The Divine Shakti’s Aspect of Power and Force–Mahakali

The world has an aspect of raw power and force that cannot be denied or avoided. The entire manifestation of life on earth results from the force of the sun’s power interacting with the earth. Weakness does not achieve the result. Similarly in the spiritual life, there is an aspect of power that is needed to bring about change and overcome resistance and obstacles, both within oneself and in the evolutionary process in the world. This aspect of the Divine Shakti is called Mahakali.

Sri Aurobindo’s description: “To knowledge she gives a conquering might, brings to beauty and harmony a high and mounting movement and imparts to the slow and difficult labour after perfection an impetus that multiplies the power and shortens the long way. Nothing can satisfy her that falls short of the supreme ecstasies, the highest heights, the noblest aims, the largest vistas. Therefore with her is the victorious force of the Divine and it is by grace of her fire and passion and speed if the great achievement can be done now rather than hereafter.”

Psychologically this force aids the seeker who is willing to open himself to the intensity. “There is in her an overwhelming intensity, a mighty passion of force to achieve, a divine violence rushing to shatter every limit and obstacle. All her divinity leaps out in a splendour of tempestuous action; she is there for swiftness, for the immediately effective process, the rapid and direct stroke, the frontal assault that carries everything before it.”

To the sincere seeker, Mahakali is the divine warrior, protecting and aiding the ascent. To those who oppose, she is the implacable enemy. “Terrible is her face to the Asura, dangerous and ruthless her mood against the haters of the Divine; for she is the Warrior of the Worlds who never shrinks from the battle.”

This force works to overcome the internal failings and resistance within the seeker himself as well: “Intolerant of imperfection, she deals roughly with all in man that is unwilling and she is severe to all that is obstinately ignorant and obscure; her wrath is immediate and dire against treachery and falsehood and malignity, ill-will is smitten at once by her scourge. Indifference, negligence and sloth in the divine work she cannot bear and she smites awake at once with sharp pain, if need be, the untimely slumberer and the loiterer.”

She supports the honest and direct impulse and the intensity of focus to achieve the divine realisation. “If her anger is dreadful to the hostile and the vehemence of her pressure painful to the weak and timid, she is loved and worshipped by the great, the strong and the noble; for they feel that her blows beat what is rebellious in their material into strength and perfect truth, hammer straight what is wry and perverse and expel what is impure or defective. But for her what is done in a day might have taken centuries; without her Ananda might be wide and grave or soft and sweet and beautiful but would lose the flaming joy of its most absolute intensities.”

Sri Aurobindo,

The Divine Shakti’s Aspect of Wisdom–Maheshwari

Understanding the various aspects of the Divine Shakti is not simply an exercise in philosophy or metaphysics. Rather, these powers of the Mother represent actual forces at work which can be focused on and embodied more and more through our attention and receptivity. In other words, we can use our understanding of them as a tool for inner development and transformation of consciousness.

First of these powers is Maheshwari, which embodies wisdom, vision, wideness of understanding, and as a result, an endless compassion and patience for the time needed to effectuate and implement the intention of the Supreme in the manifestation.

The force of Maheshwari transcends mental understanding. Sri Aurobindo describes it thus: “For she is the might and wise One who opens us to the supramental infinities and the cosmic vastness, to the grandeur of the supreme Light, to a treasure-house of miraculous knowledge, to the measureless movement of the Mother’s eternal forces. Tranquil is she and wonderful, great and calm for ever. Nothing can move her because all wisdom is in her; nothing is hidden from her that she chooses to know; she comprehends all things and all beings and their nature and what moves them and the law of the world and its times and how all was and is and must be.”

For those who dedicate their lives and efforts to the development of understanding, this aspect of the Divine Mother provides support: “To the wise she gives a greater and more luminous wisdom; those that have vision she admits to her counsels; on the hostile she imposes the consequence of their hostility; the ignorant and foolish she leads according to their blindness. In each man she answers and handles the different elements of his nature according to their need and their urge and the return they call for, puts on them the required pressure or leaves them to their cherished liberty to prosper in the ways of the Ignorance or to perish.”

Another quality of Maheshwari is the boundless compassion that results from the true understanding of the world and its evolutionary activities. “Yet she has more than any other the heart of the universal Mother. For her compassion is endless and inexhaustible; all are to her eyes her children and portions of the One, even the Asura and Rakshasa and Pisacha and those that are revolted and hostile. Even her rejections are only a postponement, even her punishments are a grace.”

She blends wisdom with compassion and focuses on the “Truth of things” as her first and primary concern.

Sri Aurobindo,

Four Powers of the Mother

While there are many forms and aspects of the Divine Shakti manifesting in the universe, Sri Aurobindo identifies four of them as primary. These four represent signal powers and capacities needed to bring about the completeness of the earthly evolution. Sri Aurobindo describes them in brief:

“One is her personality of calm wideness and comprehending wisdom and tranquil benignity and inexhaustible compassion and sovereign and surpassing majesty and all-ruling greatness.” This one is called Maheshwari.

“Another embodies her power of splendid strength and irresistible passion, her warrior mood, her overwhelming will, her impetuous swiftness and world-shaking force.” This one is called Mahakali.

“A third is vivid and sweet and wonderful with her deep secret of beauty and harmony and fine rhythm, her intricate and subtle opulence, her compelling attraction and captivating grace.” This one is Mahalakshmi.

“The fourth is equipped with her close and profound capacity of intimate knowledge and careful flawless work and quiet and exact perfection in all things.” Mahasaraswati.

Together these four aspects provide the powers and wisdom needed to guide the manifestation. “Wisdom, Strength, Harmony, Perfection are their several attributes and it is these powers that they bring with them into the world, manifest in a human disguise in their Vibhutis and shall found in the divine degree of their ascension in those who can open their earthly nature to the direct and living influence of the Mother.”

To the extent that we identify ourselves with any of these aspects we begin to take on that aspect and it then works through us to interact with the other forces at work in the world. It is through the action of these 4 powers of the Mother that progress and development can take place and the virtues and values that they represent can come to their full fruition in a world uplifted by their action.

Sri Aurobindo,

The Sacrifice of the Divine Mother

The mystery of personality in the divine manifestation has allure in religious traditions throughout the world for a reason. Humans yearn to put a “human face” on divinity and believe that divinity is approachable and caring. In the Christian tradition, of course, this takes the form of saying that “God’s only begotten son took on a human life to take on the burden of our suffering and die for our sins.” This is called the Divine Sacrifice.

There is a deeper sense based in truth behind these legends, however. The reality is that since the entire created universe is a manifestation of the Divine Shakti carrying out the Will of the Supreme, the Divine Mother is in fact “here”. Sri Aurobindo explains it in this way: “The Mother not only governs from above but she descends into this lesser triple universe. Impersonally, all things here, even the movements of the Ignorance, are herself in veiled power and her creations in diminished substance, her Nature-body and Nature-force, and they exist because, moved by the mysterious fiat of the Supreme to work out something that was there in the possibilities of the Infinite, she has consented to the great sacrifice and has put on like a mask the soul and forms of the Ignorance. But personally too she has stooped to descend here into the Darkness that she may lead it to the Light, into the Falsehood and Error that she may convert it to the Truth, into this Death that she may turn it to godlike Life, into this world-pain and its obstinate sorrow and suffering that she may end it in the transforming ecstasy of her sublime Ananda. In her deep and great love for her children she has consented to put on herself the cloak of this obscurity, condescended to bear the attacks and torturing influences of the powers of the Darkness and the Falsehood, borne to pass through the portals of the birth that is a death, taken upon herself the pangs and sorrows and sufferings of the creation, since it seemed that thus alone could it be lifted to the Light and Joy and Truth and eternal Life. This is the great sacrifice called sometimes the sacrifice of the Purusha, but much more deeply the holocaust of Prakriti, the sacrifice of the Divine Mother.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Mother, Chapter Six, pp. 35-37

The Divine Mahashakti Acts Through Forms of Gods, Emanations, & Powers to Manifest All

While the Divine Shakti manifests everything in the world, all forms, all forces and powers, all actions, to express the Supreme Reality and Supreme Truth of existence, humans tend to disregard the miraculous in every atom and every act, and fixate on powers and actions that go “beyond” what we consider “normal”. These forms are manifestations of the Divine Shakti in a powerful and direct action that can be seen. We human beings then tend to be attracted to one form or another and we worship that form as a God, or an Avatar, or a Vibhuti (direct manifested energy of the Mother for a specific action). These forms may be high and unapproachable in their light and power, or they may be direct, taking a human shape that we can relate to and regard as a leader, teacher or guide.

When we try to conceive of the Divine Shakti we tend to treat it in an abstract, almost entirely impersonal manner, but the manifestation has both impersonal and personal aspects, and the intervention of the Divine Shakti in the creation here can be very personal indeed.

“Determining all that shall be in this universe and in the terrestrial evolution by what she sees and feels and pours from her, she stands there above the Gods and all her Powers and Personalities are put out in front of her for the action and she sends down emanations of them into these lower worlds to intervene, to govern, to battle and conquer, to lead and turn their cycles, to direct the total and the individual lines of their forces. These Emanations are the many divine forms and personalities in which men have worshipped her under different names throughout the ages. But also she prepares and shapes through these Powers and their emanations the minds and bodies of her Vibhutis, even as she prepares and shapes minds and bodies for the Vibhutis of the Ishwara, that she may manifest in the physical world and in the disguise of the human consciousness some ray of her power and quality and presence. All the scenes of the earth-play have been like a drama arranged and planned and staged by her with the cosmic Gods for her assistants and herself as a veiled actor.”

Sri Aurobindo,

Universal Shakti Upholds All Planes of Existence

In The Life Divine Sri Aurobindo describes the seven planes of existence. There is an upper hemisphere of pure Existence, Consciousness and Bliss (Sachchidananda), and a lower hemisphere of Mind, Life and Matter, and a connecting plane of Supermind which translates between the one and the other. The Universal Shakti carries out the intention in manifestation and effectuates it in detail through all the various forms and forces that constitute the life we experience.

Sri Aurobindo describes the working of the universal Shakti: “But there are many planes of her creation, many steps of the Divine Shakti. At the summit of this manifestation of which we are a part there are worlds of infinite existence, consciousness, force and bliss over which the Mother stands as the unveiled eternal Power. All beings there live and move in an ineffable completeness and unalterable oneness, because she carries them safe in her arms for ever. Nearer to us are the worlds of a perfect supramental creation in which they Mother is the supramental Mahashakti, a Power of divine omniscient Will and omnipotent Knowledge always apparent in its unfailing works and spontaneously perfect in every process. There all movements are the steps of the Truth; there all beings are souls and powers and bodies of the divine Light; there all experiences are seas and floods and waves of an intense and absolute Ananda. But here where we dwell are the worlds of the Ignorance, worlds of mind and life and body separated in consciousness from their source, of which this earth is a significant centre and its evolution a crucial process. This too with all its obscurity and struggle and imperfection is upheld by the Universal Mother; this too is impelled and guided to its secret aim by the Mahashakti.”

All that we see and experience, the entire manifested universe is an expression of the Force of the Universal Shakti.

Sri Aurobindo,

The Universal Divine Mahashakti

The second poise or aspect of the Divine Mother is the universal force of creation. The transcendent contains and provides the ultimate essential meaning. The universal creates the forms and embodies the forces.

“The Mahashakti, the universal Mother, works out whatever is transmitted by her transcendent consciousness from the Supreme and enters into the worlds that she has made; her presence fills and supports them with the divine spirit and the divine all-sustaining force and delight without which they could not exist. That which we call Nature or Prakriti is only her most outward executive aspect; she marshals and arranges the harmony of her forces and processes, impels the operations of Nature and moves among them secret or manifest in all that can be seen or experienced or put into motion of life. Each of the worlds is nothing but one play of the Mahashakti of that system of worlds or universe, who is there as the cosmic Soul and Personality of the transcendent Mother. Each is something that she has seen in her vision, gathered into her heart of beauty and power and created in her Ananda.”

All action, all forms, all powers of creation that manifest in the vast universal existence are the actions of this divine universal Mahashakti.

Sri Aurobindo,

The Transcendent Divine Shakti: The Supreme Consciousness-Force of the Eternal

The planes of Existence, Consciousness-Force and Bliss (Sachchidananda) are the ultimate original origin of all that is manifested as well as all that remains unmanifest. It is from this level that the entire created universe proceeds. The potentiality of the Infinite, Omnipotent and Omniscient, all-Blissful Consciousness remains beyond the limits of anything that has been created, and the creation represents a specific selection of forms and forces to be expressed while the unmanifested remains “beyond”. The Divine Shakti is the Force of that transcendent reality that holds all potentiality and turns these possibilities into the realities that get manifested.

Sri Aurobindo describes this aspect as follows: “The one original transcendent Shakti, the Mother stands above all the worlds and bears in her eternal consciousness the Supreme Divine. Alone, she harbours the absolute Power and the ineffable Presence; containing or calling the Truths that have to be manifested, she brings them down from the Mystery in which they were hidden into the light of her infinite consciousness and gives them a form of force in her omnipotent power and her boundless life and a body in the universe. The Supreme is manifest in her for ever as the everlasting Sachchidananda, manifested through her in the worlds as the one and dual consciousness of Ishwara-Shakti and the dual principle of Purusha-Prakriti, embodied by her in the Worlds and the Planes and the Gods and their Energies and figured because of her as all that is in the known worlds and in unknown others. All is her play with the Supreme; all is her manifestation of the mysteries of the Eternal, the miracles of the Infinite. All is she, for all are parcel and portion of the divine Conscious-Force. Nothing can be here or elsewhere but what she decides and the Supreme sanctions; nothing can take shape except what she moved by the Supreme perceivs and forms after casting it into seed in her creating Ananda.”

Sri Aurobindo,

Transcendent, Universal and Individual Aspects of the Divine Mother

We tend to live in the individual consciousness most of the time. By virtue of our living in the world and relating to the powers and beings existent in the world, we have contact with the universal forces. Those who are able to quiet the individual being and move beyond the universal can experience the transcendental consciousness that surpasses the limits of mind and speech, and which encompasses both the manifest and the unmanifest within it.

The Divine Shakti also takes on aspects that correspond to each of these three levels of relationship to the reality of existence. Sri Aurobindo describes these three aspects: “There are three ways of being of the Mother of which you can become aware when you enter into touch of oneness with the Conscious Force that upholds us and the universe. Transcendent, the original supreme Shakti, she stands above the worlds and links the creation to the ever unmanifest mystery of the Supreme. Universal, the cosmic Mahashakti, she creates all these beings and contains and enters, supports and conducts all these million processes and forces. Individual, she embodies the power of these two vaster ways of her existence, makes them living and near to us and mediates between the human personality and the divine Nature.”

An individual seeker of the Divine may find that he is attracted to and focused on one or another of these aspects at one time or another. All are aspects of the one divine conscious-force and are thus equally valid paths to realisation. For this reason it is important to recognise that each individual may be undertaking a different path, but this is not to say that one is better than the other. The main thing is to come into contact with the divine Shakti and maintain a constant relationship with Her.

Sri Aurobindo,

The Divine Mother: the Conscious Force of Manifestation

The terminology used to describe the Consciousness-Force of the manifested universe is “The Divine Mother”. Understanding this Force and its action and the forms it takes is the subject of this new chapter, which is considered by many to be the “Matri Upanishad” or “The Upanishad of the Divine Mother”. This is a lengthy and detailed chapter that deserves a systematic and careful review.

Sri Aurobindo provides us the basic understanding of the concept of The Mother: “The Mother is the consciousness and force of the Supreme and far above all she creates.” The Divine Shakti manifests the entire universe and thus, is the “prime moving force” for all existence.

“The One whom we adore as the Mother is the divine Conscious Force that dominates all existence, one and yet so many-sided that to follow her movement is impossible even for the quickest mind and for the freest and most vast intelligence.” It is clear that the mental consciousness is too limited and fragmented to get more than the slightest glimpse of the complex and enormous working of force that creates all existence.

“For the Mother is one but she comes before us with differing aspects; many are her powers and personalities, many her emanations and Vibhutis that do her work in the universe.” While the Divine Shakti is One, it takes form and acts in numerous ways, adapting itself to the level and plane of existence upon which it is working and doing what is necessary. Just as the energy that fuels a human body can take the form of digestion, thought, breathing, pumping of blood, movement, speech, etc., the energy that fuels the universe also takes various forms. Similarly the scientists recognise a number of forces such as gravity, radiation, light, heat, sound, color, all part of One Force and convertible one into another.

Sri Aurobindo focuses attention on four primary powers of this Divine Shakti in this chapter: “The FOUR Powers of the Mother are four of her outstanding Personalities, portions and embodiments of her divinity through whom she acts on her creatures, orders and harmonises her creations in the world and directs the working out of her thousand forces.”

While we cannot grasp or understand this universal Force completely, we can begin to understand something as we open our consciousness to its working: “But something of her ways can be seen and felt through her embodiments and the more seizable because more defined and limited temperament and action of the goddess forms in whom she consents to be manifest to her creatures.”

Sri Aurobindo,