Sunday, August 31, 2008

Dancing WITH OM SHANTI (INDIA, HINDUS, KALI AND DURGA)

In this post, I rock and roll for a while with Om Shanti, who says the violence of the goddesses Durga and Kali "should *never* be taken at face value...."*

Om: Whatever you think Durga and Kali's actions might *mean," the fact is, they *are* violent. Although anyone can say their violence does not mean violence, the fact is, on a constant basis, Durga and Kali throw examples of violent behavior on the big silver screen of the Hindu mind.

For every new generation of Hindus, they hustle out their Technicolor lessons in how to do violence.

Do all religions crackle and pop with violent deities? No. In fact, it's my understanding that few do.** So why Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity? What's up with them?

To say as you do that deity violence symbolizes the "destruction of ignorance," begs the question. If I gave any dude off the street a ten-dollar bill to come up with ten *non-violent* ways to symbolize the stamping out of ignorance, he'd tick them off in no time. First on his list would be teachers, reading and schools.

Om, read up on ancient Indian history.*** In my humble opinion the ancient Indus Civilization was one of the most radically awesome in all of human history: not only peaceful and non-violent, but also technologically sophisticated and economically egalitarian (everyone shared the same high quality of life).

But I know of no evidence that this awesome civilization danced with violent goddesses. The Indus Civilization existed before the Indo-Europeans hit India sometime during the second millennium BC, and shoved their patriarchal warrior religion and social hierarchy down the throats of the Indian people.

According to Heather Elgood of the British Museum, the entire Rg Veda holds not one major goddess in it. One of the most visible, however, was Usas, Goddess of the Dawn -- notable mostly because she was raped by her father, the god Dieus.

Om, India and the glorious Indus Civilization figure prominently in my new book, on sale beginning in November or before, Switching to Goddess: Humanity's Ticket to the Future. Be sure to read it and let me know what you think. If you want, you can even pre-order a copy now, by going HERE. Or ask your local librarian to spring for a copy.
________________
*For the rest of Om's comment, see August 19 post, "Fooey on Fighting."
**I welcome info from anyone who can prove me wrong on this.
*** Jane McIntosh's A Peaceful Realm: The Rise and Fall of the Indus Civilization is an excellent source.
____________
thnx to Rajamanohar for the foto of the reconstruction of the Indus Valley Civilization city of Mohenjodaro; go HERE to see more.

6 comments:

Om Shanti said...

greetings Athana,

I just want to say that I have enjoyed your blog for several years and never have had a reason to comment. I was simply alarmed by your misrepresentation of Kali Ma and Durga and other ancient Indian Goddesses in your post "Fooey on Fighting." So my reason for commenting and providing information that is not just my opinion, but also specific quotes from non-western ancient texts, and naming of the actual texts in which the matriarchal Goddess culture has been preserved to this day--never to be tampered with by a patriarchal takeover, unlike the western mystery and esoteric texts, which were either burned or were rewritten by the usurpers of those cultures--is simply to get the correct information to those who may not know. The Goddess texts like the Devi Mahatmya, "The Glory of the Goddess," were written down in the late Neolithic era, but Her story begins long before its actual composition, as archeologically we can find remnants of this culture evident in the Paleolithic era. You refer to this Goddess culture as the "glorious Indus Civilization," and indeed it was, but if your book or study of this era is missing a good portion of that culture and civilization, as it seems it might be by your posts and rather adamant opinions made on your blog, would you want to be informed? I wonder if you think that writers owe their audience the truth of the situation when presenting non-fiction or just opinion? I only commented as did one other person who provided you some links to modern day Shaktism resources, (Shakta is a Goddess worshipper/devotee, and Shaktism its tradition) because I thought that you might want to check your facts more throughly, but unfortunately, by your response, it seems that you have already made up your mind, and sadly without examining this Goddess tradition from the culture in which it emanates and has been preserved.

I consider myself a Goddess worshipping woman and feminist who is also a very dedicated and disciplined practitioner of Shaktism and authentic Tantra -- this is my area of special interest and deep reverence and devotion. Kali Ma is my Divine Mother, both formless and with attributes, whole and complete, not unlike nature Herself, which is both destructive and creative, benign and wrathful. She cannot be compared to western Goddesses who are often fragmented, menial, meek, and stripped of the their power by the patriarchy, such as the Virgin Mary. So we cannot appropriate a western mind-set upon such a Goddess, for it will not work. Her story is as ancient as any other that we can find, and if one is dedicated to finding Her roots they will find it as striking as it is mysterious, and Her anthropomorphized form steeped in deep meaning and not comparative to western counterparts.

I would also like to add that my comments here have nothing to do with any sort of scholarly or passing interest of this ancient Goddess culture. I am writing this because of my deep LOVE for Mother Kali and all Hindus, many of whom are also Goddess loving Shaktas, and would probably find much offense in your post(s) which claim that Hinduism or any of their beloved Goddesses, including Kali Ma, would be considered as a representation for "human-on-human violence."

Again I say to you, dear Athana, please search further to find the truth beyond western scholars, seek out real translations of the ancient texts themselves with the comparative original Sanskrit alongside for authenticity before you make any more opinions and put them out there for the whole world to see. These sacred texts and viable Hindu/Indian/Shakta Goddess Traditions exist and have been preserved to this day whilst living alongside the caste system put in place by the invading Aryans of the Indus Valley, who by the way, are charged with writing the Vedas.

~Om Shanti

(Shanti means Peace)

Athana said...

Dear Om Shanti and Lady Jake,

Thanks for your comments re: Kali Ma and Durga. Modern Hindu goddesses are not my strong suit, it's true, and I would love to believe that in India today there are people still practicing the kind of Goddess spirituality practiced by the ancient Indus Valley societies.

As a matter of fact, I suspect there are indeed groups still practicing such spirituality -- whether or not they've been written about or even discovered, I don't know. Could be they have and I just haven't read about them.

I don't, however, believe that the violence depicted in many representations of Kali and Durga is or was characteristic of this ancient religion.

Why?

Mostly because although we've preserved lots of art from the ancient Indus Valley Civ., there is no representation that I know of from this Civ. that depicts violent goddesses. But if you know of any, please direct me to your sources.

No one's deciphered the writing of the Indus Valley Civ., so we can't read how they viewed their goddesses.

A second reason I have a hard time thinking the Indus Valley people lived with violent goddesses is that they themselves lived without violence. Read archaeologist McIntosh's A Peaceful Realm: The Rise and Fall of the Indus Civilization. This was a humongous civilization, blanketing a whopping quarter of a million square miles, with over 1000 cities and towns, and NO POLICE FORCES in any of them. Can you imagine how long modern America, Britain or India would last without police to keep order in our patriarchal towns and cities?

And, of course, the Indus Valleyites had no war.

Kali is shown in human form stepping on the body of another human form. In my mind, this is a representation of human-on-human violence. I don't see this kind of iconography in the ancient Indus Valley, the Goddess-centered Minoans, or in the religions of most non-patriarchal societies.

Om Shanti, we have no texts from the Indus Valley Civilization -- their writing has not been deciphered yet. And then the patriarchal Indo-Aryans hit (quite a while after the IVC had died out, actually). The first writing to come out of India came after the Indo Aryans hit.

Might I ask, what is your proof that the texts you talk about are anything but Indo-Aryan (aka Indo-European)? What is your proof that the violent side of Kali came from the Indus Valley Civilization -- or from anything except the violent, snooty-snob Indo-Aryans?

Om Shanti said...

Dear Athana,

I can only speak for myself as a Shakta immersed in a long standing, ancient and living tradition, for I am not a Pagan. I was, however, born in the states and experienced western traditions before getting on my current path. I can say in comparison that Hinduism, in general, and Shaktism specifically, is nothing like any of the western traditions I have ever encountered including Paganism, though I can also appreciate other views there are are sharp differences... The way Hindus view the world and the cosmos, and the culture in which it exists, combined with the very ancient roots of the subcontinent of India have influenced and informed their deep spirituality, a spirituality which has existed for eons. This is why I have said that that if we are going to understand this ancient Goddess culture, going back to the Paleolithic era, we are going to need to move away from our western mind-set, for the way westerners relate to such things is incongruent to Hinduism or Shaktism. To answer your questions simply requires a totally different perception of the universe and our place in it. I will try to explain:

What is important to remember is that what the Hindus and Shaktas are seeking to explain in their myths and sacred texts are cosmic principles, the macrocosm and the microcosm, so that humans may be able to relate to the Divine. This is why I used the term anthropomorphized previously, for this describes how humans choose to worship the Divine, we give it the form that we like according to our own nature and disposition, a human-esque form, but this does not change the Divine, for the Divine does not have a form. So whether we choose to worship Her in a Minoan form or one of thousands of forms or names in Shaktism is of no relevance other than for the worshipper.

The image of the Goddess Durga, as MahaKali, MahaLakshmi and MahaSaraswati, as described in the _Devi Mahatmya_, are specific forms relating to the Gunas (or the basic fundamentals of natural phenomena in Hinduism) that exist in all life; and any good commentary to this text will explain this more fully. As I understand it and have been taught, this an epic hymn detailing the destruction of negative influences for the devotee of the Goddess, pointing to very specific obstacles for anyone on a spiritual path. For the devotee to find their own Divinity within they will need to do "battle" with their own inner asuras (demons) or animal instincts --- and this is not (as I've stated previously) a real battle with real bloodshed or weapons of war -- this is a metaphysical spiritual journey; and that is what this text is all about.

Durga is also called by many other names, such as Parvati, Ambika, Chandi, Kali, Lakshmi, Saraswati, and many, many others. In the form of Parvati, She is the Mountain Goddess, Mother of Her two sons, Ganesha and Karttikeya, and consort to Shiva. But all Hindus know that Parvati is none other than Kali, who is none other than Durga, who is none other than Shakti, and all are often depicted with Shiva -- often standing on Shiva. Her standing on Shiva represents a profound cosmic principle that is too complex to explain here in full, for that would indeed be lengthy, but the basic gist of it is that Shiva represents the static, She the dynamic action or Shakti, therefore he lies under her feet, but in Reality they are One. Many of these various forms have been found, dated by archeologists, as they once existed in tribal communities within the Indus Valley, long before they were written down in any language. But to someone who is just looking for Her form as Parvati while refusing to see Her as Kali, they are simply not going to see this evidence, so we have to understand the tradition and Goddess as a whole with all of Her functions, or we are only going to see a small part of who She is. I hope that makes sense.

Other proof of this that vitalizes the entire Shakta tradition for serious practitioners are Shakta texts that have been written down for the sole purpose of chanting Her sacred names, though most of them are only available in Sanskrit, and come to us from a previous oral tradition, so I have no specific books to refer you to. There are thousands of names, usually a typical text will contain 1008 (a sacred number), but all of them represent *One Goddess* -- Her various names simply represent differing functions and attributes.

Getting back to a previous point, I'd like to say that I've never used the word "violent" to describe any of the forms or names of the Divine when responding. That has been your choice of words, Athana, and I have quoted you in describing a few of the Goddess names such as Durga/Kali, but I have never used those words myself and never will. To be clear, I believe it is not only wrong to tag them as such, but filled with misinformation and hate. Words can and do hurt, so I would like to make it clear that I will not engage in insulting or criticizing the Divine, being a devotee of Mother in all Her forms and formlessness and someone who promotes ahimsa (non-pain through thoughts and deeds) like many of my Hindu/Shakta brothers and sisters.

Another important point is that Durga, in Sanskrit, directly translates in English as - "She who is incomprehensible or difficult to reach." Why so difficult? Because She will always exist at the top of the Mountain, meaning higher consciousness. Shaktas believe that Goddess Durga exists eternally, without beginning or end, always abiding in Her own sweet nature, while She also inhabits the hearts and minds of Her ecstatic devotees. As Shakti, She is the "energy" that permeates the universe and gave rise to it, and as such, She shapes, nurtures, and dissolves it -- as Shaktas this is what we worship, not a static form. Permeating all life, the Goddess exists within the body as well, as subtle spiritual energy called Kundalini, which exists coiled like a snake at the base of the spine until awakened by the Goddess. For She is the One who lights the lotuses, chakras or energy centers in the human body, for humans this illuminates or raises our consciousness -- our potential to realize our own Divinity within.


I realize that my response is very long, like my others, but the basics of Hindusim and Shaktism are difficult to explain, and I have actually only tried to explain a fraction of their views here, so that they may be better understood. I do apologize for the length. One last point, if you haven't seen the movie _Darshan_, it's a beautiful documentary that I'd highly recommend, and available at your local video store. It is a moving and true story, a rare glimpse of a woman, saint, spiritual guide (Guru) from Kerala India, who's only message is LOVE. While it also beautifully portrays the Indian culture and the vital Shakta path as she teaches it in her many ashrams or spiritual centers around the world, and of course as much a short movie will allow.

May you be well,
~Om Shanti

Krishna said...

As mentioned earlier, the significance of this order in which the mother is worshipped is very important.
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Krishna said...

Goddess Durga represents the power of the Supreme Being that preserves moral order and righteousness in the creation. The Sanskrit word Durga means a fort or a place that is protected and thus difficult to reach. Durga, also called Divine Mother, protects mankind from evil and misery by destroying evil forces such as selfishness, jealousy, prejudice, hatred, anger, and ego.

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