The world appears alien. At least on first look. It is the other, that stares in our face, inanimate, unfriendly, harsh. It is outside ourself, moves to its own laws like a vast ‘machine’. And we feel separated right from birth from this unknown entity, our adversary, whom we need to control and conquer.
And yet, all our attempts to master this absurd antagonist are vain and doomed to failure. For even our own mind and body belong to this perennial ‘alienness’. Our mastery over it is impermanent, fleeting. And eventually, each of us gives in, dissolving and disintegrating in its impersonal flow, death its final seal of victory.
And yet, there might be another way of looking at this vast enterprise. If we observe closely, we see a vast intelligence, working out with intricate detail and perfection all its operations and processes. From the most microscopic to the grandest scales, it shows a coordination and coherence that puzzles our limited mental probings. The vast impersonal suddenly becomes alive as we approach it with silence and appreciate its mystery.
Down to the cell, with its membranes, mitochondria, Golgi bodies, nuclei, and extremely fine and systematic coordination of the various organelle. Down further, to the atom and then to the quantum world, where our laws collapse, there is yet a secret consistency. And as we study the galaxies and solar systems and the pulsars and black holes and quasars and dark matter and dark space, we are further intrigued at their immaculate synchrony.
And yet, this tremendous perfection and intelligent will, is not antagonistic to us but sustains us at every moment. If even one thing went wrong, we would immediately cease to exist. If the Sun were just a little closer (in terms of proportions in distance) or a little further, there would be no life on earth. If there were not the right mix of oxygen in our atmosphere, or the right percentage of water on our planet, if it were not comprised of the ‘right’ materials, we would not be. Each moment, it seems, there is something intimate, personal, protecting us, nurturing us, holding us, as a mother carrying her infant all the time in her arms, showering with all her attention and care, and nourishing with exactly what is needed for it to grow.
The ancient Hindus called this Presence and Force with various names, Adya Shakti or Ishwari or Para Prakriti. But the best name, to my mind, is simply Ma, or the Mother. What was seen as the other is actually the Divine Mother in their darshana.
And this touch is not an abstraction or a concept, it is felt as an intimate sensation by the yogi, the spiritual seeker. This Motherly succor that is mind-boggling to our understanding is the protector and guide who responds to the simple prayers of the heart. This power that is so infinite and minuscule is more personal than one’s own physical mother.
And if one learns and begins to see with the eyes of our ancients, one suddenly notices a diffracted and fractured world suddenly coalesce into a wholeness. It is almost as if one had never left the security and oneness of the womb.
And this realization of the power of the Sacred Feminine came way before our modern exertions in ecology and the Gaia hypotheses, and integral medicine and feminism. And it balances the Father-like God who sits aloof in the heavens like a schoolmaster or a policeman meting out assignments and handing out tickets in certain ways of looking at the world.
And it is not as unique to the Hindus as it might seem to the Western mind. For the maternal principle has existed since the earliest preoccupations of mankind with divinity. Even in Christianity (at least some denominations), the Virgin Mother, who gave birth to the divine child is honored and worshipped. This principle is expressed in various depictions in our archetypes such as the Earth Mother, our nation as Motherland, our own language or alma mater, or the entire Universe as a nurturing and pervading Might.
This is the Being we adore and devote ourselves to, whom we see as Mahakali or Mahalakshmi, or Saraswati or Maheshvari. And this is the Force we invoke in our lives as the secret of self-transformation and discovery.
To translate poetically an ancient Sanskrit mantra that describes the Shakti in her various emanations : “She who is all, who is the Power in each action. She who is all, embodying Peace. She who is all, as our own Mother. To whom we bow, in perfect surrender. And offer all we are and all we have. For all is She. There is none other.”
This is the Yin we might need to balance the overpowering of Yang in our world today, a realization that our God too is incomplete without a true understanding of this ancient Indian revelation.
October 17th marks the commencement of perhaps the most spiritual period of the Santana calendar: the Navaratri, or the nine nights of the Divine Mother, culminating in Deepavali and the Night of Mother Kali. This is a period that is most auspicious for the spiritual aspirant and most conducive to spiritual sadhana. — Editors.