Download May 2024 (English)


God as Mother

God comes down as an incarnation with a beautiful form and a sweet name to guide humanity on the path of divine love to reach the ultimate goal of Self-realization, which is to realize that one is the embodiment of divine love, Atman or Brahman. To nurture this divine love, many spiritual practices like japa, prayers, bhajans, meditation, self-enquiry, selfless service, and satsang are recommended. However, one important practice emphasized is to develop an intimate relationship with God, and not have God as an abstract entity in heaven or confined to a pilgrimage place like Kashi, Mecca, Jerusalem, Shirdi, or Puttaparthi. But to make Him one’s very own. We should feel that we belong to God, and God belongs to us. Swami emphasizes that one must develop an endearing relationship with god, just like the Gopikas (simple innocent cowherdesses) had with Lord Krishna.

Two Steps to Develop a Relationship with God

To do this, we must first develop the conviction that God is the indweller of our heart. One's own heart is the address of God, who is the resident of all beings, including humans, as Lord Krishna declares in the Bhagavad Gita (18.61):

Ishvarah sarva-bhutanam hrid-deshe arjuna tishthati bhramayan sarva-bhutani yantrarudhani mayaya

(The supreme Lord dwells in the hearts of all beings,
O Arjuna, and by His maya (illusive power) causes all beings to revolve as if mounted on a machine.)

Then, one can develop a close relationship with God, worshiping God as mother, father, teacher, friend, beloved, or relative. Among these, the relationship with the mother is the first and foremost. Swami says that the mother is also the first teacher. She shows the child the father. The father, in turn, points to the teacher (Guru), who, in turn, guides the individual to God. From conception, the mother bears the baby in her womb, making innumerable sacrifices. Swami repeatedly says that a mother’s love comes closest to divine love. 

Thus, there are two aspects of spirituality: one where we worship our mother as God and the other where we worship God as our Mother. 

Treating The Mother As God

The Vedas declare, “Mathru Devo Bhava” (revere mother as God). All the great masters have shown that worshipping the Mother is essential, even for renunciants. In the Birthday discourse of 2003, Swami says,

“The loving care of Jijabai, his mother, made Shivaji a great warrior. Rama’s divinity blossomed because of the noble qualities of His mother, Kausalya. The twins, Lava and Kusha, could become valiant, powerful, and famous on account of their noble and virtuous mother, Sita. Gandhi became a Mahatma (a great soul) because of his pious mother, Putlibai.”

In addition, Swami also attributes many aspects of the Sathya Sai Avatar to His mother, aptly called Easwaramma, the mother of Easwara or God. 

The mother always sacrifices for the child. Her love is unconditional, selfless, and pure. Even when the child goes astray, the mother forgives and still continues to shower love on the child. Pundarika was a great devotee whose chosen deity was Lord Panduranga. But even when the very Lord appeared before him, he continued to serve his parents and made the Lord wait. Lord Panduranga appreciated his devotee’s devotion to the parents and waited patiently, standing on a brick offered by his loving devotee. That is the form that has been immortalized at the main shrine of Lord Vitthala in Pandharpur, a famous pilgrimage site in Maharashtra, India. 

In other traditions, particularly in Catholicism in Christianity, the worship of Mother Mary is prominent. There are many Basilicas or churches built for Mother Mary throughout the world. The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, the church of Black Madonna, Our Lady of Bistica in Croatia, the Black Madonna of Częstochowa in Poland, Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, Italy, the Black Madonna in the Basilica of Montserrat in Spain, and the Shrine of our Lady of Lourdes in France are all dedicated to the worship of Mother Mary. Even today, many people experience the amazing grace and blessings of Mother Mary through incredible miracles and healings, affirming their faith.

The Five Mothers

In His discourse on July 22, 1968, Swami emphatically says that there are five mothers for everyone.

The mother is the first of the five matas (mothers) that the child encounters:

  • Deha-mata: the mother that gave birth to this body
  • Go-mata: the cow that gives sustaining milk
  • Bhu-mata: the land that grows the crops to nourish the body
  • Desha-mata: the native country that gives protection, care, love, rights, and opportunities to serve and elevate oneself to one’s full potential
  • Veda-mata: the Vedas, the treasure of spiritual wisdom and heritage that reveals the aim and purpose of human life and takes one step-by-step toward the goal of Self-realization

Swami then adds that the Deha-mata must reveal to the child the glories of all the other four mothers, and so, her responsibility is the greatest and the most crucial. He states this as the reason why He established a women’s college as the first of His educational institutions. 

Giving examples of the impact of good mothers, Swami often gives the example of the great leader and philanthropist of West Bengal (India), Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, and how he established social welfare projects in fulfillment of his mother’s endearing wishes. Swami also adds that similarly, He too undertook massive social welfare projects–the University, the Super Specialty Hospitals, and the Drinking Water Project–in response to the prayers of the mother of His body, Easwaramma, who was full of compassion. All these projects started on a modest scale, such as a primary school, a general hospital, and a village well. But since it was the mother of the divine who prayed sincerely, they all grew in epic proportions to giant humanitarian projects, serving millions! 

Inspired by Swami’s example, today, the Sri Sathya International Organization (SSSIO), founded by Him, undertakes many educational, humanitarian, and environmental service projects around the world. Sathya Sai Schools and Institutes have been started in many countries around the world to provide values-based education. Many healthcare initiatives like medical camps and health clinics are serving humanity worldwide, the most recent example being an 8-day medical camp held in Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya in East Africa to serve over 5,500 needy patients. Free drinking water projects, providing rations, serving food, offering housing, and other humanitarian projects are also regularly undertaken by the SSSIO. A glimpse of such activities organized throughout the year is presented in the four Service Snippets in this issue. 

Treating God as the Mother

God, the Supreme Being, is equally worshiped as the Divine Mother as He is adored as the Divine Father. God’s love is comparable to the love of a thousand mothers, nay infinite mothers! An example of God being worshiped as the mother is described in the sacred Hindu epic, Ramayana. Prince Lakshmana, a hero who is the brother of Lord Rama, gave up the kingdom and his wife and even left his mother in order to worship and serve Rama, who is the Parabrahman or the Lord Supreme. 

In the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, there is also the concept of worshiping the divine as the mother with various forms of Goddesses, like Tara and Mayadevi. And let us remember that this is also the holy month when Buddhists around the world celebrate Buddha Poornima. So, we have included excerpts from Bhagawan’s discourse on the significance of this major festival in this issue.

In the Vedas, the most ancient scriptures, the Divine is extolled as the Mother. Swami, our Lord Sai, emphasizes the sacred Vedic chants of Durga Suktam, Medha Suktam, and Sri Suktam, all of which glorify the Divine as the Mother. 

The Durga Suktam is from the ancient Rig Veda, where the ‘divine power’ aspect of the Mother is worshiped. God is supreme Brahman, beyond attributes, names, forms, time, and causation. But, just as the positive and negative terminals are essential to manifest electricity, the ‘spark’ of creation needs the supreme Brahman to divide into two ‘terminals’ or aspects–Purusha and Prakriti or Shakti. Shakti embodies feminine energy and is often depicted as the consort of Lord Shiva. The Divine Mother is synonymous with Shakti, the divine power that manifests, sustains, and transforms the universe as the unifying force of existence. The Divine Mother exists in all beings as intelligence, mercy, and beauty. She is the embodiment of the all-existential power, the mother aspect. 

The Medha Suktam, also from the Rig Veda, worships the Divine as the Mother who endows ‘supreme wisdom,’ knowledge, and good intellect so that one thinks good, speaks good, and does good. The Sri Suktam worships God as the Divine Mother, who is the source of ‘all prosperity and glory,’ including physical prowess, courage, wealth, properties, and progeny. 

These are the three aspects by which the Divine Mother is propitiated: Durga, the protector; Saraswati (Medha Devi), the fountainhead of knowledge; and Lakshmi (Sri Devi), the bestower of prosperity. This worship is done especially during Navarathri, the festival of nine nights of worship, twice a year, during spring and fall. 

The Vedantic View of the Divine Mother–A Story

Even in the Vedanta and the Upanishads, mother worship exists despite the central philosophy of Vedanta being Advaita (non-dualism). The story below of Uma Hymavathi from the Kenopanishad is a beautiful narrative that symbolizes the essence of spiritual understanding and humility. 

Once, the Devas (celestial beings) defeated the demons through the power of the supreme Parabrahman. However, they were filled with pride about their victory and began to boast, saying, “This victory is ours! Through our mighty power, we have conquered the demons!”

The Lord, wanting to humble the Devas and remind them of their true source of power, appeared before them in the form of a Yaksha (a natural spirit). The Devas were curious about this strange form and sent Agni (the god of fire) to inquire about its identity.

When Agni approached the Yaksha, the Yaksha asked him, “Who are you?” Agni proudly replied, “I am Agni, the god of fire! I can burn everything in this world!” To test Agni’s power, the Yaksha placed a blade of grass in front of him and asked him to burn it. Despite his best efforts, Agni failed to burn the blade of grass. Next, Vayu (the god of wind) was sent by the Devas to confront the Yaksha. Vayu boasted, too, about his power, but like Agni, he also failed to move the blade of grass. Similarly, Varuna (the god of water), who approached the Yaksha, could not wet the blade of grass!

Finally, Indra, the king of gods himself, arrived on the scene. At that time, the form of Yaksha disappeared, and in its place appeared the blissful, universal mother, Uma Hymavathi. She told Indra that the Yaksha form was assumed by Brahman, the supreme being, to teach the gods a lesson. All powers of the gods (Shakti) were derived from Brahman, and therefore, they had no grounds to be conceited and arrogant. The Divine’s consciousness and power is the source of all powers in the universe. Even the devas and demigods are endowed with power because they, using their merits, have acquired a small fraction of the power (Shakti) of Brahman. And Uma Hymavathi, the ultimate Shakti, the eternal feminine, is that same power. It is she who controls the whole universe as the Divine Mother. 

The great scripture, called Durga Saptashati or Chandi, beautifully describes how the Mother is even responsible for our day-to-day experiences. She is the source of our hunger, thirst, sleep, courage, peace, faith, patience, fortitude, memory, compassion, forgiveness, delusion, intelligence, and energy. 

Sri Ramakrishna and Mother Kali

The great saint Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who worshiped Mother Kali, practiced the worship of the Divine as Mother. He set an example for worshiping God as Mother, loving her with intensity and one-pointedness. He used to pine and agonize, praying intensely, “Oh, Mother! Another day is gone without having your vision. Pray grant me your vision so that my life isn’t wasted.”

People made fun of him as a madman to worship an ‘image’ or ‘idol.’ So, he promptly went to his Mother and cried, “Mother! Are you just an image or idol?” To his great joy and reassurance, he could see that the mother was very much alive. When he placed the palm of his hand near the nostrils of the Mother and felt she was actually breathing, he knew it was not a mere idol but an embodiment of living consciousness! He thus had a vivid vision of the Divine Mother!

What is more, in his perfect communion with the Divine Mother, he has given us, in the most simple and picturesque words, the complete philosophy of mother-worship, the quintessence of all scriptures! What does Sri Ramakrishna say about the Divine Mother?

“My mother. Who is my mother? Ah! She is the mother of the Universe. It is She who creates and preserves the world, who always protects Her children, and who grants whatever they desire – dharma, artha, kama, moksha. A true son cannot live away from his mother. The mother knows everything. The child only eats, drinks, and makes merry; he doesn’t worry himself about the things of the world. Everyone is under the authority of the divine mother. Even the incarnations of God accept the help of their mothers to fulfill their mission on earth. Therefore, they worship the Divine Mother.”

Many great spiritual aspirants and leaders like Swami Vivekananda and Swami Brahmananda, renowned disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, were also inspired by this and adopted the worship of the divine Mother. 

Sai is Brahman and Shakti

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa gives a lucid explanation of the relationship between the Supreme Brahman and Shakti:

“Brahman and Shakti are identical. If we accept one, we accept the other. It is like fire and its power to burn. One cannot think of Brahman without Shakti and Shakti without Brahman.”

That is why we consider Swami, the Supreme Parabrahman, as ‘Shiva-Shakti Swaroopa,’ the embodiment of both Lord Shiva and Goddess Shakti. In the term ‘Sai Baba,’ the term ‘Sa’ denotes ‘Divine,’ ‘Ai’ denotes ‘Mother’ or ‘Shakti,’ and ‘Baba’ denotes ‘Father’ or ‘Shiva’. We have dealt with this in detail in the past issues of Sathya Sai–The Eternal Companion. As the divine Mother, the aspect of ‘power’ is worshiped–responding to our prayers, she clears all obstacles and gets rid of our negativities, blessing us with success.  

Swami Himself has been worshiped as the Divine Mother, ‘Sai Ma,’ and many sincere devotees have witnessed Him in all three aspects as Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati. 

In keeping with this facet of Bhagawan, we have included the second part of a divine discourse titled “Who is Sai Baba” in this issue. As part of that discourse, Swami Himself shares two astounding and mind-boggling miracles in which He rushed to the aid of devotees in the USA and the UK. Bhagawan most touchingly says that He is the mother and father for all, theists and atheists alike! 

Different Levels of Divine Mother

People naturally worship God as the Mother because, as children, whenever one is in fear or distress, one runs instinctively to the mother for solace. There is peace only in the lap of the mother. Similarly, we are all children of the divine Mother, and when we call out to her in times of distress, she promptly responds.

According to the scriptures, the Divine Mother has three forms–the gross, the subtle, and the transcendental. The gross form is one that we address as Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati. The Divine Mother is also represented by the mystic syllables (mantras)Hreem, Sreem, Kleem, Aiim–which is the ‘power’ aspect and the subtle aspect. But ultimately, the Divine Mother is transcendental and beyond all these. She cannot be comprehended by the mind or expressed in words. She can only be experienced in the deepest meditation or when doing penance. That is the ultimate experience of the supreme Brahman. 

Lalita Sahasranama is a sacred text that consists of a thousand names of the goddess Lalita Tripurasundari. It is a part of the ancient scripture called the Brahmanda Purana. It is considered one of the most revered texts in the Shakta tradition, which worships the divine feminine energy, Shakti. There, it is mentioned that the Divine Mother is Antharmukha Samaradhya Bahirmukha Sudurlabha, meaning that She is easy to attain for those who worship her with their mind turned inward, but She is difficult to attain for those whose vision is turned outward to the materialistic world. She is more pleased with the offerings of flowers and water of pure consciousness than physical water and flowers. 

At the gross level, the Mother is worshiped through various mantras (chants and syllables), yantras (literally ‘machines’ but contraptions or diagrams that represent divinity), and tantras (techniques and rituals). As Sri Ramakrishna puts it, all the various forms of the Mother are real, and She responds to the yearning of the devotee and grants communion with Her.  

Sai Ma or Sai Mata (Mother Sai)

People worship Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba as their mother, father, friend, teacher, and God. Whatever way He is worshiped, He always responds and never disappoints. The personal experience of Mr. Howard Levin included in this issue highlights this aspect of our dear Swami in that He never disappoints His devotees. That is because once we belong to Him, we are His forever. Similarly, once we belong to His organization, we always belong to His organization, as beautifully narrated by Ms. Jorja Kelley in this issue. 

It is evident that Swami has a special fondness for those who consider Him as the Divine Mother. In His discourse on January 14, 2000, Swami narrates how those who worship Him as ‘Sai Mata’ (Mother Sai) have had their lives sanctified and attained liberation:

Dhoopati Thirumalacharya with Swami

Tirumalacharya, the author of Sri Sathya Sai Suprabhatam, used to live here. He had served in the royal court of Venkatagiri. He was a great scholar in Sanskrit and Sastras. He accompanied Bhagawan to Badrinath at the advanced age of ninety. Bhagawan asked him whether he was fit enough to undertake such an arduous journey. He affirmed that with Swami by his side, he would travel any length of the journey without any discomfort. He said, “Sai Mata (Mother Sai), if You forsake me, my entire existence is a waste. If you accept me as Yours, it is as if I have everything at my command.” This was the state of bhakti and surrender in which Tirumalacharya spent his life. He was constantly meditating on Sai Mata. He spent all his time in Swami’s proximity, whether it was here or in Brindavan. His Bhakti was beyond measure. Consequently, his end was peaceful. He very well knew that his end was approaching and one day expressed his feelings. On being questioned as to how he knew about it, he replied, “Swami is telling me from within.” He went for his bath, brought some water, washed Swami’s feet, sipped a few drops of the sanctified water, and said,” Swami, my life has found fulfillment. Poornamadah Poornamidam Poornat Poornamudachyate Poornasya Poornamadaya Poornameva Avashishyate (That is Whole, this is Whole; from the Whole, Whole is born; taking away Whole from the Whole, the Whole remains.) Physically, mentally, and spiritually, I have attained this wholesomeness. Now the time has come for me to merge in You.” Thereafter, he cast off his mortal coil and merged into Swami.

Swami also relates how our earthly mother relates to us only when we cry for her and demand her. But the divine mother is more considerate and loving. He says:

There are some mothers who feed the baby only when it starts crying. The more considerate and loving type of mother knows when the baby is hungry; she need not be called to its side by a loud wail. This Sai Mata is that type of mother. I have come because I felt I had to come; I resolved upon this. There is no need now for tears or despair, either among the repositories of the Vedic wisdom or among the good who suffer from the cruel winds of adharma. This campaign will succeed; it will not fail. The welfare of the world will be ensured through the fostering of the godly everywhere and, more particularly, of these reservoirs of ancient wisdom of this land.

To Whom Much Is Given…

In the divine discourse of September 27, 2009, Swami says, 

Many people write letters to Me addressing Me as “Mother Sai.” They refer to Me as their revered mother. I also address all of you as “children.”

For a large number of devotees, Swami is Sai Ma or Sai Mata. And the Divine Mother showers immense love. But what does Sai Mata or Mother Sai expect from Her children? Swami makes it clear in the discourse of November 24, 1974:

“Remember, all are the sons and daughters of Sai Mata (Mother SAI). How can I tolerate when the sons and daughters quarrel among themselves and divide themselves into rival groups? Unless you sing bhajans for your own joy, you cannot bring joy to others. The Sathya Sai Organisation has been established to provide sacred tasks for every moment of wakeful life, to make people conscious of the vagaries and vanities of the mind, and to teach them the processes of disintegrating the mind and establishing the reign of the pure intellect, by which alone the One behind all this multiplicity can be realized as the only Reality."

Swami wants us all to love and serve each other the way He loves and serves us. He emphasizes that He is pleased only when love is the keynote and the feeling of unity prevails. So, let us love our divine Mother Sai with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and be the deserving recipients of Her grace and unconditional, pristine, selfless, and eternal love. Let our Mother Sai be our eternal companion, guiding us, guarding us, and leading us to the ultimate goal.

Jai Sai Ram.