• 24 Jun, 2024

The Mother Kali

The Mother Kali

Brahman alone is addressed as the Mother. This is because a mother is an object of great love. One is able to realize God just through love. Ecstasy of feeling, devotion, love, and faith — these are the means.

Mother Has Revealed Everything To Me

I wept before the Mother and prayed, “O Mother, please tell me, please reveal to me what the yogis have realized through yoga and the jnanis through discrimination.” And the Mother has revealed everything to me. She reveals everything if the devotee cries to Her with a yearning heart. She has shown me everything that is in the Vedas, the Vedanta, the Puranas, and the Tantra. 

The Divine Mother revealed to me in the Kali temple that it was She who had become everything. She showed me that everything was full of Consciousness. The image was Consciousness, the water was Consciousness, the altar was Consciousness, the water vessels were Consciousness, the doorsill was Consciousness, the marble floor was Consciousness — all was Consciousness.

I found everything inside the room soaked, as it were, in Bliss — the Bliss of Satchidananda. I saw a wicked man in front of the Kali temple, but in him also I saw the Power of the Divine Mother vibrating.

That was why I fed a cat with the food that was to be offered to the Divine Mother. I clearly perceived that the Divine Mother Herself had become everything — even the cat. The manager of the temple garden wrote to Mathur Babu saying that I was feeding the cat with the offering intended for the Divine Mother. But Mathur Babu had the insight into the state of my mind. He wrote back to the manager: “Let him do whatever he likes. You must not say anything to him.” 

To my Divine Mother, I prayed only for pure love. I offered flowers at Her Lotus Feet and prayed to Her: “Mother, here is Thy virtue, here it Thy vice. Take them both and grant me only pure love for Thee. Here is Thy knowledge, here is Thy ignorance, take them both and grant me only pure love for Thee. Here is Thy purity, here is Thy impurity. Take them both, Mother, and grant me only pure love for Thee. Here is Thy dharma, here is Thy adharma. Take them both, Mother, and grant me only pure love for Thee.” 

Is Kali Really Black?

You see Her as black because you are far away from Her. Go near and you will find Her devoid of all color. The water of a lake appears black from a distance. Go near and take the water in your hand, and you will see that it has no color at all. Similarly, the sky looks blue from a distance. But look at the atmosphere near you; it has no color. The nearer you come to God, the more you will realize that He has neither name nor form. If you move away from the Divine Mother, you will find Her blue, like the grass-flower. Is Shyama male or female? A man once saw the image of the Divine Mother wearing a sacred thread. He said to the worshipper: “What? You have put the sacred thread around the Mother’s neck!” The worshipper said: “Brother, I see that you have truly known the Mother. But I have not yet been able to find out whether She is male or female; that is why I have put the sacred thread on Her image.” 

Brahman and Shakti

That which is Shyama is also Brahman. That which has form, again, is without form. That which has attributes, again, has no attributes. Brahman is Shakti; Shakti is Brahman. They are not two. These are only two aspects, male and female, of the same Reality, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute.

Purusha and Prakriti: Whatever you perceive in the universe is the outcome of this union. Take the image of Shiva and Kali. Kali stands on the bosom of Shiva; Shiva lies on the ground like a corpse. Prakriti performs all Her activities in conjunction with Purusha. Thus She creates, preserves, and destroys. That is also the meaning of the conjoined images of Radha and Krishna. On account of that union, again, the images are slightly inclined toward each other.

To denote this union, Sri Krishna wears a pearl in His nose, Radha a blue stone in Hers. Radha has a fair complexion, bright as the pearl. Sri Krishna’s is blue. For this reason Radha wears the blue stone. Further, Krishna’s apparel is yellow, and Radha’s blue.

Who is the best devotee of God? It is he who sees, after the realization of Brahman, that God alone has become all living beings, the universe, and the twenty-four cosmic principles. One must discriminate at first, saying, “Not this, not this,” and reach the roof. After that one realizes that the steps are made of the same materials as the roof, namely, brick, lime, and brick-dust. The devotee realizes that it is Brahman alone that has become all these — the living beings, the universe, and so on.

That which is Brahman is verily Shakti. I address That, again, as the Mother. I call It Brahman when It is inactive, and Shakti when It creates, preserves and destroys. It is like water, sometimes still and sometimes covered with waves. 

That which is the Real is also called Brahman. It has another name: Kala, Time. There is a saying, “O brother, how many things come into being in Time and disappear in Time!”

That which sports with Kala is called Kali. She is the Primal Energy. Kala and Kali, Brahman and Shakti, are indivisible. 

He who is Brahman is the Adyashakti, the Primal Energy. When inactive He is called Brahman, the Purusha; He is called Shakti, or Prakriti, when engaged in creation, preservation, and destruction. These are the two aspects of Reality: Purusha and Prakriti. He who is the Purusha is also Prakriti. Both are the embodiment of Bliss.

If you are aware of the Male Principle, you cannot ignore the Female Principle. He who is aware of the father must also think of the mother. He who knows darkness also knows light. He who knows night also knows day. He who knows happiness also knows misery. You understand this, don’t you?

My Mother! Who is my Mother? Ah, She is the Mother of the Universe. It is She who creates and preserves the world, who always protects Her children, and who grants whatever they desire: dharma, artha, kama, moksha. A true son cannot live away from his mother. The mother knows everything. The child only eats, drinks, and makes merry; he doesn’t worry himself about the things of the world. 

How Mother Plays

The jnanis, who adhere to the non-dualistic philosophy of Vedanta, say that the acts of creation, preservation, and destruction, the universe itself and all its living beings, are the manifestations of Shakti, the Divine Power. If you reason it out, you will realize that all these are as illusory as a dream. Brahman alone is the Reality, and all else is unreal. Even this very Shakti is unsubstantial, like a dream.

But though you reason all your life, unless you are established in samadhi, you cannot go beyond the jurisdiction of Shakti. Even when you say, “I am meditating”, or “I am contemplating”, still you are moving in the realm of Shakti, within Its power.

Thus Brahman and Shakti are identical. If you accept the one, you must accept the other. It is like fire and its power to burn. If you see the fire, you must recognize its power to burn also. You cannot think of fire without its power to burn, nor can you think of the power to burn without fire. You cannot conceive of the sun’s rays without the sun, nor can you conceive of the sun without its rays.

What is milk like? Oh, you say, it is something white. You cannot think of the milk without the whiteness, and again, you cannot think of the whiteness without the milk.

Thus one cannot think of Brahman without Shakti, or of Shakti without Brahman. One cannot think of the Absolute without the Relative, or of the Relative without the Absolute.

The Primordial Power is ever at play. She is creating, preserving, and destroying in play, as it were. This Power is called Kali. Kali is verily Brahman, and Brahman is verily Kali. It is one and the same Reality. When we think of It as inactive, that is to say, not engaged in the acts of creation, preservation, and destruction, then we call It Brahman. But when It engages in these activities, then we call it Kali or Shakti. The Reality is one and the same; the difference is in name and form.

It is like water, called in different languages by different names, such as “jal”, “pani”, and so forth. There are three of four ghats on a lake. The Hindus, who drink water at one place, call it “jal”. The Mussalmans at another place call it “pani”. And the English at a third place call it “water”. All three denote one and the same thing, the difference being in the name only. In the same way, some address the Reality as “Allah”, some as “God”, some as “Brahman”, some as “Kali”, and others by such names as “Rama”, “Jesus”, “Durga”, “Hari”.

Oh, She plays in different ways. It is She alone who is known as Maha-Kali, Nitya-Kali, Shmashana-Kali, Raksha-Kali, and Shyama-Kali. Maha-Kali and Nitya-Kali are mentioned in the Tantra philosophy. When there were neither the creation, nor the sun, the moon, the planets, and the earth, and when darkness was enveloped in darkness, then the Mother, the Formless One, Maha-Kali, the Great Power, was one with Maha-Kala, the Absolute.

Shyama-Kali has a somewhat tender aspect and is worshipped in the Hindu households. She is the Dispenser of boons and the Dispeller of fear. People worship Raksha-Kali, the Protectress, in times of epidemic, famine, earthquake, drought, and flood. Shmashana-Kali is the embodiment of the power of destruction. She resides in the cremation ground, surrounded by corpses, jackals, and terrible female spirits. From Her mouth flows a stream of blood, form Her neck hangs a garland of human heads, and around Her waist is a girdle made of human hands.

After the destruction of the universe, at the end of a great cycle, the Divine Mother garners the seeds for the next creation. She is like the elderly mistress of the house, who has a hotchpotch-pot in which she keeps different articles for household use.

Oh, yes! Housewives have pots like that, where they keep “sea-foam”, blue pills, small bundles of seeds of cucumber, pumpkin, and gourd, and so on. They take them out when they want them. In the same way, after the destruction of the universe, the Divine Mother, the Embodiment of Brahman, gathers together the seeds for the next creation. After the creation the Primal Power dwells in the universe itself. She brings forth this phenomenal world and then pervades it. In the Vedas, creation is likened to the spider and its web. The spider brings the web out of itself and then remains in it. God is the container of the universe and also what is contained in it.

Bondage and liberation are both of Her making. By Her Maya, worldly people become entangled in “lust and greed” [1]  and again, through Her grace they attain their liberation. She is called the Savior, and the Remover of the bondage that binds one to the world. 

The divine Mother is always playful and sportive. This universe is Her play. She is self-willed and must always have Her own way. She is full of bliss. She gives freedom to one out of a hundred thousand. 

Shakti Must Be Propitiated

The mind can disentangle itself from worldliness if, through Her grace, She makes it turn toward Herself. Only then does it become devoted to the Lotus Feet of the Divine Mother. 

God has created the world in play, as it were. This is called Mahamaya, the Great Illusion. Therefore one must take refuge in the Divine Mother, the Cosmic Power Itself. It is She who has bound us with the shackles of illusion. The realization of God is possible only when those shackles are severed.

One must propitiate the Divine Mother, the Primal Energy, in order to obtain God’s grace. God Himself is Mahamaya, who deludes the world with Her illusion and conjures up the magic of creation, preservation, and destruction. She has spread this veil of ignorance before our eyes. We can go into the inner chamber only when She lets us pass through the door. Living outside, we see only outer objects, but not that Eternal Being, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute. Therefore it is stated in the Puranas that deities like Brahma praised Mahamaya for destruction of the demons Madhu and Kaitabha.

Shakti alone is the root of the universe. That Primal Energy has two aspects: vidya and avidya. Avidya deludes. Avidya conjures up “lust and greed”, which casts the spell. Vidya begets devotion, kindness, wisdom, and love, which lead one to God. This avidya must be propitiated, and that is the purpose of the rites of Shakti worship.

The devotee assumes various attitudes toward Shakti in order to propitiate Her: the attitude of a handmaid, a “hero”, or a child.

The worship of Shakti is extremely difficult. It is no joke. I passed two years as the handmaid and companion of the Divine Mother. But my natural attitude has always been that of a child toward its mother. I regard the breasts of any woman as those of my own mother. Women are, all of them, the veritable images of Shakti. 

Pray to the Divine Mother With a Longing Heart

Pray to the Divine Mother with a longing heart. Her vision dries up all craving for the world and completely destroys all attachment to lust and greed. It happens instantly if you think of Her as your own mother. She is by no means a godmother. She is your own mother. With a yearning heart persist in your demands on Her. The child holds to the skirt of its mother and begs a penny of her to buy a kite. Perhaps the mother is gossiping with her friends. At first, she refuses to give the penny and says to the child: “No, you can’t have it. Your daddy has asked me not to give you money. When he comes home I’ll ask him about it. You will get into trouble if you play with a kite now.” The child begins to cry and will not give up his demand. Then the mother says to her friends: “Excuse me a moment. Let me pacify this child.” Immediately she unlocks the cash box with a click and throws the child a penny.

You too must force your demands on the Divine Mother. She will come to you without fail. I once said the same thing to some Sikhs when they visited the temple. We were conversing in front of the Kali temple. They said, “God is compassionate.” “Why compassionate?” I asked. “Why, revered sir, He constantly looks after us, gives us righteousness and wealth, and provides us with our food.” “Suppose,” I said, “a man has children. Who will look after them and provide them with food — their father or a man from another village?” God is our very own. We can exert force on him. With one’s people one can even go so far as to say, “You rascal! Won’t you give it to me?”

One must have for God the yearning of a child. The child sees nothing but confusion when his mother is away. You may try to cajole him by putting sweetmeat in his hand, but he will not be fooled. He only says, “No, I want to go to my mother.” One must feel such yearning for God. Ah, what yearning! How restless a child feels for his mother! Nothing can make him forget his mother. He to whom the enjoyment of worldly happiness appears tasteless, he who takes no delight in anything of the world — money, name, creature comforts, sense pleasure — becomes sincerely grief-stricken for the vision of the Mother. And to him alone the Mother comes running, leaving all Her other duties.

Ah, that restlessness is the whole thing. Whatever path you follow — whether you are a Hindu, a Mussalman, a Christian, a Shakta, a Vaishnava, or a Brahmo — the vital point is restlessness. God is our Inner Guide. It doesn’t matter if you take a wrong path — only you must be restless for Him. He Himself will put you on the right path.

Besides there are errors in all paths. Everyone thinks his watch is right; but as a matter of fact, no watch is absolutely right. But that doesn’t hamper one’s work. If a man is restless for God, he gains the company of sadhus and as far as possible corrects his own watch with the sadhus’ help. 

That which is Brahman is verily Shakti. I address That, again, as the Mother. I call It Brahman when It is inactive, and Shakti when It creates, preserves and destroys. It is like water, sometimes still and sometimes covered with waves. The Incarnation of God is a part of the lila of Shakti. The purpose of the Divine Incarnation is to teach man ecstatic love for God. The Incarnation is like the udder of the cow; the only place milk is to be got. God incarnates Himself as man. There is great accumulation of divinity in an Incarnation, like the accumulation of fish in a deep hollow in a lake. 

Brahman alone is addressed as the Mother. This is because a mother is an object of great love. One is able to realize God just through love. Ecstasy of feeling, devotion, love, and faith — these are the means. 

This attitude of regarding God as Mother is the last word in sadhana. “O God, Thou art my Mother and I am Thy child” — this is the last word in spirituality.


As recorded by M. in Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita      
Excerpts from The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, translated by Swami Nikhilananda.      

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1  The original Bengali expression Sri Ramakrishna uses is Kamini Kanchan, a metaphor best rendered in English as lust and greed.      

Editorial Team

Written, collated or presented by the team of editors at Satyameva

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