Yoga is a mystical practice. Mystical practices study the Divine within ourselves. There are many gods and goddesses associated with yoga. As yogis, when we study the deities, we are studying parts of our own selves.
After practicing yoga for a while, many practitioners become familiar with the gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Together, these three gods form the Trimurti, or the triple supreme deity. Each individual deity has a role to play in the universe. Brahma initiates, Vishnu maintains, and Shiva terminates.
Yogis are less familiar with Maha Devi, the Great Goddess of Yoga! The month of May is closely associated with the Divine Feminine: Beltane, the Virgin Mary’s feast day, Mothers’ Day… Let’s spend the month of May honoring the Divine Feminine within by celebrating Maha Devi and the three goddesses of whom she is most closely associated: Parvati, Lakshmi, and Saraswathi!
Feminine and masculine are energies present within each of us. They have little to do with female-ness or male-ness. In our patriarchal culture, we often define what is feminine in light of what we consider to be masculine. For example, if we assume action, anger, and aggression are masculine traits, we associate passivity, agreeability, and peacefulness as being feminine.
This is a very limited understanding of masculine and feminine energies. There is a masculine expression of passivity, agreeability, and peacefulness, and a feminine expression of action, anger, and aggression. This is evident in the story of Maha Devi’s creation.
The story of Maha Devi and the great demon king.
Once upon a time there was a dreadful demon king named Mahisasura. This demon wreaked havoc on the land, destroying crops and terrifying villagers simply because he could! The gods got together to discuss this unfortunate occurrence. Surya, the Sun god, tried to fry Mahisasura with his rays! Vayu sent mighty winds! Even Jala attempted to drown him in a mighty flood. All of their efforts were in vain. The gods could not defeat the demon.
Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Sustainer, and Shiva the Destroyer were at a loss of what to do. They had tried everything! Well, everything except one last option…
The gods had each individually used their personal powers to attempt to defeat Mahisasura. They had not tried collaborating. They had never combined their powers before and feared what the outcome might be. However, desperate times call for desperate measures, so the three great Lords decided to give it a try.
Shakti is the feminine energy that gives the gods their power. When they combined their powers, this energy manifested as Maha Devi, the Great Goddess!
The gods begged Maha Devi to intervene. She was furious when she heard the plight of her children, all creation! In her anger, she confronted Mahisasura herself!
Mahisasura knew he was in trouble when he heard her coming. He shape-shifted into various creatures in an attempt to hide from Maha Devi, but the enraged Goddess was not fooled. Exhausted, Mahisasura turned himself into a buffalo. As a mighty creature, the demon king had every intent to trick and destroy the Goddess. However, Maha Devi opened her third-eye and easily saw through Mahisasura’s façade! With one blow from her trident, the demon-turned-buffalo was annihilated. Finally, the land was saved!
Putting our anger to right-use!
The gods did their best to fight off Mahisasura. However, it was the motherly love of Maha Devi that empowered the Goddess to defeat the demon king! Hers is the story of righteous anger, or, making right use of our anger. There are no negative emotions. We can choose whether to express the light or the darkness of any emotion we experience.
Maha Devi balances masculine aggression through her active participation in hopeful solutions. When we feel angry it is a sure sign that something needs to change. It may be the situation that is angering us, or it may be our attitude towards the situation. It is all too easy to waste our anger complaining and becoming pessimistic or passive-aggressive. Anger is a powerful energy not to be wasted. Like Maha Devi, we can harness our anger and channel it into wise action.
We exemplify Maha Devi’s righteous anger when we have compassion for other creatures and the environment, and we allow that compassion to move us to take action on their behalf. We work tirelessly to protect children, animals, and the environment; we advocate for survivors of violence and exploitation; we seek to end economic and social injustices on all levels.
Anger is often depicted as violent, forceful, and vicious. When we honor and respect this powerful emotion, it becomes compassionate, and indeed, even gentle. It made Mr. Fred Rogers angry to see children being exploited when public media was threatened in 1969. However, we did not see him display outrageous and stereotypically angry behaviors. Instead, he calmly, but firmly, addressed the senate in the following video. Please enjoy this video as an example of a human expressing Maha Devi’s divine righteous anger.