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.
Bagala (or Bagalamukhi) is a powerful esoteric goddess who has become ever more popular due to her reputed powers of captivation and control. As a personality she is invoked to control the thoughts and speech of one’s enemies, and is often called upon to aid in winning court cases.
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.
Supreme reality is beyond dualisms of this/that, good/bad, existence/non-existence. We can experience Maa even in suffering and difficulty, and this is one of the messages of the Chandi as well as Tantra.
Compassion is an oft-overlooked yet vital part of the Hindu and Tantric path toward personal happiness and liberation. In the Devi Mahatmyam, the Gods praise Mahadevi (literally, the Great Goddess) in all Her forms with a famous and powerful hymn called the Devi Suktam. One of the verses from the hymn praises Her as compassion (daya):
ya devi sarvabhutesu dayarupena samsthita |
namastasyai namastasyai namastasyai namo namah ||
Devi Mahatmyam 5.65-67: To that Goddess who exists in all things as the form of compassion, I adore her, I adore her, I adore her, again and again!
The Goddess is compassion, She is manifested in all things as compassion. What does this mean in a real day-to-day sense?
“When offerings are made in worship, with or without proper knowledge, I will receive them gladly, and also the fire offerings made in a similar way.”
– Devi Mahatmyam 12.11
In this verse from the twelfth chapter of Devi Mahatmyam (also Chandi Path or simply the Chandi), the Goddess tells us that She accepts all worship, regardless of whether it is performed with proper knowledge. What is proper knowledge? The “right” mantras, the “right” procedures, the “right” pronunciation, the “right” gestures, the “right” understanding. There is another kind of “right” understanding, which is quite personal and flows from pure devotion.