Tuesday, 9 July 2013

DEVI KAVACHAM AND HELP WITH BAD HABITS



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The Devi Kavacham is a "must do" recitation text for all those pursuing the Shakti path or worship of Divine Mother, as it basically provides a field of protection around you - Kavacham means armour and there are many other famous kavachas to recite. Its purpose essentially is to free you from evil tendencies, so it's a sort of functional instruction manual on psychic protection, rather than a tender love poem of praise.

Our modern lives are often surprisingly entwined with darkness, with astral entities that feed off energy - especially sexual energy - and can latch on to us like monstrous, but hidden parasites, drawing away our "Virya", our subtle but essential brightness that is so essential to spiritual success.

The Devi Kavacham is a no-nonsense way to cleanse and protect yourself. Evil entities cannot penetrate it.

If all this sounds a little fanciful, please be aware of the fact that our mundane earthly plane of existence is influenced by astral worlds, as clearly laid out in the Shastras, the sacred texts and recorded memories of the Sanatan Dharma. Our own life is composed of various subtle and interconnected layers or "sheaths", and things come and go, a bit like flies buzzing in and out of a window on a summers day. Their exact form - if you happen to see them - is determined by culture, but there are nasties out there just surviving on syphoning off energy.

If you have problems with compulsions of any kind, reciting a kavacham every day, or at least before you sleep is prudent and essential. 

What kind of compulsions? Obsessive sexual thoughts, thoughts of greed, unexplained storms of rage, feels of defeat despair and even suicide; obsessive behaviour patterns like cutting oneself, problems with obsessive neatness; laziness; torpor; the urge to steal, the urge to lie; the urge to cruel or malicious acts... if you are struggling with any of these you need to free yourself, because the dark gravitational pull of them attract swarms of entities looking for an energy fix, and the energy of those on the spiritual path can be especially juicy!

Don't then leap to the conclusion that natural urges are inherently "wrong" in some way. They are not. The urge to eat, procreate etc are all part of the human template, neither good nor evil. But it's what gets added to the urges to intensify thrills that can cause the problem.

The kavacham is also an excellent way to tackle addictions - drink, cigarettes, recreational drugs, gambling, you name it. This is the armour you need to wear or you get shot to pieces by forces of which you are unaware and cannot name. It deflects and destroys curses, too. So if misfortune dogs your steps or your families, recite this. Recite it with grim determination, as if you are about to join battle. This gives you victory. But remember, too, nothing happens overnight. You need patience and stubborn, day by day obstinacy. So don't make absurd commitments to recite, and then fail to live up to them. Be realistic. 

The Devi in the form of Durga, Camunda, Kali, Bhairavi, is wrathful and warrior-like. This is how she does battle - through the Kavach.

You will find that things disappear from your ordinary mind, when you recite this kavach, which have held you back maybe all your adult life. It is a marvellous tonic, and it only takes 15 minutes max! What could be simpler, but again, like all medicine... take it regularly.

My own experience of regular kavach recitation is that it simply kills dead a whole bed of thoughts, samskaras and tendencies that can tend to disturb someone set on celibacy or brahmacharya. And one day I felt something lift from me. Hard to describe this event, but in the middle of a very hot summer, suddenly for a few hours I was as cold as ice, and then... freed up.

As from July 2015, this text is now something the blogger chants every day, along with the Siddha Kunjika Stotram, at the conclusion to daily recitation of either the sri Lalita Sahasranam or the Sri Vishnu Sahasranam.

All kavachas (two famous ones are to Narayana and Narasimhadev) hold out some extravagant claims at their end, and this is no exception. But don't recite for the rewards, recite for its protection!

The Devi Kavach also keeps you close to Her, to your real Mother. She will do battle for Her child, just as you will do battle for Her. She is always victorious. She will help clean you and purify you. Now don't expect an overnight miracle. You have to put in some effort here. The real devotee will stick with it, will start to make this a beneficial habit, until it becomes as much a part of you as the clothes you wear. Imagine the feeling of freedom this brings you! Fearlesslessness, because you are so protected! Calmness, because you are no longer held back by bad habits, no longer self-defeating! Loving, because your ability to love is unveiled, recitation by recitation. 

It normally gets chanted at the start of the Devi Mahatyam, but should also be used on its own. This is medicine. Take it regularly and get well. Can you afford not to?

Here's a little test. read the meaning of the kavach as it directs protection to each and every part of you. Then have a look and see which aspect of the Devi protects the heart.

If you are worried about mispronouncing the names and getting some instant unpleasant karmic zap in return, might be a good idea to wonder what sort of image of the Devi you might have. Many of us in the West come from christian or Jewish backgrounds growing up, where the concept of hellfire, punishment and an angry, vengeful and petty god were not hard to find. Don't bring this image into Shakti worship. She is your Mother, for goodnesss sake! If you had a child and the child mispronounced your name, would then immediately punish the child? No, you would smile.

There is a you tube version of the Devi Kavacham that will help out here, so check it out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqgvyF9LBHk

NOTE:AUGUST 2015

The text published earlier contains a few mis-steps, and needs to be corrected. But this is quite a labour, so when I get round to it, I will try and transcribe it properly. In the meantime the text has now been removed, until it can be properly written. Apologies, but I do not have a text to send you, so please don't ask me...


Wednesday, 3 July 2013

SHAKTI: A GUIDE TO WORSHIP AND SADHANA



A simple guide to worship of Divine Mother

By

Brahmachari Sri Tapasyananda

Laid at the feet of my Guru
Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogeshwarya


Introduction: Light your lamp of Love
Have you ever tried to light a candle in a windy place? The first thing that happens is that the flame tends to go out as soon as a gust of wind comes along. Then you slowly learn to shield the flame with your hands, or you find some shelter that enables the flame to keep lit. Once you have the shelter, the light is safe. It can grow in intensity and brilliance.

This is a picture you could do well to remember, because it is a metaphor which describes your own spiritual journey. Let us assume you want to pursue spiritual methods and walk a path of transformation. You want to keep your little light aflame. How do you go about it?

The path of spiritual transformation is traditionally called sadhana in Sanskrit. But walking the path of sadhana is not easy. It is a tremendous, rare undertaking and it is said that when any human soul or jiva decides to seek God, than this is known and celebrated throughout the universe and support will come. So your light will find shelter. And with shelter, it will grow into a mighty flame that no wind can disturb, no storm put out.

The path of sadhana is the path that leads to true recognition of reality. All the sages declare that our limited individuality is ultimately a simple illusion, that we already are merged eternally into Godhead, but that we need to be shown this. The path of sadhana attracts helpers, teachers, friends who will help us in this effort.

Much of this help, even from the beginning of the search, will not be immediately revealed to us on the path of sadhana. We work not just on the physical plane of reality, but the world of the spirit. Tremendous beneficial forces are there to provide us with help when we need it… but we also need to do the work!

Think of sadhana as having two wings, each of which is necessary to help us fly: one wing is the wing of self-effort. The other is the wing of grace. One without the other will only let us hop, not fly.

So the very first thing you need to cultivate is faith. Faith in the process, faith that help will come to you at the right place, in the right time – not necessarily at your choosing. With faith, you need humility, which lets you recognise that you cannot order instant enlightenment or command the forces of the universe to come at your beck and call. It does not happen that way.  You cannot bully or push or beg your way into deep transformation.

The reality of Divine Mother
Worshippers of Divine Mother have existed in all of human history across cultures and the different ages of mankind. The reality of life for a worshipper of Divine Mother is that everything belongs to Her. We are all Her children. She is the source and destination of all. And She tenderly supports our efforts to know her. But She is also playful, eternally free. Her play, her lila, is the illusory universe we see around her, maya. Everything is composed of Her, suffused with Her. This is what worshippers of Divine Mother firmly believe.

Many people worship God in a masculine form, but a worshipper of Divine Mother takes fresh inspiration by seeing around them that even their whole individual life, the mind, the spirit, all actually belong to Her. And that She is the Mother. And what formality do you need with the mother? None whatsoever! The mother feeds us, protects us, provides for us, and when necessary bathes us clean and scolds us. She gives us birth, and mysteriously she gives us death.

Approaching God as the Father has a certain formality – you do not take many liberties with the Father, you approach with respect. But the Divine Mother, the Shakti, the Devi, is for a worshipper and devotee the most intimate presence, the one with whom we can truly relax, the one who encourages the close bond. What joy to be a worshipper of Shakti!

If you carefully look around you, study life, study humans, animals, insects, fishes, trees, molecules, atoms, you uncover the same basic pattern: Shakti and Shiva. For there is an eternal dance repeated on every level of existence, right from the subtlest to the deepest levels. Everywhere you look, the same dance: Shakti, the manifested universe dances with her consort Shiva, the unmanifest absolute. Or, for some Shakti worshippers, She is the All, She dances with herself as Shiva alone. She is the One, and there is only the One.

We already know this truth in our hearts, even if we do not know it in our conscious minds. We know this truth and we yearn for it. Longing for this Truth, mumukshutva, is a bittersweet mood of nostalgia for something we cannot quite perceive. It is implanted in all of us – a sense of being in exile, wanting to go back to the real reality. For worshippers of the Shakti, that reality is Her, the Divine Mother. We long for Her, and our efforts ultimately bring Her to us. When a baby cries its Mother comes to pick the child up. Same with Divine Mother. But a cry needs to be genuine. The Mother knows her child well. If a child merely frets and whimpers, she will not necessarily come.

So, if you recognise on some level this path of worship is something you naturally feel, if you want your heart to burst open in adoration for creation like a beautiful flower, then this simple guide is for you. But remember, there are many different paths to the truth, so if this does not feel suited to you, look for another way to the truth. All, ultimately lead to a destination which is beyond words, beyond the mind, beyond what we know and perceive.

The Core Basics of Devi Worship in 10 easy points
1.      She is called Mother for a reason. So contemplate what the best Mother means to you and what trust you can put into your relation with Her. Mothers and children are very intimate with each other.
2.      Her presence is real, not a fantasy, not wishing, not a dream image, not pious make-believe or sentimental superstition. Her presence is real and filled with bliss and you will grow to see and feel her in every living moment of your day.
3.      You can pray very simply to Her, it is absolutely as affective as long streams of mantras: Just “Ma!” will do it.
4.      She will always help you if you are sincere. But a Mother also knows when to let a toddler start to walk on their own. She encourages growth and independence in all Her children.
5.      Simply enshrine Her in your heart centre. Do this without fuss or too much pompous display, in secret. If you want to do this formally, then try Full Moon days or Fridays, visualise a picture of Her, and place this in your heart.
6.      The Mother has some beautiful long chants/texts to use if you are able to chant in Sanskrit. The Sri Lalita Sahasranam Valli is very easy and beautiful, 1000 names of the Mother and each one is mantra in itself. Try this.
7.      Offer all the good and all the bad in you. She will help destroy the influence of the Papa Purusha (body of sin) in you by ingenious ways. One especially useful practice if you are troubled by bad thoughts, compulsions, obsessions is to chant the Devi Kavacham, the armour of the goddess, which helps protect you from every evil
8.      There is a very big difference between The Goddess of the Day, and the Goddess of the Night (Tantra) and different energies are strong at different hours. If you are a sunny morning person, chant in the morning. If you come alive in the night, worship Her then. Each has different qualities and vibrations.
9.      Recognise the Mother gives, the Mother takes away. In all the iconography of the Goddess notices she carries often many weapons, but also a goad… if you are lazy on the path She will prompt you.
10.   The very most important thing in worship: be honest! Don’t beg and steal. If you are not feeling it, don’t panic. IF you are impatient, nothing will come. Be open, simple, honest, like the simplest peasant in the simplest field with the simplest heart. All will flow from this. Be natural, unfeigned, no double-face.

Aspects of Divine Mother
Worship of the Shakti in the Sanatan dharma has come down to us through the ages in many wonderful forms and traditions — not just in Hinduism. Some patterns keep repeating themselves and there are particular ones you need to know. But one key point about Divine Mother is contained in the following true story.

One day the great modern sage Ramakrishna Paramahansa was sitting by the Ganges at the temple of Dakshineshwar, near Calcutta, where he lived. He had a vision of a beautiful woman with a child, which repeated itself over and over again. The vision was of the Mother tenderly giving birth to the child, nourishing it, only ultimately to drown it in the river.

This he saw as a vision of the true reality of Divine Mother. She gives us birth, but she also ultimately gives us death. She creates, sustains, but also destroys – and sometimes terribly so. No picture of God can ever be complete without acknowledging this destructive aspect of creation. It is all around us. It may be painful to our sensitivities, but life has what we could term a shadow side, a less pleasant side and Shakti worship acknowledges this as part of the lila of the Devi. Much as we might want to think of the Devi as a sort of bloodless being of meek and mild heart, if we truly embrace Her, we must see and respect her more wrathful forms.

The Pattern of One
One main tradition of shakta worship, the kula path, emphasises that Divine Mother is everything, there is nothing else. She gives birth to Shiva, she is the essence of Shiva. All is Her, all is One.

The Pattern of Two
Another tradition, samaya, places Shakti and Shiva in an eternal dance. Both are manifestations of the other. Life is the union of Shiva and Shakti, the Absolute and the Relative. The path of sadhana is therefore the merging of the two. Read a little later on about the marriage of Shiva and Parvati.

The Pattern of Three
The pattern of three occurs in lots of different forms in the wider Hindu/Vedic traditions — such as the great trimurthi of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva loosely described as creative, sustaining, and dissolving powers, or the three gunas, aspects of nature (sattva, rajas, tamas) .which we will discuss a little later.
In terms of the Devi, there are two important patterns of three at work. The first ids by far the best known, as follows:

The Trinity of Saraswati, Lakshmi, Durga/Kali
This trinity is worshipped especially during the festival of Navarartri (or 9 nightsone in spring, one in autumn), especially in Bengal.

Saraswati
Revered as the Goddess of Learning, the consort of Lord Brahma, and the source of all wisdom, the alphabet, deep investigation, dharmic inquiry, and stately beauty.  Also synonymous with Gayatri Dev, who manifests in the Gayatri mantra. Saraswati is greatly worshipped in Indian schools and colleges, but there are comparatively few temples dedicated to Her.

She grants beautiful speech, recitation, creativity and sensitivity. To have “Saraswati Shakti” is to be blessed with the ability to weave words and speak to enlighten and inspire others. Saraswati is also the soul of modesty, humility and virtue.

Lakshmi
Lakshmi is the most misunderstood aspect of Divine Mother, especially in this Kali Yuga age. Millions beseech Her for wealth and prosperity, and even scheme to get Her on their side, to hoodwink Her, to say a few mantras and believe She will then jump up to every little call as a sort of high-class servant to your Ego. Forget that! MahaLakshmi is the personification of the awe inspiring majestic beauty of absolute neatness, order, harmony, auspiciousness."Sri" that magic word is her absolute secret: experiment for you... say this word next when you are really, really happy and see what happens. 

And it is often said that where Saraswati stays, Lakshmi mostly follows… and then the danger is that Saraswati leaves because she does not like being followed! In other words Wisdom brings wealth, which can in turn change someone for the worse. Money and power tend to corrupt and corrode even the wisest of Gurus.

If you find Lakshmi appealing, worship the Devi in this way. For many years I did this, when I was exceptionally poor but happy to be so and not wanting anything from Her, just appreciation of the fact that wealth and prosperity did exist in the universe. I did not beg Her, just loved Her. But oddly enough I also found at that time that if I chanted Her name for others, blessings would flow to them... just not to me! Karma is karma, I guess. Try do the same: love her, get acquainted. Don't try to steal and grab.  It transforms your attitude to the seizing and getting of prosperity and affluence.

Durga
The Mother has a warlike form where injustice and evil appear. If these things inhabit your heart She will root out these tendencies and forceably remove them. Beware if you aim to keep them. Durga’s subtle form is created when you chant the Chandi Path. She has an unmistakeable presence, a wonderful mix of capability, gentleness, awesome power and fierce devotion.

There are many secrets to Her devotion, many hidden aspects to Durga, Camunda. She is in essence the great transformer of our lives. If you are ready for Her, Durga will surgically operate on You – if She so wills it — but remember, Durga like Kali is supremely free at all time in all ways. If you are not ready for transformation, do not engage in worship with this aspect. Because anything crooked or unnatural in you will be destroyed.

MahaKali
The great mystery that Kali holds is the secret of absolute power which is unrestrained and is like a whirlwind… and behind the whirlwind of absolute movement is total blissful stillness. She is the heart of devotees and any devotee of Kali is fiercely loyal to the death for Her. You cannot play act around Her. But Her secrets are the essence of the Shakti path. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa was a famous Kail devotee. 

Tripurasundari and Sri Vidya
The worship of Sri Vidya is one of the most detailed and arcane procedures that exist, centred around the mysteries of the Sri Chakra, the great Yantra or the Goddess. Tripurasundari means “the triple beautiful one” and is on one level a reference to the three points in the central bindu space of the Shri Chakra, but also a beautiful name in its own right.

Sri  Vidya worship also includes the worship of the young Devi as well as a 16 year old maiden, Bala Tripurasundari which requires special initiation.

Sri Lalita
This most beautiful aspect of the Devi for me is embodied in the famous Sri Lalita Sahasranam, which reveals Her playful beauty every time you chant it. Her reign is in the ancient south of India and one of Her symbols – a sugarcane bow, hints at Her deep association with sweetness that we can experience in our lives by worshipping Her. She is also known as Raja Rajeshwari, the Queen of all. As She has captivated my heart, it's difficult for me to be objective about Her wonders, Her beauty, Her playfulness. I just adore Her.

The Devi as Shiva’s Consort
There are many different names given to the aspect of the Devi as the spouse of Shiva. The best known are Parvati (the daughter of the mountains), Uma and again as Sati and there is a rich mythology surrounding Her winning the hand of Lord Shiva and the narrative that unfolds around them.

In truth, She can be seen as the Shakti of Lord Shiva, utterly inseparable to Him in every aspect. She is also the Mother of Lord Ganesh and Lork Skanda/Murugan, and again rich narrative surrounds this aspect, too.
In this modern age, the family of Lord Shiva is often piously and innocently depicted as the ideal Indian family, a strange fate really as you can easily buy plastic tablecloths with this bizarre family group stamped on it. But look into this for the deeper truths of Parvati. She is also the One who gives, who feeds, who nourishes – Annapurna. My own Guru. Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi was an exalted Yogi. One half of his body (his right hand side) was merged into Parvati, and it was said that if you approached Him from this side he could not deny your request. If on the other side, merged into Shiva, it was a different matter.

The Devi as Sri Kundalini
If there is a top ten list of mistakes made in the modern age, the mislabelling and misunderstanding of Sri Kundalini, often known as Shakti, must top the list.

Sri Kundalini is not a “thing”, not an “It”. You do not “raise the kundalini”. You cannot awaken kundalini by sitting in one posture or breathing in a particular way. Kundalini is the Goddess and supremely intelligent. So never make the mistake of forgetting this, and show every reverence to the great Goddess who exists in sleeping form in every human. She is a She, not an It. And I cringe every time I come across courses to "raise the kundalini" as if She were a pet python in a cage. Horrible thoughtless idiocy.

Sages through the ages have discovered that the cause of every spiritual or psychic phenomenum without exception is the journey of Kundalini to meet Lord Shiva and merge with him. This takes place in our astral bodies, in our physical bodies, and on the transpersonal plain. Our nervous systems have implanted in them the secret ability to transform into great Yogis and Siddhas. No one is barred, but Kundalini chooses whom She will to lead to liberation.

Kundalini’s journey is repeated over and over again in every seeker, but in uniquely wonderful ways each time. Don’t ever expect a carbon copy of “this is the base chakra… here we go up the heart chakra” etc etc. All sorts of things can happen when the Kundalini is activated: aches, pains, strange moods, bewilderment, boiling lust or hunger, depressions, rage… as well as bliss, lightness, joy, serenity. This is because the journey of Kundalini is one that involves a lot of clearing away, a lot of cleaning and cleansing. Be very quiet. Witness this profound change!

The key to opening the Kundalini is a Guru, who can be hidden from you, or exist in astral form, be long since dead, be alive, even be a bit of a scoundrel. It does not matter. The Guru is the vehicle for the Grace-giving power of the universe, Dakshineshwar or Dakshineshwari, to help wake up Sri Kundalini and set Her on the way to union with the beloved. This, as they say, is the ride of a lifetime!

All the experiences that unfold for the seeker on the spiritual path may have broad similarities. But in my experience no two journeys are ever alike.

Don’t obsess about Gurus, teachers, progress, powers… be open, be flexible, see what comes to you. Don’t neglect some form of spiritual practice in the expectation Sri Kundalini will do all the work. That is madness. Kundalini is not a cinema show in 3D...

The Devi as Mother Mary

The river of Christian faith has now broken into many different streams, but something strange happened to it in the first 500 years after Christ's death — the emergence of the virgin Mary as a sacred focus of worship. The theology behind her elevation is complex, and the Protestant especially "born again" traditions want to have nothing to do with Her. Nevertheless in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions, Mary has become "Theotokos", literally "God-Bearer". Officially, She is only venerated, not actually worshipped. But the popular reality is very different.

What is so striking from a Hindu perspective is the familiarity of the way the Madonna is treated: Black Madonnas, especially, are venerated, small and dark statues enshrined and looked after with every bit as much devotion and care as in a Hindu temple.

The Mother manifests Herself, therefore, in an unlikely and otherwise very dogmatic faith. Her attributes are compassion, care for humanity, but She unveils Herself in this context in a way  that all Hindus would instantly grasp. I spent a few years on the path of shakti worship through worship of Mary, and it is a sweet path, with its own rituals, especially the rosary which is a wonderful way to perform veneration of the Devi. For christians, this is uneasy ground. But I think the existence and veneration of the Mother in a Christian context just shows how deeply ingrained in a human template is the urge to turn to God as the Mother.


Devi Japa
So, how to worship. One way is to take one of her many names and repeat it, using ideally a japa mala of 108 beads. This is japa: constant repetition, either mentally or out loud, of a divine name.

There are many different malas you could use but the best for Sri Devi japa is in my view Lotus Seed mala, or rosewood, or crystal. Rudraksha malas are great to wear but uncomfortable to use as japa beads. That said, a 9 faced (9 mukhi) Rudraksha bead is a brilliant one to wear round the neck, if you come across it. This is especially dedicated to Sri Durga.

The kind of japa mantras that are useful to use are many. They do not require special initiation and they will prove to be your friend through thick and thin.

Here are some suggestions:


Om Aim Hreem Klim Chamundayayai Vicche
( especially good if you are mental trouble)

Om Hreem Klim Saraswatyai Namahah
(For all study, effort, concentration)

Om Hreem Shreem Lakshmibhyo Namahah
(To praise wealth and auspicious prosperity)

Om Hreem Shreem Tripurasundaryai Namahah
(To open the secrets of Sri Vidya)

Om Sri Matre Namahah
(A primal call to Divine Mother)

Om Jai Mata Di!
(Famous exclamation of all Shaktas)


Devi Meditation
This requires some form of initiation, and the supreme Queen of the Devi mantras is the so-called shodasakshari mantra of 16 syllables, the secret heart of all Devi worship.

The mantra is now relatively easy to find on the internet, and exists in a coded form in the Sri Lalita Sahasranam and the Sri Sundarya Lahari. If you are truly aflame with love of Divine Mother you will find it and use it, but it will only work if you have the real selfless zeal, not if you are trying to steal power fame or glory… so be careful.

Devi root or seed mantras are at the heart of most Hindu worship, such as Aim, Hrim, Klim, Shrim etc but usually as a prefix to other mantras. Each belong to a specific goddess, each a wonderful vibration in its own right.

But please also remember that the true purpose of meditation is, as the Yoga Sutras tell us right at the beginning, the stilling of the thought waves of the mind. The best way to do this is without any mantras whatsoever, concentrating on one of three points: the bhrikuti or point between the eyebrows; the crown chakra, or the heart space. The first is a famous method mentioned in both the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita and very simple to use.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that mantra meditation is the ONLY way to meditate. It is not. A mantra is a vehicle and at some point you will not need it. In meditation, the mind needs to be stilled. This is best done by the process above.

Devi Swadhyaya
The recitation of the Devi’s Sacred names and qualities is such a sweet endeavour. It cleanses you inside and out. It fills the seeker with joy, a secret joy and surrounds him in a cloud of beauty and secret joy.
It is a way to join in the efforts of others over thousands of years and thousands of lifetimes, all giving energy and commitment to these names and words so that the manifestation of the Devi’s most sattvic form can appear on this earth and purify the atmosphere.

Truly, even if japa and meditation proves difficult, chanting the sacred names involves simply heartfelt intention. Don’t worry about mis-pronounciation, about appearing foolish, about not chanting as well as pundits, Brahmin priests, etc. Just do it!

Know your capacity: don’t expect to leap into these sacred texts and master them in one go. This will leave your pride shattered, because it takes patience to learn how to chant. You need to sit properly, in a reverential space, which is a safe space for you and free from disturbance. Day or night, auspicious or inauspicious days… it does not matter! Chanting purifies everything. Chanting turns a murderer into a saint.

Chanting is the boat to bring you across the ocean of samsara. Chanting is a thrilling, exciting process of discovery and reverberates for all time in all the three worlds. Become a reciter! Make it your secret passion. Don’t worry what anyone else thinks. Just consider: with every chant you build your own mansion in the heavens. With every chant the gods and goddesses pause to listen. You may be a crow when you start… but you will turn into an eagle.

Sri Lalita Sahasranam
The simplest of texts to chant is the “Valli” version of the Sri Lalita Sahasranam. This gives 1000 mantras to chant, each one with a meaning, each one a jewel, and the whole set of jewels is beautifully strung together as well. The chant takes about 45 minutes, is playful, vibrant, joyful and changes your life. Go find the text and start chanting it. Every Friday, every Full Moon night, or if you can commit to this, every single day. Or every 14th day of the lunar calendar. Your life will be utterly transformed.

Devi Mahatyam/Chandi Path
This is an epic undertaking that can take 2 hours or more and can only really be undertaken if you have the time and freedom. It contains very famous verses of wonderful beauty praising the Devi, but is also a bloodthirsty account of two great battles between Durga, Kali and various demons. This is in fact a description of spiritual effort and there are many layers of esoteric meaning attached to it. But be honest about your capability here: ALWAYS test read it out, plus introductory mantras.

Devi Kavacham
If you can find this, recite it: Like other famous “kavachas” (ie Nrsimha, Narayana) it creates an astral armour around you and prevents attacks on your psyche by evil entities. If you have any compulsion problems in the area of sex, food, anger, jealousy or very unquiet mind and depressive tendencies, chant this, 54 stanzas long.

Sri Sundarya Lahari
This is usually attributed as a work by Adi Shankara and many people recite it every day. I prefer to read this in English rather than recite it, but it also has a beauty of devotion about it, and many hidden secrets.

MahaLakshmi Stotra
Famous and very short hymn of praise to Lakshmi takes about 10 minutes maximum. I used to recite this every day by moving water, a small river. Beautiful and stately.

The Ten Mahavidyas & Shakti Peeths

The Mahavidyas are Divine Mother seen through a refracting crystal of awareness, split into ten different aspects. They are the complete darshan of Divine Mother. But this darshan takes a bit of contemplation, and has direct, primal link to very ancient tribal traditions rooted in the ages. Perhaps one aspect to especially note is the inclusion of Tara, the Devi at Tara Peeth, a very famous Bengali  "Shakti Peeth", (although not all agree it is so) one of the many sites (over 50) sacred to the Devi, said to be where parts of the corpse of Sati, Shiva's dead wife fell to Earth.

Tara has one of the most awesome energies of all these Devis, the Tantric image of Kali, unquenchable and free and mesmerising in Her power and beauty.

This is a list for you from Wikipedia:

  • Kali – The ultimate form of Brahman, "Devourer of Time" (Supreme Deity of Kalikula systems)
  • Tara – The Goddess as Guide and Protector, or Who Saves.Who offers the ultimate knowledge which gives salvation (also known as Neel Saraswati).
  • Tripura Sundari (Shodashi) – The Goddess Who is "Beautiful in the Three Worlds" (Supreme Deity of Srikula systems); the "Tantric Parvati" or the "Moksha Mukta".
  • Bhuvaneshvari – The Goddess as World Mother, or Whose Body is the Cosmos
  • Bhairavi – The Fierce Goddess
  • Chhinnamasta – The self-decapitated Goddess[5]
  • Dhumavati – The Widow Goddess,or the Goddess of death.
  • Bagalamukhi – The Goddess Who Paralyzes Enemies
  • Matangi – the Prime Minister of Lalita (in Srikula systems); the "Tantric Saraswati"
  • Kamala – The Lotus Goddess; the "Tantric Lakshmi"
Here's another version;

  • 1) Kali the Eternal Night
  • 2) Tara the Compassionate Goddess
  • 3) Shodashi the Goddess who is Sixteen Years Old
  • 4) Bhuvaneshvari the Creator of the World
  • 5) Chinnamasta the Goddess who cuts off her Own Head
  • 6) Bhairavi the Goddess of Decay
  • 7) Dhumawati the Goddess who widows Herself
  • 8) Bagalamukhi the Goddess who seizes the Tongue
  • 9) Matangi the Goddess who Loves Pollution
  • 10) Kamala the Last but Not the Least



Devi Kirtana, Arati and Puja
Now the heart of many a home’s worship will be the puja, or the waving of a camphor flame to the deity in the house.

Pujas can be as elaborate or simple as you wish. And Pujas can get a little over-elaborate! The idea is to offer something… food, flowers, so forth, to the Deity. But the whole process also involves various rituals to clean and cleanse the area, the body, the mind, the senses.

Pujas are their own way to liberation if you can master them, but cause much stress and anxiety, because so many things can go wrong and alarm the superstitious worshipper… lights can go out, flowers drop off, water spill, plates overturn etc etc. I have a long list of silly incidents, such as nearly burning the puja room down by dropping the arati flame! I think you need a bit of physical grace to do pujas well. I’m clumsy… but nevertheless I have confidence that if the intention is pure, then what can go wrong? So... a child mispronounces her mum's name. This is no biggie!

One of my favourites incidents ever involved my loving (now celibate friend) partner who is a great shakta. She has no idea what to do and does not care so much, but one day when she was offering arti under my over anxious instructions, she ended up doing this curious little curving bodily twitch as the flame circled round, her own way of offering herself. It was so sweet, funny and touching and to me had more depth of committment and sweetness of resolve than the most elaborate and icily correct pujas done by the professionals.

Kirtana is the ultimate simple way to worship: you just sing as loud as you like some of the chants of the mother! You need to know a few melodies… but there are some great chants you can do: Kali Durge Namo Namah… Om Namas Chandicayai… Narayani Namostute… or simply “I love you Mama, Oh Yes I do…”

Kirtana can bring ecstasy to you in a way nothing else really can, especially as the mridang drums resound and the harmonium provides a sweet background. But for it to work it mostly needs the company of others. I have seen ecstacy sweep across crowds with the right chant - Siddha Yoga was particularly great at these group chants, led by Gurumayi Chidvilasananda and I still sing along to SY CDs when the moon is full and the night is right.

The other option is bhajans - personal songs of devotion, especially the songs of Ramprasad - which Ramakrishna loved to hear.

Exalted Experiences of the Mother

The ultimate mysteries of enlightenment dissolve the "I" and "the Other" so that all is revealed as just the One, but for the bhakti path, the duality of "I" and "Thou" is still a state in which the sadhaka naturally gravitates.

The dawn of awareness of Divine Mother's presence in your life  happens on a subtle level, and will take long years to unfold. But be brave, endure and persist!

Her darshan is everywhere, all that you gaze on is Her, the act of gazing is Her, the silence is Her. She confers the most wonderful streams of bliss, which course through your body and can render you strangely intoxicated, staggering around like a drunkard on occasion. That is Her power and presence.

She plays behind the curtain of existence, She is mysteriously veiled and hidden from view. I remember this well. I once in a state of deep concentration and abandonment was drawn up into the most wonderful vision: in this vision I was being hurried along the corridors of a great temple, passing by this enormous massive fizzing column of light that stretched up into the sky. The next part of the experience was being tenderly held on the lap of Divine Mother, gazing at creation in perfect rest and ease and comfort. When I craned round to see Her face, all I could see was a veil over Her face. She explained that I would not be able to withstand seeing Her face and would die, hence the veil. I contemplate this vision often.

In times of trouble and distress, the Mother is there, although often our emotions are too strong and overwhelming to appreciate Her. Another experience I remember happened years ago, at a very low point in my life. I was broke, divorced, separated from my children, about to lose my job, living in a tiny room by a busy main road - and to cap it all it was mid-winter. There seemed little point to life. But I  had a small statue of the Virgin Mary on a shelf and that late wintry afternoon the statue became the source of a mysterious and gradually overwhelming golden glow, waves of love and compassion and deep understanding pulsating from it, healing my broken heart with nameless tenderness. I gave the statue away, hoping it would help others in the same way as it had helped me, but it was simply a focus, a point of entry for Divine energies.

The other side of divine Mother's presence is Her immense playfulness, and there's a beautiful story in Yogananda's famous autobiography about how She saved him from a severe monsoon downpour, apart from the very end when the storm was over, when a single large drop of water playfully splashed his face. It's a part of her play, her lila, and you cannot help but laugh at such incidents because you will find they begin to pile up in your life, little funny quirky love plays between you and Her.

This lila has its difficult side as well: death, misfortune, quarrels with others and so forth. But that is the experience of life, with all its dramas.

As you develop a tender heart through sadhana, you may get excessively sensitive and sentimental, and think that everything is pastel-coloured and rosy, when of course life has its very brutal side. Appreciating Her presence even in the middle of a disaster is a very difficult attainment, and you need to be humble about it and appreciate that the mysteries of destiny can place you in uncomfortable situations. In such situation is it is easy to get angry at god, to feel abandoned and so forth, but it's a lesson for you, too: invite her into your confusion, anger, bitterness. Let her lance the boil. Rain falls in every life.

Sometimes as you progress you will hear mantras and chants arising in you, welling up in your throat or heart centre. Sometimes it is as if you are on the verge of penetrating a great secret, that you are pursuing a dear person who has just left the room, who is always one step away... and if you are lucky you just catch sight of Her. Other times, She will be so plainly apparent to you that you cannot move for the overwhelming bliss that arises in you.

Have great faith, great simplicity about this. As always, the advice is do not get hysterical about this. Storms of tears are very different from the throb of real longing. If ever you truly long for Her, you will find life completely unbearable. The experience of intense longing for god is a remarkable but rare phenomenom among us humans. It is utterly devastating, you chuck out name, form, everything. You forget who you are. You are consumed with a subtle sweet restless pain that is unendurable because it is so blissful, so painful. Real tears for the divine will quickly bring her to you, like a Mother who comes to comfort a child. The pain of Divine longing is truly a high state. And it will come to you. Be beware! You will be changed. Are you prepared for this?

Final Thoughts

This little guide will I hope help you remember that Devi worship, imn essence can be as simple or complicated as you wish.

The real worship is simple: It is heartfelt surrender. And continued heart-felt surrender. Worship is not just about a grand gesture made one day, forgotten the next. It is not a time to boast. It should be a cry of love, or a cry of desperate need.. or even a note to complain. It should be alive and human, not stiff and dead, not using the words of others.

You have your own language of the heart, so use it! You are unique. And You and I are brothers and sisters in the Devi’s love and care. She knows who you are. She knows all your little games and stratagems. She is infinitely wiser than you. She know what you need at every second of the day.

Say, if nothing else, the following every day:

I put my trust in you, my Beloved Ma!
I do not even know how to love You
But You Know how to love Me.
That is enough in my life, but…

Don’t let me forget Thee… ever

Yes, I put my trust in you
Beloved Ma
I need You
Draw me close!
Let me learn
How to love!