Devī Bhāgavatapurāṇa Book 1 Chapter 1 Reflection

“I meditate on the beginningless Brahmāvidyā who is Sarvachaitanyarūpā, of the nature of all-consciousness; May She stimulate our buddhi to the realisation of That.”

Verse 1.1.1

The Devī Bhāgavatapurāṇa begins by extolling the goddess as brahmāvidyā, the one who possesses knowledge of the creator, or according to the Monier-Williams, “knowledge of the ‘the one self-existent Being’” (MW 740). This can also mean that She is the study of all holy scriptures. By approaching Her, we approach knowledge of Brahmā, but also simply the act of studying scripture brings Her presence into our lives.

She is also sarvachaitanyarūpā, the form of all consciousness, She is consciousness itself and inhabits every aspect of creation. She is the Creatrix, both the creator and the creation itself. Her body is the universe, and Her mind is an omnipresent, omniscient consciousnesses that inhabits all aspects of the material manifestation. As Ramakrishna says,

“In the Vedas, creation is likened to the spider and its web. The spider brings the web out of itself and then remains in it. God is the container of the universe and also what is contained in it”

(Nikhilananda 1942, 195)

David Kinsley provides a succinct and important summary of the theology contained in the Devī Bhāgavatapurāṇa,

“In the Devi-bhagavata-purana, which also assumes the ultimate priority of the Mahadevi, she is said to be the mother of all, to pervade the three worlds, to be the support of all (1.5.47-50), to be the life force in all beings, to be the ruler of all beings (1.5.51-54), to be the only cause of the universe (1.7.27), to create Brahma, Visnu, and Siva and to command them to perform their cosmic tasks (3.5.4), to be the root of the tree of the universe (3.10.15), and to be she who is supreme knowledge (4.15.12). The text describes her by many other names and phrases as it exalts her to a position of cosmic supremacy”

(Kinsley 1997, p 133)

In this way, the goddess is an animistic force that gives properties of intelligence to all forms of matter and energy. Through direct experience (eg. dhyana) and through indirect experience (eg. śastra), She stimulates our intellect through timeless knowledge of Her own form.

The text boasts that Devī Bhāgavatapurāṇa is the best of all Purānas, and that it grants instantaneous liberation from the cycle of life and death. Though, like all Sanskritic boasts, I suspect we must be up for the challenge of the long haul to read, dissect, and reflect upon the text to understand its inner workings before we can be granted true theological insight. Nevertheless, chapter 1 sets the scene for the text to be expounded to the gathering of sages, perhaps you the reader are now one among them.

1. Kinsley, David. Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997.

2. Nikhilananda. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York, NY: Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center, 2017.

3. Vijnanananda. Srimad Devi Bhagavatam. New Dehi, India: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers , 2020.

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