The dance of the cosmic gods

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The cosmic gods

The cosmic gods and goddesses are noble beings. They do not enter into a body and go through the same earthly process as human beings do. At the beginning of creation, the cosmic gods and goddesses started participating in God's cosmic Drama in a different way. They got abundant Power, Light, Peace and Bliss from God. They got their own divinity in a special way. This divinity is composed only of inner Illumination, inner Power, inner Light and Bliss.

Cosmic gods and goddesses do not care for liberation. Since they do not come into the world, they are not bound in the same way that human beings are. He who is bound must cry for liberation, but he who is not bound may not feel the necessity to cry for liberation.

Only on rare occasions have there been cosmic gods and goddesses who have wanted liberation. But if they want liberation from the earthbound consciousness, if they want to realise and manifest the Highest, then they have to come into the world as a human being. A soul enters into the human stage and, in the process of evolution, becomes fully liberated and fully realised. There is nothing greater than Self-realisation. Now we are caught by ignorance; we are wallowing in the pleasures of ignorance. But a day will dawn when we will cross the sea of ignorance and death and, at that time, we will be freed from ignorance. The moment that we are freed from ignorance, we are liberated for good. Unless and until the cosmic gods enter into a human form and go through the process of reincarnation, they cannot have the Self-realisation or liberation that we human beings have. That is why we say that man is superior to the gods, because man gets Self-realisation, whereas the so-called gods do not care for liberation or Self-realisation.

The cosmic gods are satisfied with their own power, own light, own bliss. For them evolution is already finished. They have their own work and they don't want to go one step higher or lower. They only want to be in a position to offer an act of service or an act of grace to mankind whenever they want to. They live and operate in the vital world, the higher vital world. They wait Above and from there they help seekers with their peace, light and bliss. In this way they shower God's Blessings from Above, but they don't want to touch the earth-plane; they only want to see what is happening from Above.

Because the cosmic gods and goddesses do not come into the earth-plane, they do not know anything concrete about our inner or outer life. They see our existence through their third eye, but when it is a matter of understanding anything about our diet or our material needs, they do not want and they do not care for that kind of immediate feeling of oneness with us. The cosmic gods show us concern or compassion or sometimes take us as an object of pity. But a spiritual Master himself goes through all kinds of sufferings so he cannot consider his fellow beings as an object of pity. He is totally identified with them. He who has entered into the world and played the whole game naturally will be able to act more effectively than the cosmic gods. He has come to know every rock, every corner, every heartbeat. Worldly experience gives us joy and frustration, all kinds of positive and negative things. That is why those who climb up the tree of realisation can help mankind more than those who only stay in the skies and offer their compassion-rain to us from above. Then, after staying on earth for a couple of incarnations, after knowing well what he saw inside this earth arena, he can work and offer his service from outside the world as well.

Their divinity is one thing and the divinity we shall ultimately achieve is another thing. Our transformed and liberated existence will be very different. When a human being is realised and consciously transformed, when somebody's consciousness is divinised and flooded with Peace, Light and Bliss, at that time he brings down the highest Truth from above into the heart of the earth-plane. He becomes a direct, conscious channel of God to fulfil the Divine on earth. His sincere cry is to transform the entire earth-consciousness. He becomes one with humanity and feels that until the earth-consciousness is fully illumined, his role is not over. The thousands of cosmic gods and goddesses, on the other hand, are able to deal with relatively few human beings. Unlike the cosmic gods, the realised Master will touch the earth-consciousness and try to mould and perfect it the way God wants him to.

The Hindu Trinity

As you Westerners have your Trinity, we Indians also have a Trinity. We speak of three major aspects of God: Brahma, the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Transformer. What does Brahma create? He creates inner consciousness at every second. What does Vishnu preserve? He preserves the consciousness that is created by Brahma. And what does Shiva transform? Shiva transforms the consciousness that has been created by Brahma and preserved by Vishnu. Transformation means our conscious and constant awakening to high, higher and highest Truth. Transformation means a radical change of our inner and outer nature. It is comparatively easy to transform our inner nature, but unless and until the outer consciousness is transformed we do not get the full result.

The word 'destroyer' has been used by many Hindu philosophers and spiritual Masters in regard to Shiva. But I am of the opinion that we should not speak of God as a destroyer at all. He is our most compassionate Father; He cannot destroy us. What he does is transform our ignorance, imperfection and limitation into light and perfection. If I am in ignorance, He gives me Wisdom. If I am in darkness, He brings me Light so that I can be illumined. Every individual is guided and protected by God the Supreme, but some seekers get joy in approaching God through His different aspects. Sometimes an individual gets joy in approaching God in the aspect of the Creator, Brahma. If someone worships Vishnu or Shiva, He will be equally pleased, for it is the Supreme who is manifesting Himself in these three forms.

In India there are some seekers who feel that God is most compassionate because He has created the world. They say, "We must pray to Him because He has created us. If He had not created us, we would not have existed." Other seekers will say, "Who knows how many millions or billions of years ago He created us? That is not important. What is important is that He has given us the body, the mind and all the parts of our being and that He is now preserving us. We know that He is guiding us and protecting us so let us be most grateful to Him." So these seekers will pray to God as Vishnu, the Preserver.

Still other seekers may say, "God created us, God is preserving us, but we are still imperfect. We are still in ignorance and suffering. God is not satisfied with our imperfections, limitations, bondage and death; nor are we satisfied. So let us appreciate, adore and devote our lives to the aspect of God that wants to transform us. Let us worship the One who is helping us come out of ignorance and suffering and who is trying to transform our ugly nature into the most beautiful and most perfect perfection." Seekers who feel this way will worship Shiva.

Everybody has a right to choose the aspect that suits him most. But a spiritual person who wants to realise God must eventually adore and approach all the aspects of God. For us the Supreme represents all the three aspects. We adore and worship Him in all the aspects of manifestation.

The presiding deities

Each person has a presiding deity which looks after him. Here in the West you speak of guardian angels which guide and protect individuals. In the East we use the term 'presiding deity'. Our Indian philosophy says that there are as many gods as there are human beings. Each person has a god of his own. This god is not separate from us, although it has its own existence. We feel that our individual deity is not something outside ourselves but part and parcel of our existence — just like our body, our mind and our heart. So we claim our deity as our own. Everything within us we feel is ours. If we are following the spiritual life, we know that inside the heart there is something called the soul. Just as we claim the other parts of our being, so also we claim our inner divinity, our soul.

The presiding deities undoubtedly are superior to us. They are kind and they are infinitely more divine than we are. But although these deities or angels have more power than we have and they protect us according to their capacity, they do not have infinite Power. Never! Only the Absolute Supreme, who is the Lord of the Universe, has infinite Power. When it is a matter of infinite Power, infinite Peace, infinite Light, we won't get these qualities from these deities. We will get them only from our Self-realisation. In Self-realisation we achieve the Highest, the Absolute, as our very own.

There is only one infinite Truth and this infinite Truth is being manifested in millions and billions of ways in infinite forms and shapes. The Absolute is like the tree and these lesser deities are like small branches. Those who are advanced in the spiritual life have deities which are like big branches — larger and more powerful than the other branches.

The jealousy of the gods

There are minor cosmic gods and there are higher gods. Although the minor gods have more light and more power than most human beings, some of them have jealousy and other very bad qualities. They fight and quarrel with one another very often. These gods can take care of such things as our headaches and stomach pains. If you get a stomach pain and you pray to the minor gods, they will be able to cure you. But it is too much to ask them to give you realisation or liberation; this they cannot do. With their limited power they try to impress human beings who allow themselves to be satisfied with this kind of achievement or capacity. Of course, there are many people who don't care for their powers. They say, "So what if I get a stomach pain? In two hours it will go away. Let me keep thinking of my God-realisation."

In an army there is a commander-in-chief, and there are ordinary soldiers. If we have the capacity to please the commander-in-chief by doing something great, meaningful and soulful, then we don't have to please those in the lower ranks of the army. But if we don't have this capacity, then we will have to start our journey by pleasing the servants of the soldiers. Otherwise, we will not be able to get in touch even with the soldiers. In the spiritual life we have to know what we want. If we have the capacity to enter into the Highest, then we should not waste our time in dealing with inferior beings. When a seeker first enters into the spiritual life, these minor gods help him without his even asking for their help. Suppose he is ready to meditate sincerely, but he suddenly gets a headache. The gods say, "Let us help this person without his even being aware of our help." But when a seeker becomes spiritually powerful, at that time the cosmic gods become insecure. The Supreme is not insecure at all, but these lower gods and goddesses do have insecurity. One who is not the highest or one who may not always remain the best is bound to feel insecure.

The cosmic gods and goddesses are like captains while the Supreme is the Commander-General. When a Yogi aspires and wants to go far beyond the cosmic Game, the cosmic deities see clearly that he has every possibility of going beyond their jurisdiction. Then he will be in touch only with the Absolute Supreme and he will have no need of going through the captains.

When the cosmic deities see that a Yogi is about to surpass them, sometimes they band together and use all their power to try and keep him from going beyond their domain. Sometimes they just wait for the hostile or the evil forces to come to tempt him. Then, when these forces attack, either the deities remain indifferent or, in an ordinary malicious way, they enjoy the Yogi's struggles. Sometimes individually they go to attack him and try to diminish his capacity and destroy his aspiration. They may actually send very beautiful beings from the astral plane, usually women, to ruin his aspiration; or they will literally try to pull down his aspiration. Not only the minor gods, but even some of the higher gods attack the seeker when he becomes spiritually advanced. On rare occasions they succeed in keeping him within their domain. But if the seeker is successful in fighting against them, they go away. The Christ had this problem, the Buddha had this problem; before their realisation, all the great Masters had to face this problem. Almost all had some difficulty, but they overcame it.

Vishnu

Vishnu is all-pervading, all-encompassing. He is the aspect of the Supreme who sustains the whole universe. According to Indian mythology he takes only three steps to cover the length and breadth of the universe. He uses two strides to cover earth and the third one to touch Heaven. The first two strides are visible to human beings, but the third one is invisible to us. It is said that even the birds flying in the welkin cannot see Vishnu's third stride.

The first mention of the cosmic god Vishnu is found in the Rig Veda. According to the Rig Veda, Vishnu has ninety steeds and each of these ninety steeds has four names. Ninety multiplied by four is three hundred and sixty. It is from here that we get the three hundred and sixty degrees of the circle, which represent the entire expanse of our material world. The four names of each steed are also connected in the legends with the four seasons of the year.

Very often aspirants are consumed with the desire to know who among the principal gods is most compassionate: Brahma, Vishnu or Shiva? All these three gods have boundless spiritual power, but when it is a matter of Compassion, the most compassionate is Vishnu. Brahma and Shiva also have compassion; they are powerful and they show infinite Concern for our day-to-day life. But when it is a matter of immediate and direct Compassion, Vishnu stands first.

Let me tell you a story: the great sage Bhrigu was also an astrologer of the highest magnitude. He wanted to know for certain who was the most compassionate among the three principal cosmic gods: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. So he went to Brahma's house without permission and entered like an intruder. Then he spoke roughly with Brahma. Brahma became furious. He said, "What right have you to enter into my house and argue with me unnecessarily? There is no rhyme or reason to your actions."

So the sage left and went to see Shiva's compassion. He went to Shiva's house and forced open the door. Then he started unjustly criticising Shiva. Shiva's anger is the quickest. Shiva immediately got furious and he was about to turn the sage into ashes, but the sage quickly left his house and soon arrived at Vishnu's house. Vishnu was fast asleep, lying on his back. Slowly the sage approached him. He said to himself, "This is the time for me to test Vishnu's Compassion." So he placed his right foot on the middle of Vishnu's chest. Vishnu opened his eyes and to the sage's utter amazement, caught his leg and most devotedly and soulfully began massaging his foot. "I am so sorry," Vishnu said. "Are you hurt? My chest is strong and you placed your foot on my chest. Perhaps you are hurt." So immediately the sage came to understand which god is the most compassionate of the three.

From this story we learn that when we want to approach the most compassionate aspect of the Supreme, we should approach Vishnu.

The adoration of Vishnu as a divine personality actually originated in the Puranas. The Puranas are traditional stories and teachings based on the spiritual philosophy of the Vedas and the Upanishads. The Puranas are very simple and appealing; they are colourful tales and dissertations especially adapted for the common people and contain none of the esoteric or philosophical content of the older sacred works, the Vedas and the Upanishads. They are pure enjoyment, written for the edification of the masses.

In the Puranas, Vishnu is worshipped with intense, divine emotion. This worship gradually developed in India until it reached its peak in the Vaishnavism, or Vishnu-worship, of Sri Chaitanya in the 16th century A.D. The cult of Vishnu became a most significant part of Hinduism and it remains so today.

Vaishnavism is love for God, love itself. In Vaishnavism no ritual or intellectual capacity is necessary. What is required is only the heart's love for the Highest, for the Absolute. Vaishnavism does not care for the rituals of the Vedas. It does not care for the countless gods mentioned in the Upanishads. The Vedanta system says that the world is an illusion. But Vaishnavism, on the strength of its love, says no, the world is reality.

Mahatma Gandhi, India's greatest patriot and political leader, was a Vaishnava to the marrow. He taught India the meaning of non-violence. This concept of non-violence comes from Vaishnavism. Vaishnavism says that where there is love, there can be no violence; there can be no destruction. Gandhi's use of non-violence came into existence from divine love, and this feeling of love in its purest sense comes from the Vishnu cult, Vaishnavism.

Spiritual seekers in most religions want to merge with the highest Truth. Usually human aspiration wants to lose its individuality and become totally one with the Divine. But in Vaishnavism it is different. The lover and the Beloved will become one, but the lover wants to keep his own individuality. Why? He feels that if he becomes inseparably one with the object of his adoration, then the sweetness, the closeness and deepest intimacy, which is ecstasy itself, will not be felt. That is to say, when an aspirant becomes one with his Lord, then both of them are now Lords. At that time, the aspirant's sweetest feeling for his Beloved will disappear.

A child and his father are inseparably one; the child's consciousness and the father's consciousness are one. But the child feels that although he and his father are one, his father is most compassionate and most forgiving. The child gets joy in playing the role of the inferior, in feeling that he is in touch with someone who is all-pervading, who is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent. He doesn't want to be equal to his father. You can say that here the individuality wants to test its love at times in a separated consciousness. Pure Vaishnavites get the greatest joy when they feel deep in the inmost recesses of their heart that they are the slaves of God.

Vaishnavites are ready at every moment to dedicate their existence to the service of God; they want to remain the dearest children, the chosen children of God. But they don't want to become God. They want to maintain their individuality in absolutely the purest sense of the term.

Ramakrishna used to say that if you want to maintain your ego or separativity, then maintain it in the form of a slave or a servant so you can say, "I am God's child. How can I do anything wrong? How can I wallow in the pleasures of ignorance?" This kind of ego is better than the ego where you bind yourself by trying to show your supremacy and do many other wrong things. But he also used to say that he did not want to become sugar, he wanted to maintain a sense of separativity so that he could taste the sugar. In Vaishnavism also, the individual seeker wants to taste the highest divine Nectar, so he wants his individuality. He feels that if there is a subtle gulf between his consciousness and that of God, then he will feel supremely fortunate that he is in constant touch with his Lord. Whereas other philosophies say, "Let us become one, totally one, with our Goal." Ramakrishna used to pray to his Mother Kali, "O Mother, keep me in this world with the Rose and the Kase." This means he wanted his connection with the world to be full of a sweet-sour taste and juice. He said, "Do not make me a dry ascetic. Keep me here on earth so that your children can love me." From Vaishnavism we get the sense of sweetness, affection, love, intimacy and ecstasy. Vaishnavism means love within and without, the love that expands and not the love that binds. The prayer of a devout Vaishnava is, "O Lord, give me the pure love, intensified love, which transcends all human love."

Vaishnavism plays its role in philosophy as well as in religion. You all know that Vedanta, especially Shankara's Vedanta which is pure monism, came directly from the old traditional Vaishnavism. There are other philosophical systems derived from this as well:

Vishishtadvaita. Vishishtadvaita is qualified monism. Qualified monism means the oneness of the soul and matter in the fold which is the Absolute Being. Matter and spirit are inseparable and their inseparable qualities come from the transcendental Being. The founder of this system was Ramanuja, who was a great devotee and great scholar.

Dvaita. Dvaita means dualism. In this doctrine, matter and soul are entities separate from each other. They are also different from God; they do not have inseparable oneness with God. God and man are not one; also man and the soul are not one. The founder of this system is Madhava, another great intellectual giant, although Madhava and Ramanuja were not as intellectual or as spiritually developed and profound as Shankara.

Dvaitadvaita. In Dvaitadvaita dualism and monism go together. At one moment soul, matter and God are inseparable; but the next moment they are easily separated. When we go deep within, we feel soul, matter, man and God are inseparably one; the inner existence and the outer existence are one. But when we live in the body, in the outer consciousness, we feel that the body has nothing to do with God, that we have nothing to do with God. Again, we feel that God, on His part, has nothing to do with this ignorant body, mind and heart.

Shuddhadvaita. Shuddhadvaita means pure monism. Shuddha means pure in Sanskrit and advaita means monism. Shuddhadvaita means pure monism. Here the reality of God is seen all around. The world is not an illusion or a dream; the world is not unreal. The world is Reality itself. The founder of this system stood at daggers drawn with Shankara. Of course, Shankara's philosophy has been considerably misunderstood by seekers and even so-called great philosophers.

The word 'Avatar' means the direct descendant of God, the incarnation of the Supreme Being. Although an Avatar descends directly from God, our Indian tradition holds that there are ten major Avatars, and all are various incarnations of the God Vishnu. Some of them are animal avatars. The name of the tenth avatar who is yet to come is Kalki. This is what tradition says, this is what the scholars say. But from the spiritual point of view, the Avatars are connected with Vishnu only in so far as Vishnu represents the Supreme in His aspect of the divine Sustainer, the divine Continuity and supreme Unity behind and above all change. There have been quite a few Avatars. Sri Chaitanya was an Avatar, Sri Ramakrishna was an Avatar, Lord Rama and Sri Krishna were Avatars.

Let me conclude with an amusing story. Vishnu and Brahma once entered into competition. They wanted to know who was the better of the two. Since they needed a judge, Shiva became the judge. Shiva said, "All right, soon it will be known who is the better of the two. I am placing a white column of light here. Whoever can reach the top or the bottom of the column and come back to me first will be the winner." Brahma said, "All right, I will try to climb up this white column of light," and Vishnu said, "I will try to climb down." When they started climbing immediately the column of light became long, longer, longest. Brahma and Vishnu tried their utmost, but they could not reach the end; it was impossible. For years both of them continued, but the moment they felt that they would be able to touch the end, the column of light extended itself.

Finally Brahma lost his patience. He said, "The best thing is for me to go and tell Shiva that I touched the top. How will he know whether I reached it or not?" As Brahma was coming down, he saw a white bird. He asked the bird to act as a witness. "When I come," he said, "you will tell Shiva that I touched the top." The bird agreed. Brahman and the bird came down, but poor Vishnu was still struggling. Brahma said, "I touched the top end of the white column of light, so I am the winner." Shiva said, "Wait, let us hear what Vishnu has to say." Just then Vishnu came in. Shiva asked, "Vishnu, what news from you?" "I am sorry," Vishnu replied, "I tried my utmost but I failed. I could not touch the end of that mysterious column of light." Shiva immediately became furious with Brahma for lying to him. What could Brahma do? He had been caught. Shiva opened his third eye, which was full of destructive fire, and he really wanted to kill Brahma. Shiva said, "You told me a lie, so I will cut off one of your heads." Then he cut off one head of Brahma. That is why we see only the four front heads of Brahma; the back one was cut off by Lord Shiva. So here Vishnu proved himself a sincere man. He did not know how to tell a lie. The creator, however, told a lie and this is the punishment he got from Lord Shiva.

Agni

There are four Vedas: the Rig Veda, the Sama Veda, the Yajur Veda and the Atharva Veda. You all know that the Rig Veda is our most ancient, most profound, most sacred and most hallowed scripture. In the Rig Veda you will read about Indra, the lord of the gods, who is considered the most important and most powerful of the cosmic gods. Next to him is Agni. About two hundred verses in the Rig Veda were offered to this particular god, Agni. In the Rig Veda, Agni is the first of the cosmic gods to be invoked; our Hindu scriptures start with Agni, not Indra.

About the beginning of language or the beginning of human aspiration in the form of language, we know a little. We know that there is a particular pattern that many languages followed. In Sanskrit, the mother of all our Indian languages, A is the first letter of the alphabet as it is in English. Agni is the first and foremost priest and his name starts with A. The beginning of the Rig Veda starts with a hymn to Agni, so the Vedas start with A. Now let us look very briefly at some Western languages. Hebrew begins with aleph and Greek with alpha, the same sound approximately as our A. Latin and the various romance languages derived from it also begin with the letter A. So also do the Germanic languages. In fact, probably all the languages of the Indo-European language groups begin with the sound A and many other language groups also start their alphabet with this sound.

We can be proud of our human oneness. It seems that the first sound that arose from the human consciousness at the very beginning of the awakening of the human race was the sound of 'a' symbolised by the letter A. When people first tried to communicate with each other, the first sound that came from their lips was undoubtedly 'a'. Even an infant's first cry is the sound 'a-a-a'. So A symbolises our root sound, our source.

'Agni' means fire. This fire refers to the aspiring flame that rises from our inmost being; again, 'Agni' also refers to the fire god himself. We are all aspirants; we are all seekers of the infinite Truth. It is we who have to embody Agni, the flame of aspiration, in the inmost recesses of our hearts. We also have to grow upwards with this flame until we become the embodiment of Agni, the fire god himself.

I wish to offer you the following sloka from the Rig Veda:

Agnimile purohitam
yagyasya devamrtvijam
hotaram ratnadhatamam

Agni mile means "I adore or worship the flame, Agni." Purohitam yagyasya means "the priest, the household priest, of the sacrifice." Devam means divine and rtvijam is the priest or minister who officiates at the sacrifice. Hotaram is the Summoner or the Invoker. Ratnadha means "the one who founds or establishes the jewel of ecstasy, the inner wealth, the nectar"; tamam is the superlative of Ratnadha. Ratnadhatamam is "the one who more than anyone else establishes the inner ecstasy." So the first verse in the Rig Veda dedicated to Agni runs thus in free translation:

"O Agni, I adore Thee,
O priest, O divine minister
Who officiates at the divine Sacrifice,
Who is also the invoker, the Summoner,
Who most bestows the divine wealth upon us."

I would like to say that translation can never do justice to these sublime and profound Sanskrit words. I use the English words 'priest' and 'minister', but I get to be excused for doing so. These English equivalents can never convey the meaning of the word rtvik, the invoker, the Summoner of the Supreme, the one who officiates at the sacrifice. Anyone who knows both Sanskrit and English will immediately feel that there is a yawning gulf between the Sanskrit words rtvik and hotaram and the English words 'priest' and 'minister' and so forth.

Let me explain a little about Agni in his role as priest. He is at once three different priests. First he is the priest who prays. He is praying on our behalf, on behalf of the earth-consciousness. Then he is the officiating priest, which resembles what we might call the minister in a church. He officiates at the divine sacrifice on our behalf. In his third aspect, Agni is the priest who bestows the divine wealth upon us. In this role, he carries our aspiration to the Highest and brings down the message of the Highest for us. He is like a spiritual Master who enters into his disciple's ignorance, carries it up into the Highest and then brings down God's Peace, Light and Bliss. The Master is a messenger and Agni also plays the part of a messenger. He takes our human aspiration to the Absolute Supreme and brings Divine Grace down into unlit and crying humanity.

Agni is very often associated with Indra. It is mentioned at times in the Rig Veda that Agni and Indra are twin brothers. But the one who performs the spiritual rites and religious duties most successfully is Agni. Some spiritual Masters say that Agni takes human aspiration to the Highest in the form of power, while Indra brings down Light into the earth atmosphere. Simultaneously they move; one goes up and the other comes down.

Full of divine energy and divine vigour is this lord, Agni. You will see boundless will-power within him and around him. The dynamic form of Agni is, at times, associated with Rudra, the Terrible, with the Thunder aspect of the Supreme. Rudra and Agni are friends. They go together. We see Rudra in the cosmic god Agni in his aspect of dynamic law.

According to Hindu mythology, Agni has two faces, three legs, three bodies and seven arms in the form of a swastika. He is often depicted as having a tawny beard, golden teeth and a burning tongue sticking out of his mouth. But a spiritual person, when he enters into the highest plane of consciousness, will never see Agni like that. Those descriptions are not all true on the highest level. But we have to know that an artist sees Agni from his own level of consciousness, according to his own standard, and he depicts the consciousness that he sees. Interestingly enough, even the Vedic sages who say that they have seen Agni, describe him as having two faces, a burning tongue and so forth. But they saw a particular form of Agni which was a reflection of their own individual spiritual growth.

One will see different forms of the gods, according to one's own individual realisation. For example, when someone invokes the power aspect of Agni, then in the vital world he sees Agni with his tongue out and his hair a mass of flames. But another aspirant, invoking the benevolent aspect of the god, will see Agni as a benign, glowing deity full of luminous, compassionate power. A third aspirant, after committing some serious moral blunder in the physical plane and thinking that the god will be terribly displeased with him, meets Agni's destructive and angry form. But the real Agni, in his highest consciousness and in his nitya rupa, or eternal form, will appear in front of a seeker in normal human form with two arms, two legs and so on. He will look tall and very beautiful.

Indian mythology says that Agni was born in Heaven and also on earth. When he was born in Heaven, the message was brought down to earth by the cosmic messenger, Matarisvan, who was none other than Agni himself in disguise. When he was born on earth, the legend goes, two sticks were rubbed together and the god Agni magically came into existence. When we are born of human parents, we do not devour them; but in the case of Agni, according to the myth, as soon as he was born, he devoured his aged parents.

Indian mythology is based on a deep undercurrent of spiritual truth, but this truth is embroidered and veiled when it is converted into charming stories and chronicles which are meant to amuse a very simple human consciousness. The Puranas are the ancient Indian epics that tell all about the gods and goddesses. They express certain deeper truths and make them accessible to the ordinary human consciousness. The real spiritual truth in the legend of Agni's devouring his parents is this: when he came into existence, he devoured the cosmic ignorance all around him. The earth is full of obscurity, ignorance, imperfection, limitation, bondage and other undivine things. His parents were symbolic representatives of the earth-consciousness. But if you think that he devoured his own real parents, it would be a real injustice to Agni, the cosmic god.

When seen in the vital plane, Agni has seven arms in the form of a swastika. 'Swastika' is an old Sanskrit word that is quite often associated with Agni. Most Americans know only that the swastika was adopted by the Nazis and became the hated symbol of totalitarianism and brutal oppression. But I wish to tell you that the swastika is one of the most ancient of symbols. It is an occult symbol that has been used in both East and West. Some spiritual organisations, such as the Theosophical Society, use the swastika as part of their emblem. What does the swastika mean? The exoteric meaning is good luck, prosperity and success. The esoteric significance of the swastika is inner progress, inner achievement, inner fulfilment.

The swastika is often used as a focal point for concentration, but if you do not know how to concentrate on it properly, then you will get no satisfactory results from it. The symbol is drawn in two ways. In the West it is drawn from right to left with the central figure looking like a 'Z' drawn backwards, with the left arm pointing upwards and the right arm pointing downwards.

In India, the central figure is usually drawn exactly opposite, looking like a 'Z' pointing the right way and with the right arm pointing up and the left arm pointing down.

It does not matter which swastika you use for concentration. But if you do not concentrate on it properly, it will be like looking at an ordinary picture. You have to focus your total attention on the spot where the vertical and horizontal bars cross in the centre. Then you have to feel that this is the source, the seed, the origin of your divine fulfilment, whereas the arms will be the outgrowths of that source. While concentrating on the swastika, try to keep in mind this most illumining mantra from the Rig Veda:

Agne naya supatha raye asman
visvani deva vayunani vidvan
yuyodhy asmaj juhuranam eno
bhuyistham te nama uktim vidhema

"O Agni, O Fire God,
lead us along the right path
so that we can enjoy the fruits
of our divine actions.
You know, O God, all our deeds.
O God, take away from us all our
unaspiring and binding sins and
destroy them.
To You we offer our teeming,
soulful salutations and prayers,
to You we offer."

Heart's aspiration is the right path.
God's Compassion is the genuine guidance.
The fruits of our divine actions are Peace, Light and Bliss.
Sin is the smile of self limiting bondage.
In our prayers and salutations abides God the illumining Saviour.

Agni is loved by all and sundry, irrespective of age. Sometimes you will notice that an elderly gentleman is admired and adored by his colleagues, whereas new generations find it difficult to appreciate his genius. The old and the new do not go together. But in the case of Agni, it is not like that. The second verse in the Rig Veda tells us that Agni is adored and worshipped by the ancient sages and, at the same time, by the newly-born seekers. He can please a little child and he also can please an octogenarian. A little child has desires, but he has no words in which to express them. He has no conscious aspiration; his desires are his unconscious and groping aspiration. An old man, an octogenarian, knows that desire is something that will not fulfil him. It is only aspiration that can fulfil him, so he consciously uses aspiration in his life. Both the little child and the old man want to have something which they do not have right now — the child unconsciously and the old man consciously.

The real end, the ultimate end, comes through conscious aspiration. No matter what we want to have or want to become, we must do it through aspiration. So the beginning and the ending have the same song in two different forms. The beginning starts unconsciously to achieve something more fulfilling and more satisfying. The child, owing to his ignorance, does not use the means of fulfilment in a divine way, whereas the adult applies aspiration in the proper way in order to reach the highest Truth.

In conclusion, I would like to say that Agni is a household god in the sense that Agni is cherished most in the family either to fulfil desire or to fulfil aspiration. He is called Griha Pati or Griha Swami, lord of the house. He is lord of the house and also guest of the house. He is the supreme guest. The sages felt the necessity of cherishing and adoring Agni all the time because they felt that there was no end to their aspiration and that Agni was the only answer to their aspiration. At the same time, they came to realise that the flame of aspiration could be kindled by Agni alone. We need Agni to kindle the flames of aspiration and, at the same time, we need Agni to achieve our highest realisation.

Agni is never old. He is ever young and he is being reborn every day. When we kindle the flame of aspiration early in the morning, Agni takes birth. He is a newborn babe. Then again, he is the most ancient god because he is the first priest mentioned in the Rig Veda:

O Flame! Master Strength! O Leader! You gather around you all the peoples of the world and bind them together. You burn bright in the high seat of Revelation. You bring us all the Riches.

Agni is human aspiration and divine realisation all at once. If you would like to repeat the name Agni silently a few times early in the morning, then you are bound to feel the climbing flame of aspiration within you. Please repeat 'Agni' most soulfully, most devotedly; then you will feel the bumper crop of divine realisation within you.

Rudra

Rudra is one of the most significant Vedic gods. There are a number of hymns in the Rig Veda about Rudra, and three of them are solely dedicated to him. Rudra is the supreme Warrior, the divine Fighter, the God of Power. He is terrible according to the human view: he is dynamic according to the divine view. In the popular understanding of Indian mythology, Rudra is the Storm-God or Thunder-God. It is said that he creates thunder with his arm and uses lightening bolts from the sky. He is also said to use the bow and arrow. Rudra is closely associated with the Maruts, the Divine Sons, who are also connected with the natural forces and the Heavens. In Indian mythology, Rudra wears a golden necklace and is adorned with costly celestial garments. His lips are said to be beautiful, and his hair is always braided.

Rudra is the lord of terror, but, at the same time, he is the Lord of Compassion. We can also say that Rudra is Shivam Shantam. Shantam is the Lord of Peace, the Lord who embodies Peace, and Shivam is the god who embodies the auspicious qualities. According to tradition, this god, Rudra, has no time to spend with the dead. He deals only with the living, the striving, the aspiring. As Christ said of his Father, "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living," so, too, this is Rudra.

Human desire makes us feel that ignorance is our lot. Divine aspiration makes us feel that God-realisation is our birthright. Human ignorance is within us and without. With his dynamic, divine energy it is Rudra who frees us from this ignorance and inwardly compels us to march towards the Light, the Light of the Beyond. He does this more powerfully, perhaps, than any of the other gods. He can work in and through us most convincingly when we bring our own heart-elevating and soul-illumining emotions to the fore.

When we invoke the cosmic gods, it happens that sometimes insincerity looms large in our prayer. To some extent the cosmic gods are indulgent of our imperfections. But this particular god, Rudra, is never, never indulgent of human weakness. When an insincere seeker makes others feel that he is a true seeker, Rudra destroys his insincerity. Again, if somebody is sincere in his spiritual life but shows false modesty by claiming that he does not practise spirituality, at that time Rudra comes and destroys that person's false modesty with a divine jolt or inner blow. Many people worship God in order to achieve something, in order to fulfil their aspiration. They pray to God for Peace or Joy or Power. But people in India who know Rudra's tremendous power pray to him not to hurt them or destroy them. Earthbound people feel that when Rudra is invoked, the moment his divine force touches their petty human weaknesses they will be destroyed. Actually, Rudra enters into our aspiring hearts with his dynamic valour not to destroy us but to transform our ignorance. Whenever there is aspiring energy, Rudra is present to offer his indomitable strength to his human devotees.

Rudra marshals the human race to march towards its divine perfection. It is Rudra's divine necessity that impels him to do this work.

You all know that India has been a victim to the caste system. The caste system was begun with great purity and simplicity in the Vedic age. As it was handed down through the ages, it became more and more undivine and unjust until today it is only a pathetic mockery of its original glory and truth. We learn about the original caste divisions in the Rig Veda. The Brahmin is from the highest caste; he is the priest and scholar and is conversant with Vedic philosophy. The Kshatriya is the warrior. He has indomitable princely qualities. The word 'Kshatriya' was not mentioned in the Vedas; rather the word 'Rajanya' was used, meaning the prince with kingly qualities. The Vaishya is the merchant and trader, while the Sudra is the labourer and the servitor. Agni, the Fire-God, is from the Brahmin caste, Indra and Varuna are Kshatriya gods. Rudra and the Maruts are Vaishya gods and Pushan is a Sudra god.

The caste system has its advantages, but through its abuse, India has created a deplorable situation for herself. According to my own inner understanding, the caste system should be considered a boon from a certain point of view. Each caste can be seen as a part of the body of society. In our physical body, each limb has a specific function, a unique capacity of its own. Similarly, each limb of the body of society has a special role. The Brahmin has spiritual and mental development; he is the teacher of the family. The Kshatriya is the protector and the administrator of justice in the family. The Vaishya will look after the financial and material needs of the family. And finally, the Sudra will serve the family. If the four brothers work jointly, then there will be abundant peace, joy and harmony in the family. But if they are at daggers drawn, naturally there will be endless quarrels and misunderstandings. If the eldest brother feels that it is beneath his dignity to waste his time talking to his Sudra brother who is ignorant of Vedic knowledge, then the harmony will be destroyed. If the Kshatriya brother asks himself why he should offer his capacity and valour for his Brahmin brother who perhaps may be living a secluded life in the forest, then naturally he will go his own way and dissension will result.

On the spiritual plane, these four divisions signify the various planes of spiritual capacity, the inner rungs of spiritual height. These spiritual planes correspond in their own way with the levels of human capacity called, on our earthly plane, castes. Not all the gods are equally great or high. The gods also have their relative positions in the divine hierarchy. Each deity has his own permanent place. But needless to say, a cosmic god, even if he is of the Sudra class, is infinitely higher than a Brahmin human being.

In the Rig Veda, we have a significant hymn which mentions that the Mouth of God is the Brahmin — or, let us say, that the Brahmin has come directly from the Mouth of God. The same hymn says that the Kshatriya comes from the Arms of God, the Vaishya comes from the Thigh and the Sudra comes from the Feet.

We all know the significant Gayatri Mantra. But I wish to say there is another Gayatri Mantra: the Rudra Gayatri. It is not as important as the real Gayatri, which is offered to the Sun-God, but it is still very significant. It runs thus: "We meditate on Rudra to give us the supreme Knowledge. We meditate on Rudra to energise our life and to stimulate our mind." This is the prayer that we offer to Rudra. He who wants to be a chosen instrument of God must cry for Rudra, for it is he who will free us from imperfection, bondage and limitation.

The world is for the brave; and those who are brave are already chosen by the divine aspect of Rudra. Spirituality in its purest sense is the acceptance of life. If we want to transform the world, first we have to accept it. When we face the world, what we see initially is imperfection, and our immediate reaction is a feeling of despondency. But the real divine warrior feels that he is indomitable — a perfect match for the darkness of the world — for he knows that Rudra is constantly inspiring him and aspiring in him and for him.

Rudra does not want even an iota of an undivine force to remain within us. Compassion he has in boundless measure, but his compassion he uses only in the form of Light. Where there is Light, Compassion reigns. Again, where there is Compassion, there also is Light. Rudra's Compassion is the Compassion of oneness. Rudra feels that if he is perfect, then his human children must also become perfect. He feels that we can all be perfect, for in our soul's nature we are already perfect.

We are all seekers of the infinite Truth. We have to adore Rudra, the indomitable, not out of teeming fear or excruciating pain, but out of love, out of selfless devotion and surrender. Rudra wants to establish the Kingdom of Truth and Perfection here on earth. He strives to establish the Kingdom of Truth in a world of falsehood, the Kingdom of Perfection in a world of imperfection.

Surya

Surya is the sun god, the solar deity. He is also the god of illumination and liberation. In Indian mythology, Surya wears a golden robe, and his chariot is drawn either by one steed or by seven mares.

Surya the sun god is extremely important and significant in our spiritual life, although there are very few hymns dedicated to him. Only ten hymns are offered to the sun god in the Vedas, as compared to over two hundred and fifty hymns offered to Indra.

The physical sun that we actually see is said to be the eye of the gods Agni, Varuna and Mitra. The sun is the physical embodiment of the spiritual light of Agni and these two other cosmic gods.

Dawn is the harbinger of Surya. In Sanskrit the dawn is called Usha or Ahana. Usha is the goddess of dawn. She invokes the presence of the sun god and when Surya appears, he seems to be following her. The sun god has boundless divine love for goddess Usha. He wants to offer all his inner divinity to her and she receives it joyfully from him.

The sun is far, very far from our planet earth. When we observe the sun from here, we see a tiny disc, but we know how bright and vast it really is. Similarly, the inner sun, the sun that we have deep within us, is very far from us, and it seems very tiny and insignificant. But when we approach our inner sun we are illumined and transformed, and we enter into the effulgence of transcendental Light.

Each human being has an inner sun. The physical sun we observe every day. But the inner sun, the sun of divinity that we have inside us, most people do not see even once in a lifetime. Again, if I say that each individual is blessed with only one inner sun, then I am mistaken. Advanced spiritual seekers have more than one spiritual sun. And the spiritual Master, in his highest transcendental Consciousness possesses the outer sun and countless inner suns; he is the possessor of the entire universe.

If one is on the path of spirituality, one is bound to see his inner sun. Some of you have already had a glimpse of it. Some of you have seen it for a fleeting second but have not been able to recognise it as the inner sun. But a day will dawn when you will see your inner sun fully in all its transcendental Glory, and you will be inundated with celestial Light. Then, as you grow in the spiritual life, you are bound to develop more than one inner sun.

The inner sun moves. That is why the inner light moves and illumines. Again, the inner sun can remain still and silent. When the inner sun is still, we are also silent. That is why in the Isha Upanishad, one of the most famous Upanishads, we have a description of something that moves and at the same time moves not:

Tad ejati tan naijati...

"That moves and that moves not.
That is far and that is near.
That is within and that is without."

The sun god is also the god of flight, and he performs his task like a beautiful bird. Time and space are covered by the wings of the sun god. In the Rig Veda there is a significant hymn which runs thus: "The stars are acting like thieves. When they see the sun, they run away, for they are afraid of the infinite effulgence of the sun." There is another hymn which is an invitation to evening. Evening invites the sun to set, saying, "Brother, you have worked very hard during the whole day. Now you take rest." In that way, when evening makes a fervent request to the sun god to take rest, night appears.

From the sun, creation came into existence. The sun is the creator that has created something without beginning or end. A great Master once said, "If the beginning comes from anything, then it cannot be a beginning. Beginning cannot come from anything." It is true. But in the spiritual life we know two significant words: Purusha and Prakriti. Purusha and Prakriti are always birthless and endless. In the thirteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna makes it very clear that Prakriti and Purusha are both without beginning. Purusha the transcendental, primordial Being, and Prakriti, the absolute Energy, together created both the eternal and the temporal.

In the Rig Veda we learn that existence came from non-existence. What does non-existence mean? If we think that non-existence means nothing, then we are mistaken. It is not something that never existed. Non-existence is something which we cannot see with our naked eye, something which is beyond our earthly ken. When our third eye is at our constant command, we will see non-existence as something which has not yet taken proper form and substance in the outer world. When it takes proper shape and form, it becomes possible and practicable for us to see and use it in our day-to-day life.

We all want to bathe in the sea of sunlight. The outer sunlight will give us purification; the inner sunlight will give us illumination. When we want to bathe in water, we need a soap and towel. But when we have a sun bath, we don't need these things. When we bathe in the inner sun, we need only one thing to satisfy all our inner needs: our soul's tearful gratitude. When we offer our soul's tearful gratitude to the Supreme, or when we enter into our soul's tearful gratitude, we can easily bathe in the sea of inner light.

The sun that we see in the sky is always beautiful. The day dawns; we see beauty all around. We look at the sun and we get inspiration. God the Beauty, the sun god, comes to us in the morning in the form of inspiration. The poet is inspired to write soulful poems, the musician is inspired to compose beautiful music. People going to work in different walks of life are all getting abundant inspiration from the Sun to fulfil their daily duties.

The sun god comes to us in midday as dynamic aspiration. We have to perform the tasks of the day. We have to fulfil our outer demands as well as our inner demands. The inner sun comes to us with its fiery flames, giving us powerful, soulful, dynamic will which will hasten our inner evolution and outer manifestation.

The sun god comes to us in the evening as realisation. The sun sets and purity reigns supreme all around. Nature is resting, Mother Earth is aspiring and all is peace and love within and without. With evening comes realisation, as the sun god offers us the consummation of his wealth. When realisation dawns, the roles of inspiration and aspiration end.

In the Vedas there are thousands of mantras. 'Mantra' is a Sanskrit word that means incantation. A mantra can be a syllable, a word, a name or a sentence or two. When we utter the mantra soulfully, we are transported into the seventh heaven of celestial delight. There are thousands of mantras, but there is one mantra that stands out as most significant and that mantra is the Gayatri Mantra. This mantra we find in three Vedas: the Rig Veda, the Sama Veda and the Atharva Veda. This mantra is also a most sublime raga. I am offering you this particular mantra right now. Why? There is a special reason. First I would like to chant it, then I will tell you its significance.

Aum bhur bhuvah svah
tat savitur varenyam
bhargo devasya dhimahi
dhiyo yo nah prachodayat

This is the Gayatri Mantra. Many composers have set tune to it. Its meaning is: "We contemplate on the most brilliant light of the Creator-deity, the sun god, to achieve inner understanding, to illumine our intelligence, to stimulate our understanding, to transform our earthbound consciousness into the boundless Light of the inner Sun, the sun god."

In India, in the small hours of the morning, the Brahmins and the seekers of the highest Truth, with folded hands, look up into the sky as the sun comes up over the horizon, and offer this prayer to the sun god. They chant this mantra hundreds of times most soulfully for inner illumination. You can imagine how it looks if you walk along the Ganges and see the Indian Brahmins and the seekers of the Infinite praying to the sun with folded hands, for inner illumination. By repeating this mantra, hundreds and hundreds of seekers have attained to spiritual perfection. If you can repeat it soulfully thousands of times at a stretch, you are bound to get at least an iota of inner illumination. But it has to be done most soulfully and not like a child learning something by rote.

The sun is the soul of the universe. The soul has neither birth nor death.

Na jayate mriyate va kadacin…

"The soul is never born and it never dies. It has no beginning, it has no end, no past, no present, no future."

This is the soul.

Nai'nam chindanti sastrani

"Weapon cannot cleave the soul.
Fire cannot burn the soul.
Water cannot drench the soul.
Wind cannot dry the soul."

This is the soul.

The sun god gives us knowledge and wisdom. The sun god frees us from teeming ignorance and impenetrable darkness. Therefore we have to invoke the sun god. Avidya means ignorance. Vidya means knowledge. Vidya and Avidya go together. Let us take ignorance as a thorn. One thorn has entered into our foot. Now let us take another thorn, knowledge, to remove the first thorn. When we take out the first thorn with the help of the second thorn, we can say that we enter into the realm of death and conquer it. Once we have taken out the thorn, we do not need the thorn that has entered into our foot and we do not need the thorn that we used to remove it. At that time we go beyond both knowledge and ignorance and enter into the domain of Wisdom's ecstasy.

There are two types of knowledge; outer knowledge and inner knowledge. Outer knowledge can tell us about spiritual life, inner life. But this outer knowledge is not the same as inner knowledge. Outer knowledge tells us that there is a God, that if we follow the spiritual life we will realise Him and that if we meditate on God we will have Peace, Bliss, Power, Delight and so forth. But outer knowledge can go no further. But if we enter into the inmost recesses of our heart the inner knowledge dawns. When inner knowledge dawns, automatically and spontaneously we taste the divine nectar, Amrita, and this divine nectar is Immortality.

The sunlight and the sun god cannot be separated. As God the Creator and God the creation cannot be separated, so the sun god and sunlight cannot be separated. Thus, in the Vedas it said:

"//Surya jyotir jyotir Surya//
"The sun god is Light, Light is the sun god.""

Surya here is not the Vedic god Surya; here Surya means the Supreme God. Similarly, our aspiration and our realisation cannot be separated. Today we are aspiring, tomorrow we shall be realised. When we are all realised, we shall see that our aspiration and our realisation are absolutely inseparable.

Ganesha

Another name for Lord Ganesha is Siddhidata. We also call him Ganapati. Ganesha has abundant knowledge. He fulfils our aspiration or our desires. In India we pray to Lord Ganesha first. We say, "Aum dakshine Ganeshaya namah." "We bow to Lord Ganesha who dwells in the South."

Ganesha had a younger brother, Kumara, the war god. He was the hero and the commander of the gods. As the story goes, both Ganesha and Kumara were saying to each other, "I am greater in knowledge than you are." Their mother was Parvati, or Durga as she is called in a different aspect. She decided to prove which of the two had more knowledge. She said, "Let me see who is greater. I will sit here. Whoever can go around the world and come back first is the greater."

Immediately Kumara stood up and ran off. He travelled on and on and on, on his conveyor, which was a peacock. Poor fellow, God knows how much time he took to go around the world. When he was about to reach his mother, he saw his brother still sitting at her feet. "He is such a fool," he said to himself. "He has not even started his journey, whereas I have almost completed my course."

Just as Kumara was about to declare, "Look, Mother, I am the winner," Ganapati simply stood up and walked around his mother. Their mother said, "Ganesha knows that his mother is the entire Universe." Poor Kumara did not have that realisation: he thought that his mother was an ordinary human being. Ganesha is the winner.

Shani

In India we have a very important god named Saturn. We also call him Shani. To other cosmic gods we pray, "Give us wealth, give us name, give us fame." On the different days of the week we worship the planets, stars and cosmic deities, to come to us with their inner and outer plenitude.

But to this particular god we say, "O Shani, don't look at us. Don't cast your glance at us." We pray for this god not to come to our house, not to look at anybody dear in our family. Why? When this particular god looks at a household, immediately something bad happens. When Saturn comes into our family, on the physical plane there will be some calamity: our dear ones will die, we will lose money, or some catastrophe will take place. That is why in India we say, "Don't come."

We have to know that it is only our human desire that prays in this way. Our divine aspiration could never do this. Human prayer wants to possess and be possessed by the world, by relatives and dear ones.

This is our human desire. But Shani comes and gives us renunciation. He creates conditions of human hardship and imposes austerity on us. He even takes our dearest ones away from us. Ordinary human beings will find it hard to embrace this kind of deprivation. But when a seeker wants to reach the Highest, he asks Shani and Rudra, another cosmic god, to expedite the journey towards the transcendental Goal. He prays that they will do their divine work and cut all attachment. Shani and Rudra want us to be freed from the meshes of ignorance. That is why they constantly strive for perfection in and through us. It is precisely because we are fond of living in ignorance that we human beings are afraid of Rudra and Shani.

According to Indian tradition, there is a special Saturday — Saturday is 'Saturnday' — when we invoke Saturn and speak highly of him just before we eat. We pray, "Please don't come, please don't come. Please never come to our home. That is why we are praying to you." After the day is over, when we feel that he won't come to us, then we take as prasad a particular kind of husked rice mixed with milk, banana and coconut. But here we are all seekers. We are praying to him to give us liberation and to free us from attachment. So we shall invoke him in his highest aspect.

The Mother Divine

The Mother Divine is the Divine in its feminine aspect. Very often we say that it is easier to please our mother than our father in the physical world. This truth is also applicable in the spiritual world. True, the Mother and the Father do everything in consultation with each other. But it is easier for an aspirant to please the Mother Divine or an aspect of the Mother Divine than to please Purusha, the masculine aspect of the Lord Supreme.

There are four major aspects of the Mother Divine. From one point of view, just as we cannot separate our right arm from our left arm, we cannot separate the different aspects of the Mother Divine, or separate one goddess from another. But from another point of view, we can say that these different aspects of the transcendental Mother perform different functions.

Maheshwari

O Height beyond the heights,
O Deep beyond the deeps, Thou art still!
Mother of Light supreme!
We feel not thy flaming breath of Will.

To raze our million lies,
To reveal the Spirit's cosmic task
Thy vast apocalypse
In secret dwells in our nature's dusk.

O Queen of zenith unseen!
The Play of Death within Thee ends.
The Sun, thy golden child,
Upon the world's nakedness descends.

The first is the aspect of immensity, vastness and profundity, called Maheshwari. 'Maha' means great and 'Ishwari' means goddess. So, Maheshwari is the great Goddess, the great Mother. Maheshwari has another name which is very familiar to us: Durga. Most of India worships this aspect of the Divine Mother. Day in and day out Durga fights to establish the Divine Truth here on earth. When Sri Ramachandra was engaged in a terrible fight against the demon Ravana, he prayed to this particular goddess. Durga showered her utmost blessings upon the devoted head and heart of Sri Ramachandra and he won the battle.

Mahakali

O Mother-Fire! Thy storm-eyed ken
Tortures my eyeless fate.
Before me shine all wonder-ways
Of thy immortal Gate.

The face of rapture thy stroke unveils.
Matchless forever Thou art
To make us reach the Peak unknown,
The One's all-embracing Heart.

The fount of Power at thy Feet abides.
Thy cosmic dance of Noon
Throws fast on earth the nectar-floods
Of snow-white fire-pure Moon.

In another aspect the Mother Divine is called Mahakali. In this aspect she is the warrior Mother who is fighting all the time against the hostile forces, against human imperfection, limitation, bondage and death. At the same time, she is all Compassion for the sincere seekers. In all Her divine aspects, the transcendental Mother is full of Compassion, but in this aspect she is undoubtedly the Mother of supernal Compassion. Mahakali has more Compassion than the others, for she does not allow anyone to cherish imperfection in the physical plane, the vital plane, the mental plane, or in any other plane. It is her infinite Compassion that frees men from the fetters of ignorance.

On the one hand, Kali looks absolutely terrifying and ferocious when she comes down to the vital plane of human ignorance. But on the other hand, she is very, very compassionate. She sheds bitter tears when she sees that anyone is wallowing in the pleasures of ignorance instead of trying to transcend his limitations, ignorance, darkness and death. So she fights against our enemies for us.

Mahakali is the Mother of aspiration. She has great fondness for height, for the highest transcendental Height. If she is satisfied with a seeker, then in no time she will carry that particular seeker to the highest transcendental Height. She is also the Mother of fastest speed. She has the capacity to expedite the seeker's progress in the twinkling of an eye. She takes the aspirant to his Goal infinitely faster than the other cosmic gods and goddesses. In a single day she can give him the progress which otherwise might have taken him fifty or sixty years to make. Those who want to make quick progress in the spiritual life, and those who want to attain to spiritual perfection as soon as possible, need the assistance, help, guidance and protection of this particular goddess for special Grace.

Kali quite often exercises this dynamic power of transformation, but she does it only for those who have boundless and implicit faith in her, for those who feel that at every moment they can be divine heroes dedicated to fulfilling her cause here on earth. Her to fulfil here on earth should be the aim of the hero-worshipper of the Mother Kali.

This Mother demands absolute sincerity, purity and one-pointedness in the consciousness of those who want to adore her and worship her. Only on these conditions will she accept a devotee. She has no time to wait for insincere seekers. There are other gods and goddesses, especially the goddess Lakshmi, who will tolerate insincerity. They wait with their love and compassion for the seekers who are only half sincere, but Kali is very strict and will not do that. She wants absolute sincerity and purity immediately and then only will she take one to the highest Transcendental Abode of the Supreme.

The pure gold colour which represents the divine manifestation, is the true colour of the Mother Kali. In the highest plane she is absolutely golden, although most pictures show her as black. She often looks black because she has entered into the vital worlds of aspirants who are still impure but who want to be purified in order to transform their consciousness. When she sees that an aspirant is really sincere and dedicated, she enters into his vital and destroys for good the lower vital movements that have to be destroyed and transforms whatever can be transformed into higher aspects of Divinity.

I am sure most of you have heard of the very great spiritual Master Sri Ramakrishna. The Goddess Kali was his Divine Mother. It was Mother Kali whom he worshipped and adored; it was with Mother Kali that he established his ultimate transcendental Connection and Union. There came a time when Sri Ramakrishna's consort, Sarada Devi, found no difference between Mother Kali and her husband, who was also called Thakur. She would say, "Where is Kali? Who is Kali if not Thakur."

As for myself, I personally regard Kali as my dearest Mother. This aspect of the Divine is most dear to me. In India all families without exception have a family deity and our family deity is Kali.

Mother Kali is the consort of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is the silent aspect of the transcendental Reality and Mother Kali is the dynamic and active aspect of the transcendental Reality. If we think of Shiva and Kali with our ordinary human mind, then we separate them; but if we look at them with our inner eye, then we see that they go together. Truth is complete and we are fulfilled when the dynamic aspect and the silent aspect function together. God in His feminine aspect, God the Mother, is Mahakali. God in His masculine aspect, God the Father, is Lord Shiva.

Those in the West who want power, but who have no feeling for any Indian goddess or deity, can directly invoke the power aspect of God: God the Power. He has Compassion. He has Love. He has everything. So if we pray to God the Power, the indomitable Power, we will get the same blessings as we can get from this particular goddess.

In one of our Upanishads it is mentioned that the ultimate Truth is: "That is far and at the same time is near. That moves and that moves not. That is within, that is without." It is within and without. When our inner consciousness is fully awakened, we see that if something is within, that very thing also has to be without. If we have sown a seed, then it will germinate and there will be a tree. If the truth is already there within, then the truth has to be manifested sooner or later outside.

Mahalakshmi

Mother of rapture, Thee we seize!
Our eyes or tears now smile in Thee.
To quench our thirst thy ruby Love,
Thy Power we clasp from thy silence-sea.

So near art Thou, O Mother Dawn!
In bliss to answer our moon-white call.
A world of hush sublime is thy Dream.
In Thee alone the golden All.

Before Thee quivers the battle of Night.
Thy Grace supreme is Nature's Soul.
In us Thou hast sown the immortal seeds;
Thy joy shall flood our triumph's goal.

The third goddess or aspect of the Divine Mother is Mahalakshmi. As I told you, 'Maha' means great and Lakshmi is an aspect of the Mother representing beauty, charm, sweetness, harmony and peace. These are her main qualities. She is the Mother who works to bring divine harmony into every aspect of life. This mother shows infinite patience at times when Mahakali would not show patience. No tardiness, no sloth, no weakness will Kali tolerate in the devotee. Of course, she is showing boundless compassion when she gives her speed, but she asks her devotees to respond to this compassion. She is ready all the time to offer us her highest blessings and lift us high, higher, highest to the transcendental Consciousness; but we also have to be ready to jump with her, run with her, fly with her. This is what Mother Kali demands. But Mother Lakshmi has infinite patience. She says, "If my children want to go slowly, then they can go slowly and steadily. Unerringly I shall guide them." This is what Mahalakshmi feels.

Mahalakshmi is for all. She is for each individual soul, whether the soul is aspiring or unaspiring. She wants a peaceful harmony, light, beauty, sweetness and splendour in each individual. These are the qualities of the heart, and these Mahalakshmi embodies in infinite measure. Her devotees want to feel their oneness with the world and become the world. Inside the world they want to establish the divine harmony, the divine light. They are ready to wait for this transformation even if it does not take place in this life. But the disciples of Kali have no time to wait; they are not satisfied with just harmony and beauty in their lives. They want only the highest Absolute. They care only for the highest Height. The devotees of Mahalakshmi do not and cannot progress as fast as the devotees of Kali.

Mahasaraswati

Thy Heart of music-Fire
consumes our drowse,
Nowhere our journey ends.
Thy patience unknown all souls
must learn from Thee
To march through immortal lands.

We hurt Thy Heart's arabesque supreme
of bliss.
Ever unplumbed is thy Truth.
Our sheaths' afflicted roots imbibe thy Grace;
In Thee the tapestry of Truth.

All worlds with ignorance blind immerse
in Thy Light,
O Queen of perfection-sea!
Thy birth of Lore supreme within us bursts
And makes us eternal, free.

The fourth aspect of the Mother divine is Saraswati or Mahasaraswati. Maheshwari is the Mother of immensity, Mahakali is the Mother of aspiration and Mahalakshmi is the Mother of sweetness, beauty, fragrance and harmony. But Mahasaraswati is the Mother of perfection, knowledge and wisdom. When we walk along the mental path, when we start our journey in the mental world, the first thing we do is invoke this Mother, Mahasaraswati. With her blessing we commence our mental journey and in all our mental and intellectual life we carry her sweetest, highest blessing. Perfect perfection she demands from her devotees.

This Mother is a cosmic musician, a supernal musician. She plays on the vina and, while playing, she offers transcendental Delight to Brahma. Brahma is the Creator and Saraswati is his consort.

Each god and goddess has a secret, special name. This secret name we call the seed-sound. Each cosmic god and goddess has adopted one special sound in order to fulfil God's cosmic Play. God's soundless sound we know is anahata. The outer life is an open book; but the inner life is a secret life, a life of sweetness and divine enjoyment. We know that Lord Krishna has hundreds of names in the outer world: Krishna, Gopal and others. But in the inner world, for his devotees, he has a spiritual name or seed-sound. That seed-sound is Kling. If we can say Kling most powerfully and soulfully, from this seed-sound Krishna's divine Joy, divine Love and divine Beauty can be seen and felt inside our heart.

The seed-sound of Kali is Kring. You can repeat "Kali, Kali, Kali," but sincere seekers who want to make the fastest progress should repeat Kring very powerfully. Kali you can say softly, but if you say Kring softly, it will have no effect. You have to say Kring with tremendous power so that you feel that your whole being is vibrating with the sound that you are producing from your heart. At that time, Mother Kali will immediately stand in front of you with her boundless power, boundless compassion and fastest speed to help you reach the Goal. Of course, please try to bring to the fore your divine dynamic aspect as you chant. While you are using this mantra please do not have undivine qualities inside you. If the utterance is perfect, immediately the result will be most powerful, most soulful.

Then, if you want to invoke the seed-sound of Maheshwari you can say Hring most soulfully. The seed-sound of Lakshmi is Sring. If you want divine beauty, cosmic beauty, inner beauty and harmony, then you have to invoke Mahalakshmi. If you want perfection, patience, inner wisdom and inner light for everything you do, for that you need to invoke Saraswati. Her seed-sound is Ohing.

These four goddesses represent the four major aspects of the Mother Divine, her four transcendental forms. These four aspects are for all divine seekers, and if a seeker wants to, he can invoke all four aspects at the same time. But individual seekers usually approach just one particular aspect of the Divine Mother.

You can say that each individual has his own way of approaching the Goal or a certain connection with one of these aspects of God. If we worship the particular aspect that is meant for us, then we will be very successful in our life. But if we need perfection and we pray to the wrong goddess, then it will only take more time for us to achieve what we need.

It is true that we can reach God through our aspiration and get perfection, power, knowledge and everything. But our capacity is very limited, and often we cannot or do not dare to get everything. If we feel that something will suit our nature and satisfy our soul or feed our inner hunger for the time being, then we should pray to a particular aspect of God.

If we want immensity, then we have to pray to Maheshwari. If we want to go to the Highest with utmost speed, then we have to pray to Mahakali. If we want to bring beauty and harmony into our life, then we have to pray to Mahalakshmi. If we want perfection in minute detail in everything, then we have to pray to Mahasaraswati. But whichever path a seeker prefers, at the end of his journey, he will ultimately see that he has fulfilled all these four aspects of the Mother Divine.

Editor's preface to the first edition

The cosmic gods represent different aspects of the Absolute Supreme. On the one hand, they are inseparable from Him; on the other hand, they appear to our human ignorance as separate beings with unique identities and personalities. During their meditation, Yogis and advanced seekers can actually see these beings in the inner world. In this unusual book, an illumined Yogi who has a free access to the inner worlds writes from firsthand experience about some of the different cosmic gods and their various activities.

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