Guiding Light of The Month

Like a flame that burns in silence, like a perfume that rises straight upward without wavering, my love goes to Thee; and like the child who does not reason and has no care, I trust myself to Thee that Thy Will may be done, that Thy Light may manifest, Thy Peace radiate, Thy Love cover the world. - The Mother

“The Intoxicating Sweetness of the Divine”: Meditation on Mahalakshmi

Ramalakshmi Janamanchi has grown up in our Centre and was introduced to ‘Savitri’ by Professor Nadkarni and Mrs. Sonia Dyne. Now a mother of two, she lives in Cleveland, Ohio and is a member of our virtual community. We are glad to include another of her insightful articles in this issue of our Newsletter.

“All turn with joy and longing to Mahalakshmi” says Sri Aurobindo when he describes this aspect of the Mother. What joy then to begin this meditation – the sweetness of this aspect of the Mother is embodied in the mysterious smile of the Divine Mother in the large photograph in the Center in Singapore. I have fallen in love and been struck silent in the presence of that smile. Yet all the words that flow from me in praise of her are products of that Grace.  The Mother of Love – this is how I think of her.

As with Kali, I grew up with images of Lakshmi: they showed her seated on a pink lotus, with elephants offering her garlands, holding a pot from which gold coins stream down while her hand is raised in the gesture of blessing. We children were warned that she would leave the house (or not enter it) if we did not abide by certain rules regarding cleanliness and behavior: “Don’t allow dirt to accumulate in corners – Lakshmi will not enter!  Girls must not cry in the evenings or on Fridays – Lakshmi will not enter the house! Make sure you refresh the Rangoli (floor art) in the doorway – Lakshmi will be pleased.”  It felt as if almost anything we did could jeopardize the presence of the Goddess in our home.

Reading Sri Aurobindo’s description of the Goddess, I begin to understand why I heard these rules. He tells us “where love and beauty are not or are reluctant to be born, she does not come.” While it is easy to imagine a physical space that is beautiful and aesthetically arranged, it is harder to see this beauty within oneself. I am too aware of my limitations and my weaknesses to visualize beauty within myself. My love too, is limited and is more focused on how I feel than on
how this feeling, this love is a direct conduit to the Divine Love. It is through my capacity to love that I can most easily identify with the Divine because the feeling intensifies and reaches out beyond myself to return to its true source in a formless Being, like a bright light which suffuses me with quiet joy, a deep peace, and a vibrant calm.

When I first came upon these words I was struck by how Sri Aurobindo loves to juxtapose opposites. Yet, as I sit here trying to create space in my mind for the words best suited to describe my feelings, there are none more apt than these. When I normally think of joy, it is a feeling of soaring, of leaps and bounds, and most importantly, a feeling with movement. When I think of how much I love this Mother of Sweetness, I become aware of a leap in emotions but it is contained within a sense of stillness, of no movement at all – a quiet joy.

One of my favorite stories of Mahalakshmi is of how AdiShankara composed his hymn to the Goddess – the Kanakadharastavam. As a young initiate to Vedic thought, Shankara was expected to gather the ingredients for his daily meal from the homes near his residence. Every householder knew that donating food to the needy was one of acts that led to spiritual well-being and greater prosperity. As such, most households would be only too happy to offer food to the young Shankara. On one such occasion, one of the homes visited has a long line of people, and Shankara notes that the home owner is engaged in acts of philanthropy without paying any attention either to the offering itself or to the people receiving it. He also notes that the gifts of

food and clothing werebeing given to all who were waiting in line. Unimpressed by these grandiose gestures, Shankara moves to a different home. In this smaller home, there is no activity visible from the porch. Shankara calls out, “Mother, give me alms.” In response, the housewife within rushes out looking distressed. She apologetically begins to explain that because her husband was still trying to gather food she has at present nothing to offer the young initiate. She pauses in her apology and suddenly rushes inside, telling Shankara to wait. She returns with joy writ large on her face because she has remembered some berries she had saved and now offers theseto Sankara. Her unfettered generosity inspires one of Shankara’s great poems addressed to the Mother.  A myth has developed around this poem that reciting it will result in wealth and relief from material distress. I learned the poem from my mother, who taught me to love its alliteration, its rhythms and nuances. What I have since realized is that the famed efficacy of the poem points not to the sort of blind recitation which would put me alongside the rich man seeking to donate food in order to achieve more material prosperity. It points instead to the lady who inspired the young poet – the lady whose love for her fellow human being was reflected in her generosity. It is the Spiritual wealth of love that Mahalakshmi confers.

Describing the transformation she effects, Sri Aurobindo says, “Life is turned in her supreme creations into a rich work of celestial art and all existence into a poem of sacred delight.” In the course of this month, I have been privileged to see some art inspired by Savitri. The Sadhak who shared her work with me described the art as the product of a period of intense meditation with Savitri. There is those works of art, as in the art of Huta, a sense of the fullness of experience. For me, these paintings became literal ways to access the Divine and then to see that Divine artist in the world around me. To imagine existence as a poem, I saw those startling juxtapositions of Sri Aurobindo and saw in those juxtapositions a veracity and an acceptance of all life. If I love Shankara’s rhythms and nuances, if I am drawn repeatedly to Sri Aurobindo’s rhythms and nuances, then perhaps I will begin to see in life’s rhythms and nuances, the work of the sweet Mother.

-          Ramalakshmi

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