Durga Saptashati, popularly known as Chandipath, is said to be equivalent to Vedas - its 3 parts were equated to Rig, Yajur and Sama Vedas.
No wonder Saptashati is more than a story of battles, blood, gore and praise of a victorious warrior lady. It HAS to be about the journey of self-realization, if it is equivalent to Vedas.
While vedanta (veda+anta, end of veda) describes the state of self-realization, Vedas cover the journey towards it. Irrespective of path taken, it can be abstracted to various stages and one needs to work with the same internal forces. Vedas cover them. One focusing mainly on the final destination and not paying attention to the journey may get lost somewhere. Many now-a-days emphasize Vedanta more. It can lead one to getting stuck in a delusional state of pseudo-realization, where one knows theoretically that all is Self and yet is a slave of the pushes and pulls of deep conditioning, without being able to truly overcome them.
From that point of view, Veda is even more important than Vedanta. However, Veda is too difficult to comprehend in this age. Even though Saptashati is also filled with symbolism and hidden meanings and difficult to comprehend, it is relatively easier. It is at higher level of abstraction, covers the essence and is easier to decode than Veda.
In this series of writings, my understanding of the inner meaning of some of the symbols in this story will be explained. Just like Veda, each verse in Chandi may have layers of meanings. But, the basic overall thread and symbolism in each story will be covered here very briefly.
Durga Saptashati: Chapter 1
Frustrated king Suratha & businessman Samadhi come to the hermitage of rishi Medha and he tells them about the exploits of Devi.
Su-ratha means a good chariot and it stands for an able body. Scripture uses the metaphor of body as a chariot, breath as horses, pranas as reins, mind as the charioteer, intellect as the minister guiding the charioteer and soul as the king enjoying the ride. As an able body gives one a sense of power and control, it is depicted as a kshatriya.
Samadhi means mental focus and concentration on something. It may be a work such as writing some code. It may be understanding something intellectual. It may be being absorbed in an abstract idea. It may be experiencing some subtle energy. It may be being one with an aspect of divine. Whatever it is, one wants something in return when one focuses. So it is depicted as a businessman.
An able body and a focused mind get one many rewards and give happiness. But they alone never make one permanently happy, for happiness and sadness come in cycles. That is why Suratha and Samadhi, who enjoy tremendous success earlier, get frustrated later and approach rishi Medha.
Medha means intellect and wisdom. As the purpose of intellect is to inform and guide, it is depicted as a brahmana and a rishi. When body and mind are ably guided by intellect, one’s journey to liberation can start!
The first story told by rishi is of the slaying of Madhu and Kaitabha. Madhu means honey. Kaitabha comes from keeta and stands for bee-like nature. Honey and bee stand for the fruits of this world and their pursuit. These demons stand for the quality in us, which makes us attracted to the various things in this world and pursue them. Bees accumulate honey with much hard work and may not enjoy it in the end. Similarly, we accumulate jobs, success, fame, houses, cars, spouse, children, friends, family etc.
Vishnu being woken up from sleep and fighting the demons stands for sattwa guna inside one being awakened and leading one towards sadhana. This is the start of self-enquiry. One overcomes laziness, overcomes attachment to material things and starts thinking about god, Self and spiritual progress. This is the first step in spiritual sadhana, i.e. in the long walk towards enlightenment.
The deioty of this story is Mahakali, who is the power, might and force of divine Mother’s primordial cosmic energy. Getting out of slumber and complacency and starting serious sadhana does require that might and force.
The next 12 chapters describe various stages and obstacles one needs to pass through, on the path to liberation. I will write about remaining chapters serially.