In our Dharma, we always refer to the Devi as Mata in Sanskrit and Maa, Amma, Maiyya, Mai, Aai, Mauli, etc in the local languages. We worship her in many forms. We see her in the land, in the rivers and in the forests. We address older women with respect as ‘mata-raam’. We also have a strong tradition of referring to the Guru and even the male deities as the Mother, eg in Maharashtra, Sant Jnyaneshwar, Shri Vitthal are also referred to as ‘mauli’, ‘mother’.
And this is not a random whim or mere sentiment. There is a reason why we do this. We first look for maternal love in the deity we adore, the Guru we follow and the consciousness we seek.
There are three levels of spiritual sadhak, viz. the Pashu, the Veer and the Divya.
If you have zero inclination towards the spiritual you are called a ‘pashu’. And when you start on your spiritual path, the energy is still ‘pashu’.
- पशु means a creature, to see, an individual soul, jivatma, animal like state, etc.
At this level of consciousness you are convinced that you are a mere individual soul, a jivatma at the mercy of fate. You are convinced that this creation is totally real. You consider your body to be the complete reality, there nothing beyond the physical. You are confined only to that part of reality which you can sense with your 5 basic senses. You do not have the intellectual capacity nor the emotional stability nor the spiritual strength to accept/ realise that you yourself are the Para, Shivah, Advaita, Parameshwar etc. You need a prop, an anchor, a foundation, some support to survive in this unpredictable and dangerous universe. Unknown and uncontrollable forces driving you like a beast of burden. There is very limited free will available to you and also a very limited capacity to act intelligently. Your life is on auto pilot, your karmic fruits of your own past lives are the cruise control and you have no option but to endure /enjoy the ride. Whatever life serves, you have no option but to accept the situation. Just like the animals you see around you, you too are completely under the control of these nameless, irresistible forces. The world is a unpredictable place and you wander through aimlessly. In this state you first try to find support from other humans, your loved ones etc or in activities or even in addictions. Most of us are in this lowest stage of awareness where we don’t even realise that we are Pashu.
But there comes a time when you realise that these other humans are not capable of supporting their own selves in the first place, so them supporting you is out of the question. So you search for support elsewhere. If, through some positive karmic fruit, you choose a deity as your support then this is the first step of your spiritual journey. You become a spiritual aspirant, a sadhak. You progress slightly and consider yourself to be a small child, led by the hand of destiny. This is how the spiritual journey begins, with the Pashu mindset. This mindset neither understands its Reality nor the real power of the human birth. (Only in this human form can the limited soul realise its real limitless nature.) At this Pashu level there is a strong belief in duality and multiplicity. And the only support in this cruel world is the adored deity.
And it is for this beginner level of sadhak, that the worship of the Mother, the Mahamaya, Prakruti, Shakti, Shri, Mata, Devi is prescribed because at this stage the Eternal is most naturally seen in the aspect of a Mother. The aspirant must feel himself to be a child in the hands of the Mother. In every aspect, in his mind and also in his actions he must be able to trust her, worship her, respect her, all the time. He should feel a sense of Motherhood emanating from everything around him. The moorti of the Devi in the temple, the beggar woman standing on the street, a small girl walking on the road, the earth itself, the rivers, the wind, the skies. He must feel that the Eternal Mother is looking at him from everything, everywhere and at all times. He does pujas, mantra, pilgrimages, pujas and all sort of spiritual practices which make him constantly aware of the Mother’s love and protection at all times. He now feels that he is secure, a child sitting in the Devi’s lap. Once he grasps this essence of the ‘divine motherhood’, does he progress onwards.
माता Mata is the nominative singular of मातृ Matru and one of the meanings of Matru is ‘to know’, ‘the knower’. So Mata is the one who Knows. The Matru grants the knowledge which negates (Maa) your experience of creation and thus helps you transcend this game.
Devi Mahamaya has created the apparent duality, ie the jivatma/ individual soul. She is the Creator, the ‘Mother’. All of us who believe in duality are her children. She is the initial Creator. And to transcend this illusion of duality and to reach the non dual reality we have to go to her and through her, there is no other option. Or in other words, she is the route, the only one which will take you to your Self.
- eg You start from home and go to your office via a particular route. After doing your work, you go back home via take this exact same route. You have to exit from this game of creation by the exact same route by which you arrived here. But over time, you have forgotten the route, so you have to first study it only then walk it. This ‘study’ is the worship of the Mother.
Initially this Mother is seen as a beautiful Devi carrying weapons, Veena, garland of severed heads, lotus etc. This is her sthool form, ie a form with an outer physical human-like shape. Later as the sadhak moves inwards, she shows him the geometric Yantra, the Mantra, energy forms of the Matruka, the seeds of the sound from which the creation is born. Then, as she, the Mahamaya, Kundalini, Chit Shakti, Vishuddha Shabda Shakti ascends through the chakra sequence, she dissolves the ‘seed sound mothers’ the Matrukas into the foundational Naada and this gradually destroys the appearance of duality. It is a long journey but if the sadhak trusts the Mata, she gradually and safely brings him to the next stage, the Veer.
- वीर means a hero, brave, energy, fire, strength, son, reed, power, man, actor, eminent, chief, adept, someone who has achieved control over the power to create/ destroy.
The Veer state is technically when the kundalini crosses the Vishuddhi chakra. In this stage the sadhak is not a child in the Mother’s lap anymore. Nor is he an animal driven by desires, conditions, destiny, past karma etc. He has subdued ‘nature’, in the sense that the Mahamaya now creates/ destroys/ balances/ works/ changes as per his desire. He has taken the control of his life in his own hands, he is no more on autopilot. He has developed the intelligence and confidence to lead nature/Prakruti in any direction as per his wish, creation, equilibrium or destruction. However here too there is still a sense of duality as the sadhak still cannot fully comprehend the Eternal.
In the third stage called Divya, the sadhak with practice, fully identifies himself with the Non dual and realises the Self.
- दिव्य means splendour, playful, heavenly, promise, oath, ordeal, sky, beautiful, supernatural etc.
Here the Naada is dissolved into the Bindu or Paranaada. And the Bindu further dissolves into the Non dual. Now the inner and the outer worlds are the same to him. He is ‘I’ Aham Brahmasmi as well as ‘this’ Ayam Atma Brahma. The concepts of Shakti, Mahamaya, etc are all reflected in the Para Shivah, Advaita, Self. This stage is realised via Vedant and Shri Vidya/ Tantra. (The Vedant gives the theory and the Shri Vidya/Tantra is the practice.)
The beginner Pashu has to learn cleanliness, physical and mental. Purification of the mind and the body is the basic requirement for starting on the spiritual path. Then he has to learn devotion towards the Mother in any form which comforts his mind. Then he should acquire the correct knowledge of the eternal Advaita and the limited Jivatma. As he refines his discerning intelligence, (vivek) he must also develop the strength to finally discard faulty concepts (vairagya). He has to choose the path of liberation/Moksh, after due study, practice, analysis and after drawing his own conclusions about it. If he, at any stage, feels that he wants to enjoy creation some more then he is always free to leave his sadhana. He is tested by his own Self, several times. Only when he conclusively chooses Moksh, does he reach that state of supreme consciousness.
In this journey from the Pashu to the Self, the aspirant has to first hold the hand of the Mother, there is no other way.
In my blog, I have recommended the most beautiful Sukta, Shri Sukta as the best, the easiest daily practice (post here) as the one sure shot solution for the prosperity. of your choice, the material or the ultimate.
(This post is in response to a question.)