By Madelyn (Maanasaa) Jablon
I always leave Swami Sunday wearing “Satsang Armor”: transformed, protected and blessed. This armor is described in a book I purchased from the Ashram shop: the Devi Mahatmyam: Glory of the Divine Mother.(1) This ancient text tells a dramatic tale of the Divine Mother battling asuras (demons). I knew I could interpret this text as an allegory. But I was surprised by how it reverberated on more subtle levels.
Like a flashlight, it showed me where to turn my attention to see the Guru-Disciple relationship in action. I discovered what was there all along but had escaped my notice. It first happened when I read about the eighty-six goddesses who armor and protect the disciple:
Aindri may protect me on the east and fire-god in the southeast. Varahi may protect me on the south, the Goddess holding sword may protect me on the southwest; Varuni (the power of god Varuna) may save me on the west and the Goddess seated on the lion may protect the northwest. Kauberi may safeguard on the north and the Goddess with the pike in hand on the northeast. — Devi Kavacham 19–20
The chant describes the armor as taking the form of many Goddesses. However, the many are also the One, embodied in the Guru. Gurudevi is a manifestation of the Divine Mother, and satsang is the transmission of Her Grace. After satsang, I am armored on all sides, encased in divine protection. On my drive home, I may encounter bad weather, inconsiderate drivers and closed roads. But nothing penetrates the armor of my serenity.
Swami Sunday also armors me for the week ahead. Paradoxically the armor is a divine disarmoring. Gurudevi’s chant, discourse and meditation have disarmed my “self” of its ego-driven behaviors. The peacock feathers she waves at darshan knight me with the armor of my own Self. From within, this armor protects me from the enemies who would steal my equanimity. As the week progresses, my armor weakens. I use the practices to slow its deterioration. But only satsang with Gurudevi can restore its full strength and luster.
My Satsang Armor shields me in all directions on the outside and transforms me inside. The mystical process penetrates the many layers of my being. The Devi Mahatmyam describes this as the Goddesses “protecting” and “safe-guarding” every part of the devotee:
Dyotini (that force which illumines and uplifts) may protect the tip of my head while Uma may manage the upper head. Maladhari may safe-guard the forehead and Yashavini may protect the brows, Citranetra both eyes; Yamaghanta both sides and the three-eyed Candika protects between the eyebrows. — Devi Kavacham 23–24
The protection of the Goddesses is the protection of Gurudevi. Part of that protection is the disciple’s transformation. Dyotini doesn’t just protect the head from impact: she illumes and uplifts. Similarly, the Guru’s protection extends outside and inside, also illumining and uplifting. It can be invoked through a photograph on the puja, through meditation or prayer, or thinking of the Guru, a Divine Being. Doing so transforms my state. This is one of the extraordinary “quick fixes” described by Gurudevi in her 2019 Teachings series. Giving my troubles to God, Guru and Self is also powerfully transformative. The Guru instructs us in these practices to propel our inner transformation.
The short-term results of attending Satsang or wearing Satsang Armor are prosperity, health and well-being. The long-term results are described this way:
At his [the devotee’s] demise, he will attain the highest state permanently by the grace of the supreme Goddess… Then the person goes to the Sivaloka. He is not born again. He will acquire the supreme place and will rejoice with Lord Shiva. — Devi Kavacham 60–61
Satsang armor is potent. It fights against bad karma and marches toward infinity. Attend Swami Sunday. Get armored!
(1) All references and quotations taken from Svami Jagadisvarananda (tr.). Devi Mahatmyam, (Mylapore Chennai-4, Sri Ramakrishna Math Publishers, 2001)