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Anandamayi Ma: Shiva and Shakti, the unity of form and the formless

Spirit and flesh: the union of matter and mind, heaven and earth, emptiness and form.


Extract of Anandamayi Ma's Illuminating Wisdom Discourse

In the following passages Anandamayi Ma touches on profound truths of the nature of the Supreme Self, of the lines and stages of approach to that Self and of the riddle of the simultaneous existence of both form and formlessness.


Grace (of God) is by its very nature beyond cause or reason. When working, one reaps the fruits of one's actions. If for instance you serve your father and he, being pleased with your service, gives you a present, this would be called the fruit of action: one does something and receives something in return. But the eternal relationship that by nature exists between Father and son surely does not depend on any action. The Supreme Father, Mother and Friend - verily God is all of these. Consequently, how can there be a cause or reason for His Grace? You are His, and in whatever way He may draw you to Him, it is for the sake of revealing Himself to you. The desire to find Him that awakens in man, who has instilled it into you? Who is it that makes you work for its fulfillment?

Thus you should try to arrive at the understanding that everything originates from Him. Whatever power, whatever skill you possess, - why even you yourself - from where does everything arise? And does it not all have for purpose the finding of Him, the destroying of the veil of ignorance? Whatever exists has its origin in Him alone. So then, you must try to realize your Self. Are you master even of a single breath? To whatever small degree He makes you feel that you have freedom of action, if you understand that this freedom has to be used to aspire after the realization of Him, it will be for your good. But if you regard yourself as the doer and God as being far away, and if, owing to His apparent remoteness, you work for the gratification of your desires, it is wrong action. You should look upon all things as manifestations of Him. When you recognize the existence of God, He will reveal Himself to you as compassionate or gracious or merciful in accordance with your attitude towards Him at the time - just as, for example, to the humble He becomes the Lord of the Humble.

When a spiritual aspirant starts worshiping a form of his Beloved, he will in the course of his practice attain to a condition in which the form of his Beloved is beheld wherever his eyes may fall. Next he comes to realize: "All other deities are contained in my Beloved." He sees that everyone's Lord, in fact all things, are contained in his own Ishta (chosen form of God) and that his Ishta also dwells in all deities, as indeed, in everything. The aspirant comes to feel: "As my Lord resides within me, so He, who is present within everyone else, is truly the same Lord. In water and on land, in trees, shrubs and creepers - everywhere in the whole universe abides my Beloved. Further, all the various forms and modes of being that we behold, are they not expressions of my Beloved? For there is none save Him. He is smaller than the smallest, and greater than the greatest.

Actuated by your various inborn tendencies, you each worship a different deity. The true progress in one's spiritual experience depends on the sincerity and intensity of one's aspiration. The measure of a person's spiritual advance will be reflected in the manifestations that are vouchsafed to him of his Ishta, who will by no means remain inaccessible or separate from His devotee but let Himself be contacted in an infinite variety of ways.

The multifarious kinds of beasts, birds, men and so forth, what are they all? What are these varieties of shapes, of modes of being, what is the essence within them? What really are these everchanging forms? Gradually, slowly, because you are rapt in the contemplation of your Beloved, He becomes revealed to you in every one of them; not even a grain of sand is excluded. You realize that water, earth, plants, animals, birds, human beings are nothing but forms of your beloved. Some experience it in this manner. Realization does not come to everyone in the same way. There are infinite possibilities. Consequently, the specific path along which - for any particular person - the Universal will reveal itself in its boundlessness, remains concealed from the average individual.

The Universal Body of the Lord comprises all things - trees, flowers, leaves, hills, mountains, rivers, oceans, and so forth. A time will come, must come when one actually perceives this all pervading Universal Form of the One. The variety of His shapes and guises is infinite, uncountable, without end. When a sadhaka enters this state, he becomes conscious of the perpetual transformation of all forms and moods. When the current of one's thinking that was directed towards worldly matters, is reversed and turned inwards, the One Himself becomes revealed as the 'secret skill'. It is a Kingdom without end, in which even what is discerned as non-existence is equally an expression of the One. In Chinmaya, the purely spiritual (and completely non-material) world, all forms - whatever they may be - are ever eternal. Therefore, simultaneously and in the same place there is non-existence as well as existence, and also neither non-existence nor existence - and more of the kind if you can proceed further!

Just as ice is nothing but water, so the Beloved is without form, without quality, and the question of manifestation does not arise. When this is realized, one has realized one's Self. For, to find the Beloved is to find my Self, to discover that God is my very own, wholly identical with myself, my innermost Self, the Self of my Self. Then according to the exigence of time and circumstances, various possibilities may take effect - as for example, the revelation of mantras and even of the entire Vedas by the ancient Rishis who were seers of mantras. All this will occur in consonance with the individual karma and inner disposition of the person concerned.

Form is really void; one sees that freedom from form means the realization that form itself is the void. In this way the world reveals itself as void, before emerging into the Great Void.

It is the perception of the world, based upon the identification of yourself with body and mind, that has all along been the source of your bondage. A time will come when this kind of perception will give way before the awakening of universal consciousness, which will reveal itself as an aspect of Supreme Knowledge.

On transcending the level where form, diversity, manifestation exist, one enters into a state of formlessness. What can this be called? Godhood, the Paramatma Himself. As the individual self becomes gradually freed from all fetters, which are nothing but the veil of ignorance, it realizes its oneness with the Supreme Spirit (Paramatma) and becomes established in its one Essential Being.

Now to another aspect of the matter. Everyone has his own path. As the Path, He attracts each person to a particular line, in harmony with that person's inner dispositions and tendencies. The One is present in each sect, even though in some cases there appears to be conflict among them, due to the limitations of the ego. Now suppose a man follows his own specific path, which happens to be the worship of a deity. Who actually is present as that particular deity? Certainly the One who is the formless Self! Consequently, just as the formless Self is He, so is the idol or concrete object of worship.

From your angle of vision it is but natural to perceive differences. He is whatever you take Him to be; you see Him according to your way of thinking, and as you portray Him, so He is.

One who, by the method of vedanta, has become fully established in the Self, may also find the Supreme Reality in the idol or image of a God, just as water is contained in ice. He will then come to see that all idols are really spiritual forms of the One. For what is hidden in ice? Water of course. Where He is present as the All, in that ice there are stages of melting, like solid and semi-solid ice.

He appears in the guise of countless shapes and modes, each one of them His own Spiritual Form. Depending on one's avenue of approach, prominence is given to one particular form. Why should there be so many different religious sects and subsects? Through every one of them He gives Himself to Himself, so that each person may advance according to his individual uniqueness.

If one believes fully in the Supreme Lord, His Divine Power (Shakti) is already taken for granted. Here you distinguish between Bhagavan and Bhagavati, Shiva and Shakti, between God as male and His Power as female. From one standpoint there is no question of male or female, while from another the Divinity is conceived as divided into these two aspects. The Eternal Virgin (Shakti or Kumari) does not depend on anyone, She is the One Itself as Power. Where the Supreme Reality is conceived as Shakti, It is recognized as Pure Existence (Sat) - with form or without form - Power alone constituting Its Essence. This represents yet another standpoint. When bhava (the mood to create) manifests as kriya (action), then only can form emerge. This also is a way of seeing it. Further, if you think of Bhagavati Herself as Shakti there are untold manifestations of Her Infinite Power. Again, Mahashakti (Ultimate Divine Female Power) is the root cause of everything - of creation, preservation, dissolution. Just as in the case of a tree, boughs and branches spring forth from its root, so all kinds of orders of deities, angels, and archangels, and so forth, come into being as the manifestations of that Power.

The specific character of Shiva (the male aspect of the Supreme) is a transcendence of all changes and mutations, symbolized by a corpse, which signifies that in the death of death lies Immortality, namely Shiva. Where creation, preservation, and dissolution occur, He is present as becoming and He Himself preserves the universe as what is called Mahavishnu. As regards the various cosmic positions, He is indeed in all of them, manifesting Himself in diverse ways and as the formless. In each of them all the rest are contained, and in this multiformity behold the One! When you gaze at one form you cannot see any other, but in each of them the All is present, and every form reveals the One. In the void there is fullness, and in fullness the void. There are possibilities of every kind and description, but the root is the One, the Great Light. He is infinite.

Extracted from Discourse Number 25, Words of Sri Anandamayi Ma; Translated and compiled by Atmananda. Shree Shree Anandamayee Charitable Society, Calcutta.





Spirit and flesh: the union of matter and mind, heaven and earth, emptiness and form.






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