Oct 12 2018

Kamalakanta – O Kali, my 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

/ Image by Chobist /

Many of my Hindu friends are celebrating Navratri right now, the nine nights of the Great Goddess. Some traditions divide Navratri into three sets of three nights: the first three dedicated to Durga or Kali, who clears out the old and out of balance to make way for more divine manifestations of life; the next three nights are dedicated to Lakshmi, who grants wealth, both spiritual and material; while the final three nights are dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom.

I thought I’d select this poem for us today…

To appreciate this poem we need to know a few things about the traditional Hindu representations of the Goddess.

In Hindu tradition and metaphysics, the Goddess represents many aspects of the Divine. The iconography we find in Hinduism gives us a fascinating kaleidoscope of meaning. The Goddess can represent Mother, the Great Source, the Void/Womb from which all are born, Manifestation, Creation, Vibration, Speech, Song, the Arts, Beauty, Darkness, Mystery, all of the World (and all its Illusions). But with birth, also comes death, with manifestation, also comes dissolution; anything with a beginning also has an end. Only the eternal is eternal. So the Goddess, Mother and Manifestor, is also sometimes portrayed as Destroyer. She is Life and Death both. She is the Power that brings all into being, animates and enlivens the universe, and also draws it back into non-being. But even in Her fiercest aspect, the Mother Goddess is loving. For Her, death is merely the death of illusion and the return to Self.

Many Westerners at first find the iconography associated with the goddess Kali 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. Well, she hasn’t really removed them; in slaying the demons, she has freed them, so that now their heads rest in bliss upon her breast.

Further, each head, severed at the neck, represents a specific sound; collectively, the heads represent the sound of divine speech, the foundational vibration or Eternal Word, through which the universe 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 fiercely that she 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…

It’s a crisp autumn morning here. The snow from the last few days never quite stuck, the air is clear. The aspen leaves dance in green and gold, glistening in the light. Remember the beauty all around you!

Recommended Books: Kamalakanta

Singing to the Goddess: Poems to Kali and Uma from Bengal Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineswar


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 pre-independence India. His father was a Brahmin priest who died when Kamalakanta was still a boy. His mother struggled 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

4 responses so far

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

  1. Mystic Meanderingon 14 Oct 2018 at 10:03 am

    Wonderful commentary on Kali. I like the imagery and symbolism you have portrayed. I am not familiar with any of the Hindu deities, although have heard their names.

    I especially liked this: “…there is a profound sense of simply what is and what is potential. The feeling of being caught in a tug-of-war [resistance] between opposites and social compulsions vanishes.” I experienced some of this “release” yesterday, filling me with a sense of joy and gratitude for all that is. Amazing…

  2. Jud Simonsonon 20 Oct 2018 at 10:32 am

    Check out her poetry….you might what to feature some with her permission.


  3. aleon 04 Nov 2018 at 12:12 am

    Loved this post! Can you please throw more light on what potential means context “there is a profound sense of what simply is, and what is potential”

  4. Ivan M. Grangeron 06 Nov 2018 at 3:51 pm

    Good question, Ale.

    When we are strongly focused on what “should” be or what “shouldn’t” be, we are very caught up in our own projections and assumptions. In other words, we aren’t really perceiving reality as it is. We are only seeing our thoughts about reality. When we grow deeply quiet, that tendency to insert ourselves into the center of reality disappears, and we begin to see things as they truly are for the first time. Not only that, but we can see more clearly the patterns at play, including those energies that are ready to emerge into manifestation. We see what is potential. Perhaps we might even be in a position to encourage certain positive things to come forth, like a midwife.

    The essential thing is to learn to drop our self-importance enough to step out of the way so we can recognize what is right there.

    ~ Ivan

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