Kali and Tantra—Lessons for Men
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?