In Hinduism, Durga (Sanskrit: दुर्गा); meaning “the inaccessible” or “the invincible”; Bengali: durga or Maa Durga meaning “Mother Durga”) “one who can redeem in situations of utmost distress” is a form of Devi, the supremely radiant goddess, depicted as having eighteen arms, riding a lion or a tiger, carrying weapons and a lotus flower, maintaining a meditative smile, and practicing mudras, or symbolic hand gestures. The name is made of Sanskrit dur- = “with difficulty” (compare Greek δυσ- (dys-)) and gā (“come”, “go”).
An embodiment of creative feminine force (Shakti), Durga exists in a state of svātantrya (independence from the universe and anything/anybody else, i.e., self-sufficiency) and fierce compassion. Kali is considered by Hindus to be an aspect of Durga. She is thus considered the fiercer, demon-fighting form of Shiva's wife, goddess Parvati. Durga manifests fearlessness and patience, and never loses her sense of humor, even during spiritual battles of epic proportion.
The path of the warrior.
Durga is about passion. Check it out. She’s got a smile on her face but she’s fighting, her mount a big cat, the epitome of feminine energy. Some depict her on a lion and some on a tiger. Interestingly, the lion shown is the male of the species. She is “riding” him. With the tiger, it’s like being atop, and looking like an extension of, her strongest female self. She wields weapons in her 18 arms and there’s a man she’s beating in battle. It’s a one-on-one.
It’s so fitting for our times. How did we get here? Watching Mad Men, which is brilliant- this “battle of the sexes” is so painful to witness: the conscription of roles, and the limits, the striving to prove oneself worthy, the confining strictures they were all pushing against. And I just saw the uncut, re-mastered, complete with intermission, Lawrence of Arabia yesterday, having forgotten it almost entirely since last viewing. It’s such an excruciating portrayal of how the noble spirit is perverted by power, how the drive to champion and preserve life gets corrupted by destructive forces that are larger than the individual.
The duality of being vs. doing/having.
The drive to achieve, to accomplish, to have material gain that we can hold in our hands, this is the doing-ness part of it. There’s true value in in it, we wouldn’t be here if not. The actions we choose rejuvenate us, literally keep us young, as in the moving of the body causes blood to flow and all the systems to stay flowing and healthy and connected. We aren’t sedentary creatures by nature - I’ve always pointed out to the new students that it’s far easier to stand - and sitting actually hurts us when we do it for too long. No, movement, in its ability to cause creation, is necessary to life.
But so is stillness. Particularly with age, it facilitates appreciation. The tendency to stop, to still, to observe, to see things I haven’t been paying close attention to more clearly. I’ve always seen/heard/smelled them, and I voice my observations and opinions, and but this slowing is allowing me to feel them again. And with that depth of feeling, there comes gratitude. Really being so grateful just to have seen or heard or smelled or touched something beautiful—the sound of the hummingbird whizzing right up to my head and sending his trembling life force directly into my ear, the thrill of diving into lake water that’s shockingly chilly upon entrance but becomes like a warm second skin that my whole first one can slip through, it sliding like… what? like liguid velvet? The sensation cannot be captured any more than can a Voo Doo rose, that melding of orange and red in those watercolored petals and a fragrance that’s next to impossible to describe in words.
The question has always been put 2 ways: “What do you want to do/be when you grow up?” They are – not inextricably, but undoubtedly- intertwined.
The third component of that trio, having, isn’t really part of the equation at all, unless I suppose we try to put it together like:
Having-ness + doing-ness+ equals being-ness.
This isn’t just simply true however, because the infinite variation within that equation makes it impossible to measure.
We long for love and look to “own “ it. We say we love our homes and animals and our devices, from our cars to our phones. (A recent Harvard study showed that the part of the brain that responds to images of the iPhone isn’t that of addiction, it’s that of love.)
We even phrase the wording of marriage- the joining of 2 hearts and bodies—we “take” our chosen partner to be ours. But this isn’t real. We cannot possess anything really, and certainly not anyone. It’s all transitory. We long to own something, to have it, because we need the experience. But love just is. And so are we in the end.
The idea being: to find ourselves as this, in form, as LOVE incarnate, before we leave our human bodies and minds and return to spirit, and perfect love. It’s seems that we come here to know something we already know? But to know it more truly and deeply—or rather the having-ness and doing-ness that make true being-ness possible.
©2011 Annette Romano
(Krishna and Radha.)