Guiding Light of The Month

In this immense heroic struggle, in this sublime struggle of love against hatred, of justice against injustice, of obedience to Thy supreme law against revolt, may I gradually be able to make humanity worthy of a still sublimer peace in which, all internal dissensions having ceased, the whole effort of man may be united for the attainment of a more and more perfect and integral realisation of Thy divine Will and Thy progressive ideal. - The Mother

“Now are my illumined cells joy’s flaming scheme” – Meditation on Mahakali.

This has been a difficult meditation to articulate. I am aware of the thoughts racing, of impressions of my first encounters with this form of the Mother. She is present in more than one of the temples in Serangoon Road. In every one of those temples, her fierceness seemed an insurmountable barrier. She stands fiercely over a demon, has skulls around her neck, and carries a trident ready to strike. Her wide, calm eyes are often in contrast to the fierce action she embodies. I have experienced awe at the sight of her, a tentative approach and an automatic prayer that was mainly intended to appease. I could not feel the sweet joy and spontaneous love that I felt in the presence of other forms of the Mother. It was only when I first read Sri Aurobindo’s description of her that I sensed another approach to her. As with so much else of how I understand my world, Sri Aurobindo provided me a path to this power of the Mother.
It is power that defines her. She manifests the “force and strength” of the Divine Mother. The first time I encountered her as Sri Aurobindo speaks of her was in a talk by Prof. Nadkarni. He was speaking of an episode that is recounted in The Mother’s Agenda (v.11):
There was a rather long period: the War was declared in August [1914] and I left next February. Well, between the two, one day while in meditation, I saw Kali enter through the door - Kali of the vital, naked, with a garland of heads - she danced into the room. And she told me (she stayed like that, a little distance away), she told me ... I don't remember the exact words, but: "Paris is captured" or "Paris is about to be captured" or "Paris is destroyed" - something of the sort, anyway the Germans were advancing on Paris. And then, I saw the Mother - the Mother, that is to say ... how does he call her? Maha ...Mahashakti.
Huge!... You see, Kali had a human size, but she was huge, up to the ceiling. She came in behind Kali and stood there, and she said, "NO" - simply, just like that (in a quiet categorical tone). So I (laughing) ... In those days, there was no radio, we would get the news by wire; so we got the news that the Germans were advancing on Paris, and at the same moment (that is, the day I had my vision), at the corresponding moment, without reason they were struck with panic, they turned back and went away.... It was just the same moment.... They were advancing on Paris; so Kali came in, saying, "Paris is captured." And then She came (Mother brings her hand down sovereignly): NO.... Like that. It really was remarkable, because I was simply sitting there, looking. And it happened in front of me. (Mother's Agenda, v. 11 , P.134, 1st Apr 1970)
This distinction between a lesser deity and the Mother as Mahakali was startling to a teen who had only seen images of the Kali as the dark and naked figure. The idea that the Mother’s force and strength were greater than the violent energies that are barely contained in the images of Kali enabled me to recognize yet another path towards the Mother. I have so often been struck by the form of the deity in the temple – never allowing myself to experience “[a] nodus of Eternity expressed / Live in an image and a sculptured face” (“The Hill-Top Temple”). The interiority of the being within the form has always eluded me. But instead of merely describing her form, Sri Aurobindo describes Mahakali’s interiority: “There is in her an overwhelming intensity, a mighty passion of force to achieve, a divine violence rushing to shatter every limit and obstacle. All her divinity leaps out in a splendor of tempestuous action; she is there for swiftness, for the immediately effective process, the rapid and direct stroke, the frontal assault that carries everything before it.” The form is replaced by awareness of energy and force, a movement that enables and strengthens, an awareness that is keener and an aspiration that is capable of rising far higher.
Only recently, partly in the course of this meditation, I have come to realize how much I live in fear, how easily I have accepted my limitations. The world when viewed through this lens of fear is a dark place, a place where even the Divine is seen as remote and awe-inspiring instead of near and full of love. In a real sense, even though I had not thought of Kali, I was viewing the world as I viewed her – with wariness and reflexive need to protect myself. With time and Her Grace, this too changed. As I begin to think of the Mother as Mahakali, I see the fear disappear: “When she is allowed to intervene in her strength, then in one moment are broken like things without consistence the obstacles that immobilise or the enemies that assail the seeker.” Looking back at those fears, I see them as those of a child. I am led to see how She has been present through every moment and in every interaction. I also begin to realize how much my obdurate fear prevented me from experiencing her Presence. I have written here about how I love Sri Aurobindo’s writing – the way he articulates movements of the Divine and of the seeker. “When she is allowed” – what stops her? Who could grant permission to this being and her grandeur? It is the seeker and the seeker’s willingness to be transformed. The answer moves me almost to tears.
Above all else, the Mother seeks to be near her children and if her children run from her in fear, then she shows them a form that is less fearsome and draws them near. Writing to a devotee about the ways in which Mother aids or teaches Sadhaks, Sri Aurobindo says “All these things depend on the person, the condition, the circumstances. The Mother uses the method you speak of, the Mahakali method, (1) with those in whom there is a great eagerness to progress and a fundamental sincerity somewhere even in the vital, (2) with those whom she meets intimately and who, she knows, will not resent or misunderstand her severity or take it for a withdrawal of kindness or grace but will regard it as a true grace and a help to their sadhana. There are others who cannot bear this method—if it was continued they would run a thousand miles away in misunderstanding, revolt and despair. What the Mother wants is for people to have their full chance for their souls, be the method short and swift or long and torturous. Each she must treat according to his nature.” (Letters on the Mother, p.353, 9 May 1933)
Another sadhak wrote to Sri Aurobindo that they feared telling the Mother the details of their life because She might scold them. To this, Sri Aurobindo replies, “If you are afraid of the Mother’s scoldings, how will you progress? Those who want to progress quickly, welcome even the blows of Mahakali because that pushes them more rapidly on the way.” (Letters on the Mother, p. 353, 28 September 1933).
Alongside the Divine Force, there is Divine Compassion and Love. It is out of that love that She will permit the “long and torturous” path of transformation. Yet for as long as we encourage our fears, if I see Her scolding as merely her judgment of me rather than the manifestation of Her love for me, then I am stuck on torturous path. If I reject the fear, then I step out of Her way and allow Her to work as She deems fit. In surrendering to this form of the Mother, I learn to live without fear, to aspire and have the strength to work towards that aspiration, to laugh with joy at her many manifestations in the world – as Sri Aurobindo says, “without her Ananda might be wide and grave or soft and sweet and beautiful but would lose the flaming joy of its most absolute intensities.” To this radiant Mahakali, I offer my salutations.

-                      Ramalakshmi

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