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  • Writer's pictureDurga Dasi

From Dasya to Prati Vatsalya: Journeying to the Heart of the Mother (Pt 1)

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

Growing up in a fundamentalist Christian home (Assemblies of God, to be precise), I’ve always been well versed in being a humble servant at the feet of God. Of course, we were also taught that we are, indeed, children of him as well… but clearly, our Father which art in Heaven has a bit of a temper (take, for instance, Ezekial 25:17 – “I will execute great vengeance on them with wrathful rebukes. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I lay my vengeance upon them.”[1] In my religion – and home – it didn’t do to approach God as a loving Father… because, if you screwed up, you were indeed and quite permanently… well, screwed.

As I discover more of Kali as Mother, I’ve carried much of this same attitude of “fear and trembling”[2] over into my relationship with Her. I shudder at the thought of Her vengeful rebuke at my every shortcoming. There have been many precious, precious moments when that fear has cleared, and She’s given me just the tiniest taste of the infinitude of Her love – unconditional and quite grand, yet simple and quiet… echoing in the chambers of my own heart once the machinery of the mind has dimmed – and still I find myself very much afraid of losing Her love due to my own demerits.

When, in class, we discussed the bhavas of bhakti, something I’d read about before but perhaps with too much nonchalance, pieces began to come together. I began to meditate upon the idea of dasya verses Prati Vatsalya. This essay will be dedicated to these two felt senses of relationship specifically. The reasoning for this is quite personal in my own understanding of worthiness. Can I, with all of my baggage and insecurities, come to rest in the knowing that I am a child of Kali Mā? Can I, through reasoning and Practice, begin to unravel the story that She is not burdened by me… but rather very deliberately created, chose, and called to me? Can I sever the fictitious character of Her I’ve created relative to my own mother? To do this requires the delving into both ideas: servitude contrasting parentage.

According to Oxford Dictionary, a servant is:

  1. a person who performs duties for others, especially a person employed in a house on domestic duties or as a personal attendant.

To my understanding, a servant shows dedication and devotion out of obligation or fear and in exchange for some material outcome (pay, housing, legalities, etc). A servant may have deep love and respect for their master, but will nevertheless always remain a servant. The master[3] may have deep love for the servant, but the servant will never be as dear as, say, a child. One who serves may live in the same home as the family and even be treated as an honorary member of said family… but will always know that they are outside of the sacred bond of blood. There will always be a risk of exclusion and/or expulsion, and performance will forever be a determining factor in the relationship between servant and master, no matter how strong the link between them.

Let us now imagine this same “master” also has a child. (For the sake of this essay, let it be known that while discussing the Mother/Child relationship, we’ll liken the mother to one who is mentally competent and psychologically sound enough to offer a healthy relationship and upbringing to the child.) This child has no need to impress their mother for the sake of maintaining the parental bond. The mother will never not be the child’s mother, and the child has only trust in their mother to always be just that: Mother. For, as Eric Draven[4]said, “Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of all children.” The child has the experience of knowing their Mother, while the servant has the experience of knowing the same being as “boss”. One is an unbreakable assurance of relationship… the other is not.

On a very personal note, coming to understand this idea of unconditional love was extremely challenging for me. I grew up with a mother who was not psychologically well and therefore this was not something she could offer. Her acceptance and care for me was entirely merit based, which more often than not, I failed to earn. Having an opportunity to examine the idea of “mother” from having been one gave me a different perspective. My former husband and I lost two children to miscarriages. Still, in those precious months of pregnancy, I understood the love a mother is meant to have for her child. It is by reflecting on these experiences in the light of Mā Kali’s grace, as illumined by wisdom of scriptures and teachings, that I’ve begun to grasp the infinite love of Mother.

In The Veiling Brilliance[5], Medas tells us

“She is Mother… you must go beyond your fear and come to Her in love… what you love you cannot fear, and Kali takes us beyond all fear.” He then goes on to describe Kali in Her full, fierce appearance and offers insight into the meaning behind it all. But then, he shares this truly beautiful sentiment: “Taken together, Kali’s four hands say, ‘Take refuge in Me, let go of your fear, let Me slay your illusion of smallness and separation, and you will merge into My infinite bliss’… How beautiful the Mother is…”

Later, Medhas is encouraging Samadhi to release the guilt of his past, and makes another brilliant statement,

“Whatever you may have done in the past, let it go… there is nothing you can hide from the all-knowing Divine Mother… Do you think She loves you any less for your mistakes?...You are the Mother’s child. Remember that and cast off all sense of unworthiness!”[6]

We call Her Mother… we read the scriptures that describe Her as Mother… but do we actually approach Her as such? Do we, like knowing children who have absolutely no doubt about their mother’s unconditional love of them, abandon ourselves into Her arms to be provided guidance, nurturing, care… even discipline; or do we continue to throw ourselves at Her feet in tears of panic and fear that She seeks to punish and withhold?

Indeed, She is beyond the limitations of form as Mother also, for She is the formless Brahman Who is the creator, sustainer and destroyer of all things. She, the one Who is beyond gender and time… who spins multiverses in the void of Her womb… She has chosen to allow us to call Her Mother… and would we dare reject such a gift by insisting to remain mere servants?

Can there be a balance between the two… and how does this translate into the mundanity of day to day life?

To answer this question, I’ve taken a deep dive into what it means to accept Kali (and/or Durga) as my mom… daring to step beyond the awesomeness of Her grandeur as Goddess and peering solely into Her heart as not just any mother… but that of my very own.

To be continued...

[1] English Standard Version [2] Philippians 2:12 [3] Per Oxford Dictionary, the historical definition of “Master” is a man who has people working for him, especially servants or slaves. [4] Played by the late Brandon Lee in the Goth Cult Classic movie, The Crow [5] Devadatta Kali ©2006 David Nelson [6] The Veiling Brilliance ©2006 David Nelson

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