Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Symbolism of Goddess Kali

Goddess Kali evades the understanding of most. The way She is represented not just makes it difficult to understand but sometimes even terrifying. But the symbolism of Kali is one of deep philosophic importance. I stumbled upon the following writeup on this topic. Its simply great:

Kaali Maata (Meaning and Significance)
Kaali is one of the best known, but poorly understood forms of the Hindu Goddess. She is dark destructive and terrible in image. She is allied to the forces of death and destruction. The most common image of Kaali shows her dancing on Shiva. This article aims to give an insight into Hinduism's use of such mystic imagery.

About Kaali :
The Sanskrit word Kaali literally means "time". Kaali is the feminine word for time, for which the masculine is "kaala". Time as we are forced to understand it, is the foremost power that we experience. Kaali is the personification of time and it is not surprising that the deity of time has a terrifying image. After all, time is the slayer of all. Time is the very stuff that our lives are made of - to waste time is to waste life. The reason as to why time is represented in a feminine form is that time is the great womb - the great mother - from which we are all created - therefore it has a feminine quality. Time is also the force which causes all living beings to perish. Therefore Kaali is like the mother who destroys the children which she has created - which is one of her frightful features. Yet, through the action of time, Her action, occurs our salvation. Through time, over repeated births, we experience all that we have to and learn all that we must learn in order to merge back into our eternal existence, from which we fell into limited time and space.

Does Kaali actually have a separate consciousness or is she just a representation of time as an unthinking scientific principle?

Hinduism personifies what to us are abstract spiritual truths as Gods and Goddesses. Spiritual ideas are clothed in concrete imagery, and approached as living beings. This does not reflect a lack of reasoned thinking, or attachment to form, but rather an experiential contact with the higher truths, as living forces. Hinduism creates a personal relationship between ourselves and the forces of the cosmos, and eventually leads us to realise that these forces are within us rather than separate. All forces of the universe are pervaded by consciousness, hence the reason as to why they are approached as living beings is because in reality, they are. The purpose of vivid imagery is that whilst meditating upon the image, our mind is shocked into thinking into the depths of the concept we are trying to understand and know, beyond our usual conditioned ideas.In that way we can really experience the truth of time as an awesome conscious force and understand how our existence relates to it.

Why Is She Dancing On Shiva?
Shiva, in the Shaivite tradition, is the all pervading eternal primeval consciousness of the universe and beyond, who is beyond motivation. Hence, He is commonly shown as meditating in tranquil. His action and motivation occur only prior to the final destruction and dissolution of this cycle of creation. Hence, when Shiva dances, it is considered to be the terrible awesome dance of destruction.

It is on the passive, ultimate reality of Shiva, that Kaali (time) does her dance, causing the constant cycles of creation, life and death of all things in the universe. Shiva is the substratum upon which Kaali acts. Hence, in this part of the Hindu spiritual traditions, the entire divine action and existence is represented by the dance of Kaali (time) upon the changeless all pervading consciousness, Shiva.

The Shiv tattava (Divine Consciousness as Shiva) is inactive, while the Shakti tattava (Divine Energy as Kali) is active. Shiva, or Mahadeva represents Brahman, the Absolute pure consciousness which is beyond all names, forms and activities. Kali, on the other hand, represents the potential (and manifested) energy responsible for all names, forms and activities. She is his Shakti, or creative power, and is seen as the substance behind the entire content of all consciousness. She can never exist apart from Shiva or act independently of him, i.e., Shakti, all the matter/energy of the universe, is not distinct from Shiva, or Brahman, but is rather the dynamic power of Brahman.


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