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From Dasya to Prati Vatsalya: Journeying to the Heart of the Mother (Pt 3)



As Grace would have it, I ended up in a mindfulness based, outpatient program for people with PTSD. Though I had practiced asana off and on during my early adulthood and as a fertility treatment, the addition of meditation made all the difference. Something in me began to awaken. I began to study pagan forms of a divine mother (specifically Isis, because of a song by the same name by Bob Dylan) and my heart felt sparks of hope such as I’d forgotten could exist.

She, this Unknown Mother, gave me the strength to pack up my cat and flee my marriage, daring to begin again.

I share this, because one of my favorite quotes by Sri Guru Mā is, “When by the flood of your tears the inner and outer have fused into one, you will find Her whom you sought with such anguish, nearer than the nearest, the very breath of life, the very core of every heart.[1]

You see, I am convinced that Mā’s sword is Her most compassionate tool of awakening us to Her love. By taking away every thing and every one I thought I had, including and especially my children, I was forced to look at my Mother wound… and in that decaying hole, I found Her. The anguish is what allowed me to sense Her.

Medhas says, “Now and then, the Mother marks a bound soul as Her own… from then on, it is all Her grace.”[2]

Or, as Krishna Das says, “Grace removes obstacles that we don’t even know are there. Grace is what arranges our lives so we are forced to look within.”

She marked me… but not as a servant. I’d spent years as a servant of God… and deemed myself unworthy. So, I quit. I ran far from the shackles of bondage of which my own inadequacies were the chain. I could no longer believe in a God that would banish souls to eternal damnation. I could no longer sing the praises of the one my mom claimed to serve… the one who allowed her to crush my soul because of my apparently unforgivable “fallacies”. This was a master whose ways were out of line with my personal integrity… whatever I had left… and I could no longer serve this being, who could turn deaf ears to the cries of so many based on archaic rules misinterpreted nonetheless.

No… She didn’t mark me as a servant… but as Her own child.

We don’t get to “quit” being someone’s child. Though my birth mother and I are estranged, I will always be her child. Nothing can erase the time I spent developing in her womb… not even she can deny this part of our story.

I never held my children outside of my womb, but that doesn’t negate that they were mine. Not even death severs the bond between mother and child.

In the Bible, there is a story of The Prodigal Son, in which this particular son takes his inheritance, leaves his family, and ends up so poor and broken down, he’s sharing a trough with the pigs of the master he now serves. Desperate, he returns home and begs his father for a job as a servant… but his father only celebrates the return of his son. He keeps no record of wrongs and forgives him fully for his folly.[3]

Though She continues to welcome me home every single day, being “marked” by Her is not to be taken lightly… especially as Her child. See, She marked this “bound soul” as Her own… which means She cannot leave said soul bound, for She Herself is boundless.

She doesn’t expect perfection… She knows us far too well for that. But, for those to whom She’s called, She will not tolerate being ignored.

“The suffering in a man’s life is only the Devi subtly calling you.”[4]

If we ignore the subtle calls of the Mother long enough… She will begin to scream.

Even the asuras know, “She is Truth who has come hunting in your garden. You cannot resist Her, but only submit to whatever She wants.”[5]

Our pain, I’ve come to understand, is Her grace. Now, this doesn’t negate our dharmic duty to stand with and for those suffering great agony due to systemic oppression… but again, that’s another topic for another time.

In my pain, I cried out to this Mother… and in Her mercy, She called back to me, and at once began to unravel the ties I’d so carefully guarded and ensnared myself with. To be honest, She’s the One Who initiated my call to begin with! And, She’s been relentlessly calling ever since.

The poetess Rashani says,

“There is a brokenness out of which comes the unbroken. There is a shatteredness out of which blooms the unshatterable. There is a sorrow beyond all grief, which leads to joy. And a fragility out of whose depths emerges strength. There is a hollow space too vast for words through which we pass with each loss, out of whose darkness we are sanctioned into being.”[6]

She revealed both my brokenness and Her unbrokenness within me. This is beyond the care of even the kindest master. This is the work of only a Mother.

As I’m writing this, I’m realizing more and more the dynamics of this holy mother/child relationship. As a child loves to present gifts to their mother as expressions of love and gratitude (drawings and seashells… the various treasures they create and find throughout the day, further lending evidence to the fact that Mother is always on the child’s mind. Such is pure devotion); so too do we express this same love and gratitude with our own gifts of devotion (flowers, sweets, saris, charity… though, I think it important to note that we can strive to maintain the wonderment of the child who collects offerings out of innocence and joy, and not mechanical obligations).

However, the depths to which She will go to reach us where and as we are show an insurmountable abundance of devotion on Her behalf. As we explore Kali as “Mom”, we can’t help but also acknowledge the endless devotion a mother bestows upon her child. In our modern era, this is portrayed through not only by provisions of food, shelter, basic necessities and emotional support; but also, soccer games, school functions, teaching, working, leading, gardening, crafting, etc. A mother knows no limits to the care of her kids. This is devotion… and our showing of devotion to Her is simply a response to the outpouring of devotion from Her. Her devotion and attention to every minute detail of our lives can be at once most comforting and utterly terrifying.

“Aditi, mighty Mother… great Protectress with a far-extending reach untouched by time, gracious guide, to You we cry.”[7]

One of my dear teachers, Swamini Mayatitananda, shares this wisdom:

“As Kali, the Mother redirects Her universe, creating natural phenomena such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. She is also the source of emotional upheaval in the form of illness, disappointment, and failure, all of which tend to block us from moving forward. These negative and destructive forces, whether manifested as external or internal turbulence, may be perceived as spiritual opportunities to make constructive changes in our lives. They mark the time for us to pause, examine ourselves and our motivations, and reorient ourselves. We must all strive to create meaning for ourselves out of so-called disasters, which, although it may be difficult to see at first, are expressions of the Mother’s great love and nurturing spirit. When we veer away from the divine path, the Mother responds with tough love, strength and action. Just as She sends us situations and disasters that terrify us, She also gives us the courage to conquer our fears.”[8]

She loves us as we are, but in Her great love and infinite mercy, She cannot leave us to drown in our own suffering. She will take whatever means necessary to awaken us to the Truth of who we are… not only Her children, but also the very embodiments of Herself![9]

In the Hymn to Narayani, the Devas praise Mother, saying, “O Devi, who remove the sufferings of those who take refuge in You, be gracious.”[10]

Devadatta Kali would expound upon this as Medhas by explaining that,

“to take refuge is to turn the mind toward Her… They pray, ‘Be gracious, Mother of the entire world… even as a mother protects her children.’ To envision the Devi as Mother is to approach Her in the most loving and trusting way possible. Think of a child, helpless and entirely dependent on its mother… the child has unconditional trust, born of love… this personal image of the Mother inspires such trust. Know that love dispels all fear.”[11]

There are countless more stories and scriptures depicting the All-Powerful Devi as our Beloved Mother. Of course, Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Ramprasad tell colorful tales issued forth from myriad colors enveloping the full spectrum of Kali as Mother.

[1] Sri Anandamayi Ma, Goodreads [2] The Veiling Brilliance, Devadatta Kali [3] Luke 15 [4] Devi, by Ramesh Menon [5] Devi, by Ramesh Menon [6] The Path of Practice by Swamini Mayatitananda (Maya Tiwari) [7] Yajur Veda 21.5 as translated by Swamini Mayatitananda in The Path of Practice [8] The Path of Practice by Swamini Mayatitananda, emphasis added [9] Devi Mahatmya 11.24 [10] In Praise of the Goddess, Devadatta Kali [11] The Veiling Brilliance, Devadatta Kali

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