The Divine Feminine

By Rudra Shivananda

We just recently celebrated Mother’s Day. In this fast moving and non-traditional day and age, it is necessary to remind everyone of the sacrifice and love that makes possible the birth and nurturing of all human beings.

woman holding baby while sitting on fur bean bag

A mother’s love is every baby and child’s first experience of the world except in the unfortunate cases of orphans (physical or emotional). It is the mother’s love or lack there-of that shapes the lives of all human beings. In the Indian spiritual traditions, there
is recognition of this power and influence of the mother in the family being reflected in the divine and cosmic scenario.

Even though the Divine in not subject to gender or division, but encompasses all aspects of the universe, it is helpful for mortal beings to envision various aspects and attributes of the Divine so that we can form a connection from our limited perception and understanding to the infinite and unbounded power and consciousness that fills, covers and permeates this universe. For many of us, there is a strong resonance with the feminine mother aspect and this has resulted in the popularity of feminine deities in India.

In most cases, the feminine aspect is complementary to the masculine aspect as in the pairing of the triple divinity. Each of the three primary functions of creation, preservation and transformation is represented by the masculine consciousness of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Each of these is paired with their feminine counterpart representing the power or energy aspect. Brahma is paired with Saraswati, Vishnu with
Lakshmi and Shiva with Parvati. It is necessary to consider the pairing more in the nature of two sides of the same coin than to think of them as married couples which many Hindus have the tendency to.

Although there are popular stories about these couples that seem to relate to them as almost human couples in their actions, these should not be taken literally or even philosophically as they are usually meant to teach basic lessons of life using the divine beings as actors in the drama. In the tradition of the sages, the pairs cannot be separated and one side cannot act without the other, just as power without consciousness leads to mindless destruction and consciousness without power leads to non-action.

The development of the Divine Feminine takes on a more unique role in the cosmic drama, because Mother Parvati, the Shakti or feminine power of Lord Shiva, has taken on various other forms for specific trans-formative functions. These forms have their own attributes and have taken on separate existences with their own associated lore and legends. Such Shaktis include Mother Durga who is fierce in defending her children, the horrifying Kaali Ma who roots out all darkness and negativity from the universe and Tripura Sundari who is glorious in her protection of creation.

Some of the major feminine forms have been grouped together under the umbrella term of the ten Mahavidyas, a primarily tantra tradition. In the ultimate development of feminine power, the Shakta tradition holds that the supreme Divine power is feminine and all creation, including the triple aspect of creator, preserver and transformer flows only from the One Divine Mother. This extreme homage to the mother aspect resonates with some spiritual aspirants, especially a portion of the tantric tradition and is a legitimate path towards higher consciousness.

Whether you are on one side or the other of the spectrum in perceiving the feminine in the Divine, there can be no seeker who can ignore this aspect. One may need to be reminded that on the yogic level, the potential energy called Kundalini that needs to be awakened and raised for Self-Realization is also called the Shakti or the Divine Feminine. Only when the Shakti Kundalini is raised and united with the Shiva Consciousness in third-eye that Self-Realization is possible.

We need to pay our homage to the Divine Mother as well as to our birth mothers. Our human mothers have given us birth to our human body with the potential for realizing our true nature, while it is Divine Mother who can give us a second birth as Self-Realized beings.

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