The terrible force of time, the infinite compassion, the blinding beauty, the all-inclusive vision, the absolute courage, the power of sacrifice, the fascinating brightness, the sublime void, the perfect game, the splendour of totality. These are the cosmic personalities of the Supreme Feminine Energy; the 10 mirrors which reflect the Creator. Look at yourself in any of them. Any of them can lead you to the ultimate Reality.
In the tantric system, as well as in many other genuine spiritual traditions, the feminine aspect of Divinity is represented by knowledge or wisdom (VIDYA). For example, the Vedas (the oldest sacred Hindu texts) are also called (feminine) Wisdoms.
Generally speaking, Wisdom or Knowledge is considered the Supreme Goddess or SHAKTI, the feminine counterpart of SHIVA (Pure Consciousness). The adoration of the Supreme Goddess must not imply only external rituals, but especially a profound devotion and inner transfiguration, which are accomplished during meditation. In this case, meditation does not necessarily mean the adoration of the forms and qualities of the Goddess (although it can start with the mental image of the form of the respective deity), but transcends a lot the limits that define her name, form or personality, contemplating the Absolute Reality, which is impersonal.
The esoteric aspect of the Supreme Goddess symbolizes what is occult, secret, subtle, meaning what must be sought and discovered. Under her aspect of Logos, SHAKTI represents both spiritual teaching, which is offered to those who want to absorb it, as well as its deep understanding. From this perspective, she is The Inner Power of the Spiritual Guide. She shows us the path for transcending the sphere of ordinary knowledge and the duality of space and time, to plunge us into the ancestral mystery of eternity and the infinite.
SHAKTI, as supreme force of Knowledge guides us, inspires us and also reveals to us (when our spiritual level has reached the necessary maturity) the deepest secrets of Creation. Nevertheless, she does not represent only Knowledge, but simultaneously she is the endless Divine Energy and the Infinite Bliss of the Divine Consciousness. That is why she is especially recognized in everything that is aesthetic and beautiful in Creation.
She carries the messages of life
It is often said that, “the receptacle of spiritual knowledge is like a source from which we are born into a world of truth and eternal happiness”. This is in fact the esoteric meaning of the syntagma that defines the initiated disciple: “to be born for the second time”. Genuine spiritual knowledge is the Divine Mother herself (MAHA SHAKTI) from who we are “reborn” as deeply transformed and divine beings. The degree to which we succeed to be in communion with the Divine Mother represents, in fact, the stage of our own inner transformation at that time.
Because the Supreme SHAKTI is eternally in an indestructible union with SHIVA (who is the Divine Consciousness), it means that the Goddess is at the same time pure consciousness, who offers us the grace of intuiting the divine essential unity (the Supreme Self Atman) in every being in Creation. The divine transcendent Knowledge offered by SHAKTI completely transcends the mind and its dual manifestations, revealing to us the magnificent source of the entire Creation.
In the tantric Hindu pantheon, the numerous deities represent the distinct aspects of the divine consciousness, which exist at all the levels of the Macrocosm (Creation). The characteristics and powers of each one of them cover a large range of significances, more or less esoteric, from the ones with form to the ones without form, from the concrete aspects to the abstract ones, from the human characteristics to the non-human ones, from the terrible significances to the benevolent ones etc. These deities exist and manifest on each level of the Macrocosm (and, therefore, the microcosm of human being) as various principles, energies and powers, which contribute to the economy of the entire Creation. The Divine Mother, who represents Creation at all its levels, also implies, an infinite diversity, essentially and especially expressed through the ten Great Cosmic Powers, each one of them having well specified attributes. Among other secondary significances, the ten Great Cosmic Powers mean, first of all, the ten Great Wisdoms of God the Father. Their main mission is to reveal the hidden truth of the veil of ignorance and appearances, the veil which manifests in the case of the human being especially through the specific action of the mind. Essentially speaking, the ten Great Cosmic Powers signify the deepest truths of God’s Creation, which go beyond our attachment for the exterior form of things. Their “messages” and “warnings” can sometimes be inspiring and other times frightening, because the ten Great Cosmic Powers represent life itself (which implies the duality (pleasant – unpleasant, etc.) of existence), but nevertheless they are always instructive and beneficial for those who aim to rise above their ignorant condition. Often the form in which they chose to reveal themselves for the perseverant worshiper can be terrible, and this could bewilder those who are not prepared yet. Still, this often represents an excellent way to shock the mind and make it exchange its place for a spontaneous, intuitive, infinitely superior understanding.
I am one with the Supreme SHAKTI
The forms in which the ten Great Cosmic Powers manifest are most of the times ambiguous, contradictory and even paradoxical. The meaning of such manifestations is to astonish the mind of the adept to the level at which the process of thought is entirely neutralized or, in other words, until the source of our limitations and ignorance is thus annihilated.
Life itself is an amazing and deeply mysterious notion. Most of the objectives we follow during our existence are ephemeral and offer no answer to the fundamental question of our destiny: is there anything in our being that transcends death? The ordinary knowledge we receive at school, university, work and in our private lives only embraces a small part from the surface of Creation, which makes most people not to even intuit the existence of the divine fundamental essence inside them. In order to have access to the superior knowledge of the greatest mysteries of Creation and the depths of our being it is necessary to move away from the inferior knowledge, which doesn’t mean to let go of it for good, but to lucidly recognise its limits. That is why it is said that the ten Forms of Divine Wisdom of MAHA SHAKTI (the Great SHAKTI, the eternal feminine Principle), in fact the ten Great Cosmic Powers, are an integral and fundamental part of the supreme science of spirituality.
This science of spirituality represents at the same time a veritable art of wisdom and divine transcendence. It cannot be mechanically approached, but requires a deeply creative participation. In the end we need to really become that divine transcendental reality and experience in ourselves all its manifestations. In other words, we become one with the Supreme Goddess, leaving her to thus fully manifest through us, in a divine and wise way, her gigantic force and energy.
Their beauty is dazzling
Each of the ten Forms of the Divine Mother, each of the ten Great Cosmic Powers represents a specific path towards the highest spiritual realization, meaning the supreme knowledge that transcends time and our false self (the ego). Still, each Great Cosmic Power covers a variety of secondary aspects, which are specific to them. Therefore, if we don’t stay deeply focused upon the divine purpose we’re aiming for in our spiritual quest, we can be easily “caught” in their net. Because the ten Great Cosmic Powers represent the gigantic cosmic forces that accomplish each and every minute, on different levels, the acts of creation, preservation and destruction of Macrocosm, they can be also invoked in order to achieve good health, prosperity, fame or other minor, ephemeral goals in life. If the invocation is made with an egoistic intention, their help will be much more decreased. What we need to understand at this point is the fact that we cannot manipulate these gigantic macrocosmic forces, but we can only benefit from the grace they bestow upon us when our adoration is sincere and profound. We can be receptive to the flows of force and energy, as well as the enigmatic, cosmic rhythms they manifest; yet we will never be able to influence the flux of these colossal energies, which are the ten Great Cosmic Powers.
They represent, as a whole, a complete spiritual teaching, yet some of them are adored in a special manner, in different parts of India, as representations of MAHA SHAKTI Herself. KALI is the first from the pantheon of the ten Great Cosmic Powers. Essentially speaking, all the ten Great Cosmic Powers can be described, from a certain perspective, as different aspects of KALI. Moreover, they are often represented around KALI.
The ten Great Cosmic Powers are divided in two major groups: the ones that usually manifest in benevolent forms and the ones that mostly manifest in terrible forms. The category of the terrifying Great Cosmic Powers is called KALI-KULA (or “KALI’s family), in which we find KALI, TRIPURA BHAIRAVI, CHINNAMASTA, BAGALAMUKHI and DHUMAVATI. The category of the benevolent Great Cosmic Powers is called SHRI-KULA (or “TRIPURA SUNDARI’s family (SHRI)) and it is formed of TRIPURA SUNDARI, BHUVANESHWARI, MATANGI and KAMALATMIKA. The Great Cosmic Power TARA is somewhat between the two great families of Cosmic Powers, since its dark blue coloured form (NILA) represents Her in a terrifying aspect (UGRA-TARA), and its bright-white coloured form represents her in her benevolent and gentle aspect. The iconographic or statuary representations of the Great Cosmic Powers in their benevolent or terrible forms have their source in the Vedic writings themselves (according to some famous Orientals), where goddesses were described both for their dazzling beauty and ornaments which they were wearing on their bodies (the benevolent aspect), and for the weapons they were holding in their hands and which they did not hesitate to use when the situation demanded it (the frightening aspect for those of bad persuasion).
The “right hand” followers of the tantric path usually adore the benevolent forms of the Ten Great Cosmic Powers, while the “left hand” followers especially adore the terrifying forms of the Great Goddesses. Yet, it is necessary to mention that this is a very general distinction. Both forms of manifestation of the ten Great Cosmic Powers (benevolent or terrible) are necessary and complementary on the path of spiritual realization. Thus, the terrible ones remove ignorance, while the benevolent ones grant knowledge. Nevertheless, we need to specify the fact that until the ignorance is removed, superior knowledge cannot be achieved. The terrible forms of the Great Cosmic Powers are correlated to the symbolism of fire, lightning and the sun, which are considered to be “hot” and destructive energies. On the opposite side are the benevolent forms of the Great Goddesses, which are correlated to the symbolism of water and moon, which signify coolness and creativity. Both elements are necessary, because fire is the one that “ripens the fruits of spiritual becoming”, while water is the very element which is being ripened or transformed.
Worshippers reach perfection
In some spiritual schools the first three Cosmic Powers are adored above all. Thus, KALI represents force and the destroying power (SHAKTI), TARA is the ancestral wisdom itself (PRAJNA), and TRIPURA SUNDARI is the dazzling divine beauty (SUNDARA). KALI is correlated with SHIVA (the Destroyer), TARA with BRAHMA (the Creator) and TRIPURA SUNDARI with VISHNU (the Preserver). On the other hand, KALI is assimilated to the Supreme Being or Existence (SAT), TARA is assimilated to the Pure Knowledge (CIT), and TRIPURA SUNDARI is assimilated to the infinite beatitude (ANANDA), these three (SAT-CIT-ANANDA) being, as we all know, the triple hypostasis of the nature of the Divine Absolute. Yet, the ten Great Cosmic Powers do not exhaust all forms of manifestation and action of the Divine Mother, because in the Hindu tradition there is an infinite series of other important goddesses, which are intensely adored by the followers of different spiritual schools. Some are enclosed in the ten Great Cosmic Powers, such as the case of the great goddess DURGA, who is an aspect of TRIPURA BHAIRAVI. On the other hand, PARVATI (the beloved wife of SHIVA, the great god of the Hindu trinity: BRAHMA-VISHNU-SHIVA), a very important goddess of the Hindu pantheon is not specifically mentioned among the Great Cosmic Powers.
In conclusion, the path of spiritual practice of adoration of the ten Great Cosmic Powers is one of the most efficient methods of spiritual realization for a human being, which relates in essence to the SUPREME SHAKTI, especially in an uninterrupted line of the highest level of spiritual teachings, based on the use of MANTRAS and some specific meditation techniques. MAHA SHAKTI, the very spring of Divine Logos in Creation makes possible (when certain space-time conditions are gathered) the renewal of these divine teachings, in the purpose of sharing the superior spiritual knowledge with the ignorant human beings, who are bowing to the terrible actions of time and death.
Article translated from YOGA MAGAZINE no. 53