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Kali Comes to America
By David Arthur Walters
Welcome, O Destructress of sins!
From the author’s book The Rape of Kali
"O DESTRUCTRESS of the sins of the three worlds, auspicious Kalika, who in Thy upper lotus-like left hand holdest a sword; and in the lower left hand a severed head; who with Thy upper right hand maketh a gesture which dispels fear, and with Thy lower right hand that which grants boons; they, O Mother with gaping mouth, who reciting Thy name, meditate in this way upon the greatness of Thy mantra, possess the eight great powers of the Three-Eyed One in the palm of their hands." (1)
Blinded as we are by our illusions, we do not see Kali coming in our dark age. Kali’s yuga is now upon us, the final yuga of the four yugas –the kaliyuga does not end until Kali closes her eyes. It is difficult to imagine the frightful culmination of our yuga at the revelation of Truth. Bona fide spiritual masters are duly qualified to depict the dark age from their enlightened status. Terrified by the telling of the horrors to come, we might ask them, “Is there not something constructive to be done in this destructive epoch?” Well, they say, something can be done pending the Universal Destruction; we may chant the names of god, but nothing we do shall alter the external course of history. If history repeats itself, those of us who have studied history should know what shall follow the gross immorality that signifies the coming of The End – and if history does not repeat itself, all is for naught, including the study of history. We are informed that seven blazing Suns including our present Sun
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shall drink up all the waters, causing a long period of drought and famine. A great fire shall be blown across the Earth, incinerating everything in its path. Clouds that resemble herds of elephants shall stampede across the sky. The fires shall be quenched by many years of rain; the world shall become one dead expanse of water except for a lone banyan tree upon which sets the Water Boy, Narayana, so named because his home (ayana) is the water (nara). If we could fly into his mouth, we would see the whole Universe, the entire kingdom of the king of gods. The Water Boy is also called Brahma. In the KALI PURANA, Brahma worships his divine mother, Kali, who appears a pitch darkness: she is the mother ship with big oars who saves the suffering people from the Sea of Terrors: "Thou art the Supreme Goddess of the people," said Brahma. "Thou doth favor all of them. The world begins in thee but thou art without beginning. Thou art the cause of the Universe but thyself art causeless. Thou alone doth cause the end of the entire world while thou hast no end." (2) What more could Brahma possibly say about the Mother of everything? Everything could be said, for instance: "I offer my obeisance to Thee, who are the cause of emergence and disappearance of the world, who art the embodiment of creation and existence of the world, the strength of the movables and immovables who is the eternal, and enchantress of all." Kali is the ultimate source and reconciliation of her offspring, Matter and Mind. After the great dissolution, when the Universe is resolved into her, she shall spin out the next Golden Age, the age of Truth standing on all four legs; it shall be an age of meditation, filled with verdant gardens, ponds, temples, as well as universities for the cultivation of brahmanic lore. We speak of the Golden Age where everyone and everything is in the right place, an age of universal order emanating from the mouths of Brahmins. As for evil people, do not worry about them, for it has been said that Kalki, a Brahmin King of kings, will appear on a White Horse, and, with Blazing Sword, he will exterminate them all. The color of the Golden Age is actually white, in contrast to the black hue of Kali Yuga. We also learn, from the Voice of the Silence, that Arjuna ("white") will somehow appear during the crucial crisis seated on the Transcendental Ark of Kali as it floats on the Sea
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of Battle, behind whom shall be his Divine Advisor Krishna, ("the black one") whispering in his ear from the dark, for darkness inspires the glorious heroes and makes them gods as well. Again, lest we forget: Although we cannot avert universal destruction, there is purportedly one appropriate action we can take for our spiritual salvation: chant the names of god. It is only by this repetition that one may be internally liberated from suffering in the awful external age. Furthermore, eight supernatural powers over the objective world may also be obtained by chanting the name of god. There are an infinite number of possible names of god to chant, none of which, in our opinion, are absolutely sufficient. Those who prefer to chant "Krishna" might feel our "Kali" is too dark, or, personified as a woman, too humiliated to be worshiped; others know her as the very opposite to passivity, as wild energy itself. So be it; to each their own prejudices. For them we note that Krishna is a black hero who was happily raised in humble circumstances. From the dark womb are all men been born, including the 180,008 sons of Krishna's 16,108 consorts. Westerners have long been fascinating by Hinduism, a religious sort of umbrella over diverse cults. Westerners have adopted many of the Hindu traditions, often unwittingly because of the influence of highly educated Western men and women. Yet the worship of Kali, who is revered in India despite her terrifying aspects, is rather rare in the West, especially in modern America. Westerners received an inkling of Kali from Swami Vivekananda, who became very popular in America after his 1893 appearance at the World Parliament of Religion in Chicago. Vivekananda was the disciple of Kali's great devotee, Sri Ramakrishna. Americans were shocked by Vivekananda's devotion to Kali; he wrote this demurrer, in a June 17, 1900 letter to an American friend: "Kali worship is not a necessary step in my religion... Kali is my special fad; you never heard me preach it, or read of my preaching it in India. I only preach what is good for universal humanity. If there is any curious method which applies entirely to me, I keep it a secret and there it ends. I must not explain to you what Kali worship is, as I never taught it to anybody."
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Nevertheless, Swami Vivekananda often felt Kali tugging at his sleeves. He said, elsewhere, "I cannot but believe that there is somewhere a great Power that thinks of Herself as feminine, and called Kali and Mother..." We venture to say that Vivekananda's affection for Kali was hardly superficial or a big secret, at least not in his own country, after reading this stanza from his poem 'Kali the Mother', which appeared in an Indian newspaper: For terror is Thy name, Death is thy breath. And every shaking step Destroys a world for e'er. Thou 'Time' the All-Destroyer, Come, O Mother, come. Who dares misery love And hug the form of death, Enjoy destruction's dance, To him the Mother comes. In retrospect, it is no wonder the swami was not trumpeting Kali's name in the United States, where progressive egoism demanded pretty, bright self-reflections from the shiny metals of material progress. The swami knew very well what was behind his pleasant facade; he was quite outspoken about it elsewhere. We may beg to differ elsewhere with Swami Vivekananda's particular perspective; for now we close this chapter in all due respect for his wisdom with yet another quote from his works (3): "Worship the Terrible! Worship Death! All else is in vain. All struggle is vain...this is not the coward's love...it is the welcome of the strong man who knows there is no alternative...May the Mother dance in your hearts and bring infinite strength to your arms. Victory to Kali! Victory to Kali! Mother is coming, what to fear? Whom to fear? Victory to Kali!" XYX Notes:
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(1) Sri Mahakala, HYMNS TO THE GODDESS, Transl. Sir John Woodroffe, Madras: Ganesh & Company, 1973 (2) KALI PURANA, translated by B.N. Shastri Quoted: (3) THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SWAMI VIVEKANANDA, Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1955. Recommended Reading: Wendell Charles Beane, MYTH, CULTURE AND SYMBOLS IN SAKTA HINDUISM, A Study of the Indian Mother Goddess, Leiden: Brill, 1977