Who is Kali anyway? (Mahavidya Series Pt. I)

The Story of the Four

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Her name is synonymous with death, and time.

She wears a necklace of severed heads, holds one in her hand, and with her long, extended tongue she thirsts for blood.

Headless corpses piled on the ground behind her, she, her mighty blade raised aloft, (often) stands atop Siva and Parvati engaged in copulation.

This, my friends, is Kali.

When I introduce my Introduction to World Religions class to Kali, I ask for their first impressions. The most common responses I receive are “evil” and “bad.”

A natural response if you come from a Western tradition and immediately associate death with evil. But when it comes to Kali, nothing is further from the truth.

So as part of my “Who are the Gods anyway?” series of posts, today I write about Kali.

Now in no way do I presume this to be an exhaustive account of this amazing goddess (for…

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Kali Ma, The Dark Creator and Destroyer by Nancy Vedder-Shults

nancymug_3In contrast to our dualistic thinking here in the West — thinking that separates light from dark, life from death, and chaos from order –there are a number of Eastern philosophies and religions that have retained a more holistic approach to reality. One religion that has done a good job of preserving the awesomeness of its deities by representing them through the full spectrum of life, death and rebirth is the Hindu culture in India. Remarkably, most of the major Hindu gods and goddesses represent divinity as forms of “coincidence of opposites.” In other words, the great deities like Shiva, Vishnu and Devi (the Goddess), simultaneously encompass life and death, good and evil, darkness and light, creation and destruction. For Westerners who live in a society which easily polarizes such distinctions, looking at the living mythology of one of these divine figures might offer us some ideas of how we…

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Kali and Yoga Of Knowledge.

Courtesy:         By David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri)

 American Institute Of Vedic Studies.

Kali is the primary Goddess of Yoga, the background Yoga Shakti, the power of Yoga or Kriya Shakti. She is the power that takes our energy within, which causes us to seek the eternal and lose interest in the ordinary outer affairs of life. She is the electrical stirring of the soul to Divinity. She is the voice of God reverberating within us and the will of God as it works through us, when we let our little self or ego fade into the background. Kali is the power of the great current of awareness. She is also the power that allows the mind to concentrate.

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Yogic Secrets of the Dark Goddess: Lightning Dance of the Supreme Shakti,

by Shambhavi Chopra (Wisdom Tree Books 2007)

As the great power of time, Kali’s Shakti creates the different Yugas or world ages that humanity passes through during the long cycles of cosmic evolution. Kali is the Goddess of eternity watching over all our temporal changes and facilitating those which promote our inner growth. More specifically, Kali is theYuga Shakti or the power of time that takes humanity from one world age to another. She works to sustain the spiritual energy of the planet through both the ages of light and darkness.

The Dark Goddess is not simply a Hindu Goddess but the universal form of the Mother, who is the real ruler of the world. The awakening to the Goddess that is occurring today at a global level is, yogically speaking, an awakening to the energy of Kali. The Mother Goddess as the dark, mysterious and transcendent Devi holds the key to the real power and presence of the universe in all her manifestations. Kali is once more entering into humanity and into the sphere of the Earth to work her magic and her awe.

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Kali and Yoga Of Knowledge.

Courtesy:         By David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri)   American Institute Of Vedic Studies.

Kali is the primary Goddess of Yoga, the background Yoga Shakti, the power of Yoga or Kriya Shakti. She is the power that takes our energy within, which causes us to seek the eternal and lose interest in the ordinary outer affairs of life. She is the electrical stirring of the soul to Divinity. She is the voice of God reverberating within us and the will of God as it works through us, when we let our little self or ego fade into the background. Kali is the power of the great current of awareness. She is also the power that allows the mind to concentrate.
Kali is the great Prana or cosmic life-force, she represents the most primal will of all life, which is to live forever and to never die. This core wish for immortality is not some mere delusion or arrogance within us, it is the very reflection of Sat or pure Being into creation, the portion of the Eternal that is our soul.
Kali represents the most primal desire, which is to love all and be one with all, to find the perfect, pure and eternal love, which is the presence of Shiva, the Eternal Being and Consciousness hidden in all life. Hidden even in ordinary desires is her ascending force to get us to seek something more beautiful and wondrous, to take us beyond our boundaries, to make us unhappy with what we already have, in order to reach a greater reality beyond.

Her desire or will-power generates in the human being the decisive moment of spiritual awakening, in which we realize that true happiness cannot be found in the outward world but only within. Then she redirects our life as a mystic journey to the inner source, the heart of creation, and the Eternal flame.
Kali’s Shakti works to direct and focus our energies within, back to the heart and the core of our being. Kali’s energy works to reverse the ordinary process of creation. Hers is the power that merges earth into water, water into fire, fire into air, air into ether, ether into mind, and mind into pure consciousness. She takes us back from the many to the One, reintegrating the world into our deepest Self and Being.
This means that Kali’s energy is like a simulated death experience. She helps us withdraw our full attention from the outer mind, emotions and senses into the inner heart. In this regard, Kali is the prime Goddess of Jnana or Self-knowledge. She takes us back to the Self in the heart, unifying all our experience within it. Kali is Nirvana Shakti, the power that takes us to dissolution or Nirvana. She is the magnetic pull of Nirvana within us.
In Yogic terms, Kali is the Nirodha Shakti, the power that gives the ability to dissolve the fluctuations of the mind stuff of chitta, that is the tradition definition of Yoga through Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. Her power checks, negates, masters and dissolves all functions of mind and prana into the infinite silent calm of the Purusha within the heart. Not surprisingly, Kali is the main Goddess worshipped by many great yogis.
One is reminded of the experience of Ramakrishna, who was a great devotee of Kali. After learning the Self-knowledge of Vedanta through his guru Tota Puri, Ramakrishna meditated on the Self within the heart in order to realize it. In doing so, the image of Kali arose, he found that he had to break through his attachment to her by removing her form with the sword of knowledge. Yet he came to realize that the sword of knowledge was also that of Kali. She projects a form to help us along the way, but destroys that form when it has fulfilled its purpose, taking us within to her formless being that is her real state.
The Power of Kali’s Mantra
Kali’s Bija Krim
Each deity has its mantras, starting with single-syllable seed or bija mantras and extending to longer mantras, prayers and supplications. Kali’s primary single syllable mantra is KRIM (pronounced Kreem). KRIM refers to Kriya or the power of action, but action of a yogic nature.
KRIM is composed of three primary letters. The letter-k is the first of all the consonants in the Sanskrit alphabet. It indicates manifest existence, power and force. The letter-r is the seed of fire and light. The letter-i is focused energy and will power.
KRIM as the sound of Kali sets in motion the primary force of life and manifestation. It is the electrical energy or lightning force that gives power to everything, like the electric current that can run any number of appliances.
Yet when we use this mantra in sadhana or yogic practices, it is the inner current that we are switching on. Once this inner current is available we can use it to empower any sadhana or open up any inner faculty, just like having the electricity on in our house can allow us to do so many things and without it we can do nothing.
The great Goddess Kali, specifically through her mantra KRIM, provides us the support of energy for all that we do in Yoga. More so, she increases our inner energy, both allowing and pushing us on to do more. Her mantra creates a relentless force of spiritual energy within us that does not merely help us but propels and guides us to the higher goal. At some point her current takes over from our minds and directs our sadhana by its flow. This opens up the higher level of working with her power and her presence. Kali’s Kriya Shakti allows the Yoga to work but also as an ascending lightning force can break through all obstacles and veils of karma, prana or mind.
The mantra KRIM also has a fierce side, like a jolt of lightning it can function like a sword to cut things open. It can stimulate, shock, electrify and propel. It can energize the weapons of the Gods to defeat the undivine or Asuric forces. Yet it can energize the ornaments of the Gods, their gems and gifts, which grant bliss to the devotee.
Kali’s Threefold Bija: KRIM HUM HRIM
Out of this single seed mantra is developed a longer threefold mantra or three seed-mantras as KRIM HUM HRIM. This has yet more energy and efficacy in awakening the Goddess within us. It begins with the mantra KRIM and builds upon its power.
The mantra HUM (hoom) is composed of two primary sounds. The letter-h is the seed syllable of the element of space or ether. It also represents the sun, Prana and the Purusha principle. The letter-u creates a force field that can both serve to hold in and to push out. HUM represents an explosion of energy, an expression of great power that is pranic, electrical and fiery. HUM is the power of Agni or fire particularly as directed by the wind or Vayu. Whereas KRIM awakens the electrical force or Shakti, HUM serves to direct it with great force, to use it to make great efforts.
HRIM (hreem) is the great mantra of the spiritual heart, hridaya. It is composed of three main letters. The letter-h, as in HUM, represents, space, prana and light. The letter-r as in KRIM represents light and fire. The letter-i as in KRIM represents focused energy or a ray of light, the Shakti as such. Through the mantra HRIM alone one can enter into the spiritual heart and the small space within its lotus (dahara akasha) in which the entire universe is held.
These put together, Kali’s threefold mantra serves to awaken and energize the spiritual heart, hridaya.
The mantra KRIM serves to cut the knots of the heart. It works like a sword. It stimulates the heart energy within us, its primal desire or wish for immortality, love and light.
The mantra HUM gives power to the heart, expanding the energy of prana and Agni (fire) in a strong, if not explosive manner.
The mantra HRIM opens the energy of the spiritual heart which is like the Sun, spreading it into the Infinite.
This threefold Kali Heart mantra can be compared to a kind of spiritual adrenaline. KRIM awakens the energy of the heart, like an electrical jolt to a heart patient whose heart is failing. HUM expands it this current with great force. HRIM stabilizes it as an infinite power and eternal presence.
KRIM draws the Prana from the breath, the sensory and motor organs and directs it into the heart. HUM turns the Prana into a force of fiery meditative power. HRIM connects the individual prana-mind with the power of the Supreme Self, the power of the light of consciousness (Chid-jyoti). This threefold mantra therefore creates a powerful Pratyahara in the yogic sense, it takes our energy back to the spiritual heart.
Kali Sadhana and the Yoga of Knowledge

Kali mantras serve to develop a Kali Sadhana, in which the true nature of Kali is revealed. In this regard, Kali is death. More specifically, Kali is the death of the ego, which is the rebirth of the soul. Kali is the Divine Mother in her role of slaying the demon or dragon of the ego and giving birth to the Divine Child of Self-awareness. Her mantras bring about an inner death, which is the rebirth of the immortal Self within us.

Through Kali we can experience a simulated death, the real death which is that of the ego, after which there is no more death. Kali is this death of death by the power of eternity.
Kali mantras, therefore, are very good aid to moving into the spiritual heart. They are a good accompaniment to Atma Vichara. They can be used to set the stage for it for those who need additional help or can be added to one’s practice, even if it is affective, to allow another helpful line of approach.
The Goddess Kali, we might say, is the power of meditation personified as a Goddess. Yet She is meditation not as some practice we humans might attempt, She is the natural state of meditation as the power of consciousness pervading Infinite Space and Eternal Time, in which the waves of karma, including birth and death, cannot touch us, because we are the All!