There’s a feminine aspect to creation. In India the understanding of this aspect is highly developed. While the Sacred Feminine, whether as a supernal power or in more anthropomorphic forms as various goddesses, is certainly not limited to the wisdom traditions of India, it’s there that the feminine in life and creation is so very richly elucidated and demonstrated.
Known simply as Devi or Divine Mother, she’s the supreme Being, as well as the essence form of every goddess. Devi pervades all of creation at microscopic levels. She’s the principal creatrix and the multifold variety of forms are all her expressions.
Divine Mother also lives in the human heart and permeates our cellular structure.
“The Great Goddess, known in India as Devi (literally “goddess”), has many guises. She is “Ma” the gentle and approachable mother. As Jaganmata, or Mother of the universe, she assumes cosmic proportions, destroying evil and addressing herself to the creation and dissolution of the worlds. She is worshiped by thousands of names that often reflect local customs and legends. She is one and she is many. She is celebrated in songs and poems.”
— from the Smithsonian exhibition, Devi: The Great Goddess
In honor of Mother’s Day, let’s consider the relationship between Mother Earth and Divine Mother. Nature is a mother in her fertility, creative power, ability to grow and nourish. Biological mothers are so vital, significant and beautiful. They are the embodiment of love. There are really no words to describe a mom.
At the same time, not including the Earth on Mother’s Day, and not bringing at least some devotion to Cosmic Mother is negligent and misplaced. We have to honor Earth and the Being from whom she emanates.
The void in which creation takes place is the Divine Feminine. This cannot be ignored.
The worship of the Divine in Nature is central to India’s wisdom teachings. The yogis clearly understood this.
Nature with her diamond-dazzling stars, the Milky Way, the flowers, birds, clouds, mountains, sky—the countless beauties of creation—is the Divine Mother.
— Paramahansa Yogananda
Devi is also a cosmic force. In her universal form she’s known as shakti (divine force or power). She destroys demonic forces that threaten world equilibrium, and creates, annihilates, and recreates the universe.
The yogis teach that there are five great elements (pancha mahabhutas), from the subtlest to the densest:
- Space or ether (akasha)
- air (vayu)
- fire (agni)
- water (apas)
- earth (prithivi)
All emanate from prakriti, the primal force, the cosmic womb.
The human body is composed of and related to these five elements, and each element connects to one of our five senses. The nose is related to earth; tongue to water; eyes to fire; skin to air; and ears to space.
Bones, internal organs, cartilage, nails, muscles, tendons, skin and hair are all solid and thus of the earth element.
Water is seen in the digestive juices and salivary glands. Also in mucus membranes, plasma and cytoplasm.
Fire is observable in the digestive system, and its source is the metabolism. Body temperature, digestion, vision and thinking are all aspects of the fire element.
Air is all the movements of the body, including muscles, pulsations of the heart, expansion and contraction of the lungs, and movements of the stomach wall and intestines, and the central nervous system.
Space manifests in the body as the spaces in the mouth, nose, GI and respiratory tracts, abdomen, thorax, capillaries, lymphatics, tissues and cells.
The connection between our body and its senses and the elements is the foundation of our relationship with the natural world. Nature and the environment are not external to us, neither alien nor hostile to us. They are an inseparable part of our existence, and they constitute our very bodies.
Furthermore, earth is the body of the Divine, being the densest of the elements. Without the earth element (and the Earth), human life is just not possible. Water is the source of life and its sustainer. Its use in agriculture and the development of civilizations, its form in rivers and oceans is vital in giving and sustaining life. Fire, which finds a giant expression in our sun is central to making life possible. Air manifests as Earth’s atmosphere, protecting us by regulating temperature and filtering excessive solar radiation. Ether is the subtlest element. There’s no place where it isn’t.
At the earliest stages of creation as ether moved it created air, which is ether in action. The movement of ether also caused friction, and this lead to heat and intense light (fire). Through the heat of fire, some parts of ether liquified and became water. Then there was solidification, forming the molecules of earth.
From earth all organic living bodies, including those in the vegetable kingdom such as herbs and grains, and those in the animal kingdom, including man, are created. Earth also contains the inorganic substances that compromise the mineral kingdom. Thus, out of the womb of the Five Elements all matter is born.
— Dr. Vasant Lad
Let’s consider the marvel of planet Earth. She is humanity’s home in the universe. Earth supports life. She’s made of the exact same matter as other planets in our solar system, was formed in the same period and went through the same steps. Yet Earth is the only one that supports life because she’s precisely at a temperate distance from the sun. This allows liquid to exist and temperature ranges aren’t extreme. Earth also has an atmosphere which allows the evolution of life. It’s the precise chemical composition to let life develop. And the Earth has water which according to biologists is the most essential factor for life to exist.
“The earth, so patient, so passionate, so forgiving, is our mother. You throw your garbage on her, you mine her depths, you pollute her with radioactive waste, but she does not react or retaliate. So patient and gentle is she, is our mother earth.”
— Makarand Paranjape
Nowhere else in the entire unimaginable vastness of the known universe, do we currently know of another planetary body that’s as friendly as Earth is to the existence, propagation and sustenance of life. Earth grows all we need to eat and dazzles us with the marvelous beauty and variety of her forms. She grows all our grain, vegetables and fruits. She provides a stunning display of artistry and inspiration. We inhale her atmosphere’s oxygen. We hydrate our bodies with her water, which also helps us stay clean, and grows all our food. Earth’s water and soil grow all her multitudinous forms. Her gravitational pull allows us to build the massive infrastructures of civilization so that we can have these human lives and history.
The Latin for Divine Mother is mater, which is the root of the word ‘matter.’ Say mother out loud. Now say ma or amma.
It’s almost always the M-word: Mutter (German). Mère (French). Majka (Serbian). Mat (Russian). Madre (Spanish). Moder (Swedish). Máthair (Irish). Mataji (Hindi). Mama (Swahili). Mama (English).
Just as we have a biological mother, planet Earth is our mother; the solar system is our mother; the Milky Way galaxy is our mother; the Universe is our mother. The cosmos is our Mother.
Every Mother’s Day, let’s remember and acknowledge all our Mothers.
In Nature you behold the mother aspect of God, full of beauty, gentleness, tenderness, and kindness. The beauty in the world bespeaks the creative motherly instinct of God, and when we look upon all the good in Nature, we experience a feeling of tenderness within us — we can see and feel God as Mother in Nature.
— Paramahansa Yogananda
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