Devi Kills the Beast – Just a Bloody Tale or a Seminal Truth?

Sadhguru speaks on what makes us human, a symbolism of our own evolution, and how we can prepare for Navratri, the nine nights in celebration of Devi.

Questioner: Namaskaram, Sadhguru. Could you please explain what Mahishasura in front of Linga Bhairavi symbolizes?

Sadhguru: The imagery of Mahishasura[1] indicates the bestial nature in man. Because of the evolutionary process, elements of the qualities of an amoeba, an earthworm, a grasshopper, a buffalo, and every kind of beast that developed in the course of evolution, are still in you. These are all compulsive tendencies. Even modern neurology recognizes that one part of your brain is reptilian. In the evolutionary process, the reptilian brain represents the stage of development that is dominated by instinct.

After human beings started walking upright and the human spine became erect, over the reptilian brain, the flower of the cerebral cortex evolved. This is what makes you human. This is what enables you to think about the universality of existence and that everything is one. This is what allows you to be a scientist or a spiritual seeker. But if you go back to the reptilian brain, all you have are instincts of survival.

If you function out of your reptilian brain, fixing boundaries will be all you know.

The human efforts of education, spiritual process, and meditation are to move away from the reptilian brain to the cerebral cortex, which is a more recent evolution and gives you a more inclusive approach to life. If you function out of your reptilian brain, fixing boundaries will be all you know. Whenever you have problems with people around you, it is fundamentally about the boundaries between you and them, or between what is yours and theirs. If you function only from one aspect of your brain, you can get by, but you will not utilize your full potential.

The yogic system has methods to, in a way, open up the reptilian brain so that it starts communicating with the cerebral cortex and both function as one brain. There are studies which show that this can be achieved with certain meditation practices. The flower should open up. That is why, in the yogic culture, there is the imagery of lotus flowers to symbolize the chakras in the human system, with the biggest flower representing the Sahasrara at the top of the head.

Either you open up your reptilian brain, or Devi will put you down.

If the cerebral flower opens up, human intelligence starts functioning in a unifying, inclusive way. Inclusiveness is not a philosophy. Inclusiveness is the nature of existence. No other creature is able to realize this. They are all busy fixing boundaries. A dog is peeing all over the place not because of urinary problems but to establish his kingdom. Human beings are doing the same thing in different ways. They, too, are fixing their boundaries and, if possible, pushing them a little bit.

The symbolism of Mahishasura at Linga Bhairavi is that the beast has been killed and put down. This means you become a big flower. We are approaching a special time for Devi now – Navaratri, which literally means “nine nights.” These nine nights are counted from the day after new moon day or Amavasya. The first nine days of the lunar cycle are considered feminine. The ninth day is called Navami. The one and a half days around full moon are a neutral time. The remaining eighteen days are masculine in nature. The feminine phase of the month is about Devi. That is why, in the tradition, up to Navami, all worship is dedicated to Devi.

The first nine days of the lunar cycle are considered feminine.

Each of these twelve nine-day periods in a year is dedicated to a different Devi. The Navaratri that is coming up at the beginning of October is dedicated to Devi Sharada.[2] It is considered most important because Sharada is the goddess of learning. Among the various things that a human being can do, this tradition sees learning as the most important one. Other creatures can run faster than us; they are stronger than us; they can do many things that we cannot do – but they cannot learn like us.

This is the pride of being human: you can learn just about anything – if you are willing. For this Navaratri, prepare by learning something new. And either you open up your reptilian brain, or Devi will put you down. Another dimension of the symbolism is that the masculine, by its own nature, lives instinctively. That means the reptilian brain is like a tight fist. When the feminine comes in, it can open up. When it opens up, the masculine or the beastly nature falls at her feet. The symbolism of Devi and Mahishasura is just that – because she rose to full power, the bestiality is brought down.

[1] Mythological character who, according to the tradition, was half man, half buffalo.

[2] Name for Saraswati.