by Swami Krishnananda
Sattva is also a Guna, unfortunately. We always praise Sattva and regard it as a very desirable thing. But it is like a transparent glass that is placed between us and the Truth. You can see through it, but you cannot go beyond it because though the glass is transparent, it can obstruct your movement. It is not like a brick wall, completely preventing your vision, as Tamas does; it is not like a blowing wind which simply tosses you here and there, as Rajas does; it is a plain glass, through which you can have vision of Reality, but you cannot contact Reality nevertheless. How can you contact a thing when there is a glass between you and the thing? Yet you can see it. So they say even Sattva is an obstacle, though it is better than the other two forces in the sense that through it you can have a vision or an insight into the nature of Reality which transcends even Sattva. There is a glass pane and you can see a mango fruit on the other side of it. You can see it very well, but cannot get it; you cannot grab it. You know the reason. Even Sattva is a subtle medium of obstruction, which acts in a double form – as complacency or satisfaction with what has been achieved, and an ignorance of what is beyond. These two aspects of Sattva are indicated by the two personalities of Sumbha and Nisumbha. They have to be dispelled by the power of higher wisdom, which is Maha-Sarasvati.
Action, contemplation and knowledge are the three stages through which we have to pierce through the veil of Prakriti, or the three Gunas. And as I mentioned earlier, we are not individual pedestrians on the path. There is no individual movement here. It is all a total movement of everything connected with us, and no item in the world is really disconnected from us. Every thread in a cloth is connected with every other thread. When you lift one thread of a cloth, the whole cloth comes up, because of the interconnection of the warp and the woof of the cloth. Likewise, there is an internal interconnection of beings, which prevents any kind of individual effort for the sake of salvation. That is why salvation is universal, it is not individual. When you attain to the Supreme Being, you become the Universal Being. You do not go there as a Mr. So-and-so or as a Mrs. So-and-so. The path of Sadhana also is a cosmic effort of the soul, a subtle secret which most Sadhakas are likely to forget. It is not a small, simple, private effort of yours in the closet of your room, but a dynamic activity of your essential personality, internally connected by unforeseen relationships with everything in the cosmos. When you enter the path of the spirit you have also, at the same time, entered the path of cosmic relationship. A Sadhaka is, therefore, a cosmic person. A spiritual seeker, an aspirant is a representative of cosmic situation. He is not an individual, though he looks like a person; and his Sadhana is not an individual effort. It is much more than what it appears to be on the surface. It is, as it were, the conversation between Nara and Narayana – Krishna-Arjuna-Samvada, as they call it. You and your God are face to face with each other. In Sadhana, in spiritual effort, you are face to face with your Maker. And the face of the Maker is universal. He is not in one spot, hiding himself in one corner.
So, the dance of the cosmic spirit, in its supernal effort at self-transcendence, is majestically described in the beautifully worded sonorous songs of the Devi-Mahatmya, where we are given a stirring account, a stimulating description of what Maha-Kali did, what Maha-Lakshmi did and what Maha-Sarasvati did in bringing about this evolution, transformation of the whole range of Prakriti from Tamas to Rajas, from Rajas to Sattva and from Sattva to Supreme Vijaya, mastery in the Absolute, God-realisation. All our scriptures, Puranas and epics, all our ceremonies and celebrations, all our festivals and Jayantis – whatever be the occasion for a religious performance – all this is charged with a spiritual connotation, a significance which is far transcendent to the outer rituals which is involved in their performance. Every thought, every aspiration, every ritual and every duty of ours, every action that we perform automatically becomes a spiritual dedication of the Soul, for the sake of this one single aspiration which it has been enshrining in itself from eternity to eternity. This significance is brought out in all our epics and Puranas. Whether in the Mahabharata or the Ramayana, whether in the Bhagavadgita or the Devi-Mahatmya, they tell us the same account in different terminologies and with different emphases. It is always a song of the soul. The Bhagavadgita is a song of the soul, the Over-soul speaking to the lower soul. Here again, we have a similar account of the actual Sadhana involved in the realisation of this ultimate harmony of the soul with the Over-soul.
The spiritual practice of a Sadhaka is, therefore, a confronting of the three forces of Tamas, Rajas and Sattva, gradually, stage by stage, in their cosmic significance, forgetting not for a moment that we are not 'islands'. No man is an island. You must have heard the poet's saying: "No man is an island unto himself." That means he is not surrounded simply by oceans and cut off from things. He is connected with everything. This is the significance we have to read in our practical lives. This is the meaning we have to see and visualise in our personal Sadhana. And when we learn to see the significance of the presence of divinity or the universality of God even in our private actions, we are taken care of by universal forces. We need not bother about even the smallest problem of our life. Even the littlest of our difficulty will be taken care of in a proper manner by the forces that are in the world, provided, of course, that we are able to read the significance of universality even in the most private of our actions, even in the smallest and littlest of our actions. There is no such thing as a little action in the world. Everything is important. Even the most insignificant event is a very important event, ultimately, because hidden behind it is the ocean. This significance we have to learn to read. This is, in my humble opinion, what Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj meant whenever he said that Godrealisation is the goal of life. He was not tired of saying this throughout his life. We can see, in his earlier books especially, that they commence with the sentence: "The goal of life is God-realisation." Whatever he had to say in those books, he said afterwards. So, the first thing is to remember that the goal of life is God-realisation. Do not forget this. The little petty tensions and turmoils and annoyances and worries and vexations are not the goal of life. They are the obstacles that come on our way, which we have to carefully obviate and go with caution – like a pilgrim who has lost his way in this wilderness of life – and yet confident at the same time that the warmth of the spiritual sun is always energising our personality and that we are never, at any time, any moment of our practice, completely cut off from that source of energy.
So, through the worship of Maha-Kali, Maha-Lakshmi and Maha-Sarasvati, we worship Mula-Prakriti, Adi-Sakti in her cosmic dance-form of transformation, prosperity and illumination. In the beginning, what happens to a Sadhaka? There is a necessity of self-transformation. It is all hardship, rubbing and cleaning, washing, sweeping, etc. That is the first stage through the worship of Maha-Kali, who brings about a destruction of all barriers. Then what happens? There is tremendous prosperity. You become a master and a progressive soul commanding all powers, getting everything that you want. This is the second stage. In the first stage, it looked as if you were a poor person, having nothing, very weak. But, when you overcome this weakness by removing the barrier of Tamas, you become prosperous. Nobody can be as rich as a Yogi. He can command all the powers. By a thought he can invoke all things, and this is Goddess Maha-Lakshmi working. When Maha-Kali has finished her work of destruction of opposition, MahaLakshmi comes as prosperity. A great Yogi is also like a royal personality, because of his internal invocations, though unconsciously done, of cosmic powers. When prosperity dawns, it looks as if the whole universe is heaven. In the first stage, it looked like hell. Afterwards, in the second stage, it looks like heaven, when Maha-Lakshmi begins to work. But this also is not sufficient. Knowledge should dawn. It is not heaven that you are asking for. You want the realisation of Truth. Maha-Sarasvati will come to help and a flood of light of Truth will be thrown, and you will see things as they are. There is no enjoyment, prosperity, richness, wealth, or any such thing. It is Truth unconnected with yourself in the beginning, but later on inseparable from yourself. Thus, from opposition to prosperity, from prosperity to enlightenment, and from enlightenment to Self-realisation do we proceed. So, these are the truths esoterically conveyed to us in the Mantras of the Devi-Mahatmya.
This Devi-Mahatmya is not merely an esoteric epic. It is not only a great spiritual text in the form of occult lessons, occult teachings of which I have given you an outline. But, it is also a great Mantra-Sastra. Every Sloka, every verse of the Devi-Mahatmya is a Mantra by itself. I will tell you how it is a Mantra, by giving only one instance, that is the first Sloka itself. "Savarnih suryatanayo yo manuh kathyate-shtamah." This is the first Sloka – "Savarnih surya-tanayah." It is all a Tantric interpretation and a very difficult thing to understand. But I am giving you only an idea as to what it is like. Surya represents fire, the fire-principle. Surya-tanaya means that which is born of the fire-principle. What is it that is born of the fire-principle? It is the seed 'Ra'. According to Tantric esoteric psychology, 'Ram' is the Bija Mantra of Agni. In the word 'Savarnih', 'Varni' means a hook; so add one hook to 'Ram'. "Yo manuh kathyate, ashtamah." Eighth letter – What is Manu? It is a letter in Sanskrit. Eight letters are Ya, Ra, La, Va, Sya, Sha, Sa, Ha. The eighth is Ha. Add Ha to it. Ha, Ra and one hook, make 'Hreem'. "Savarnih suryo-tanayo yo manuh kathyateshtamah, nisamaya tadutpattim." "You hear the glory of that," the sage says. So, the first verse means: "Now, I shall describe to you the glory of 'Hreem'." This Hreem is the Bija of Devi. But, outwardly it means, "Listen to the story of the king so-and-so, who is the eighth Manu," and all that. Thus in addition to the outer meaning, there is an inner significance of the Mantra. I am giving you only the case of one Mantra. Like this, every Mantra is full of inner significance. And every Mantra is repeated by devotees for some purpose or the other. The Devi-Mahatmya is especially recited for averting calamities in life. Catastrophes, calamities and tensions – personal or outward, whatever they be – all these are averted by a regular daily recital of the Devi-Mahatmya. When there is war threatening a country, for example, or pestilence or epidemic spreading everywhere, or any internal tension or anxiety of any kind, the Devi-Mahatmya is to be studied. And it is a very potent remedy prescribed by seers of yore – not only for temporal terrestrial prosperity, but also for the glory of the hereafter, for illumination, for the destruction of Avidya or Ajnana, for overcoming Mala, Vikshepa and Avarana, and to be a fit recipient of the grace of the Almighty. Thus is the outer significance and the inner significance of the Devi-Mahatmya, and the special meaning that it has in the life of spiritual seekers or Sadhakas. Glory to God! Glory to Sadhana! Glory to the integral character of spiritual practice! May we be blessed with this illumination, with this wisdom, with the strength to tread the path of the Spirit, to our ultimate Freedom!