SHRI DEVI GITA
by Shri Giridhar Madras
Devi gita constitutes the last ten chapters of the seventh Skandha
of the Devi Bhagavatam. In the puranas, one will find several gitas
and many mahatmyas. The differences are that in the mahatmya, the
glorification of the deity is by recounting the various deeds of the
God and offering praise to the divinity. A gita, on the other hand,
is a direct revelation of the truth from the disciple, which often
includes the manifestation of the cosmic form. While mahatymas
emphasize bhakti, gita stresses a balance of bhakti and jnana.
Specifically, we are interested in discussing the Devi gita. To
avoid any confusion and also be aware, there are two other devi
gitas. The first of which is found in the Kurma purana. This is a
conversation with Parvati and Himavan, introduced by Lord Vishnu as
Kurma. Goddess Parvati is praised here by 1008 names and She grants
him two cosmic visions and instructs him. The other devi gita is
found in the Mahabhagavata purana, which actually refers to the
conversation of Parvati and Himavan as Parvati Gita. The narrator of
this section of the Mahabhagavata Purana is Lord Shiva. However, by
Devi gita, we refer only to the gita found in the Devi Bhagavatam.
The setting of the Devi gita is introduced by Janamejaya’s query
to Vyasa regarding the supreme light who became manifest on top of
the Himalaya mountain. Vyasa talks about the demon Taraka, who has
obtained a boon that he can be killed only by the son of Lord Shiva,
knowing fully well that Sati has immolated herself. Therefore, the
gods became scared and went to Himalayas and worshipped Her asking
to born and marry Lord Shiva. Shakti then appears before them and
grants them a boon that her manifestation will be born as Gauri as
the daughter of Himavan. Himalaya becomes choked with emotion when
he hears that She, whose belly contains millions of universes, is
about to become his daughter. He requests as follows, “Proclaim
to me your nature, and declare that yoga conjoined with bhakti and
that jnana in accord shruti whereby you and I become one.”
This sets the scene for Devi Gita and the teachings.
In the Devi gita, following Himalayas request, the Devi proceeds to
describe her essential forms. The Devi declares that prior to
creation, She is the only existent entity, the one supreme Brahman
and is pure consciousness. Then She outlines the basic evolution of
the causal, subtle and gross bodies of the supreme Self when
enjoined with maya. The treatment here is very similar to that of
Vedantasara and Panchadasi, but in much more simpler terms than the
latter. Then She reveals Her forms (both the frightful and pleasing)
to the gods and Himalaya. Then follows a detailed summary of the
yoga, the stages of bhakti and the ways to attain Her.
Simplicity and Profoundness:
Devi gita is both simple and profound. It is different from other
gitas in the respect that statements are clear and can not be
reinterpreted according to one’s taste. For example, several
commentaries have been written on the Bhagavad Gita of Krishna,
wherein each commentator feels differently regarding bhakti and
jnana. For example, it required Madhusudana Saraswati to explain
krama mukti in clear terms (though Shankara mentions it also) of
bhakti. But Devi Gita is clear: “Even when a person performs
bhakti, knowledge need not arise. He will go to the Devi’s Island
(similar to Brahmaloka). Till the complete knowledge in the form of
my consciousness arises, there is no liberation.”
Similarly, the word of ‘coming’, ‘going’, ‘becoming’ cause confusion
since one can not become Brahman, if one is already one. The Devi
Gita provides a clear explanation that all these terms are
applicable only as long as one in maya. It is the clarity of these
terms and the simple explanation of complex vedantic and
philosophical questions that makes Devi Gita unique.
Start of chapter 33:
The Devi said: “O Giriraja ! This whole universe, moving and
unmoving is created by My maya shakti. This maya is conceived in Me.
It is not, in reality, different or separate from Me. So I am the
only Chit, Intelligence.
There is no other Intelligence other than Me. Viewed practically, it
is known variously as Maya, avidya; but viewed from the point of
Brahman, there is no such thing as Maya. Only one Brahman exists, I
am that Brahman, of the nature of Intelligence. I create this whole
world on this Unchangeable eternal Brahman and enter first as Prana
within it in the form of chidabhasa.
O Mountain ! Unless I enter as Breath, how can this birth and death
and leaving and retaking bodies after bodies be accounted for! As
one akasa is denominated variouslty as Ghatakas, patakas, so too I
appear variously by acknowledging this prana in various places due
to avidya and various antahkaranas.
As the sun rays are never defiled when they illumine various objects
on earth, so too, I am not defiled in entering thus into various
high and low antahkaranas. The ignorant people attach buddhi and
other things of activity on Me and say that the Atman is the doer.
The intelligent people do not say that. I remain as the Witness in
the hearts of all men, not as the Doer.”
SHRI DEVI GITA
Shri Giridhar Madras
1) Sri Mata
— Sacred Mother (feminine); the Seer, the Seen and the Seeing.
— The Knower; the Measurer (masculine)
— “For Whom all creatures are born.” Taittiriya Upanishad 3. 2
Sri Lalita Sahasranama, C. S. Murthy,
Ass. Advertisers and Printers, 1989.
“The Saktas worship the Universal Energy as Mother; it is the
sweetest name they know. The mother is the highest ideal of
womanhood in India. […]
Mother is the first manifestation of power and is considered a
higher idea than father. The name of mother brings the idea of
Shakti, Divine energy and omnipotence. The baby believes its mother
to be all-powerful, able to do anything. The Divine Mother is the
Kundalini sleeping in us; without worshipping Her, we can never know
ourselves. All merciful, all-powerful, omnipresent – these are
attributes of the Divine Mother. She is the sum total of the energy
in the Universe.
Every manifestation of power in the universe is Mother. She is Life,
She is Intelligence, She is Love. She is in the universe, yet
separate from it. She is a person, and can be seen and known – as
Sri Ramakrishna saw and knew Her. Established in the idea of Mother,
we can do anything. She quickly answers prayers.
She can show Herself to us in any form at any moment. The Divine
Mother can have form (rupa) and name (nama), or name without form;
and as we worship Her in these various aspects, we can rise to Pure
Being, having neither form nor name.
The sum-total of all the cells in an organism is one person. Each
soul is like one cell, and the sum of them is God. And beyond that
is the Absolute. The sea calm is the Absolute; the same sea in waves
is the Divine Mother. She is time, space and causation. Mother is
the same as Brahman and has two natures; the conditioned and the
unconditioned. As the former, She is God, nature and soul. As the
latter, she is unknown and unknowable. Out of the Unconditioned came
the trinity, God, nature and soul – the triangle of existence.
A bit of Mother, a drop, was Krishna; another was Buddha. The
worship of even one spark of Mother in our earthly mother leads to
greatness. Worship Her if you want love and wisdom.”
Swami Vivekananda, “Inspired Talks, My Master and Other Writings”,
Wed. July 2,1895, Ramakrishna- Vivekananda Center, NY, pp. 48-49.
“The Goddess is the great Sakti. She is Maya, for of her the maya
which produces the samsara is. As Lord of Maya she is Mahamaya.
Devi is avidya because she binds, and vidya because she liberates
and destroys the samsara. She is praktri and as existing before
creation is the Adya Sakti. Devi is the Vacaka Sakti, the
manifestation of Cit in Praktri, and the Vicya Sakti or Cit
itself. The Atma should be contemplated as Devi. Sakti or Devi is
thus the Brahman revealed in the mother aspect (Srimata) as creatrix
and nourisher of the worlds. Kali say of herself in Yogini
Tantra: “I am the bodily form of Saccidananda and I am the brahman
that has emanated from brahman.”
K. K. Klostermaier, Hinduism: A Short History,
Oneworld Pub., 2000, p. 211.
THE PRIMEVAL ENERGY
One of the unique features of Hinduism is the fact that it conceives
Divinity also as Mother Goddess. When Divinity has no name or form —
which is the most important declaration of the Upanishads, the next
logical step is to recognize that the Supreme has no specifity in
terms of gender. The Upanishads transcend the gender-specific
connotation and invent the unique Sanskrit word tat, meaning ‘that’
for that Supreme Reality. And therefore they argue, whatever reason
or rhyme we have in referring to God by a masculine pronoun, the
same right there is for us to call God by a feminine pronoun. The
energy of every Cosmic Divinity is taken to be feminine and thus
arises the interesting concept of primordial power or the
[[Parâshakti] ], which means ‘Power Supreme’.
BRAHMAN TO BE KNOWN, SHAKTI TO BE WORSHIPPED
The primordial Parâshakti is therefore the ultimate dynamic energy
of the transcendental Brahman, than which there is no other
existence. In fact it is technically wrong to say that She
(Parâshakti) is the Energy of Brahman, because the nature of
Brahman does not allow any attributes or predicates.The moment we
attribute anything to Brahman we have already delimited and
circumscribed it. When we talk of the Energy of the Ultimate Reality
we have already descended one step from the supreme pedestal of the
Unmanifested Attributeless Ultimate.
But the beauty of the concept of Parâshakti is that She is
transcendent beyond anything that is finite and immanent in
everything there is. So while we predicate it and relate it to other
things, it is still the Ultimate Supreme that can be talked about.
While Brahman has only to be cognized, Parâshakti can be
worshipped with a name and form. She is the Divine Will personified.
She is the Conscious Power beyond everything. She is the Presence,
invisible and constant, that sustains the world, linking form and
name, holding them in interdependence. There is nothing impossible
for Her. She is the Universal Goddess. She is all knowledge, all
strength, all triumph and all victory. She is the Goddess Supreme
(Maheshvari) who brings to us the total state of illumination.