The worship is laden with verses from the Rig Veda and Chandi, ancient books of the Gods and Goddess. We follow Hindu protocol in the temple and honor Kali in a traditional manner that includes incense, water, food, fan and fire. We honor her in a non-traditional manner as well, with sacred substances reflective of non-dualistic Tantric rites. These are intended to open us to the potentials for coming to original soul that lie beneath the rubbish of our unquestioned assumptions, acculturated norms and internalized oppressions.
My own sadhana (spiritual discipline) has been a key to coming closer to original soul through the throwing off of various encumbrances. It is also what enables me to maintain the promise I made long ago to spread Mother worship. From the lips of my first guru, Shyam Sundar Dash, to my ears and then the shores of San Francisco, bringing Maa (Divine Mother) here was something with which I was charged. Certainly, I was not the first, and I did not have to accept responsibility for another iteration of Kali devotionalism in America (let alone California); but at the time, it was the most meaningful thing I could imagine doing.
Since then, the promise has transformed, the nature of what spreading Mother worship means to me along with it. I have also found myself speaking no longer of a promise, but rather of a permeating vow. In 2003, I received another initiation in India by an Aghori Baba, this one at Kamakhya where the yoni of Goddess resides in Assam. While the details of this are really another story, the point is that with this particular initiation, I actually began to have embodied experiences of connection to Kali on a regular basis. The power of Shakti (the female force) became palpable, something I could feel and source in order to change outcomes. These arisings of energy necessitated my adherence to a regular set of spiritual disciplines, much in the way one’s yearning to run a marathon or aspiration to pass a tremendously difficult yet personally meaningful exam requires strengthening through exercise and repetition if the desired goal is to be achieved.
From here, the sense in me of priestessing Kali—of being both charged with and dedicated to being clergy—began to emerge. My commitment to her opened from breath to bone. I began a new chapter, one of realizing that the path of spirit is my way of life. This is the heart then of my permeating vow and what it means to me to be her priestess: to live an engaged spirituality; to cultivate discernment in thought, speech, action and presence; and to actively disentangle myself from emotional entrapments, thereby allowing greater possibilities for love and liberation to emerge.
For your own work and practice, I offer you this, Kali’s prayer, to be recited as you feel called by crisis or by spirit to the work of blossoming your own original soul: Om Krim Kalyai Namah. I would translate it like this: I bow to you, Kali, from your manifestations in the flesh to your revelation as the vibrations of the universe. And may Kali’s gifts be yours to share.