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Shakti: Realm of the Divine Mother

Shakti: Realm of the Divine Mother
Author: Mataji Devi Vanamali
ISBN: 9781594771996
Genre: Goddesses, Hindu
Publisher: Inner Traditions
Price: $ 19.95

In the Devi Gita, Devi says:

“I am the intelligence from which the universe emanates and in which it abides. The ignorant believe me to be nothing more than Nature or Prakriti, but the wise experience me as the true self within. They glimpse me in their own hearts when their minds become as still and clear as an ocean without waves. The supreme wisdom is that which ends the delusion that anything exists apart from me. The fruit of this realization is a total lack of fear and the end of sorrow. When one understands that all of the limitless universes are but a fraction of an atom in the unity of my being, that all the numberless lives in the universes are the wisps of vapor in one of my breaths, that all triumphs and tragedies, the good and the evil in all the worlds, are merely games I play for my own amusement, then life and death stand still and the drama of individual life evaporates like a shallow pond on a warm day.

“This world you are experiencing now is nothing but my power. The only remedy for your ignorance is to worship me as your inner-most self. Surrender yourself to me with one-pointed devotion and I will help you discover your true being. Abide in me as I abide in you. Know that even now at this very moment there is absolutely not difference between us. Realize and be fulfilled this instant.”

Who is Devi? She is the Hindu Divine Mother, filled with light and the essence of all creation. According to Vanamali, Vishnu spoke of her as “She is the cause of all causes. She is the eternal Brahman as well as that which is non-eternal. She is the power of will of the supreme. It is she who creates the cosmos and displays it to the Paramatman (the supreme soul or Brahman).”

She is also Shakti, the sacred feminine paired to the sacred masculine.

“Shakti is synonymous with the Devi, the Divine Mother or divine power that manifests, sustains and transforms the universe. Our first and primary relationship to the world is through the mother, the source of love, security and nourishment. Extending this relationship to worship of a cosmic being as mother was a natural step found not only in the Shakti cult of Hinduism but also in ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Babylonian cultures.”

Vanamali is thorough in her explanation of the complexities of the Hindu concepts of life and the divine. Her exploration of Hindu mythology brings the Goddess and her realm to life, revealing Her to be the creator behind the mask of all other deities. Vanamali’s thoroughness demands an equal dedication to reading her chapters in sequence the first time through and is coupled with the need to reread passages in to allow their full importance sink into the psyche. Shakti: Realm of the Divine Mother is worth the effort, leaving the reader with a deep appreciation for spiritual nuances that our Western religions often overlook.

Too often, our sources of information about the Hindu Great Mother arise from Western authors. These authors, no matter how sincere, tinge their works with Western ideas. Vanamali moves us past that blockage. Her understandings are authentic and innate, steeped in the cultural frame she’s lived amid. Vanamali takes us beyond the superficial into a deep understanding of the divine balance between Shakti and Shiva.

Sculptures, Devi Jagadambi Temple, Western Group, Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh State, India

Shakti and Shiva,
Devi Jagadambi Temple
by Richard Ashworth

“…the male and female are eternal principles involved in the projection of the universe. They are never separate. Fundamentally, they are one, as gold and ornaments made of it are one. This two-in-one existence came to be known as Purusha and Prakriti or Shiva and Shakti. It is something like the dynamo and the force that charges it; one is powerless without the other. Shiva and Shakti are polar opposites, inseparable but having a varying relative predominance under different directions. But in the unmanifest, each aspect of the one reality is only a potential. It is merged in the pure consciousness with the other and is indistinguishable from it.”

Shiva and Shakti are represented by triangles, one pointed down, the other up, one seated in the lap of the other. This symbol is also the root of the Star of David and signifies cosmic union.

Cosmic union lives within our Selves, as do Shakti and Shiva. When we wed our polar opposites, we generate our spiritual energy and solidify our natural union with the cosmos. Shakti: Realm of the Divine Mother allows us to glimpse the power of this union outside of our Western traditions and shows us an alternate path toward spiritual satisfaction.

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