Sometimes I am a B*tch and that is A-OK.

In My Meditation Today: Sometimes I am a bitch, and that is A – OK. No part of my life deserves to be pushed away. It is time to stop beating up on myself for getting angry, or not being in a good mood, or being demanding. Every moment that I live and every emotion I feel in each of these is a moment of life, and that is to be revered and appreciated.

The Grand Story of the Divine Mother is told in three parts. Each section describes a battle between good and evil and most often the story is interpreted as the forces of good and evil external to us. A more useful interpretation for me, however, is that it represents the battle between my basest instincts and my highest potential. The battles are bloody and gory because a fight to live from your highest potential is hard and ugly and metaphorically bloody and goryblack-mahakali

The seventh chapter of the Grand story of the Divine Mother is one of the bloodiest in the myth. Shumbha and Nishumbha are in a frenzy after Devi’s summary dispatch of Dhumralochana and his army. So they send Chanda & Munda with a much bigger army to bring in the “vile woman” unharmed if she will submit or beaten into submission if necessary,
When they reach the foothills of the Himalayas where Devi has taken up residence, they find her riding her lion. She has a smile on her face until the demon army rushes towards her. As they move towards her with swords raised and bows drawn, Devi’s peaceful demeanor changes. She scowls and screams and Kali, her expression of invincible power coupled with unabashed rage emerges from her scowling brow. Kali is not a pretty sight. She has a gaping mouth and a long tongue that hangs out, she is emaciated and black as night; Her eyes are red; she carries a skull-topped staff and wears a garland of human heads; her breasts are uncovered, and she wears a tiger skin as a skirt. Kali screams and stomps and rushes towards Chanda & Munda’s vast army and devours them both literally and metaphorically. She is shown flinging hoards of demons, chariot, weapons and all into her mouth and pulverizing them with her teeth; others she slices with her sword or pounds with her skull-topped staff. As she single-handedly destroys his army, Chanda rushes towards her in a rage. She gets him by his hair and chops off his head. Munda meets the same fate in the next few minutes. With both their leaders slain, the rest of the army flees. Kali then picks up the heads of Chanda & Munda and hands them to the Devi saying “ Here is a present from me to you, Chanda & Munda the beasts. You can now take care of Shumbha & Nishumbha yourself.”

The image of Kali is highly symbolic.  Kali is the feminine form of Kala – which means both dark or blue-black as well as time. The darkness is considered a representation of primordial energy – the womb of creation. At the other end of the spectrum, time is the ultimate destroyer, the force that turns mountains into sand, then a seabed, a forest and a desert in an endless cycle of creation and destruction. Her long disheveled hair represents freedom from convention; the severed head she carries in her hand is the severed ego – everything that is stopping us from realizing the magnificence of our being. The garland of  50 heads she wears represents the 50 alphabets of the Sanskrit language and symbolizes her knowledge and wisdom.  Her unblinking eyes represent unbroken awareness of the truth of all existence. In the context of our inner world, Kali is understood to be the force that creates, if necessary forces transformation. She annihilates demons such as fear, self-doubt and a lack of self-love and forces one to step into one’s power.

Besides the symbolism in Kali’s form, what I love about this story is the unabashed display of power, yes feminine power. Kali is not worried about how she looks. She is not worrying about what someone else thinks of her. She is angry and not ashamed about it. She is hurting and killing people but is not apologetic because she knows that that is what is best for them. She is focused on getting her task done regardless of how it ugly and violent it may seem to others.

The story is not about advocating violence and actual killing of enemies. As we have mentioned before, the entire myth is an allegory, and the battle is in your mind. Every time you hesitate from doing something you know is right because you are worried about hurting someone, or even worse because you are unwilling to live with the discomfort of sometimes being a “bitch” – you deny the Kali within you. You are stopping her from manifesting and creating the change, killing the demon that needs to be killed for you to move to the next phase of your spiritual evolution.

This story for me is about learning to be completely comfortable with all aspects of me. In particular, it is about being comfortable with my anger and my power. It is first about acknowledging the power I have and being willing to wield it regardless of what anyone else thinks. That is what Devi does when she unleashes Kali on the army. She knew her power. She was aware that it was ugly, in fact, it was the polar opposite of the indescribably beautiful, smiling image the demons first encounter. She is completely in love with all aspects herself and therefore does not hesitate to reveal her ugly, angry, bitchy self.

Could you imagine how different young women would be if they grew up with a story like this that gave them permission to be ugly, powerful, angry and demanding?
The interesting thing is that I grew up thinking about Kali as a person not to be like.  When I was little and I ran around with unruly hair – which was quite often – I was often told not to be “ Bhadrakali.” Women who get angry and yell are often referred to as Kalis where Kali is used as an example of a person not to be. The docile and amenable Seeta, on the other hand, is what everyone wants their daughters to grow up to be. She is pleasing; she does not make you uncomfortable; everyone loves her and you for having created this lovely little princess who does everyone’s bidding.

The notion that there are some emotions that it is right to experience and others that are wrong is so ridiculous if you think about it. Every moment that I live and every emotion I feel in each of these is a moment of life, and that is to be revered and appreciated. So sometimes I am a bitch – and that is A-OK.

True Empowerment

In My Meditation Today: True empowerment is resting back into the knowledge that we are all expressions of the divine and letting that knowing inform us of the eternal nature of our being. What follows is an understanding that no circumstance in life – no matter how horrendous – ever comes close to harming us let alone destroying us.

The Grand Story of the Divine Mother is told in three parts. Each section describes a battle between good and evil and most often the story is interpreted as the forces of good and evil external to us. A more useful interpretation for me, however, is that it represents the battle between my basest instincts and my highest potential. The battles are bloody and gory because a battle to live from your highest potential is hard and ugly and metaphorically bloody and gory.

The sixth chapter of the Myth is the second story in the third part of the Grand Story of the Divine Mother. Sugriva, the messenger, has returned to Shumbha & Nishumbha’s Palace with the story of Devi’s challenge – i.e. that she can only marry a man who defeats her in battle. Aghast at her audacity, Shumbha, is now determined to possess her. He sends Dhumralochana (the smoky-eyed one) with an army of 60,000 soldiers to capture “the wretch” and bring her to the palace, dragging her by her hair if he had to.

The Devi is sitting on a swing in her backyard when the demon Dhumralochana approaches her.  He starts off deferentially, “ Your highness. Please come to the presence of Shumbha & Nishumbha.” The deference quickly disappears as he bellows ” If you do not come to my master with delight right now, then I will immediately take you by force, upsetting you by dragging you by your hair.”durga

“You have been sent by the lord of the demons. You are mighty and surrounded by your army. If you take me by force, what can I do about it?” the Devi says seemingly innocently.
Hearing that Dhumralochana rushes towards her in a rage. Devi stands up inhales and exhales with a powerful sound of HMMMM and Dhumralochana crumbles into ashes. Most of his sixty thousand strong army either scatters or die at the hands of Devi’s lion.

I love the images in this story. The irresistible yet playful and delicate Devi on a swing; the coarse, uncouth, powerful, loud mouthed thug who is completely deluded about the power he has and ease with which Devi, destroys him. She does not have to lift a finger to turn him into ashes. Delicious and powerful images which I really would have liked to have heard and known about as a young girl growing up.

In the allegory – Dhumralochana – the smokey eyed one – represents the delusion of Maya – he represents ignorance. Devi, on the other hand, represents a fully empowered being who is fully cognizant of her powers.

Two compelling points in this story for me.
1. Once you are truly empowered, i.e. you have let the truth of the eternity of your existence sink into your bones, you can invite disaster in, knowing that no one and nothing can destroy your essence.
2. Remember Devi’s stance as disaster rushed towards her. Aware of her power, she stood up, squared her shoulders took a deep breath and exhaled. Faced with the power of her knowledge about the truth of her being, the enemy/the circumstance, the ignorance that the demon represented did not have a chance to overpower her. It quietly crumbled.

Hence – real empowerment is resting back into the knowledge that we are all expressions of the divine and letting that knowing inform us of the eternal nature of our being.  What follows is an understanding that no circumstance in life – no matter how horrendous – ever comes close to harming us let alone destroying us.

Stop Seeking it Outside..

In My Meditation Today: I noticed how a part of me was forever seeking validation from the outside – from my spouse, my children, my co-workers, – wanting assurances from them that I was ok – that I was worthy of being loved and admired. I decided to turn that search for validation inward and validate myself every time I noticed myself looking outward. I am more than OK, I am an amazing human being, and I deserve not only to be loved, but I deserve to be cherished. Most importantly – I do not need anyone else to do it for me.

The Grand Story of the Divine Mother is told in three parts. Each part describes a battle between good and evil and most often the story is interpreted as the forces of good and evil external to us. A more useful interpretation for me, however, is that it represents the battle between my basest instincts and my highest potential. The battles are bloody and gory because the fight to live always expressing your highest potential is hard, ugly and metaphorically bloody and gory.

In the fifth chapter of the Grand Story of the Divine Mother, the Devas find themselves in a familiar situation. The demons Shumbha and Nishumbha and their armies have taken over their kingdoms and driven the demi-gods out. Dispossessed and desperate the Gods remember the Divine Mother’s promise to respond to any entreaty for help in their time of need, and they travel to the foothills of the Himalayas to pray to her. The hymn that the Devas recite to ask for Devi’s help is one of the most significant sections of the myth for me. It is the most explicit description of the presence of the Devi in all that we see and experience in the world.

You are sleep and awareness; hunger, and thirst; shadow and light; abundance and misery; intelligence and the confusion that causes errors; power and humility. You are everything that is manifest physically, emotionally and spiritually they say.

As the Devas finish praising the Goddess, she appears in front of them and reassures them that she will take care of Shumbha and Nishumbha. She sets up residence in the foothills of the Himalayas. Her radiance and beauty are irresistible, and Chanda & Munda – Shumbha & Nishumbha’s servants who are Durga_2passing by are dazzled by her beauty. They go and tell their Masters about this most beautiful example of womanhood and urge Shumbha and Nishumbha to add her to their collection of superlative objects. Intrigued by the description of this unsurpassed beauty, the demon kings send a messenger to invite Devi to their kingdom to marry one of them. Sugriva, the messenger, approaches the Devi. He starts off with a description of his Master’s wealth and prowess and ends his message with the invitation from Shumbha to marry one of the kings.
Devi responds “ Everything you say about Shumbha and his brother is true but I am afraid I cannot accept the invitation yet. You see, in my youthful foolishness, I promised that I would only marry a man who can defeat me in battle. So before I can marry either Shumbha or Nishumbha, they will have to face me in battle.”
Astounded by the temerity of a “mere woman” challenging his masters to battle, let alone suggesting that they might lose to her, Sugriva threatens to drag Devi off by her hair. Unperturbed, Devi reiterates the fact that she cannot break her vow. Anyone who wants to marry her must defeat her in battle. The chapter ends with Sugriva stomping off in a rage after uttering several threats to Devi.
I LOVE this part of the myth at so many levels. In the first place, there is the reiteration of truth that the Divine Mother manifests as all of our experiences. There is thus no experience or emotion in life that is to be pushed away or rejected as inferior or bad, Therefore my developing concept of “Radical Self-Acceptance.”

Then, there is a clear demonstration of the objectification of women in Chanda & Munda’s description of the most beautiful woman in the three worlds.

Finally, there is the perfect response to the objectification in the delicious conversation between Sugriva & Devi – an excellent example of a woman who is so confident about her worth and herself that she had no qualms in clearly stating the price for winning her over. This depiction of a female protagonist is one of the many reasons I fell in love with the Grand Story of the DiKaushikivine Mother. In so many ways it is the complete antithesis of the myths that most young Indian girls grow up hearing and being encouraged to emulate. The heroine in Ramayana – the mythological character most often cited as the role model for a Hindu wife, is shy, docile, needy and completely powerless. Her biggest virtue is her chastity and loyalty to her husband. She is a safe and non-threatening role model. Even though she is an incarnation of the Goddess Lakshmi, she is never depicted as a woman who wields the power of the Goddess. Small wonder then that it is Seeta who is held up in Hindu households as the ideal wife. It is a model that will not upset the status quo and will allow the patriarchy to go unchecked.
On the other hand, the heroine of this myth is powerful, purposeful and focused. Devi knows her value; she understands her power; she is clear about her purpose and never wavers from it. She does not look to the outside world for validation; she does not need it; she is complete in herself.

After years of unconsciously seeking to be a Seeta, I know that I am well on the way to becoming a Durga when I begin to understand that I am an amazing human being, and that I deserve not only to be loved but to be cherished. It is especially clear when I know that I do not need anyone else to do it for me.