The Devi Gita: Chapter Four
INSTRUCTIONS IN THE YOGA OF KNOWLEDGE
THE GODDESS’S REASON BEHIND THE REVELATIN OF HER COSMIC FORM
The Goddess said:
How distant you are, so humble, from this form of mine, so magnificent!
Yet out of affection for my devotees, I have displayed such a form.
Not by study of the Vedas, nor by yoga, charity, austerity, or sacrifice can you see this form in any way, without my favor.
THE GENESIS OF THE INDIVIDUAL SOUL DUE TO IGNORANCE AND ITS SUBSEQUENT KARMIC ENTANGLEMENTS
Listen, O king, let us return to the original subject regarding the supreme Self and how it becomes the individual soul.
By combining with apparent limitations, the self seemingly assumes the role of an active agent and so on.
The soul performs diverse acts, the sole cause of virtue and vice.
Thereby it attains birth in various wombs and experiences happiness and sorrow.
Again, under their determining influence, ever intent on new actions of various sorts, it attains new bodies of various kinds and experiences further happiness and sorrow.
Like a water wheel, this cycling never ceases. Ignorance alone is its root; from that springs desire, from those actions.
Therefore a person should always strive for the destruction of ignorance. For one’s birth is fruitful when ignorance is destroyed.
One thereby attains the ends of human existence and the state of being liberated while living. Wisdom alone is competent for the destruction of ignorance.
KNOWLEDGE: THE ANTIDOTE TO IGNORANCE AND THE PREPARATORY STAGE OF JNANA YOGA
Action born of ignorance is incompetent to destroy ignorance, since the two are not opposed, O Mountain. The hope that ignorance can be destroyed by action is futile.
Useless are actions with their fruits, which humans crave again and again. From that arises passion, from that evil, from that great calamity.
Therefore a person should acquire knowledge with all-out effort. Yet scripture itself seems to enjoin the necessity of action, as when it states: “Ever performing actions here….”
But scripture also states: “From knowledge indeed comes emancipation.” Thus some conclude that the two should be conjoined. Action should be complement of knowledge, as its benefactor.
Others say that this is impossible, due to their opposition. The knot of the heart is loosened through knowledge; when the knot is tight, action arises.
Coexistence of the two together is thus impossible due to their opposition, just as darkness and light cannot appear simultaneously.
Therefore, high-minded one, all Vedic actions reach their end when the heart is purified; perform them with diligence.
Until tranquility, restraint, patience, dispassion, and goodness arises. Up to this point actions are fitting, but no further.
BASIC STEPS OF JNANA YOGA AND “YOU ARE THAT”
And then renouncing worldly attachments, being self-restrained, one should resort to a guru well versed in the Veda and absorbed in Brahman, approaching with true devotion.
One should listen to the Upanishads daily and with attention, reflecting constantly on the meaning of such great saying, “You are That.”
The great saying, “You are That,” indicates the oneness of the soul and Brahman. When the identity is realized, one goes beyond fear and assumes my essential nature.
First, one should comprehend the meaning of the individual words, then the meaning of the sentence as a whole. Now the world That refers to I myself, O Mountain; this is well proclaimed.
While the word You refers certainly to the individual soul. The identity of the two is indicated by the word are, so say the wise.
Due to the opposed nature of the two expressed referents, their identity may not seem possible. Thus one must adopt the secondary meaning of the terms That and You, as fixed in scripture.
Just pure consciousness is the secondary meaning implied by both terms: their essential oneness is thereby established. Realizing their oneness by disregarding their non-essential differences, one transcends duality. In the same manner, the sentence, “This is that Devadatta” uses the secondary meaning, so it is taught.
When freed from the three bodies (Gross, Subtle and Causal) beginning with the Gross, a person becomes absorbed in Brahman.
THE NATURE OF THE GROSS, SUBTLE AND CAUSUAL BODIES AND THE SELF THAT LAYS BEYOND THESE THREE
The Gross Body arises from the five-fold compounded gross element. It experiences the fruit of all its actions and is subject to old age and disease.
In truth it is false, yet it appears real, being full of Maya. This is the gross limiting condition of my own Self, O Mountain King.
The union of The organs of knowledge and action, conjoined with the five breaths and fused with the mind and intellect, produces the Subtle Body; this the wise discern.
Arising from the uncompounded elements, this Subtle Body of the Self is my second limiting condition, experiencing pleasure and pain.
Without beginning and indefinable, ignorance is the third limiting condition; it is that Body of the Self that appears as Causal in nature, O Mountain Lord.
When these limiting conditions are dissolved, the Self alone remains. The five sheaths ever reside within the three bodies.
When the five sheaths are discarded, one attains the root that is Brahman, described by such saying as “Not this, not this,” indicating my own essential form.
THE SELF AS THE OWNER OF A CHARIOT
The Self is never born nor does it die; it did not come into existence, for nothing real comes into existence from nothing. It is unborn, eternal, everlasting, ancient. It is not slain when the body is slain.
If the slayer believes “I slay,” if the slain believes “I am slain,” then neither understands that the Self does not slay and cannot be slain.
Smaller than an atom, greater than the greatest is the Self dwelling in the heart of each being. One, who is free of desires, which is beyond sorrow, sees that Self and its greatness through the grace of the creator.
Know the Self as the owner of a chariot, and the body as the chariot; know the intellect as the driver and the mind as the reins.
The senses are the horses, they say, the objects of sense their fields of exploration. The Self, united with the senses and mind, is an enjoyer, so say the wise.
Whoever, on one hand, lacks knowledge becomes mindless and ever impure; that person does not attain the highest goal but continues in Samsara.
Whoever, on the other hand, has understanding and becomes mindful and ever pure; that person attains the highest goal, from which there is no return.
That person who has understanding for the driver and who controls the reins of the mind, arrives at the end of the journey, which is my own supreme state.
Thus through hearing about, reflecting upon, and ascertaining the Self by the Self, one should also through intense meditation, realize that I am in essence the Self.
MEDITATION ON THE GODDESS’S MYSTIC SYLLABLE HRIM FOR IDENTIFYING ONESELF WITH THE GODDESS’S SUPREME SELF
Before attaining the final absorption, one should contemplate within one’s self the triad of letters known as the sacred syllable of the Goddess, for the sake of meditating on the two meanings of the mantra.
The letter h is the Gross Body, the letter r the Subtle Body, and the letter i the Causal Body. The whole sound hrim is I myself as the Transcendent Fourth.
In this manner recognizing sequentially the triadic elements of the seed mantra contained within the comprehensive whole, the wise person should reflect on the identity of the whole and the parts.
Prior to the moment of total absorption, while concentrating earnestly in the above manner, with the eyes closed, one should then meditate upon me, the Devi, Ruler of the Universe.
One should equalize the inhalations and exhalations flowing through the nose, being unaffected by sensual desires, without faults, free from jealousy.
With sincere devotion, within the silent void of the heart, one should dissolve the “All-pervading” gross aspect of the Self that is the letter h into the letter r.
One should dissolve the “Luminous” sublet aspect of the spirit that is the letter r into the letter i. One should dissolve the “Intelligent” causal aspect of the Self that is the letter i into the sound hrim.
It transcends the distinction of “name” and “named,” beyond all dualities. It is whole, infinite being, consciousness, and bliss. One should meditate on that reality within the flaming light of consciousness.
By this meditation, O King, the noble person will perceive me directly and merge into my own essence, since we two are one.
By practicing this yoga, one realizes me as the supreme Self. In that instant, ignorance and its effects all perish.
As I Understand It:
Parallel to the devotional ideal of grace, this chapter discusses the philosophical ideal of Self-realization.
An individual’s soul or pure consciousness (atman) is dormant due to his ignorance. He believes that the worldly involvement is real. Thus he acts. His actions result in pleasure and pain. Neither pleasure nor pain brings him lasting happiness. And the cycle goes on. Detachment is a necessary prerequisite for the acquisition of knowledge that only Brahman is real. Brahman is supreme, unlimited, and omniscient and individuals are deluded, limited and finite. Common to each, however, is the nature of pure consciousness. In humans it is buried under the debris of their worldly entanglements. Upanishadic phrases such as “Consciousness is Brahman,” “Atman is Brahman,” “I am Brahman,” and “You are That” point to the essential identity of the individual atman and the ultimate Brahman.
An individual can experience his Self (atman) and its oneness with Brahman by the practice of yoga of knowledge (Jnana Yoga). The student can purify his mind and heart by mastering various mental and psychological attitudes. The five stages of the yoga are: listening, reflection, determination, absorption and intense meditation. With this discipline the practitioner withdraws from the world, accepts the truth of the scriptures, becomes calm, composed and patient, and sees the Self in himself and sees everything as the Self. In the end, the Goddess blesses such an individual with the worldly enjoyment and spiritual liberation. One realizes that the individual Self is the Goddess’s own Self.
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.