Durga: encountering the demon of ignorance

Durga Mahishasura-mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon, Raja Ravi Varma- 1910 US public domain via Wikimedia
Durga Mahishasura-mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon, Raja Ravi Varma- 1910 US public domain via Wikimedia

Oneness is defined as a “state of being unified or whole, though comprised of two or more parts.” Oneness is not only a concept, but a potential of the Self. Carl Jung spoke of Self realization in terms of wholeness and integration. Indian spiritual texts speak of the supreme Self (Atman) as One or non-dual.

In becoming aware of the supreme nature of the Self , we are likely to behold the demons and shadows of the individual self. In Indian philosophy, the demon is known to be an image of ignorance and falsehood. Carl Jung believed that an encounter with the demon or monster represented an archetypal stage in the process of individuation. He says, “the initial encounter with the Self casts a dark shadow ahead of time.” In mythic terms the shadow may present itself as a monster, a demon, a darkness or a drought. Here is the full quote from Jung’s Man and His Symbols:

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Gayatri: the mother plays an important part in the woman’s unconscious

 A representation of the Gayatri Mantra by Raja Ravi Varma. US public domain via wikimedia
A representation of the Gayatri Mantra
by Raja Ravi Varma. US public domain via wikimedia

Carl Jung speaks of the importance of the Goddess in the life of women, for instance:

“the Earth Mother plays an important part in the woman’s unconscious, for all her manifestations are described as ‘powerful.’ (CW 9i, para. 212)

Western spirituality is dominated by the image of the Father God. This may be a detriment to feminine psyche, as well the male. We need the mother goddess, she play an important role in the unconscious. As Jung says, we need her “power”.

Hinduism understands this. In the Hindu pantheon, there are many Goddesses. As the ancient Hindu texts seem to understand, the many goddesses are forms or ectypes of the great mother goddess, the Devī (the Sanskrit word meaning Goddess). In Tantra, the Goddess (as Devi or Shakti) is realized as the “power” of the cosmic Self (Shiva).

One form of mother Goddess is Gayatri. In the image above, we see Gayatri with five heads, seated on a lotus. It is said that her four heads represent the Vedas and the fifth head represents the supreme Self.

Gayatri is also one of the most important Vedic Mantras. Gayatri offers herself as a wonderful healing hymn for all beings on the path to enlightenment. Singh says,

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Kali: the loving and terrible mother

Kali standing upon Shiva. Iconographic Collections. Creative Commons via Welcome Images.
Kali standing upon Shiva. Iconographic Collections. Creative Commons via Welcome Images.

Carl Jung speaks of Kali:

“In India, ‘the loving and terrible mother’ is the paradoxical Kali. Samkhya philosophy has elaborated the mother archetype into the concept of prakrti (matter) and assigned to it the three gunas or fundamental attributes: sattva, rajas, tamas: goodness, passion, and darkness. These are three essential aspects of the mother: her cherishing and nourishing goodness, her orgiastic emotionality, and her Stygian depths .” [1]

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Mahavidyas: working with the ambivalent aspect of the mother archetype

Durga_under_an_arch_displaying_the_Mahavidyas,_with_Shiva_at_the_apex
An image of Durga (Shakti) under an arch displaying the Mahavidyas, with Shiva at the apex; 1930’s. US Public Domain via Wikimedia

In the image above, we see the Goddess Durga (Shakti) under an arch displaying the Mahavidyas. The mahavidyas express various forms of the Devi. Mahavidya is a Sanskrit word that speaks to the revelatory power of the mother goddess. Maha means ‘great’ and Vidya means ‘knowledge’ or ‘wisdom’.

Sitting on top of the arch, we find Shiva. Shiva is an image of the cosmic Self (Brahman). The mother goddesses express the form and power of the cosmic Self. As such, she emerges as ‘great wisdoms’, offering esoteric knowledge of the Cosmic Self. Arthur Avalon speaks to the relation of Shiva and Shakti:

“Mind and Matter are ultimately one, the two latter being the twin aspects of the Fundamental Substance or Brahman [or Shiva] and Its Power or Shakti. Spirit is the substance of mind-matter, the Reality (in the sense of the lasting changelessness) out of which, by Its Power, all Appearance is fashioned not by the individual mind and senses but by the cosmic mind and senses of which they are but a part. What It creates It perceives.”

Shiva and Shakti form two aspects or poles of the cosmic Self (Brahman). All of reality emerges as such: cosmic mind and cosmic body. For the yogi, this eternal truth is revealed within both the macrocosm (cosmic body) and the microcosm (individual body). By working to realize these poles of being, we come to know the nature of the Self.

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Lakshmi: mother archetype as fruitfulness

Lakshmi by Raja Ravi Varma, painted between 1848 and 1906. US Public Domain via wikimedia.
Lakshmi by Raja Ravi Varma, painted between 1848 and 1906. US Public Domain via wikimedia.

Carl Jung associates the mother archetype with “fertility and fruitfulness” [1]. In the painting above, we see the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. Lakshmi offers a wonderful image of the fertility and fruitfulness of the mother. The Rig Veda says that “auspicious fortune is attached” to the name Lakshmi. The Sanskrit word Lakshmi comes from the words lakṣ and lakṣa, meaning “to perceive, observe, know, understand” and “goal, aim, objective” [2]

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