12 Mar JAI MA! The Great Mother
According to Hinduism, the divine source creates, maintains and destroys the universe. The power with which these functions are performed is called Shakti or the Divine Mother. As Ramakrishna said:
“To my Divine Mother I prayed only for pure love. I offered flowers at Her lotus feet and prayed to Her,” He prayed that She take him beyond all the dualities in Her creation, knowledge and ignorance, purity and impurity, and take him to Her heart. In most cultures, the Mother is the one person who is considered to be the most exalted and worthy of respect and service. The unparalleled love possessed by a mother for her children is the subject of praise and reverence in numerous scriptures. A Mother is the very embodiment of qualities such as love, sacrifice and selfless service to her children.
I also see that the path of the yoga teacher is one of a great mother: loving, serving, protecting and encouraging her student children through doubt, fear or ignorance. That’s why there’s often a deep internal pull towards teaching as a path of service and love – a feeling that someone divine is coming through you in order to guide others. So much so that your own personality or charisma drop away. This is so beautiful for those that don’t fit into the literal role as mother.
There are women who have difficult relationships with their own mothers, women who chose not to be mothers, mothers with tricky relationships with their children, mothers who would really rather not be mothers and women who would love to be mothers but cannot be. Teaching yoga, especially if approached as an extension of one’s own sadhana (spiritual practice), one’s own bhakti (devotion) and as a path of complete absorption in the divine offerings coming through you – can be the most nurturing, mothering experience that is deeply fulfilling whatever your human life experience.
The Divine Mother is also called the Cosmic Mother as she is present everywhere in this cosmos, especially in the cycles of life, nature, our bodies. She is maintaining and sustaining all this creation – just like a mother takes care of her children by watching from the side of the playground and being gently present (i.e. resisting the urge to micro-manage, stop children climbing or projecting their own fears onto the child. It takes so much presence and self-control not to do this!)
Ramakrishna’s wife, the Divine Mother Sri Sarada Devi, embodied this selfless love (She is known as Holy Mother). She looked upon herself as the mother of all beings and spent her whole life in service to all, as her children, undergoing unending sacrifice and self-denial. About her role in the mission of Sri Ramakrishna, she stated: “My son, you know the Master had a maternal attitude (matri-bhava) towards everyone. He has left me behind to manifest that Divine Motherhood in the world.”
Therefore, there are so many opportunities to heal our mother/child relationships, to have the opportunity through yoga and other healing modalities to be aware of the shadow we may need to heal, and to allow the divine goddesses to seep into our practice, life, love and sadhana. We are all divine mothers somehow, every woman, every sister, every daughter, every lover, every teacher. If we practice forgiveness, uplift one another, become brave enough to deal with the shadow – we have so much more to connect with students and friends on the path.
Let’s take a leaf out of Ramakrishna’s book and bow to the Divine Mother in all and everything, and to all the teachers out there: your worth is in what comes through you, so keep listening deeply and quietly and all your answers are there, like a loving mother softly singing in the dark, while stroking your forehead. She is there. She is here. She is you. Jai Ma.
The image for this blog post is a photo I took of an illustration in Illuminations from the Bhagavad Gita by Kim and Chris Murray, a favourite book for both my daughter and I.
To Skanda Vale, for being a peaceful space for me to sit with Kali Ma without getting on a flight!
To Swami Sarvadevananda of the Vedanta Society of Southern California, for always inviting me to sing to Ma in his presence and for offering food as divine prasad.