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Visions of Kali

 By Yogi Baba Prem

 

As I reflect back over my spiritual journey spanning the decades, I am frequently reminded of my journey to Kali.  Coming to Kali (like many things) was a strange process for me.  And again, it's not as if I was looking for Kali; yet, I was compelled by an unseen force, knowledge, or motivation to call out to Kali on occasion.

 Who Is Kali?

Many people may not be familiar with Kali, though she is one of the better known Hindu Devas in western society.  At the beginning of my journey, I cannot say that I 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 ego’s transformation.  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 what we might see as a fierce face.  Her mouth is open, and her tongue is 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. 

 My Journey Begins.

As I began my journey into yoga, the devas were far from my mind.  My primary motivation was stress and relief.  As I continued to grow with yoga and meditation, slowly the devas 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 to 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 seven 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 appearance.

 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 clique with a greater emphasis on clique than health, well-being, or any spirituality. 

 Visions of Kali continued, and each time it seemed to rock my boat more and more.  It eventually came to the point that I would pray not to 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 in an approximate two-year court battle; leading me to the conclusion that Divorce attorneys 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 had 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 mind 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 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 time. 

 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 not to 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’ to see the essence of Kali.

 Reflecting 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 storm herself.

 

 

Copyright 2012, 2017.  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Yogi Baba Prem

  • Yogi Baba Prem has two books published in India, and has written numerous other books published by Universal Yoga. 

 

  • His articles have appeared in several traditional magazines and a variety of e-magazines.