|Durgā, Rājasthānī miniature of the Mewār school, mid-17th century; in a private collection.|
NOTE: Durga, the great goddess, Mother of the Universe, the power with which all life created, sustained and destroyed. One of the literal meanings of "Durga" is fortress, another is "She who removes suffering." Yes, She is THE sanctuary. But this sanctuary is on the move. She rides a great cat, typically a lion, sometimes a tiger, I say the last of the saber-tooths. She has eight (or ten) arms. In each hand, she holds a weapon with which She vanquishes the demon enemies of all that is beautiful and innocent. I say that along with the sword and the axe, she also wields tools of science and agriculture. She has three eyes to see deep into the past, present and future. She has many emanations, including most notably Kali. Here is the story of how she came to reign over me.
New Moon. Solar Eclipse. Equinox. 3/20/15.
In my feral youth, I declared rather matter-of-factly that I would be dead by my 25th birthday. Not because I was suicidal, I wasn't; it was just that based on all that I had already seen, I could not conceive of any future. But then, one morning I was 25, and I wasn't dead. I was, of course, surrounded by smoking ruins. After all, I had lived a wild, nihilistic life for a decade, without the least concern for any day of reckoning. So at the age of 25, I decided, if I was going to live on, I needed to find my way into one of those hidden esoteric schools that Gurdjieff and Blatvatsky had hinted at in their writings. I began turning door knobs until I came across a door that opened, and I stepped through it. (I will tell the full story of what laid beyond that door in due course.)
Krishna met me first. He led me to an exquisite meadow of willows, lush grass and wildflowers. There was ceaseless music. Drumming and flutes. Women were dancing all around me. There was laughter and love mischief. I was allowed to rest in that amazing idyll for a few years, to renew myself. Gopala Gopala Devaki Nandana Gopala ("Krishna was a cowboy, and his mother is Bliss.")
But then Hanuman came for me. He led me into a great maelstrom and taught me how to leap across the abyss and back again. He showed me how to rip my heart open and offer it up in devotion. He showed me how to serve those who serve. Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram! ("Victory, victory, victorious Oneness!") I stretched out to rest my five bodies after these acts of great valor.
I awoke in the dark on the other side of the maelstrom into which Hanuman had led me. The exquisite meadow was so far behind me it seemed as if it had never existed. There was no more laughter or love mischief. The music had been swallowed up in the fathomless silence of the deep.
No more Krishna. No more Hanuman.
There was only a long dark tunnel that led down deeper and deeper until it opened up into an immense underground chamber, there was a demon king's golden throne in that place, and there were tall marble pillars and a powerful stench. And I felt the fear that I had carried on my back from as deep into my childhood as I could remember. This fear told me that some ancient evil was coming for me, again, and that I would not escape it a second time. This fear told me that I would be devoured and that all I had ever loved or hoped for would be extinguished in this dark place. I could feel this ancient evil advancing upon me from behind.
But then, suddenly, one of the immense pillars turned white hot in a flash, transforming into the lion god Narasimhah, who thrust me behind him and turned to confront the ancient evil that had been advancing upon me. The lion god tore off that demon's head and then ripped it apart. But its polluted blood sprayed everywhere, and from each drop countless more demons arose. And in an instant, they were legion. Narasimhah kept me close and led me down deeper and deeper into underground (there was no other way forward). We were fiercely pursued by that legion of demons. He brought me to a far greater hall far deeper underground. Here he thrust me behind him again and turned to face the legion of demons. They overwhelmed him.
But as I fell to the floor of the chamber, from a shadow within my own shadow, the dark goddess Kali emerged. And she danced on my corpse-like body. And as she danced, she slayed wave after wave of demon. And as she moved, I rode within her shadow. And she whirled and stomped and thrashed her away up, up, up through all rungs of dark night through which I had previously descended, until we arrived again upon the surface of the earth, and I felt again the air on my face.
There was a breeze, it was a summer night, the plumeria was wafting on that breeze, and I could hear a river, and there were frogs singing, and there were drums in the distance, and everywhere I could feel small creatures being born and roots reaching into the hot wet soil.
Decades had passed since I stepped through that door. So many years since the laughter and love mischief in Krishna's meadow. So many years since Hanuman's lessons in daring-do. So many years since Narasimhah emerged from that immense marble pillar. But it was that wild ride in the shadow of Kali that brought it all into perspective. It was Kali's axe, and Kali's sword, and Kali's gnashing teeth that healed my deep wounds. As she whirled and stomped and thrashed her way through legions of demons, she swallowed every drop of their blood so that none of it spilled to birth more demon spawn (only She could devour the evil behind it all). And then a few years ago, she brought me back to the life of the world, whole in my dismemberment, overflowing in my emptiness.
Om Sri Maha Kalikayai Namah!
Yes, Kali Ma delivered me to the camp of a vast army arrayed along the banks of the endless river that is the song of this universe itself. And then biting my lip one last time, she loosed me and slipped back into the shadow from which she emerged, leaving me there alone, with the plumeria on that soft summer breeze, along the banks of that endless river, with the camp fires of that vast army in the distance. And then I realized that the time had come, and I saw her riding toward me, and then through me, and past me, yes, the great goddess Durga Ma on back of a huge saber tooth tiger, and I fell in behind her and have been moving with her ever since, deeper and deeper into this portal that opens into the infinite fields of the Mysterium.
We must bring back a new world, one that will awaken in billions of hearts in the span of a single human lifetime, and in the process, reveal itself to be the world in which we already dwell. And yes, we must protect it. We must heal ourselves and protect this new world. Fiercely.
Jaya Jagatambe Hey Maa Durga Jaya Jagatambe Jagatambe Maa Durga, Jaya Jagatambe
-- Richard Power, Author, Speaker, Yoga Teacher (RYT500)
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