The Divine Shakti’s Aspect of Work and Perfection–Mahasaraswati

The fourth aspect of the Mother is essential for the wholeness and completion of any effort–it is the power to accomplish detailed work and carry it out with perfection. In terms of fulfilling the actions of the other 3 powers, “…Mahasaraswati presides over theri detail of organisation and execution, relation of parts and effective combination of forces and unfailing exactitude of result and fulfilment. The science and craft and technique of things are Mahasaraswati’s province.”

This power is focused, not only on external work detail, but also on the rebuilding of the inner nature that is the object of the yogic sadhana. While we tend to seek the powers of Wisdom, Force or Love for their immediate satisfaction, it is really the patient, steady and relentless efforts of Mahasaraswati, systematically taking up each element of detail in the nature, modifying, adding, rejecting and guiding to the eventual solid foundation of the permanent changes being sought, that provides the basis for true and effective transformation. “When she takes up the transformation and new-building of the nature, her action is laborious and minute and often seems to our impatience slow and interminable, but it is persistent, integral and flawless. For the will in her works is scrupulous, unsleeping, indefatigable; leaning over us she notes and touches every little detail, finds out every minute defect, gap, twist or incompleteness, considers and weighs accurately all that has been done and all that remains still to be done hereafter.”

Sri Aurobindo,

The Conditions for the Action of the Mahalakshmi Aspect of the Divine Mother

Each of the divine Powers has its own conditions and requirements for effective action and manifestation. The power of Mahalakshmi preconditions its action on a receptivity in the environment, hearts and minds in which it is being asked to manifest. Sri Aurobindo provides a clear idea of what is needed:

“Harmony and beauty of the mind and soul, harmony and beauty of the thoughts and feelings, harmony and beauty in every outward act and movement, harmony and beauty of the life and surroundings, this is the demand of Mahalakshmi.”

Mahalakshmi does not remain in an environment where the action or motives are mixed or where the action of love and beauty are being distorted for individual self-satisfaction or aggrandisement. “But all that is ugly and mean and base, all that is poor and sordid and squalid, all that is brutal and course repels her advent. Where love and beauty are not or are reluctant to be born, she does not come; where they are mixed and disfigured with baser things, she turns soon to depart or cares little to pour her richdes. If she finds herself in men’s hearts surrounded with selfishness and hatred and jealousy and malignance and envy and strife, if treachery and greed and ingratitude are mixed in the sacred chalice, if grossness of passion and unrefined desire degrade devotion, in such hearts the gracious and beautiful Goddess will not linger.”

Similarly, those who follow the path of asceticism and avoidance do not provide a welcome environment for her action: “Ascetic bareness and harshness are not pleasing to her nor the suppression of the heart’s deeper emotions and the rigid repression of the soul’s and the life’s parts of beauty. For it is through love and beauty that she lays on men the yoke of the Divine.” Those who believe that spirituality implies renunciation of the richness and beauty of life push away the operation of Mahalakshmi’s power.

For those who find the way to open to this power, however, there is a wonderful opening possible that integrates the spiritual and material into a harmonious Oneness. “Admitted to the heart she lifts wisdom to pinnacles of wonder and reveals to it the mystic secrets of the ecstasy that surpasses all knowledge, meets devotion with the passionate attraction of the Divine, teaches to strength and force the rhythm that keeps the might of their acts harmonious and in measure and casts on perfection the charm that makes it endure for ever.”

Sri Aurobindo,

The Divine Shakti’s Aspect of Harmony and Beauty–Mahalakshmi

Many of us tend to see the Divine influence in wisdom or power, but overlook the subtle forces of harmony and beauty. Sri Aurobindo reminds us that this aspect of the Divine Force, called Mahalakshmi, is essential to the divine manifestation.

“Wisdom and Force are not the only manifestations of the supreme Mother; there is a subtler mystery of her nature and without it Wisdom and Force would be incomplete things and without it perfection would not be perfect. Above them is the miracle of eternal beauty, an unseizable secret of divine harmonies, the compelling magic of an irresistible universal charm and attraction that draws and holds things and forces and beings together and obliges them to meet and unite that a hidden Ananda may play from behind the veil and make of them its rhythms and its figures.”

While we may find the calm wideness of Maheshwari too distant from us, or the force of Mahakali too intimidating, “…all turn with joy and longing to Mahalakshmi. For she throws the spell of the intoxicating sweetness of the Divine: to be close to her is a profound happiness and to feel her within the heart is to make existence a rapture and a marvel; grace and charm and tenderness flow out from her like light from the sun and wherever she fixes her wonderful gaze or lets fall the loveliness of her smile, the soul is seized and made captive and plunged into the depths of an unfathomable bliss. Magnetic is the touch of her hands and their occult and delicate influence refines mind and life and body and where she presses her feet course miraculous streams of an entrancing Ananda.”

Sri Aurobindo,

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