MOTHER KALI'S PICTURE
The pictorial representation of Mother Kali is, at first glance, strange and bizarre to the eyes and minds of westerners. Kali is the personification of that aspect of the Divine Mother that compassionately destroys the ego. To begin with, the concept of destroying the ego is not prevalent in western culture. In fact, most everything in our culture adores the ego. The concept of being innocent, helpless and childlike, depending on God alone and not our own clever cunning is all but lost. Jesus tells us that we must become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3).
Kali comes from the root Sanskrit word "kala" which means time. Tibetan Buddhism embraces a similar figure as Maha Kala though he is male in gender. In an academic sense Mother Kali is the primordial energy which animates space and is perceived by us as the linear sequence of events which we call time. Her skin is midnight blue, almost black, which represents the womb of existence. This is the quantum world of unformed potentials and probabilities, from which all phenomena continually arise and into which they continually disappear.
Her hair is long, black, disheveled and flowing freely depicting Her freedom from convention and the confines of conceptualization. Her eyes are open wide, eternally awake, blazing with the fire of infinite suns as an expression of Her indomitable intensity. She is standing, dancing, on the pure white chest of Lord Shiva who, as pure primal awareness, lays in a passive reclining position, peacefully reposed with his eyes half open in a state of bliss.
Kali is the dance of time as the endless creation and dissolution of the universe supported by Shiva who is absolutely pure formless awareness. He is the eternal witness of his consort's divine theater. It is through Her that self-realization occurs as She is the perfect mirror, the infinite reflection of his formless nature.
Her two right arms are raised benevolently with palms extended granting gifts of insight and wisdom to Her children. Her upper left arm holds the sword of enlightenment which delivers the blow of non-dual reality to the ego releasing the soul forever from the tyranny of deluded self-intoxication. In Her lower left hand, She holds the severed head of the ego. Identification with the body is what gives rise to the illusion of the "I" or ego. Thus, the seemingly gruesome presentation of a severed head depicts the most direct act of sublime compassion, which is bestowed by the Mother to Her devotees.
Mother Kali proudly wears a garland of skulls, which are reminiscent of Her many children whom She has liberated from the grip of the I-am-the-body delusion and the hypnotic tyranny of birth and death. These remnants of enlightenment are trophies of the fulfillment of human evolution which She prominently displays around Her neck in the same way that earthly mothers set their own grown children's bronzed baby shoes on the fireplace mantle.
[The following is Reprinted from the Kali Temple web site www.kalimandir.org]
Name: Kali is so called because She devours Kala (time) and then resumes Her own dark formlessness. She is the embodiment of three gunas (qualities of nature): She creates with Her sattva guna (quality of goodness and purity), preserves with rajas (passion and activity), and destroys with tamas (ignorance and inertia).
Complexion: Her complexion is deep blue, like the sky. As the sky is limitless, so is She. From a distance one sees the ocean water as blue, but it is colorless and transparent when examined closely.
Crescent above the forehead: She is the giver of liberation.
Earrings: Images of two little babies hang from Her ears; this means that She favors childlike devotees.
Smiling face: She is ever-blissful.
Tongue: Kali's white teeth symbolize sattva or serenity; Her red tongue, rajas, or activity; and Her drunkenness: tamas or inertia. The meaning: tamas can be conquered by rajas, and rajas by sattva.
Full breast: She is the nourisher of all beings.
Terrible form: She is the mother of the universe as well as the destroyer. When a mother spanks her child, it does not mean that she is cruel; she disciplines her child for its own good.
Necklace: It consist of fifty skulls that represent the fifty letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, the origin of sound. She is Shabda Brahman (Sound-Brahman), or Logos-the source of creation.
Two right arms: The upper right arm grants fearlessness, and the lower right arm offers boons. She protects Her children from danger, and She fulfills their desires.
Two left arms: She holds a sword with the upper left arm and a severed head with the lower. She can cut human bondage with the sword of knowledge, and She imparts wisdom to the head, the receptacle of supreme wisdom.
Naked form: She is called digambari, "clad in space." She is infinite, so no finite dress can cover Her.
Waist: Kali's waist is encircled with a girdle of severed human arms that represent action. All human actions and their results go to the Divine Mother. At the end of a cycle all souls merge with Kali; during creation they again evolve with their respective karmas.
Shiva is under Her feet: Shiva and Shakti are always together. He is the changeless aspect of the Supreme, and She the apparently changing aspect of the same. Shiva is pure cosmic consciousness, and Kali is cosmic energy. No creation is possible without their union. Siva cannot manifest without the power of Kali, and Kali cannot function without the consciousness of Shiva.
Dakshina Kali and Vama Kali: If Her right foot is forward, She is Dakshina Kali (benign form); and if Her left foot is forward, Vama Kali (terrible form).
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