Being clear on our purpose
It’s not easy to negotiate a journey through anger. It’s like asking ourselves to deliberately walk through fire or through an area that’s filled with hidden landmines. Why would we do that? For what purpose?
Well, I believe the purpose is always to heal ourselves, so we discover the ‘upside’ of anger- the hidden gifts that are buried beneath the smoldering eruptions of anger that may feel like a volcano spewing molten lava.
A childhood with gods and goddesses
Before I offer a tool helpful for me in healing my anger, I want to share about my upbringing. As Hindus born in India, my first-generation Indian parents raised my brother and me on a steady diet of vegetarian curry, masala chai and god—330 million gods and goddesses, to be precise, which is the official number of gods in the Hindu pantheon. 😊
Lord Krishna. Lord Rama. Shiva. Ganesha. Lakshmi. Saraswati. Durga. Hanuman. And so on and so forth.
We grew up reciting different prayers and mantras for different gods and goddesses. For our bedtime stories, my mom shared wonderful mythological tales. The gods and goddesses were our friends and guides.
Enter Goddess Kali
However, one goddess that I never felt much connection to is Goddess Kali. In fact, whenever I saw her photo, I mostly felt fearful. Unlike most Hindu goddesses – who are depicted as fair-skinned, with a serene countenance, wearing a saree and adorned with resplendent jewelry- Kali (from Sanskrit meaning ‘black’) is usually portrayed as bare-breasted, wearing a skirt made of severed hands, with unkempt hair flowing everywhere, and a necklace made of skulls or decapitated heads. If that’s not formidable enough, Kali dances upon the body of her consort, Shiva, and brandishes a bloody sword in one of her four hands while carrying a severed head in the other. Kali is a warrior goddess with her tongue sticking out – apparently ready to lick the blood of demons.
Shortly after beginning work on these posts on anger, the goddess Kali kept coming to mind. This time, even though her image still felt ferocious and fearful, I experienced a pull I couldn’t resist. I was guided to study the teachings of Sally Kempton- a contemporary American spiritual teacher of the Hindu goddess tradition. Sally counsels that Kali is “not a goddess to take lightly” because when she “erupts in your life, Kali will cut away whatever is extraneous.” Kali insists on “melting us to the bone.” In essence, Kali is a “massive love-force that literally is death to the ego.”
Just today, while working on this article, my mom shared how Kali is a great friend and ally to those on a spiritual, self-reflective path. Her bloody sword is not to frighten but assure us that she is ready to swiftly cut away all those egoic tendencies that bind us to pain and suffering. The decapitated heads symbolize the thinking, ‘I know’ mind – that convinces us that we heal via logical, intellect-based plans. This causes us to refuse to listen to the deeper, wiser True Self. Kali is here to ‘divorce’ us from that egoic intellect – so we can hold spaciousness for the deeper inner wisdom that we truly need to take root in us, and help steer our lives in the direction of peace, love and happiness.
How can Kali help us in the journey through anger?
To move through anger, or any difficult emotion or situation, we must be like warriors. We need clarity, focus, determination and single-mindedness of purpose. Here is where I invoke the goddess Kali to be my mighty companion- to grant me this ‘warrior’ spirit- to be fearless in looking inward and going beneath to trace the real cause of my upset – as well as to help me release all that no longer serves. Kali embodies transformative anger – the kind of anger that brings about revolutionary change that dissolves outdated societal, personal and interpersonal structures or relationships. Kali is the goddess of freedom- on all levels.
Resources for practice
If you feel inspired, here is a guided meditation I created based on the teachings of Sally Kempton to invoke the energy of Kali.
If you feel inspired to dive deeper, there are excellent resources to explore on Sally’s website as well as her audio CD and book (Awakening Shakti) on the Indian spiritual goddess tradition ( both available on Amazon).
As always, feel free to write back with any comments at [email protected] 😊
Sources: Images of Kali: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kaliposter1940s.jpg; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kali_by_Raja_Ravi_Varma.jpg; Quotes from Sally Kempton from her book Awakening to Kali