From Dasya to Prati Vatsalya: Journeying to the Heart of the Mother (Pt 4)
It seems that the bridge between Kali as Master and She as Mother is the idea of st
epmother. I’ve been a stepmother and a stepchild. Though I loved my stepson beyond words, it couldn’t compare to the love I felt for the unborn babies I created. Likewise, my stepfather highly favored my half-sister (his daughter) to me. So, though a stepmother would indicate a more forgiving bond, and one of slightly more intimacy than that of a master, it’s still not so profound as that of a biological mother to her child. It appears there is a spiritual umbilical cord that cannot be severed. (This same bond can exist with adoptive parents, also… it’s the sense of being chosen and whole-heartedly wanted.)
Sri Ramakrishna says,
“Pray to the Divine Mother with a longing heart. Her vision dries up all craving for the world and completely destroys all lust and greed. It happens instantly if you think of Her as your own mother. She is by no means your stepmother. She is your own mother.”
I’ve read different translations of this quote, substituting “stepmother” with “godmother”. This one carries much more weight for me, and perhaps for our society as a whole.
So, this quest for the Mother began with breaking from my own mother. When I read the following words by Sri Yogananda, I couldn’t stop tears from escaping my eyes. Someone had put into words the anguish I felt over my mother deeming me “dead to her”… and the overwhelming love of Kali Mā.
“If you have lost your mother, you must find the Divine Mother who is hidden behind the skies. The Mother Herself is not lost to you. The one you loved was but a representative of the Cosmic Mother… Seeking and seeking my dead mother, I found the Deathless Mother. The lost love of the earthly mother I found in my Cosmic Mother… She told me of Her all-encompassing love. And part of what She said was this: ‘I stole those imprisoning two black eyes that thou might’st be free to find those eyes in My eyes…’”
Even now, the tears stream as I feel Her eternal embrace and steadfast love.
I recognize now this profound grace disguised as the disappearance of my mother from my life. For me, there couldn’t be two mothers. And, I certainly couldn’t come to know my truest Self as an extension of the Divine Mother whilst desperately clinging to the hope that my biological mom would one day magically become who I so wanted her to be.
The Bhagavatam gives us even more insight into the heart of Devi as Mother… one who is utterly attuned to our every breath, ailment, and distress.
“The blissful Mother of the universe… Who brims with mercy like a river from a spring…Who is Love Incarnate, Who feels the anguish of Her bhaktas more sharply than they do themselves…”
Bhaktas, or devotees, could signify servants… but given that She is addressed as Mother, and we’ve already examined the devotion existing between mother and child, it would make sense that we could substitute “bhakta” with “children”, in which case it would read:
“The blissful Mother of the universe… Who feels the anguish of Her children more sharply than they do themselves…”
This simple trade of words colors this beautiful text with even more intimacy.
Another scripture from the same text reinforces this tenderness and compassion that only a mother, acutely attuned to her child, could offer. Again, please allow me the liberty of exploration by switching the word “bhaktas” for “children”
“…the Devi appeared… (and) suddenly had a thousand eyes all over Her dark body. These eyes were wide open and full of grief to see the misery of Her children. She began to weep from those thousand eyes, and Her tears flowed as precious streams and rivers, down into the world… they drank the tears of the Devi’s mercy and were renewed by them… they began to hymn the Mother of the universe. She fed them unearthly roots and fruit with Her own hands, and they had their strength back.”
Understandably, the texts I’ve quoted from the puranas can be illustrations of much more than I’ve portrayed here; however, given the personal nature of this essay, I’m sharing what they’ve come to mean subjectively as I journey deeper into the Mother’s heart.
Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Yogananda both implore us to approach Mother as children… even naughty children who would throw a tantrum to get Her attention. There are too many sources of such stories to site here.
So, how does this play in our daily lives? Through sadhana… and in the allowance of recognizing that sadhana is every thought and action that create our lives and then behaving as such… allowing each moment to be a flower at Her divine feet.
Returning to the words of Swamini Mayatitananda,
“sadhana is being aware of the integral connection that keeps us forever dancing in rhythmic measure with the cosmic pulse. Our moment-to-moment awareness of this connection is the heart of sadhana.”
“Be always aware of the thoughts of your mind and know that at all times, in all places, you carry the Mother enshrined within your heart.”
A trusting child, who knows their mother, will surrender to her judgement… the child may put up a fuss, but ultimately understands that “mother knows best.”
“There are two kinds of seekers: those who are like the baby monkey and those who are like the kitten. The baby monkey clings to the mother; but when she jumps, it may fall off. The little kitten is carried about by the mother cat, content wherever she places it. The kitten has complete trust in its mother. I am more like that; I give all responsibility to the Divine Mother. But to maintain that attitude takes great will. Under all circumstances — health or sickness, riches or poverty, sunshine or gray clouds — your feeling must remain unruffled. Even when you are in the coal bin of suffering you don't wonder why the Mother placed you there. You have faith that She knows best. Sometimes an apparent disaster turns into a blessing for you.... Gloom is but the shade of Divine Mother’s hand outstretched caressingly. Don’t forget that. Sometimes, when the Mother is going to caress you, a shadow is caused by Her hand before it touches you. So when trouble comes, don’t think that She is punishing you; Her hand overshadowing you holds some blessing as it reaches out to bring you nearer to Her.”
Medas tells us that to surrender is to
“simply love the Mother with all of your heart, and trust that She will take care of the rest.”
As children devoted to their Mother, we want to ensure that we make Her proud… that we would never tarnish Her by our actions, since we are extensions of Her very being. This can be perhaps likened to honoring the family name. We wear Her name… we carry Her DNA… we are born of Her cosmic womb, as described by Shambhavi Chopra:
“As Jagadyoni, ‘Universal Womb’, the Devi is the Mother Infinite who is the origin of the whole world… Kali is… the womb of space, in which all beings and all worlds are held, conceived and nourished.”
Servants have a responsibility to please their master, as their livelihood likely depends on it. Children, however, possess an innate desire to please their parents, and mothers in particular, for the shear joy of seeing her smile. Having been an early childhood teacher for many years, I can attest to this by having witnessed it time and again.
Please understand that I, in no way, attempt to discredit the approach to Divinity with a servant’s heart… in fact, I find it quite admirable, and the scriptures describe it as a valid path of Bhakti.
Still, I pray that I’d be able to truly see Mā as my Mother and not master, and to approach Her as such... with complete surrender and trust… to find total rest in knowing that my Mother will always be here and I can allow ease into my life because I am Hers. I can exhale, being held. I long that my devotion to Her would be of love and not fear… and that I would live a life that pleases Her for the sheer joy of seeing Her smile; possessing the security of an adored child knowing that I’ll never be disowned by my Mother.
I pray for Para-bhakti… to Love Her for Her own pleasure, and to see only Her in all that is encountered through this and every other lifetime. After all, the greatest joy of a child is that of her mother.
When I was pregnant, nobody could see my child… they could only see the mother.
Similarly, I pray that when folks look at me, Her child, that they would see only Her – the Mother.
And so, in this way do I carry both the role of sacred servant and beloved child. My life is an offering at Her feet… and I certainly do live to serve Her… still, I will spend the rest of my life immersed in the teachings and practices that will allow no more fear of separation, for I’ve come to this lifetime to know myself only as a child of the Mother.
 Simple Kali Puja by SwamiJi Bhajanananda Saraswati, emphasis added  The Cosmic Mother by Paramhansa Yogananda  Devi by Ramesh Menon  Devi by Ramesh Menon  The Path of Practice by Swamini Mayatitananda  The Veiling Brilliance by Devadatta Kali  Paramahansa Yogananda, yogananda.org  The Veiling Brilliance by Devadatta Kali  Yogic Secrets of the Dark Goddess by Shambhavi Chopra  Narada Bhakti-Sutra