who, when awoken, realizes herself as Parashakti, having never left the union of the Lord with whom she is indistinguishable and inseparable from)
      • Mantrajapa (recitation of mantra)
      • Mudra (gestures/seals performed with the hands, with the internal muscles and sphincters, and supranormally)
      • Nyasa (Administering bijas to the body, similar as a kavacha)
      • Swadyaya (introspection and inquiry)
      • Yantra
    • Kriya: religious acts, their rules and injunctions, duties, such as temple construction, mantrajapa, necessary observations and salutaitons at various times of the day, pujas, homa, arti and yajnas (rituals and sacrifices) for home, temple and otherwise, abhisheka and pilgrimage.
    • Carya: tapas (austerities/penances), pavitra vidhi (purification), characteristics and qualifications for religious implements and their proper use, yama and niyama (code of conduct) and rules for diksha (initiation)
    • Naming itself as such.

    Puranas and other texts often share some, even most of these characteristics, adding on others, such as genealogies, temporal histories, and generally more detailed accounts of divine episodes, etc.

    I have perhaps missed some elements as well.

    Perception of the tantras varies across people and groups; some consider them, or some of them, to be shruti (divinely revealed & authorized scripture, equivalent to the vedas - some hold even that the agamas, or certain agamas, transcend the vedas - such as the Mahanirvana Tantra, as according to them, only tantric sadhana will bear fruit in the Kali yuga) others hold that the agamas/tantras are smrti (remembered; scriptures that are considered the work of humans, whether of human inspiration or divine inspiration, but nonetheless recovered from the mists of time, and filtered by human agency), or less than, stating that that which is in the tantras that is in conformity with the vedas should be upheld, but that which is not should be discarded.


    Another question must also be asked beyond "more information" about Mother Durga: what does one do with that information?


    One thing I would like to say...

    I have observed a tendency to overemphasize the importance of the male principle in Shaivism and Vaishnavism. This is merely a tendency, and many devotees are partially or completely free of it. Nonetheless, it is there.

    However, I have observed a corresponding tendency, perhaps a backlash, in the Shakta traditions to exalt the female aspect of God at the expense of the male.

    In my opinion, no deity should be exalted at the expense of another. One is not the Supreme Deity because it is better than all the others, but because One deity is all the others.

    Some of the scriptures that are otherwise full of truth do indulge in this, and for this we must understand the context and the audience, or at least, the greater part of the audience.

    Although I am not fond of post-Roman Christianity, there was a great Christian philosopher named Paul Tillich, who put forward, amongst other things, the following concept:

    Throughout most of his works Paul Tillich provides an apologetic and alternative ontological view of God. Traditional medieval philosophical theology in the work of figures such as St. Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham tended to understand God as the highest existing Being, to which predicates such as omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, goodness, righteousness, holiness, etc. may be ascribed. Arguments for and against the existence of God presuppose such an understanding of God. Tillich is critical of this mode of discourse which he refers to as "theological theism," and argues that if God is a Being [das Seiende], even if the highest Being, God cannot be properly called the source of all being, and the question can of course then be posed as to why God exists, who created God, when God's beginning is, and so on. To put the issue in traditional language: if God is a being [das Seiende], then God is a creature, even if the highest one, and thus cannot be the Creator. Rather, God must be understood as the "ground of Being-Itself." The problem persists in the same way when attempting to determine whether God is an eternal essence, or an existing being, neither of which are adequate, as traditional theology was well aware. When God is understood in this way, it becomes clear that not only is it impossible to argue for the "existence" of God, since God is beyond the distinction between essence and existence, but it is also foolish: one cannot deny that there is being, and thus there is a Power of Being
    [Courtesy Wikipedia]

    Such a mind would have benefited enormously from the much more refined Hindu conceptions of God, especially the saguna brahman / nirguna brahman distinction, and their non-difference in parabrahman.

    In this way, either Shiva (or Vishnu) may be said to be the supreme being, and also the ground of all being. Likewise, Maa Durga, or any of the other goddesses who are swarup of brahman, mula prakriti, may be said to be the supreme being, and also the ground of all being.

    Moreover, and beautifully, both Shiva(Vishnu) and Shakti can be said to be simultaneously the Supreme Being.

    I am making this point because it may be considered an error to engage in worship of the Divine Mother, the very Self of the Father, in such a way as does not worship the Divine Father, the very Self of the Mother.

    That said, I have the utmost respect for the Shakta traditions, and have observed in others the efficacy of Shakta sadhana.

    Generally, shaktas worship the Divine Mother as their primary deity either in her gentle, even alluring, form(s) (Shodashi, Kamala), or her terrifying and wrathful ones (Kali, Durga). The Wiki article below covers this in some detail in its section on the Srikula and Kalikula sampradayas. Most shaktas worship both types of manifestations, but according to the teachings of their tradition and the room for individual inclination, single out one in particular.

    If you are coming to Shaktism without a tradition already, my advice would be to worship both forms as one sees with left and right eye, as well as to worship both the male and female forms of god equally, each as the means to, and essence of, the other.

    By seeing with both eyes, one is liable to see also with a third. By seeing with one eye, one is liable to rob half the light from the world.

    For more information:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaktism
    http://www.hindupedia.com/en/Agama (about agamas(tantras))

    Namaste

  4. #4

    Re: More on The Divine Mother

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    Last edited by ShriBala; 11 December 2012 at 08:03 AM.

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