Goddess Durga and the Festival of Devi (6/7) The Story and the Symbol

The story of Durga and her nine day long battle with the Asuric forces is narrated in the Puranas in a very interesting way which is at once symbolic and suggestive. The demon king assumes the form of a handsome man to woo her but the great goddess cannot be fooled by any maya, asuric or daivic for she is Mahamaya herself. Ultimately the demon is slain and his dark energy reabsorbed back into the mighty goddess. The nine forms of the goddess form an ascending hierarchy rising from the root chakra at the base of the Spine, Muladhara, traveling upwards gaining strength and force and momentum with each upward gust and impulsion until it reaches the crown and passing beyond unites with its Lord. In this perfect union of the Divine Self and the Divine Energy awakening in matter lies the secret of perfection. This image of the perfect union of Shiva and Parvati (daughter of the Mountains) is depicted in legends of Parvati’s tapasya and in the significant image of the Shivalinga. Regarding the Shivalinga, this is what the Mother had to reveal:

The next morning the Mother sent me a huge card illustrating Shiva and Shakti. She had written on it: This can be taken as one aspect of the collaboration between the Spiritual Power and the Material Nature.    [Huta, Mother You Said so]

Now when we look at the nine aspects and their powers we can immediately connect them to the process of awakening of the Kundalini, the Shakti of the Divine Mother coiled up at the base of the spine submerged in Matter. A quick glance can be taken of this as below.

Shailabala: The awakening of the Divine Energy in matter. For our yoga it is a new possibility in matter.

Brahmacharini: Our consciousness and energies become one pointed towards the Goal.

Chandraghanta: Light dawning upon the mind like the waxing and waning moon

Kusumanda: Consciousness concentrated with the heat of tapas as an egg holding within it the new birth, the birth of the psychic being in us.

Skandmata: The power born of the dual union of Divine and His Shakti that is the psychic being. It is this who will now become the leader of the march, the priest of the sacrifice, the head chieftain of the army of gods, devasenapati.

Katyayani: The individual who has realized his soul now enters the world play and battles with the asura and darkness within and without. He assists the gods in the battle and becomes their companion in the cosmic yagna.

Kalaratri: All systems of thought constructs of mind of good and evil and dualities of ego-self taken away. The field of nature ridden with limitations and ignorance is completely wiped away and becomes like a clean slate for the Infinite to manifest through finite forms.

Mahagauri: With this clearing of the field of nature is ready to ascend into bright radiant purity of the great Goddess who is the divine consort of Shiva.

Siddhidatri: The Perfection that one discovers when the energy in matter finally meets the Lord and becomes one with Him.

This is the traditional Kundalini Yoga. In Sri Aurobindo’s yoga the action of the Divine Shakti is from above downwards as a strong descending current transforming our fields of nature in a diviner mould. In one of her conversations the Mother reveals this beautifully:  

(question by a disciple) But then what is this consciousness we feel like a force inside us? For instance, sometimes in meditation it rises, then descends; it’s not fixed anywhere. What is this consciousness?

The Shakti!

Some receive it from above; for others, it rises from below (gesture to the base of the spine). As I once told you, the old system always proceeds from below upwards, while Sri Aurobindo pulls from above downwards. This becomes very clear in meditation (well, in yoga, in yogic experience): for those who follow the old system, it’s invariably the kundalini at the base [of the spine] rising from center to center, center to center, until the lotus (in an ironic tone) bursts open here {gesture at the crown of the head). With Sri Aurobindo, it comes like this (gesture of descending Force) and then settles here (above the head); it enters, and from there it comes down, down, down, everywhere, to the very bottom, and even below the feet – the subconscient – and lower still, the inconscient.

It’s the Shakti. He said, you know (I am still translating it), that the shakti drawn up from below (this is what happens in the individual process) is already what could be called a “veiled” shakti (it has power, but it is veiled). While the Shakti drawn down from above is a PURE Shakti; and if it can be brought down carefully and slowly enough so that it isn’t (how shall I put it?) polluted or, in any case, obscured as it enters matter, then the result is immediately much better. As he has explained, if you start out with this feeling of a great power in yourself (because it’s always a great power no matter where it awakens), there’s inevitably a danger of the ego meddling in. But if it comes pure and you are very careful to keep it pure, not to rush the movement but let it purify as it descends, then half the work is done.

[conversation with a disciple on July 25, 1962]

Thus seen the festival of the mighty Mother, Devi becomes at once a symbol that reveals important secrets of our inner evolution. There was a time when thes3 secrets had to be safeguarded against misuse and hence preserved in the memory of the race through stories and legends. The uninitiated simply held the story as reminiscent of some event that takes place annually but to the initiate it was replete with deeper meanings. At the same time the annual celebration was used for creating a state of invocation in the collective consciousness which in turn brought down these gods and goddesses to re-enact the event in the cosmic significance through the cycles of Time. The Mother reveals this secret to us:

You want to know if this has an effect on all identical vibratory modes in the world…. In principle, yes. But the effects may not be immediately visible; in the first place, our field of observation is nothing – materially, what do we know? … Only our immediate surroundings – that’s nothing. In 1920, for example, I had an experience of that type, which resulted in a symbolic but terrestrial action. It was a vision (I don’t remember enough details to make it interesting) where each nation was represented by a symbolic entity, and there was a certain type of horror – of terror, rather. A certain “will of terror” was trying to manifest in that gathering of all nations. And I was witness to the whole thing. I remember it being a very conscious and rather long and detailed vision with a more intense reality than physical things have (it was in the subtle physical). And after it was over and I had done what needed to be done (I am not saying what because I don’t remember all the details, and without accuracy it loses its value), when I came out of it I could say with TOTAL conviction: “Terror has been overcome in the world.” Of course, it’s not literally true, plenty of people still feel terror, but a certain type of terror was as if UNDERMINED at the foundations. What had already manifested kept on and is gradually being exhausted, but the terror that was trying to increase and dominate the life of nations was stopped cold.

I have had other similar experiences – on Durga’s day, for instance, when Sri Aurobindo was still here (you know, that’s the day when Durga masters an asura; she doesn’t kill him, she masters him). Well, each year one particular type of thing was undermined (and my experiences were never mental: the experience would suddenly come, and AFTERWARDS I would realize it was Durga’s day), and each time I used to tell Sri Aurobindo, “Look – today this (or that) thing has been cut off at the roots.” That’s how it works with the adverse forces – yes, like something being uprooted from the world. Whatever has already spread out keeps going and follows its karma, but the SOURCE is dried up. That’s also what happened (it was in 1904, I believe) when the Asura of Consciousness and Darkness made his surrender and was converted; he told me, “I have millions and millions of emanations, and these will keep on living, but their source has now run dry.”[[This seems to refer to the being Mother endowed with a body (in 1906, at Tlemcen), and who went to set up the revolution in China. ]] How much time will it take to exhaust it all? … We can’t say, but the source has dried up and that is something extremely important. In 1920, that terror was trying to spread all over the world and to become really catastrophic; and then in my inner vision I could see that a whole movement had dried up at its source. This means that little by little, little by little, little by little … the karma is being exhausted.   

[conversation with a disciple on August 8, 1962]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email