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: mother archetype and the great goddess

As_dez_mahavidya
Mahavidyas, Creative Commons via wikimedia

According to Carl Jung, the qualities associated with the mother archetype are:

“maternal solicitude and sympathy; the magic authority of the female; the wisdom and spiritual exaltation that transcend reason; any helpful instinct or impulse; all that is benign, all that cherishes and sustains, that fosters growth and fertility.” [1]

In Hinduism, the mother goddess offers all of these traits, plus more. She is also the form of cosmic power and revelation.

The goddess is the slayer of demons; she defeats spiritual ignorance with her comic power. She empowers even the gods– Brahma, Visnu, and Shiva– who are powerless to battle the great demons of ignorance.

The goddess expresses herself through three primal aspects of the cosmos: creation, maintenance, and destruction. She reveals herself in the three primal forms: Prakriti (nature), expressing the primal material energy of which all matter is composed; Maya (illusion), expressing our illusionary attempts to measure the infinite; and Shakti (power), the primal power of the Cosmic Self and bestower of liberation.

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Dhumavati: mother Image as secret and hidden

Mahavidya Dhumavati", Jaipur, Rajasthan. Ajit Mukharjee collection 1926 In Hindu goddesses: visions of the divine feminine in the Hindu religious tradition by David R. Kinsley, US public Domain via wikimedia
Mahavidya Dhumavati, 1926 In Hindu goddesses: visions of the divine feminine by Kinsley, US public Domain via wikimedia

Carl Jung tells us that “the mother archetype may connote anything secret, hidden…” [1]. In the Hindu tradition, the goddess is often associated with that which is secret and hidden. Shakti is the secret power or energy behind manifestation. All Goddess images in some way or another represent the secret and hidden aspects of being, and most specifically of the Self.

As a dialectic, the goddess represents both the unknown and that which is to be known. She is the secret teaching of and on the Self. In the Tantric tradition, it is the Goddess who reveals the nature of the Self. The idea of the ‘hidden’ is central to the Tantric Mahavidyas (the Great Wisdom). The Mahavidya are the ten aspects of the devi (Shakti). The Mahavidyas reveal the hidden truth of the Self, as cosmic Self.

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Sacred Waters: the mother goddess and the waters of life

Kalighat paintings from 19th century Calcutta. US public Domain via wikimedia.
Ganga 19th century Calcutta. US public Domain via wikimedia.

Water is sacred in many traditions of the world. In India, the river Ganges is sacred; bathing in the river is said to lead to moksha (enlightenment). In the Bhagavata Purana, there is a story of the creation of the Ganges. It is said that Vishnu (in the form of Vâmana) wanted to measure the universe, step by step. As he took his second step, “the nail of the big toe of His left foot pierced the upper covering of the universe.”  With this piercing, water “from the outside entered the hole” and flowed in the form of a great river. This sacred water is said to vanquish “the sins of all the world getting in touch with it.” (Canto 5, Chapter 17)

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