Discussion in and around Mystics of Kali since Colin circulated his Diwali reflections.
Thu, September 24, 2009
Hi Colin - how are you - good I hope - thanks for the questions - I follow with a few thoughts
Interesting questions Colin - some of us spend a lot of time thinking on these sorts of issues - and then again a lot don't - does it make much difference - to both them personally or to the whole world - considering the way the world turns and people have behaved over the years it would seem that spiritual thought has not been of much help really - and yet we all still keep looking for some sort of Holy Grail - something that will give our lives meaning and direction -and still the world keeps going to hell in a hand basket.
Given I see it this way how do I keep positive? This is where Kali comes in for me - each of us need some support and I chose to take mine from Kali - and She will never let me down. So I see religious experience as both a trap and a treasure - if you believe it there is a trap to negotiate of thinking you are right (excluding others - thinking you are better than others) - if you refuse to believe then there is no comfort and help. So to believe we need to accept that others dont believe as we do. That it is a personal experience.
Throughout our lives we need help and we need to help others - the place of a guru - sometimes we are able to help others - sometimes we can be the helper - in all sorts of ways - in the getting of wisdom - mostly a slow and steady process and sometimes in flashes. As we progress along a spiritual path there should come a time when we realise how little we know - how hugh and infinite is the universe - how tiny we are .
I have often wondered why we as a race are here - given the mess we are making - and the only answer I have ever accepted is simply to be - to experience . And the question still remains how do we do a good job of it. I feel that we are more alike than different - but people need to realise this and become more accepting. If a spiritual path helps us do this then we could be on the right track - turn us back to gratitude to the earth that sustains us - then we could aim for the paradise life could be.
A few thought for you Colin - I must say your words always give rise to some contemplation - thank you - have a beautiful puja - wish Geoffrey a happy Diwali also
(Letter received October 14, 2009...)
From the yogic perspective, religious experience is a first chakra issue. The individual, intimate union with the Absolute -- or mystic experience -- is powered by 7th Chakra energy.
The Chakra system is symbolic of the spiritual warrior's ascent towards Divine consciousness, away from the pull of worldly concerns.
Each chakra represents a lesson to be mastered.
The first chakra deals with tribal power, the energy of group identity and belief patterns.
Its influence manifests as a need for order and structure, shared religious, ethical tenets and social traditions. The lesson inherent in first chakra work is that we are all One. We learn this through loyalty and commitment to group concerns and activities, may they involve family or nation.
This union offers strength, comfort and security resulting from a sense of belonging and participation. On the flip side, it often demands in exchange total adherence to accepted patterns of behaviour.
Orthodoxy can easily lead to bigotry. This gives rise to the "Us Vs Them" syndrome.
Such rigidity of thought manifests as a wide range of aberrations, from brawls involving supporters of different footy teams to religious wars.
It curbs the natural tendency of individuals to step over boundaries and explore personal creativity.
Carl Jung called this tribal mind the "lowest form of consciousness", as individuals often have trouble accepting responsibility for the role they are called to play in its negative endeavours. Ex-Nazis on trial for genocide flatly stated that they were only "obeying orders". From this narrow-minded perspective, loyalty to the cause -- however misplaced -- justifies exoneration from personal consequences.
Attaining spiritual maturity means that we must also grow through those inherited limitations to pursue a deeper understanding of inter-connectedness.
Involvement with family, community, religion, cricket team, political party etc... prepares us to embrace all-inclusive spirituality.
Even though this shift contributes positive energy to the collective mind, it is perceived as a threat by the sub-groups to which we belong. Dissidents throughout the ages have incurred condemnation and punishment ranging from exclusion to death.
The Hindu legal system mirrors this ascent of consciousness. Break up of marriage and family ties to follow a solitary spiritual path is acceptable ground for divorce.
Once more common that it is today, this severance from tribal concerns is regarded as outgrowing, not failure. It traditionally happens as soon as another family member (often the oldest son) is willing and able to take over responsibility for the welfare of dependents left behind.
If one takes on board the notion that everyone and everything is inter-connected, part of the intelligent cosmic web which some call God/dess, it follows that Life Itself may be perceived as guru.
Every person and situation encountered contributes to our progress on the spiritual path.
Life speaks to us all the time. Mostly, we are far too busy trying to control it to hear the message whispered by its multiple voices. When mind and heart are truly open, Divine Timing can work Its magic.
This doesn't exclude the fact that we may at times benefit from the intimate intensity of one-on-one tutoring!
Regarding the cross-cultural adoption of deities and worship methods... didn't different religions arise to cater for the particular understanding of various ethnic groups?
The Catholic mass was once said in Latin. Use of this ancient language was dropped because it had become irrelevant to modern congregations.
It has been my experience that Westerners in general do not feel at ease with Hindu deities or some expressions of hindu devotion. Native Kali in particular (and her worship) is deemed "too raw" -- and therefore scary -- for sophisticated Western minds.
Worship should feel natural and blend in easily with everyday life.
If Sanskrit rolls easily off the tongue, if one is totally comfortable with the culture from which Hinduism originated, then so be it...
It is interesting to note that within Hindu India, depending on location, worship of various deities -- and often the gods themselves -- take on a very different flavour, in spite of underlying similarities.
The Kali experience, for example, feels somewhat different in Bengal that it does in the Dravidian South.
Being Hinduism's interpretation of a particular aspect of cosmic energy, the goddess doesn't belong exclusively to India.
Shouldn't we then feel free to relate to Her according to our own understanding?
Does this mean that we shouldn't acknowledge and respect her cultural roots?
(October 8 to 12, 2009)
>> The question that is really concerning me at the moment is how that
>> field of study relates to other fields, not necessarily Indological or
> It's difficult to say. I'm not sure I really understand why it should
> even be a subject of concern.
Why is it a subject of concern?
Well, firstly, because my mind just seems to have a natural
(Goddess-given?) urge to "correlate its contents", to have a go at
"piecing together fragments of dissociated knowledge".
As you've probably realized, those phrases are from the 1st paragraph of
Lovecraft's "Call of Cthulhu".
Lovecraft prophecies that such correlating and piecing together will one
day give the human race a nasty overdose of reality, resulting either in
collective insanity, or, at best, a retreat into "the peace and safety of
a new dark age"!
> Ramakrishna said that the world was like a
> playground that Maa has given us to amuse ourselves with. After we kids have
> got tired out playing around, we always want to come back to Maa.
> This seems like as good an explanation as any to me.
Well, my mind's urge to "correlate its contents" is _play_ in the sense
that no incentive is required -- my mind does so because it likes to,
wants to, perhaps has to...
The image of Mother, child and playground involve a sort of dualism of
world and God/dess -- it says there is choice to be made between
worshipping the Mother and engaging with the world, even though one may
indeed choose the world for a time and go back to the Mother later.
But Ramakrishna himself sometimes spoke of the world and the God/dess in a
less dualistic way. He spoke of worshipping Siva in the form of jiva, the
living being, i.e. service to others as a form of worship. After reading
your email I googled this to check my recollection of it, and found the
saying quoted in the original Bengali in the WP page about the Teachings
As I understand it, worshipping Siva as jiva means addressing the world's
needs, using whatever abilities we have we granted. Including, perhaps,
any ability to piece together fragments of knowledge...
To sum up... yes, my mind's urge to correlate its contents may both a form
of play, and (as Lovecraft says) also a source of danger. Yet, perhaps it
may be something that Nature wants and indeed demands that I should do?
> You might say, from that perspective, the question is one of how the other fields relate to the real issue at hand...
The "real issue at hand" being how to get back to Ma, to experience her
presence? Mystical experience is a treasure, I'd agree, but is seeking
such an experience the _only_ real issue?
At the puja on Saturday October 17, Geoffrey A. drew attention to risk of overstating connections between different traditions, risk of seeing connections which are really not there at all. I hope to write further on this topic in the near future, and would also welcome views of other people...
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Hi Colin - hope you are good - thanks for the email - I read it all - interesting - I recall Geoffrey asking that question some time back - he has a point - does it really matter if religions are similar or not - if mythologies are similar - it is interesting when they are - reflect the sameness of our brains working - but we are very inventive and imaginative as well - and variety is good - or at least we like it - keeps boredom at bay
take care love Margaret
Friday, October 30, 2009
> does it really matter if religions are similar or not
I will try to explain why and how it matters to me...
25 years ago, in late 1984, I found I had a sense of a feminine divine power that I experienced as natural, world-pervading. A year or two after that, I was talking to an academic at the University of NSW, and I said something about rediscovering sacredness in nature. The academic commented that "nature" was actually a cultural concept, a concept that exists in some cultures but not in others, that Aboriginal cultures he had studied had no word for "nature". That was when I was just beginning my exploration of Goddess traditions of India. Australian Aboriginal languages may not have or need a word for "nature", but the Sanskrit language does, and in India, as in Europe, nature is associated with femaleness, with the Mother. There is also a word for "nature" in Classical Chinese.
Perhaps it was only after people (in certain parts of the world) had developed towns and cities, that they began to feel that "nature" and "culture" were two different things.
> variety is good
I agree that variety is good, cultural diversity is good... but it seems to me that there is a tendency for academic thought to get so fascinated with the cultural diversity that it loses sight of something else...
A town or city may contain a great variety of houses and other buildings, yet all built on the same bedrock. A word like "nature" (or the Sanskrit word "prakriti" or the Chinese "ziran") is a reminder of that bedrock -- a reminder we might not need if the bedrock wasn't so thoroughly covered by the buildings.
Does this make sense to you, Margaret?
Friday, October 30, 2009
Hi Colin - yes your points do make sense - the basis is the same for all - only the trappings change - so much to consider - a lot to ponder on - David says hi -
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