Hindu Goddess Kali - Today's mad world

Hindu Goddess Kali

Horrors at the end of our newspaper spoon

I’m horrified by what I woke up to this morning, or, more accurately, parts of it. I came downstairs to the beginnings of sunrise, with birdsong accompaniment, in the spring-green scene outside the terrace door.

Then, I opened my laptop to The New York Times and saw “the other side of that” … the horrors of the world as it’s unfolding day by day in our time … murder by atrocity in Syria, chaos let loose and a man in the U.S. White House who knows only two things: power and blame.

I tried to write a poem about this, but it was too much! I couldn’t find a way to accept it all. Yes, I believe “it’s all Illusion,” but it’s also my—our—life! Has the Compassionate Father I’m devoted to fallen asleep at the switch? I don’t think so.

The hard part is the meditative thought: “What’s happening to anyone, anywhere, is happening, by extension, to me.” The One Self lives in the forms of children who were gassed, as much as in the “me” who sits here quietly.

Yes, I believe that “the Law of Karma is absolute,” meaning that there are no exceptions to perfect karmic justice; there’s a reason for everything, no matter how it looks. But emotionally, it’s very difficult to accept the horrors we’re privy to, in William Burroughs’ words, “at the end of our long newspaper spoon.”

Mother Kali

The only image I could think of to describe the world—as it always is, but as it appears in very obvious and dramatic ways, these days—is the image of Mother Kali, the Goddess who is pictured with a severed head in one of her many hands, a sword in another and giving birth with yet another.

Symbolically, this image is the only one that fully expresses for me, at least today, the reality of life on Earth: Birth and Death, the entire drama of life. “The One who slays me is the One who gave me birth!” [see below]

I experienced some satisfaction in finding an image to at least contain all that I’d found so troubling, as well as the aspects of Nature that I’d found so inspiring just a moment before. Symbols are containers of life-energy, repositories of archetypal experience, that take us beyond the limited ego.

Sri Ramakrishna

It is “I”—the Universal “I”—whom Kali pulls from her womb in every new form, and “I” whom she slays in every death, to reappear in another incarnation until that soul becomes Self-Realized someday, after learning, enduring and balancing all there is to know or be.

It’s said that Kali also embodies Vishnu, the Preserver, so that there can be something we regard as “Life.” Ramakrishna, the great mystic of late 19th-century India, worshipped Kali as boundless Love and often sang hymns to her. He saw a Divine Mother who was totally different from the terrible surface appearance. He alluded to this Reality in his ecstatic songs, and exhorted his disciples to persist in their spiritual efforts, so that they’d someday be able to see her as she really is, as well.

It is for the questing soul to expand his or her awareness, until it can accept life on Earth in its sometimes glorious, sometimes “ordinary” and sometimes horrific fullness.

The Kali Yuga, which is said to have begun in 3102 B.C., is believed by some to have recently ended or to be in the process of ending. Perhaps a less brutal image of life will be of primary relevance in the dawning age. We’ll continue to take the symbols we need from the repository of all human experience, and if what’s needed doesn’t exist, to create it.

Sri Ramakrishna was a great Indian mystic of the late 19th century. His disciple, “M,” who had a photographic memory, documented the Master’s words and interactions in a 1,000+ page book called The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, which is one of the great documents of mystical history.

Here’s a short story from Chapter III of this text, which served as inspiration for the bolded line above:

There was a Hindu monastery in a certain village. The monks of the monastery went out every day with begging bowls to gather food. One day, a monk, passing by, saw a Zemindar (a land-owner) severely beating a poor man. The holy man, being very kind-hearted, entreated the Zemindar to stop beating the man. The Zemindar, blind with rage, immediately turned on the monk and poured upon him the venom of his anger. He beat him until he was knocked unconscious on the ground. Another man, seeing his condition, went to the monastery and told what had happened. His brother monks ran to the spot where the holy man was lying. They lifted him and brought him to the monastery and laid , him in a room; but the holy man still remained unconscious for a long time. Sorrowful and anxious, his brothers fanned him, bathed his face, put milk into his mouth and tried to nurse him back to life. Gradually they brought him back to consciousness. The holy man opened his eyes and looked at his fellow-brethren. One of them, desiring to know whether he could recognize his friends, asked him in a loud voice: “Mahârâj, dost thou recognize him who is feeding thee with milk?” The holy man answered in a feeble voice: “Brother, he who beat me is now feeding me.”

For a selection of things Ramakrishna said about Mother Kali, visit this site.

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image 1: Piyal Kundu via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons BY-SA / Cropped from original); image 2: Franz Dvorak via Wikimedia Commons (public domain)