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Durga Sapta Shlokee and Devi Mahatmyam

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Table of Contents
No. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Topic Durga Sapta Shlokee (Sanskrit and English transliteration) Discussion of first verse The killing of Madhu and KaiThabha The killing of Mahishaasura The hymns in chapters 4 and 5 of Devi Mahatmyam The killing of Shumbha and Nishumbha Aparaadha Kshama Stotram Esoteric Significance of Devi Mahatmyam Body, Mind and Intellect (Suratha, Samadhi, and Medhas) Conquest of Tamo guna (mode of ignorance) Madhu-kaiThabha Conquest of Rajo guna (mode of passion) Mahishaasura Conquest of Satva guna (mode of goodness) Shumbha-Nishumbha Page No. 3 9 11 14 20 25 31 32 32 35 39 46

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Deity at the Shri Durga Temple 4215 E. McNichols Rd, Detroit, Michigan, USA 48212,

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Dear All: The Durga Sapta Shlokee refers to seven slokas taken from the Devi Mahatmyam. Navarathri begins next week (Monday Oct 15, 2012) and our ladies are already gearing up for their annual celebrations! I have complied the Durga Sapta Slokee again, which contains seven important slokas that are believed to summarize the entire Devi Mahatmyam (see here). Like the Bhagavad Gita, the Devi Mahatmyam also has 700 slokas and the Sapta (seven) shlokee has seven from this 700. The slokas are given first and a brief explanation is provided for each slokaa in the rest of the article, with reference to the Devi Mahatmyam story. Also, included below is an earlier email which provides the links for the seven slokas (click here). Very sincerely V. Laxmanan October 13, 2012. ****************************************************************** Dear All: Here are some links for Durga Sapta shloki (seven slokas) that we recited on the first day of Navarathri. These 7 slokas summarize the entire Devi Mahatmyam and are taken from chapters 1, 4, and 11. With the exception of the first sloka, the remaining
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summarize the prayers offered by the devas after Devi kills various demons. The 1st sloka is from the conversation between sage Medhas and the king and the merchant, who came to the sages ashram and started enquiring about the reason for their mental afflictions (see earlier emails). English version Sanskrit text along with discussion in Marathi This link has the slokas in Tamil script. Please note that these texts do NOT include the sloka Medhasi Devi Vidhitaakhila Shastra saara.. It is included here since it alludes to the killing of Madhu and Kattaibha (see Devi Mahatmyam story). Very sincerely V. Laxmanan Oct 9, 2010 ********************************************************************** The reader is also referred to the following sources for translations and commentaries. 1. Swami Jagdishwarananda, Printed Book 2. Commentary by Dr. Satya Prakash Choudhary on entire DM, disciple of Swami Sacchidananda. The esoteric significance of DM is discussed in full detail and the text concludes with the Durga Sapta Shlokee (click here). 3. Esoteric significance by Swami Krishnananda (click here). 4. Devi Mahatmyam verses in different languages. 5. Sanskrit text compiled by K. Muralidharan with brief commentaries.

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MARKANDEYA PURANA Shri Durga Sapta Shloki Sanskrit text, with English transliteration and meaning. Sanskrit text English transliteration with meaning (given below). 0/mode/1up Tamil script text Om Asya Shree Durga Sapta shlokee maalaa mahaamantrasya l NaaraayaNa rishih l Anushtubhaadeeni candamsi l Shree Durga Lakshmee Saraswatee devataa l Aim bheejam l Kleem shaktihee l Hreem keelakam l Shree Durga Lakshmi Saraswatee preetyarthe jape viniyogahaa ll Om Jnaaninaamapi chetaamsi Devi Bhagavati hi sa, Baladaakrushya mohaaya Mahamaya prayacchati/ Bhagavati Mahamaya! You pull the minds of even Gyaanis with force towards obsession! Om Durgey smritaa harasi bheeti masesha jantoh, Swasthaih smrutaa mati mateeva shubhaam dadaasi/ Daaridrya duhkha bhaya haarini ka twadanya, Sarvopakaara karanaaya sadaardra Chitta/ (Devi Durga! A mere thought of Yours demolishes fright among Praanis or Beings, while You provide auspiciousness in response to the meditation by sensible humans) (Who else is there but You that is readily prepared with extreme benevolence to ward off our sorrows, fears and adversities?) Om Sarva Mangala Maangalyey Shivey sarvaartha saadhikey, Sharanyey Tryambikey Devi! Narayani Namostuthey/ (Devi! Narayani! You are the embodiment and Provider of Auspiciousness to one and all; You are Shiva Swarupa or the Form of Propitiousness fulfilling all our wishes; You are Traimbika or the composite personification of Lakshmi, Saraswati and Parvati; We seek shelter from You, as we bend down and greet!)
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Om Sharanaagata deenaarta paritraana parayaney, Sarvasyaarti harey Devi! Narayani Namostutey/ (Our greetings to You Narayani! Devi! We seek refuge and safety from You as we are helpless and harassed). Om Sarva Swarupey Sarvesey Sarva Shakti samanvitey, Bhayebhyastraahi no Devi! Durga Devi Namostutey/ (Devi! You are the all-comprehensive Form, the Supreme Sovereign, and the lPowerful; kindly shield us from diverse types of fears and apprehensions; our earnest salutations to You, Durga Devi!) Om rogaanaseshaan apahamsi tushTaa, RushTaa tu kaamaan sakasaan abhishThaan/ Twam ashritaanaam na vipan naraaNaam, Twam ashritaah hyashrayataam prayaanti / (As You assume compassion, all our diseases disappear; but if indignant, all our wishes get to nought) (Those who have already taken asylum from You would never face difficulties any way; on the other hand, such persons saved by You could as well provide protection to others too in their turn!) Om Sarva baadhaa prashamanam Trailokasya Akhileshwari, Evameva twayaa kaaryam asmadvairi vinaashanam/ (Sarveswari! Do continue to alleviate the tribulations of one and all among the Three Lokas and destroy the enemy elements everywhere). Ya yetat paramam guhyam Sarva Rakshaa vishaaradam, Devya sambhaashitam Stotram sadaa Saamraajya daayakam/ Shrunuyaadwaa pathedwaapi paathayeydwaapi yatnatah, Parivaara yutho Bhuutwaa Trailokya Vijayeebhavet! This Sapta Shloki is at once striking yet classified but bestowing protection; this is a Sacred Hymn related to the Supreme Mother yielding immense benefits including Samraajya or Empires! Hearing, reading or narrating the Sapta Shloki with sincere efforts along with family and friends would secure accomplishments in all the Three Lokas.
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Discussion of The Durga Sapta Shlokee

The Sanskrit text of the seven slokas of Durga Saptasloki may be found on page 123 of this link click here. ( ) Jnaaninaam api cetaamsi Devee bhagavtee hi saa l Balaat aakrushya mohaayaa Mahaamaaayaa prayacchati ll 1.55 ll DM

Devi Mahatmyam (hereafter, just DM) is presented to us a conversation between the sage Markandeya and his disciple. Chapter 1, which begins with the sloka, SaavarNih soorya tanayO yO manuh kathyate ashTamah presents the story of a king Suratha who later became the eighth Manu. We are now in the reign of the seventh Manu so one can wonder about how Markandeya is already talking about the eighth Manu. Let us not get into that now. King Suratha lost his kingdom after being attacked by powerful enemies. His own evil minister looted the treasury. The king was forced to flee the kingdom and left riding his horse and came to a dense forest, pretending that he was out hunting. There in the forest, he saw the hermitage of a great rishi named Medhas. He spent some time there but his thoughts went back to his kingdom and how things might be there in his absence and felt greatly saddened. While in this depressed mood wandering around, he met a Vaishya (merchant), close to the hermitage. They started talking (verse 19). The Vaishya said, My name is Samaadhi. I was born in a very wealthy family. But, my evil wife and sons, who were too greedy, usurped all my wealth and have thrown me out and now I am wondering in this forest. Yet, I keep thinking about the welfare of my sons and my wife and feel very depressed. The king asked him, Why do you feel so attached to your family who has rejected you? The merchant said, O king, I do not understand it myself. My mind should be
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hardened and filled with hatred for them. But, I am not. The king and the merchant both decided to approach the sage Medhas and ask him for advice and relief from their mutual dejection. The above sloka appears in the section where the sage Medhas is talking to the king and the vaishya. The sage tells them that it is the power of Mahamayaa that deludes even the wisest and traps them in such attachment. The above verse is translated fully as follows. She is the Bhagavati. She is the Devi. She is Mahaamaayaa. She forcibly draws even the minds (cetaamsi) of the great jnanees (wisest jnaninaam, api even) and throws them into delusion. This Mahamaayaa is the Yoganidra of Lord MahavishNu, the Jagapati, the Lord of the Universe. She creates this whole Universe, the movable and the immovable (Tayaa visrujyate vishwam jagat etat caraacaram). When She is pleased, She is the booner giver and bestows Mukti (liberation) upon humans. She is the Supreme knowledge, the cause for liberation, the cause for bondage, the cause for transmigration of souls. She is the Sarveshwari. The two slokas that follow the above, which contain the above message are as follows. Tayaa visrujyate vishwam jagat etat caraacaram l Saishaa prasanna varadaa nruNaam bhavati muktaye ll 1.56 ll DM Saa vidyaa saa paramaa mukter-hetu-bhootaa Sanaatanee l Samsaara bandha hetush ca saiva Sarveshwareshwaree ll 1.57 ll DM Thereupon the king and the vaishya both ask the sage to tell them about the glories of Mahaamaayaa. We will continue the story in the next email and hope I am blessed and we are all blessed to continue this narration. Very sincerely V. Laxmanan October 13, 2012 ******************************************************************
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The killing of Madhu and KaiTabha

Dear All: We will now continue the story as told by the sage Medhas. The king and the merchant were filled with wonder when the sage told them about Mahamaayaa and Her power of deluding even the greatest of the jnanees. They wanted to know everything about Mahaamaayaa. The sage continued. She is Eternal. She is Jagan-moorti. Everything has sprung from Her. Yet, when She manifests Herself, to fulfill some tasks for the celestials (deva kaarya siddhyartham, verse 66, chapter 1), we consider Her to be born. At the end of the kalpa, when Lord Vishnu was lying on His snake-bed Adishesha, and the whole Universe was completely filled with the waters of the pralaya, two demons named Madhu and KaiTabha, rose from the dirt in MahavishNus ear (VishNu-karNamalOdbhootau, verse 68). They both rushed to kill Lord Brahma who was seated on the lotus attached to the navel of the Lord (also in verse 68). When Brahma saw these two demons rushing to kill him, and the Lord Janardana in His sleep, he started praying to Devi who resides in the eyes of the Lord Hari (verse 70, Harer-netra-krutaalayam). He wanted Her to awaken the Lord Acyuta quickly (verse 86) in order to kill the two demons. Praised and prayed to in this way, Mahamaya withdrew Herself from the eyes, nostrils, arms, heart, and chest of the Lord, and appeared before Brahma. The Lord woke up immediately and saw the two demons, their eyes red with anger, attacking Brahma and engaged them in a wrestling match with His mighty arms. This lasted for 5000 years (verse 93) after which the two haughty demons told the Lord to ask them for a boon, thinking themselves to be unvanquished. They were deluded by Mahamaya to make this offer to the Lord who told them their time of death had arrived. That was the boon that He wanted from them to be able to kill them. The two demons laughed and, thinking highly of themselves, looked all around and found nothing but the waters

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of pralaya and granted the Lords wish. Okay, you can kill us but only in a place where there is no pralaya water. The two felt that there is no place where they can be killed since there was water, water, water, everywhere. The Lord Keshava (derived from Ka + eesha) then took them and placed them on His thighs and killed them with His Sudarshana chakra. The word Ka means Brahma and so Keshava refers to the Lord Hari as the Lord of Brahma. The word ka also means water. The corpses (shava) of the two demons thus fell into the waters of the pralaya. The rishi finished the narration of the killing of the two demons Madhu and KaiTabha. Here ends the first chapter of the Devi Mahatmyam which also tells the story of the creation of Mahamaya. The sage then tells the two (king and the merchant) that he would tell them more about Mahamaya and all that she did. Esoterically speaking (see also article by Swami Krishnananda, click here), the killing of the two demons, Madhu and KaiTabha, produced from the dirt of MahavishNus ears, represents the conquest of our tamo guna (mode of ignorance). Dirt represents tamoguna. We must first conquer this ignorance which appears in the form of kama (lust, desires), krodha (anger), lobha (greed). In the Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna in chapter 3 verse 37 and again in chapter 16, verse 21, that he must conquer these three. In chapter 3, He tells Arjuna that kama and krodha are the reasons that we engage in sinful activities (chapter 3, verse 37). We must them (like hunting down a terrorist) and kill them. So, we must know where these terrorists are located. Krishna tells Arjuna that are residing in the indriyas, the manas, and the buddhi (indriyaaNi mano buddhih asyaadhishTaanam ucyate, verse 40, chapter 3). Conquest of kama and krodha is thus possible if we conquer our indriyas (sensory organs), manas (the mind) and buddhi (the intellect). In chapter 16, He tells Arjuna that kama, krodha, and lobha are indeed the three doors that lead to hell (naraka). They will destroy us.

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Krishna also uses mohayati in chapter 3, verse 40, to describe our process of delusion. Mahamaya will help us overcome that same moham or delusion. The first step in the ultimate liberation that we all seek is the conquest of this dirt. The first three days of Navarathri are devoted to the conquest of this tamoguna by our prayers to Durgadevi. The following sloka, which describes the conquest of Madhu and KaiTabha, is found in chapter 4 of Devi Mahatmyam, verse 11. Medhaasi Devi viditaakhila shaastra saaraa Durgaasi durga-bhava-saagara-nau rasangaa l Shreeh KaiThabhaari-hrudayaika krutaadivaasaa Gauri tvameva Shashi-mauli-kruta pratishThaa ll 4.11 ll DM

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In this sloka, which is found in chapter 4, is a part of the hymn of the celestials who are extolling the praises of Devi after She has killed Mahishaasura (to be discussed in the next email). This sloka is taken up here since it refers to the killing of Madhu and KaiTbha by Lord MahavishNu, the enemy (ari), of these two demons. Devi is referred to here as Shree, who is residing in the heart (hrudaya) of the Lord. She is also referred to as Gauri, who has established Herself within Lord Shiva and adorns His head gracefully. The crescent moon on Lord Shivas head is taken as a symbolism of Devi Herself (moon faced as we call Devi). Very sincerely V. Laxmanan October 13, 2012.

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The killing of Mahishasura

Dear All: The famous Mahishasura mardini Stotram, composed by Adi Sankara, which we chant every day during Navarathri (click here and also here for Telugu and Kananada and Tamil), is actually a brief summary of the entire Devi Mahatmyam. As we saw thus far, the king Suratha, and the merchant Samadhi, who had both lost everything, the king his kingdom and the merchant all his wealth, met each other when they were wandering aimlessly in the forest. The king told the vaishya how he had been vanquished by his powerful enemies, and how his own evil minister looted his treasury. The vaishya told the king about how his evil wife and sons had usurped all of this wealth and driven him out of his home. Yet, strangely, instead of being filled with hatred, they were both thinking about their lost family and the lost kingdom and feeling depressed due to their loss and separation from their loved ones. This all seemed so strange and unnatural. So, they approached the sage Medhas and sought his advice and solace. This is the topic of chapter 1 of the Devi Mahatmyam and is also called Poorva caritam or the Prathama caritam. The sage then told them the story of Mahamaya. All the pain and suffering felt by the king and the merchant were due to Her power. She can delude even the wisest of all. When the king and the merchant wanted to know more, the sage told them the story of the appearance of Mahamaya (She is the Yoganidra of Lord MahavishNu) and the killing of the demons Madhu and KaiTabha when the Lord woke up from his sleep, at the end of the kalpa, with Brahma seated on the lotus that sprung from his navel and the waters of pralaya filling the whole Universe. Madhu and KaiTabha were produced from the dirt in the ears of VishNu and, esoterically speaking, they represent the dirt that envelopes our minds and heart our tamo guna. The conquest of tamo guna (mode of ignorance), symbolized by the killing of Madhu and KaiTabha (kama and krodha and lobha) is the first step in the path to liberation (Mukti or Moksha).

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As the story continues, the sage then describes the killing of the demon (asura) named Mahisha (buffalo). This is the subject of chapters 2 and 3 while chapters 4 and 5 describe the hymns composed by the devas (the gods, or celestials, who have been bestowed with all divine powers) in praise of Devi for the killing of the demons who were tormenting them. The story through chapter 4 is called Madhyama (middle) caritam and the last section, Uttama cairtam, begins with chapter 5 and the famous hymn to Devi, Yaa Devi sarva bhooteshu etc. where the devas praise Devi and describe how She pervades the entire Universe. Now, let us discuss, briefly, the story of Mahishaasura, from the Madhyama caritam. In the Madhyama caritam, we also pray to Devi as Mahalakshmi. She is the destroyer of Mahishaasura. The sage tells the story as follows. The devas (gods) and the asuras (demons) were engaged in a fierce battle for a full one hundred years during which the gods, led by Indra, were totally vanquished by the demon Mahishaasura who then became the Lord of the heavens and took over the position of Indra as well. The demon usurped all the powers of the devas who went and appealed to the Divine Trinity: Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma. A great light emanated from the faces of these three great divinities (chapter 2, verse 10) and fused into one. Likewise, a great light emanated from the bodies of all the other devas (gods), like Indra, Agni, Vayu, Yama, Varuna, and so on, and it together transformed into a radiant female form. At the sight of this Devi, all the devas, who were being tormented by Mahishaasura, experienced great joy. Each one of them bestowed Her with their choicest adornaments (bhooshaNam) and weapons (aayudham). The lord of wealth, Kubera, gave Her a drinking cup (suraa-bhaajanam, in the dhyaanam sloka at the beginning and paanapaatram, chapter 2, verse 30). The lord of the serpents, Adishesha, gave Her all the best jewels (snakes and serpents have jewels on their heads). The Lord of the mountains (Himvaan, Himalayas) gave Her a lion to ride on. MahavishNu gave His Sudarshana chakra and Lord Shiva gave Her the bow named Pinaka. Brahma gave Her the kamaNdalu (the water pot used by ascetics to perform poojas and japams). Armed and ready in this way, the Devi gave out a tremendous roar which terrified the hearts of the asuras. All the directions trembled, the whole universe trembled and all the waters from all the oceans were stirred by that roar. All the gods

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(devas) rejoiced at this and said, Victory to you, Jayeti, O Devi. The great rishis and sages started extolling Her (through stotrams). Mahishaasura was wonderstruck too. What is this? he said angrily and rushed to see the Devi who was pervading the whole Universe as it were. Then began a great battle between Devi and the asura clans. They struck Her with their swords which were immediately cut to pieces and ineffective. They hurled all kinds of weapons at Her and the lion that carried Devi just shook his mane and bristled them all away and the asuras trembled in fear at that sight. The breathe that emanated from the nostrils of the lion was like a blazing forest fire. The sighs of Devi, Ambika, was enough to heave batallions of hundreds upon thousands into the air. The Devi killed hundreds and thousands with Her club, spears, swords, and trident. Many were simply stupefied just by the noise of the trinklets and bells that adorned Her neck. The gods (devas) showered flowers from the heavens as they saw the valorous manner of Devis battle with the asuras. Here ends chapter 3. Then, witnessing the havoc being caused by Devi, the general of the asura army, Cikshura, came forward to fight but he was quickly defeated and killed by the Devi, who is known as Bhadrakali. Then came forward Caamara, riding on an elephant, who had tormented the devas in the earlier battle. He hurled his spear at Devi which was broken to pieces. Then the lion, on which Devi was seated sprung into action and tried to crush the elephants head, on which Camara was seated. The elephant and Camara both came crashing down and Devis lion then crushed the head of Camara with his paw. Then followed other generals all of whom were killed. Enraged at this, Mahishasura himself advanced to kill Devi and Her lion. Mahishaasura, who had the head of a buffalo (hence, Mahishaa), pounded the earth with his hooves, tossed mountains with his horns, lashed his tail, and bellowed furiously, The Devi, who is known as Chandika, flung Her noose around his neck and strangled him. Then Mahishaasura, suddenly transformed into a lion. The Devi, Ambika, cut off his head with Her sword but the demon now appeared as a man holding a sword. Devi chopped off his hands with Her arrows and then he turned into an elephant. The elephant then tugged at Devis lion and Devi cut off the elephants trunk. Then the asura resumed his Mahishaa form and started shaking up the three
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worlds. Enraged by all this Devi decided to drink Her wine again and again and laughed at Mahishaasuraa. She told him, You keep roaring you fool, while I drink My wine. I will slay you soon in a moment and all the devas will roar in joy. Devi uvaaca Garja garja kshaNam mooDha madhu yaavat pibaamyaham l Mayaa tvayi hatetraiva garjayishyantyaashu devataahaa ll 3.38 ll DM

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Thereupon, the Devi jumped off Her lion and pressed on his neck with Her foot and struck him with Her spear. (This is the famous scene depicting the killing of Mahishaasura.) The drinking of the wine prior to the slaying of Mahishaasura is supposed to signify that Devi was in the form of Mahaalakshmi at that moment (as per the dhyaanam sloka). Trampled by the force of Devis foot, the real Mahishaasura emerged from the mouth of his buffalo form and was struck by the great sword of Devi and fell to the ground. Ardha nishkraanta evaasau yudhyamaano mahaasurah l Tayaa Mahaasinaa Devyaa shirasch-chitvaa nipaatitahaa ll 3.42 ll DM And then, with the falling of Mahishaasura, the whole army of the asuras cried in consternation and perished (haa-haa krutam sarvam daitya sainyam nanaasha tat). All the gods rejoiced. The apsaras started dancing. The gandharvas started singing and the rishis started singing the praises and extolling Devi. TushTuvustaam suraa Deveem sahadivyair Maharshibhihee l Jagur-gandharva-patayO nanrutuh apsarOgaNaah ll 3.44 ll DM Thus ends chapter 3 which describes the killing of Mahishaasura. Esoterically speaking, the conquest of Mahishaasura represents the next step in our path to liberation (Mukti or Moksha). The first step is the conquest of our tamo guna (the mode of ignorance), which is like the dirt from which Madhu and KaiTabha arose. But that is not enough. Even with the conquest of ignorance, we still have to overcome many desires (see also article by Swami Krishnananda, click here). And they take
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different forms - like Mahishaasura who kept transforming from a buffalo, to a lion, to a man, to an elephant, and then back to a buffalo. When one desire is fulfilled another springs and takes it place. There is a never ending transformation and multiplication of multifarious desires. This is called Vikshepa Shakti and it rooted in called Rajo guna (the mode of passion). The mind is being continuously tossed around, like Mahishasura was tossing himself around in the battle with Devi and taking many different forms. The conquest of this rajo guna is also mentioned by Krishna in chapter 3, verse 47, of the Gita. He tells Arjuna that kama and krodha, the product of rajo guna, these impel us into sinful activities (Mahaapaapmaa). Know them to be your true enemies (viddhi enam iha vairiNam). Kaama esha krodha esha rajo guna samudbhavah l MahaashanO Mahaapaapmaa viddhyenam iha vairiNam ll 3.47 ll BG The next two chapters of Devi Mahatmyam describe the prayers and hymns offered by the grateful sages (rishis) and devas (gods) who were being tormented by Mahishaasuras domination over their realms. Chapter 5 includes the verses (from No. 9 to 82) which describes all the qualities of Devi and how She pervades the Universe, not just the physical Universe but through everything that makes us what we are with our manas, buddhi, and ahankara. Each verse goes as: Yaa Devi Sarvabhooteshu. and ends with Namas tasyai namas tasyai namas tasyai namo namahaa.

Very sincerely V. Laxmanan October 13, 2012.

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Here are some links of interest Mahishasura mardini Stotram

The Hymns in Devi Mahatmyam

Dear All: As discussed in the last email, the demon named Mahishaasura took on many different forms he was a buffalo one moment, then turned into a lion, then a man, then an elephant, and back to a buffalo in his battle with Devi, as Mahalakshmi. The Devi, who is called Chandika here, was enraged and drank the wine from her cup, again and again, and laughed at the demon.

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Tatah kruddhaa Jagan-maataa Chandikaa paanam uttamam l Papau punah punashcaiva jahaasaaruNa locanaa ll 3.34 ll DM The Devi mocked him and promised to slay him in a moment, as soon as She had finished Her drink. Then, She jumped off Her lion and stepped on Mahishaasura, pressed his neck with Her foot and struck him with Her spear. The real form of Mahishaasura was thus revealed and he appeared out of the mouth of the buffalo form. The Devi then struck his head off with Her great sword and he fell. Ardhanishkraanta evaasau yudhyamaanO mahaasurah l Tayaa Mahaasinaa Devyaa shirashchitvaa nipaatitahaaa ll 3.42 ll DM All the devas rejoiced at the killing of Mahishaasura. The gandharvas started singing, the apsaras started dancing and the great rishis and sages started extolling Her praises and singing Her glories. This is the topic of chapter 4 of the Devi Mahatmyam (DM). One of the verses from chapter 4, given below, is part of the seven slokas of Sapta shlokee. Durge smrutaa harasi bheetim ashesha jantOh Svastaih smrutaa matim ateeva shubhaam dadaasi l Daaridrya duhkhaa bhaya HariNi kaa tvadanyaa Sarvopakaara karNaaya sadaa ardra-cittaa ll 4.14 ll DM O Mother Durga, if gripped with fear, You dispel all the fears completely (ashesha) of all beings (jantu), all those who just so much as think of You. If You are thought of in a happy mood, You bestow upon them a very pious mind filled with auspicious thoughts. Who else but You can dispel miseries, poverty, and fear (or the fear and misery of poverty)? Who else is always inclined with a sympathetic heart to always help all (those who seek Your refuge)?

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ll . ll
In the following chapter 5, which begins the third section known as Uttama caritam, the sage tells the king and the merchant about the killing of the two great demons Shumbha and Nishumbha. Now Devi is thought of as Mahasaraswati, as we see from the dhyaanam sloka for this section. Poorvaam atra Saraswateem anubhaje Shumbhaadi daityaardineem ll Poorvaam means She is the original (like Aadi) cause and sustenance of this Universe. These two demons again attacked the kingdom of Indra, and took away, forcibly, all the splendor of the devas, including their yagnya bhaagas (their share of the offerings made during various yagnyas). They exercised their authority over all the devas (gods, the celestials). All of them, therefore, started meditating on Devi. They remembered that She had given them a boon. When calamities fall upon you, think of Me and I shall come to your rescue. Tayaasmaakam varo datto yathaapatsu smrutaakhilaa l Bhavataam naashayishyaami tat kshaNaat paramaapadahaa ll 5.6 ll DM And thinking thus, all the devas went to the Lord of the mountains (Himavaan, Himalayas), and there they started praying to Devi, who is VishNumaayaa. Thus, begins the famous hymn to Devi which extols all of Her qualities that we invariably chant during the Navarathri. The previous shloka from chapter 4, one of the seven shlokas of Durga sapta shlokee, says that one should remember Devi at the times of calamities. This is again being reaffirmed here. I have given the introductory shlokaas from this famous hymn (often skipped) and also a few of the hymns themselves. The full text of the hymns can be obtained from various sources. This section is also sometimes called Devi Mahatmyam since it describes all the qualities of Devi. Chapters 11 and 13 are also filled with devotional hymns and the remains shlokas of the Sapta shlokee are taken from these
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chapters. We will discuss the slaying of Shumbha and Nishumbha in the next email. Let us enjoy the Devi hymn now. Devaaah oocuhoo (this is plural of usual uvaaca, all the devas are praying) Namo devyai Mahaadevyai Shivaayai satatam namah l Namah prakrutyai Bhadraayai niyataah praNataah sma taam ll 5.9 ll Raudraayai namo nityaayai Gauryai dhaatryai namo namahaa l Jyotsnaayai ceindu-roopiNyai sukhaayai satatam namahaa ll 5.10 ll KalyaaNyai praNataa Vruddhyai Siddhyai kurmO namO namahaa l Nairutyai bhoobhrutaam Lakshmyai SharvaaNyai te namo namahaa ll 5.11 ll Durgaayai durgaparaayai saaraayai SarvakaariNyai l Khyaatyai tathaiva KrishNaayai Dhoomraayai satatam namahaa ll 5.12 ll Ati Sowmyaati Raudraayai nataas tasmai namo namaha l Namo Jagat-pratishThaayai Devyai krutyai namo namahaa ll 5.13 ll Yaa Devee sarva bhooteshu VishNumayeti samstithaa l Namas tasyai namas tasyai namas tasyai namo namhaa ll 5.14-16 ll Yaa Devee sarva bhooteshu Cetanyetyabhi-dheeyate l Namas tasyai namas tasyai namas tasyai namo namhaa ll 5.17-19 ll Yaa Devee Sarva bhooteshu Buddhi-roopeNa samstithaa l Namas tasyai namas tasyai namas tasyai namo namahaa ll 5.17-19 ll And so on all the way to verse 5.74-76 which ends the listing of all the qualities of Devi and how She pervades the Universe. The remaining verses, from 5.77 to 5.82 conclude the hymn. I have given these concluding verses below, since they are often skipped in the chanting! The remaining 18 qualities are listed below. Nidraa-roopeNa Kshudhaa-roopeNa Chaayaa-roopeNa
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Shakti-roopeNa TrushNaa-roopeNa Kshaanti-roopeNa Jaati-roopeNa Lajjaa-roopeNa Shaanti-roopeNa Shraddhaa-roopeNa Vrutti-roopeNa TushTi-roopeNa Kaanti-roopeNa Smruti-roopeNa Maatru-roopeNa Lakshmee-roopeNa Dayaa-roopeNa Bhraanti-roopeNa

IndriyaaNaam adhishTaatree bhootaanaam caakhileshu yaa l Bhooteshu statam tasyai vyaapti Devyai namo namahaa ll 5.77 ll CitiroopeNa yaa krutsnam etat vyaapya stithaa jagat l Namas tasyai namas tasyai namas tasyai namo namahaa ll 5.78-80 ll Stutaa suraih poorvam abheesTha samshrayaat Tathaa SurendraNa dineshu sevitaa l Karotu Saa nah shubha-hetur-eeshwaree Shubhaani bhadraaNi abhihantu caapadah ll 5.81 ll Yaa saampratam coddhata daitya taapitair Asmaabhir eesha ca surair namasyate l Yaa ca smurtaa tat kshNam eva hanti nahaa Sarvaapado bhakti-vinamra moortibhih ll 5.82 ll Very sincerely V. Laxmanan October 14, 2012

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The killing of Shumbha and Nishumbha

Dear All:

Yaa Devee Sarva bhooteshu VishNumaayeti shabditaa l Namas tasyai namas tasyai namas tasyai namo namhaa ll 14-16 ll

In all these verses it is important that we say Devee with the long vowel (deergham) sound, as opposed to the verses from Sapta shlokee, where the short vowel is used, as in NaraayaNi, or traahi no Devi, and Durge Devi. The short vowel is used when we are calling Devi (sambodhanam). We call Her to come and protect us. I have used ee for the long vowel and single i for the short vowel. We are calling Her when we say namos tu te so that we can get Her attention. On the other hand, the long vowel is the nominative case (prathamaa) which is used to name a person, place, animal, or thing. In the verses extolling the qualities of Devi, we are naming, or listing all the qualities. It is also interesting, that the above verse, where the listing begins, counts as three verses in the verse count. The first line is a full verse, the 1st half of the second line is one whole verse and the 2nd half of the second line is also one verse. The sage Medhas then continues telling the king and the merchant the story of Mahamayaa as follows. While the devas were thus engaged in extolling the praises of Devee, Parvatee came there to take a bath in the waters of the Holy Ganga. It should be recalled that the devas had all gathered at the Himalayas, the abode of Himavan, the lord of the mountains. Parvatee asked them, Who are you praising in this manner? and as She spoke a beautiful Goddess emerged from sheath of Her body (shareera kosha) and addressed Her. They are praising Me. They have been defeated by Shumbha and Nishumbha.
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Because this Goddes, or Ambika, came out of the shareera kosha (sheath of the body) of Parvatee, She came to be known as Kaushikee in all the worlds. And, after Kaushikee emerged from Her, Parvatee turned dark and came to be called Kalikaa and She is situated always in the Himalayas. Two servants of Shumbha and Nishumbha saw this exceedingly enchanting form of Devee (as Kaushikee) and they went to their masters and told them about Her great beauty and opulence and instigated Shumbha to take control of Her and take Her for his wife. They said, All the jewels of the world have been seized by you. Why dont you seize this gem of a woman too (Stree ratnam)? Being instigated in this way, Shumbha sent a messenger (who was named Sugreeva, not the one from Ramayana) to Devee and advised him to secure Her hand on his behalf. The messenger went to Her and praised his master Shumbhaa and told Devee that She would be very fortunate to have such a husband. After hearing this, the Devee Durga, Bhagavtee, Bhadra, by whom this Universe is being held, became very grave and serene (Gambheeraa) and smiled (Smitaa). The Devee told the messenger, He who can conquer Me in battle, He who can curb My pride, He who is equal to Me in strength in the battlefield, he can become My husband. Yo maam jayati sangraame yo may darpam vyapohati l Yo may pratibalo loke sa may bhartaa bhavishyati ll 5.120 ll And She told the messenger, Go tell your master to come here quickly and fight and defeat Me to take My hand. The messenger warned Her against this haughty attitude but She insisted and said, Let those great warriors come and defeat Me and we will take it from there. Thus ends chapter 5, one of the longest chapters. The sage continues to narrate the story of the battle now, which commences with chapter 6. The enraged messenger went back to Shumbha and conveyed the account of his encounter with the Devee. The asura king got angry and despatched one of his generals, Dhoomralocana, we will call him DL, (BTW, all these names appear in the Mahishasura mardini (MM) stotram). He saw Devee standing atop the snow-covered mountains and ordered Her to come with him or else She would dragged by Her hair and taken by force. The Devee just sent out a huge heaving sound and exhaled through
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Her nostrils (hoomkaara, Ayi nija hunkruti maatra, verse 13 in the MM Stotram, click here). That was enough to turn the asura general into ashes. DL had brought with him an army of 60,000 and they all got angered by that and hurled all their weapons at Devee. They all fell on the mane of the lion, on which Devee was seated and he just shook them off with a terrific roar and pounced on the demon warriors. The entire army was destroyed by just the lion. When Shumbha heard about this, he got infuriated and ordered Chanda and Munda, the two who come to him with word about Devee, and told them to drag Her by the hair and bring Her to him. Thus ends chapter 6 with the narration of the destruction of DL and his army. The battle with Chanda and Munda is described in chapter 7. Both Chanda and Munda went with their four-fold army (Chaturanga sainya, the game of chess is called by this same name; chariots, horses, elephants, and foot soldiers). The Devee was enraged and Her countenance turned totally black (She became Kaali karaala-vadanaa, verse 6, chapter 7) and assumed a fierce form, adorned with a garland of skulls, a staff (gadaa) made with a skull top, garments made of tigers skin, Her whole body seemed to be a raging fire and terrifying and the fire from Her eyes terrified all. She flung all the elephants into her mouth and so did She the chariots and the horses and ground them into a powder with just Her teeth (verse 14 of MM stotram, kruta chaturanga bala....) All the arrows and weapons thrown at Her, were swallowed and crushed into pieces. She killed all the warriors with Her sword and skull-topped staff. When Chanda and Munda finally rushed to fight Devee, She just grabbed them by their hair and severed their heads from their bodies with Her sword, verse 4 of MM stotram. Holding the heads of Chanda and Munda, Kali came to Chandikaa (from whom Kali had sprung) and offered the two heads to Her and told Her, Now you will kill Shumbha and Nishumbha yourself in the next battle. Having thus killed Chanda and Munda, Devee (Kali) was blessed by Chandika to became known and famous by the name Chaamundee through all the worlds. Thus ends chapter 7. The sage continues the description of the battle in chapter 8. Shumbha was even more enraged now and mobilized all his armies to fight Devee. And, in response, all the Devas bestowed upon Devee all their Shaktees (strength and power). Brahmas power appeared in the form a chariot drawn by swans and carrying the Aksha mala (rosary
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beads) and Kamandalu (water pot, used to carry water for poojas and to sprinkle upon to both bless or to destroy). She is called BrahmaaNee. The Shaktees of all the other celestials also appeared: from Maheshwara or Shiva, Maaheshwaree, wielding the trident seated on a bull, from Kumara (Skanda), holding a spear and riding a peacock came Kaumaaree, from Vishnu, riding Garuda and holding conch, bow, club, and sword came VaishNavee, from Lord Hari, in the form of a boar, came Varaahee, from Lord Narasimhaa came Naarasimhee, Aindree came from Indra, holding the vajra, and so on. Then Shiva came to Devee and told Her to immediately kill all the asuras and please Him. The battle is described in detail by the sage. Then came forward one of the great asuras named Raktabheeja (chapter 8, verse 40). Whenever a drop of blood fell on to the ground from his body, another asura would arise, of equal strength. As the battle continued and all the Devees (BrahmaaNee, Maheshwaree, Aindree, etc.) struck with their weapons, the whole Universe got filled with literally hundreds and thousands of asuras, each produced from every drop of blood shed from Raktabheejas body. All the devas were dejected and did not know what to do. The Devi Chandika (from whom came Kali who became Caamundee) laughed and told Caamundee to open Her mouth wide and swallow all the blood that is falling from Raktabheejas body. No more asuras emerged from Raktabheeja who now struck Chandika directly with his club. This did not do anything but Devee, as Kaushikee, then decided to strike him back with Her darts, spears, swords, and arrows (shola, vajra, asi, baaNa, verse 61, chapter 8) as Chaamundee continued to drink all the blood. Finally, with all the weapons that struck him, and bloodless, Raktabheeja fell to the ground and was unconscious. Thus ends chapter 8. The king Suratha who was hearing the story from the sage was wonderstruck and wanted to hear more about how the battle ended. This is the story of chapter 9. Now began the direct battle between Devee and brothers Shumbha and Nishumbha (verse 7 of MM stotram). Nishumbha battled Her with all his weapons but the Devee just knocked him off with just Her fist (verse 14, chapter 9). Nishumbha continued and attacked Devee directly with his battle axe and club and was finally killed and fell to the ground (verse 16, chapter 9). This enraged Shumbha even more and he battled Devee with weapons in all of this eight mighty arms (yes, the asura had eight arms,
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like Ravana had ten heads). He assumed a gigantic form and seemed to fill the whole sky. The Devee blew Her conch, sounded Her bells, and twanged Her bow. Her lion gave out a mighty roar and all this was enough to strike terror in the asuras. Then the Devee as Kali rose to the sky and struck the earth with both Her hands (verse 22, chapter 9) and the noise was enough to drown all other sounds. The Devee (She is now called Shivadutee) gave out a mighty laugh (aTTaa-haasam). This frightened the asuras and threw Shumbha into a rage. All the devas shouted, Jaya, jaya, Victory to You, Devee. Nishumbhaa regained consciousness and joined the fight with Shumbha. In the battle that followed, the Devee pierced Nishumbha heart and he was killed. All the Shaktees that were given by the Devas were unleashed and destroyed the asura army. Thus ends chapter 9 with the killing of Nishumbha. Now begins chapter 10. Seeing his brother had been killed, the angry Shumbha told Devee, I am alone here but you are relying on the strength of others you proud woman. The Devee replied, I am alone too. Who else is here? Look, all these others are My power. And, all the other Devees entered and merged into the Supreme Devee Ambika (chapter 10, verse 6). The valiant battle between Devee and Shumbha is described in chapter 10. It continued for a long time and finally Ambika picked him up, held him high above Her head, whirled him around and dropped him to the ground. When he rushed at Devee, She pierced his heart with Her dart (shoola). Shumbha was thus killed and fell lifeless to the ground. The concluding verses of chapter 10 are given below. Tato devagaNaah sarve harsha-nirbhara-maanasaah l Babhuvuh nihate tasmin Gandharvaah lalitam jaguh ll 10.30 ll Avaadanyans-tathaivaanye nunrutush-caapsarO-gaNaah l Vavuh puNyaas tathaa vaataah suprabhObhood-diwaakarahaa ll 10.31 ll Jajvalush-caagnayah Shantaah Shantadig-janita-swanaahaa l 10.32 All the devas rejoiced and the gandharvas started singing. The apsaras started dancing and winds finally started blowing filling the Universe with puNya (auspiciousness) and the light of all the sun became brilliant and filled the Universe with auspicious rays.

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All the fires in all the yagnyas, in all households, now blazed peacefully and whole Universe was filled in the most tranquil and soothing of sounds. Thus ends the story of the killing of the two brothers Shumbha and Nishumbha. Chapter 11 is the hymn sung from the Devas from which are derived the remaining shlokaas of the Durga Sapta Shlokee. Chapters 12 is the Phalashruti chapter, told by Devee Herself and concludes with the blessings (varam) bestowed by Devee upon the Devas and also upon all of us who remember this Divine caritam (story, history). Devee promises to rescue us from all calamities that befall us, anywhere, at any time, by the mere memory of this caritam. Chapter 13, the final chapter concludes with the story of what happened next. After Shumbha and Nishumbha were killed, the remaining asuras (demons) went to Paataala. Both the king and the merchant bowed to the sage and practiced penances in order to get a vision of Devee. They made an earthen image of Devee and worshipped Her, with flowers, incense, fire, water, abstained from food and concentrated their minds on Devee. Finally, Devee was pleased and appeared before them and told them to ask for their boon. The king wanted his kingdom back both in this life and in lives to come. The wise merchant, on the other hand, wanted the blessing of becoming detached from all feelings of I , aham, and Mine, ma-ma. The Devee blessed them both. She blessed the king to regain his kingdom and that he would be born again and become the eighth Manu SaavarNi and rule the whole earth. And, She blessed the Vaishya too with what he wanted with full knowledge of Her which would lead to self-realization (and Moksha). Thus ends the Devi Mahatmyam with chapter 13. We conclude with the aparaadhakshamaa stotram, asking for forgiveness of any and all transgressions in this stavam.

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Aparaadha kshmaa Stotram

Om aparaadha shatam krutvaa Jagadambeti cocaret l Yaam gatim samavaapnoti na taam Brahmaadayah surah ll 1 ll SaaparaadhOsmi sharaNam praatastvaam Jagadambike l Idaaneem anukampyOham yatecchasi tathaa kuru ll 2 ll Ajnaanaat vismruter bhraantyaa yan-noonam adhikam krutam l Tat sarvam kshamyataam Devi praseeda Parameshwari ll 3 ll Kaameshwaree Jagan-maatah Saccidaananda-vigrahe l GruhaaNaarcaam-imaam preetyaa praseeda Parameshwaree ll 4 ll Sarva-roopa-mayee Devee sarvam devee-mayam Jagat l AtatOham Vishwaroopaam tvaam namaami Parameshwareem ll 5 ll Yadakshara padabrashTam maatraaheenam ca yad bhavet l PoorNam bhavatu tat sarvam tvat prasaadaan Maheshwaree ll 6 ll Yadatra paaThe Jagadambike ma-yaa Visarga-bindvakshara-heenam-eeritam l Tadastu sampoorNa tamam prasaadatah Samkalpa siddhishca sadaiva jaayataam ll 7 ll Yan maatraa bindhu bindhu dwitaya pada pada dwandwa varNaadi heenam Bhaktya-abhaktyaanu-poorvam prasabha-kruti vashaat vyaktam-avyaktam Amba l Mohaat ajnaanatO vaa paThitam-apaThitam vaa saampratam te stavesmin Tat sarvam saangam-aastaam Bhagavati Varade tvat prasaadat praseeda ll 8 ll Praseed Bhagavat-yamba Praseeda Bhaktavatsale l Prasaadam kuru may Devi Durge Devi Namostu te ll 9 ll

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The Esoteric Significance of Devi Mahatmyam The Body, Mind, and the Intellect
Dear All: Several acaryas and commentators have discussed the inner meaning of the Devi Mahatmyam: for example, Swami Krishnananda (click here) and Dr. Satya Prakash Choudhary These were discussed, briefly, as the story was being narrated. Let us consider this again in a little more detail. The story begins with a king named Suratha and a merchant named Samadhi who have lost all material possessions and were wandering aimlessly. They exchange the tales of their miseries and then seek the advice and counsel of the sage Medhas. These three characters in the story actually represent the Body, Mind, and the Intellect. The name Suratha is made of the word ratha, which means a chariot with the prefix su which means good. In our Gita sessions we have discussed the famous chariot analogy for the body from the Kathopanishad the conversation between Yama and the young Brahmin boy Nachiketa who is cursed by his own father and goes to Yamaloka. You can read the story as told by Swami Krishnananda (click here). But Lord Yama was away when Nachiketa arrived (it was not the time for his death, so Nachiketa was a guest). He waited patiently for three days without any food or water at the doors of Yamaloka. Lord Yama offered his profuse apologies to Nachiketa for not doing the honors due to a guest (atithi, a guest who arrives without a formal invitation, no tithi, or date, means atithi, the highest type of guest). Yama offers the young boy three boons. Yama grants Nachiketa the first two boons that he wanted without any hesitation. For the third boon, Nachiketa wanted to know what happens to the soul after death. Nachiketa wants Lord Yama to bestow this knowledge upon him. Now, Yama is perplexed. He does not want to reply. He tempts Nachiketa with alternative boons but Nachiketa refuses and is adamant. Finally, Yama relents and starts explaining to Nachiketa about the body and soul. The soul, Yama tells Nachiketa, is like the person riding in a chariot. The chariot is the body itself. The horses that pull the chariot are the indriyas (the sensory organs).
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The road traveled by the chariot, followed by the horses, are the vishayas, the sensory pleasures. Think of the charioteer who is controlling the horses as the buddhi, the intellect. The reins held by this charioteer, to control the horses, the indriyas, is the manas, the mind. And so on. When the manas, the mind, is in control, the horses are well behaved and the chariot moves along nicely taking the rider (the atma, soul) on a nice journey. However, when the buddhi (charioteer) is not able to control the manas (reins), which in turn, is not able to control the indriyas (horses), the chariot is out of control and horses can lead it down a dangerous path and crash the chariot. Although the king was named Suratha, he was actually a ratha which was out of control. The king in our story thus represents the body, or indriyas, that are out of control resulting in horrifying journey for the rider in the chariot (the soul). The merchants name is Samadhi and he symbolizes the mind (manas). The word Samadhi actually is derived from sama which means balance or equilibrium, and aadhi which means to hold. Thus, samadhi also refers to the state of meditation, with a focused and concentrated mind when all the indriyas (sensory organs) are held in balance, equilibrium. The merchant was focused too in his pursuit of wealth, being his natural call as a merchant. But, like the king, he too lost everything. Neither the kings power nor the merchants wealth were permanent this is what is implied by their loss. Inspite of their basic good nature, the king and the merchant lost everything but they could not let go of their attachment to their possessions that were no longer their own. Finally they approach the sage Medhas. The word medha itself means intellect, superior intelligence. The sage is like the buddhi (medha) in the Kathopanishad story. The sage is the charioteer. Under the guidance of the wise sage, like an expert charioteer, the king and the merchant are able to regain their composure. After listening to the Devi Mahatmyam story from the sage, they both decide to go the bank of the river nearby and meditate upon and worship the Divine Mother with great devotion. Finally, pleased with their devotion the Divine Mother Herself appears before them and grants them their wishes. Even at this stage, the king is not completely devoid of all his attachments. He wishes to regain his kingdom and wants the blessing of perpetual power. The Divine Mother

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grants him the wish. He regains his kingdom and is reborn as the eighth Manu SaarvarNi in his next birth. (We are now living in the reign of the seventh Manu.) The merchant, on the other hand, has developed vairaagyam, or detachment. He is no longer interested in wordly possessions. He asks to be blessed with Divine knowledge that would help him overcome the feelings of I, or aham, and Mine, or ma-ma. This is the nirmama and nirahamkara that Krishna mentions repeatedly to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, starting with chapter 2, verse 71 (the penultimate verse). Here Krishna says that shanti or peacefulness is attained only by the one who is nirmama and nirahankara. The same message is repeated again in the Bhakti yoga chapter 12 (in verse 13), where Krishna lists nirmama and nirahamkara as the qualities of a devotee that Krishna finds very endearing. In subsequent emails, we will discuss the esoteric significance of the various battles described in Devi Mahatmyam. There are three stages: the killing of Madhu and KaiThabha, the killing of Mahishaasura, and finally the killing of Shumbha and Nishumbha. The three forms of Devi that we worship, Mahakali (or Durga), Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati, give us victory over these three types of enemies that we must conquer.

Very sincerely V. Laxmanan October 16, 2012.

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Esoteric Significance of the Devi Mahatmyam The Conquest of Tamoguna: Killing of Madhu and KaiThabha
After telling the king Suratha and the merchant Samadhi about Mahamaya, the sage then continues with the narration and tells them about the killing of Madhu and KaiThabha. The first verse of the Durga Sapta Shlokee (Jnaaninaam api cetaamsi Devi Bhagavatee hi saa) is found before the narration of the killing of Madhu and KaiThabha and other battles of the killing of various demons by Devee. We have already discussed the significance of the killing of Madhu and KaiThabha in the earlier email during the narration of this part of the story. The Bhagavad Gita, as you know, starts with the famous verse Dharmakshetre Kurukshetre. The word kshetram means a field, any field of activity. We use this term in physics also to describe gravity field, electric field, magnetic field, etc. We also talk about battlefield the place where a battle takes place. Unlike modern warfare, where we have drone strikes killing innocent populations, or terrorist warfares, in the days past (even during World War I and II), battles were limited to a certain place, military targets, and did not affect the general population. The word field also means a tract of land, where a farmer tills and sows to grow crops. In the Gita, chapter 13, Krishna says that this body is the kshetram. Before the seeds can be sown and the bounty of crops enjoyed, a lot of hard work is required in terms of preparing the field. You have probably seen movies about how hard farmers work during the heat of the summer months tilling the fields to grow the crops that provide us with the food that we need. Likewise, before we can enjoy the bounty of the Divine, this body, which is the kshetram has to be prepared. There is a virtual battle going on within this body in the form of our life experiences and what we do with our five indriyas, manas, buddhi, and ahankaram (the eight ingredients of Prakriti, chapter 7, verse 4). Then in chapter 14, verse 5, Krishna tells Arjuna about the three gunas (more clearly, certainly discussed in earlier chapters as well). There are three gunas satvam, rajas, and tamas and they are the product of Prakriti. The battles described in the Devi Mahatmyam all allegorical tales about our conquest of these three gunas. As mentioned earlier, there are three stages the killing of Madhu

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and KaiThabha, the killing of Mahishaasura, the killing of Shumbha and Nishumbha. These represent our conquest of tamas, rajas, and satvam. We generally think that satvam is good, but it is also one of the gunas. That too needs to be conquered. In chapter 14, verse 6, Krishna says that satvam also binds us to this body by producing pleasant and happy experiences (Sukha sangena badhnaati jnaana sangena caanagha) and with experiences based on jnaanam (spiritual knowledge). In verse 20 of chapter 14, Krishna states clearly that we (the dehee, ones with a body, the deham) must overcome all three gunas which we experience due to our bodies (guNaan etaan ateetya treen dehee dehasamudbhavaan). And Arjuna immediately asks how one can conquer all these three gunas. So, satva guna also has to be conquered. But, before we can get to this level, we have to first rid ourselves of the most elementary problems that we have, which is represented by the conquest of tamas. Before we engage ourselves in any spiritual activity, we first like to take a nice bath and put on some nice clothes. Taking a bath is to get rid of the dirt, the ma-la in our body. Then we feel clean and ready. But this is just external cleanliness, the cleaning up of the indriyas the biggest of all sensory organs, biology teaches us is the skin. But, we also have to cleanse all the other indriyas, eyes (what we see), ears (what we hear), tongue (what we say, eat, etc.) and so on. The two demons described in the story, Madhu and KaiThabha are produced from the dirt in the ears of Vishnu (Vishnu karna malOdbhootau, chapter 1, verse 68 of DM). And, what do they do? They attack Lord Brahma who is seated on the top of the lotus that springs from the navel of Mahavishnu. The two demons thus represent the basest of all our gunas, kama and krodha. And, like Madhu and KaiThabha, kama and krodha attack our better qualities and destroy us. Brahma is the embodiment of Sattava guna in this tale. The two lower gunas, tamas and rajas, thus go on the attack and want to kill the satvam that is also present within us. The conquest of these baser gunas is the first step before Satva can rise and dominant us. Then in the last stage, we can worry about how to overcome even satva. The ears are also symbolic here. All of our knowledge is actually acquired through the hearing process. Even when we see a video clip nowadays, it is always accompanied with an audio. When we learn from our teachers, as children, we do so by listening, through our ears. In the old days, students learned the Vedas by the process
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of hearing. Hence, the Vedas are also known as shruti, which means that which has been heard. In the nine form of developing bhakti (from the Prahalada story in Srimad Bhagavatam), the first listed is ShravaNam, which means hearing. The full sloka is given below. ShravaNam keertanam VishNoh smaraNam Paadasevanam l Aracanam Vandanam Daasyam Sakhyam Aatma-nivedanam ll The Bhagavatam repeatedly talks about SharvaNam, listening to Krishna Kathas (stories). Likewise, Devi Mahatmyam (DM) begins with the story of the demons that are produced from the dirt in the ear of Mahavishnu. (BTW, if there is dirt in your ears, what we call earwax, it is difficult to hear. I know it since it affects the performance of my hearing aids and sometimes I dont realize it that I am unable to hear because of the earwax that must be cleaned too!) The demons Madhu and KaiThabha are thus preventing us from engaging in the first of the steps in our spiritual journey. It is through the hearing process (through spiritual discourses from qualified teachers) that we are purified. Madhu also means sweet, or honey. KaiThaba also means an insect, like the honeybee. The honeybee stings and we are afraid of the stings of such bees. The honey and the honeybee go together. The more the honey we try to collect (through worldly possessions that please us), the more the danger of the stings in that quest. Thus, we have to kill both the honeybee and also the desired for the honey itself. These two demons are therefore symbolic of these two enemies, as also mentioned by Krishna in chapter 3, verse 37. He tells Arjuna, Kama and Krodha are the two great enemies. Know them to be here, Kama esha, Krodha esha, ..viddhi enam iha vairiNam. The triumph over Madhu and KaiThabha is thus the triumph over our tamas and rajas. Higher forms of tamas become rajas and higher forms of rajas become satva. So, there is no strict compartmentalization. The gradation of demons that we must kill blend smoothly. But, the first step, as described in DM is this conquest of tamas. Madhu-KaiThabaari means the enemy (ari) of Madhu and KaiThabha. Mahavishnu killed them and so is called MadhukaiThabhaari. Sometimes, we only use
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Madhusoodana to describe the killing of the demon Madhu, things that are pleasing to us but which are really not good like eating too much which leads to obesity and diseases associated with gaining weight etc. The Vishnu Sahasranaamam has the name Madhusoodana (verse 8). Also, MadhukaiThabareh appears in the third verse of the Venkatesa Suprabhatam, see below. Maatas-samasta Jagataam MadhukaiThabhareh Vaksho-vihaariNi Manohara-divya-moorteh l Shreeswamini shritajana priyadaana sheele Shree Venkatesa dayite tava suprabhatam ll 3 ll Here MadhukaiThabhareh means of MadhukaiThabhari, the possessice case, signifying belonging to. MadhukaiThabhareh VakshovihaariNi means One who is residing merrily in the vaksha (bosom) sthala of MadhukaiThabhaari. After waking up Lord Venkateswara with the first two verses, Kausalya suprajaa Raam and UttishTotishTha Govinda, the devotee then also is addressing the Goddess Mahalakshmi who is residing in His vaksha sthalam. Following the killing of Madhu and KaiThabha and the recitation of the short hymn (Medhaasi Devi viditaakhila shastra-saara.. this verse mentioned Madhukaithabhaari), the sage then describes the killing of Mahishaasura. This is a more sophisticated demon than Madhu and KaiThabha. We will discuss this in the next email. Very sincerely V. Laxmanan October 17, 2012.

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Conquest of Rajoguna: Killing of Mahishaasura

Dear All: We have discussed the inner meaning of the killing of Mahishaasura in the earlier emails. As noted earlier, Prakriti, of which we are a part of, endows us with three gunas (qualities or characteristics): tamas, rajas, and sattvam. This is mentioned by Krishna in chapter 14, which is called the Guna Traya Vibhaga Yoga chapter. Then in chapter 16, which is called the Daivaasura Sampad Vibhaga yoga chapter, Krishna starts with a description of the Daivee or Divine qualities in verses 1 to 3. The rest of chapter 14 is about asura (demoniac) sampad. They too the demons too are blessed with certain sampad, or opulence, but which is used in an abusive manner. Among the sampad is Ahankaram (highly inflated ego), balam (great strength) darpa (pride and arrogance), kaamam (desires or lust or obssessions), krodha (anger, transforming into fury and rage). Victory over demoniac tendencies means victory over these demoniac qualities. These demons do not reside in just Hiranyakashyapu, Ravana, or Mahishaasura, or Kamsa. These reside within all of us in the form of these qualities. In chapter 2 (verses 62 to 64) and chapter 3 (verses 37 to 43) Krishna has provided a clear description of how succumbing to anger will lead to the total destruction of a person. Kaamam or lust, most of us can control. The large majority of us know what is wrong about lustful tendencies. But anger (krodha) and ego (ahankaram) are much more difficult to control and lead to destruction of both ourselves and our relationships loss of friends and even family not to mention difficulties in the workplace where we spend the majority of our days. They can also lead to harmful relations even in places like temples and spiritual groups (like our Gita and Navararthri groups) that we associate with. The sampad of Mahishaasura is described in Devi Mahatmyam by his 16 generals and the millions and billions of his warriors who are ready to wage war with Devee. Several of these generals are mentioned by name: Cikshura, Caamara, Udgara, Mahahanu, Asiloman, Baashkala, Parivaarita, Bidala (chapter 2 of DM, verses 4o to 44). Mahishaasura was surrounded by all these generals and each fought furiously with Devee as described vividly (verses 45 to 62) so much so that even after their heads were chopped off, and their arms and legs were cut off, they continued to dance around
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and fight. Such a state is called kambandha. There is a demon with the same name also in Ramayana and after he was killed he got Moksha and he pointed Raama the way to Sugreeva and thus a resolution of Raamas troubles Kambandha-baahu cedana Raam in Raama naamaavali. The last two generals to be vanquished are named Durdara and Durmukha (mentioned in Mahishaasura mardini stotram). Durdara means irresistible. What is irresistible? Our desires, our kama, we cannot resist them. Durmukha means one with a bad mouth, foul mouth, one who speaks using harsh and ill language. What is the cause of this? Anger, krodha. When we are angry we say things that are hurtful and that we regret later. The names chosen for these two demon generals, who are the last to die, are thus symbolic of how difficult it is to overcome the sway of these demoniac tendencies. Then finally Devee battles Mahishaasura directly. He unfolds his fury in many ways which is symbolic of how Rajoguna manifests itself in its lower, or vile, form. He does not stand still in one place and fight. He is constantly moving about and tossing around on the battlefield. He keeps changing his form. He unleashes his anger at Devee and Her forces in eight different ways: He pounds the earth with his hooves (khura kshepa) in the buffalo form. Some he hits with his muzzle (tunDa prahaara). He lashes others with his tail (laangoola taaDanam), tears others with his horns (shrugaabhayaam vidaaritaan), crushes some by his mere speed (vegena), others by his mere bellowing sounds (naadena), and by spinning around (bhramareNa) and by the blasts of his breath (nishvashasena). He used all these powers to destroy Devees forces. This is how the extreme Rajoguna manifests in those with demoniac tendencies and torments those who are good (with Divine or daiva qualities). The eight-fold fury of Mahishaasura is also compared to the eight ways in which we engage ourselves when we lust (see the commentary that follows). The killing of Mahishaasura represents the ultimate triumph by Devee against this lower form of Rajas. The Devee Herself displays Rajas anger. She is furious but Her anger is being used to curb evil. She is even described as drinking wine and mocks at Mahishaasura when She decides it is time to put an end to him. She says, You fool, wait till I finish My drink and I shall kill you. Then She jumps off Her lion and tramples him with Her foot, until the real form of Mahishaasura emerges from within the buffalo form. Only then is he killed by Devees spear and his head cut off with Her
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sword. In other words, evil must be completely uprooted for the real triumph of good. Higher form of Rajas were displayed by Devee, and also by MahavishNu in His various incarnations as Varaha, as Narasimha, as Parashurama, as Raama, as Krishna. Even in the Kalki avatara (still to come) such killing of evil forces is prophesized in the Puranas. The Lord will then ride a horse with His sword being used for destruction of all evil forces. Very sincerely V. Laxmanan Oct 19, 2012

I have copied and pasted below the entire commentary by Dr. Satya Prakash Choudhary, a disciple of Swami Sachchidananda (click here) Esoteric meaning of the battle between the gods and the demons First let us examine the theme of the battles between the gods and the demons as revealed in the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads and Adi Shankaras commentary. The word Sanskrit word for gods is devah, which denotes light or the function of illumining. Commenting on the verse devsur ha vai yatra sayetire (Chandogya Upanishad, 1. 2. 1), Adi Shankara affirms that the gods stand for such functions of the senses (indriya vrttis) as are illumined by scriptures. The demons or asuras who are opposed to the gods, stand for tendencies that are opposite to the illumining functions, and are of the nature of darkness. Thus the war between the gods and the demons actually refers to the perpetual conflict between the forces of light and darkness, between righteous and unrighteous urges. Thus there are two opposing psychic forces within all of us. The roots of these two types of urges are traced to the Sanchita karmas of innumerable lives. While we experience only Prarabdha karmas allotted for a particular lifetime, the Sanchita karmas indirectly influence us as our samskaras. Esoterically speaking the gods symbolise the positive samskaras of innumerable lifetimes resulting from all the righteous karmas that are oriented towards the Supreme Self, while the demons symbolise the negative samskaras of innumerable lifetimes resulting from all the unrighteous karmas that are contrary and in conducive to our orientation to the Supreme Self. Thus interpreting the battles between the gods and demons on these lines is in order wherever references to the battles between the gods and the demons occur in the Vedas and the Puranas. The righteous and unrighteous samskaras have also been referred to as daiva sampada (divine wealth or divine tendencies) and asura sampada (demoniac wealth or demoniac tendencies) in the Bhagavad Gita (in the sixteenth chapter titled daivasura sampdvibhaga yogah). Here Divine tendencies have been referred to as Divine wealth
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(sampada: wealth) and demoniac tendencies as demoniac wealth. Elaborating this idea further the Bhagavad Gita declares that the Divine are deemed for liberation or Self-realization and the demoniac for bondage. Returning back to Mahishasuras myth, the Devi Mahatmyam tells us that long back when Mahishasura was the lord of asuras and Indra the lord of devas, there was a war between the devas and asuras for a full hundred years. Now that we know who the gods and demons are, it is not difficult to understand why the span of the war is for hundred years. This is the approximate upper limit of human life span. Thus the conflict between the righteous and unrighteous samskaras goes on as long as we are alive. And in that war, as the Devi Mahatmyam tells us, the army of the gods is vanquished by the mighty demons and Mahisasura becomes the lord of heaven. He himself assumes the jurisdictions of Surya, Indra, Agni, Vayu, Chandra, Yama and Varuna and of other gods too. Now what does this mean? As already stated the gods are the presiding deities for various indriyas and their functionsSurya over eyes, Indra hands, Agni over speech, Vayu over skin, Chandra over the mind, Yama over anus, Varuna over tongue and so on. The gods stand for the respective indriya vrttis. All these senses and their functions are hijacked by Rajo-guna serving the purpose of nourishing asuric tendencies. This is the meaning of Mahishasura assuming lordship over all jurisdictions of the gods. Under the influence of Rajo-guna all psychological and sensory functions are focused only on the gross and the material, having lost the original orientation to the Supreme Being. The task, therefore, is to once again reclaim the original state. But this can be achieved only by uniting together all the powers of the gods and orienting them back to the Supreme Being. This is exactly what happens in the story. The vanquished gods collectively surrendering to the Devi The gods first approach Brahma who leads them to Vishnu and Shiva. There is a significance in the gods first approaching Brahma. As per Hindu mythology Brahma was born from a lotus that grew at Lord Vishnus navel. Here Vishnu signifies Consciousness while the lotus signifies flowering or blossoming of Consciousness. Brahma being born from the nabhikamala (navel chakra) of Vishnu is clearly a Puranic allusion to Kundalini and the Chakras. The nabhi is the vedic equivalent to what is known as known as the Manipura chakra in the tantric system. Below the manipura chakra is asura kshetra (field of demoniac consciousness), while daiva kshetra (field of divine consciousness) starts from manipura. Thus the very awareness of the conflict between the righteous and unrighteous samskaras and the need to overcome asuric samskaras, starts with the manipura. Now that spiritual awareness has started blossoming it will lead to the coming together of all the spiritual samskaras, the coming together of the powers of the gods. Brahma leads the gods to Vishnu and Shiva. Vishnu and Shiva too symbolise specific psychological functions like the other gods. In the symbolism of Devi Mahatmyam, the Devi is obviously the Supreme Being or Supreme Self, whereas Vishnu and Shiva symbolise prana shakti and gnana shakti respectively. What happens when all the powers of all the gods come together? As the Devi Mahatmyam reveals, all the radiance from all the gods coalesced into the auspicious form of the Goddess.
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The tejas that emerges from the gods is not their creation but the Devis natural indwelling presence. Thus what coalesces into the Devis auspicious form is actually Her own power. The gods do not relinquish their power or weapons, even as their varied powers reunite in the Devi. This is a sublime philosophical abstraction of simultaneous divine immanence and transcendence. Now that the collective power of the gods is united against Mahishasura and his armies, the gods can be assured of their inevitable victory. Mahishasura and his Generals- Rajo-guna and its Asura sampada Mahishasura symbolises the powerful combination of human competence and beastly nature. As already stated he stands for Rajo-guna. While Kaitabha is also rajas, he comes as a twin of Madhu (tamas), at the level of origination. Unlike Kaitabha who is of the nature of rajas, Mahishasura is the epitome of Rajo-guna. He has sixteen asuras who lead various battalions of armies. They stand for various demoniac traits or tendencies and are Mahishasuras assets or wealth. Together they are all asura sampada or demoniac wealth or assets (see the chapter on Daiva sampada and Asura sampada for more). If Mahishasura has to be subdued his generals have to be eliminated first, his demoniac wealth has to be destroyed first. But the asura armies vastly outnumber the gods. Commenting on the Brhadaranyaka Upanishads (1, 3) account of a similar conflict between the gods and the demons Adi Shankara tells us that the gods are always less in number while the demons are more. So what to do? There is only one way out- absolute surrender to the Supreme Goddess. Nothing less than total surrender will bail them out of their difficulty. And this is precisely what the gods do. As already stated if Mahishasura has to be subdued his generals have to be eliminated first, his demoniac wealth has to be destroyed first. Hence the Goddess and her lion start destroying these asuras one by one. While each of the sixteen asura generals and their esoteric significance is important in its own way, two among them deserve special mentionDurdhara and Durmukha who fight till the last. Only after Durdhara and Durmukha are destroyed can the Goddess finally fight the asura lord Mahishasura. In fact they find place even in the Mahishasuramardhini stotram (durdharadhar_i_i durmukhamar_i_i har_arate ). Such is their negative significance for spiritual life. If Mahishasura is Rajas, Durdhara and Durmukha are desire and anger. As the Bhagavad Gita (3. 37) affirms, Rajas begets desire and anger. In fact most often anger is related to desire. When the fulfilment of desire (Kama) is frustrated by an obstacle, frustration turns into anger (Krodha). Desire itself is rooted in Rajas and aggravates it further. In fact Durdhara literally means irresistible while Durmukha means ugly or hideous or bad faced. True enough it is very difficult to resist desire, while anger transforms the most beautiful face into a hideous one! (Durmukha can also mean bad-mouthed or abusive which too denotes anger) Desire is by nature insatiable and is the most important of the six inner enemies (arishadvargas) along with its comrade- Anger (Krodha). Since Rajas begets desire and anger, they are the last to go before Rajas. That is why they fight till the last. Once desire is eliminated, Sattva guna (Divine forces of Light) can easily prevail over Rajo guna.
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However do not underestimate Mahishasura (Rajo-guna) and his army. Rajo guna (Mahishasura) and its associated vrttis (Mahishasuras armies) wield great power over the psyche. They are the result of the impressions of innumerable lifetimes and choices made in those lives, choices that have become embedded in our psyche as stubborn psychological traits. To make matters worse most of us waste away this precious life without any conscious awareness of what is happening within. As the Bhagavad Gita (7. 19) reveals, it is only at the end of innumerable births that the wise person takes refuge in the Supreme Being, realising that the Supreme Being is all that is. And rare is such a great soul. Most of us carry on with our deluded lives without realising that life is not just about relationships, money, power and material pursuits. For the majority spiritual life is only an extension of the deep-rooted material approach. Even those who are interested have only a shallow interest, quite often it being a mere coping mechanism for the stress of daily living. For some spirituality is a pursuit that they reserve for their old age, for their retired lives. Compelled by our asuric tendencies we waste the best time of our lives pursuing purely material goals, wasting away our greatest potential, postponing it continually. It is only a few wise ones who awaken to the truth that the Supreme Being is all that is, that have a conscious awareness of the war between the gods and the demons. Bringing this inner conflict into conscious awareness, the serious practitioner surrenders completely to the Supreme Goddess just as the gods did in the Devi Mahatmyam. Progressively the gods are reinstated in their rightful place by the replacement of asuric wealth with divine wealth. This needs the grace of Mahalakshmi who can bestow daiva sampada or divine wealth to Her devotee. The practitioner who is endowed with divine wealth is now fit for attaining liberation. Even if one does not attain liberation in this birth, the samskaras and the merit acquired during this lifetime are carried in a potential form into the next lives when they shall bear fruit automatically. However for those who are unwavering from the goal the accumulation of divine wealth shall set them free in this very life. Spiritual victory is in sight. Mahishasuras eightfold fury Returning back to Mahishasuras myth, seeing his armies destroyed by the Devi an enraged Mahishasura starts terrifying the Devis hosts. And how does Mahishasura destroy the Devis forces- in eight ways. These eight ways are the purely negative expression of rajas. Hitting some by muzzle, trampling some by the hooves, lashing at some with his tail, tearing others with his horns, by sheer speed, by bellowing, by wheeling, and by the blast of his breath, Mahishasura destroyed the Devis forces. This eightfold unleashing of Mahishasuras rajas is comparable to eightfold maithuna or eightfold sexual union, which a Brahmachari is strictly advised to avoid. Here a word on Brahmacharya is in order. Brahmacharya means to move, learn and live in the Way of Brahman or higher Awareness. Conducting oneself in higher awareness is not just about sexual continence, not just about controlling sexual desire but about also about gaining mastery over all the indriyas. Among other things it is also about bringing the indriyas under effortless control. Thus one of the goals of Brahmacharya is reaching a state where one is not troubled by the indriyas anymore. However this state of freedom from the indriyas comes effortlessly only after intense practice or abhyasa. Till one
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achieves effortless mastery over the indriyas one has to make intense efforts. Hence initially we are advised to avoid eightfold indulgence of the indriyas. The eight ways of sensual indulgence: Smaranam (thinking of it), Kirtanam (talking of it), Keli (playing around), Prekshanam (seeing), Guhya-bhashanam (talking in secrecy), Sankalpa (wishing for), Adhyavasaya (determination towards), Kriyanishpatti (actual accomplishment). These are the eight ways in which Rajas destroys the divine forces before one can even gauge its destructive influence. That is why the unleashing of Mahishasuras rajas too has eightfold fury. After destroying the Devis forces by his eightfold rajas, Mahishasura rushes forward to slay her lion. The Goddess Ambika becomes enraged at this. The lion as the sadhaka who has taken to the path of dharma The lion is none other than the sadhaka who has taken to the path of dharma. It is none other than the practitioner, the jiva, you and me. Since the devotee has already surrendered to the Goddess and is on the path of dharma, the Mother will protect him as her own child. Now starts the real fight between the Devi and the lord of the asuras. To meet the challenge the Goddess heightens Her own rajas. However unlike Mahishasuras destructive and egoistic rage Her anger is divine or righteous anger that counters demoniac or unrighteous anger. Initially the practitioner counters lower order material rajas through higher order spiritual rajas. One has to remove a thorn with the help of another thorn, as the adage goes. We come across instances of the lions fury too, in both the second and third episodes though more elaborately in the third episode. This is the sadhakas spiritualized higher order rajas or sattvic rajas which counters the destructive influence of material lower order rajas of the asuras. The two faces of rajas is an interesting theme that the Devi Mahatmyam portrays time and again through powerful metaphors. Mahishasura changing his form many times before finally being beheaded During the combat Mahishasura changes his form many times, undergoing a series of metamorphosis. This is the very nature of desire, of rajas. We think that we have rooted out a particular psychological compulsion only to discover that it still existent albeit in a different form. We move from one addiction to another, from one compulsive behaviour to another, as long as the original inner emotional issue is not resolved. The Devis weapons appear ineffectual as long as Mahishasura keeps changing forms. She triumphs over him only when he emerges in his original form, as She pins him down under her foot. Only then does She behead him finally with Her sword, destroying the deadly combination of human competence and beastly nature. Mahishasuras episode reveals that through active struggle, through divine rajas, we can overcome enslavement to the indriyas, and live righteously in harmony with the world. It also reveals to us the two faces of rajas and the two kinds of wealth that we may seek in our lives. One is divine while the other is demoniac. Those who seek demoniac wealth take to the purely negative and demoniac expression of rajas and are deemed to be bound further and to suffer in the quagmire of perpetual desire, while those who take to a positive expression of rajas seek divine wealth and are eventually deemed for liberation from suffering of all kinds.

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Conquest of Satva-guna: Killing of Shumbha and Nishumbha

Dear All: I have consulted the following sources to prepare this brief discussion of the esotetric significance of Devi Mahatmyam stories. 1. The Esoteric Significance of Devi Mahatmyam by Swami Krishananda (click here). 2. The Glory of the Goddess: Devi Mahatmyam (click here) 3. Discussion of the significance of Devi Mahatmyam, see last two pages of the document (click here). As we have discussed in the earlier emails, Prakriti, to which we all belong to, endows us with the three qualities: satvam, rajas, and tamas. The three major episodes of Devi Mahatmyam (DM) refer to the conquest of all these three gunas. The killing of Madhu and KaiThabha represents the conquest of Tamoguna (mode of ignorance). The killing of Mahishaasuraa represents the conquest of Rajoguna (mode of passion). The last step, described in this concluding email of this series, is the killing of Shumbha and Nishumbha, which represents the conquest of Satva guna (mode of goodness). Why do we have to conquer Satvaguna? Isnt that what we are all trying to develop? Actually, Krishna teaches us in the Gita, especially in chapter 14, verse 6, that even Satvaguna is an obstacle in the Ultimate path to liberation or moksha. Krishna says, O sinless one (anagha, which is addressed to Arjuna), satvam binds by producing attachment to happy pursuits (sukha sangena badhnaati) and to the pursuit of knowledge (jnana sangena ca). Chapter 14 ends with the need to overcome all three gunas. Only one has overcome all the three gunas can attain any conception of the Absolute Brahman sa guNaan etaan ateetyaitaan Brahmabhooyaaya kalpate (verse 26).

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According to the commentaries on the DM, the killing of Shumbha and Nishumbha actually represents this conquest of Satvaguna. In the initial stages, it is good to develop satvam. In the Madhu-KaiThabha story, Lord Brahma, whom these two demons are trying to kill actually represents Satvaguna and the two demons represent tamoguna (Madhu) and rajoguna (KaiThabha). Mahishaasura and also the other asuras like Raktabeeja (one of the generals of Shumbha and Nishumbha) represent Rajoguna. The triumph over Shumbha and Nishumbha is over a demon of a slightly different type. If we recall the story, it begins with all the celestials visiting the Himalayas to pray to Devee. They were being tormented by Shumbha and Nishumbha who had vanquished them all. They had lost all their powers. Devee had promised to come to their rescue in times of calamities. All that was required was to remember Her. So, the devas pray to Devee and in chapter 5, we encounter the hymn, each of sloka ending with Namas tasyai namas tasyai namas tasyai namo namah. After Devee is pleased and appears, and is ready to battle the two demons, all the devas offer Her their best weapons (aayudhas) and mounts (vaahanaas) for Her to proceed to the battle. Shumbha and Nishumbha get word about Devee from their servants named CanDa and MunDa. They see the extremely beautiful form of Devee and go to Shumbha and Nishumbha and instigate them to take Her as their wife. After all they have conquered all the wealth and jewels in the whole world, why not this streeratnam too (jewel among women)? Deluded and instigated in this way, the two send the same a messenger, named Sugreeva (nothing to do with the Sugreeva of Ramayana) and ask Her to come willing and choose to become the wife of either Shumbha or Nishumbha. This is an interesting demand unseen in any other scripture. These two demons actually felt that they were equal or superior to the Supreme Being, Devee in this PuraaNam (MarkaNDeya PuraNa). This is what happens as one progresses in the so-called pursuit of jnaanam, or knowledge. Instead of developing humility, one tends to become arrogant and develop false notions of superiority. Shumbha and Nishumbha represent what is known as the notions of I and Mine. The I is ego or ahankaram and mine, or ma-matvam, is possessiveness the sense of deep attachment and possession of all things and people (like wife, husband,
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children, servants, etc.) and lordship over them. Anything that is attractive must be possessed and controlled and subdued. This is what these two demons represents. These two are surrounded by many others such as CaNDa and MuNDa who get these message in the first place. CaNDa represents fieriness or intensity, a strong passion towards seeking and possessing. MuNDa means a shaved head and usually represents an ascetic, or a person who has given up everything. Sometimes one withdraws from worldly life for the wrong reasons such as disappointments in life being forsaken from loved ones, for example. If such a person is of a nonviolent nature, they will live an ascetic life but it is not true withdrawal. There is still the hankering over the past. The story of the King Suratha and the merchant Samadhi, where Devi Mahatmyam begins, is a good example. Such manifestations (ill-developed) of Satva guna also have to be overcome. The general Raktabeeja is another example of extreme Rajoguna. Each drop of blood shed by this demon turns into a literally army of demons like him. This symbolizes the endless multiplication of desires. These are the types of generals surrounding these two Shumbha and Nishumbha. Devee has to employ special tricks to overcome Raktabeeja. She literally rolls out Her tongue and covers the whole earth so that no drop of blood will fall on the ground and then She drinks all of the blood of Raktabeeja. While this might seem like a horrifying description of warfare and even extreme cruelty by Devee in Her killing of these demons, these are actually symbolic of how the grace and compassion of the Supreme Being (here Devee) works. As long as we have tried to develop the quality of Satvam, the Devee will help overcome the lower forms of Satvam and take us to the higher level. Even Bhakti, or devotion, according to the sage Narada is of three kinds: saatvic, raajasic and taamasic (click here). In the taamasic mode of bhakti, one actually seeks to destroy ones enemies using the Supreme (Devee). One tries to use the Supreme only to destroy ones sins (click here and here). Going beyond, one has to learn to Serve the Lord or Devee. The commentaries mentioned above also compared Satva guna to a glass wall. One can see what is beyond the glass wall but we still cannot reach it. The glass wall is still an obstacle. Satva guna acts in the same way. It helps us see or perceive the Supreme but we still cannot reach. Krishna says in chapter 7, verse 19, that even a jnanee (one
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who is endowed with knowledge) has to take many births before learning to truly worship Him bahoonaam jnamanaam ante jnavaan maam prapadyate. It is a very rare devotee who really understands Vaasudeva is everything Vaasudevah sarvam iti sa mahaatmaa suburlabhah. And, so it is with this killing of Shumbha and Nishumbha. When Devee finally kills Shumbha (representing the I, or Ahankara, Nishumbha is killed first, representing the Mine, or ma-matvam) it is not done on the ground. The two fight in the sky, or midair. That is where he can be killed. All the devas watch with wonder at this battle in midair. Not only that. No weapons are used in this final battle. Devee fights Shumbha one-on-one, in intimate physical contact. This actually represents the Ultimate victory of the sadhaka, the devotee, who is very compassionately taught how to kill the ahankara itself. The conquest of ahankara is actually the last step before attaining Moksha, or liberation. We also receive the same message from Shukaacarya in the Srimad Bhagavatam, in Canto 12, chapter 5. The merging with the Supreme is compared to the breaking up of a pot. What is within an empty pot? We think of it as empty. But it is empty space, the same as what is outside the pot the vast space outside the pot. The clay of which the pot is made up of acts as the boundary between the outside and the inside. This body and our gunas act in the same way. They separate us from the Supreme. When the pot is broken the space within the pot merges seamlessly with the space outside the pot. Hence, it is that the final battle with Shumbha could NOT be conducted on the ground. It is conducted in space, in midair. Very sincerely V. Laxmanan October 22, 2012. P. S. For convenience, I have copied and pasted, in what follows here, the full text of the discussion of the killing of Shumbha and Nishumbha, provided by Satya Prakash Choudhary. Please also see the discussion by Swami Krishnananda.

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The following is extracted entirely from the second of links above (click here)

Killing of Shumbha and Nishumbha: Third Episode

By the time we come to the third episode the demons are more complex and subtler. This time the chief demons are Sumbha (Asmita: I/ Me, the pseudo-self) and Nisumbha (Mamata: Mine, the attachment to things that the false self clings to) who along with their generals Canda (pra-vrtti or extraverted psychic energy), Munda (ni-vritti or introverted psychic energy), Dhumralochana (distorted perception) and Raktabija (citta vrttis or incessant compulsive thought processes), are a formidable force to reckon with. Overcoming these subtler demons requires a luminous, benevolent and beautiful manifestation, one that can enlighten and liberate. This is the manifestation as Maha Sarasvati predominated by Sattva. This myth too has a familiar beginning. Two demons, named Shumbha and Nishumbha, have dispossessed the gods, stripped them of their powers and appropriated their wealth and privilege. Then the gods go to mount Himalaya and extol the Unvanquished Aparajita Devi recalling Her assurance that She would intervene whenever remembered in times of misfortune. Synchronistically Parvati devi comes there at the same time to bathe in the waters of Ganga and enquires innocently as to whom the gods are extolling. An auspicious form of the Goddess, Kaushiki, emanates from the selfsame Parvati and answers that the hymn is addressed to her. Parvati becomes dark and is henceforth known as Kalika or Kali. She will play major role in the future course of events along with the auspicious form of Ambika. Thus the Goddess has two forms- one auspicious and the other terrible. Parvatis two forms remind us of Shiva who too has a terrible form as Rudra apart from his usual auspicious form. This twofold complementary nature of Divinity as both the auspicious and the terrible highlights the play of light and dark. Both are aspects of the Supreme Being. There are two other interesting phenomenon at work here. First is the phenomenon of Synchronicity. Parvati seems to come there by coincidence. Though seemingly a coincidence her arrival then and there is very meaningful. Meaningful coincidences are what Synchronicity is about. Synchronicity is behind not only oracular prognostication but also how prayers work. At times Divine intervention can be direct, displaying a seemingly causal relation to prayers and mantras. At other times Divine intervention occurs in a non-causal synchronistic manner. Either ways prayers work. Most importantly we are connected to everything else around us. Our minds and lives are not separate from the minds and lives of others in the universe. There is underlying indivisible holistic unity. Secondly Parvatis innocent query suggests that she is not aware of what is happening, at least consciously. But surely, as an embodiment of the Supreme Goddess, wouldnt She be consciously aware? Though not conscious, the emanation of Kaushiki who answers Parvati is Her own Shakti, a projection of Her own unconscious powers. At an individual conscious level we have limited powers, limited by embodiment in a mind-body that constrain the otherwise unbounded and limitless reservoir of all powers. At an unconscious level we are potentially connected to the collective. There is oneness and abundant potential at this level.
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But in our normal waking state of consciousness we are largely unaware of our unbounded potential and our connection to the collective. In other states of consciousness such as dream, deep sleep and meditation we are better connected to this level. One may argue that this particular context in the Devi Mahatmyam involves the Goddess not a human being. However remember that everything about the gods and demons has relevance for us, for what happens in our own psyche. The Supreme Goddess is the Mother of the Universe, identical with the Brahman of Vedanta, and with the Atman of Yoga. But this is at the transcendental level. No doubt the Goddess is the Supreme Self, but She is also the collective Self. At the relative and phenomenal level, where there is awareness of ones own individual personality or ego, even Her manifestations follow the same law, the same order that is seen in the rest of the universe. The various emanations of the Goddess combine both the transcendental and phenomenal levels of truth to varying degrees. It may not be inappropriate to suggest that while ultimately at the transcendental level She is the Supreme Self or Brahman, in her manifestations as other goddesses She is also the Transcendental in the Phenomenal. In other words She is the Transcendental, She is the Phenomenal and She is also the Transcendental in the Phenomenal. This is the uniqueness of the Shakta world-view. Sri Ramakrishna describes how the relative or phenomenal emerges from the absolute or transcendental and falls back into it. Brahman may be compared to an infinite ocean, without beginning or end. Just as, some portions of the ocean freeze into ice through intense cold, and formless water appears to have form, so through intense love or faith of the devotee, Brahman appears to take on form and personality. But the form melts away again as the sun of Knowledge rises. Then the universe also disappears, and there is nothing but Brahman. The beautiful and auspicious Kaushiki form of the Goddess is all Sattva. Unlike the slayer of Mahishasura who is the collective embodiment of the divine anger or divine rajas of all the gods, Kaushiki is a Sattvic manifestation. This time the demons are even more sophisticated. Action, contemplation and knowledge are the three stages through which we have to pierce through the veil of Prakriti or three Gunas. Madhu-Kaitabha are the mala (dirt or waste) from Vishnus ears and thereby predominantly represent Tamas. Mahishasura and his generals represent Rajo-guna. But Shumbha-Nishumbha and their generals represent the limitation of buddhi, which is another name for sattva. The word sattva also denotes the mind apart from the guna of sattva. It is easy to understand why one has to overcome tamas and rajas as it is accepted that they are manasika doshas. But why is there a need to transcend even Sattva, one might ask. As described in the commentary on the first episode, the three gunas are part of the same cosmic process of manifestation, they are part of the same veiling power of Prakrti or Maha Maya. Together they form the three strands that bind us to ignorance. Since Sattva is potentially akin to a burnt rope, since it brings knowledge, initially the ascendancy of sattva is preferred over tamas and rajas. A rope that will sooner or later be burnt cannot bind us for long. But till it is fully burnt even this rope can be binding. We will examine this further using another analogy- that of a lantern. But first let us understand Shumbha and Nishumbha. The root word bha in the names of Shumbha and Nishumbha means light. However their light is not real like the light from the sun. It is merely reflected light. Just as Sun represents the self and light in astrological language, Moon represents the mind and reflected light. Sattva is another name for the mind. Buddhi is the highest function of the mind. However buddhi is not the same as the Self or Atman. Shumbha is none other than Asmita (sense of
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I or Me), the pseudo-self that identifies the self with non-self whereas Nisumbha represents Mamata (sense of Mine), or the attachment to things that the false self clings to through identification with other objects. Nishumbha is the brother of Shumbha. One follows the other closely. Where there is this sense of I automatically there will be a sense of mine as an extension of the false sense of selfhood. That is why Shumbha and Nishumbha are inseparable brothers. Patanjali (Yogasutra, 2.6) defines Asmita as d_gdarsanasaktyorekatmatevasmita. D_g is the Seer or Purusha or Pure Consciousness. Darsanasakti denotes the power of observing, which is none other than Buddhi or intellect. Ekatmata means identifying as one. In other words Asmita is the ignorance or mistake of identifying Buddhi as Purusha or Atman. In other words misidentification of the mind as the Self gives rise to a false sense of self. This false sense of self is Asmita. Although it may seem that buddhi and purusha are identical, in reality they are not. This can be illustrated using the analogy of a lantern. If the Self is the wick or the source of light, buddhi is the glass chimney. From a distance though it appears as if the glass chimney is the source of the light, close observation will reveal the burning wick as the true source of light. Likewise a yogi whose consciousness is functioning beyond the manomaya kosha, knows that the mind is not identical with the Self as his consciousness has awakened to the level of the vignanamaya kosha. Buddhi is the instrument of intelligence that discerns, questions, reasons, determines and wills. Though buddhi is the highest faculty of the human mind and possesses the potential power of divine revelation, it is still a limited manifestation of consciousness. Buddhi is also an evolute of Prakrti and thus cannot be identical to Purusha or Consciousness. The mind when viewed through the distorting lens of Avidya or ignorance, becomes the basis for a false sense of identity. This pseudo selfhood is Asmita. The basis for asmita is a false notion that buddhi is identical to the Atman. However an acutely focused Sattvic buddhi is very helpful in reflecting Self/Consciousness just as a clear chimney can transmit the light of the wick very clearly. Since sattvic intellect can reflect the light of Consciousness clearly, it also poses the danger of an aspirant falsely thinking that he has attained the Atman, that he is Self-realized. A sattvic and refined intellect is undoubtedly very important for reflective thinking and discernment. However that is not the end of the path. Such a sattvic buddhi is of tremendous value in overcoming the tyranny of tamas and rajas. So in the earlier stages sattva is glorified. That which was desirable in the earlier stages in the past is detrimental in the present. Now even Sattva is an obstacle. If tamas can be compared to a brick wall and rajas to stormy winds that toss about the mind in a tempest, sattva is like a glass wall. One can see through a glass wall, but cannot walk through. What we see through the glass wall helps us in inferring the presence of the light on the other side. But to reach or merge with the source of the light one has to eventually overcome the glass wall too. This is where buddhi too fails. Moreover the false sense of selfhood at this stage can lead to subtler demons such as pride of knowledge, false pride in having attained the self, false sense of immortality, all arising from knowledge that is not truly ultimate. One starts taking pride in ones sadhana. In the place of pride in material riches, pride in spiritual riches starts swelling the ego. Earlier the pride was grosser, easily detectable and thereby easier to accept. Spiritual pride is subtler, not easily detected and hard to accept. In a way the aspirant at this stage has some achievements to his credit compared to others who are still struggling with grosser issues related to tamas or rajas. However as long as the klesas continue to afflict an individual suffering is a definite possibility. Asmita along with
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the sense of Mamatva, is among the five causes of suffering. Total freedom from suffering is not possible as long as there is this sense of I and mine which becomes the focal point for all citta vrttis. The tyranny of Shumbha and Nishumbha is subtler compared to the tyrrany of Mahishasura. Moreover Mahishasura did not seek the hand of the Devi, did not talk of marrying the Goddess. He just rushed to war compulsively, compelled by his fiery rajas. But Shumbha and Nishumbha being more advanced asuras, having some light in their nature, at least in so far as their ability to show at least reflected light, mistake that they are equal to the Goddess or even superior. That is why they confidently court a marriage proposal. But first how do they come to know of the Goddess? Through Chanda and Munda. What do these two asuras denote? Chanda means fierce or passionate while Munda denotes a shaved head. Generally a shaved head is symbolic of vairagya or withdrawal. Vairagya can be true dispassion or it can also be sensitive withdrawal due to a bad experience. In the latter case it is not genuine vairagya but only withdrawal due to hurt, a negative reaction to an unpleasant experience. Here Munda being an asura, denotes reactive withdrawal from things that have been a source of suffering, not genuine vairagya. Chanda denotes passionate pursuit while Munda denotes sensitive introverted withdrawal. Here two specific behaviours have been selected to represent pra-vrtti and ni-vrtti, the two patterns of psychological and behavioural functioning. These two are the most common patterns of behaviour. One is hot pursuit of whatever is deemed attractive to the senses while the other is a sensitive withdrawal from those that hurt from past experience. These are the two principle movements of Asmita the false sense of identity. One movement is outward exertion (pra-vrtti) while the other is inward withdrawal (ni-vrtti). Asmita reacts to external objects (be it people or material things) in one of these two manners. If my past experience or impression of the person or object is pleasant I pursue passionately. If it was unpleasant or hurtful I withdraw due to hurt, or in extreme cases I may develop intense dislike or hatred for the person or object. Thus pursuit and withdrawal are actually behavioural expressions or reactionary patterns to citta vrttis that trigger these two movements. Our responses to things or people fit into either of these patterns to varying degrees depending on the object in front of us. This is the symbolism of Chanda (Pravrtti or Extroverted Pursuit) and Munda (Introverted Withdrawal). Note: Chanda and Munda as Pra-vrtti and Ni-vrtti are not the same as Extraversion and Introversion. Extraversion and Introversion are psychological tendencies that are neither positive nor negative whereas the symbolism of Canda and Munda is related more to raga (infatuation or attachment) and dvesha (aversion or dislike), which are among the five afflicting kleshas in Yoga psychology. It is Canda and Munda who see the Devi first and carry this news to Shumbha. They tell Shumbha about the beautiful goddess whose radiance illuminates the Himalayas. They flatter Shumbha with an account of his riches and powers, all stolen from the gods. Playing upon Shumbhas vanity, they suggest that he who is all-wealthy and all-powerful surely must also possess this jewel among women. There is a misconception that pravrtti should be eschewed. At this level of sadhana we realise that nothing is good or bad in itself. Even those that are deemed negative can be transformed to serve us positively. This is the Shakta approach. One must rise by that which one falls as tantra affirms. Canda and Munda are asuric as long as they serve Asmita, the false self. But it is the selfsame Canda and Munda, the two movements of vrttis that initially turn our attention to the Devi (the Supreme Self). the same pravrtti that can pull us into bondage can initially attract us towards liberation, towards self-realisation, though initially only as another goal to be sought. Likewise the same nivrtti that repels us from things that can cause suffering can bring true detachment or dispassion or genuine vairagya. As long as pravrtti and nivrtti serve the false self (Shumbha), they manifest as Raga (infatuation)and Dvesha (aversion), as Canda and Munda the two asuras. As already stated it is PravrttiPage 53 of 63

Nivrtti or the movement of citta vrttis that initially attracts us to self-realization, though as one more jewel to be sought. That is why Chanda and Munda bring news of the Devi (Supreme Self) who illuminates the Himalayas (gross body). Parvati taking abode in the Himalayas suggests that the gross body is not an inert thing but the abode of the Self that illumines the mind-body. Even the gods come down to the himalayas to extol the Divine Self. The mountain is not just an immovable lifeless object but the abode of the immovable Self, the unchanging consciousness. The goddess (Self) illumines not just the Himalayas (body) but the entire universe. Canda and Munda try to tempt Shumbha by telling him that there is something beyond buddhi. Though they havent recognised the Devi (Self) entirely they are right in their initial impressions that She is unsurpassable, a jewel among the best jewels, one to be truly sought. All other riches and beauties pale in comparision to the Devi (Self). Though they are drawn to the Goddess they havent yet recognised Her Divinity. Now that Shumbhas inherent craving to accumulate the best of everything has been kindled, he wishes to claim her as his own, just as we want to possess all that we find attractive and desirable. Shumbha first sends the smooth talking messenger Sugriva to court her. But is it possible to realise the Self only through intelligent words? No. But that is what we do after acquiring some knowledge. Mere eloquence or knowledge of the scriptures cannot bridge the gap between the Self and the false self. The Devi asks for nothing less than a combat between the Self (Devi) and the false self (Shumbha). Obviously the false self stands no chance. He would die at her hands. Indirectly the Devi is asking for nothing less than a sacrifice of the pseudoself. How can one obtain the Supreme Self without the death of the false self? As expected the smooth talking Sugriva fails. Then he changes his tactics. He threatens to drag her by the hair. By sheer habit, we attempt to grab even the Self by the same worldly tactics. If smooth talking and diplomacy fail, we resort to force! Grabbing the Devi by the hair is also reminiscent of our initial approach to spirituality. Initially we pull the new found jewel of divinity into the world as if it were another thing to be possessed! We see it as one more resource, like any other worldly resource. Instead of rising to the level of the Self, we try to pull the spiritual to the level of the material world. But none of this will work. Next, Shumbha sends Dhumralochana to fetch the Devi, kicking and screaming if need be. Dhumralochana means one of smoky vision, thus denoting distorted perception. Can distorted perception succeed? False knowledge arising from faulty thinking or distorted perception disappears instantaneously in the presence of the Self (Devi) just as darkness cannot exist in the presence of light. A mere humkara of the Devi is enough to kill Dhumralochana. And this is what happens precisely. When Dhumralochanas brute force fails, Shumbha loses all reason and sends Chanda and Munda with a huge army to bring back that vile woman in any way or in any condition whatever. Notice how Shumbha who was infatuated by the jewel among women now hates that vile woman. This is how raga (infatuation) and dvesha (aversion) are related to each other. That which is very desirable today can become despicable tomorrow! This is the work of raga-dvesha, this is the work of Chanda-Munda! Though Canda and Munda initially act as afflicters, there is a possibility that one can sublimate their energies into friendly energies. Instead of serving the false self (Shumbha) Chanda and Munda can be made to serve the Supreme Self. But they have to be killed first before they lose their asuric identity. Death at the hands of Kali is symbolic of transformation. Once transformed by the fiery power of Kali
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they cease to be asuras. Thereafter they are merely an expression of our psychological energies, neutral energies that take the colour of our thoughts/emotions. It is neither pravrtti nor nivrtti that is the problem. Yoga is the restraint or stilling of citta vrttis (yogascittav_ttinirodha%, Yogasutra, 1. 2). And how can we achieve this stilling of citta vrttis- only through constant practice and genuine detachment (vairagya), by constant practice (abhyasa) of non-reactivity (vairagya) (abhyasavairagyabhya tannirodha%, Yogasutra, 1. 12). Here is the key to the transformation of Canda and Munda. The power of pravrtti is channelized as abhyasa while nivrrti can become true vairagya. This is how one can kill Canda and Munda and transform their energies. In order to accomplish Goddess Ambika projects the terrible Kali from her own angry countenance. Kali devours the armies of demons, falling upon them impetuously and slaughtering the powerful demons. Devouring some, crushing others, chewing most frightfully with her teeth, she pounds the entire army of the mighty and wicked asuras. The image of grinding teeth that is invoked thrice (7.11, 7.13, 7.15) reminds us of the wheel of Time (Kalachakra) that grinds all things to dust. Except for a change of gender Kali is none other than Kala, who is described by Arjuna in the vision of the cosmic form in the Bhagavad Gita (11. 24-31). Lord Krishna further confirms it by affirming that he himself is the world destroying Kala engaged in destroying the world (kalo'smi lokak_ayak_tprav_ddho lokansamahartumiha prav_tta%, 11. 32). Thus Kali is the same as Kala. Kali accomplishes Her mission by severing the heads of Canda and Munda and delivering them to Chandika who is none other than Ambika. Since Kali brought the heads of Canda and Munda as battle trophies to the auspicious Chandika, Kali is henceforth famous as Chamunda. The destruction of Chanda and Munda needed the terrible Kali. But Shumbha and Nishumbha being more subtler spin-offs of intellect (buddhi) and ignorance (avidya), the auspicious and sattvic form of the Goddess is need to liberate them. That is why Kali tells Ambika, In this sacrifice of battle, here have I brought you the heads of Chanda and Munda the great beasts. Shumbha and Nishumbha, you shall yourself slay. Once again we have the Goddess talking to Herself as both the terrible as well as auspicious forms are two different aspects of the selfsame Mother Goddess. Upon news of the loss of two of his servants Canda and Munda, Shumbha marshals vast numbers of asuric hosts, clan by clan. Totally there are eight clans of demons who are marshalled by Shumbha. They are Udayudhas, Kambus, Kotiviryas, Dhaumras, Kalakas, Daurhrdas, Mauryas and the Kalakeyas. The eight asura clans represent the eight pasas. Pasa means bond. According to Tantra Jiva or individual consciousness is bound by eight bonds or pasas. Jiva is limited by various constraints (kanchukas) and ashta pasas (eight bonds). When jiva becomes free of these constraints and limiting bonds, one becomes Shiva. One who is bound by Pasa (bond) is Jiva, while one who is free of the Pasas is Sadashiva (Pasa Yukta Bhavet Jiva Pasa Mukta Sadashiva). Sadhana is aimed at liberating individual consciousness (jiva) from these bonds. The boundless Consciousness is limited by these eight bonds giving rise to a false sense of self or Asmita. That is why Shumbha (Asmita) calls upon the eight asura clans to fight on his behalf. This is the significance of the eight clans of asuras. The eight asura clans and the eight pasas or bonds are given below.

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Asura Sampradaya Corresponding Ashta Pasa or Eight Bonds Udayudhas ghrna: contempt Kambus lajja: shame Kotiviryas bhaya: fear Dhaumras shanka: doubt Kalakas jugupsa: disgust Daurhrdas kula: family, caste or group identity that becomes restrictive Mauryas shila: pride in ones morality that makes one judgmental towards others Kalakeyas jati: racial identity that leads to false pride and sense of superiority Though some of the above bonds appear harmless on the face of it, potentially they can all be very restrictive and harmful. Some of these bonds such as fear, doubt, contempt and disgust are limiting influences on our consciousness and its expression. The remaining bonds such as group identity, racial identity and pride in ones morality lead to arrogance or a false sense of superiority over others. These eight bonds contribute to as well as sustain the false self. Unlike grosser demoniac traits like anger and greed that the aspirant can recognise more easily, the eight pasas are subtler and influence even those who have achieved some success in sadhana. Even those who are at a relatively more advanced state and have some achievements to their credit, can fall prey to these eight binding factors. One doesnt have to be predominantly rajasic or tamasic to fall prey to the influence of the eight pasas. Even sattvic people can slip into these limited ways of thinking or living. Pride in ones family, birth, race, spiritual lineage, morality, sense of shame, fear, doubt, contempt or disgust towards other spiritual approaches, are all highly limiting and can cause closed thinking. This is the tyrranny of the eight clans of demons. To counter these eight asuric forces, Chandika (the Supreme Self) calls forth seven Shaktis. These seven Shaktis along with Kali counter the eight clans of asuras. As the armies of the demons encircle Her, the Goddess multiplies Her forces calling forth seven Shaktis, who are seven aspects of our own consciousness. Thus Chandika and Kali, the twin aspects of the Goddess fighting the asuras, are now joined by the seven Shaktis of Brahma, Shiva, Kumara/Skanda, Vishnu, Indra, Varaha and Narasimha. There issued forth Chandikas own terrifying Shakti, who came to be known as Shivaduti since she sent Lord Shiva himself as her messenger to the asura lords. Together the nine Shaktis destroy the mighty asuras in no time. Who are these goddesses? Each goddess presides over a particular aspect of our consciousness and is linked to a graha (planet) in astrology. The nine Goddesses and their functions as aspects of Consciousness are given below. Goddess or Shakti Graha Aspect or Function of Consciousness Chandika or Her Shakti Shivaduti Sun Soul or Self Maheshwari Moon Mind Narasimhi Mars Will Vaishnavi Mercury Brahmani Jupiter Aindri or Indrani Venus Kali or Chamunda Saturn Varahi Rahu Kaumari Ketu The asura clans have been killed. The eight pasas have been cut asunder. Even Canda and Munda are dead. With both Chanda (Pra-vrtti) and Munda (Ni-vrtti) dead, with both the outward and inward
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movements of citta vrttis having ceased, what remains to be done is only the stilling of the citta vrttis. Raktabija, who strides onto the battlefield after the death of Chanda and Munda, is none other than the citta vrttis. That Raktabija is symbolic of citta vrrtis, becomes clear when we examine his unique powerwhenever a drop of his blood falls to earth, another demon of identical size and strength springs up. In the battle, innumerable demons proliferate from Raktabijas spilt blood, terrorising and bewildering the gods. This is the nature of citta vrttis or thought processes. Each vrtti leads to one more as thoughts multiply in geometric progression. The same is true of desire too. Though the gods are bewildered by the evermultiplying citta vrttis, Durga laughs knowingly. Is it better to conquer one desire by nipping it in the bud or to satisfy a thousand desires? This is a serious question that every aspirant needs to reflect over at some stage or the other. Desire makes us human but it is also the source of all suffering. Desire is in the mind, as mental activity, as thoughts, as citta vrttis. When desire takes centre stage we often sit and watch helplessly wondering what we can do. How do we release from the endless cycle of desire, gratification or frustration? The gods too are bewildered and frustrated by the ever multiplying Raktabija. Ambika knows the greatest truth of Yoga. Yoga is the stilling of citta vrttis (Yogasutra 1. 2). The best and only efficient method is to overcome the first desire, or first thought, rather than have to fight a thousand more. Conquering the original desire will release us from this endless cycle of desire, gratification, disillusionment and frustration. The all knowing Candika instructs Kali to roam about on the battlefield quickly drinking the spilt drops of Raktabijas blood as she attacked him. As Kali drank Raktabijas blood simultaneously devouring the newly born demons who sprang from his spilt blood, the bloodless Raktabija died promptly. Finally, only two demons remain- Shumbha and Nishumbha. Shumbha and Nishumbha are the inseparable brothers. In a long battle sequence, the Goddess fights oneon-one first with Nishumbha, then with Shumbha, and again with Nishumbha. Nishumbhas character is not highlighted much so far apart from him being the younger brother of Shumbha, as dear as life itself to Shumbha. If Shumbha is Asmita the false sense of self, Nishumbha is mamatva or mamata. Nishumbha is as dear as life itself to Shumbha because the identity of Asmita the false sense of self , is shaped by its attachment (mamata) to body-mind, possessions, family and social roles, group affiliations, identity and beliefs too, among other adjuncts (upadhis). An upadhi is a defining attribute, a limiting qualification, a substitute, anything that maybe mistaken for something else. Thus while Shumbha represents subjective ego-awareness, Nishumbha represents the attachment to all its objective attributes. The Devis battle sequence with the asura brothers is the inner conflict between the boundless Self and the limited sense of self or the subjective and limited notion of identity. Being inextricably linked the two demon brothers Asmita and mamatva fight, one rising up when the other is knocked out. If it is not Me it is about Mine. If it is not about Me it could be about My children or spouse or family or country or religion. But in the final reckoning, all this is of little value. As already explained earlier although it may seem that buddhi and purusha are identical, in reality they are not. The Self (Atman) is not the same as non-self (anatman). It is ignorance (avidya) that gives rise to the mistaken notion that the non-self is identical to the Self. Avidya is so powerful, pervasive and subtle, and is the root of all other kleshas. It is avidya that makes us mistake buddhi, which is also an upadhi, for the Self.
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All these are appearances mistaken for reality- this is the actual definition for an upadhi. It becomes clear, when Nishumbha, in spite of all his apparent grandeur, is knocked senseless to the ground. Even so, he rises up in desperation, as a monster with ten thousand arms, suggestive of desperate grasping or clinging to the the countless fragments of all that one considers as ones own, the countless notions of mine that sustain the notion of a separate self, that only serves to separate us from the Infinite One. This desperate instinctive grasping or clinging to the attachments of the limited self or ego-awareness is the final klesha, Abhinivesha. Abhinivesha is the most basic attachment to life that all living beings instinctually possess. It manifests as fear of death, as fear of death of ones individual existence, as fear of death of ones individuality, as fear that desperately clings to the innumerable fragments of non-self as the Self. All this is because of the misidentification of the Self with the ever-changing Prakrti or material nature. As the Goddess (Self) penetrates the ten thousand armed monsters (Abhiniveshas) heart, the demons essence appears one final time, pleading for the Goddess to stop, indicating how unrelentingly one clings because of this klesha. However no upadhi can last truly till the end before the Devis sword of knowledge (gnana). Finally as She slays him, only Shumbha is left all alone, stripped of all the false things that he has identified himself with all along. With no other support Shumbha, the false self has to battle it out alone. The first six verses of the tenth chapter drive home the crux of the entire third episode. Shumbha addresses the Devi as Durga (10.3), reminding us that She is the selfsame Goddess who killed Mahishasura earlier on in the second episode. Shumbha, the false self, is based on the erroneous notion of multiplicity and individuality. Shumbha sees only multiplicity and cannot recognise the unity of all existence. Perplexed by the multiple names used to refer to the Goddess- Devi, Chandika, Ambika, Kali, Chamunda, Brahmani, Maheshwari, Kaumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Narasimhi, Aindri and a host of other names throughout the text, one might possibly forget that there is only one Goddess in the entire narrative. Shumbha too fails to recognise that the Devi is indeed one without a second. He refuses to recognise the unity of all existence as he chides Her for depending on the strength of others. Thereupon the Devi reveals that she is one without a second, saying I alone exist in this universe. Who else is there besides me? (10.5). This is the great dictum, the Mahavakya of the Devi Mahatmyam. Following this proclamation of divine unity, She affirms that the many manifestations, are but projections of Her own power, as are all other forms she inhabits (10. 8). The truth of infinite Being and Oneness cannot be appreciated by the false self, for how can the false or individual self exist if it can realise Oneness? How can the limited notion of individuality exist alongside the unbounded, infinite Self? This is the delusional power of Mahamaya. Just as all the divine manifestations are projections of the Goddess, all the asuras are also projections of Asmita. Now that Shumbha is all alone, denuded of all the multiple projections of individual ego-awareness, the climax of the battle is between the limited self and the Supreme Self. But it is not a battle between equals though it looks like one on the face of it. After exhausting all weapons, Shumbha and the Devi fight hand to hand in mid-air as never before, to the astonishment of the saints and sages! The combat with Shumbha is the rarest one, as Asmita is extremely elusive and stubborn. But the Devis Sattvic power can overcome the mightiest asuric force though after a short-lived play of power. Their battle is symbolic of a spiritual struggle that is beyond the realm of day to day existence. This is the significance of the metaphor of fighting in mid-air. Eventually the Devi kills him by piercing the asura with Her spear of knowledge (gnana). The death of Asmita, the false self, or limited egoawareness, is nothing but the relinquishing of a limited identity. But in losing this limited identity one gains an unimaginably greater one- that of the Supreme Being. This final victory represents the realization of the true Self, the end of all multiplicity, the
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steady experience of Oneness, and the passage from an ever-changing becoming to Pure Awareness or Being. Finally one can now join the seer of the Svetasvatara Upanishad in affirming, I know the unchanging, primeval One, the indwelling Self of all things, existing everywhere, all pervading, whom the wise declare to be eternal, free from birth (3. 21).

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Deity at the Shri Durga Temple 4215 E. McNichols Rd, Detroit, Michigan, USA 48212,


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MARKANDEYA PURANA Shri Durga Sapta Shloki Sanskrit text, with English transliteration and meaning. Sanskrit text English transliteration with meaning (given below). Om Jnaaninaamapi chetaamsi Devi Bhagavati hi sa, Baladaakrushya mohaaya Maha Maya prayacchati/ (Bhagavati Maha Maya! You pull the minds of even Gyaanis with force towards obsession!) Om Durgey smritaa harasi bheeti masesha jantoh, Swasthaih smritaa mati mateeva shubhaam dadaasi/ Daaridra duhkha bhaya haarini ka twadanya, Sarvopakaara karanaaya sadaardra Chitta/ (Devi Durga! A mere thought of Yours demolishes fright among Praanis or Beings, while You provide auspiciousness in response to the meditation by sensible humans) (Who else is there but You that is readily prepared with extreme benevolence to ward off our sorrows, fears and adversities?) Om Sarva Mangala Maangalyey Shivey sarvaartha saadhikey, Sharanyey Thriabikey Devi! Narayani Namostuthey/ (Devi! Narayani! You are the embodiment and Provider of Auspiciousness to one and all; You are Shiva Swarupa or the Form of Propitiousness fulfilling all our wishes; You are Traimbika or the composite personification of Lakshmi, Saraswati and Parvati; We seek shelter from You, as we bend down and greet!) Om Sharanaagata deenaarta paritraana parayaney, Sarvasyaarti harey Devi! Narayani Namostutey/ (Our greetings to You Narayani! Devi! We seek refuge and safety from You as we are helpless and harassed).
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Om Sarva Swarupey Sarvesey Sarva Shakti samanvitey, Bhayebhyastraahino Devi! Durga Devi Namostutey/ (Devi! You are the all-comprehensive Form, the Supreme Sovereign, and the lPowerful; kindly shield us from diverse types of fears and apprehensions; our earnest salutations to You, Durga Devi!) Om rogaanaseshaa napahamsi Tushtaa, Rushtaa tu kaamaan sakasaa nabhishtaan/ Twam ashritaanaam na vipannaraanaam, Twam ashritaa hyashrayataam prayaanti / (As You assume compassion, all our diseases disappear; but if indignant, all our wishes get to nought) (Those who have already taken asylum from You would never face difficulties any way; on the other hand, such persons saved by You could as well provide protection to others too in their turn!) Om Sarva baadhaa prashamanam Thrailokya syaakhileswari, Evameva twayaa kaarya masadvairi vinaashanam/ (Sarveswari! Do continue to alleviate the tribulations of one and all among the Three Lokas and destroy the enemy elements everywhere). Ya yetatsaramam guhyam Sarva Rakshaa vishaaradam, Devya sambhaashitam Stotram sadaa Saamraajya daayakam/ Shrunuyaadwaa pathedyaapi paathayeydwaapi yatnatah, Parivaara yutho Bhuutwaa Trailokya Vijayeebhavet! (This Sapta Shloki is at once striking yet classified but bestowing protection; this is a Sacred Hymn related to the Supreme Mother yielding immense benefits including Samraajya or Empires!) (Hearing, reading or narrating the Sapta Shloki with sincere efforts along with family and friends would secure accomplishments in all the Three Lokas!) 0/mode/1up Tamil script text

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