Kali's Destruction And Shiva's Creation [The Lessons Of Tantra For Men]
In Tantra one thing has had a powerful effect on me, that is the special relationship between men and women. The story of Kali draws powerful lessons for men from this. Men will be well to look further into this to improve their relationships.
Kali and Tantra are closely linked. Tantra treats men and women as gods and goddesses to revere and worship. Hence this is a powerful starting point from which to understand yourself as a man. It is common for men to appear to treat women as goddesses, but not in the way suggested by the Hindu Goddess Kali. Read on to learn about the powerful forces at work here.
If you can see yourself as worthy of worship by women then you have come a long way to re-awakening your true core as a man.
When you look deeper you will find that there are powerful forces at work in Tantric meditation. This came home to me on a personal level after I took part in a Tantric meditation based on Kali and her relationship with Shiva. This essential Kali and Tantra relationship, the Shiva-Shakti, goes to the core of male and female energy. Overall it teaches a man to be strong and powerful and to remain detached from what is happening in the woman.
A man's presence and power has an amazing effect on women only if he remains like a rock and confident in his own certainty and strength. To understand this better I will explain more about Kali and then come back to draw out the lessons for men.
The Story of Kali
Firstly Kali is the Hindu goddess of eternal energy, of time and change. She is the consort of the god Shiva, on whose body she is often seen standing.
Above all Kali conveys death, destruction, and the consuming aspects of reality. She is a vicious slayer of demons who serve Shiva. Kali is also the supreme mistress of the universe. In union with Shiva she creates and destroys worlds. She is also described as young and beautiful, with a gentle smile, and makes gestures with her right hands to dispel fear. These more positive features turn her divine wrath into a goddess of salvation, who dispels fear.
Kali in the Battlefield
In Kali's most famous story, the gods try to destroy the demon Raktabija. This fails because for every drop of blood that is spilt from Raktabija, the demon reproduces himself. This fills the battlefield with his duplicates. In need of help, they summons Kali to combat the demon.
She engages the demon in battle. Her eyes are red, her complexion dark, her features gaunt, her hair unbound, and her teeth are sharp like fangs. As the eight-armed Goddess rides into battle on her lion, Raktabija experiences fear in his demonic heart. Kali orders the gods to attack him. She spreads her tongue to cover the battlefield. This prevents a single drop of Raktabija's blood from falling on the ground. Thus, she prevents him from reproducing himself and the gods are able to slay the demon.
Kali becomes intoxicated with Raktabija's blood. She runs amuck across the universe, destroying everything and everyone in her sight. To restrain her, Shiva takes the form of a corpse and blocks her path. So as the goddess trips on his lifeless body, Shiva jolts her out of her frenzy . She wonders if she has killed her own husband. She places a foot on Shiva's chest and brings him back to life.
Shiva takes the form of a child and begins to cry. As a result maternal love stirs in the heart of Kali who sheds her fierce form becoming a radiant mother, bestower of life.
Kali and Tantra
Goddesses play an important role in Tantra and are central to the nature of reality. Men revere them, they see all women as goddesses. It is this aspect that is most crucial in understanding the Tantric approach to Kali.
The Tantric interpretation of Kali standing on top of her husband is that Shiva (Divine Consciousness) is inactive, while Shakti (Divine Energy as Kali) is active. Shiva represents pure consciousness which is beyond all names, forms and activities. Kali represents the potential energy responsible for all names, forms and activities. She is his Shakti, or creative power, and is the substance behind all consciousness. She can never exist apart from Shiva or act without him. Shakti, all the matter/energy of the universe, is not distinct from Shiva, but is rather his dynamic power.
From a Tantric perspective, when one meditates on reality as pure consciousness one refers to this as Shiva. When you meditate on reality, as dynamic and creative, you refer to it as Kali or Shakti.
With Shiva as male and Kali as female it is only by their union that creation happens.
So Kali's dark nature has led to her becoming an important Tantric figure. Devotees face her Curse, the terror of death, as they face her beautiful, nurturing, maternal aspect. Wisdom means learning that no coin has only one side. As death cannot exist without life, so life cannot exist without death.
Kali's role sometimes grew beyond that of chaos to that of one who could bring wisdom.
The Lessons for Men
Basically there are two major lessons for men that come out of the story of Kali and Tantra. The first concerns a man's strength and the second informs the powerful relationship between men and women.
Firstly go back to the original story. After succeeding with her task Kali was drunk on the blood of the demon and ran amok in the Universe killing and causing chaos. Of course women have a tendency to chaos in their nature, they whirl and dance and get caught up in the excitement or fear of the moment. The gods did not know how to deal with this.
Shiva sees what is happening and decides to take control by lying down and doing nothing! He lets Kali trample on him and trusts what the result will be. He does not get involved but shows Kali the power of his trust in her. At the last minute she sees it is her man, stops and calms down. His immovable strength enabled her to let go of the chaos and come back to her normality.
When a man stands like a rock in the midst of female chaos she can lock on to him and let it all go.
Secondly look at the Tantric interpretation of Kali standing on Shiva, Shiva without Shakti is Shava (without the female power of action the male power of consciousness is dead).
Without reservation, man without woman is powerless, woman without man cannot exist. In the power of their combination is the creation of the world. The essence of the dynamic and creative forces of creation comes from the inter-twining of the two forms of energy. Kali and Tantra show the power in creation.
So as men we need to understand that alone we create death but with the female we, together, become a great creative force in the world. The creative power is in the combination of the two.
Significantly this takes us men into the vortex of the creative energy that created the world, the energy implied by Kali and Tantra. This energy has the potential to fly off into uncontrolled chaos. Through its combination with the strength and power of men, it grows and becomes even more powerful.
Kali as a Feminist Icon
Kali is a supreme example of a powerful woman who is self-confident and determined. She is not the stereotype of the demure woman who does as she's told.
She is known for creation and destruction but she is also known for her attachment to Shiva, her partner. Theirs is a a strong relationship where each has a defined role to play. This feminism is one that sets up a woman as an equal partner to a man, and a strong one at that. There are no doubts in her mind about who she is and no doubts in Shiva's mind. This is a feminism that does not demean anyone, indeed it gives everyone involved power.
Significantly Kali is feared by those who do not understand her and is revered by those who do. Which are you?
Shiva cycles through the process of creation, preservation, dissolution and recreation. Shiva is often seen as representing destruction, but in the story of Kali, causing chaos on the battlefield, Shiva lies down and lets her step on him. This shows how ...
... when a man stands like a rock in the midst of female chaos she can lock on to him and let it all go.
This doesn't seem to be about destruction, in fact it's the opposite, preventing it.
Shiva means good or auspicious one. He is a Hindu god of ambiguity and paradox.
In Hindu legend he is supposed to destroy evil and sorrow and do good. He is self-controlled and celibate, as well being as the lover of Shakti, his spouse. He is responsible for change in the sense of death and destruction, destroying the ego and shedding old habits or attachments.
He is static and dynamic and creator and destroyer. He is the oldest and the youngest. He is the source of fertility in all living beings. He is omnipresent and resides in everyone as pure consciousness.
He is symbolised in an abstract form as the Shiva Lingam. The Lingam represents the male creative energy of Shiva and is worshiped in virtually every Hindu temple and home. The phallus is not worshiped as such, but through it Shiva is seen as pure consciousness. Embracing the base of the lingam is the yoni, the female organ, as the universal energy, as Shakti. Through profound understanding of this symbol, the mystery of creation can be understood as an act of love.
What Does Shiva Shakti Represent?
Shiva represents the aspect of the universe that cycles through the process of creation, preservation, dissolution and recreation. He represents mercy and compassion and protects people from evil forces such as lust, greed, and anger. He grants favours and awakens wisdom.
Everything that begins must also end. Nothing is destroyed but the illusion of individuality. The power of destruction associated with Shiva is purifying, on a personal and a universal level. Destruction opens the path for new creation, a new opportunity for the beauty and drama of illusion to appear.
The power or energy of Shiva is Shakti, his spouse. Shiva is inseparable from Shakti. There is no Shiva without Shakti and no Shakti without Shiva, the two are one consciousness and the absolute state of being.
What Lessons Does Shiva Shakti Have For Us?
It is helpful for me that Shiva displays destruction as a creative force. Too often in a man's world destruction is and end in itself, even though it is cloaked in a the concept of a higher good. Here it is solely a purifying force that clears out evil and re-creates on a level of consciousness. There is no destruction without creation, without the responsibility for what follows.
This is engagement, something that men can find difficult. So much emotional, as well as physical, destruction is caused by disengagement.
What is more powerful, however, is that Shiva is seen as inseparable from Shakti. The masculine is inseparable from the feminine. It's not that the masculine and feminine resides in all of us, it's that the two are intertwined in universal consciousness. To be fully alive involves embracing both, to be one person we need to be two.
Shiva's involvement with Kali has an interesting insight into the use of Male Power. Here he uses to calm Kali, the feminine, down. he does not by force or direct intervention but by just being there, solid and dependable. He is able to embrace Kali's energy allowing her to trust again.
How Can We Connect With His Energy?
In Tantra there is a common meditation pose called Shiva Shakti. In it the man and woman are intertwined in a sitting position. The woman is in the man's lap and their hearts and genitals are pressed together. In this pose the two become one, exchanging breath and energy.
Practicing this idea on an energetic level with our partner will create great power for both. Developing the ability to feel the pure consciousness that lies in both of you and in the combination is essential for any man.
If we also develop an awareness of the consequences of our actions we will find renewed ability to see the power of creation in the world. If we always look to creation and look beyond destruction we will see the world in a totally different light.
Shiva Shakti can give us power and compassion.