Visions of Kali
By Yogi Baba Prem
CYI, C.ay, C.va
As I reflect back over my spiritual journey
spanning the decades, I am frequently reminded of my journey to
Kali. Coming to Kali
was a strange process, for me, and in reality I not that I was
looking for Kali, but yet I was compelled by an unseen force,
knowledge, or motivation to call out to Kali on occasion.
Many people may not be familiar with Kali,
though she is one of the better known Hindu Devas in western
society. In the
beginning of my journey, I cannot say that I really knew Kali.
Kali is a mysterious force in the
universe. She is often
seen as the destructive force emanating from Shiva.
She is mysterious, dark in color and associated strongly with
time. Kali is
associated with death, but not just a physical death; more correctly
she is strongly associated with a death of the ego, which is the
While kali is most known in her terrible form or horrible form; she
is also beauty. There
is a beautiful essence to Kali that is seldom understood in our
society. In some forms
of Tantra, it is believed that all the goddesses are manifestations
of Kali. In Tantric
rituals, homas, and pujas involving fire—Kali is the tip of the
flame. She is the first
to consume the offering of herbs or grains offered into the fire.
The physical form frequently
associated with her is a dark body, though she should be a dark
blue, with fierce face.
Her mouth open and tongue sticking out.
She wears a garland of skulls, which indicate her numerous
incarnations. She is
often depicted as holding a skull, which indicates the
transformation of the ego.
As I began my journey into yoga, the devatas
were far from my mind.
My primary motivation was stress and relief.
As I continued to grow with yoga and meditation, slowly the
devatas began to become a more important factor in my life, and
occasionally they would manifest in visions.
Shiva and Ganesha were the first to manifest, and I still
have a strong connection with them to this day.
But Kali was different.
Kali seemed different, and I had not taken the time to
explore the feminine aspect of divinity to any real degree.
While I considered myself, to some extent, Shakti oriented;
it was more towards the kundalini, and as a westerner, the image of
Kali in her horrible form seemed strange, foreign, and maybe a
little frightening. So
it was strange when I started to write songs to Kali.
At first, I was quite confused as too why I would compose to
Kali. But I just moved
with the flow and continued to compose them.
Strangely, I enjoyed singing the songs to Kali.
Composing to Kali was easy, flowing and it was a very natural
process. I continued to
compose periodic songs for 3-4 more years.
I would occasionally play the songs in my yoga class, and
felt much joy while chanting them.
Then one day the fruits of my mantric labor would arrive.
I was approaching an astrological
period known as Sade Sati.
This is Saturn’s transit of the moon.
It can be a very difficult period for people, but it is
difficult to predict exactly how the Sade Sati period will always
go. It is a process
that everyone will go through in their life; usually they will
experience Sati Sade several times in a lifetime.
There are three main periods, each period is approximately 2
1/3 years in length, making the sade sati cycle 7 years in total.
For me, this second cycle of sade sati would prove to be the
most challenging. It
was near the beginning of this cycle that Kali would make her first
One day, while meditating, the
horrible form of Kali appeared before me in meditation.
It was a frightening sight, Kali with her skulls around her
neck, fierce looking face, and sharp fingernails.
This was certainly not the ‘fuzzy’ image that we as
westerners often seek out or desire in spirituality.
The vision seemed to really ‘rattle’ me.
Weeks passed by and the vision returned.
This time the vision would be more intense, and would rattle
me to my foundation. I found myself of having another vision of Kali
a month or so later, and then the sade sati cycle began.
During this period, I faced many personal and professional
challenges. I faced a
few minor health challenges.
Our group of Sadhaka’s began to have a tremendous amount of
infighting. I slowly
started disbanding the group, as the infighting had reached a level
that it was becoming a destructive force.
I felt that everyone was missing the purpose of our yoga, and
it had been reduced to a ‘click’ with a greater emphasis on ‘click’
than health, well-being, or any type of spirituality.
Visions of Kali continued, and each
time it seemed to rock my boat more and more.
It eventually came to a point that I would pray to not see
Kali. I would not close
my eyes if I felt I might see Kali again; as I noticed that each
time I saw Kali the intensity of my life seemed to increase
ten-fold. It was a
painful process. I
could fill up a book with all the challenges that manifested during
this time. During this
time, my then wife and I decided to get a divorce, which resulted
into an approximate two year court battle; leading me to the
conclusion that Divorce attorney’s have a funny job. The more upset
someone is, the more money they make.
I could not walk away from everything, as I would not allow
myself to be an every other weekend dad.
Eventually, we won and I have my son every weekend with me.
But it cost me everything.
Eventually, it seemed like it was too much to handle.
The weight seemed crushing.
My mnd started chanting to Kali again.
I tried to stop it.
It would not stop.
I would chant to Kali and weep.
It was like insanity; I would weep for Kali and weep that I
might actually see Kali.
Fear gripped my being.
Every time the mind would start chanting to Kali, waves of
fear would ripple over my body.
Eventually, my prayers and fears would manifest at the same
I was teaching an evening class,
the pressure of my life seemed overwhelming, but during class I
could always remain focused on the class.
Class time was my only relief from the pressures of sade
sati, Kali, and my life.
During this particular class, as the students were lying down
to relax, I felt Kali coming close.
Fear swept through my mind and body.
I thought to myself, “I don’t know if I can handle another
one of these visits.” I
begged that she not appear.
I begged Shiva.
I begged Ganesha. I
just begged to anyone that might hear me in the ethers.
Then suddenly the horrific form of Kali appeared.
Tears were streaming down my face.
I felt completely overwhelmed.
I did not want to see Kali standing there.
I tried to look away, but everywhere I looked, there stood
the horrific form of Kali.
As tears streamed down my face, in a room filled with
student’s relaxing, I looked at Kali and focused.
I begged her to not be there and stated that I could not take
the 10-fold increase of pressure that came each time she appeared.
Then something changed.
As I looked at Kali in her horrible
form, her head started to crack open slightly.
As tears continued down my face, the head and form cracked
completely open and a beautiful form rose out.
It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
My mind started chanting to Kali again, and suddenly it was
like Kali was my mother and I was her child.
It felt as my mother was holding me.
I felt relief, everything lightened, and tears of pain became
tears of joy, love and completeness.
I felt a weight being lifted off of me, for that moment.
I changed. The
world changed. Life
would be different.
There was hope. After
this event, I totally dissolved our sadhaka program, eventually I
closed down our center and began a journey that changed my teaching
style and personal understanding of Hinduism.
Kali has been with me ever since.
I have deepened my exploration of the feminine quality of
divinity. I have
learned that the horrible form manifests when it is time for us to
push through challenges, but even the horrible form has compassion.
Possibly, the horrible form is in reality the compassionate
form. It is one of
those strange Hindu paradoxical things.
Kali as the beautiful nurturing mother has been with me ever
since. She always was
the beautiful nurturing mother; it was just that I could not see it.
I guess my illusion and pain bubble had to ‘pop’ in order to
see the essence of Kali.
Upon the experience
As I look back with new eyes, I see how Kali served me in
manifesting divine will. I
have also developed an appreciation for the cutting powers, and
Kali’s ability to transform the ego, even when a difficult road lies
ahead. Kali appears
beautiful to me at all times now.
She is my mother. She
has always been my mother.
She nurtures and protects me.
She is a shelter in the storm, though she maya appear to be a
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