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6.20.2011

The Mysterious Yakshini: Suratha

The construct of Hindu philosophy and the roadmap to Nirvana in the Hindu way brings to us a pantheon of Gods that look supremely large in number but actually boil down to just a handful. The misunderstanding of large numbers come from the many names we encounter in the scriptures, sometimes not realizing they belong to the same God or Goddess. There is a hierarchy and every deity has his/her place in this vast heaven of super beings.

While the supreme beings are the chosen few, like Lord Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, Ganesha, Surya and Devi there are many  attendants and celestials whose purpose of existence revolves around the worship of these great beings. Every one has a name, a designation that is defined by the attributes they possess and the power to deliver something that we mortals perennially thirst for. And then we have the scriptures that are a great store house of information painting this brilliant picture giving the visual appearance of these great beings whom we may never meet; but the mantras are stitched such, that we tend to forget we ever wanted to meet them and instead get lured towards all the gifts of prosperity that they can supposedly grant us in return for our feeble prayers.

There is a pattern in all this, every known deity has a form, every deity has mantras and sacred verses describing them and also gives an idea of what they are capable of doing. This is a given, if we dig deep enough, the more we get to know and understand the exploits of these great beings. But there are a few, who seem to be lost in this oblivion of great souls and though we have the mantras that call on their presence, we may not have tangible iconography to support the visual appearance... or let me say, I have not found it yet :)

Here is one such celestial, whose description is given in a single verse with details of her location and her 
attributes and yet, there is no picture to paint of her to explain what she really looks like. 

Himavat uttare paarshre suratha namah yakshini
Tasya smarana maatraina vishlya garbhini bhavet
[Please excuse any textual errors in the above mantra]

This translates to the backdrop of the Northern Himalayas, where there lives a Yakshini by the name of Suratha. If an expectant mother intensely contemplates on the form of this Yakshini, she will protect her during labor blessing her with minimal pain and suffering.

Does this mean only women should think about Yakshini Suratha at the time when they are pregnant and not any other time during their lives? Suratha increases my curiosity more from the perspective that written records of her are very few and there is hardly any easy access to visual references of this Goddess. While reciting the mantra is the only art we have learned and the potential immediate need of the hour for only selected people is to recite her name, why doesn’t Yakshini hold a place in the mind of the average human being? Doesn’t this question our outlook towards our own faith making each of these deities a wish fulfilling tree who is conveniently forgotten once the "sadhana" has been achieved.

This brings me to the mechanical mind set we all are very comfortable with and the lack of persistence we show towards not questioning its real intent. When someone is given a mantra, the immediate act is to start reciting it whether we understand the meaning or not. In the stray occasion that we do understand the blatant meaning, we barely get to the subtle meaning of the verse, that which is governed by a bit of experience, lets say the art of the sublime experience of love. The mantra though capable, hardly leads us into that sublime haven of truth which we want to see but don’t have the patience to approach the right way. This hits our overall confidence on our belief and faith and we left with no answer to proceed. We want results without taking trouble, but these things need time for anything to surface.

A true lover of the scriptures, of this science, of this way of life called Hinduism, settles for nothing less than 
the real truth, and how is that truth defined? In this extensive learning curve, if one is blessed with patience, 
the first is to understand how this system of faith works, not just by the rules taught blindly at home but by 
individual understanding. Persistence to know more, to understand the ancients who created the scriptures as the sacred books that we need to follow for good living. And these sacred books are well beyond the realm of the Gita or the Ramayana. Next is to realize the various arts of expression, be it architecture, sculpture, painting, poetry, scriptures or even song, which gives an insight to what they might have possibly experienced in the search for the supreme for the great souls expressed their love for the sublime in these forms. And lastly, is one's own lonely path to salvation to experience this sublime love for themselves and break away from the attachments of maya that govern every aspect of our lifestyle, be it materialism or be it love for our dear ones, some day the truth to depart will dawn on us, and maybe that day we are too far off from recovering from this illusion.