Since it was Mother’s Day recently, I thought I would scribble a few notes on the subject of Mother.
There is the physical mother and there is the eternal Mother. Before birth, the soul seeks both a mother and a father in order to enter the physical realm. The physical mother gives birth to the physical body. But before the physical body, there was a Mother, the eternal Mother, who was always there.
All spiritual effort is to move our soul from the physical mother to the eternal Mother, our source. That is the real spiritual journey – to consciously return to that womb which is our origin.
Of course, we are not just the physical body; we are also something that wanted to take birth. Philosophically we call it a soul, but we do not know what that is, and we live our whole lives without realizing or experiencing it. We read about it and store a lot of information in our memory about it, but we do not work hard to experience it. In fact, most people reach the end of their lives without an inkling of what it is, never realizing who they are.
Mother’s Day is a good opportunity to reflect on who we are and from where we emanate. There is the source of the physical, the seen parents, and the real source— the unseen Father and Mother.
We give our Mother many names. She performs a multitude of functions, with each function giving her a special name.
When she becomes the creative process, each moment giving birth to the three worlds, we call her Gayatri.
When she streams down as the river of knowledge, we call her Ganga.
When she reminds us of our aim, to wake up from the dream of life, she is Lakshmi (from lakshya or aim).
When she flows as the prana that strikes our vocal cords to create the variety and beauty of language, we call her Sarasvati (saras as in speech and vati to possess). In this form, she expresses herself in wisdom, the arts and music.
When she expresses herself as time and memory, we call her Mahakali, not just the very limited dimension of time that we experience, but the higher dimensions too. She is the Eternal Time, the ultimate witness to all that has happened and will happen, for time is a circle and that which will come tomorrow is just an unfolding of the past. Ages have come and gone, civilizations have appeared and disappeared, and galaxies have been born and died, and she has seen it all.
When she becomes the force that brings change in direction and change in form, we call her Yamuna (from the word Yama, to reign in, to control). She is the energy that destroys form. As the body ages and it is time for the disintegration of form, she comes and breaks it down. She is the energy that changes the seasons, as winter cannot go on forever. When she arrives, winter ends as it must, and summer begins.
These are a few of the many expressions of our Divine Mother. But our real effort is to go back, to understand where we came from. This return, where the child goes back to meet and merge with his Divine Mother, is called Yoga (to join).
The Mahabharata has a beautiful story of the simultaneous dissolution of form in one dimension of time and space, and the appearance of subtle form in another. Before the Mahabharata began, there was a meeting of all the gods to decide who would play which role. The gods asked the Moon god, Chandra, for his contribution. Chandra had a son, Barcha, who he loved dearly. As might be expected, Chandra was reluctant to part with his son, but he knew he had to play his role in the divine drama. So he allowed his son to participate in the drama on one condition: his son must return to him after sixteen years because that was how long he could bear to stay away from him.
Chandra’s son entered the drama as Abhimanyu, the son of Arjun, the Pandava prince. When the sixteen-year-old Abhimanyu dies on the battlefield, two dimensions of time and space are shown simultaneously in the Mahabharata. In the physical dimension, Arjun is crying that his son has died in the war, while in the subtle dimension, we see Chandra so happy that his son has come home after sixteen years.
In a similar vein, the Bible tells the beautiful story of the Prodigal Son. In the story, a rich man has two sons. The elder son asks for his share of the property and leaves home to seek his fortunes. The Bible reveals that he then squanders all his money on wine, women, and gambling. But now let us change the story here a little. Imagine the son did not squander all his wealth, but became a successful and rich businessman with money, finding comfort and fame. And at this point, when he had everything, he realized the futility of it all. He had not understood the mystery of life, he did not know why he had come into this world, and he did not know where he had come from—the source. In that version, he then decides to return to his father. In the Bible, he returns to his physical father after losing everything. But this is only symbolic of something deeper.
The Father is a symbol of the source from where we have all come. Through the ages, some religious and esoteric systems have used the word ‘Father’, while others have used ‘Mother’. In our version of the story, the son realizes that as long as his happiness depends upon external things like wealth, comfort, and fame, it does not bring him real happiness, only dependency, or a kind of slavery. So, he decides to find the source of true happiness, which is not dependent on acquiring something.
We are always happy because of something else. For example, our son passes the exam or, when we get more money, we are happy. However, within all of us, deep inside, there is a fountain of true happiness that is much different from all those things. And we can only find it if we make that inner journey, returning to our Divine Mother, unfolding the layers of our mind, and arriving at our original source.