The Divine Fortress of DevotionNov 01, 2023
“Jai Maa Durga” echoed throughout the Puja venue last weekend at the beautiful Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. It followed the age old tradition of welcoming Divine Mother in the form of Goddess Durga into our homes, serving her through serving people, while celebrating the victory of good over evil, enshrined in the Puranas and Hindu mythological folklore of Durga slaying the demon King Mahishashur. Festivities and pleasantries enraptured the air and waves of kind gestures, meeting old and new friends, showing respect to the elders, sharing love with the young ones, beautiful dresses and smiling faces speckled the occasion. Sanskrit slokas from the Rig Veda, and prayer offerings to the Mother added piety to the joyous hearts. I felt a rush of energy flowing through me, flooding nostalgia and emotions throbbing and thundering on the walls of my heart. Amidst the din of festivities both in and around me, my eyes locked with the effulgent eyes of Maa. I felt a silence, a void, a mellow light gradually barricading my inner sanctum. The gush of outward religion began to subside. I felt her deep penetrating gaze fill me completely. Everything around me became quiet and still, and now I felt divine joy expanding in me for the first time that evening. A voice echoed from my center “Maa, where are you?” as I felt drifting away consciously from the crowd. I yearned to be with her and her alone dissolved in her love and light. The response ricocheted in my soul. “I am right here. With you. With everyone. Where are you?”. I remembered a story from the Autobiography of a Yogi by my guru, Paramhansa Yogananda where Master Mahasaya, The Blissful Devotee says, “Isn’t it true, little sir, that the Beloved’s name sounds sweet from all lips, ignorant or wise?”. “Where are you?” the voice interrogated again.
How you tricked me Divine Mother! I failed to recognize the test you put me through that every thing that happens to us is a blessing from you for our spiritual evolution. I prayed to Master for guidance on how to overcome this loneliness and chasm without leaving the venue. I was desperate not to fail the test. I took Maa’s gaze as grace and closed my eyes and with my fullest energy, concentration and devotion I meditated for a few moments. I remembered Master’s words “Life is a battle for Joy every step of the way. May I fight to win the battle on the very spot where I now stand”. I felt his sword of discrimination that gave me clarity to distinguish between self-interest and self-giving, service over indulgence. Keeping my focus deeply at the point between the eyebrows, I made a conscious effort to offer myself to give and give and serve and serve that evening.
Nothing changed but everything changed. I slowly opened my eyes. I experienced my presence, a very new presence in such a short time. People, lights, smiles all felt brighter. Maa’s unperturbed gaze was now emanating through me protected by her radiant halo and radiating through the Kutastha, the seat of Christ Consciousness. Maa was telling me what Durga really means. It means a fortress (Durg in Sanskrit). It is built from our devotion, for our devotion, and of our devotion for our spiritual sapling to germinate and grow under Divine Mother’s protective and all pervading love, enveloped by the aureole of Her all-permeating omnipresence. Now safe in her Fortress I started putting out my energy to love her, seek her, serve her, and worship her in and around me. Events started to happen. I saw an elderly man, who we have known for a very long time, needing help to go to the restroom. Then another elderly lady started sharing stories of her recent visit to India and her struggles. Another elderly lady lost her balance and fell to the ground just next to me while we were having dinner. Luckily she was not seriously injured but I was glad I was next to her for comfort. Then I read an article written by a 6th grader where she describes the cycle of life through raindrops as “drops of happiness”. How wonderful! How beautiful it was. I blessed her profusely. I felt I was lifted through the grace of God and Guru to an elevated world and my Joy was increasing in every step in every moment. God is the Doer not us. My gratitude knew no bounds as my being there with full awareness, centered in Master, chanting “Aum Guru” at the rhythm of my breath was what this was all about, not doing. The next day Padma and I had a very long, deep and wonderful meditation. Divine Mother was still gazing piercingly at me, but now I also locked into her smile.
May the festive season, the autumn harvest bring Joy and Peace to all. May the guidance of Paramhansa Yogananda give spring to our steps and joyful service, make our breath fervent with positive energy, and make our self offering fragrant with devotion, and deepened with constancy.
May this be a season of unceasing Joy in service, wherever we stand.
In Divine Friendship,