Essays2008 Essays2009 Essays2010













..:: Kali Yuga::..


Alan Schneider


               For the true significance of Kali Yuga to be understood, the discussion of this matter must begin with the Hindu Godhead, for this mechanism of consciousness and manifestation is the home of Shiva, the Destroyer of Forms on the Physical Plane, and  the male counterpart of Kali, the Black Goddess of Destruction.  

            The preexisting condition to the Godhead is simply referred to in Hindu tradition as the Brahman, and is represented as the all-pervasive essence of God that simultaneously infuses all objects and conditions knowable in any terms anywhere, and yet is not literally present as either a concept or an object that can be grasped by human awareness. The presence of the Brahman can only be sensed intuitively from the highest states of conscious expression of which we are capable as physical beings. The Brahman is the supreme non-dual Manifestation – entirely beyond subject and object, and beyond the perception of the ego for that very reason, unless full Ascension has occurred within consciousness. In this case, the Divine Interface has been initialized, and the ego’s method of perceiving has been augmented with the Self’s method of Total Conscious Perception. However, although this state of awareness can be achieved, doing so generally requires a lifetime of sacrifice, suffering, and austerity – a very intimidating prospect for most of us, steeped as we are in material comfort!  

            The Brahman is conceived of as being essentially female in character, because it flows into, and thereby pervades everything, and flow is a characteristic of water. The receptivity of water has been universally identified as a female trait in every culture in history. The Brahman becomes expressed at a certain point, and under certain conditions, as Brahma, the Creator God, and becomes a male manifestation at that point. Manifest expression and definition of form are considered to be fundamentally male traits in most of history’s cultures. Brahma actually has some characteristics of personification and identity, although these are defined in scope and action, unlike the Brahman, which is limitless, omnipresent, and omnipotent. Brahma is the initiator of all acts of manifestation on all the Planes attainable. On the Physical Plane, He creates the universe that human beings perceive in the senses as “reality”. He is frequently represented as a simple point – the origin expression at the center of Hindu mandalas and other visual Yantra depictions. It is from this dimensionless, but nonetheless present, point that all Creation issues forth into some kind of manifest expression – shape, form, process, object, feeling, fantasy, dream, or idea. 

            Without the action of the next Entity in the Godhead, all that Brahma creates would immediately be annihilated by Shiva, and Creation would be manifest in an amorphous instant suspended in spacetime. This subsequent entity to Brahma is Vishnu, the Preserver of Forms. It is Vishnu who sustains the universe as an act of Cosmic Love and compassion, establishing the possibilities of Karma and Salvation for the Soul, which could not otherwise exist in the face of Shiva’s onslaught of destruction. Vishnu extends the instant of experience into the perception of time and space as experienced by human consciousness during the human lifespan.  

            Now we are ready to consider Shiva, the Destroyer God, who has the task of removing that which has exhausted its Karma, and is ready to be excised from existence, as everything in this world of transient manifestation does, my friends – everything  material and external, that is. Shiva is the most “human” of the three entities of the Godhead, in terms of His psychology and apparent behavior in the universe – displaying both emotional outbursts, and the sedate composure of deep meditation, a lover of His Shaktis (or Female Expressions), an explorer and adventurer, and simultaneously an esthetic existing in austerity. Presumably, only the grace associated with complete detachment and meditation makes it possible for Shiva to fulfill His terrible function in the Hindu Triad of Godforms.  

            Each God has corresponding Female Expressions, already referred to above as Shaktis. The Shakti of Brahma is known as Saraswati, the Goddess of Creativity, Music, and the Arts. The Shakti of Vishnu is Lakshimi, the Goddess of Wealth and Abundance. Shiva, on the other hand, has several Shakti expressions, including his first “wife” Uma, who immolated herself in humiliation because her father could not accept her husband’s crude ways and appearance (Shiva dresses in animal skins, and rubs Himself with ashes from the cremation grounds). This act sent Shiva into such a fit of grief and rage that he attempted to incinerate all of Creation at one blow, and was only stopped by the implacable resistance of  Brahma and Vishnu. His second wife was Parvati the Voluptuous, and she fared better than Uma, being presumed to still be with Shiva today. Another of Shiva’s Shaktis is Durga, She Who Stands Alone, usually in combat against Demonic influences as an “Amazon” Warrior Queen. However it is Kali who is universally feared and respected as Shiva’s most ferocious and destructive Shakti form of all. The following discussion will illustrate why. 

            The relationship between the Male and Female form of the Deities in Hinduism is very significant. The Male form generates conceptual structures – ideas, plans, designs – that the Female form then carries out into manifestation in some kind of actual, final expression. So it is that Kali carries out Shiva’s intentions under circumstances where all other forms pale in comparison. Even Durga, whose four arms each carry a lethal weapon, and who rides a tiger as her mount, is not as formidable as Kali. Why? It is Kali’s spiritual identity that explains this so well.  

            Kali is almost always represented in Hindu sacred art as an insane black female dancer, a dancer manifesting absolute chaos and destruction as the outcome of her movements. She is shown with her tongue drooling and protruding, three eyes rolling crazily about in different directions, and wearing a belt composed of the severed heads of the Princes of the Earth, all of whom fell before her sword! This object she holds in one hand while holding a newborn child in the other, symbolizing her absolute power over life and death. A more terrifying image cannot be imagined, and does not to my knowledge exist, in either the Western or Eastern mystery traditions. Even the Christian Devil is not so menacing a figure, in part because he does not exhibit the key element in the formula of irrational destruction that Kali does exhibit – insanity. As an entity, Lucifer still has an integrated intent and purpose – the Fall of Humanity. Kali does not, raining arbitrary and incomprehensible destruction down upon human beings under all circumstances and conditions, no matter how secure they may have appeared to be. Moral deterioration or transgression are not required, and moral rectitude and uprightness are not protection! Kali takes us all eventually, and frequently under the most humiliating and degrading circumstances imaginable. A rational, orderly life and death are the best that can be hoped for under her influence, with hope being the operative term.  

            And we are living in the era of her influence now, today  – Kali Yuga – the Age of Kali. This is the last of four Ages in Hindu cosmology, and the most decadent, an age in which human beings have forgotten almost all of the sacred admonitions of God, and have become so deeply hypnotized by Maya (material illusion) that they cannot perceive anything else. It is an age of pervasive materialism, greed, wonton destruction, and omnipresent ignorance. In the absence of higher knowledge, humans are the constant victims of their physical drives and appetites. And behind the many layers of emotional turmoil present in this period, lies the obsessive fear of carnal destruction and the enveloping chaos presumed to follow. This is the final age in Hindu belief, to be followed eventually by the emergence of a new Golden Age in which people will have direct knowledge of, and communication with, God. But, before that Golden Age appears, Kali will run rampant as she performs her primary spiritual task – the absolute and utter assault on the ego on every possible level everywhere. This is what is symbolized by the belt of severed heads.  

            Why is this necessary? Why must we pass through Kali Yuga at all? Because our animal consciousness, which was not so obstructive in the first (Golden) Age, progressively becomes more pervasive as the succeeding ages appear. In a word, we mentally deteriorate as a species! What appears to the ego as evolution, is, in reality, devolution! At the final stage of the process, human beings have become little more than sophisticated animals – and we have Kali Yuga. The Soul must pass through this final stage of material decline as the required last step in Its spiritual evolution through the four Yugas. Presumably, It has become a durable enough entity to weather Kali’s storms by the onset of Her Yuga, but many of us required to endure this most trying period of spiritual development might claim otherwise!  

            How are we to respond to the spiritual challenge of Kali Yuga? The fundamental concept involved is that of self-perception. If we see ourselves as defined by the ego and its construction of “reality”, we are definitely in for a very rough time. The ego becomes a ferocious master in the absence of other balancing influences in the Psyche. The ego can never be satisfied for long with any amount of material gratification – it always wants more – this is in its very nature as a psychological construct. Although it loves to present itself as a problem solver, the real truth is that the ego has a problem creator built right in! More to the point, the ego’s primary function of mediating the flow of information from the senses to gratify the body’s physical impulses tends to obstruct the perception of any and all other realizations about life, holding thought down on the animal level – producing sophisticated animals, but little more. In retrospect, Kali represents the perfect entity to achieve ego destruction – an insane, arbitrary machine expressing purely chaotic destruction that can neither be predicted nor avoided.  

            In the face of such an entity, such a condition of living, we must ponder what mode of life is ultimately worthwhile, and this, in fact, is the necessary first step for those who would do more than blindly follow the ego into oblivion. We must refuse to look away from the truth of the Kali mythos, and subsequently acknowledge the ultimate reality of this life – that we emerge into it from apparent chaos, and will return through that chaos eventually to whatever may follow.  With this sobering reflection comes the empowerment to resist the ego’s limited prospectus for consciousness, and look beyond it for deeper levels of meaning and purpose.  

            Compassion is the obverse condition of the ego’s obsessive self interest, and it is the capacity for expressing this quality – relatively selfless concern for others and their circumstances – that most clearly differentiates human beings from all other creatures. If we can develop this quality of consciousness, and then live accordingly, we have taken an enormous step away from the status of being one of Kali’s helpless victims. This is why Buddhism so strongly emphasizes the development of this trait as a primary mode of thinking, acting, and being – it is the key to our psychological survival in Kali Yuga! Once this essence of the Soul is understood in that light in our consciousness – as the light of selfless love – and we further realize that there is no higher purpose in life than rendering assistance to each other from this perspective,  the ego is functionally eliminated as the dominant influence acting upon awareness. And that which is no longer dominant does not require Kali’s attention in so urgent a fashion. 

            The rest of the work required to live wisely in Kali Yuga is accomplished through the cultivation of detachment. The ego loves to become infatuated with – and thereby attached to – external objects above all other concerns – objects of gratification, sex objects, love objects, objects of convenience, even objects of remorse – all are grist for the ego’s obsessive mill. Compassion and detachment complement each other as mental inoculations against Kali’s fury. Perhaps the best summative statement that I have ever heard regarding this relationship is expressed in this statement: “In order to live as personally fulfilled, mentally healthy individuals, we must learn to use objects and love people, not love objects and use people.” To become attached to anything on an object level is to enter into what must eventually become a very one-sided love relationship with a condition, one that cannot possibly respond to us in kind. And beyond this, objects are doomed to the same fate as everything else in Kali Yuga – disintegration. The wisest and most prudent course in life is to maintain a spare existence depending on as few objects as possible, and simultaneously cultivate the most meaningful, authentic relationships possible with the other human beings present around us. From my current perspective on living – one that is the result of a lifetime of suffering and seeking for a higher purpose in this banal existence – I have found no greater truth.


                                                                               - With Love, Alan -

                                                                        (CR2007, Alan Schneider)


                                                                                   Return to Top