Devi Mahatmya by Swami Sivananda (pdf)

INTRODUCTION

“The Devi Mahatmya or the Durga Saptasati is a unique book in this world. It is the base and the root of the religion of the Saktas. It is a Kamadhenu for one and all; it gives whatever man wants. It gives Bhakti in this world and Mukti afterwards. It is a powerful reservoir of Mantas from the beginning to the end. Every verse of this text is a dynamic force which acts powerfully in overhauling the nature of man.

The first verse of the text implies that the whole book is an explanation of the root of the Devi-Mattra, viz., “Hreem”. There are many commentaries on this text which explain it either in a mystical way or in the ordinary manner. Whatever be the case, the Manfas of the Saptasati are not to be neglected by one who wishes to lead a good and peaceful life in this world.

The conception of the Infinite as Mother is not an altogether meaningless one. The Rigveda bears testimony to the fact that even in such ancient times, there was the persistent belief that the Ruler is the All-compassionate Mother. Furttrer, Mother is the personality that appeals most to the human heart, not so much the Father who is considered a hard task-master. Moreover the conception of the Divinity as Devi, Durga or Sri, is not merely a theory but a practical way of life. It is a particular view which cannot be set aside. It is as important as any school of religious belief, and is one of the most important reigning branches of Hindu religion-Vaishnavism, Saivism and Saktaism. Even a subtle philosopher cannot dispense with the conception of Sakti, for he is essentially an embodiment of Power, and he has love for power. The highest Intelligence and the most speculative metaphysics is only a manifestation of Jnana-Sakti and is not outside the range of Saktaism. Let us therefore adore and worship the Glorious Mother. for the purpose of attaining Wisdom or Self-realisation!

The Saptasati may be read daily so as to be completed in seven days in the following manner of division of chapters: l, 2, 1,4,2,1, 2-first; second and third; fourth; fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth ninth and tenth; eleventh; twelfth and thirteenth. This is the traditional rule. The Saptasati may be read with any motive in the mind, and that shall be fulfilled. Read it for any purpose in life, and that you shall have. Read it for the sake of Spiritual Knowledge, and you will be blessed with it. Since Sakti is the basis for all Ichchha (Desire), Jnana (Knowledge) and Kriya (Action), man cannot fall outside the realm or the kingdom of Sakti. The whole man is but Sakti, and hence he shall have everything through worship of Sakti.

May the blessings of Devi Durga be upon you all! May She bless you all with spiritual illumination and Self-realisation!”

THE INDIAN CONCEPT OF THE DIVINE MOTHER

Since the dawn of civilisation, when the primitive man lived in a matriarchal society, the worship of the Divine Mother came into practice. Later or, as civilisation progressed, the matriarchal pattem gradually faded out, and the father became the head of the family unit, where he was treated as the man in authority and to whom every one looked for guidance and approval. Consequently there was a change in the concept of God as such; the Fatherhood of God was established. But Mother-worship persisted simultaneously, since this concept was psychologically more appealing to the devotee, the Mother being nearest in filial affection to the child. Subsequently, a sympathetic harmony between the Motherhood and Fatherhood of God was developed by the Hindu religion; the people worshipped Sita and Rama, or Radha and Krishna, together.

The concept of the human mind is based on relative experience. Subjective idealism, therefore, in its initial stages, takes the aid of objective and relative analogies. God is neither limited to abstract or concrete concepts. But it is easier to establish a conscious relationship with the Providence in terms of benevolent fatherhood or affectionate, kindly motherhood than by the concept of an unfathomable void. God is devoid of qualities, in reality, but a relative superimposition of the positive ideals of goodness and virtue is essential for self-culture and spiritual progress of the aspirant.
Mother is very kind to her child. You are more free with your mother than with anybody else. It is the mother who protects you, nourishes you, consoles you, cheers you and nurses you. She is your first preceptor. She sacrifices her all for the sake of her children. In the spiritual field also, the aspirant has very intimate relationship with the Divine Mother.

The Upasana or the worship of the U:riversal Mother leads to the attainment of the knowledge of the Self. The Yaksha Prasna in Kenopanishad supports this view. Approach Her with an open heart. Lay bare your mind with frankness and humility. Let your thoughts be pure and sublime. Become as simple as a child. Pulverise your individual entity, the egoistic nature, cunningness, selfishness and crookedness. Make a total unreserved, ungrudging self-surrender to Her. Chant Her Mantras. Worship Her with faith and unflinching devotion.

Durga Puja or Navaratri is the most suitable occasion for doing intense Sadhana. These nine days are very sacred to Mother. Plunge yourself in Her worship. It is an occasion symbolising the victory of the higher, divine forces over the lower, negative qualities that find their expression in injustice, oppression, aggrandisement, greed, selfishness, hatred and a host of other undivine forces that add to the suffering of man.

Worship the Mother in all Her manifestations. She is the creative aspect of the Absolute. She is symbolised as Cosmic Energy. Energy is the physical ultimate of all forms of matter and the sustaining force of the Spirit. Energy and Spirit are inseparable. They are essentially one. The five elements and their combinations are the external manifestations of the Mother. Intelligence, discrimination, psychic power and will are Her internal manifestations. Humanity is Her visible form. Service of humanity is, therefore, the worship of the Divine Mother.

Feel that the Mother sees through your eyes, hears through your ears, and works through your hands. Feel that the body, mind, Prana, intellect and all their functions are Her manifestations.

The one, universal life throbs in the heart of all. How can there be any room for hatred and selfishness, when by hating another you are but denying your own self. Drive deep this consciousness within your heart. Always meditate and practise this ideal of divine oneness.
Mother’s grace is boundless. Her mercy is illimitable. Her knowledge is infinite. Her power is immeasurable. Her glory is ineffable. Her splendour is indescribable. She gives you Bhukti (material prosperity) and Mukti (liberation) also. She is pleased with a little purity of heart. The sacred Durga Puja is approaching. Do not lose this glorious opporhrnity. Make a definite and sincere attempt to obtain the grace of the Mother. She will transform your entire life, and bless you with the milk of divine wisdom, spiritual insight and Kaivalya.

The Worship of the Divine Mother

Devi is synonymous with Sakti or the Divine Power that manifests, sustains and transforms the universe as the one unifying force of Existence. In fact, worship of Devi is not sectarian; it does not belong to any cult. By Devi or Sakti we mean the presupposition of all forms of existential power, the power of knowledge, of omniscience. These powers are the glorious attributes of God-you may call Him Vishnu or Siva or as you like. In other words, Sakti is the very possibility of the Absolute’s appearing as many, of God’s causing this universe. Sakti and Sakta are one; the Power and the one who possesses the Power cannot be separated; God and Sakti are like fire and heat of fire.

Devi-worship or Sakti-worship is therefore worship of God’s glory of God’s greatness and supremacy. It is adoration of the Alrnighty. It is unfornrnate that Devi is misunderstood as a blood-thirsty Hindu-Goddess. No, Devi is not the property of the Hindu alone. Devi does not belong to any religion. Devi is the conscious power of the Deva. Let this never be forgotten. The words Devi, Sakti etc. and the ideas of the different forms connected with these names are concessions given to the limitations of human knowledge, human comprehension. Bhagavan Sri Krishna says in the Gita, ‘This is only My lower nature Sakti; beyond this is my higher nature, the Original Sakti, the life-principle which sustains this entire universe. The Upanishad says, “The Para Sakti, the Supreme Power of this God, is heard of in various ways; this Power is the nature of God manifesting as knowledge, stength and activity.” Truly speaking all beings of the universe are Sakti worshippers, for there is none who does not love and long for power in some form or other. Physicists and scientists have proved now that everything is pure imperishable energy. This energy is only a form of Divine-Sakti which exists in every form of existence.

Since Sakti cannot be worshipped in its essential nature, it is worshipped as conceived of in its manifestations viz., creation, preservation and destruction. Sakti, in relation to these three functions, is Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Kaali. These, as is evident, are not three distinct Devis, but the one formless Devi worshipped in three different forms. Durga Puja or Navaratri is the festive occasion of the ‘nine-day-worship of Maha-Kaali, Maha-Lakshmi and Maha-Sarasvati’, the Divinity of the Universe adored in three ways.

Sarasvati is cosmic Intelligence, cosmic Consciousness, cosmic Knowledge. Worship of Sarasvati is necessary for Buddhi-Suddhi, Viveka-Vichara-Sakti, Jnana, self- illumination. Lakshmi does not mean more material wealth like gold, cattle etc. All kinds of prosperity, glory magnificence, joy, exaltation, greatness, come under the grace of Goddess Lakshmi. Sri Appayya Dikshitar calls even final Liberation as ‘Moksha-Samrajya Lakshmi’. Hence worship of Lakshmi means the worship of Divinity, the power that dissolves multiplicity in unity. The worship of Devi is therefore the explanation of the entire process of spiritual Sadhana in all its aspects.
During Durga Puja or Navaratri observe strict Anushthana and purify your inner spiritual nature. This is the most auspicious time in the year for Mother-Worship. Read Saptasati or Devi Mahatmya and Lalita Sahasranama. Do Japa of the Mantra of Devi. Perform formal worship with purity, sincerity and absolute devotion. Cry forthe Darshan of Mother Devi. The Divine Mother will bless you with the knowledge, the peace and the joy that know no end. May the Divine Mother Durga establish righteousness or Dharma in the World! May She destroy all dark hostile forces that disturb the peace of the world! May She remove all sorts of epidemics and famine from the land! May She bring supreme peace, prosperity and undying bliss to all Her children of this world! May She transmute the Asuras or the demons or people with diabolical tendencies into Sattvic men! May She annihilate the Asuric tendencies, such as lust, anger, pride, hypocrisy, etc. in human beings, which represent Madhu Kaitabha, Mahisha, Sumbha and Nisumbha!

May She give the milk of divine wisdom to Her children and lift them up to the magnanimous heights of divine splendour and glory the imperishable state of Kaivalya and eternal sunshine!”

Read the full text in English and Sanskrit bellow.