In My Meditation Today: I noticed how a part of me was forever seeking validation from the outside – constantly seeking assurances from everyone that I was ok – that I was worthy of being loved and admired. I decided to turn that search for validation inward and validate myself every time I noticed myself looking outward. I am more than OK; I am an amazing human being who deserves to be loved and cherished. Most importantly – I validate myself.
The Grand Story of the Divine Mother is told in three parts. Each part describes a battle between good and evil. The forces of good and evil are interpreted as external to us. However, a more useful interpretation is that it represents the battle between my basest instincts and my highest potential. The battles are bloody and gory because the fight to live, always expressing your highest potential, is brutal, ugly, and metaphorically bloody and gory.
Chapter 5. The Devas find themselves in a familiar situation in the fifth chapter of the Grand Story of the Divine Mother. The demons Shumbha and Nishumbha and their armies have taken over their kingdoms and driven the demi-gods out. Dispossessed and desperate, the Gods remembered the Divine Mother’s promise to respond to a request for help. They traveled to the foothills of the Himalayas to pray to her.
The hymn that follows is one of the most significant sections of the myth for me. It is the most explicit description of the presence of the Devi in all that we see and experience in the world.
“Ohh Devi, who exists in every living being as sleep and awareness; hunger and thirst; shadow and light; abundance and misery; intelligence and the confusion that causes errors; power and humility.
Our bodies bow to you; our minds bow to you; our soul bows to you.
You are everything that is manifest physically, emotionally, and spiritually .”
As the Devas finish praising her, Durga, in all her Glory, emerges out of the body of Parvati & says – they are praising me & I will kill Shumbha & Nishumbha. Then this supremely beautiful feminine form waits in the foothills of the Himalayas, calm & at peace, swinging on a beautiful swing & waiting for Shumbha & Nishumbha’s generals to come & start the fight that signals their downfall.
Her radiance and beauty are irresistible, and Chanda & Munda – Shumbha & Nishumbha’s servants who are passing by are dazzled by her beauty. They tell their Masters about this most beautiful example of womanhood and urge Shumbha and Nishumbha to add her to their collection of superlative objects.
Intrigued by the description of this unsurpassed beauty, the demon kings send a messenger to invite Devi to their kingdom to marry one of them.
Sugriva, the messenger, approaches the Devi. He starts with a description of his Master’s wealth and prowess and ends his message with the invitation from Shumbha to marry one of the kings.
Devi responds, “ Everything you say about Shumbha and his brother is true, but I am afraid I cannot accept the invitation yet. You see, in my youthful foolishness, I promised that I would only marry the man who defeats me in battle. So they must face me in battle before I can marry Shumbha or Nishumbha.
Astounded by the temerity of a “mere woman” challenging his masters to battle, let alone suggesting that they might lose to her, Sugriva threatens to drag Devi off by her hair. Unperturbed, Devi reiterates the fact that she cannot break her vow. Anyone who wants to marry her must defeat her in battle. The chapter ends with Sugriva stomping off in a rage after uttering several threats to Devi.
I LOVE this part of the myth at so many levels.
In the first place, there is the reiteration of the truth that the Divine Mother manifests as all our experiences. There is thus no experience or emotion in life that is to be pushed away or rejected as inferior or bad,
Then, there is a clear demonstration of the objectification of women in Chanda & Munda’s description of the most beautiful woman in the three worlds.
Finally, there is the perfect response to the objectification in the delicious conversation between Sugriva & Devi – an excellent example of a woman who is so confident about her worth and herself that she has no qualms in clearly stating the price for winning her over.
This depiction of a female protagonist is one of the many reasons I fell in love with the Grand Story of the Divine Mother. In many ways, it is the complete antithesis of the myths that most young Indian girls grow up hearing and being encouraged to emulate.
Seeta, the heroine in Ramayana – the mythological character most often cited as the role model for a Hindu wife, is shy, docile, needy, and completely powerless. Her biggest virtue is her chastity and loyalty to her husband. She is a safe and non-threatening role model. Even though she is an incarnation of the Goddess Lakshmi, she is never depicted as a woman who wields the power of the Goddess.
It is a small wonder that Seeta is held up in Hindu households as the ideal wife. It is a model that will not upset the status quo and allow the patriarchy to go unchecked.
On the other hand, the heroine of this myth is powerful, purposeful, and focused. Devi knows her value; she understands her power; she is clear about her purpose and never wavers from it. She does not look to the outside world for validation; she does not need it; she is complete in herself.
After years of unconsciously seeking to be a Seeta, I know I am well on the way to becoming a Durga when I begin to understand that I am amazing and deserve not only to be loved but to be cherished. It is especially clear when I know I do not need anyone else to do it for me.
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