The following are three famous shlokas of the famous collection of hymns of the Mother of the Universe Durga. The collection is called “Shri Durga Saptashati,” which means 700 verses regarding Mother Durga.
I will give a very simple meaning of these three shlokas which are recited regularly in thousands of Hindu temples, and Ashrams, and in millions of homes. I will also share few of my thoughts related to these shlokas.
Sarva mangal maangalye Shive sarvaaratha saadhike
Sharanye tryambake Gauri Naaraayani namostu te (11-10)
Srushti sthiti vinaashaanaam shaktibhute sanaatani
Gunaashraye gunamaye Naaraayani namestu te (11-11)
Sharanaagata dinaarta paritraana paraayane
Sarva syaarti hare Devi Naaraayani namostu te (11-12)
Sarva mangal maangalye – Mother Durga is most auspicious among those that are auspicious
One finds word “Mangala” in several Hindu hymns, like “Mangalam Bhagavan Vishnu, Mangalam Garudadhwaja…” or in a bhajan of Lord Hanuman, “Mangala murati….” Why and how Mother Durga, or Lord Vishnu, or Lord Hanumana is auspicious? We have to experience this fact. Without having any experience of this auspiciousness, these will be just words. Suppose we repeat thousand times “Himalayas are great.” But, without seeing Himalayas, we cannot comprehend the greatness of the Himalayas. Similarly, we have to do spiritual practice, make spiritual progress, and go near Mother Durga, or any form of God to feel Her/His auspiciousness. When we go closer to God in the form of Mother or Father or Formless Brahman, we see positive transformation in our lives and then we appreciate their auspiciousness. We feel that our lives were blessed by spiritual progress. After that experience these words mean much more to us.
Shive – One who brings good to us
As Lord Shiva brings good to all, Mother Durga brings good to all. Actually, Shiva and Shakti (Universal Mother) are same. Shakti is the power of Shiva which manifests in the role of creation, preservation, and dissolution. Again, through spiritual progress we can realize how Mother Durga brings good to our lives. This does not mean that we always have a good time and miseries do not come. Miseries do come. But, we think that these miseries are sent by the Mother and they may have some underlying purpose. We try to avoid miseries, but if they come, then we have to go through them and wait till we understand their purpose. Swami Vivekananda said that many times we learn greater lessons from miseries than from happiness. It is a fact that miseries had made many great people. If we do not take this attitude, then we fall apart in miseries. It is our choice.
Sarvaartha Saadhike – Mother fulfills all our legitimate desires
Not all desires are bad. We can have desires to be virtuous, to develop knowledge and devotion. Also, when we make spiritual progress, then we realize that some of our desires are harmful to us and some are foolish. We drop such desires. We also realize that Mother fulfills our legitimate worldly desires. Finally, when God-realization comes, then we have such infinite bliss that we do not need any desire. We desire to be happy. When we attain infinite bliss then we do not need any desire.
Sharanye – Universal Mother is the only refuge for us all
Why should we take refuge of a person or a place which has limited capacity? Why not take refuge of the Universal Mother who had created the sun, the earth, all beings, food and everything that exist and she is taking care of us all? One can say that in practical life we may have to take refuge of a person or a place. It is true. But, in that case, we have to think that the Universal Mother is giving us refuge through this person or a place. This way we have self-dignity and we do not become a slave of a person or a place. All Saints and Sadhus who have renounced everything, they completely depend on God. And they experience how God takes care of them. We find many such incidences in the life of Swami Vivekananda during his life as a wandering monk. He had taken refuge of the Universal Mother and in critical times Mother took care of him in various ways.
Tryambake and Gauri – Both are names of Mother Parvati. Again, Shiva and Shakti are same. Just as Shiva has an eye of Knowledge, Universal Mother has an eye of Knowledge. Gauri is another name of Mother Parvati, the power of Lord Shiva.
Naaraayani – Naraayana is Lord Vishnu. Naraayani is the power of Lord Vishnu. Narraayana also means God who is omnipresent, who is everywhere. The Mother of the Universe is also omnipresent. We are all children of the Mother. The Universal Mother is living through us and is manifesting through the whole universe.
Namostu te – I salute to the Mother Durga.
Saluting means respecting Mother and making Her the ideal of our lives.
Srushti-sthiti-vinaashaanaam shaktibhute – Mother is the Power of God that creates, preserves, and dissolute the universe.
We have to admit that there is some power which had created this universe, is preserving this universe and can destroy or dissolute this universe in any minute. If this power wants to destroy this universe, then no human power or science or religion can save it. Sri Ramakrishna says that God laughs when a doctor says, “Don’t worry mother, I am going to save your son.” He does not know that the son is going to die. Sooner we understand this fact that God creates, preserves, and destroys or dissolute, better for us. Then, we do not talk foolish things and do not behave as an ignorant person. Doctors do save life. But, sensible doctors know that everything is not in their hands.
Sanaatani – Mother Durga (the Power of God) is eternal.
Everything in this universe is for a short time. Anything that is created is going to die or parish. This is an undeniable fact. Only Brahman or Its manifestation (its Power Mother Durga) is eternal. The Universe comes out from Brahman, remains in Brahman and merges in Brahman. One may call it Cosmic Consciousness or by any other name. Scientists also tell the same thing. One day this universe will consolidate into energy and merges with the energy.
Gunaashraye – Mother Durga is a support of three gunas – sattva, rajas, and tams.
According to the Sankhya Philosophy, this universe is made out of Purusha (Consciousness) and Prakruti (Matter). Both are eternal. Prakruti (which is also considered as the Power of God) is made out of three gunas; sattva, rajas, and tams. The whole universe is functioning because of the imbalance of these three gunas. When the three gunas are balanced all the activities of the universe stop and it merges into Purusha or Brahman. This is an excellent way explaining the activities in the universe. One has to study in greater detail to understand this explanation. In Bhagavad Gita, these three gunas have been described in detail, especially in chapters 14, 17, and 18.
Gunamaye – Mother Durga is full of virtues.
We ask Mother to help us in developing virtues in us. Sri Ramakrishna says that when a king is coming to someone’s house, then one can see that roads leading to his house are paved, trees and plants are planted on this road, house is fixed, excellent furniture arrives etc. Thus, when one is going near God, then all the virtues like compassion, unselfish love, truth, non-violence, forgiveness and others manifest in the life of that person.
Sharanaagata-dinaarta – One who has surrendered to Mother, is humble, and suffering (another meaning is intensely desiring to realize Mother’s presence in everything).
Three words are important; to surrender, having humility and inner urge to realize the Mother or God.
Sharanaagata – One who has surrendered.
What does it mean by ‘surrendering to the Mother’? It means to realize that in reality the Mother is doing everything and we are just Her instruments. Bhagavad Gita says to renounce ‘doer-ship’ and ‘owner-ship.’ Sri Ramakrishna used to sing a bhajan, “Sakoli tomaari ichhaa,” meaning, “O Mother! You are doing everything, but people say that ‘we do it.’ O Mother! We are the machines and you are the operator.’ He also said that the way a house-maid takes care of everything of a master’s house as if all belong to her, but in her mind it is clear that nothing belongs to her, similarly we have to live in this world taking care of everything but keeping in mind that everything belongs to the Mother. We do not even have control on our body and all the systems working in our body. If we realize this then we feel the presence of the power of God, or the Universal Mother.
If we surrender, then we will have peace of mind. We do not take the burden of the world on ourselves. We do not worry for which we cannot do anything. Just as a child is worry-free in the presence of his/her mother, we will be worry-free thinking that the Mother will take care of us. Sri Ramakrishna used to say that just like a child he just eats, sleeps, and enjoys living in the world being completely dependent on the Mother.
There are three kinds of surrender: a monkey baby holding its mother, a kitten being held by its mother cat, and a dead body carried by people. When we hold on to God as a baby-monkey holds its mother, then there is a fear of falling. After some spiritual practices, when the Mother or God holds our hands, then there is no fear of falling, means giving up spiritual practice or start living improper life. One can complain like kittens when the Mother puts one in uncomfortable situations. Surrendering like a dead body means no complain at all. Whatever the care-takers do to the body, it is okay. That means one is completely dependent on the Mother in any situation of life. This does not mean that a person becomes inert. But, in this state person has such deep conviction that the Mother does everything, then why to worry. Just keep performing once responsibilities and let no other thoughts come and disturb the mind.
Dina – one who is filled with humility.
In this state, one prays, ‘O Mother of the Universe! I am devoid of virtues. Please help me develop virtues in me. I have many weaknesses. I am trying to get rid of them, but I am not getting successful. I need your help. I cannot focus my mind. My mind is difficult to control. Help me Mother.’ All great Saints and Sadhus had expressed such feelings. For example, Shri Shankaraachaarya said in a hymn, “Matsamah paataki naasti…,” “O Mother! There is no sinner like me and there is no purifier like you. Knowing this do whatever is appropriate.” One saint said, “Mo sam kaun kutil khala kami,” meaning “who else is wicked, crook, and lustful than me?” Then, the saint asked for help from God to get rid of these weaknesses. One saint said, “I went to the world to look for a bad person. I could not find any bad person. When I saw my mind, I found that I am the worst person.” This is not to degrade oneself. But, one who is sincerely trying to become a good person goes through this stage. Vedanta says that each person is potentially divine. So, this state is a passing state for the person who is trying to realize his/her divinity within. It is not the final state. However, if one thinks out of ignorance that ‘I am great, I am good, I do not need to improve’ does not improve at all and does not realize the divinity either. A true seeker knows that perfection has no limit. The sign of knowledge is humility. A knowledgeable person knows one’s limits.
Aarta – One who is suffering.
Mostly people suffer because they do not get what they want in the world or are going through miserable situations in life. However, there are few people who have everything in the world and are not going through miserable situation, but they are sad because they are not making enough spiritual progress. Sri Ramakrishna, in his initial stage of spiritual practices, was crying profusely seeing sunset. He will roll on the ground crying and thinking that ‘Another day had passed and I have not realized God. Is my life going to be wasted without the vision of the Mother?’ Intense desire is needed to make spiritual progress and to realize God. Sri Ramakrishna said that, ‘People weep profusely for children, spouses, family, money, and pleasures, but who cries for God? If one sincerely cries to realize God, then definitely one can realize God.’ When one feels that I will die without being with God, just like a child feels lost without mother, then one can realize God.
Paritraana-paraayane – Mother is engaged in removing the suffering and lifting up devotees (who have surrendered, are humble, and had intense desire for spiritual progress)
Universal Mother is the Mother of all and is engaged in removing suffering of all. But, people who are busy in enjoying the worldly objects and not aware of the Mother’s presence do not see this compassion and love. Sri Ramakrishna says that as long as child is busy in playing toys, mother gets her work done in the kitchen. But, when a child throws away all the toys and cries for the mother, then mother gives up all work and takes the child in her lap. Those who have surrendered to the mother, are humble, and have intense desire to see Mother, then Mother helps these people to achieve their goal.
Sarvasyaartihare Devi – Mother removes all miseries
When we do spiritual practices and go towards the Mother, then we become aware of everything that is going in our mind. We realize that many miseries were self-created. Their causes are our useless desires and fancies. We drop them off and we get relief from the miseries. Sri Ramakrishna said that a kite caught a fish and sat on a tree to eat it. But, several crows followed the kite and would not let the kite eat that fish. Wherever the kite went, crows followed it. Finally, the fish was dropped from the kite’s mouth and all crows followed the fish and the kite was at piece. Thus, miseries like crows follow our desires. When unnecessary desires are dropped, miseries go away. There are unavoidable miseries. But, if we go closer to the Universal Mother, then she gives us strength to face these miseries. Many times in miseries we go closer to the Mother and feel peace of mind.
Naaraayani Namostu te – I salute to the Universal Mother
We salute to the Mother and ask for knowledge and devotion.
Holy Mother Sri Saradadevi and Sarva Mangal Mangalye…
At the end of March 1911 Holy Mother with a few devotees went to Banglore as a part of her pilgrimage in South India. One evening Holy Mother went to a hill of rocks in the back of the Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama and sat there to do japa. Swami Ramakrishnananda (Shashi Maharaj) who was sent by Swami Vivekananda in the South India to inspire the devotees and who started all the Ramakrishna Ashramas there heard that Holy Mother had climbed up the hill. He was worried about her. He immediately went up the hill and found that Holy Mother is sitting quietly there and doing japa. He saw her as Godess Parvati. Swami Ramakrishnananda’s heart was filled with devotion and he recited “Sarva mangala maangalye….” and saluted Holy Mother. Then, Holy Mother blessed him. We find that in all Ramakrishna Mission Ashramas and all places where Sri Ramakrishna and Holy Mother are worshipped, this hymn is being sung every day as a part of Aratrikam.