FOI Online Liturgy
Sphinx, Goddess Myths and Mysteries
By: Olivia Robertson
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1. MARS. THE PYRE OF SITA.
ORACLE OF THE GODDESS PRITHIVI
Invocation: I invoke the Goddess of the Earth, Prithivi! Daughter of Devi, The Original Being from whom all Goddesses emerge, help us to understand divine mysteries, so that we may have our earthly way enlightened.
Oracle: It is the path of the human to seek understanding, while my other children, the animals and birds and trees are content to represent my Divinity. As you lift veil upon veil of My enshrouded mystery, your wonder and joy will increase. Behind the simplest children's story you will uncover a cosmic verity. Your dreams give you riddles for you to unravel at dawn and a passing remark may change your life. There are two ways to see the truth. One is the way of silence, to accept only proven facts. And this indeed will disclose much of my outer material veil. But to comprehend the secrets of the human soul, the way of imagination is the surest. Cynics declare that religious myths are lies, mistaken beliefs of ignorant people. Some skeptics regard world myth as the cunning manipulation of the priests, bent on controlling their followers. To them, poetic epics and dramas are fantasies, with no basis in reality. But there is no lie in creative dreaming, but rather a symbolic reflection of cosmic verity, that wells up from universal mind. The hidden divinity that is concealed in all beings makes itself known through symbols, ideas, and vision. It bypasses logic and the known, seduces the soul deeper into the forest of being by beauty, mystery and desire. So the soul is drawn into penetrating My veils by the swift movement of a lovely stag dodging through the trees - half seen, half not seen, like moon beams.
So enjoy drama, paintings, music, stories. But do not pretend to like great art, when truly you prefer common stories of loves and hates and adventure! These also have their hidden reality, and will show you your own character through hating and loving the people in a play.
I am the Goddess Prithivi of the Earth. My veils are of My Sister Maya, many-layered illusions. But every illusion is a symbol of ultimate reality, when you learn to decipher its code. Always ask Me when you want understanding. But it is well to learn to penetrate My veils on your own. That is why you are here on earth.
Priestesses wear tiaras. Priests, mitres and all wear many coloured robes. On the altar are 10 lighted candles, incense, and a gong. Music may be played when appropriate.
Priest Hierophant: Companions. We are assembled to enact the Mystery Drama, "The Pyre of Sita", that we may discover its concealed meaning.
Priestess Hierophant: There are three origins only. "The original Being thought: Let me enter three beings: fire, water and earth, and combine these with my living self, Jiva Atma. So shall I reveal my manifold names and forms." This Devi revealed Herself as three Goddesses. (Makes Trident sign.) I invoke Maha Devi!
1st Priestess: I offer incense to Parvati of the Lotus of Peace, Tamas.
2nd Priestess: I offer incense to Uma of Golden Harmony, Satva.
3rd Priestess: I offer incense to Kali of the four arms of Power, Rajas.
Priest Hierophant: (makes Trident sign.) I invoke Siva, the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer.
Priestess Hierophant: Let the play be presented.
MYSTERY DRAMA: THE PYRE OF SITA.
Enter Valmiki: It was I, Valmiki, sage and poet, who told the mighty epic of Rama the King. Yet I became so disgusted by the injustice to a woman at its climax, that I offered an alternative ending. Now we present a new version for this dawning aeon. We begin with the appearance of the three Goddesses!
Enter Parvati, Uma and Kali in crowns and saris: Parvati in white, Uma in gold and Kali in black. Their faces are veiled.
Parvati: My dearest sisters, why must We put humans through such horrible ordeals from which they seldom emerge successfully?
Kali: I am not a popular Deity, but no soul achieves salvation without Me. I winnow souls through the ordeal of my four elements. Those who cannot face temptation are of little worth.
Parvati: Surely there must be some compassion for human weakness? When I incarnated as Queen Simitra, my dear son Lakshman was loyal to his brother Rama through terrible trials. Yet how was he rewarded? Rama executed him through blunder. What good did this do for Lakshman?
Kali: (laughing) Why, he learnt to stand on his own feet and be no man's shadow! Now, when I incarnated as your sister Queen Kaikeyi, My son Bharat was a villain indeed! He accepted Rama's throne, unjustly given by his father. But he made extreme penance later. My children do nothing by halves. Ravana was of the same sort - except that he did not repent. Not then. I saw to that later.
Uma: Oh, it is so annoying! My favourite son Rama, Soul of virtue, was loyal to his vow - lived a righteous life - yet ended up a jealous prig - and worse still - imprisoned in statues of himself as a god.
Kali: The awful effect of perfect balance. It leads to immobility. Rama was so just he never could make up his mind - even about his wife's virtue - or otherwise.
Uma: My daughter was strange, gazing at the moon as if it were a mirror. Remember - she became infatuated with a demoness disguised as a stag with sapphire antlers. How about reliving the whole story, and finding what it was all about?
Kali: Let it be so. Valmiki, begin by describing Me as I incarnated in Queen Kaikeyi!
Valmiki: (nervously) With utmost respect - not recognising the Queen as a Divine Incarnation, I described her as cruel, ambitious, and ruthless. She seduced her weak husband, King Dasaratha - with her female cunning - to banish his rightful heir, and declare his successor to be Kaikeyi's own son, Bharat. Kaikeyi even prevailed upon Rama to make a sacred vow to accept banishment to the jungle. There he was loyally followed to my hermitage by his wife Sita and his brother Lakshman.
Kali: Why three Queens - hence three rival sons? It was bound to lead to intrigue.
Valmiki: It is nature's law. Who has seen a herd of bulls and a single cow?
Kali: I've not heard of a hive with thousands of queens and only one drone. Rama was not fit to be king.
Valmiki: Nor was your son, with his later intemperate penances.
Parvati: Good comes from total submission. Bharat did repent. Rama, Sita and Lakshman gained merit from living as hermits. Why, they wore only bark coats in the jungle, though Sita wore her earrings and bracelets - because they were Rama's gifts.
Uma: Let us watch your Presentation!
The Goddesses sit enthroned watching play. Valmiki stands to one side as narrator.
Valmiki: Even in the jungle Rama was forced to make a choice. A Brahmin and his guru pursued him - with different motives.
Enter Rama in Bark Coat with Jabali the Brahmin and his guru Agastya.
Jabali: Rama, hearken to the counsel of a twice born Brahmin. It is your princely duty to make war on Bharat! You are no longer bound by your vow, for your father has died. Relieve your brother from his load of guilt! The people are willing to fight for your cause. When the cause is just, a God is the charioteer.
Rama: For the common good I may break my vow.
Agastya: Do my ears hear all right? Rama, I am your guru. Nobler far is the path of the renunciant to a royal reign! A bed of acorns is softer to him than a kingly couch. A diet of nuts and herbs is preferred by him to a rich feast.
Parvati: Our good old Poet, Valmiki. Your statues as a God would be in every temple in India.
Rama: (thoughtfully) I am of the solar race. I did always feel a chosen one. Perhaps that is why I made my vow to accept banishment - and not weakness, as the people think. I shall stay here, for the time being anyway.
Valmiki: A still further trial awaited the noble Rama; this time, carnal temptation! A female Demon, a Raksha Maiden, is making her way through the jungle.
Rama: I shall seek guidance in a dream.
He lies down to sleep. Enter Surpanakha wearing demoness mask.
Surpanakha: I am the maiden Surpanakha, drawn into this jungle by strange restlessness. (Sees Rama.) O what creature is this that fills my soul with eager longing! He is only a mortal . . . But how lion-chested he is, so mighty armed, stately as the jungle elephant, his raven crown of tresses gracefully tied!
She leans down and kisses Rama. He shrinks with horror.
Surpanakha: I am filled with passion! I demand your love! Who are you that shall be my lover - not tomorrow but now!
Rama: (with disgust) You hideous monster, you lustful creature, how dare you approach me, Prince Rama! Know that my wife is the Princess Sita, matchless for beauty and virtue.
"As shadow to the substance, to her Lord is faithful wife.
So does Sita, best of Women, follow Me in life and death!"
Surpanakha: (laughing savagely) We'll see about that! You insult my flame. "But beware a Raksha's fury, and an injured maiden's wrath." As a demon of destruction I shall be avenged. My brother Ravana, king of the Raksha's, shall defend my honour.
Rama laughs at her. Exeunt in different directions.
We follow Surpanakha to the palace of the Demon King Ravana and his wife, Queen Maricha. Enter Surpanakha, Ravana and Maricha, all wearing demon masks, black and crimson robes.
Ravana: (enraged) So my beloved sister, you tell me that a mere mortal, a creature made of bones and decaying flesh, subject to disease and death, dares to call you - a Raksha – foul - ugly - immoral - loathsome? I shall kill him.
Maricha: Dear husband, that would be too easy for Rama, and not cleanse our sister's honour. Let us humiliate him as he has humiliated us! We strike at his weak point: His righteousness, which requires confirmation from his people. His wife has to partake of this royal reputation by her chastity and loyalty to him. These virtues must be acknowledged by his future subjects - or they are of no value to him. I shall tempt Sita!
Ravana: Impossible! She is as cold as the moon. Her pride is in the immaculate beauty of her soul.
Maricha: That is her weakness - her demand for supernatural beauty. I shall transform myself into a golden stag with sapphire antlers: so shall I lure Sita into the jungle, there you can take her.
Valmiki: And Maricha disguised herself as a stag and repaired to Sita's hermitage.
Sita: “I mark this stag of wondrous beauty, browsing in this forest brake,
I would tend this thing of beauty as sharer of my forest life
These eyes have never rested on a form so rare and bright,
Lighting up the forest jungle as the moon illumes the sky.
And his gentle voice and glances and his graceful steps so light
Fill my heart with eager longing which befits a woman ill;
And an unknown fascination doth my inmost bosom fill.”
Exit Sita as sleepwalker, arms outstretched.
Valmiki: When Lakshman saw that Sita was entranced, following an uncanny stag, he warned her, but she ignored him. So he informed Rama, who forthwith shot the stag with arrows. The stag vanished. Ravana then decided to try his own hand at deceiving Sita, and disguised himself as a holy Brahmin. He made his way to the hermitage.
Sita: Holy Brahmin, you honour me by visiting my hermitage.
Ravana: “Beaming in thy golden beauty, robed in sylvan russet dress,
Wearing wreaths of fragrant lotus, like a nymph of the wilderness,
On thy lips of ruddy coral, teeth of tender jasmine shine,
In thine eyes of limpid lustre dwells a love divine.
And thy wealth of waving tresses mantles o’er thy budding charms,
And thy waist of slender beauty courts a lover’s circling arms!”
Sita: Speak so if it pleases you, Father. What great Rishis claim thy birth?
Ravana: (removes hood)
“Leader of the wrathful Rakshas, Lanka's Lord and King am I.
He who dwells the wide world, Gods above and men below.
But thy beauty, golden Sita, triumphs o'er my royal heart.
Be a sharer of my empire; of my glory take a part. “
Sita: “Stainless as the moon in glory, stainless in his saintly life
Rich in valour and in virtue - Rama is my wedded Lord!”
Valmiki: Sita, in proud and scornful accents repudiated Ravana's passion. But to no avail. He seized her by her streaming hair and carried her to his celestial chariot despite angry threats and sweet entreaty. Rama was at a loss as to what course he should follow. But his friend, Hanuman, the Monkey King, came to his aid.
Enter Rama and Hanuman.
Rama: The honour of our royal house is stained. Surely this demon has raped my wife! She is lost forever.
Hanuman: Not lost! Take heart. My monkeys have found Sita in Ravana's palace. We must at once make war on him and rescue her. Let us muster a mighty army!
Valmiki: So, Rama, Lakshman and Hanuman attacked Ravana's stronghold with a great army. There was a terrible, fiercely fought battle. Ravana in the end was defeated. Sita was rescued. And Rama returned to Ayodhya in a Victor's Triumph. Bharat gladly restored him to the throne. But though she was now queen, Sita's heart was desolate.
Enter Lakshman and Sita, robed as queen.
Lakshman: "Rumour clouds a woman's name. Righteous Rama's brow is clouded. Saintly Sita feels the shame . . . Would that I could help you."
Sita: There is only one way to resolve my honour.
"When a righteous Lord and husband turns his cold averted eyes,
Funeral flames dispel suspicion. Honour lives when woman dies."
Though no widow, I shall be as Sati, and sacrifice myself on my own funeral pyre! So shall I be burned alive, but my truth will prevail. See to it!
Valmiki: “Dark was Rama's gloomy visage and his lips were firmly sealed,
As Lakshman with a throbbing bosom funeral pyre for Sita made.”
3 gong strikes. Valmiki addresses the Goddesses.
Valmiki: In both my endings, Sita is lifted from the flames by the God Agni of Fire, alive and vindicated. In my first version, Rama and Sita live happily ever after. But I was then inspired by you Goddesses to produce a final and better climax!
2 gong strikes. Enter Lakshman.
Valmiki: After Agni drew her from the flames, Sita left her husband, and returned to my hermitage. There she gave birth to two sons, Lava and Kusa. I visit them in their secret retreat through the years.
Rama: Sita, Lakshman told me the secret of your two sons. He did so for the sake of the kingdom. I need an heir. Return with me to Ayodhya with Lava and Kusa. I have only one condition. I now believe in your innocence. But for the acceptance of our sons, undergo once more the Fire Ordeal of Sati!
Sita: I accept the challenge.
Valmiki: So the family returned to Ayodhya, and there, once more, before the palace, the enthroned Rama and his people assembled. They awaited Sita to enter her funeral pyre. Lakshman lighted it with a burning brand. And Sita, head held high, mounted the pyre and entered the flames.
Lakshman: O wonder! There was a mighty roaring and the earth split open. The people cowered in terror. And Sita appeared above the fire of glory! And she addressed the people.
Enter Sita (crowned and robed as Goddess):I am Prithivi, Daughter of Devi, the Earth Goddess! I dwelt amongst you as a woman, because I am in all women. My earth is poisoned by human hatred: it is blasted by unholy fire. When Rama finds his own God self, not in a statue, then we shall be united on earth as we are in heaven.
Sita joins 3 Goddesses.
Gong stroke. End of Play.
Priestess Hierophant: Companions, let us meditate upon Deity hidden in others, however variously expressed. So shall we recognise as in a mirror the divinity within ourselves.
Meditation. Reports are shared. The light of truth is sent forth. Thanks are given to the Deities.
End of Rite.
Sources:“The Ramayana”, Hindu Scriptures, both by Everyman. “Images of Devi in Pahari Paintings”, Chhote Bharany, Clarion., “The Goddesses of India, Tibet, China and Japan”, Durdin-Robertson, Cesara..
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