Kali

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Statue of Kali

Kali is the most fearsome of Shiva’s consorts. She is depicted as dark blue in color with fierce, blazing eyes. Kali is usually shown with a terrifying countenance, her tongue protruding, wearing a necklace of human skulls or heads and a belt of severed arms. In one hand she holds a sword, in the others she may hold the severed head of a demon, a shield or a noose; her hands may also make the sign of fearlessness and offer blessings and benefits.

Kali’s dread appearance symbolizes her boundless power. Her destructiveness is seen as ultimately leading to transformation and salvation. The object of her wrath is not the outer form of man but his inner delusions. She shatters the delusions of the ego and destroys ignorance, even as she brings blessings to those who seek to know God. She destroys the form and substance of human creations (with the white-fire, blue-lightning and ruby-ray action of her sword) that are not aligned with the will of her consort, thus liberating those who seek the knowledge of God. Kali is a symbol of destruction, yet she bestows blessings upon those who seek knowledge of God, and she is revered by her devotees as the Divine Mother.

Shiva is at times depicted dancing in cremation grounds, called burning ghats. The burning ground symbolizes the heart that is barren of desire, for all ego and illusion have been burnt away. Hence, the true ascetic seeks to make a burning ground of his heart so that Shiva might abide and dance there.

Like Shiva, Kali dances in the hearts of devotees who have purified themselves by renunciation. One famed Bengali hymn addressed to Kali says: “Because thou lovest the burning-ground, I have made a burning-ground of my heart—that thou, Dark One, haunter of the burning-ground, mayest dance thy eternal dance.”

The Indian state of Bengal is the land of the deepest devotion to Kali. Ramakrishna was one of her famous Bengali devotees. He saw Kali as a manifestation of the Highest Reality, one with Brahman. Paramahansa Yogananda, the Bengali saint and yogi who came to live in America, also had profound experiences with Kali, who heard and answered his prayers.

Burning ghats, Varanasi

Kali has said:

I am Kali! I move in the earth. I turn over the earth. I go under the earth. And I collect the heads of those who have counted themselves as the ego incarnate.
I come, I move; and at the end of the hour I shall know whom I shall go after for the binding of the substance of that human ego. Be prepared to be stripped of it, for this is my coming. If you accept me, then you will know the absence of self-importance and a tremendous energy of empowerment that you may or may not receive, but you may in turn look for it, seek it, find it, internalize it.
I am the manifestation of the feminine deity. I am dark; I am deep blue in color. I have no patience for those who move with the ego, but I come to those who would be the Divine Mother. I come to those who would receive Shiva. I come to those who have profound understanding of aeons upon aeons of their evolution, recognizing that this is an hour when the door may open and the door may receive you and the door may also be shut.
Therefore, remember Kali. Remember the dance of Kali. Remember the burning ghat. Remember the ashes. Remember that all that is not Real must go into the flame!
If you would have empowerment, seek it, find it. The vessel of empowerment is seated in the throne of grace, in the majesty of love. Love, then, is the key to Kali.
I am ferocious, for I go after my own. Understand this, beloved. When you see me moving about, know that I come to shatter, to shatter, to shatter again all of the old molds, that you might find that Spirit of the living God, that you might find Reality, that you might find all that is there that has been waiting for you.
Take the nature of your feminine divinity. Expand it until an entire cosmos knows you as Kali. Know me as that Kali, beloved. Know me as that fierce one. For I get things done. And I am the annihilator of all and anything that is not worthy of keeping....
I remember your beginnings and I remember what they were like. I shall see you in your endings, but I pray that your endings will be eternal beginnings forever. May you ever know and forever know those eternal beginnings, that you might move and move again and again.
Why is there a trinity of deities all female? It is because within ourselves we carry such a momentum of intensity of sacred fire. Therefore we are called and we respond to Lord Shiva. We respond because we understand the layers upon layers upon layers of the human consciousness that are consumed, and the records that follow suit.
I have a very good reason for being on earth, for the dead and the dying need my healing, my presence. And I set them straight, beloved. I am not a cruel Goddess, but I am a Goddess of no-nonsense. I am one who can take you to the stars. I am one who moves with El Morya, the chohans, the Elohim. I am feminine ray in manifestation. I am circle upon circle upon circle of divine Being. I know eternal life, as I have said, and I know death and hell.
Which one do you suppose is real? Which one, indeed, beloved. Is eternal life real? It is only real if you keep it real, compound it and make it real, that the incorruptible might realize that the corruptible must be slain.
Know this, beloved: there is no transformation unless you enter into transformation. And transformation is self-transcendence. And self-transcendence is entering into the pearl of great price, entering into the heart of God.[1]

Kali’s bija mantra is Krim (pronounced kreem). Another mantra honoring Kali is Om Krim Kalikaye Namaha.

See also

Shiva

Parvati

Durga

Sources

Mark L. Prophet and Elizabeth Clare Prophet, The Masters and Their Retreats, s.v. “Shiva, Parvati, Durga and Kali.”
  1. Kali, “Love Is the Key to Kali,” Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 45, no. 4, January 27, 2002.