Jun 25 2012

Kamalakanta – O Kali, Mother full of Bliss!

Published by at 9:48 am under Poetry

O Kali, my Mother full of Bliss!
by Kamalakanta

O Kali, my Mother full of Bliss!
Enchantress of the almighty Shiva!
In Thy delirious joy Thou dancest,
clapping Thy hands together!
Eternal One! Thou great First Cause,
clothed in the form of the Void!
Thou wearest the moon upon Thy brow.
Where didst Thou find Thy garland of heads
before the universe was made?
Thou art the Mover of all that move,
and we are but Thy helpless toys;
We move alone as Thou movest us
and speak as through us Thou speakest.
But worthless Kamalakanta says,
fondly berating Thee:
Confoundress! With Thy flashing sword
Thoughtlessly Thou hast put to death
my virtue and my sin alike!

— from Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar, by Elizabeth U. Harding


/ Photo by Chobist /

To appreciate this poem we need to know a few things about the traditional representations of the Hindu goddess Kali. Many Westerners at first find her iconography unsettling and can’t understand why so many beloved saints, like the gentle Ramakrishna, were so deeply devoted to her. Let’s spend a few moments contemplating this powerful representation of the Divine Feminine…

Kali is sometimes called the Dark Mother: beautiful, wild, and terrible. She is depicted dancing in ecstasy upon a battle field, slaying demons in her fierce bliss.

Her skin is black and she is naked, symbolic of the Eternal Void with which she clothes herself.

Thou wearest the moon upon Thy brow.

She wears the moon upon her brow (as does her husband, Shiva), symbolizing the open spiritual eye and spiritual illumination. The crescent moon has the additional metaphorical meaning of mastery over the feminine, cyclical aspect of manifest nature, the way it ebbs and flows, grows full and then diminishes.

Where didst Thou find Thy garland of heads
before the universe was made?

Kali wears a garland of severed heads, a startling image, but one of deep spiritual significance. These are the heads of slain demons, each a spiritual impediment that she has removed. Further, each head, severed at the neck, represents a specific sound; collectively, the heads represent the sound of divine speech, the Eternal Word, from which all creation is manifested.

Confoundress! With Thy flashing sword
Thoughtlessly Thou hast put to death
my virtue and my sin alike!

We often get teasing lines like this in sacred poetry. In the deep spaces of bliss, when the ego identity has disappeared and thought has ceased, the tensions we associated with doing “good” or “bad” also disappear. This does not mean that one cannot distinguish between right and wrong, quite the opposite; one sees clearly for the first time. But there is no projection of “should” or “shouldn’t.” Instead, there is a profound sense of what simply is, and what is potential. The feeling of being caught in a tug-of-war between opposites and social compulsions vanishes. To the thinking mind, the mind chained to the ego, this is indeed confounding.

Kali can express a terrifying face of the Divine, but there is a reverse side to this. She may inspire terror, yes, but only in that which is out of harmony with the Eternal Will; seeing the Goddess, such energies know their end has come. If we ourselves cling to such disharmonious qualities, then we too may fear her. But when we let go of such clinging, approaching this great, formless Goddess with humility and courage, then terror is transformed into awe and overwhelming bliss.

You can say that this Dark Mother loves all her children so profoundly that she fiercely refuses to let any of us remain chained to comfortable but lethal delusions. Every soul needs such a loving, liberating mother, even when we don’t always appreciate her…






Kamalakanta

India (1769? – 1821?) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shakta (Goddess-oriented)

Kamalakanta Chakravarti, usually known simply as Kamalakanta, is thought to have been born around the year 1773 in the Bengali district of Burdwan, in India. His father was a Brahmin priest who died when Kamalakanta was still a boy. His mother struggled financially to provide for the family with the meager income from the small amount of land left to them, but she managed to send Kamalakanta to higher education.

Kamalakanta was a bright student, studying Sanskrit and showing an early talent for poetry and music.

It is said that “his heart opened to the love of God” when he received the sacred thread and was initiated into spiritual practice. Kamalakanta’s mother, however, was disturbed to see her teenaged son adopting the air of a renunciate, so she quickly arranged a marriage to a beautiful young woman. Soon after the marriage, however, the woman died. Kamalakanta’s mother quickly found a second wife for her son, and Kamalakanta married again.

Kamalakanta eventually took Tantric initiation, integrating his spiritual calling with his worldly life and responsibilities.

In order to support his family, Kamalakanta started a small school in addition to his inherited work as a Brahmin priest. But Kamalakanta struggled to make ends meet.

After some time the reputation of the ecstatic Kali-devoted poet came to the attention of the local prince. The Maharaja asked Kamalakanta to become his guru and appointed him as a court advisor.

With his family’s basic needs now taken care of, he turned more and more deeply to spiritual practice and worship of Kali.

It is said that when Kamalakanta was near death, he asked to be taken to the banks of the Ganges River. Just as he was brought there, an unexpected flood rose up and carried his body away. The Ganges, an expression of the Divine Mother whom he had worshipped all his life, had claimed him as Her own.

There is something wonderfully terrible about the devotion of the great Kali poets, particularly Kamalakanta and Ramprasad. In their poetry and their worship, they are saying, in effect, “Do whatever it takes, Mother, to bring me to you. Shatter me, if you must. Destroy me. I don’t care. So long as you do not withhold yourself!” Such spiritual courage is both frightening and exhilarating to participate in.

More poetry by Kamalakanta

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Kamalakanta – O Kali, Mother full of Bliss!”

  1. Glendaon 25 Jun 2012 at 11:19 am

    Ivan,
    I especially appreciate this one. You’ve answered questions I’ve wondered about but never took time to get answers to because of only a slight interest.

    I guess today the time was right. Most interesting, for sure! Thank you.
    Blessings to you,
    Glenda

  2. Lucienne Naber/Alluvjaon 25 Jun 2012 at 11:54 am

    Thank you for today’s poem on Kali and your explanation.

    I guess we all have our personal associations relating to this most mysterious and interesting Goddess.

    I wrote a Kali poem a copple of years ago which I’d like to share here as well.
    The funny thing is the poem kept changing the more I felt I touched essence with her.

    Kali revisited 2010- 2012

    Kali

    Aha.. resting
    in dark fluid
    Beingness..

    Being torn from
    the inside out
    the outside in

    Undone
    Absorbed

    The essence of
    feeling
    opening virgin eyes
    after being
    swallowed whole
    unto
    Her Sacred Womb

  3. Julie Annon 25 Jun 2012 at 11:55 am

    What an awesome, unexpected blessing to see your email poem of the day, this look at the Dark One, Mother of us all, with Her boon of liberation.

    The photo of the altar at which Ramakrishna and Sarada Devi sit, in the open belssing palm of the Great Mother behind them, is a balm for my soul today.

    Ivan, I cannot thank you enough for the sustenance of this poem and image, and of your daily Poetry Chaikhana.

    May your face and soul be licked with beams of moonlight, emanating from your own sacred source.

  4. Nasseron 25 Jun 2012 at 11:48 pm

    Ivan,
    Thank you so much for this Kali’s poem. Your very enlightening elaboration was delightful. God bless you.
    This type of poetry of Indian literature along with many other, very profoundly remind me of my own contemplation and personal enthusiasm about Mother gang and rich and strong build up around it in Hindu literature and traditions. I have always appreciated the spiritual values this Goddess developed during the ages among its believers. To my own knowledge and understanding, the Indian Poetry has many elements of similarity to the Persian Poetry where I come from and that is why I like it so much.
    Thanks again for all your love and efforts devoted to the job.
    I wish you all the best and success.

  5. Bob Corbinon 30 Jun 2012 at 11:43 am

    I recently reread one of your “Kali” poems, Trinket, with new appreciation because of your commentary. I have had a hard time finding spiritual guidance in these sharp edged poems where the goddess is more dominatrix than friend. It probably reminds me too much of my own childhood religious beliefs.

    I really enjoy the breadth (as well as the depth, of course,) of your selections. I should like to see more from the world’s First Peoples.

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