Verses from the Shri Narayani Stuti
The very first book I read about holy stuff was Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda. More than anything, I was affected by his devotion to Kali Ma. Years later when I was in India, I learned some mantras to sing to Her. Somewhere along the way I found out that all those mantras were in one long Hymn to the Mother called the Devi Mahatmyam (The Glory of the Goddess) or the Durga Saptasati (Seven Hundred Mantras to Durga). I got hold of a copy and began to transcribe and learn the parts I liked best.
In September, 1972, construction of a Durga temple was completed at Kainchi just in time for the 10-day Durga Puja festival. One day Maharaj-ji called me over and told me that he was making me the pujari (priest) of the Durga temple. I was given the keys to the temple and told to perform the daily puja to the Mother and hand out prasad to the devotees who came for Her darshan. I stayed by the temple and meditated a lot on the Mother. After the festival, a Brahmin priest took over as pujari.
Many years later I heard the whole story. When the temple had been completed, a Brahmin priest had been hired to do the puja, but he was soon caught stealing the money that people offered to the Goddess and was sent away. The next priest was also fired for stealing. A third professional priest was hired and sure enough he also was caught stealing and sent away. During this whole drama, Maharaj-ji had not said a word. He just watched and waited as the people who were in charge tried to get it together. When it all fell apart for the third time and they finally asked him what to do, Maharaj-ji said, “You people had your chance. You hired your pujaris and they were all thieves. You’ll never find a pujari who won’t steal. So now I’m appointing my pujari!” And then he called me over! Those devotees were really upset but they didn’t dare say anything to him. Every day they had to come to the temple and take prasad from my hands – a know-nothing Westerner! This was a classic example of how Maharaj-ji taught everyone in one fell swoop.
These mantras invoke Her essense and help to open and heal our shattered hearts.
For a complete translation of this prayer see Hymns to the Goddess, by Arthur Avalon, (publisher: city) page 106.