Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Black Tara Revisited

I've been interested to notice that for the past 6 months or so, on the "stats" for this blog,  a two year old post about Black Tara, and another post about Kali get the most hits.  Why are people googling these aspects of the Dark Goddess so consistently? 

Ture, Dark Mother of Bones and Blood
Silent night and smoldering ruins
the Wheel always turning
Black heart center
of understanding.
Grant the art of Letting-go
in the still silence
of your dark smile
Om tare tuttare ture soha


The Tibetan Goddess Tara is celebrated with a long prayer called "The 21 Praises to Tara". The Goddess has 21 manifestations - peaceful and wrathful - all  expressions of divine mercy and wisdom. In the painting below, Green Tara is surrounded by smaller figures, each representing a different aspect of the Goddess (such as "White Tara", "Red Tara", etc.)Black Tara is a wrathful manifestation, identical in form and, probably  source, to Hindu Kali. Like Kali, she has a headdress of grinning skulls, like Kali, she is black, like Kali she has three eyes. Like many Tibetan deities in the wrathful aspect, she has the fangs of a tiger, symbolizing ferocity, a ferocious appetite to devour the demons of the mind. Her aura or halo is fiery, energetic, full of smoke symbolizing the transformation of fire.

Kali is the great Dark Mother of India. In Hindu mythology, when the world was being devoured by demons, there came a time when even the great Gods couldn't battle them. And so Durga manifested Kali the terrible, the "last ditch savioress". Kali is the One who brings the forest fire, levelling the ground so new growth can occur, the surgeon who cuts away morbid tissue so flesh can heal.

The icon of Kali, dancing on the prostrate body of Shiva, is a strange image to the western sensibility. Christian theology is dualistic, but Hinduism and Buddhism are not. In Bali, the curbs of Ubud are all painted like a checker board, black and white, as are the altar clothes. This is to remind those who walk down the street continuously of Sekala and Neskala, the continuing balance of Dark and Light, the yin/yang of life. Kali appears in Bali as the dreadful, fanged, bloodthirsty Rangda. Battles with her are always fought by the benign dragon, the Barong, in dreadful graveyards. But no one ultimately wins. Because the battle must continually be fought. And Rangda, work done, often then returns to the heaven realms, to become beautiful, peaceful Uma, wife of their version of Lord Shiva. Kali, whose name means "Time" (Kala) lives beyond form, beyond the pairs of opposites, the truth beyond the skeins of karma and time.

Tara has been my revered and mysterious divine teacher for many years. I won't presume to say I can understand a Goddess ......... they are archetypal, collective intelligences ..........but if I was going to make a tenuous statement, it would be when you call on a Goddess, She's not going to give you a polite reply that's been spell-checked. The ineffable work with us in the arena of energy, in the field of dreams and soul language.  But Black Tara Kali,  is so important to our time, dancing Her tough love, crimson lips full of that vast, vast laughter. 

There's a great film called "The Shipping News" (with Kevin Spacey). Towards the end of the movie, a storm has destroyed his old family's house, a weary old house haunted with too many dark secrets, too much ancestral karma. Moored atop a crag, the house has been blown at last into the ocean below to vanish beneath the waves. Confronting the littered place where it once stood, Spacey (who has become a newspaper reporter) comments:

"Headline: House disappears in storm. The view is great."


Kali is called "she who devours time".  Hindu  legend tells that Kali was so full of the rapture of battle that she destroyed all before her as she danced.  None could stop her,  so  Lord Shiva lay  down before her.  When Kali stepped on her husband's body  her madness ceased  and she stopped at last.  But there is a Tantric interpretation that the aroused Lord Shiva represents the  ecstasy of death,  and hence trans-form-ation.  Kali is  the destroyer of the illusions of time.

"Kali is the surgeon. She cuts away what has to go. I ask for that quality to come into me when I have to cut something out of my life; an addiction, or a relationship that no longer is about growth. And I ask it be done precisely, cutting away the dis-ease, malignancy, the aspects that no longer serve. That's what Kali is to me: the last resort savior. When the Gods couldn't kill the demonic forces that ravaged the Earth, they called on a woman's wrath.

We've all forgotten that the Goddess, the Divine, dwells within us. She dwells within us all the time, and not just when you wear a mask, or are in a workshop, or a ritual. In Tantric
philosophy, we're all considered emanations of the Gods and Goddesses - we are their
material aspects on this plane of existence. We're not bodies seeking the spirit, we're spirits  
seeking bodily experiences. Sacred performance, for me, is about remembering that. And remembering is truly a devotional practice. In Hindu traditions  everyone has a deity they focus on as their personal deity. In the West, as we reclaim forms of the Goddess for spiritual
practice, we need to create a relationship with the Goddess form we have chosen, in order to
manifest what we need for spiritual and emotional growth, to invoke the help of that Goddess. That practice is not just cerebral. We function out of our whole self, our bodies and spirits. The body-mind. That is the place we can re-member, the place we can communicate with the Goddess within ourselves.

Kali is so much about contemporary life. Women need to become angry now.  About the
women of Afghanistan, the meaningless wars, the destruction of our environment.  The demons  of insatiable greed that are devouring our planet. Those souls who await the future are being denied their birthright. Kali is the catalyst for saying "No more".She's the voice of women whose voices aren't being heard, the voice of women who need to open their mouths and speak for the first time. It's time to embrace the sword of Kali and cut away the delusions that are  destroying our world.

 Kali is the ferocious mother who says "get away from my children, or I'll kill you."Mothers aren't saying that. They're giving their children away, giving them away to war, giving them away by allowing our environment to be depleted, giving permission to the powers that be to destroy their future." 

Drissana Devananda (2001)

***I am embarrassed to find this worthy commentary about Kali in my files, and not the credits. I hope, should the author ever find me, he or she will accept my apology, and appreciation for the wise scholarship.
"Kali's black complexion symbolizes her all-embracing nature. Says the Mahanirvana Tantra: "Just as all colors disappear in black, so all names and forms disappear in her".Kali is free from the illusory covering, for she is beyond the all maya or "false consciousness." Her red lolling tongue indicates her omnivorous nature —her indiscriminate enjoyment of all the world's 'flavors'. Her sword is the destroyer of false consciousness.

Her three eyes represent past, present, and future, — the three modes of time — an attribute that lies in the very name Kali ('Kala' in Sanskrit means time). The eminent translator Sir John Woodroffe in Garland of Letters, writes, "Kali is so called because She devours Kala (Time) and then resumes Her own dark formlessness."
Kali's proximity to cremation grounds where the five elements or "Pancha Mahabhuta" come together, and all worldly attachments are absolved, again point to the cycle of birth and death. "


Gail said...

Thank you for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

Greetings! Love reading your blog from time to time. It's possible people generally want to learn more about the various aspects of mother earth, and simply google search and find your wonderful blog.
It's also possible people who are interested in planetary tantra and/or the gaian navigation experiment are surfing the net for more info as well.
Or something else. Still, cool to see such interest in those posts.

Lauren said...

Thanks for your comments! Yes, it is interesting the interest........I've written about many other Goddesses, so why these two manifestations?

Anonymous said...

They are part of the experiment of creative mythology. As to why those two specifically, I don't recall.