Kali is often spoken of as the goddess of destruction, or of time, and there is truth to these descriptions, mythologically and linguistically speaking. While these simplified terms can be helpful when trying to apply the mythological stories and lessons of Kali psychologically to whatever we might be facing in life, ultimately these are just very simple ways of speaking and thinking about her, and don’t even begin to scratch the surface.
So I want to urge you for a moment to stop thinking about Kali as the sword-wielding, black-skinned goddess wearing a skirt of severed arms and a garland of heads. Just for a moment, let’s think about her differently.
The Ten Mahavidyas (Daśa Mahāvidyāḥ) are central to the practices of Shakta Tantric tradition. Kamakhya is primarily and equally identified with Durga (especially as Mahiṣāsuramardinī), Kālī, and Ṣoḍaśī (also known as Mahā Tripurāsundarī, Lalitā, or Rājā Rājeśvarī), but she is also closely identified with all of the Mahavidyas, as is revealed in these mantras. Thus her traditions are diverse, expansive, mysterious, and unique in the world of Tantra.
“In the earlier age, during the period of Svayambhuva, in the beginning of Krtayuga, the goddess who is known as Mahamaya, Yoganidra, Jagaddhatri, and Jaganmayi, assuming a mighty figure with sixteen arms, renowned by the name Bhadrakali (appeared) on the northern shore of the Milk Ocean with a view to destroy Mahishasura and with a desire to do good to the world. Continue reading »
I am a Shakta, and for me, MAA (an informal word a child uses for its Mother, like “Mama”) is the representation of Infinite Being, of pure existence from which all things emerge.
Essentially, we are all MAA, we are all just in different phases/states/stages of realized awareness about the nature of Her existence. The best of gurus teach their disciples to listen to their own Atman (and how to listen, through sadhana) as the supreme guide, because Atman is not separate from Brahman/MAA/Infinite Being (these words are interchangeable), rather than relying on them totally. They may give us guidance and advice, but ultimately they will encourage us to first begin to hear, and then begin to listen to MAA directly. We must each come to our own realization, do our own sadhana, make our own mistakes, and release our own “I” in order to emerge from the darkness of non-awareness.
One of the most consistent comments I hear from devotees is this:
“I would love to practice more meditation/yoga/puja/etc., but I just don’t have enough time/am too busy/have too much on my plate/can’t/don’t know how.”
The problem is the same for beginners as well as advanced practitioners. As we travel along any spiritual path and dive more deeply, things don’t get easier, they get harder. Yes, some things get easier – concepts become familiar, we might learn certain things more quickly or need less basic instruction as time goes on. But the deeper we go, the bigger the obstacles are. So what is the answer?
KALI is the Mother of Time. One of the meanings of the word “Kala,” the root of Kali’s name, is “time.”
Time is something we can’t conquer as humans. No matter how strong, wealthy, or clever we are, time devours us in the end. It comes for us relentlessly, devouring our lives as children, as adults in middle age, and finally devours life itself in our old age when we die. But Kali devours time itself – She is beyond time.