There is only Brahman, with Devi (Maha Maya) or Paramesari latent in it
"The Devi Bhagavatam teaches us that the Brahman is the undecaying principle of fullness—the ultimate substratum of everything. It is totally without desire or qualities. Therefore it is not able to create or accomplish any action without the help of its inherent force or Shakti—Maha Maya, the feminine principle, the great goddess—Parameswari. All the gods—Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha, Indra, and so on—can do their respective work only if they are united with Shakti. So Maha Maya can be considered the sole cause of this entire universe of movable and unmovable objects. She is the cause of all causes and manifests as Maha Lakshmi, Maha Saraswati, and Maha Kaali. We should worship her with all adorations. Even the gods worship her in order to do their allotted tasks."
The book begins with a request by the sages to the narrator, known as Suta, to describe the qualities and glories of Devi. Suta responds,
I bow at the lotus feet of Devi—Bhagavati, who is worshipped by Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva and who is the sole source of liberation to all. This is the best of all Puranas and contains all the sentiments that a human being can conceive. It is known as the Srimad Devi Bhagavatam. May that highest primal Shakti, who is known as Vidya in the Vedas, who is omniscient, who controls all, and who is skilled in cutting the knot of the world, give me intelligence to describe her glories. I meditate on that Divine Mother who creates this universe, whose nature is both real and unreal, who creates, preserves, and destroys everything in her rajasic, sattvic, and tamasic aspects, and who in the end dissolves everything back into herself and remains alone during the period of universal dissolution.
The Devi Bhagavatam goes on to describe the basic formation of the universe and the forms—human or otherwise—that comprise. It introduces the idea that Brahman, the supreme absolute from which everything emanates, has a dual aspect of male and female, personified as Shakti and Shiva or Prakriti and Purusha. The Devi herself is both Shakti and Prakriti. She is known by various names as Parashakti and Parameswari—the Absolute force as well as the Absolute God. However, as mentioned in the introduction, neither male nor female can exist in isolation. The whole of creation is at first only an idea in the mind of the supreme Brahman. The idea is given a concrete reality and expression in the world by Shakti or Prakrti, the feminine force that underlies and impels creation. But to make a difference between the "force" and the "receptacle of force" is an error. Prakriti or Parameswari is an inherent tendency of Purusha to express himself in concrete forms and individual beings. However, she has to be set in motion by the will of Purusha and acts according to his force and design. It is only through Shakti or Prakriti that the male aspect is able to express himself in creation. Though the male and female aspect are one in essence, differences are conceived during creation; when everything melts back to its original casual state of pralaya, then there is no distinction between Purusha and Prakriti, Shiva and Shakti, and Brahman. There is neither male nor female. There is only Brahman, and Devi (Maha Maya) or Parameshwari latent in it.
Brahman is the ocean of pure consciousness. It can never be known and it is always one, never two. But when it wants to become conscious of itself, a desire bubbles to the surface of this ocean and this bubble is Prakriti or Maha Devi or Parashakti or Parameswari, which develops itself into this variegated universe in the method described above. Even though Maha Shakti appears outwardly in numerous forms, this creative force is always emanating from the Brahman so it has all the qualifications of the Brahman. When it manifests itself in the human being it is called the atman, which is nothing other than the Brahman. However, when it puts on the clothing and personality of a human being, it is called the jivatman, which is the atman that thinks itself to be a bound and unhappy creature always on the seesaw of sorrow and joy, pleasure and pain, swimming—and sometimes drowning—in the sea of duality. In actuality, its abode is the ocean of pure consciousness, which is also an ocean of bliss.
Many beautiful allegories are given in the Puranas to give us an idea of this interdependence of Purusha and Prakriti. He is the supreme subject and she is the essence of all objects; he is the ocean and she the waves He is the sun and she the light; he is the sky and she the earth. She is all qualities and he the enjoyer of all qualities; she is all activity and he the sole witness of all activity. She is the form of everything in the cosmos and he the thinker of the forms. She is speech and he the meaning. In other words, she is creation and he the creator.
Prakriti and Purusha have no beginning and no end. They exist in everything. Purusha is the universal consciousness that exists in everything; he is the highest self. Prakriti is the energy that is felt in all beings. Both are nirguna or without qualities. No human being can know the essence of their union even by study of the scriptures or the Vedas, for the jivas are all saguna or endowed with the qualities of the three gunas—sattva, rajas, and tamas. How then can we ever know that which is nirguna or beyond all gunas?
The gunas are the agents of Prakriti by which the immortal and imperishable atman, though it is nothing but pure consciousness, imagines itself to be the mortal and perishable body. Maha Maya weaves a net of these three strands (guna means "thread") to catch the atman and trap it in this delusion. Once caught in the net of maya, the immortal self delights in its mortality and frailty. This is the wonder of the work of maya. The mind has a predilection to enjoy the limitations of its body. It is happy to shrink into the cocoon of its small, prejudiced individuality and refuses to believe in its universality. Moksa or enlightenment is liberation from the shackles of this puny individuality—from the limitations of particularized existence. The only way out of this web of delusion, as Krishna tells Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, is to go beyond the three gunas.
Sattva is the source of pleasure and happiness. It induces a person to all types of good thoughts and activities. Rajas is the source of hyperactivity, leading to pain and unhappiness. Tamas leads to laziness, sloth, and sleep. The path to liberation lies in encouraging sattvic qualities, controlling rajasic qualities, and destroying tamasic qualities. However, it is not enough to strive to become purely sattvic. After all, none of these qualities can exist by itself. Though at different times and in different people one or the other might become prominent, they are always intermingled and dependent on one another. And so long as we are in their power we will always live in dread of a fall. Only a gunatita or one who has gone beyond the gunas can have no fear at all. Such a person comes to realize his own divine nature as pure consciousness and is thus freed from the bondage of maya. Such realization, however, can come only with the grace of Maha Maya herself, since she is the one who has caught us in this net of delusion. Therefore those who desire moksa have to pray to her to remove the veil of illusion from their eyes.
The Devi Bhagavatam teaches us that the Brahman is the undecaying principle of fullness—the ultimate substratum of everything. It is totally without desire or qualities. Therefore it is not able to create or accomplish any action without the help of its inherent force or Shakti—Maha Maya, the feminine principle, the great goddess—Parameswari. All the gods—Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha, Indra, and so on—can do their respective work only if they are united with Shakti. So Maha Maya can be considered the sole cause of this entire universe of movable and unmovable objects. She is the cause of all causes and manifests as Maha Lakshmi, Maha Saraswati, and Maha Kaali. We should worship her with all adorations. Even the gods worship her in order to do their allotted tasks.
Vanamali, Shakti: Realm of the Divine Mother
Inner Tradition (Aug 26 2008) pp. 28-31
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