Friday, January 04, 2008

Shankara's Ma

From a discussion at
there's the [Kali] that Jody talks about in terms of everything being a part of Her, and then there's the view of Kali being a fairly specific, anthropomorphised deity with correspondences, stories, a particular style of worship, and so on.
They are actually already completely compatible. Bhakti works because we construct an image of deity and then fall in love with it. After that, the fireworks begin.

You employ the mythology and iconography however you wish. You can go full tradit like Kali Mandir, or make it all up however you see it.

The thing that gets me is the idea that Kali is one of many deities, usually which you call for different things. Not that such wouldn't be completely effective for the practitioner, only that it has nothing to do with shaktism. Shankara saw that no matter how much he remained absorbed in samadhi, the world continued to exist, despite the truth he saw. So, he realized that ultimately, it's all Ma. Shankara's shaktism is essentially a nondual shaktism. So is Ramakrishna's, although due to the intensity of his spiritual life he spoke of having frequent visions of Kali in the form of various women he encountered, especially his somewhat long-suffering wife, Sarada Devi, as well as having your standard See God Standing Right In Front Of You-type vision.

He may have been a little "off," as they say...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Word or Two on Ma and Fear

Everyone is afraid of fear. We hate it and blame it for everything that is wrong in the world, despite the fact that it evolved as the primary tool in our survival kit as animals.

Sure, it's bad, but it's also a wide avenue for the shakta to establish true surrender to her/his chosen Ideal. The way it works is simple. Everything you fear is Ma. Ma is everything at all times all at once. The only legitimate avenue for the shakta is to surrender to it all.

Thus, your fear leads you to trust and surrender. You don't ever know how it's going to work out, because you just never know what Ma is going to do next. And anyone who tells you otherwise is deluding themselves.

As your surrender grows, your trust grows, and what goes is any desire to have your life any other way. It may not always be peaches and creme, but it's what Ma is giving you at the moment.

For a shakta, you can never do any better than that.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

No One is More Kali Than Another

I have a problem with the idea that any human being embodies Kali anymore than any other, regardless of what they are saying, chanting, what religion they are or whether they look like folks' idea of what Kali is.

Kali the cultural artifact and Kali the Mahashakti have literally no relation to one another outside of those of us who use one to establish relationship to the other. We fall in love with the idea of Kali as it is expressed by shakta culture, and that becomes a vessel by which we come into a real relationship with the Mahashakti. But, ANY cultural vessel can be used and will be just as effective. It's purely a matter of personal preference rather than any kind of accuracy in the iconography.

So, when someone suggests that a portly Indian lady can channel "Kali energy," I feel compelled to express the opinion above. Indian women – guru or otherwise – have no more connection to Kali the Mahashakti than any other woman – or man, dog, fish, snake or whatever other being you come up with. Any connection anyone makes between the Mahashakti and any human being is purely in the mind of the one convinced there is a connection. Shree Ma may be Kali for a whole lot of people, but for some of us, she's no closer to that omnipresent truth than a bum you step over in the street.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Tantra and the Nondual

There are many ways we can describe tantra in both practice and result, but I think it's unassailable to say that the ultimate goal of tantric sadhana is the realization of our nondual truth. This is not a thought, idea, feeling, impression, sensation or state of any kind. It's an ongoing, direct and experiential revelation, like knowing you're alive.

This fact makes it natural to introduce the nondual into a discussion of tantra. One may consider the nondual perspective and yet accept the fact that we swim in an ocean that is the Mahashakti. In fact, we could even talk about a nondual shaktism, one where everything is Ma, including the world and us, as one body in constant change, transformation and motion.

This was Ramakrishna's approach. "Shiva and Shakti are like fire and its power to burn, or like water and its wetness." It's pretty much impossible to take one of those away from its mate, leaving you in the nondual. However, you can consider the two as separate as well. So Shiva becomes Brahman, which supports the entire universe while at the same time being each of us individually and eternally. Right here, right now, closer than our own breath lies Shiva in our own hearts.

And Ma is just every single thing else: us as individuals, the world, the entire manifest universe. That's who we're dealing with ALL the time, because Shiva is completely out of it in nirvakalpa samadhi.

So, you are left with Ma as the container of your life, as well as the actor behind all action, yours, others' and the world's, while Shiva lies in your heart as the heart of who you are, completely uninvolved in anything else but being who you are.

Now Ma is omnipotent. Everything happening at once to anyone anywhere at anytime, ever. So why would you even consider the idea that you could do something to Ma with magic, when who you really are is Shiva in samadhi. The one who would be accomplishing magic is the illusory sense of ourselves as individuals. If tantra's goal is bringing folks to their nondual truth, why would you extend the delusion of yourself as an individual by playing magician?

Ramakrishna likened magic powers to a prostitute who is covered in human excrement. That's how superfluous they are to the endeavor of coming to an understanding of our nondual nature.

I admit that as individuals, we've all got to do something, sometime; and that truly, the nondual makes not a bit of difference in anyone's life unless they know it experientially. Or it makes ALL the difference, take your pick.

So, you can ignore it altogether and go about your business and live a happy life and die peacefully. This includes practicing magic. And I understand the value of magic in terms of helping to initiate personal transformation. But that's just another way of looking at how Ma is doing it all. We can think we are performing rites and spells and believe these bring about change to our liking, or not. But ultimately and always, Ma is doing it all.

In this light, magic is a layer we drape *over* Ma. Why does that layer need to be there? It only seems to tie us up in being individuals who practice magic and may help to prevent us from finding ourselves as Shiva. If Ma's doing it all, what me worry?

I realize I'm come off as an insufferable know-it-all whose position is intractable, and that's not too far off as a description. But I believe with all the cells in my body that *anything* you imagine that will bring you closer to truth, does, eventually. It's not what you practice, it's how you practice it. Sincerity is the power plant of sadhana, whether or not you practice magic.

But in the end, it all comes back to the same thing. It's just a matter of whether you want to consider that you aren't who you imagine yourself to be, or if you want to keep imagining yourself as a magician, tantrika, sadhaka or whatever.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A Stab at a Definition

Nondual shaktism is taking the manifest universe to be the ultimate authority in life and imagining that universe to be female. It doesn't deny Brahman, but doesn't dwell there much.

Ma's ultimate authority is due to the omnipotence of life. Shit happens, good and bad. We could all get wiped out in a gamma ray burst one day. Huge black holes are swallowing whole star systems. In the face of such tremendous power and scale, all we puny humans can do is surrender to Her.

For the devotee of Kali, everything is by Her will. Whatever happens to us or anything else is all Her. We exist as Her devotee in a vast field of Her Manifestation. All objects and events are Her. Our bodies and minds are Her even while we imagine them to be separate.

You are giving yourself to creation, which is the Mahashakti, which is the other side of Brahman, like fire and its power to burn.

Kali is Shiva inside out. When a nondualist talks about all this being one, s/he's talking about creation and being together. An advaitin may only look at being and collapse creation into it, or declare creation illusory. But he's gonna get plowed by the truck if he jumps on the freeway. The shakta sees the creation as real and the events in it as God's will. Shaktism doesn't deny the inner truth of Brahman, but it does give life more credence and focuses attention there.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Fire and its Heat, Water and its Wetness

Brahman and Shakti. Shiva and Kali. They are one, yet seemingly not the same. Kali is all manifestation, which is essentially the omnipotent force in life. Shiva is our very soul, one that we share with all being. We are the intersection of Brahman and Shakti, the Atman and the manifest mind and body. It's never any more divine than right here, right now. One can get lost in the bliss of complete union with the Divine, but there's still going to be bills that need to be paid.