Picture of Arunachala by Gabriele Ebert
Song to the Goddess
Either let me be intoxicated
in your love completely
or put on my robes of joy
and rob me absolutely.
Judge me guilty
in the court of love
or absolve me absolutely;
find me flawed if you like
but never hold me weakly.
No middle ground is possible
for lovers who love completely!
Love, Consciousness, and Bliss
The great sage of Arunachala, Sri Ramana Maharshi, used to say that all deep thinking people are fascinated by the nature of consciousness. The outer world of time and space is known only through ones’ own mind. Therefore, the mystery of mind and consciousness has been a magnet of attraction for philosopher, yogis, sages, and scientists. Upanishads say that one should know “That” by which all else is known.
What is “That”, which makes all else visible and known? The ancient philosophy outlined in the Upanishads, the sacred Hindu scriptures, refers to “That” as Sat-Chit-Ananda, the core of one’s being which is Absolute Bliss, Absolute Existence, Absolute Consciousness, and we can also say that it is the same as Absolute Love which makes all human love possible. Sri Ramana used to say that “Love is the actual form of God.”
For one irresistibly pulled by the hunger of Self-Knowledge that manifests in one’s own heart, the turning within to “That” Absolute Love and Bliss happens at some point. When consciousness spontaneously starts the process of scanning its own formless form, this churning results in the beauty and self-delight of awareness which underlies all manifestations of energy (Shakti).
Appearance of the Supreme Goddess
In many of the mystical traditions of Hinduism, the manifestations of this energy, resulting from consciousness becoming focused on its own nature, take the forms of Devi. Devi is the Supreme Goddess, who appears in visions and dreams of devotees according to their mental and spiritual condition to nurture, protect, bless, and guide them.
The Goddess is depicted in Hindu art in hundreds if not thousands of ways. This art is part of the Indian history, culture, and Hindu traditions. It comes from the inspired imagination of the artists and is based on the ancient stories about the Goddess and Her powers.
However, no artwork can really capture the form of the Goddess who appears in the mystic eye of the aspirant. She appears to each devotee in a unique way according to what best suits the nature and personality of the person at that time. As the yogi evolves in the spiritual path, the visionary forms of the Goddess can change along with that.
So a relationship develops between the devotee and the Goddess or the Divine Beloved. Like human relationships between lovers, it is not always easy.
Sometimes, the devotee cannot bear the separation and wants immediate union and consummation. He may even blame and question the Goddess as to why She has left him in the middle of the path after taking his hand.
Song of Despair to the Goddess
Play hide and seek
not too much longer
and risk this longing
get even stronger;
when people ask unashamedly
why your love flees from me
what honest answer can I make
and can you also say for sure
that in choosing me as your lover
you have made some grave mistake.
But the Goddess realizes that it is not time and waits for the moment to be ripe for the final liberation. Many of the love poems of mystics to the Goddess have come from this intermediate level of spiritual experiences where the Supreme Beloved appears to plays hide and seek with them.
Sri Ramana and Marital Garland of Letters
In the classic Tamil poem, “The Marital Garland of Letters” the Sage of Arunachala, Sri Ramana Maharshi, chides the Divine Beloved in some of the verses and apologizes for having done so in other verses. He begs Arunachala to fully embrace him (as the devotee) and utterly consume him in love; Because only then he will have peace.
Verse 23. “Sweet fruit within my hands, let me be mad with ecstasy, drunk with the bliss of Thy essence, Oh Arunachala!”
Verse 34. “Unless Thou embrace me, I shall melt away in tears of anguish, Oh Arunachala!”
Verse 60. “In my unloving self Thou didst create a passion for Thee; therefore forsake me not, Oh Arunachala!”
Hindu Mystical Bhakti Poetry
The love pattern of alternating between despair and ecstasy (Does She/He love me or love me not), joy and sadness (When will the Goddess/Divine Beloved visit again) is common in the poetry of many Hindu saints and mystics. Even the seeming confusion about the relationship itself, which makes the devotee beg sometimes for love and other times actually blame, chide, and command the Goddess/Divine Beloved, can be seen in some of the poems including the Marital Garland of Letters.
Although the Marital Garland of Letters by Sri Ramana is embedded in the Indian spiritual, historical, and cultural context, the symbolism of a lover who is in complete despair because of an incomplete consummation with her/his beloved is universally understood.
People who are in love with and fascinated by the mystery of consciousness have felt that mysterious pull of the Heart from within themselves. Who can really explain ways of the Divine and the different forms She/He manifests in.
What is the first step on this path of love? No one can say for sure. Was it the smile and look of a Sage, the grace of the Divine Mother, the kiss of the Goddess, or the kindness of a teacher or a friend? There must be many possibilities that make us aware of the Heart within, whose nature is Sat-Chit-Ananda, that which is the source of the ultimate bliss.
This memory once awakened brings upon the experience of pure being, and attracts the devotee to the truth of her/his own nature. This gentle pull within makes itself felt. It does not let go until the Truth of one’s own Heart is recognized, and there is nothing left to let go.
Some say that it is the Goddess Herself, who takes the devotee into the Heart and then reveals Herself as the Universal Heart. The complete identity between the devotee, the Goddess, and the Heart thus established, everything disappears. There is only that Heart of Love and Fullness, eternal consciousness completely at rest in its own nature.
Knowing That is Self-Knowledge. That is the final consummation.
“I came to feed on Thee, but Thou hast fed on me; now there is peace, Oh Arunachala!” Verse 28. Marital Garland of Letters.
NOTE: Some of the verses on the Goddess in this article are from a longer poem on the Goddess by Dr. Harsh K. Luthar.
Often on the spiritual path, the topics of best postures, best techniques of meditation, best behaviors conducive to spiritual growth, best gurus, etc., come up. All of these questions are appropriate to their time and circumstances. Such questions were frequently put to Bhagavan Ramana.
Underlying all such questions is the fundamental theme or inquiry as to what constitutes superior spiritual practice that will lead to improvement in one’s mental and physical conditions and finally to Self-Realization or Enlightenment. From this perspective, Self-Realization is viewed as an attainment. It is something that is achieved by an individual by making the right effort. This approach in its methodology is not too different than that of a talented world class athlete, who after having trained rigorously, wins a gold medal at the Olympics.
This point of view emphasizes the need to focus the mind in order for it to expand and evolve to higher levels. Spiritual practices based on this foundation, involve meditating in a particular posture, concentrating on chakras, raising the kundalini shakti, practicing mantras, deep breathing, and doing pranayama exercises.
The Yoga paths explicitly incorporate the idea of controlling and developing the mind to gain entry into Samadhi and Super-conscious states. Most religions have this philosophy at their core; that without hard work one does not succeed either in life or in knowing God.
The General Spiritual Path Model
Buddha is supposed to have said to his disciples as he was dying, “Work out your salvation with diligence.” He meant that you have to personally work it out and attain Nirvana by right conduct, right practice, right meditation, etc.
The same principle is present in Jainism and most of the schools of thought in Hinduism. In Jainism, one attains to Moksha through one’s own individual efforts. In Hinduism, one achieves Moksha by God’s Grace. However, in most schools of Hinduism, one only benefits fully from God’s Grace, when one has made the right effort on the spiritual path by following one’s Dharma and by meditating on the nature of the Self.
Although it is a complex topic, the general spiritual model that we have before us is this: There is a spiritual path, there is the goal of Enlightenment or Self-Realization, and you have to expend much effort, and walk on the path for a long time in order to reach the destination. While you are walking, you may even have to go through the “dark night of the soul” a few times, because there are so many temptations along the way and things can sometimes appear hopeless and quite depressing.
So not only is there the possibility of tripping and falling due to worldly obstacles, but one also may give up on the whole idea of Liberation, Salvation, Enlightenment, Nirvana, Moksha, and/or getting to Heaven. Indeed many on the spiritual path do end up concluding that there is no meaning in life or the spiritual aspiration at all and kick themselves for missing out on the pleasures of their youth by having rejected the philosophy of “Eat, Drink, and be Merry” prematurely.
However, experienced sages know that what practices or behaviors will be helpful to the seeker on the spiritual path seems to depend on one’s conditioning, physiology, culture, background, etc. Although there is a general framework on how to pursue one’s aspiration for Enlightenment or Self-Realization, the truth is that one has to make the path as one walks on it because each individual is unique. Therefore, the view of “Eat, Drink, and be Merry”, within reason and in moderation, may be fully compatible with the spiritual life. It is the overall context that has to be understood.
The Self-Knowledge of a Sage
For the one abiding spontaneously and inherently in the Self-Truth of Reality, questions of methods, techniques, and practices, and the path become moot. When clarity of Self arises, any technique may be practiced and any path may be walked or one may give up all techniques and paths. For such a person, the Self-Attention itself absorbs attention regardless of where it is focused outwardly. The essential element in this understanding is the Recognition by Awareness of its Innate Wakefulness. Awareness is always self-aware by its very nature.
When awareness remains pure and spontaneously self-focused (perpetually in communion with itself), the subtle duality between awareness/attention (as Pure I AM) and its Source is seen to be illusory.
Then even the witness disappears, there being nothing to witness. The “I AM” disappears having nothing to point to. Spontaneously with the I AM Awareness/Shakti merging in its Source, the Self is Recognized. The Self Recognizes It Self by It Self and Through It Self as its own Source. It Sees and Recognizes that It has Always Been the Source. That It Is the Eternal Source, the causeless cause.
This is the Supreme Beauty of the Heart. It absorbs the Shakti, and along with it the Mind, thus swallowing time and space.
How can one speak of this Silence? The Silence that transcends all understanding and knowledge can only be indicated indirectly.
Great sages like Sri Ramana Maharshi never tire of pointing out that, —That Which is Real and Absolute Always Exists and is not absent even now—. How can Reality, whether one calls it God, Consciousness, Absolute, Nirvana, Moksha, Kingdom of Heaven, or by some other name be present at one time and absent at another? Perfection, by its nature, cannot be more perfect sometimes but not others. The approach and method of Advaita is based on this implicit axiom.
The Method of Advaita
The ever-present and eternal existence of our fundamental reality, whatever label we give it (Self-Nature, Buddha-Nature, Original Face, God, Goddess, God Consciousness, Pure Consciousness, Supreme Consciousness) must be here and now in this very moment. Otherwise, it is not Perfect!
This is the fundamental insight and conviction of the path of Advaita and the Advaitic sages. Therefore, we have to grasp the present by simply being present to it. This is the method of Advaita.
How is this done? In this way:
This present ordinary awareness, that you experience, you should notice it and then hold on to it. It is subtle and yet so ordinary. That is why we miss it. No matter how ordinary a baby looks to others, to the mother it is special. She adores her baby and to her it is the most lovely and wonderful child in the world. That is the attitude one must have towards one’s ordinary present awareness.
Like a mother holds on firmly to her child in all conditions, one should keep this ordinary self-awareness in the center of one’s consciousness knowing it to be special. The Supreme Reality It Self is hidden in it. It cannot be anywhere outside of it. If the Supreme Reality is somewhere outside of our ordinary consciousness, it is not perfect. Therefore, we can confidently look for perfection in our ordinariness, our ordinary consciousness.
Finding God in the Heart
There is a Christian saying that “Man is made in the image of God”. There is deep meaning in that. In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna says to Arjuna, “I am in the Heart of all.” We find such expressions in many of the religions of the world and in major works of different spiritual traditions.
On the path of Advaita, through our present ordinary awareness, we become, or more accurately, recognize our True and Ever-Present Image in the Heart. Advaita goes one step further and states that indeed the illusion of separation between the Individual soul and God lasts only as long as God is not recognized as the Center of our Being, sitting in the Heart as the Heart.
This is the Heart, that the ancients called Sat-Chit-Ananda. Existence, Consciousness, Bliss. The Supreme Self. It is beyond thoughts and concepts. Time and Space do not touch it.
As Sri Ramana has said, — that which is real is ever present—. We have to see what is present right now in this very moment. If we become quiet, we are able to feel our ordinary awareness, the sense of “I Am” as being present in this moment. That is the seed. If we water it and give it food, it grows and the Reality reveals it Self from within.
Editor’s Note: The Feature Picture depicts photo art of brother Eden Kailash on his fb page.
The notion of Kundalini Shakti is at the heart of yoga and is embedded in virtually all Eastern traditions regardless of the name or label that is given. If we carefully examine any school of yoga, tantra, or various traditions (Shakti, Shaivite, Kashmiri Shaivism), there will usually be some descriptions of Hatha Yoga, Pranayama, Kriyas, Mudras, Mantras, and different types of meditations on the Chakras (energy centers).
In the Shakti traditions, detailed descriptions are given of the various aspects of the visions of the Goddess that arise in meditation. Even in the school of Advaita Vedanta, which does not depend on the practices associated with Shakti Yoga, we see that the great scholar/saint Adi Shankracharya has written hymns to the Goddess who represents Shakti, the divine power.
Here are some selected verses from Jnaneshwar, a 13th century Indian mystic.
Amritanubhav (The Nectar of Mystical Experience)
Chapter One: The Union of Shiva and Shakti
I offer obeisance to the God and Goddess,
The limitless primal parents of the universe.
They are not entirely the same,
Nor are they not the same.
We cannot say exactly what they are.
How sweet is their union!
The whole world is too small to contain them,
Yet they live happily in the smallest particle.
When He awakes, the whole house disappears,
And nothing at all is left.
Two lutes: one note.
Two flowers: one fragrance.
Two lamps: one light.
Two lips: one word.
Two eyes: one sight.
These two: one universe.
In unity there is little to behold;
So She, the mother of abundance,
Brought forth the world as play.
He takes the role of Witness
Out of love of watching Her.
But when Her appearance is withdrawn,
The role of Witness is abandoned as well.
He assumes the form of the universe;
He is left naked.
If night and day were to approach the Sun,
Both would disappear.
In the same way, their duality would vanish
If their essential Unity were seen.
The book from which these excerpts are taken, is entitled
“Jnaneshvar: The Life and Works of the Celebrated Thirteenth Century Indian Mystic-Poet.”
The translation is by Swami Abhyayananda.
Long ago, there reigned a mighty king named Ila. Once while hunting, he came upon a grove where Shiva was making love with Parvati, and surprise of surprises, Shiva had taken the form of a woman to please her. Everything in the woods, even the trees had become female, and as he approached even King Ila himself was transformed into a woman! Shiva laughed out aloud and told him to ask for any boon except that of masculinity.
Thus says the Shaktisangama Tantra: