Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The Eulogy of Merits and Boons for Suratha & Samadhi

The winds blew favourably and the universe was back in sync, once the Devi killed Shumbha – Nishumbha. The wish of the Gods had been fulfilled & they lauded Devi in the form of Katyayani cheerfully! The benevolent Goddess was pleased and granted them a boon of their choosing, for the welfare of the universe. The Gods asked for destruction of the foes and the pacification of all the afflictions of three worlds.

The Devi granted them their boon and promised to incarnate on earth in the most ferocious forms whenever trouble arises due to the advent of negative forces on mankind.

The Devi said, “Whoever recites these hymns of the Devi Mahatmayam, will be forever blessed. I shall without doubt, put an end to all his troubles. The Devi Saptshati is the supreme way to well-being. Hearing these stories destroys sins, and grants freedom from illness. The recital of my manifestations affords protection from evil spirits. Mahatmayam, must be chanted by those of concentrated minds and listened to constantly with devotion. This Mahatmyam will quell all sufferings due to epidemics, as also the three types of calamities (Adhyatmika, Adhibhautika and Adhi-daivika). I will never forsake the place of my sanctuary where these stories are chanted every day. The Mahatmyam should be chanted and heard during auspicious pujas & homas to the sacred fire with offerings & devotion. I shall fondly accept the sacrifice, the worship and the fire-ritual thus done, whether they are done with appropriate knowledge or not.”

Having blessed thus, the benevolent Devi vanished from there, leaving the Gods in awe & gratitude.

When Rishi Medha recited the Durga Saptshati to King Suratha & Samadhi (the merchant), who had become despondent due to excessive attachment, prostrated before the illustrious Rishi of sever penances and immediately repaired to perform austerities. They made an earthen statue of the Goddess on the banks of a river and began worshiping her. Abstaining from food & water, their only thought was of that of offering themselves in complete surrender to the Devi. When they, worshipped her thus for three years, the Devi was pleased and appeared before them.

The Devi said, ““O King, whatever you prayed for, and dear merchant, whatever you too prayed for, receive all that from me. Well-pleased, I bestow those boons to you both”

Then the King chose a kingdom that would be imperishable even in a future life, while in this life, he sought strength to destroy the strength of his enemies and thereby the restoration of his own kingdom. But the wise merchant, whose mind was full of dispassion for the world, chose the knowledge, which releases one from the attachment of ‘mine’ and ‘I’.

Suratha is “one who has a good chariot”. The body is the chariot while the Self is the rider. Samadhi, on the other hand is a merchant representing integrated or concentrated or focussed mind, a mind that is absorbed in meditation. The king and the merchant are archetypal characters. We are all a bit like the king and the merchant. We all share their predicament. At some point of time we all experience suffering and loss. At times our close friends, relatives, and family members fail us. In spite of our deep hurts we still cling on to our old ways and old associations. We fail to discern. We fail to learn from our past. Instead we simply brood over the past constantly reliving our miseries in the present. Thus Suratha (a good chariot) and Samadhi (a concentrated or focused mind) cannot serve their true purpose, cannot find true happiness till they meet the sage Medhas (intellect or insight or knowledge), who can lead them to the Goddess, to the Supreme Self.
Suratha, who has unfinished business, asks for the return of his earthly kingdom, followed by an imperishable kingdom in the next life. The merchant Samadhi, on the other hand, has grown wise and dispassionate. He has become free from worldly attachment. His mind is now fixed only on Supreme knowledge, the Goddess. So he asks for the supreme knowledge that will dissolve the bondage of worldly existence.

Monday, 3 April 2017

The End of Evil..

After Raktabeeja was slain and the army of demons were killed in battle, Shumbha and Nishumbha gave way to unbound wrath. Very soon Shumbha – Nishumbha set forth with their troops to slay Chandika. The Gods now witnessed a severe combat between the Demons on one side & the Devi on the other.

The Devi first took on Nishumbha, who attacked her with a spear. Hurling a dart at him, she pierced his heart. As soon as his heart was pierced, another demon emerged from his chest, with equal strength & valour, who tried to stop the Devi from another brutal attack. Ignoring his plea, she severed his head off with her sword. And soon he fell lifeless on the ground. All this while, the Devi’s lion devoured the demons whose necks he had crushed with his fierce teeth, and Kali and Shivaduti devoured all others who lay dead in the battle field.

When Shumbha saw his dearer than life brother dead & his army perishing, he was furious. He blamed the Devi for being conceited & wicked. He believed that the Devi was dependant on the strength of other Shaktis for strength & yet thought highly of herself. Less realising that the Shaktis were all a manifestation of the Devi herself in all her glorious forms.

The Devi then gives him the ultimate knowledge, before merging all her forms into her own self. She says. “In this universe, I alone exist. Who else is there besides me? All these manifestations of mine are now merged into my own self!  All the powers projected by me in these form have now been withdrawn. I now stand alone. Come and Fight me!”

Challenged by the Devi and furious with rage with the death of his brother, Shumbha sets forth to fight the Devi while the Gods & Demons stand witness to the horrific sight. There in the sky Shumbha and the Devi engage in the fiercest of battle with showers of arrows, sharp weapons and frightful missiles that frightened the three worlds.

After carrying on a close fight for a very long time with him, the Goddess flung him down to the earth piercing him on the chest with a spear. As the demon fell lifeless on the ground, he shook the entire earth with its oceans, islands and mountains with his massive form.
The death of Shumbha – Nishumbh brought a new dawn in the universe. The world regained its original state of perfect peace. The potent clouds vanished, the sun shone brighter and the sky became clear. The rivers took the original course & everything was renewed. The Gods rejoiced & Gandharvas sang hymns in praise of the Goddess while the Apsaras danced!

Shumbha is none other than sense of ‘I’ or ‘Me’, the pseudo-self that identifies the self with non-self, whereas Nisumbha represents the sense of ‘Mine’, or the attachment to things that the false self clings to through identification with other objects. Shumbha – Nishumbha follow each other closely. Where there is this sense of ‘I’, automatically there will be a sense of ‘mine’ as an extension of the false sense of selfhood. Shumbha also means doubting oneself and Nishumbha means doubting others. When the mind is clogged with doubt about oneself or others, neither peace nor progress is possible. That is why they are the kings of the demons, the highest in the order of negative influences. Negative forces come up only due to lack of energy, Shakti. When you are full of energy and enthusiasm none of these asuras (demons) can harm you. The battle between the demons and the Goddess is compared to a Maha Yagna because it represents the greatest purification process.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

The End of Raktabeeja

As soon as Chanda and Munda were laid low and many of the battalions of the demons where destroyed, mighty Shumbha, with intellect clouded by rage, commanded the mightiest of his warriors and the biggest of his armies, to march forth ready for battle. When Devi (Ambika) saw the massive army advancing, she filled the space between the earth and the sky with twangs of her bow-string, her lion roared & even louder roared Kali suffusing all other sounds in the universe. The army of the enemy surrounded the lion, Devi Ambika and Kalika from all four sides. Meanwhile, Devi Shaktis from the bodies of Brahma, Shiva, Guha, Vishnu and Indra, issued forth, endowed with exceeding valour and strength, to join the battle. Whatever was the form of the Godhead, whatever his ornaments and vehicle, in that very form his Shakti advanced to fight the demons.

Lord Shiva, surrounded by the Shaktis, asked Devi Ambika to kill the demons for his gratification. On the command for the lord of the universe, the fiercest form of Shaki emerged from the goddess. She was called ‘Chandika’. The invincible Chandika, asked Shiva to go as her ambassador to Shumbha and Nishumbha, and ask them to either let Indra obtain the sovereignty of the three worlds or come forth and fight her till death. Since the Devi appointed Shiva himself as her ambassador, she came to be known as ‘Shiva-duti’.

The demons refused to surrender and the battle between the Shaktis & demons began. Kali tore the foes into pieces with her spear and mashing them with her skull-topped staff. Brahmani left the enemies bereft of valour and prowess by sprinkling holy water on them from her water-pot. Maheshvari slew the demons with her trident, Vaisnavi, with her discus, Kaumari with her lance and Aindri with her thunderbolt. Varahi, wounded in their chests by the point of her tusk and Narasimhi devoured the demons with her claws. When the troops of the enemy saw their fellow warriors been killed so effortlessly they took to their heels & vanished in no time. Noticing the fleeing demons, the great demon Raktabeeja came forth to fight.

Raktabeeja was attacked by all the Shaktis, but the army only grew. No sooner did a drop of blood from Raktabeeja’s body fell on the ground, than a great demon of his very stature would spring forth on the earth. As many drops of blood fell from his body, so many demons with his valour, strength and prowess came into being. Soon, the world was pervaded by thousands of demons born out of the blood of Raktabeeja. The gods were baffled and turned to Chandika for help. Chandika was amused and asked Kalika to open her mouth wide open and savour the blood that drips from her weapon that slays Raktabeeja. She told Kalika to devour any demon that was born of the drops of blood of Raktabeeja. Chandika then struck Raktabeeja with her spear & Kalika drank every drop of blood that ran out of Raktabeeja’s body. She also devoured every new demon born out of his blood and those that lay dead on the battle field. Soon the profusely injured Raktabeeja lost all his blood in the fight with Chandika and fell on the ground lifeless.

Raktabeeja is symbolic of the ‘Chitta vrittis’, or the incessant compulsive thoughts and desires.  Raktabeeja has this unique power that whenever a drop of his blood falls to earth, another demon of identical size and strength springs up. This is also the nature of incessant thoughts or desires. Each thought or desire leads to another. Though the gods are bewildered by the ever-multiplying ‘Chitta Vrittis’, the Devi only laughs knowingly. Is it better to conquer one desire by nipping it in the bud or to satisfy a thousand desires? Desire makes us human but it is also the source of all suffering. Conquering the original desire will release us from this endless cycle of desire, gratification, disillusionment and frustration. The way in which Kalika kills the demon is symbolises how controlling thoughts and desires at their onset can liberate us.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Ambika & Kalika and the Aparajita Stuti!

Two demons, named Shumbha and Nishumbha, dispossessed the gods, stripped them of their powers and appropriated their wealth and privilege. Deprived of their lordships and sovereignties, expelled by the two mighty asuras, the gods thought of the invincible Devi and her boon to save them from the worst. The Gods from all the three worlds gathered at the foot of Himalayas, eulogized the Devi with the ‘Aparajita Stuti’ and called upon her to save them once again.

Aparajita-stuti has are more than twenty shlokas beginning with ‘Ya devi sarva bhuteshu’, indicating that the Devi is all-pervading as consciousness, power, intellect, memory, sleep, delusion, desire, activity, prosperity, forgiveness, faith, beauty and so on. This beautiful hymn is a powerful combination of meditation, affirmation and chants in itself.

While the Gods where singing praises of the divine mother, Devi Parvati appeared and enquired, “Who is she that is being praised here?” Soon, from her own body emerged the divinely beautiful & radiant ‘Ambika’ Devi and said, ‘These troubled Gods are calling out to me to save them from the wrath of Shumbh – Nishumbha.’ When Ambika was born & took form, Parvati began to darken with anger for the demons. This form was named ‘Kalika’, who began to reside in the jungles of Himalaya, while Ambika lived in the mountains.
One day, Chanda & Munda, messengers of Demons Shumbha – Nishumbha saw the charming form of Ambika and rushed to the Demon kings to inform them about this beauty residing on the Himalayas, who was unlike any they had ever seen. Since, Shumbha-Nishumbha owned everything precious in the three worlds, this auspicious lady, a jewel amongst women, had to be possessed by them too. Shumbha & Nishumbha were lured by their description of the lady & sent Sugriva, their messenger with a proposal to wed either of them. Sugriva went to the Devi, and described the glamor, riches & power of the demons to her. The Devi refused to marry anyone who could not win over her in war & challenged the demons to fight her if they wanted to marry her.
Hearing the words of the Devi, the indignant messenger hastened back and related them in detail to the king of the demons. The enraged demons, called upon their chieftain, Dhumralochana, & ordered him to fight the Devi and drag her to their courts. With the orders of his masters, Dhumralochana, set forth with an army of sixty thousand demons to win the Devi in battle. But in no time the mighty demon was reduced to ashes by a mere heave of her breath. Seeing Dhumralochana turn to ashes, the enraged army of demons attacked the Devi, but very soon the entire army was destroyed by the enraged and noble lion that bore the Goddess as her vehicle.
Hearing that the demon Dhumralochana was slain by the Goddess and that the entire army was destroyed by the lion, Shumbha, was furious and he commanded Chanda-Munda to go with large forces, and drag the Devi by her hair bring her to him. At the command of the demon king, Chanda & Munda marched with their armies to win over the Devi & slay her army. When Ambika saw the fourfold army approaching, she was furious & from the fierce frown from her forehead, emerged Kalika, armed with a sword and a noose, holding a skull topped staff & a garland of skulls around her neck.
Kalika devoured, crushed & pounded the army of the enemy within no time. The enraged Chanda attacked Devi Kali with arrows & Munda hurled thousands of discuses at the Goddess, but all in vain. Devi Kali, in her fiercest form, mounted the great lion rushed towards Chanda, seized him by his hair and severed his head with her sword. Munda met with the same fate next.
The proud Kalika presented the slain heads of Chanda – Munda to Ambika, after this battle of the great sacrifice and the auspicious Ambika, said to Kali, “As you have brought me both Chanda and Munda, O Devi, you shall now be famed in the world as Devi Chamunda!”

Dhumralochana means ‘one of smoky vision’, denoting distorted perception. The death of Dhumralochana is symbolic of how false knowledge arising from distorted perception disappears instantaneously in the presence of the Self (Devi) just as darkness cannot exist in the presence of light.
Chanda represents an argumentative person, one who opposes everything. Munda, on the other hand, has no reasoning at all. With Chanda and Munda, wrong logic and perception prevail. The noose of light with which Kali killed the demons represents wisdom. . Death at the hands of Kali is symbolic of transformation. Once transformed by the fiery power of Kali they cease to be asuras. True knowledge has irrefutable special logic. You can't oppose or reason. It simply uplifts you.