Have you ever heard this word? if not, maybe immediately you will open your browser and start typing this word in Google search engine and stroked by its result. You will find a list of terrifying images, a woman with four arms complete with her sharply drawn sword in her back right hand, a trisula held in her front right hand, a severed human head in her back left hand and the blood is collected in a bowl held in her front left hand. Her terrifying appearance not stop there, a chain of severed heads decorates her neck and a chain of severed hands is also covers her naked body. She’s also conceptualized standing in a chess of a man, which is non other than her husband, Lord Shiva itself.
And then, what if I say that I’m one of Her devotee ? maybe some of you might think that I am the son of saitan, or should I say in Balinese I am the son of Leak? or, evil worshiper? Yup it means you are normal according to society. Fair enough, I’m not gonna put any comment on what you are thinking about it. But for a curious mind would keep asking, why this kind of madness has became an icon in religious tradition, like Hinduism especially Tantric tradition. Maybe this little explanation will full fill part of you curiosity. Just put your curiosity first and leave aside your judgement for a while and enjoy this writing.
I wrote an article also in here about similar topic from a different perspective, more about the relationship between Kali images with the knowledge about how this existence came into being. The relationship among consciousness, maya/perception, ahamkara/ego and existence itself. In this article I’m trying to explore the psychological aspect of the figure. What the seers ware trying to teach us through these symbols.
The word ‘Kali’ means time or darkness and she is also worshiped as the Mother of Death. From macrocosmic perspective Kali is the symbol of darkness or more precisely the emptiness which was there before creation, before time itself, not only the emptiness of things or matter, but also the emptiness of the time and space and concept. In this case we might say that this darkness/emptiness is the ‘Mother’ of whole creation, including time, space and matter. To put our self in this perspective we have to cut “the head” of the ego, which has covered us from the Truth, which is laying there, right beneath Her feet (Shiva/Pure Consciousness).
“Time is the only true unit of measure. It gives proof to the existence of matter. Without time, we don’t exist.” -Lucy Movie
And then as The Time. Time is the mother of all existence including life, and for sure time is also the destroyer of all things regardless it’s a good or bad, including us which are walking to the same destination, to Death. Seems like this is a very horrible thing which we may think of, yet this is the most “naked” fact/ truth which we’ve been trying to escape from (that is why Her appearance is naked) regardless what is your belief, eternal heaven or reincarnation. Nothing will be able to run from Her(time). The image also teach us after all of the dramas which we’ve played in movie of life, after all of the money which we’ve collected along the way, after all the beauty we’ve maintained so far, we all gonna be end up with the same form, which will be as Her chain of skull hanging beautifully on Her neck over and over again. It might be terrifying, but that is the most naked truth which we need to face of. No body can escape from it, yet everybody pretending that Death might not pick us up immediately. Then when the “Time” comes we are not ready cuz we’ve never prepared for it. That is why the seers were trying to “alarm” us, with such an annoying (terrifying) image like this, in order to transcend our fear into readiness, make us get in touch with the most terrifying fact in our life. Through this image the seers is suggesting us face to face with Death, bring death in the front of our face every day, raise our most basic energy of life, fear and our capability of survival, in order to develop our self into a ready state of mind, when Mother (time) come. How do we do this? The seers also provided the story behind this image. Kali previously was in rage killing many living things she faced along the way, up until she realized that she stepped on a man chest, which was Lord Shiva itself. Then she was calmed down and returned to Her nature as The Beautiful Goddess. It means that, she as the time (one of Maya manifestation) which is also constructed from our mind, moving very fast in life, taking everything at its end, including our own life. Until we be able to slow it down and at the very subtle state, step it(our mind) on top of our Consciousness. Realize that the true nature of our self is pure Consciousness (Lord Shiva). There we would become a very beautiful being living in this cruel world.
All of our mind quality, creativity, compassion, our effort in bringing the mind into a peaceful state, is base on the energy to survive from death, at least for sometime, so we could have a better life before it. That is why such “alarm” was made in horrible form. Fear, along with survival capability as reaction in escaping from it, is the basic human energy which is used for developing the next level state of mind such as creativity, compassion,sincerity, clarity and the ability in bringing the mind into the most peaceful sate, in order to face our life and then death.
Now you see, the power of this image, it’s not a magical stuff as most people might think so far. Tantric teaching and its methods is always about knowledge of psychology, knowledge of our mind, its behaviors and beyond. And this method has also been practiced for centuries by many traditions across the globe, such as Sufism with “remembrance of death” (dhikr al-mawt) , Tibetan Buddhism(cemetery meditation), Memento Mori Theory(“The Art of Dying”) a practice from Latin tradition and many more.
“The Way of the Samurai is, morning after morning, the practice of death, considering whether it will be here or be there, imagining the most sightly way of dying, and putting one’s mind firmly in death. Although this may be a most difficult thing, if one will do it, it can be done. There is nothing that one should suppose cannot be done.”
“Death is the mother of beauty; hence from Her, alone, shall come fulfillment to our dreams and our desires”
– Wallace Stevens in “Sunday Morning”
When I say I’m the devotee of Kali, it does not mean that I’m worshiping a horrible creature exist out there, dancing and holding a human head, sucking the blood dripping into the bowl. It means, that I am in a deep practice inwardly, to go along with Time, see it as the most naked fact in the front of us, hardly practice to bring Death as a normal part of life, transcend the fear of it, into energy of survival, creativity, compassion, clarity, intuitive way of thinking and at last a peaceful mind in welcoming the Death. Thank You.