From the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati

Shakti is the energy aspect of the Lord. She is inherent in God. Just as one cannot separate heat from fire, so also one cannot separate Shakti from God, who is the Shakta or possessor of shakti. Shakti and Shakta are one. They are inseparable.

The Divine Mother, Devi, Parashakti, Durga, Kali, Bhagavati, Bhavani, Ambal, Ambika, Jagadambe, Kameshvari, Ganga, Uma, Chandi, Chamindi, Lalita, Gauri, Kundalini, Tara, Tripurasundari are all forms of shakti.

Manifestations of Shakti

Shakti is symbolically female. In reality, it is neither male or female. It is only a force which manifests in various forms. Electricity, magnetism, heat, light, the five elements and their combinations, are all external manifestations of Shakti. Intelligence, discrimination, psychic power and will are all Her internal manifestations. She keeps up the lila, play, of the Lord through the gunas: sattwa, rajas and tamas.

She lies dormant in mooladhara chakra at the base of the spine, in the form of the serpent power or coiled-up energy known as the kundalini shakti. She is at the centre of life in the universe, she is the primal force of life that underlies all existence. She vitalizes the body through the sushumna nadi and nerves and nourishes the body with chyle and blood. She vitalizes the universe through Her energy. She is the energy in the sun, the fragrance in the flowers, the beauty in the landscape, the Gayatri or the blessed Mother in the Vedas, colour in the rainbow, intelligence in the mind, potency in homeopathic pills, power in sages, devotion in bhaktas, samyama and samadhi in yogis.

Knowledge, peace, lust, anger, greed, egoism and pride are all Her forms. Her manifestations are countless. Devi or Shakti is nature itself. The whole world is Her body, mountains are Her bones, rivers are Her veins, ocean is Her bladder, sun and moon are Her eyes, wind is Her breath and fire is Her mouth.

Divine Mother

Devi is the mother of all. The pious and the wicked, the rich and the poor, the saint and the sinner are all Her children. In this world, all the wants of the child are provided by the mother. The child’s growth, development and sustenance are looked after by the mother. Even so, all the necessities of life and its activities in this world, and the energy needed for it, depend upon Shakti or the Universal Mother. The human mother is a manifestation of the Universal Mother. All women are forms of the Divine Mother.

You are more free with your mother than with anybody else. You open your heart more freely to your mother than to your father. There is no God greater than the mother. It is the mother who protects you, nourishes you, consoles you, cheers you and nurses you. She sacrifices all for the sake of her children. She is your first guru. The first syllable which almost every quadruped or human being utters, is the beloved name of the mother ‘Ma’. A child is more familiar with the mother than with the father, because the former is very kind, loving, tender and affectionate, and looks after the wants of the child. Whenever a child wants anything it runs with outstretched hands to the mother rather than to the father. If she hears the cry of the child she leaves her domestic work and runs immediately to attend to the child. In the spiritual field, the aspirant or the devotee, the spiritual child, has a more intimate relationship with Mother Durga than with Father Shiva.

That is the reason why the devotees have placed Radha, Sita, Gauri first in the combined names, such as Radha-Krishna, Sita-Rama, Gauri-Shankar, Uma-Shankar, Bhavani-Shankar, Lakshmi-Narayana.

Worship of the Divine Mother

Shakti is all. She can do anything. She can make or mar, she can mend or end. For the sake of the continuance of Her divine play here, She Herself, as the veil of ignorance, has veiled the truth from you and bound you to this samsara of worldly existence. When She is propitiated through the practice of sincere devotion and unconditional self-surrender, She, as knowledge, removes the veil and enables one to perceive the truth.

No one can free himself from the thraldom of mind and matter without Mother’s grace. The fetters of maya are too hard to break. If the aspirant worships Her as the great Mother, he can very easily go beyond the phenomenal world through Her benign grace and blessings. She will remove all obstacles on the path, lead him safely into the illimitable domain of eternal bliss and make him absolutely free.

The aspirant thinks that the world is identical with the Divine Mother. He moves about thinking his own form to be the form of the Divine Mother, and thus beholds oneness everywhere. He also feels that the Divine Mother is identical with Brahman.

Worship of the Divine Mother, intense faith, perfect devotion and self-surrender will help one attain Her grace. Through Her grace alone can knowledge of the Imperishable be attained.

Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati

The Divine Mother is everywhere. She is endowed with the three gunas: sattwa, rajas and tamas. She manifests as will, ichcha shakti, action, kriya shakti, and knowledge, jnana shakti. She is Brahma-shakti, Saraswati in conjunction with Brahma, Vishnu-shakti, Lakshmi in conjunction with Lord Vishnu and Shiva-shakti, Mahakali or Durga in conjunction with Lord Shiva.

Saraswati is cosmic intelligence, cosmic consciousness, cosmic knowledge. Lakshmi does not merely mean material wealth like objects, cattle, and so on, but all kinds of prosperity, glory, magnificence, joy, exaltation or greatness are Lakshmi. Durga is the transformative power of divinity, the power that dissolves multiplicity into unity.

Durga assumes many aspects according to the tasks to be performed by Her – sometimes sweet and tender, and at other times terrible and devouring. She is always kind and gracious to Her devotees. Arjuna, the Pandava hero, worshipped Her before starting the fight against the Kauravas. Sri Rama worshipped Her at the time of battle with Ravana, to invoke Her aid in the war. He fought and won by Her grace.

When Vishnu and Mahadeva destroyed many of the demons, the power of Devi was behind them. Devi gave Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra the necessary shakti to proceed with the work of creation, preservation and destruction.

Sing Her praise

Mother’s grace is boundless, Her mercy is illimitable, Her knowledge is infinite, Her power is immeasurable, Her glory is ineffable, Her splendour is indescribable.

Approach Her with an open heart, frankness and humility. Be as simple as a child. Kill ruthlessly selfishness, cunningness and crookedness. Make a total, unreserved, ungrudging surrender to Her. Sing Her praise, repeat Her name and worship Her with faith and unflinching devotion.