The Devi Gita: Chapter Nine
Vedic and Internal Forms of Goddess Worship
(HIMALAYA QUERRIES THE GODDESS ABOUT THE RULES OF RITUAL WORSHIP; SHE OUTLINES THE BASIC TYPES)
O Goddess of the Gods, Great Ruler, Ocean of Compassion, Mother, Proclaim now in detail the proper manner of your worship.
The Goddess Spoke:
I shall explain the manner of worship, O King that pleases the Mother. Listen with great reverence, Best of Mountains.
My worship is of two kinds: external and internal, the external also is said to be of two kinds: Vedic and Tantric.
Vedic worship is also of two kinds, according to the type of image used, O Mountain. Vedic ritual is to be performed by Vaidikas-those initiated into the Vedas.
Tantric ritual should be embraced by those initiated into Tantric lore. One who knows not this mystery regarding worship and who thus acts in a contrary manner, such a person behaves foolishly and falls into utter misery.
(THE GODDESS SPEAKS OF HER FIRST TYPE OF VEDIC WORSHIP FOCUSING ON HER VIRAJ FORM)
I shall now describe the first kind of Vedic worship mentioned above.
With your own eyes, O Mountain, you have already seen that supreme form of mine, so grand with its countless heads and eyes, its countless feet,
Omnipotent, the impeller behind all actions that Form beyond all other forms. One should constantly worship it, bow to it, contemplate and remember it.
Such is that form of mine belonging to the first type of worship, O mountain. Being calm and mentally composed without arrogance or pride,
You should become fully focused on that image, adoring it, taking refuge in it alone. Behold it in your mind, invoke it, and contemplate it at all times.
With undistracted devotion and joy, inclining your heart toward me in love, you should worship with sacrificial rites, and satisfy me completely with austerities and gifts.
In this way, through my grace, you shall be freed from the bonds of worldly existence. Those who are fully focused on me, their hearts bound to me, are deemed the best of devotees.
I promise to rescue them quickly from this worldly existence.
(THE GODDESS INTERRUPTS HER DESCRIPTION OF THE TYPES OF WORSHIP TO AFFIRM THE AUTHORITY OF VEDIC TRADITION REGARDING RIGHTEOUS ACTION)
Through meditation accompanied by action, or through knowledge accompanied by devotion,
One can always reach me, O King, but never through actions by themselves. From righteous action arises devotion; from devotion arises supreme knowledge.
Vedic revelation and sacred law are recognized sources of righteous action. Other religious works, it is said, propound merely a reflection of righteous action.
From me, omniscient and omnipotent, the Veda has arisen. Since ignorance is absent in me, Vedic revelation lacks nothing in authority.
The works of sacred law issue forth from Vedic revelation, comprehending its meaning. Thus sacred law like Manu’s as well as Vedic revelation is regarded as authoritative.
In some places on occasions, it is implied that the Tantras constitute another authority. While the Tantras speak of righteous action, they do so only in part and thus are not relied upon by Vaidikas.
The teachings of other authors are rooted in ignorance. Due to the corrupting defect of ignorance, their statements lack authority.
Therefore one who desires liberation should depend entirely on the Veda with regard to righteous action. For just as a king’s command in the world is never ignored,
So humans can hardly shun my own command in the form of Vedic revelation, proclaimed by me, the Universal Ruler.
(THE GODDESS EXPLAINS THE MEANS BY WHICH SHE COMBATS UNRIGHTEOUSNESS)
For the safeguarding of my command, the Brahman and Kshatriyas classes
I have created. Thus one should regard my command embodied in Vedic revelation as the secret of good conduct. Whenever there is a decline in righteousness, O Mountain,
And arising up of unrighteousness, then I assume various guises. And related to this are the different fortunes of the gods and the demons, O King.
For the sake of teaching those who do not act righteously, I have at all times provided hells, terrifying to anyone who hears about them.
Those who abandon Vedic righteousness to follow another path, such unrighteous persons a king should banish from his lands.
Brahmans should not talk with them; the twice born should not sit with them at meals.
(THE GODDESS DISPARAGES THOSE SCRIPTURES OPPOSED TO THE VEDAS)
The various other religious treatises in this world
Which are opposed to Vedic revelation and sacred law are entirely based on error.
The scriptures of the Vamas, Kapalakas, Kaulakas and Bhairavas were by Siva for the sake of delusion and for no other reason. Due to the curse of Daksha, Bhrgu and Dadhica,
The most excellent of Brahmans were scorched and excluded from the Vedic path. For the sake of rescuing them step by step, at all times,
The Saiva and Vaishnava, the Saura as well as the Shakta, And the Ganapatya scriptures were composed by Siva.
In these, there are occasional passages not opposed to the Veda. There is no fault whatsoever in Vaidikas accepting these
A Brahman by all means is not entitled to scripture having different aims from the Vedas; one who is not entitled to the Veda may be entitled to those other scriptures.
Therefore with wholehearted effort a Vaidika should adhere to the Veda. Knowledge assisted by righteous action will reveal the supreme Brahman.
(THE GODDESS RESUMES HER DISCUSSION OF THE FIRST TYPE OF VEDIC WORSHIP)
Abandoning all desires, taking refuge in me alone, showing kindness to all beings, leaving behind anger and self-conceit,
Giving their hearts to me, devoting their life-energies to me, delighting in accounts of my sacred places, thus should renouncers, forest dwellers, householders and students.
Always with devotion practice that yoga focused on my cosmic majesty. The mental darkness sprung from ignorance of those who are always so absorbed,
I shall disperse with the sunlight of knowledge, without a doubt. Such is then the first form of Vedic worship, O Mountain, describe briefly in its essence.
(THE GODDESS DESCRIBES THE SECOND TYPE OF VEDIC WORSHIP FOCUSING ON HER FORM AS BHUVANESVARI)
Hear now the second type. Either in an icon, on prepared ground, in the orb of the sun or moon,
In water, in a Bana Linga, on a sacred diagram, on a cloth, or also in the auspicious lotus of one’s own heart, one should mediate on the supreme Goddess.
She is endowed with fine qualities, filled with compassion, youthful, red like the dawn, the quintessence of beauty, lovely in every limb.
She is filled with the sentiment of passion and is ever distressed by the sorrows of her devotees; Disposed to kindness, she is the Mother bearing a crescent moon in her locks.
She holds a noose and goad while gesturing her beneficence and assurance of safety; she is bliss incarnate. One should worship her with such offerings as one can afford.
Until one is prepared for internal worship, a person should continue to perform this external worship. Only when prepared should one abandon it.
(THE GODDESS DESCRIBES INTERNAL WORSHIP)
Internal worship, according to tradition, comprises dissolution into pure consciousness. Pure consciousness alone, devoid of finitude, is my supreme form.
Thus focus your awareness on my form that is pure consciousness, without using any conceptual support. What appears outside this pure consciousness as the world, composed of illusion, is false.
Thus, to dispel the world-appearance, upon the supreme witness in the form of the Self, One should meditate without doubts and with a heart discipline through yoga.
Now, then, I shall describe at length the final type of external worship. Listen with an attentive mind, Best of Mountains.
As I Understand It:
In the previous chapters the Goddess worship is described, as dealing with the motivation of the devotee. This chapter details the different methods, procedures and images that a worshipper may use.
The Goddess blesses the Vedic and the Tantric, Internal and External ways of worship. The two paths, orthodox Vedic and the heterodox Tantric, are often viewed as in conflict with each other. The ancient Vedic ideals of social order were based on class, gender and stages of life, and were prompted and protected by priestly class. By the seventh century C.E., however, Tantric teachings and practices had become sufficiently popular to pose a serious challenge to certain Vedic ideals. The Devi Gita accepts the Tantras so long as they are not in direct conflict with Vedic tradition.
Although the Goddess accepts the Tantric way of devotion, she claims direct responsibility for safeguarding the Vedas. Like the incarnation of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, she incarnates herself to combat righteousness in the world assuming various guises. Both the incarnations are triggered by a decline in righteousness. Yet, the Devi is ultimately unaffected by the mundane turmoil of the combat between good and evil. Her incarnation is her play, Lila.
The two major Vedic manifestations of the Goddess in the Devi Gita are Viraj and Bhuvanesvari. While Viraj is the cosmic body of the Goddess with her countless heads, eyes, and feet, Bhuvanesvari may be represented by a book, a painting, a trident, a stone, a sword, as water, as blazing fire, rays of the sun, mountain top or mountain cave. Her presence may be felt in natural and artificial objects.
But one important medium where her presence is felt is one’s own heart. Yet, the external worship is a necessary prerequisite for the more advanced, internal practice that is described in chapter 10.
The Devi Gita suggests a smooth progression of worship that proceeds from external to internal, from gross to subtle. The devotee begins with the gross, cosmic body or Viraj, and then move on to the more benign and refined form of the Goddess as Bhuvaneshvari. The worshipper first uses external support before internalizing the image in his or her heart. Finally, the devotee does away with all images and all thoughts, concentrating only on the desire to merge into the pure consciousness of the Goddess which is her supreme form beyond all forms.
Brown, C. Mackenzie, The Devi Gita, The Song of the Goddess: A Translation, Annotation, and Commentary, Albany: State University of New York Press. 1998.
___________, The Triumph of the Goddess: The Canonical Models and Theological Visions of the Devi-Bhagavata Purana. Albany: State University of New York Press. 1990.