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Worship of God as Divine Mother  4, 5, and 6


“To realise God is the one goal of life. At last you will come to know that God alone is real and all else is illusory, and that the goal of life is the attainment of God... The vision of God is the only goal of human life”.

Sri Ramakrishna worshipped God as Mother. He said that for the present age the best relationship we can establish with God is to look upon Him as one’s own Mother.


There is a remarkable incident in the life of Swami Brahmanandaji. Once, while Maharaj (Swami Brahmananda) was visiting Holy Mother, a woman disciple of Sri Ramakrishna said to him: "Rakhal, Mother wanted to know from you why a spiritual aspirant must worship the Divine Mother first." Maharaj answered: "Mother has the key to the knowledge of Brahman. Unless she shows her grace and opens the door, no one can enter into the realm of Brahman."


Sri Ramakrishna also said emphatically that no one can realise God without the grace of the Divine Mother. From the very outset of his life Sri Ramakrishna totally surrendered himself at the feet of the Divine Mother. And out of Her infinite grace She revealed everything to Her beloved child. Says Sri Ramakrishna: ‘I wept before the Mother and prayed. “O Mother, please reveal to me what the yogis have realised through yoga and the jnanis through discrimination.” And the Mother has revealed everything to me. She reveals everything if the devotee cries to Her with a yearning heart. She has shown me everything that is in the Vedas, the Vedanta, the Puranas, and the Tantra.”

‘However much you may discriminate and draw logical conclusions, it would be of no avail. One must propitiate the Divine Mother, the Primal Energy, in order to obtain God's grace... One must take refuge in the Divine Mother, the Cosmic Power Itself. It is She who has bound us with the shackles of illusion. The realisation of God is possible only when those shackles are severed.'


Now the question is how to propitiate and become worthy children of the Divine Mother. Here Shaktas can guide us well. A Shakta is a follower of the teachings of Tantras and loves to worship God as Mother. The Shakta worshippers believe that God should be called Mother rather than Father.

The Shaktas made many contributions helping innumerable aspirants attain the Divine mother. They practised a social equality within the caste-ridden Hindu society of their day. They believed that the world is a creation of the Divine Mother, hence all men are equal before the Mother. They believe that the easiest form of spiritual practice is to worship the Divine Mother and merge their will into Her will.


One of their greatest contribution, however, is the doctrine of the pancha tattvas, or 'five truths.' They taught that five things are necessary in order to progress in spiritual life and attain God realisation. Without them it is impossible to realise God, and attain mukti or liberation.


The first is Guru tattva. A Guru or a teacher is indispensable, and no man can progress in spiritual life without a Guru. We need to learn spiritual disciplines from a living Guru. The belief that the Guru is God Himself, and that the teacher alone can save us is the firm faith of the Shaktas. We can take a mantra or a name of God from a book, but it will not have the same power. As Swami Vivekananda said, the Guru acts like a lamp to light other lamps. That is how power is transmitted from Guru to the disciple through a mantra.


The second is mantra tattva—the principle of the mantra. What does the Guru do? He gives the disciple the holy name of his or her chosen deity, and the disciple uses that for his/her spiritual practice. In the Tantras, the position of special importance is assigned to mantras. The deity is identical with the mantra, and the latter is the infallible means of liberation. Mantra literally signifies something which saves an aspirant from ignorance through reflection on it. Mantras form the most important item in the Tantras. The mantra is not a mere word" or symbol of expression, but is a concentrated thought of great power revealed to the Rishi (Sage) in the depths of his meditation. When a sadhaka repeats the Guru given mantra with faith and devotion the mantra becomes awakened (Chaitanya) and unites the sadhaka with the chosen deity.


The third is the manasa tattva. The devotee must make his mind pure and one-pointed. Then he should mentally identify himself with the mantra through meditation.


The fourth is devata tattva. The mantra is looked upon as completely identical with one’s chosen deity. In the case of the Shaktas, it will be the form of the Goddess.


The fifth is the dhyana tattva, the principle of meditation. According to the Tantras meditation leads one to total surrender to the Divine Mother. When the Sadhaka’s will is completely merged in the Divine will he realises his identity with the Divine and becomes liberated. All these five tattvas are present during the process of initiation. Practised sincerely each tattva leads one to the next higher tattva and ultimately makes one realise God.


The Shaktas also popularised the system of worship known as puja. This elaborate system of rituals is not only very helpful but practically indispensable for all beginners. And there are varieties of ways in which this worship of the Divine Mother can be performed. We will briefly discuss about Puja in our next editorial.



Swami Dayatmananda

from Vedanta magazine  May - June 2016



Worship of God as Divine Mother 5

Religious life starts with rituals and ceremonies which are said to be the Kindergarten of Spiritual Life. Religions without rituals stagnate and decay.
Rituals, mythology and philosophy are the three facets of religion. Rituals if performed with devotion and faith, lead to the purification of the mind, so essential for an aspirant.


In Hinduism the word for ritual worship of God is called Puja. Worship is a very effective method of communion with God. Numberless devotees worshipped God in various forms and became liberated. Sri Ramakrishna started his spiritual life with puja at the Dakshineswar Kali temple demonstrating that ritualistic worship is not only helpful but almost inevitable in the spiritual journey.


Behind every worship is a common motive—love of God. It is the nature of love to give something to the beloved. Devotees always want to offer everything to their beloved Lord. The devotee is keenly aware that he and all that he has really belongs to God. Hence the act of offering is only an expression of his gratitude and devotion. Any offering done with love and devotion mingled with Shraddha (intense faith) is worship.


For any worship to be fruitful these conditions are necessary: faith, devotion and sincerity.

1. A devotee must have intense faith. He believes that there is a loving God who accepts his worship and offering —however small it may be —and responds to his expression of love. Without this faith worship becomes mechanical and meaningless.

2. The second requirement is love. One needs to approach the Divine with an attitude of love, at the same time believing Him to be the most loving Being in the whole universe, who responds with love and without any judgement. In worship one does not so much seek from God as one is eager to express one’s love through offering of all that one has.

3. One also needs to be sincere. If we sincerely love any one then reason counts for little. This is much more true in the spiritual realm; if we are sincere our worship becomes fruitful, effective, and liberating.

Without love no offering is acceptable; with love anything is acceptable. Sri Krishna says in the Gita:


"Whoever offers me a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water with devotion, that I accept—the loving gift of the devoted"


Of course it is rare to find devotees who are totally selfless. Necessarily all of us start with some selfish desire or motive. But we should remember that God is the great purifier. Even worship done with a selfish motive, in time, leads to higher forms of worship. Gradually the devotee becomes purified, the element of selfishness disappears from the aspirant's heart and is replaced with deep devotion.

Sri Ramakrishna never condemned any form of spiritual practice. In fact he began his spiritual life with external worship but soon ascended to the highest peak of devotion. In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna tells us that the best kind of worship, however, is that in which every act of ours is offered to God. Walking, eating, talking—every action is transformed into an offering of love to the Lord.


It is a mistake to think that worship is confined to external rituals only; Puja can take many different forms. The Devi Bhagavatam says that worship is of two kinds: external and internal. The external worship is itself divided into (unostentatious, i.e., without much external paraphernalia), Rajasika (sophisticated and pompous), Swabhavika (natural) etc. (Even certain forms of Tamasic pujas are also accepted.) External or internal, every aspect of worship is of equal value. External worship is considered in the Mahanirvana Tantra as belonging to a lower category:


‘The highest spiritual discipline is the practice of Brahman- consciousness. The next is meditation. Chanting of hymns and Japa are lower disciplines, and lower than the lowest is external worship with the help of a symbol or an image.’


Hence some may think that mental worship is superior to external worship, and only the less qualified spiritual aspirants perform the external worship. This is a wrong notion.Sri Ramakrishna says: 


‘People worship God according to their tastes and temperaments. The mother cooks the same fish differently for her children, that each one may have what suits his stomach.’


Although the knowledge or attainment of Brahman is the Supreme goal, worship, upasana (Contemplation) etc. are enjoined in the scriptures as steps to the gradual attainment of the goal according to the differences in the qualification of the aspirants. Men at the first stage of spiritual development have to make use of something external, and as and when the inner self becomes gradually purified they turn to more abstract conceptions.


The impurity of the aspirant’s mind gets eliminated to the extent he progresses in worship. Peace, devotion and bliss gradually fill his heart. He then attains the real fruit of worshipping the Supreme Lord, namely, Moksha or liberation. When a Sadhaka reaches this stage no separate spiritual discipline called ‘worship’ is needed. His whole life is then converted into an unceasing worship of the Divine. He, then, perceives God only everywhere. A devotee, then, feels:


‘Whatever I do, O Lord, is nothing but Your worship.’





Swami Dayatmananda

from Vedanta magazine  July - August  2016



Worship of God as Divine Mother 6


Rituals are a part of life; even animals and insects have their own rituals. Rituals foster unity, strength and freedom. A ritual is a fine technique of transforming every action into a sacred act. Worship is a most sacred ritual. Every devotee finds worship of the Divine in any form a great help in unfolding their spiritual potential.


The aim of ritualism is to take man to God, to the Ultimate Reality, to make him liberated. A ritual or a ceremony is that which advances us toward God.
A religious ritual is a sacrament. Through the act of worship the worshipper feels himself and everything related with the worship as sacred. Such is the power of the ritual that the devotees transcend time and place and feel themselves in the presence of his/her chosen deity. The devotees of Sri Ramakrishna Feel that he/she is in the presence of Sri Ramakrishna or Holy Mother at Dakshineswar or Jayarambati; for them time stands still and they feel that God is graciously accepting their whole-hearted puja and blessing them. Each place of worship is filled with purity and becomes Holy. Whenever devotees enter into such a place of worship they feel uplifted with spiritual feelings. That is why worship is given such a high place in every religion.

What does a ritual do? It:


*Gives a structure.
*Binds people together.
*Creates a holy atmosphere.
*Transforms Samskaras (past impressions), character, consciousness (William James's discovery - Feeling follows action, and action produces feeling).
*Helps one to cross time, space etc, and become eternal.


Puja-Rituals help a devotee in several ways:


*They help in attaining focus and concentration.
*A restless mind, usually, is seen flitting from one thought to another. But in a ritual the restlessness becomes centred around one idea, or one aspect of God, thus gradually paving the way to meditation.
*A steady practice of ritual gradually helps the devotee develop a strong feeling of devotion towards the deity, finally culminating in total surrender to Him.
*It also fosters a strong relationship with God and brings him closer to Him.
*A ritual gradually strengthens the will and transforms the life of a devotee. He/she slowly becomes free from distractions and worldly dependencies.
*A ritual gradually purifies the heart so that the Divine may manifest there in all Its glory.
*One of the main functions of a Puja-ritual is ego-reduction. It is the ego that stands between God and the devotee. With the reduction of the ego God’s grace flows uninterruptedly.
*The joy that a devotee derives from a worship-ritual draws him/her nearer to God.
*Finally it leads one to the direct vision of God called Sakshatkara.


There are many people who think that worship-ritual is the lowest form of spiritual practice, and it should be given up after some time. But Sri Ramakrishna, the Supreme master of the spiritual realm debunks this idea. He says: “What is wrong with image worship? The Vedanta says that Brahman manifests itself where there is existence, light and love. Therefore nothing exists but Brahman. ”Without having realised God one cannot give up rituals altogether. How long should one practice Sandhya and other forms of ritualistic worship? As long as one does not shed tears of joy at the name of God and feel a thrill in one’s body. You will know that your ritualistic worship has come to an end when your eyes become filled with tears as you repeat ‘Om Rama’.”


One can give up such rituals as puja only after the realisation of God. Sri Ramakrishna says : “Formal worship drops away after the vision of God. It was thus that my worship in the temple came to an end. I used to worship the deity in the Kali temple. It was suddenly revealed to me that everything is Pure Spirit. The utensils of worship, the altar, the door frame all Pure Spirit. Man, animals and other beings all Pure Spirit. Then like a man I began to shower flowers in all directions. Whatever I saw I worshipped. One day while worshipping Siva, I was about to offer a bel leaf on the head of the image when it was revealed to me that this Virat itself is Siva. After that my worship of Siva through an image came to end”.


There are many saints who continue worshipping God even after realising Him. They worship Him for their own enjoyment as well as for the benefit of others. 


Every puja-ritual contains at least 4 main elements: 


a) Preparation
b) Purification
c) Dedication
d) Unification


In the next editorial we will outline the actual puja-ritual.



Swami Dayatmananda

from Vedanta magazine September - October 2016