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Goddess Durga: A Divine Female Role Model for Our Times?

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  • medit8ionsociety
    By Laura Amazzone Posted on the Huffington Post 1/21/11 We are at a global crossroads. Environmental devastation, economic upheaval, political corruption and
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 22, 2011
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      By Laura Amazzone
      Posted on the Huffington Post 1/21/11

      We are at a global crossroads. Environmental
      devastation, economic upheaval, political
      corruption and unconscionable acts of man-made
      violence threaten the precious equilibrium of
      our planet. Racism, sexism, homophobia, war,
      violence, genocide, human trafficking -- it is
      hard not to feel overwhelmed by the massive
      injustice perpetuated by humans against our
      own species and ultimately the fragile web of
      all life on this planet. How do we make sense
      of the destruction? When all seems futile, how
      do we approach formidable life experiences from
      a place of compassion for both self and other?
      To whom do we turn for guidance?

      To many in the West, the orthodox religious
      traditions we grew up within have failed to
      provide solace. Many of us are looking for a
      spiritual model that addresses the needs of
      the tumultuous 21st century and yet is grounded
      in respect for the interconnectedness of all
      life. While some have found guidance in indigenous
      beliefs, western mystical traditions or eastern
      philosophy, the ululating call of the divine
      feminine seems to be making itself heard across the board.

      Most of us are familiar with Greek mythology
      and its pantheon of goddesses and gods; however,
      fewer are aware that there is a thriving tradition
      of goddess worship in South Asia where devotion
      to the divine as Compassionate Mother and Fiercely
      Protective Female Warrior has existed for millennia.
      In fact, there is not one, but thousands of
      manifestations of goddess in South Asia. In Hinduism
      human diversity is expressed by this vast pantheon
      of deities; and yet, as one of the most popular
      goddess myths reminds us, despite our differences,
      we are indeed all One.

      The Devi Mahatmya or the Great Glory of the
      Goddess is a 5th century myth that offers potent
      teachings relevant to this day and age. The heroine
      of this story about the victory of good over evil
      is Durga, Goddess of Divine Justice, Invincible
      Power, and Impenetrable Compassion. Her name,
      Durga, means fortress, and speaks to the unassailable
      essence of our inherent nature. Durga is also known
      as the Remover of Fear and Difficulty for she always
      comes to the aid of any who call on her in distress.

      According to the myth, demonic forces are threatening
      to conquer the world and take down any who do not
      agree with their agenda. Despite the gods' intentions
      to stop the demons, the methods they use only
      perpetuate the violence. Moreover, this demon king
      has received a boon from the creator God Brahma,
      which makes him undefeatable by any man, god or
      demon. When Brahma asks the demon if he wants to
      be exempt from defeat by a female as well, the demon's
      inflated ego puffs up with pride. To the demon,
      battling a woman is an easy win -- he declines.

      After eons of senseless violence, the male gods
      convene and call forth the Supreme Mother Goddess
      behind all existence. Only she is powerful enough
      to stop the bloodshed. The initial chapter of Durga's
      mythic journey of restoring harmony to the world
      tells how the demon king learns a beautiful female
      is waiting to engage in battle with him. He orders
      his two favorite demon generals to bring her to him
      so he can force her into wedlock. However, the generals
      do not have a chance against the all-powerful goddess.
      As they approach her, the composed goddess emits a
      flame from her finger that restores them to a state
      of tranquility and compassion. Outraged, the demon
      demands that the goddess engage directly with him in
      battle. She does.

      The demon becomes more and more furious as he
      faces the great goddess. He hurls mountains,
      uproots forests and causes earthquakes with his
      all-consuming anger against the possible loss of
      power and control. Every time one of Durga's arrows
      flies at him, the demon changes form from water
      buffalo, to tiger, to man until finally she grabs
      him, pins his neck down with her foot and sends a
      spear through his heart.

      Metaphorically, we can consider Durga as the
      wisdom of the heart, untainted by cultural,
      religious and societal conditioning. The buffalo
      demon symbolizes our ignorance, reactions and ego
      attachments. The constantly shifting appearance
      of the demon speaks to our irrational behavior and
      the need to pin down the destructive causes of
      our negative emotions: anger, jealousy, pride,
      greed and delusion. His shape shifting is symbolic
      of the grasping ignorant mind that continuously
      jumps from one desire to another. The demon's
      uncontrollable rage, destroying everything in its
      path without regard for the consequences, is a
      fitting analogy for the violence we face today.
      This myth asks us to consider how we choose to
      express our anger -- whether we will use our rage
      against injustice in constructive ways, or if we
      will be divisive, fearful and blaming, thereby
      poisoning our environment. The fiercely compassionate
      divine feminine nature will help free us from the
      afflicted ego and return to the penetrating wisdom
      of divine love. Goddess Durga may not solve all
      the world's problems at the moment, but as this
      ancient scripture teaches, she is the impenetrable
      place of calm within our hearts from which we can
      choose actions that promote harmony and unity
      rather than selfish harmful acts.

      In the myth, after the demon has finally been
      defeated and the gods gather to celebrate, Mother
      Durga promises to return whenever any of her
      children are in distress. As we face crises on
      both a personal and planetary level, might we
      call on this ancient divine female force of
      compassion and courage to help us confront and
      transform that which threatens the well being
      and contentment of all beings on this planet?

      The Devi Mahatmya teaches that the grace of
      goddess is unconditional and will never be
      withheld from anyone -- ego demon or not. Through
      her fierce love toward self and other, harmony
      will be restored within and around us. We need
      only invoke Durga to help us remember our true
      nature and that divine love conquers all.
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