Chidagni: The Goddess as the Fire of Consciousness
"The flow of the life force through Kali's grace awakens the Shakti, her electrical power, providing us a relentless spiritual energy for our sadhana. Ma Kali's Kriya Shakti, her power of yogic transformation, guides us through all the impediments of illusion, karma and our limited mindset. Her vibrant energies release a lightning force like a sword, cutting through all negativity, clearing the path for the ascension of the Kundalini fire.”
CHIDAGNI: THE GODDESS AS THE FIRE OF CONSCIOUSNESS
By Shambhavi Chopra
Ma Kali gently tended the coals of my inner fires, stirring the flames of Agni to manifest every magical colour, permeating the very spanda or creative pulsation resonating throughout my being. At an innermost level, Agni is the fire of consciousness, Chidagni, the awareness of the supreme Brahman, the ultimate Existence in itself. Chidjyoti, the 'light of consciousness', is the power behind the mind that illumines both sensory objects and our thought patterns, bathing them in the beauty of its eternal radiance.
The universe weaves a divine tapestry of light and energy, which has been tapped by our ancient Rishis and by Native Guides all over the world resonating with nature's beatitude. The Seers perceived the subtle vibrations, the 'aliveness' of light, pervading the Tanmatras or root essences of sight, sound, taste, touch or smell, as well as the inner intuitive perception of one's sixth sense of Being. Our mergence into the all pervasive light allows us to experience a pure state of illumination inside and outside, ushering us through the gateway of higher consciousness.
Shakti prevails on all levels, from supreme Brahman to the minutest living organism. Every light form has its own shakti, from the rays of the Sun to the luminescence of Moonlight. Brahma Shakti is chit shakti, the power of consciousness existing as one with the Shiva principle. Ishvara as the cosmic world is the power or will of God to transform and nourish every living being. All the forces of nature represent Shakti, unfolding the goddesses lila or play. Durga's light protects and encircles us with her divine power. Kali is the pulsating, stimulating relentless energy.
As the spirit of fire, Agni personifies Jyoti or light as perception. The gift of sight is the power of fire, as seeing is our way of cognizing light. The clarity of seeing discloses the essence of everything that we observe. Kali is Charunetra, the 'Devi with beautiful eyes', viewing the entire cosmic play through her fire of consciousness. She destroys all illusion in her role as Bhrama- nasini, 'the one who destroys all confusion', embodying the three states of Creation- Preservation -Destruction as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
At the altar of sacrifice Kali is Agni, echoing its brilliance, hissing its fiery magic yet tending the warmth of its dying embers. Fire is a sacrifice unto itself, a sense of mysticism shrouding its powers. At the fire altar is placed our own sacrifice of both inner and outer natures, holding a deep reverence in its sacrificial act.
Cultivating the fire of awareness on every level enables one to experience sheer Ananda or bliss. In the inner Yoga, Agni reflects the fiery Kundalini force dwelling in the Muladhara holding all deeper earth-like qualities. This 'root fire' expresses the power of our aspirations, rising from below and ascending heavenwards.
Our inner fires must be tended to with great care and a gentle fanning, to keep their forces moving throughout our being. One must prepare the ground for the fire's magnificent ascent through the body, mind and soul. There are no shortcuts to higher revelations. The search for the illumining light must begin within oneself. These inner stirrings manifest when we quieten all exterior noise, silencing all worldly distraction.
When guidance flows from the heart, its purity vanquishes the perturbed questionings of a doubting mind. The loving flow of trust in the heart's capacity to manifest higher thoughts will create the space for sattvic or pure aspiration. The gentle calming of the soul will awaken an inner intelligence, guiding the mind to read the subtle nuances of the soul.
Kali opens the doors to the spiritual heart with her blessings. She represents the highest flame of the fire which takes us from the depths of our being to the most secret chambers of the heart. Hers is the kindling power which ignites the fire to traverse its fiery path, seeking out the blue flame within the spiritual heart.
Hridaya, the spiritual heart, is the creative, unique home of the all- consuming Agni in its purest nature. The tiny flame of the supreme Agni rests in the womb of the heart. The heart carries the strains of the entire universe as the ultimate abode of both the Devatas and the soul. Goddess Kali resides in our hridaya, manifesting all time, space, aspirations and experiences.
This tiny etheric space perceived within the heart through sadhana is called Hridayaksha, the 'heart space' or 'dahara akasha', 'the small space'. Ma Kali sits enthroned in this diminutive space within the heart in the inextinguishable flame of Agni. The vision of the universe within it is the eternal Soma offering of endless joy! Kali's grace unfolds as Siddhida, 'the giver of siddhis', higher powers and mystic renderings.
Agni is represented by an upward facing triangle, indicating the striving of the soul's aspirations to higher truths. Familiarising myself with life's journey, yoked by my sadhana I learned to nurture the fierceness of Agni, sustaining its fiery flame of concentration, awareness, perception, and insight.
Kali's triangular form of Agni was realised through meditation, its varying hues and tempestuous heat purifying my lower energies through burning their samskaras, the 'subtle impressions of my past actions'. As an upward pointing triangle one seeks her power of speech, the very tongue of the Goddess, the tongue of fire! As a downward pointing triangle, one experiences her flow of grace, through the womb of immortality!
The ageless silence of the ancient Himalayas oriented my mind to a gentle flow of Self-inquiry, bringing in its wake a deeper current of inner grace. Waves of Bhakti Yoga or sheer devotion filled my being with a sweet Soma, the divine nectar. Surrender to the Divine consecrated my life with a surge of blessings, guiding me to experience the ecstasy of their spiritual delight.
As Rakta Kali, her currents of blood (rakta) flow through everything. Seeking the flow of blood comprises her deeper nature. There is nothing through which her powerful currents do not course; yet her aim is not to consume our blood but to direct its course back to our soul, of which she is The Mother. It is the very blood of life that she brings to us, the prana or cosmic life force supporting the most primal will of all life — to live forever.
The flow of the life force through Kali's grace awakens the Shakti, her electrical power, providing us a relentless spiritual energy for our sadhana. Ma Kali's Kriya Shakti, her power of yogic transformation, guides us through all the impediments of illusion, karma and our limited mindset. Her vibrant energies release a lightning force like a sword, cutting through all negativity, clearing the path for the ascension of the Kundalini fire.
The fine edge of Kali's sword energizes the celestial weapons of the Devatas, the sadhana of the Yogin and the Prana of all life. Her sword is not one of negation; it allows us to envision a reversal, revealing the beauty of eternity cutting through each transient moment. It strikes at the inertia of ignorance and death in order to release the light within us. Kali's dynamism fans the flame of Chidagni within the precincts of the spiritual heart, allowing its fire to raise our vibrational levels, creating a sacred space for the blossoming of all our sacred lotuses.
The Dark Goddess graced me with an innate proficiency in using the fiery inner flame, raising my energy to higher planes, charring the debilitating vulnerability of body and mind, dissolving the shadows of darkness into the luminescence of Her spiritual love and Light.
Jai Ma Kali! Jagatadhatri!
Victory to The Mother as the Support of All the Worlds!
Many scholars see The Motherhood of Kali as an irresolvable paradox.
“When Oriya Hindus address MahaDevi in worship or when they talk of her, the term they use most frequently is Ma, or 'Mother.' There is little indigenous debate regarding the appropriateness of this usage. After all, Oriya Hindus recognize her as present in every aspect of creation. Whatever her particular manifestation, whatever her particular actions, she generates and regenerates all life. Consequently, she is Mother.
Even when a particular manifestation of MahaDevi—for instance, Gurga or Kali—is not explicitly associated with any male god nor any progeny, she is still thought of and addressed as Mother. Oriya Hindus see nothing incongruous in this usage, although many scholars are uneasy with it, tending to see in The Motherhood of Kali, for example, an irresolvable paradox. Some even go so far as to say that the labeling of Kali as Mother is an inadvertent 'mistake' made by Kali's devotees, a mistake that should be discounted by those who seek consistency in their interpretations (see Allen 1976, 315; Gross 1983, 224—225; Kinsley 1986, 126—128). In fact, Hindus tend to perceive the defining feature of all females as the embodied potential for reproduction. Hence, an infant or a prepubescent girl, a married mother, and an old widow are all 'mother' and are all addressed as 'Ma.' The use of this term points to their reproductive potential rather than any actual experience of motherhood.
There is also another, perhaps more instrumental, reason for the use of the term 'Ma' for goddesses who are explicitly violent and do not appear to be maternal. This has to do with Oriya Hindu perceptions regarding Ma's power to destroy. Indigenous discourse clearly distinguishes the Goddess's ability to apply her destructive capacity in ways that are deliberate from those that are indiscriminate. Thus, as Gurga, for example, Ma is never indiscriminate in her destruction. Oriya Hindus tend to portray Gurga as a mighty warrior who is invincible and invulnerable. Whenever the gods are unable to destroy their enemies, she enters the fray, and she is always successful in securing victory for the gods. She never targets the innocent, for her victims are invariably arrogant demons intoxicated by their own ability to destroy. Furthermore, she is rarely wrathful but carries out her destructive duties with measured control.
Kali, however, is a different goddess altogether. The defining characteristic of her nature is wrath (krodha, raga), and in her anger she destroys indiscriminately, giving no thought to her victims, be they demons or men, deserving of death or not. To a large extent, David R. Kinsley is quite accurate when he says that Kali is 'antisocial,' threatening 'stability and order' (1982, 148). In his fascinating essay on her and the meanings she holds for her devotees, Kinsley describes her as becoming 'frenzied on the battlefield, usually becoming drunk on the blood of her victims, [so] that she herself begins to destroy the world that she is supposed to protect' (148). He recognizes that despite her tendency to spin out of control, her devotees regard her as the highest manifestation of the divine. In Bhubaneshwar, too, articulate residents describe her in very similar ways, as dark-skinned, wild-eyed, dishevelled, panting for blood. They say she can never be worshiped within the household, for symbolizing as she does blood, death, and indiscriminate destruction, she is highly inauspicious. She could never insure the material prosperity of the household nor the maintenance of the lineage. The appropriate place to worship her is the cremation ground, with jackals howling and funeral fires burning; and the appropriate time to worship her is on the night of the new moon.”
1. Oriya Hindus routinely interchange the names Ma, Devi, Sakti, MahaDevi, often in the same sentence.
2. According to Oriya Hindus, only when she is in her form as Kali, her most destructive aspect, do bloodthirsty demonesses like Candi and Camundi tumble out of her body, devouring all life forms that come in their path.
Seeking Mahadevi: Constructing the Identities of the Hindu Great Goddess
Tracy Pintchman, State University of New York Press (2001) pp. 42-3
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