The Devi Gita: Chapter Two
GODDESS AS PREEXISTING CAUSE OF THE UNIVERSE & MAYA
May all the gods attend to what I have to say.
By merely hearing these words of mine, one attains my essential nature.
I alone existed in the beginning; there was nothing else at all, O Mountain King.
My true Self is known as pure consciousness, the highest intelligence, the one supreme Brahman.
It is beyond reason, indescribable, incomparable, incorruptible.
From out itself evolves a certain power renowned as Maya.
Neither real nor unreal is this Maya, nor is it both, for that would be incongruous.
Lacking such characteristics, this indefinite entity has always subsisted.
As heat inheres in fire, as brilliance in the sun, as cool light in the moon, just so this Maya inheres firmly in me.
Into that Maya the actions of souls, the souls themselves, and the ages eventually dissolve without distinctions as worldly concerns disappear in deep sleep.
By uniting with this power of mine I become the cosmic seed
By obscuring me, its own basis, this power is prone to defects.
Through its association with consciousness, Maya, is called the efficient cause of the world. Through its evolution into the visible realm, it is said to be the material cause.
Some call this Maya the power of austerity; others call it darkness; still others, dullness, or knowledge, illusion, matter, nature, energy or the unborn.
Those versed in Shaiva works call it intelligence, while the Vedantis call it ignorance.
MAYA & PURE CONSCIOUSNESS AS GODDESS’ OWN TRUE SELF
Such are its various names found in the Vedic and other sacred texts.
Since Maya is something we can perceive, it has the nature of non-conscious matter; since knowledge destroys it, it is not truly existent.
Consciousness is not something we can perceive; what we perceive is indeed non-conscious.
Consciousness is self-luminous; nothing else illuminates it.
It does not even illuminate itself for that would lead to the fallacy of infinite regress.
As an agent and the object acted upon are distinct entities, so consciousness itself is like a lamp
While shining brightly, it illuminates what is other than itself. Know this, O Mountain, for thus have I demonstrated that consciousness belonging to my own nature is eternal.
This visible world appears and disappears constantly in the various states of waking, dream and deep sleep.
Pure consciousness never experiences such fluctuation.
Even if consciousness itself became an object of perception, then the witness of that perfection would abide as the real pure consciousness as before.
And so those versed in religious treatises, regarding the real, declare consciousness to be eternal. Its nature is bliss, for it is the object of supreme love.
The feeling, ‘Let me not cease to be; let me exist forever,’ is rooted in love for the Self.
Certainly there is no actual relation between me and all else, since all else is false.
Therefore I am regarded truly as an undivided whole. And that consciousness is not an attribute of the Self, for then the Self would be like an object.
In consciousness no possible trace of the object state can be found
And so consciousness also has no attributes; consciousness is not a quality separable from consciousness itself.
Therefore the Self in essence is consciousness and bliss as well always.
It is the real and complete, beyond all relation, and free from the illusion of duality.
IMPULSE OF THE SELF AS UNMANIFEST TO CREATE
This Self, however, by its own power of Maya conjoined with desires, actions and the like, through the influence of prior experience ripening in time in accord with the law of karma,
And by confounding the primal elements, being desirous to create, begins to bring forth.
The resulting creation, devoid of intelligence, will be further describe to you, O Mountain King
This extraordinary form of mine that I have mentioned is unevolved and unmanifest, yet becomes segmented through the power of Maya.
All the religious treatises declare it to be the cause of all causes.
The primal substance behind the elements, and as having the form of being, consciousness, bliss.
It is the condensation of all Karma; it is the seat of will, knowledge, and action;
It is expressed in the mantra Hrim; it is the primal principle-so it is said.
THE CREATION OF THE FIVE ELEMENTS, PANCIKARANA, AND SUBTLE AND GROSS BODIES
Out of the primal substance arose ether, endowed with the subtle quality of sound.
Then arose air, characterized by visible form.
Next arose water, characterized by taste; then earth characterized by smell.
Ether has the single quality of sound; air is endowed with touch and sound.
Fire has the qualities of sound, touch and visible form, according to the wise;
Water has the four qualities of sound touch visible form and taste, so they say.
Earth has the five qualities of sound touch visible form taste and smell.
From those subtle elements came into being the great cosmic thread which is called the Subtle Body.
It is proclaimed as all pervading; this is the Subtle Body of the self.
The unmanifest is the Causal Body that I mentioned earlier.
In that lies the world seed from which evolves the Subtle Body
From that, by the process of fivefold generation, the gross elements,
Five in number, arise. I shall now describe this process. Each of those elements previously mentioned shall be divided in half
One half-part of each element shall be divide into four, O Mountain.
By joining the undivided half of each element with one of the quartered fractions from each of the other four, each element becomes fivefold.
And they produce the Cosmic Body, or Gross Body, of the Self.
EVOLUTION OF THE SUBTLE BODY
From the aspects of lucidity residing in the five elements arise hearing and the other
organs of sense each from a single element, O King.
But from the lucid aspects of all the elements mixed together arises the internal organ, single, yet fourfold by reason of its different functions.
When it wills or wavers it is know as mind.
When it knows decisively without doubt it is called intellect.
When it remembers, it is know as recollection.
When it functions to assert the sent of I, it becomes the principle of egoism.
From the active aspects of the elements arise in order the organs of action,
Each from a single element; but from the active aspects of all the elements mixed together comes the fivefold breath.
The upward breath resides in the heart, the downward breath in the bowels, the middle breath in the navel, the ascending breath in the throat, and the diffused breath throughout the body.
The five organs of knowledge, the five organs of action, and the five breaths, along with the mind accompanied by the intellect, these constitute the Subtle Body that is my own rarefied form.
THE DEVI DESCRIBES THE GENERATION OF THE LORD AND THE SOUL, THREE BODIES AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP
Therein is the principle called nature, O King. It is two fold according to tradition.
One aspect characterized by lucidity, is Maya; the other aspect, mixed with all the qualities of nature, is nescience.
That aspect which clearly reflects its own substrate is know an as Maya.
In that Maya appears the reflected image of the universal ruler, Brahman.
He is called the supreme Lord; he is aware of his own substrate.
He is all-knowing and all-doing, the cause of all kindness.
But in nescience, the reflected image is partially obscured, O Mountain King.
It is then known as the individual soul, and as the abode of all suffering.
Now these two here, the Lord and the soul are said to have three bodies through the power of nescience.
By identifying themselves what the three bodies they also come to have three names
The soul as the Causal Body is named the Intelligent, as the Subtle Body, the Brilliant;
And as the Gross Body, the All; thus are its three divisions known.
In like manner the Lord is known by the terms the Lord, the Comic Soul, and the Cosmic Body.
The soul is regarded as the individuated form, the Lord as the aggregated.
As I Understand It:
Here, the Goddess is clearly identified as the primeval creative source of the universe. Devi is One. The mysterious power with which the One becomes many is Maya, meaning illusion or appearance. The material world is created by the power of Maya. Without this power the world would be unconscious and inert.
In the Devi Gita Maya is not the power of Brahman, as the Bhagavad Gita claims. It is a resolute facet of the Goddess’ personality. She exerts the power of Maya and is Maya. She withdraws her potencies back into herself and remains ‘One without a second.’ The Devi and her Maya is like fire and heat.
Spiritual knowledge, however, dispels the illusion created by the power of Maya. The inner knowledge destroys the illusion of Maya just as in dark “the erroneous perception of a serpent is dispelled by correctly discriminating it as the rope” in light.
The Devi is self-illumined. Like a lamp she reveals the material world. She is never an object of knowledge and does not possess consciousness. She herself is pure consciousness. The Goddess is eternal witness that observes the ever-changing existence.
The Devi Gita presents the model of One Supreme Reality that goes through three developmental stages. The first stage is Causal Body. This is created when the Goddess unites with her own creative power of Maya. At this stage, the powers of will, knowledge and action become activated. She becomes un-evolved seed or the primal substance of the universe that has the qualities of sat, chit, anand (Being, Consciousness and Bliss). This brings forth the universe.
The second stage is the Subtle Body in which the three gunas or qualities of primal matter become active: sattva (lucidity, goodness, virtue) rajas (activity, desire, passion) and tamas (dullness, inertness, ignorance).
In the third developmental stage, the Gross Body of the Supreme Reality is referred to as the Viraj. It is this form of the Goddess that is magnificently revealed in the third chapter.
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.