The Devi Mahatmya dated somewhere around the fourth- fifth century , also renowned as Durga Saptasati, Durgapāṭha, Chandi, Chandipāṭha and Chandi Saptashati, composed as a long poem of about seven hundred verses (Saptashathi) , is the most revered scripture of the Shaktha tradition.
Devi Mahatmya celebrates the glory and splendour of the auspicious Supreme Goddess – the Maha Devi. Chaṇḍī or Chaṇḍīka, the name by which the Supreme Goddess is referred to in Devi Mahatmya. The text commences with salutation to Chandi: oṃ namaścaṇḍikāyai; Om̃ jaya tvaṃ devi Cāmuṇḍe jaya bhūtāpa hāriṇi [In the Devi Mahatmya, the names: Chandi, Chandika, Ambika and Durga are synonymous].
[ Amarakosa , the Sanskrit lexicon gives as many as twenty-three synonyms for the Devi: (1.1.88) umā, kātyāyanī, gaurī , kālī , haimavatīśvarī ; (1.1.89) śivā , bhavānī, rudrāṇī , śarvāṇī, sarvamaṅgalā; (1.1.90) aparṇā, pārvatī, durgā , mṛḍānī, caṇḍikā, ambikā (1.1.91) āryā, dākṣāyaṇī, caiva girijā , menakātmajā , (1.1.92) karmamoṭī , tu cāmuṇḍā , carmamuṇḍā , tu carcikā.]
The text adulates Maha Devi as the greatest warrior; and rejoices Devi as Chandi the destroyer of evil and its tendencies. She is the protector of the world; and, she does so from time to time by assuming various forms. She is also Ambika the mother who shelters and nurtures; and, also Durga the goddess who saves us from all sorts of miseries and difficulties (Duritha-nivarini). And, it is She who, just as a boat, ferries the devotees across oceans of existence (Bhava-Tarini). Her splendour and beauty is sung and exalted by countless other names and forms.
The Goddess is celebrated in various manners (lalapanti) as: joyous (madantika); proud (manini); auspicious (mangala); and; prosperous (shubhaga). And, she is beautiful (sundari) and pure (shuddhamata); as also modest (lajja), intelligent (matistu), satisfied (tripta) and She is thriving (pusta), wealthy (lakshmirupa) and extremely lovely (lalitha)
Madantika manini mangala ca shibhaga ca sa sundari shuddhamati / lajja matistu-stirists ca pusta lakshmi rupa lalitha lalapanti //
The Shaktha tradition reveres the Divine Mother as the Universal Creative Power, the All Pervading source of change within and identical to the changeless reality, Brahman. The Devi Mahatmya is the celebration of the limitless powers and the splendour of the Mother Goddess. It affirms its faith that the ultimate power and authority in the Universe reside in Devi. She encompasses and overrides everything in the Universe. She is the ultimate reality. The Devi Mahatmya asserts its faith that her Ultimate reality is really the ultimate; and it is not merely feminine.
Over the centuries, innumerable commentaries have been written on the Devi Mahatmya. Of these, the two are highly recognized; and, are very often quoted.
One; The Nageshi , is written by Nāgeśa Bhaṭṭa / Nāgoji Bhaṭṭa / Nāgoji Dīkṣita (1678-1755?) , a erudite scholar, grammarian and philosopher who is said to have lived at a place , then called as Śṛṅgaverapura , in the upper region of the Ganga, near Vārāṇasī. He is described as the grandson of the famous Grammarian, Bhaṭṭoji Dīkṣita (late 16th–17th century), author of the Siddhānta-Kaumudī – a celebrated commentary on the Ashtadhyayi of Panini. His text re-arranges the Sūtras of Pāṇini under appropriate heads; and, renders it easier to follow. The work was later edited in three (madhya, laghu and Sara) abridged versions (Laghu-kaumudi) by his student Varadarāja, reducing the number of rules to 723 (from 3,959 of Pāṇini).
The other is the Guptavati (implying the hidden knowledge or path), an authoritative commentary on the Devi Mahatmya, by Bhāskararāya Makhin (1690–1785-?), (Bhasuranantha Natha), son of Konnamamba and Gambhiraraya of Vishvamitra gotra, an encyclopaedic author (of about 52 works on a wide range of subjects); well versed in Vedic and Tantric traditions; the celebrated authority on the philosophy and practice of Tantra; and, especially on the Sri Vidya Upasana. His writing is marked by refreshing directness and precision. Though his dates are rather uncertain, it is generally assumed that his writing-career lasted from the beginning of the 18th century, till about 1768.
The two scholars – Nāgoji Bhaṭṭa and Bhāskararāya – might perhaps have been contemporaries, sharing, for the most of their life, the same time-span. While Nāgoji Bhaṭṭa lived in the region of the Ganga on the North; Bhāskararāya, later in his life, settled down on the banks of the Cauvery in the South.
But, it appears that Bhaskararaya had his Upanayana in Varanasi. And, he also had his early education in Varanasi under the scholar Narasimha-dhvarin. There is also a mention of Bhaskararaya having participated in a debate conducted at Varanasi; and, also of having performed there the Soma Yajna and such other Yajnas. Further, a copy of the manuscript of Avaidika-adarśana-saṃgraha, a compendium ascribed to the great scholar Gaṅgādhara Vājapeyin, (said to be Bhaskararaya’s teacher ?) preserved in the Sarasvati Mahal Library at Tanjore, is said to have been prepared by Bhāskararāya. The copied manuscript mentions , at the end, that it was prepared by Bhaskararaya , a resident of Varanasi (likhitam etat kāśī –vāsi-Bhāskararāyeṇa).
Further, by about the closing decades of the sixteenth century, Varanasi had developed into a powerful intellectual centre, drawing into its bosom erudite scholars, jurists, Grammarians etc., learned in various disciplines; and, also those who produced voluminous innovative texts of authority (nirṇaya). Kashi, the city of lights, was the home of the Mother Annapurna, who sheltered and nurtured (annadātryāḥ) aspiring, ardent students who came to her from every part of the subcontinent, right from its southern tip at Rama-sethu to the snowy slopes of the Himalayas-(āsetubandhataṭam ā ca tuṣāraśailād), seeking knowledge and freedom from delusion (Jnana-vairagya siddhartham). It is, therefore, likely that in such an invigorating academic environment, where many scholars lived, thrived (āvasad asau vārāṇasīm ṛddhimān) and debated, the two intellectuals – Nāgoji Bhaṭṭa and Bhāskararāya – had met and interacted.
The Guptavati is said to have been completed by Bhaskararaya, in Pramoda-nama Saka Samvatsara 1797 (that is, about 1740-41 CE) , during the latter part of his life, while he was at Chidambaram. Further, Bhaskararaya has quoted in his Guptavati and Manjusha a work relating to Grammar, at least on two occasions, extracts from Nāgoji Bhaṭṭa’s commentary on the Devi Mahatmya. It would therefore, appear that Nāgoji Bhaṭṭa’s commentary was composed much earlier. And, it is also likely that Bhaskararaya might have been, slightly, the younger of the two.
Nāgoji Bhaṭṭa and Bhāskararāya were both Advaitins by tradition; and, were followers of Sri Shankaracharya Parampara, the non-dualist Advaita philosophy. And, both had enormous reverence towards the Jagadguru Sri Adi Sankaracharya.
Bhāskararāya was a firm believer in the doctrine of Advaita (Advaita siddantha); and, was also proficient in all branches of learning. But, his religious philosophy was based in the Ratna-traya-prakshika of Sri Appayya Dikshita (1520–1593), which upheld the Shiva-Shakthi combine as the Absolute. Bhāskararāya, however, was essentially a Shakta following the Kaula-sampradaya. And yet, he frequently quoted from the works of Sri Sankara; and, revered him as the very incarnation of Sri Dakshinamurti, the Universal Teacher.
Though Nāgoji Bhaṭṭa and Bhāskararāya were both Advaitins, they differed in their orientation towards the Advaita doctrine. Nāgoji Bhaṭṭa, in his commentary on the Devi Mahatmya, adopted the Vivarta Vada of the Advaita School, in order to explain the emanation of the Devi and her varied forms. And, Bhāskararāya adopted the alternate view, that of the Parinama Vada (particularly, Shakthi Parinama Vada) , to explain the myriad forms of the Devi and Her manifestation in all the existence. It is said; their commentaries on the Devi Mahatmya are recognized by these two distinct approaches.
[The relation between the cause and effect is one of the basic problems discussed among the Indian thinkers. And, in fact, the divisions among the Indian theories of causation are based on this factor.
To put it simply: There are two major theories of causation in the Indian philosophies. The one known as the A-satkarya-vada propounds that the effect exists independent of its cause. And, when something new occurs, it is distinctly different. It is a view held by the Buddhists and the Nyaya-Vaisesika School.
Against this position, the Satkarya-vada asserts that the effects pre-exist in their cause. The effect is nothing but the extension of the cause itself, albeit seen in different form and mode. An effect must be of the same nature as the cause; they have the same basis. A cloth may only be made out of yarn (not out of milk); and, curds may be made out of milk (rather than out of yarn), etc.
There are no effects without causes. Everything in nature has a cause of its own, This is the view held by the Schools of Advaita and Samkhya.
[ The Nyaya, while objecting to the theory of Satkaryavada , argued: if cause and effect are taken to be not different from each other, will it not then create self contradictory situation. Let’s say when a cloth is torn and reduced to threads, will you still keep calling it a cloth? Will those shreds serve the same purpose as the cloth? And, do you still maintain that the cloth and the torn threads are identical? Well then, according to your theory, if the cloth and the threads would mean that the same object, will it not amount to saying that the object is produced and destroyed, at the same time. Is it not absurd?
The Nyaya pointed out that one has to go by the utility or the usefulness of the object. In which case, the cause would be different from the effect. You have just seen that the cloth (effect) serves a useful purpose for a man; whereas, the threads cannot fulfil that purpose. This proves that cause and effect are two distinct entities.
Vachaspathi Misra, who argued for Samkhya, refuted the argument of the Nyaya by citing the example of a tortoise and its limbs .He said: the limbs of a tortoise appear or disappear; folding and unfolding. That does not mean the limbs are produced or destroyed by the tortoise. Similarly the pots and crowns are not different from clay or gold. It is not produced or destroyed. Actually, there is no ‘Production’ of what is non-existent; nor is there a destruction of what is existent. The nature of the Tortoise is not altered by expanding or contracting its limbs. Similarly, pots and crowns are not different from their cause clay and gold.
From the standpoint of the useful purpose of a thing he says that through threads do not serve the purpose of covering or cold, yet after combining the threads it is still possible to weave them into a cloth; and serve the same purpose.
Vachaspati Misra gives the instance of the trees and the forest. And says, their relation is similar to that of the yarn and the cloth.]
In other words: the argument, here, is that an effect either derives its essence from its cause; or, it does not. The Satkaryavada is the theory of the pre-existence of the effect in the cause; and, A-satkaryavada is the theory of the non-existence of the effect in the cause before its production.
The A-satkaryavada is divided into Arambhavada advocated by Nyaya-Vaisesika and the Mimamsa Schools; and the Patityasamutpada followed by Buddhism.
And, the main exponents of Satkaryavada were Samkhya-Yoga and Vedanta. The Jaina theory took a middle course, which is often called as Sad-Asatkaryavada.
As regards the Satkaryavada, there are again two branches: Vivartavada and Parinamavada.
(1) The Vivarta-vada regards the effect as the mere appearance (Vivarta) or a superimposition of the effect over the cause. This School argues that the ultimate reality is unchanging; and, all kinds of differences that one sees are only apparent and illusory. It is the view advocated by Kevala Advaita Vedanta followers of Sri Sankara.
The Vivarta Vada affirms that the changeless Brahman is the substratum (adhishthana), the primary cause of all existence; and, everything is pervaded by the Brahman. And, the Brahman, the Absolute, is indivisible; and, there is nothing outside Brahman. But, it says that in the relative world, the things might look diverse and distinct because of the effects of the Maya or the superimposition (Adhyasa) of the relative (vyavaharika) over the Absolute (para_marthika). Such apparent (vivarta) distinctions as one finds in the world are not real; but, are mere appearances. That is to say; the world that we know in our day-to-day experience (Vyavaharika) is only relatively real; and, it is subject to contradictions. It is only a make-believe appearance of the Absolute Reality (Paramarthika), which is infinite, beyond all distinctions and attributes (Guna). The appearance of the world as if it is distinct or real is a distortion or false apprehension of the Reality (Maya).
(2) The other, Parinamavada or Vikaravada, regards the effect as the actual transformation of the underlying cause. It believes that through a causal process, change actually occurs; and, the cause takes the shape of effect. That is to say; a cloth, in effect, is not different from its cause, the threads. This argument is advocated by Samkhya and Yoga.
The Samkhya School explains the process of evolution or unfolding of the primary cause, the Prakrti through the principle of Parinama Vada. The Tantra follows the Samkhya ideology.
A branch of the Vedanta School, which follows the Parinama Vada, is also based in the faith that an effect exists in its cause in un-manifested form before it is revealed. The effect is always related to its cause. Accordingly, the Brahman, the Ultimate reality, the substratum of all existence is the primary cause. The Universe as we experience is a transformation (Parinama) of that Brahman; and, it is real. While Brahman is the cause; the Universe, its transformation is the effect. And, the effect is as real as its cause.
According to this School, the primary cause potentially contains in it, all the effects as its Shakthi (power). At its will, the potential or the un-manifest (A-Vyakta) transforms into the manifest (Vyakta). Thus, what is called as creation is nothing but the manifestation of what was already present, in a seed-form, as un-manifest. Thus, the world, as the effect, has arisen from the supreme Reality; and, it cannot be unreal.]
Thus, both the Vivarta Vada and the Parinama Vada subscribe to the view that all finite things emanated from one infinite substance; and that substance is Brahman . That (Tat) Brahman is both the material and the efficient cause of the entire universe. And, from the Absolute point of perspective view there is nothing but Brahman; everything is Brahman. There is nothing outside the Omnipresent Brahman.
But, there is a subtle metaphysical difference between the two points of view. And, it was only during the post-Sankara period of the Advaita Vedanta that the dichotomy of the Vivarta and Parinama Vada came to fore.
Nagoji Bhatta followed the Advaita School, which asserted that all this existence is mere appearance (Vivarta) of the One as many; and, what we experience is the superimposition of the relative over the Absolute.
Bhaskararaya, also an Advaitin, had the faith that there is but one Reality. But, as a follower of the Tantra, he adopted the Parinama-Vada which saw the effect as the transformation of the cause; and, as being real. In this respect he was closer to Samkhya.
However, Bhaskararaya took a broader view. Though he was mainly a follower of the Parinamavada, from the point of view of metaphysics, Bhaskararaya had immense respect for the Kevala-advaita of Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada.
In his Varivasya Rahasya, which in its 167 slokas discusses the worship-details according to the Shakta Agamas, Bhaskararaya expresses the view that tough there might be metaphysical difference between the two Schools; it would be foolish to treat them as opposing camps. They are just two points of view of the same Reality.
In all his works, Bhaskararaya invokes the blessings of Sri Sankara with deep reverence and devotion. He points out that Sri Sankara himself does not oppose Parinamavada , as he does not reject the effects as unreal (1.4.26 and 2.1.14); but, does speaks in favour of the Parinamavada in his Brahma Sutra Bhashya (prakṛtiś ca pratijñā dṛṣṭāntā anuparodhāt: 1-4-23) and also in Saundaryalahari. (According to Bhaskararaya, Saundaryalahari is a composition of Sri Sankara**; and, Parinamavada is at the heart of it – tvayi parinatayam (35), a recourse to meditation on Saguna-brahman). Further, Bhaskararaya, in his Varivasya Rahasya, does not oppose Vivarta Vada; and, agrees with the views expressed in `Vakya Shuddhi’, a work of the Kevala-advaita School.
Thus, Bhāskararāya was endowed with a broader all-comprising vision of the Divinity. And, therefore, it might not be appropriate to pigeonhole him into a particular slot.
** sa jayati mahan prakasho yasmin druishte na druishyate kimapi |
kathamiva tasmin jnate sarvam vijnatamuchyate vede ||
Further, Bhaskararaya, as an ardent devotee of Sri Vidya, adopted the Shakthi Parinama Vada, which regards the Supreme Mother, the Shakthi as the Brahman, who transforms (Parinama) herself into manifold Universe. The Devi as Shakthi appears in her three fold appearance as Iccha (will), Kriya (action) and Jnana (knowledge). She is Tripura Sundari who is represented in her Sakara, the manifest form, as the Sri Chakra, protecting all who submit to her (sriyate sarvair iti).
The Devi is Tripureshwari, the Supreme ruler of the Universe. Here, Tripura denotes the totality (Samvit) of the Universe in its three-folds – Sthula (gross), Suksma (subtle) and Para (transcendent).
Bhaskararaya follows the dictum that any apparent diversity essentially pre-supposes an underlying unity (abedha-purvaka hi bhedah). Thus, for Bhaskararaya, the Samasti the aggregate and Vyasti the separate are essentially not different. They merely are the un-manifest (A-yaktha) and the manifest (Vyaktha) forms of the one Supreme Reality, the Devi. And, Her multiple forms should not be taken as secondary or diminished form of reality. The ultimate is ever the Ultimate.
She is the Absolute, unchanging and also evolving, at once. The Devi declares: My manifestation in creation is only another facet of my existence, which involves no duality, in the same way as waves surging up in the ocean remain the same water. Therefore, there is the faith that in whatever form a particular goddess appears, even if she is known by different names, it is in reality only her, the Supreme Śhakthi.
Bhaskararaya repeatedly asserts that all those varied forms represent the ‘true’ un-manifested ultimate reality of the Devi. All forms of the goddess are different avenues to her. He explains; such multiple manifestation of ultimate reality within the concrete and abstract realities is central to the Sri Vidya doctrine and its practice.
For instance ; in the Sri Vidya tradition, the other goddesses are regarded as the manifestations of the varied aspects of the Supreme deity , Lalitha Tripurasundari, the beneficent (soumya), extraordinarily lovely (Lalitha) Mother who rules over all the three levels of existence in the Universe.
Thus, for Bhaskararaya, rooted in the Shakta philosophy and the Srividya, all the varied forms of the Goddess are but the diverse aspects and manifestations of the same Reality, the Devi. And, he recognizes the ultimate Reality, in its integrated form (Samasti), as the Mula Prakrti, Mahālakṣhmī or Chandi or Brahman, the One who transforms into many. He cites a line from Soundarya-lahari (97) and declares that ‘the deity named Chandi is the highest Brahman’; ‘She is the Queen through whom the crown is inherited’. From the Absolute unity, Mahālakṣhmī evolves into innumerable elements of the world as we perceive it.
The quoted verse prays that one may receive Devi’s grace, have the vision of her Supreme form, achieve self-realization, and enjoy the sweetness of Supreme Brahman, which She indeed is
girāmāhurdevīṃ druhiṇa- gṛhiṇī-māgamavido / hareḥ patnīṃ padmāṃ hara-sahacarī-madritanayām ।
turīyā kāpi tvaṃ duradhi-gamaniḥ-asīma-mahimā/ mahāmāyā viśvaṃ bhramayasi parabrahma-mahiṣi ॥ 97॥
The Tantra ideology asserts that the Chandi, the Brahman, is both One and many; the universe is an emanation of that sublime principle; and it is real, not Maya. The Tantra seeks to realize that truth which is already there. And, it regards action (karma) and knowledge (jnana) as complementing each other. It believes that the best possible manner for attaining liberation (mukthi) is through the harmonious combination (samuchchaya) of knowledge (jnana) and action (karma) along with sincere dedication and devotion (Bhakti). The culmination of its practice (upasana) is the direct experience (Anubhava) of bliss (ananda) realizing one’s identity with the Supreme Goddess Mahadevi (pratyabhijna).
Though, at the outset, the Tantra adopts the duality of the Samkhya; yet, in its application , it attempts to reunite the dichotomy of the material and efficient elements. In contrast to the classical Samkhya-yoga model, in which the Yogi achieves isolation (Kevala) of Purusha, the Tantra attempts to reunite Purusha and Prakriti as Shiva and Shakthi. Here, the Shakthi is the Supreme Reality. She is One and many; pervading the universe in and out. Thus Tantra recognizes (pratyabhijna) the unity of the creator and the creation. That relation is symbolically represented by Sri Yantra.
The entire concept seems to follow a certain pattern: of One (Brahman); two (Shiva and Shakthi); three (Sat, chit and ananda); and four (when all the three are absorbed in the fourth; which is reuniting of the individual adept and the Absolute). A similar pattern is laid out in Mandukya Upanishad where the three levels of consciousness culminate in the fourth, the Turiya. Similarly, the three levels of speech (Pashyanti, Madhyamā and Vaikhari) dissolve into the fourth state of the transcendent Para (Sabda Brahman)/
Chaṇḍī or Chaṇḍīka is the name by which the Supreme Goddess is referred to in Devi Mahatmya. Bhaskararaya, in his Guptavati, the commentary on the Devi Mahatmya, asserts that Devi as Chandika is indeed the Brahman, the Supreme non-dual reality. She is Samvit, the pure intelligence, which is self-luminous (Prakasha); and, is unaffected by the limitations of time, space and causality (Desha, Kaala, Karana). She is also Vimarsa, the unrestrained (Svatantrya) power of action (Shakthi). The relation between these two principles is said to be like that of the lamp and its light; the knower and the known. Vimarsa is explained as the principle of ‘illumination’ (Prakasha) becoming aware of its own self (Ahamta).
The two aspects (Prakasha and Vimarsa) – Shiva and Shakthi – constitute one integral whole – the Para-Samvit, the Supreme essence of all existence, represented by Bindu, the dimensionless point. The Devi, Maha Tripura Sundari, as Samvitti (pure conscious energy), is symbolized by Bindu, in the ninth enclosure (Bindu-chakra Avarana or Sarva-ananda-maya chakra), at the heart of the Sri Chakra.
[The Bindu at the heart of the Sri Chakra is technically described in terms of three elements or qualities: Nada, Bindu and Kala. Here, Nada refers to the sound in its primordial sense, which is the un-articulated essence which precedes the three subsequent levels of speech- (Pashyanti, Madhyamā and Vaikhari). Nada is the supreme Para Vac, equated with the latent Sabda Brahman, which is the substratum of all sound-principles manifest in the universe.
As regards the Bindu, it is used in a variety of contexts, to indicate different types of forms and properties. When Bindu is mentioned in the context of the Nada, it generally, indicates the permanent or the static element that underlies the emerging form of sound. It is the basis for expansion (prapancha) that assumes the physical shape of sounds and the Beejaksharas of the Sri Chakra.
Kala is the third aspect of the Bindu at the centre of the Sri Chakra. It indicates the inherent capacity of the One to assume many forms.]
Bhaskararaya attempts to reconcile and harmonize various viewpoints of Kevala Advaita; Parinamavada; Samkhya-Yoga; Tantra; and, Beda-abedha of Bhaskara, the Vedantin. The doctrine of Difference in identity (avikara-parinama-vada) believes that the creation, as it were, is the transformation (Parinama) of the Absolute Brahman; and again, the Absolute is both identical and different from the diverse universe (Bedha-abedha). Brahman is identical with the diverse manifest world, because it is both the material and efficient cause. And, it is different in as much as the world (prapancha), essentially, is the transformation of One into many.
In his Guptavati, Bhaskararaya brings together the dualism of the Samkhya with the non-dualism of the Advaita, by regarding the Devi as Prakrti and the Ultimate Reality which transforms into all this existence. The Goddess transcends dualism. The Guptavati teaches that the Goddess is at once, one and many. Everything is made of her; She is present in every particle; and, yet she is only one. Bhāskararāya writes of the Supreme divine – both as beyond this world, and also as manifest within it as a deity and the energy that propels it.
The Devi declares
I am of the nature of Brahman. From me this Universe, both void and non-void, is generated in form of Prakrti and Purusha.
Sabvarit Aham Brahma-svarupini / mattah prakrti-purusha-atmakanam jagat / sunyam ca sunyam //
I am both bliss and non-bliss. I am knowledge and non-knowledge. I am Brahma and non-Brahma. The five primordial principles and non-principles is myself. I am the whole perceived Universe.
Aham ananda-anandau / Aham vijnana- avijnanau / Aham Brama-abrahmani viditavye / Aham pancha –bhuta-anya-panchabhutani / Aham Akhilam jagat //
I am Veda (knowledge about Brahma) and non-knowledge. I am learning and ignorance. I am unborn and also born. I am up, down and in the middle.
vedo ̕hamavedo ̕ham। vidyā aham avidyāham। ajāham anajāham । adhaścord hvaṃ ca tiryakcāham ॥4॥
The secret teaching (Guptavati) of the Devi Mahatmya is that the Goddess pervades everything that exists; be it good or bad. Because the reality is veiled by Māyā, we tend to perceive things as opposites: good and evil; sacred and profane; etc. But, the Truth is that there is no real duality – everything is Her.
Bhāskararāya, an Advaitin and also a Tantra Sadhaka, fuses the dualist representation with the monist principle. He asserts that the absolute reality of the universe Brahman, as Mahālakṣhmī, evolves into many. He asserts that the Absolute Mahālakṣhmī can take the nature of Chaṇḍikā, as Chaṇḍikā-Mahālakṣhmī.
The Devi Mahatmya adores Mahālakṣhmī as Devi in her universal form as Shakthi, in highly abstract philosophical terms. She is the primordial energy (Prakrti), the primary cause (sarva-sadhya). She is both devoid of form (nirakara) and filled with forms (sakara). She is beyond all forms and Gunas, but, assumes varied forms to create and operate the world. The Devi is Lakshya-alakshya-svarupini, the one with and also the one without the attributes. She is at once, immanent and transcendent. She is the form of the formless (Sunyasya-akara). She is both manifest (jadathmika) and un-manifest (Arupa). She is the essence of all things (Sarvamayi; Sarva sattva mayi). She creates and governs all existence (Isvari), and is known by various names (nana-abhidana-brut). She is the Mother of the worlds (Jagadamba) and sustains the worlds (Jagad-dhatri). The universe is her sphere of activity (nityaiva sā jaganmūrtistayā sarvamidaṃ tatam). Everything in the universe is a minute expression her inscrutable power (Yoga Maya). She is the ultimate goal of yoga.
Thus, in the Devi Mahatmya, Mahālakṣhmī is the primordial aggregate energy (Samasti) manifesting in distinct terms (Vyasti) as Maha-Sarasvathi, Mahālakṣhmī and Maha-Kali.
According to Bhaskararaya, Chaṇḍikā-Mahālakṣhmī, the Absolute principle, verily, is devoid of form (nirakara); not ordinarily perceptible (alakshya); and , without attributes (nirguna) ; yet, she is characterized by the three Gunas (triguna); and , she pervades through her three representations (avatars).
Bhāskararāya explains: the Absolute, Mahālakṣhmī, can take the nature of Chaṇḍikā. And, the Chaṇḍikā – Mahālakṣhmī, the primordial energy, the Turiya (the highest or the fourth), assumes those three distinct forms. And, each is identified with a Guna (tendency): Mahālakṣhmī (rajas), Mahākālī (tamas) and Mahāsarasvatī (sattva). And, She appears as three aspects of existence as Sat-Chit-Ananda, the reality, consciousness and experience. Although they are represented as three distinct images, they are virtually one (a-bhinna); and, this is true not only for the three Goddesses, but also for all other forms of the Maha Devi, the Supreme Goddess.
In the Sri Vidya tradition, the Bija (seed) Mantra Hrim, equivalent to the Pranava Om, represents the Supreme reality, the Great Goddess. It is said; just as the tree, the flowers, and the fruit, emerge from the seed, so also do the three different aspects of the Devi-namely; Mahākālī, Mahālakṣhmī, and Mahāsarasvatī – emerge from the Maha Bija mantra , Hrim.
According to Bhāskararāya, at one level, Mahālakṣhmī is the highest Brahman. On the second level, Mahālakṣhmī is the deity Chaṇḍikā manifesting the Guṇas. Then, on the third level, there is a Mahālakṣhmī as one of the three aggregate forms (i.e. one of the Guṇas).
As Sat, Mahālakṣhmī is the power of coordination (sandhini). She is Vama, the left aspect, who is the power of action (kriya) that is causation. She is Lakshmi goddess of plenty, and fortune.
As Chit Mahālakṣhmī is the power of understanding (samvit). She is the power of will (iccha), and of the flow knowledge. She is Sarasvathi, the goddess of learning.
As Ananda, Mahālakṣhmī is the power of delight (ahladini-shakthi). She is the fierce (Raudri). She is the power of cognition, of realization, of transcendent knowledge; and the destroyer of illusions. She is also Durga, the one beyond reach.
The Creation arises from Her triple form of Shakthi; the trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra took shape to create, preserve and dissolve the universe.
In the next part we shall talk of the mantra aspect, with particular reference to the Devi Mahatmya and the Navarna mantra.
The part Two
Sources and References
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