Posts Tagged ‘Mahavidya’

Dasha Mahavidya – Kali

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Tantric Practices

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Kali is the first of the ten Mahavidyas, representing time (kal/kaal = time).

She is depicted as a dark goddess, ferocious and terrifying in appearance. She wears a garland of human arms for a skirt and human heads as a necklace. She lives in cemeteries and graveyards – wherever there is death and decay. She has piercing eyes and her tongue lolls out of her great mouth. She carries several weapons in seven of her ten arms (the scimitar being the one of her choice) and a freshly severed human head in the eighth. The lower two hands form the mudras of protection and boon-giving. She is intoxicated from the continuous consumption of blood and dances wildly upon corpses and her own beloved Shiva, who lies completely still and seemingly powerless under her forceful steps.

Kali is the first among the Mahavidyas because the process of creation begins with time. From a macrocosmic perspective, in the beginning there is only Purusha – undifferentiated, timeless potential. The cosmos begins with the “Big Bang”, and simultaneously, linear time and along with it,  all duality. Light and dark, good and evil, high and low, truth and untruth – each is made possible only because of its counterpart. For creation to be sustained, death is necessary – life is only possible through death. What is born must necessarily die in time. Time and death are thus synonymous. The linear sequence of time is maintained only with dissolution of one moment to give rise to the next. Maya thrives thus as a sequence of time-related phenomena, each event dependent upon all the other events, nothing occurring independently and everything influencing everything else and the whole. The cemetery is the perfect representation of this process.

Similarly, at the level of the individual, the separate “I” or ego is born and sustained through events in time. The ego is born in early childhood prior to which an infant has no concept of itself as an individual. With unfolding of life events, influences from society and development of memory and imagination, the identification as this “I” becomes stronger. As the separate self, the individual is propagated through thoughts and memories of the past and projections into the future, both of which are illusory and nonexistent. Attaching the “I-ness” (and it’s related emotional signature) to an event creates a vasana, and through the Maya of Kali as time, the ego becomes enmeshed within this web of vasanas. Such a separate self is dragged helplessly through time, circling again and again from life to death and back to life. Kali dances in this cemetery of one’s being where the separate self that is born (in every moment from the actions and impressions from the last moment) dies and is reborn again. Every desire arising from a vasana gives birth to the “I-thought”, which then dies temporarily with the fulfillment of the desire, only to be born again with the next vasana-driven thought/desire. And on it goes, with Kali dancing merrily, cutting off the head of the I-thought and feeding upon the lifeblood of the separate self again and again, nudging Shiva to wake up from this apparent identification with the ego. She repeatedly severs the hands that represent vasana-driven selfish actions, pointing the way to action that can arise from wholeness with the death of the separate self. The compassion of the Divine Mother is so infinite that she provides the opportunity to step out of her illusion and the quagmire of samsara in every single moment. With every step of her dance, she destroys the moment before and holds the future in darkness, allowing one to be reborn forever into the eternal now. She remains willing to continue the dance as long as identification with the “I-thought” continues, patiently waiting for the sadhaka to wake up to his/her true (Shiva) nature.

The sadhana of the Mahavidyas is not for the weak of heart. Each of these forms of Shakti represents an aspect of creation at both the macrocosmic and individual (ego) levels. While some worship the Mahavidyas for power, dark magic and siddhis, they get further enmeshed in her Maya and succumb eventually to her insurmountable power. It is not possible to win her grace through force or cunning. Only the willingness to give up the “I-ness” enables her grace to shine forth. This is the secret of tantra – one’s spiritual progress is in direct proportion to the degree of surrender. Moreover, it is not necessary to worship all ten Mahavidyas – each is a gateway to liberation, opening to the grace of all the others. After all, she is one manifesting as all.

Kali is known for cutting through the ego’s ties quickly and efficiently. However, she does not concern herself with the comfort of the ego. She is therefore not particularly interested in granting boons of wealth, relationships and other superficial matters pertaining to the separate self. In fact, these matters can frequently take a turn for the worse when her sadhana is taken up. Her only interest lies in liberating her devotee from Her own snare. To such a devotee that desires nothing else, she reveals her softer side as Bhadra Kali (Bhadra = auspicious) – calm, serene and radiant.

My sadhana took a dramatic turn when seemingly out of the blue, Kali beckoned me into her fold. Even as the heart melted in devotion to her fierce form, all external aspects of my life took a beating in the form of deep cleaning. Nonserving relationships were cleanly severed and let go of, even seemingly treasured ones. Only in retrospect was I able to see that hanging on to them was obscuring the way ahead. All ambiguity and less-than-clear aspects of life were shaken off (and continue to be). Everything related to “I-ness” was swept away mercilessly, without care for how painful it was at the time. Simultaneously, I sank deeper and deeper into Her dark, silent fold where finally time stood still and the false “I” was seen through. She hovers over my being, relentlessly guiding, shoving and manipulating, wanting nothing but to experience her Shiva through this body-mind. At last, the unease of being in her ferocious presence has been replaced by gratitude and love, and willingness to be decapitated by her merciful blade once and for all.

Kali’s bija (seed) mantra is “klim”. When thus invoked, she withdraws Her Maya of time and liberates one from linear time-related phenomena and all dualities associated with it. Free from incessant thoughts of the past and anxieties about the future, the sadhaka blessed thus by Kali is open to experience the primordial vibration represented by Tara, the second Mahavidya.

(Image: Kali by Raja Ravi Verma. Source: Wikipedia)

Dasha Mahavidya – Tara

Written by Heal Your Heart on . Posted in Tantric Practices

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Tara is the second of the Mahavidyas, representing the Eternal Word.

Like Kali, Tara’s ferocious form is enough to startle one in sadhana. She too stands upon the supine, corpse-like Shiva, and is often shown to wear a garland of human skulls and with a tongue that lolls out of her great, blood-stained mouth. Unlike Mother Kali who is black, Tara is dark blue representing limitless space; she wears an animal skin instead of human arms and in her four hands she carries a sword, a pair of scissors, a human cranium and a lotus. The weapons symbolize the destruction of the ego while the lotus promises unconditional protection. While Kali’s hair is wild and disheveled, Tara’s is tied in a single topknot, representing one-pointedness and austerity. Her big belly represents her hunger for selflessness and the blood dripping down her sword represents the cutting off of all doership, freeing her devotee of samsara.

A beloved ritual of aghoris (fearless tantrics) is to practice at the stroke of midnight in a lonely crematorium surrounded by pyres burning lifeless bodies. Sitting naked in this lonely place, the aghori performs his/her rituals for one sight of beloved Mother Tara, known in this form as Smashan Tara (smashan = crematorium). Invoked thus, she is said to appear dancing upon a burning corpse with one foot upon the its heart (representing desire, the root of the birth-death cycle) and the other upon its legs (representing worldly ambition driven by greed, hatred, jealousy and selfishness). Manifesting thus, she takes it upon herself to school the aghori for the rest of their life and sadhana, setting him/her upon her cosmic lap and taking care of his/her every need. The test of strength for the aghori is to adore this ferocious and powerful form of the Divine Mother without a shred of fear or repulsion.

Tara is known in three different forms – Ugra (ferocious) Tara, as described above and very similar to Kali, Nila Saraswati (blue Goddess of knowledge) and Ekajata. The word “tara” has several meanings, one of which means “to cross”. She is the vehicle for crossing over from ordinary consciousness to super-consciousness, from the mundane to the spiritual, from the ordinary to the extraordinary. However, this crossing is not one-way; she is the vehicle for crossing back from self-realization into living fully in the world. She facilitates both the ascent as well as the descent of Kundalini in yogic and tantric sadhana. Another meaning for “tara” is star. Thus, she acts as a beacon on a dark night, guiding the lost soul to herself. While known as the goddess of protection, Tara represents another seemingly disparate concept – knowledge. She is closely associated with the power of speech, and this is how she is hailed as the second of the Mahavidyas.

The first movement of creation is a stir, a vibration or a throb. This primordial throb begins a series of vibrations that take the form of sound, the precursor of all objects. This primordial throb or vibration is represented by the sound “Om” or “Aum” and is known as the Eternal Word or “nithya vak”(John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”). It is this primoridal throb that yogis aspire to reach in perfect stillness. Knowing this and resting in direct and continual submission to this, all desires find root in it and the separate self is seen through. Sense organs return to their origin as do the organs of action; in time the egoic doer is destroyed and actions arise directly from this primordial throb. Unhindered by the ego’s demands, Shiva and Shakti come together and flow through the sadhaka’s being, creating and manifesting in divine harmony. Tara is this primordial throb, and she as Om is the vehicle for “crossing over”. As Om, she is Nila Saraswati, the blue goddess of knowledge that bestows the true understanding of this sound and taking the aspirant beyond the shackles of worldly existence. Nearly all mantras begin with Om; thus is Mother Tara revered and worshiped in many great faiths and religions.

Some schools describe Tara as appearing to be white, blue or multi-colored. White Tara represents the primordial throb in its pristine form. Her blue form symbolizes her descent from her white purity into creation, while her multi-colored form signifies her infinite forms that make up all of the cosmos – the good, the bad and the ugly. She is all, in and through all. As Ekajata (“single mat/braid of hair”), she represents the single force of creation behind its myriad forms.

Mother Tara appears in yogic sadhana first as the awareness of the sound of “Om”. This sound is truly indescribable. A vibration arising from the depths of the being, it is most akin to the sound made by the strings of the Veena. When it first arose in my awareness many years ago, it was at once disconcerting and miraculous – a loud, continuous hum that persisted through wakefulness and sleep, a form of ajapa japa. In silent meditation, it would roar through the body; it would seem that all the cells were vibrating in tune with this soundless sound. It dominated the contents of the mind, forcing its way into the thought stream to silence the mind noise and throwing out waves of joyful ecstasy. Eventually, one does get used to this sound that comes to underlie even the most hectic activity, and the humming gets woven into the fabric of daily life.

Tara is known for her benevolence – one need only ask and she readily provides. So great is her compassion that it is said she is one of the easiest Mahavidyas to connect with. Her sadhana therefore is relatively easy. She shies away from insincerity and dishonesty. She adores the devotee that remains rooted in speaking the truth, who keeps his/her mind guarded against jealousy, greed and hatred and is equally unaffected by praise or blame.

Tara’s bija (seed) mantra is Om. Adoring this great Mother thus, the sadhaka of the Mahavidyas traverses to the next phase of sadhana symbolized by the radiant form of Tripurasundari.

(Image: Uploaded by Dhruvjeet Roy. Source: Wikipedia)