I cannot recall the precise moment when I first encountered Kali Maa but She had been in my periphery for many years before being “formally” introduced to Her though SHARANYA. I have studied various forms of Hinduism throughout the years and She certainly came up but usually as a goddess to avoid. Epithets such as “bloodthirsty” and “evil” were leveled at Her and I dutifully sidestepped Her. Then while I was studying Vedanta, I came across the story of Paramahansa Ramakrishna. I read with relish the account in which Ramakrishna, desperate to have Kali Maa reveal Herself to him, demanded that She do so immediately or else he would seize Her scimitar and cut off his own head. I was instantly struck by the depth of his devotion, a love so great that he would be willing give up his life for a glimpse of Her. I knew that I had to learn more about this goddess that inspired such passion, such divine lunacy – I, too, wanted to be mad for God. However, as I became more familiar with the organization that grew up around Ramakrishna, I was disappointed to find that here, too, Kali Maa’s role was downplayed and my yearning for Her was discouraged.
Fast forward several years and Kali began to make appearances in my dreams and I found myself writing poetry about her. Yet, my attraction to Her at this point was largely intellectual, and not so much emotional or devotional. I tucked Her in a remote corner of my mind and basically forgot about Her until I stumbled across SHARANYA.
After years of spiritual dissatisfaction and downright disillusionment, I decided to attend the Berkeley Pagan Festival in 2007, hoping to find some sort of connection. Failing to do so, I started to walk away when I glanced at a booth displaying Hindu icons. I remember thinking, “What are Hindus doing here?” Curious, I approached the booth and talked to two SHARANYA initiates and was invited to puja. After some deliberation, I went to puja with my guard up, defenses at the ready, and my skepticism on alert. I was bracing myself to be disappointed, so imagine my surprise when I burst into tears at some point in the ceremony and gave myself over to the love and acceptance that I felt from both Kali Maa and the community. Suddenly, I was stripped bare of my defenses and expectations, leaving me raw and vulnerable before Her. Ironically, I also felt deep contentment, joy, and a sense of homecoming. Cliché as it may sound, my life was truly transformed that evening.
Since that fateful puja, I have taken that uprush of transformative energy and formalized my commitment to Her and to my community by accepting initiation. By using the tools that I have learned in SHARANYA such as mantra and pranayama, I have changed my life in a very practical manner by becoming more centered and aware. And while I have a long way to go before my madness reaches divine proportions, I have found a solid foothold in SHARANYA as my heart soars towards Kali Maa. Jai Maa!
Offered by Balipriya, an Initiate and Elder in Matrika Chakra