When I first started learning about the path of devotion, there was no devotional polytheism. Polytheism as an understanding of taking the gods as if they are real was not yet something discussed among many Pagans.
I came to the concept of bhakti through learning about Hinduism and interacting with Hare Krishnas.
I was a very insecure young Pagan. I was shy and did not have much success with women. I lacked confidence in myself. I obsessed over the few women who showed me the slightest bit of friendship and called it “love”.
So, my first take on bhakti was viewing the Goddess as a sort of invisible girlfriend. “Divine Lover”, I probably would have said then, but essentially, “invisible girlfriend”. Some lofty ideal of femininity that I could use to fluff up my ego.
To be honest, I didn’t have much success. But also, I didn’t really know what I was doing.
I’m thankful that I took time away from the path of devotion in order to grow as a person. I regularly gave offerings to Ganesh but I didn’t quite view it in the same way. Much as I love the Lord, it’s certainly not romantic.
I have a great life, a job I like, a place to live in that I love, an amazing girlfriend whom I love very much, and…most importantly…I love who I am. Sure there are things I want to change, but it’s out of love.
When I had hints of Aphrodite calling to me earlier this year, it brought a lot of those old issues to the forefront. I did honor Her and did devotions regularly. But after it was over, I didn’t feel the need to continue. I don’t want a Divine Lover. I don’t need an “invisible girlfriend”. I already have someone that loves me whom I love. That space in my heart is, y’know, occupied.
But yet there’s something about Devi (Lalita Tripurasundari) that’s different. I always viewed Goddess as Divine Lover but Devi, beautiful as She is, I associate more with being Divine Mother. Maa.
Since I lost my mother to cancer back in 1999, I do still feel the need for that maternal presence sometimes. (Not that Maa can ever replace my mother in my heart, nor would I want Her to, but I do miss that sense of unconditional maternal love that a mother can provide.)
I feel as if I’ve had great success with this shift in approach, from Lover to Mother. Aphrodite never felt maternal to me. Maa does. Maa is. According to some Shakta scriptures, Maa created everything and everyone.
That said, I’ve been struggling a little in incorporating Lalita sadhana into my daily practice.
So there’s a particular piece of Shakta literature (mentioned previously in my post on Lalita), the Lalita Pancharatnam (which means the Five Gems of Lalita, referring to its five stanzas). It’s meant to be chanted in the morning and involves a description of Lalita Devi.
It just so happens that most mornings, I wake up around 4 or 5 am to use the bathroom and take medicine with some water. When I couldn’t get back to sleep, I’ve been using that time to worship. Usually about 30-45 minutes. Sometimes as long as an hour.
I light my ghee lamps, offer a little incense, and there in the warm glow of the lights, chant the Pancharatnam, and then do some japa (OM AIM HRIM SAUH).
I really enjoy this time with Maa.
The problem is that I then have difficulty getting back to sleep, which screws up my day. Especially on a workday. Then I drink more coffee or tea in order to compensate for the tiredness which makes it harder for me to sleep at night. It’s a vicious circle.
It gets to the point that I’ll often choose to abandon worship on a few nights a week just to get some sleep. Which leaves me feeling like a bad devotee. It’s a work-in-progress. Just need to find that sweet spot. Good thing I’m close to a certain Remover of Obstacles…