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The Devi Mahatmyam (DM), popularly known as Chandi or Durga Saptasati, is part
of the Markandeya Purana but regarded as a separate text by
devotees of the Goddess within the Hindu tradition.
I would like to bring the attention of the interested readers
to this wonderful edition, written by a man, Sankaranarayanan,
who was a great initiate and transmitted
his profound intuition into these pages.
The DM, to the one who believes in Shakti, the Feminine Energy
of the Hindu tradition, often represented as a Supreme Goddess,
or as a collective entity of Goddesses, is not -just- a text.
It is perhaps the most Sacred Text,
a Living Entity provided of its own power and will, written in Sanskrit.
Sanskrit is per se
a sacred language, in which each letter is a primordial Sound that
can be connected to a State or Aspect of the Supreme Consciousness.
In the Vedas it is said that the Spoken Word becomes reality,
so the Spoken Word uttered in Sanskrit is not just word, it is
-creative- Word, `Word that makes'.
Combination of Sanskrit letters in special ways, following arcane rules
devised by the Gods, can create a Mantra, which does not just invoke a Deity or a higher State
of Consciousness, but _is_ indeed the very Deity or the high State one
is attempting to invoke. Mantras cannot be translated. Or understood. They can only be recited in a certain mental mode, and with the best of
intuition and human intelligence one can only hope to glimpse a minuscule
fraction of what a Mantra really is.
From the Author, we can read in the Introduction that the DM
is `a practical science teaching how to approach and
win the favor of the unique manifestation of the Mother, Durgaa,
whose name signifies She who is not easily approachable.'
Again from the Introduction we read that the `DM
is highly occult, a secrete science bestowing all Siddhis.'
`Each s'loka (verse) of the text is a potent Mantra', so the
Sadhana (spiritual practice) associated with the recital
(paaraayana) of the text is the crucial element.
Again the Author warns us that even the Gods understand only a
part of the DM, and only She, the Supreme Feminine Consciousness,
knows the true and entire meaning of it. So the DM cannot be just translated,
neither can be understood intellectually.
An academic investigation of this text can be useful and extremely interesting,
but it is not the key of spiritual progress. A mere attempt to
`understand' an English translation, without the Sanskrit Text,
could be meaningless if deprived of the Sound of the Sacred Word.
Modern English is not a sacred language, there is no correspondence between
letters and deities, not even between letters and sounds,
so a mere English translation of the DM may
be well done and poetic, but would be somewhat futile if taken alone,
without the spiritual practice.
The core of the DM is not just in its story.
The story may even be a pure symbolic sequence of enigmatic events
hiding the fundamental secret Truth which can arise only by performing the Sadhana for this text as a recitation in an `audible form', as the Author recommends.
All this to say that in this Edition of the DM a true initiate, born and dead
in India from a family of true initiates, an Author who did not seek international
recognition as a guru and did something totally unrelated to earn his living,
had conveyed his sacred knowledge and his teachings.
The Introduction states the purpose of the DM, and explains to the seeker the state of mind needed to approach the Goddess. In the following sections, the Author
teaches a mode of recital, and provides then the Sanskrit
and his own translation of the preliminary texts commonly associated with the
These texts, particularly the Devi Kavacham (The armor of the Goddess),
are highly protective mantras meant to defend and help the seeker.
Then the 3 episodes of the actual core of the DM,
are presented and translated with the Author's unique occult knowledge.
Finally the appendixes containing, among others, the texts known as
Devi Sukta, and The Three Secrets, are provided.
Without being disrespectful to several other Authors who have published
English editions of the DM, I would like to suggest that, in my opinion,
this particular Edition has something extraordinary to offer. It is written with the
intent of opening a gate towards one
of the most profoundly esoteric aspects of the Hindu religion.
I strongly recommend this Edition of the DM to interested individuals
that can read Devanagari, and I suggest attempting the recitation of the text following with utmost care the Author's instructions.
This is no simple task, and I want to make clear that I do not
claim to be an Initiate or an advanced practitioner,
but I feel strongly that with time and constance spiritual practice is likely
to be successful under Sankaranarayanan's guide, and I am also confident that someone more skillful than myself may found the Author's instructions very useful from the very start, and make a huge leap forward in his or her spiritual progress.
Again, I don't want to even vaguely appear dismissive of other
scholars and devotees who have spent many years of their lives to publish
wonderful English editions of the DM. I do believe that these editions can
be all valuable complements to the work of Sankaranarayanan. Indeed,
one should always perhaps look at different editions of a Sacred Text, like
different facets of a jem. Among these, I recommend at least
three other versions of the DM with Sanskrit text
and English translations: the `classic', pocket-size, affordable edition published by Ramakrishna's Math in 1953; the excellent work by D. Nelson (aka Devadatta Kali), perhaps the most comprehensive in the English language, and the devotional edition published by the Devi Mandir, particularly suitable to Sanskrit learners, because of the large and clearly readable Devanagari fonts adopted, together with a convenient interlinear layout of Devanagari, Romanized text and translation.