Devi Worship — 1949
Sri Swami Sivananda
This article is a chapter from the book The Devi Mahatmya.
Sarvamangala Mangalye Sive Sarvarthasadhike,
Saranye Tryambake Devi Narayani Namostute
O Narayani, Devi, the Three-eyed, the Refuge, the Auspicious, the Bestower of all wishes, the Blessedness that is in all that is blessed! Prostration be to Thee!
Devi is synonymous with Shakti or the Divine Power that manifests, sustains and transforms the universe as the one unifying Force of Existence. In fact, worship of Devi is not sectarian, it does of belong to any cult, as it is commonly mistaken to be. Devi is not what is set in apposition to Vishnu or Siva, as the common populace understands. By Devi or Shakti we mean the presupposition of all forms of existential power, the power of knowledge of omniscience; omnipotence is power! These powers are the glorious attributes of God,—you may call Him Vishnu or Siva or as you like. In other words, Shakti is the very possibility of the Absolute’s appearing as many, of God’s causing this universe. God creates this world through Srishti-Shakti (creative power), preserves through Sthiti-Shakti (preservative power), destroys through Samhara-Shakti (destructive power). Shakti and Shakta are one; the power and the one who possesses the power cannot be separated; God and Shakti are like fire and heat of fire.
Devi-worship or Shakti-worship is, therefore, worship of God’s glory, of God’s greatness and supremacy. It is adoration of the Almighty! It is unfortunate that Devi is understood as a mere bloodthirsty “Hindu-Goddess”—no, Devi is not the property of the Hindu alone, Devi does not belong to any religion,—not only so much, Devi is not differentiated from the Deva by sexual factors, Devi is the Conscious Power of the Deva! Let this not be forgotten. The words Devi, Shakti etc., and the ideas of the different forms connected with these names are concessions given to the limitations of human knowledge; they are not ultimate definitions of Shakti! The original Shakti is beyond human comprehension; Bhagavan Krishna says (in the Gita), “This is only my lower Nature (Shakti) beyond this is my higher Nature (the Original Shakti), the life-principle which sustains this universe.” The Upanishad says, “The Para-Shakti (Supreme Power) of this God is heard of in varieties of ways, this power is the nature (of God), manifesting as knowledge, strength and activity.” Truly speaking, all beings of the universe are Shakti worshippers, for there is none who does not love and long for power in some form or other. Physicists and scientists have proved now that everything is pure imperishable energy. This energy is only a form of Divine Shakti which exists in every form of existence.
Since Shakti cannot be worshipped in its essential nature, it is worshipped as conceived of in its manifestations, viz., creation, preservation and destruction. Shakti in relation to these three functions is Saraswati, Lakshmi and Kaali. These, as is evident, are not three distinct Devis, but the One formless Devi worshipped in three forms. The Devas corresponding to these are Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, who, in the same way, are not three Devas, but the forms of the One Supreme Deva who is formless. Navaratri is the festive occasion of the “nine-nights” worship of Mahakaali, Mahalakshmi, Mahasaraswati, the Divinity of the universe adored in three ways.
Saraswati is cosmic intelligence, cosmic consciousness, cosmic knowledge. Worship of Saraswati is necessary for Buddhi-Shuddhi Viveka-Udaya, Vichara-Shakti, for Jnana or Self-Illumination. Lakshmi does not mean mere material wealth like gold, cattle, etc. All kinds of prosperity, glory, magnificence, joy, exaltation or greatness come under Lakshmi. Appaya Dikshita calls even final Liberation as “Moksha-Samrajya-Lakshmi”. Hence worship of Lakshmi means the worship of the central purpose of existence itself. Mahakaali is the transformative power of Divinity, the power that dissolves multiplicity in unity. The worship of Devi is, therefore, the explanation of the entire process of spiritual Sadhana in all its aspects.
During Navaratri, observe strict Anushthana and purify your inner nature. This is the most auspicious time in the year for Mother-worship. Read Saptashati or Deveemahatmya, Lalitasahasranama. Do Japa of the Mantra of Devi. Perform formal worship with purity and sincerity and devotion. Cry for Darshana of Devi. The Divine Mother will bless yon with the Knowledge, the peace and the joy that know no end!
May the Divine Devi, the Mother, bless you all!