The great souls are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible. (Bhagavad Gita 9.13)
Once, when I was delivering a talk in Mumbai, a young man said, “It is said that behind every successful man, there is a woman. Does this statement hold true for a celibate like you?”
Yes, it does. The spiritual gifts I seek are possible to attain only by grace, and divine grace originates in Shakthi, the motherly, feminine quality of the Supreme. Behind a monk like me is the Supreme Goddess, whom in my tradition we call Radha. She is Krishna’s feminine counterpart.
The Vedic literature informs us that the one Infinite Being is both male and female. The one becomes two to exchange love, and their love is the origin of all other love, all beauty, all ecstasy, and all compassion. They are called by many names, such as Krishna and Radha, or Shaktiman (the source of power, which is the masculine principle) and Shakti (the feminine, divine activating energy). It’s easier to think of these two through an analogy. Shaktiman, or the power source, is the sun, and Shakti, the sun’s energy, is the sunshine. The two can never be separated. There is no meaning to one without the other.
This concept of masculine and feminine divinity is found in other traditions as well. Think of the yang and the yin of the Taoist tradition, the Logos-Sophia of the Christian tradition, and the Yahweh-Shekinah of the Hebraic Tradition. The word shekinah means “dwelling place,” and in classical Judaism, it is thought that when the Shekinah is near Yahweh, she makes it easier to see him.
In each of these traditions, grace is personified by this feminine dimension of God. Forgiveness, compassion, and the nourishment of suffering souls with wisdom and love are all elements of grace. Grace is all powerful, yet reveals herself in the sweetest and gentlest of forms. Grace descends from the divine realm into this world by the Supreme’s own will. As with other devotional paths, bhakthi yoga practices aim at reconnecting us to that current of grace.
The notion of divine grace is an intriguing concept. In a world where the powers of illusion are oceanic and our insatiable desire for self-gain daunting to overcome, grace intercedes and forgives our transgressions, compensates for our shortcomings, and awakens our spiritual potential. Divine, motherly grace blesses us with gifts that would otherwise be far beyond our reach. It can inspire inexhaustible hope and irrepressible determination, and it can awaken in us an irresistible desire to receive it.
As pure water flows downward, so grace flows down to the humblest and most grateful. I have seen grace do amazing things in people’s lives. Grace is the mother, the soft, compassionate nature of the Supreme, and devotion to Radha, the fountainhead of grace, is the key to the realm of love and forgiveness, happiness and freedom.
Its puzzling why under the banner of religion, this nourishing, compassionate side of God is so frequently neglected in favor of the pursuit of power and control. Even in God’s name, people too often feel the need to conquer, plunder and manipulate. The bhakthi school teaches us to balance our lives with devotion to both the masculine and feminine aspects of God as a way to honor humanity, life and nature.
Mother Nature is a manifestation of the Divine feminine in this world. As our divine mother, nature nourishes and sustains our body and soul with food and water and air and beauty. Like infants, we are dependent on her for every breath. That’s why bhakthi yogis respect the environment. Caring for Mother Earth and protecting her resources and all her children thus becomes an integral part of our expression of love for the Supreme.
As the soothing light of the full moon induces the petals of a blue lotus flower to open, so grace, the feminine divine, induces our spiritual love to awaken, blossom, and spread its fragrance into the world.
(This article is an excerpt from Radhanath Swami’s The Journey Within)