In Hindu mythology, Goddess Kali is a female deity who is represented by her dark skin. She is naked and wears a mala (garland) of 108 human skulls. Since Hinduism believes in reincarnation, these are representative of the memories of different births. Her blood-red tongue symbolizes the rajo guna (passion and movement) which is central to all creative activities.
The sword and the severed head held by her left hand symbolize dissolution. Swami Satyananda Saraswati of the Bihar School of Yoga believe that darkness and death represented by Kali are not an absence of life and light, rather it stands for their origin.
Yogic practitioners worship the divine cosmic power in female form. The feminine represents energy and motion, whereas the masculine stands for the static that can only be activated through the feminine.
Kali is the first manifestation of the unconscious kundalini that lies deep within all of us. Not having the knowledge of how to control or harness it can lead to mental instability. This is the reason why kundalini yoga should be practiced under the careful guidance of a guru (teacher).
What Is Kundalini?
Kundalini is the creative energy and self-expression that all humans have residing deep inside them. The awakening of the kundalini is the main purpose of human incarnation. The pleasures of sensual life enjoyed by us are intended to enhance the awakening of the kundalini.
It is believed that the kundalini lies dormant in our Mooladhara chakra. When it is awakened, it travels up our spine to the Sahasrara chakra. This activates the pineal gland in our physical body.
Kali, Durga And Kundalini
Since the first stage of kundalini energy is represented by Kali, one is often not able to handle it. When one can handle this energy, they are able to use it to their benefit, this stage is represented by goddess Durga.
Durga is a more “refined and benign symbol of the unconscious”, according to Swami Saraswati. She is the remover of all evil and gives the Mooladhara its power.
Invoking Kali and Awakening Kundalini
Many yogis have often shared their meditative experiences with us in which the goddess has appeared before them.
There are ways to invoke Kali. But some of these methods need extensive training and the guidance of a teacher.
According to yogic philosophy, here are some of the ways the goddess can be invoked and one’s kundalini can be awakened:
It is believed that highly evolved parents give birth to children with an awakened kundalini. They have clarity in vision and philosophical thinking from a very early age.
To bring a child into the world is a great responsibility. To birth an evolved soul is no easy task, one has to transform their desires into spiritual aspirations for this to happen.
By Chanting Mantras
Chanting mantras given by one’s guru is perhaps one of the safest ways in which the goddess can be evoked. Although it requires time and patience, practicing a mantra incessantly enables one’s vision to become clear, it allows us to transcend the trappings of sensualities in life.
‘Tapasya’ means to practice austerities. Tapasya helps in purifying the physical body as well as our minds.
The elimination of bad habits is difficult, but through dedicated tapasya one can destroy them at both conscious and unconscious levels.
When our mind is still and free from distractions caused by bad habits, we are able to concentrate and awaken our kundalini.
Specific herbs lead to manifestations. In Sanskrit, this is known as “aushadhi”. However, this is not to be confused with the intake of drugs. Many practitioners in the West often think that the consumption of hallucinogens is the same as aushadhi. But not only is this notion extremely incorrect, but it is also very dangerous and can lead to addiction.
Aushadhi is a collection of selected herbs that can awaken the ida and pingala nadis in our bodies. However, this is a risky method because herbs can also suppress our nadis and cause mental imbalances from which we may never recover.
Ancient Vedic texts have references to a substance called “soma”. But it is unclear whether this substance exists in the current times and what it actually is.
Practicing Raja Yoga
When one has spent a considerable amount of time practicing Hatha yoga, one can take their practice to the next level through Raja Yoga.
This revolves around concentration, meditation, and communion with the absolute self.
Pranayama is not mere yogic breathing, it is to control the flow of prana (life force) through one’s body. When we practice pranayama with dedication and precision, we are able to conquer our minds.
Practicing Kriya Yoga
Since Raja Yoga requires extreme self-discipline and a sattvic (ascetic) lifestyle, it is not for everybody. Kriya Yoga, however, is a much more gentle way. The practice of Kriya Yoga is relatively simple and can be practiced by people with all kinds of dispositions.
Through Tantric Initiation
Tantric philosophy believes in the two principles of nature: Shiva and Shakti. While Tantrics are very private about their practice, a senior or a guru can guide one to the awakening of the kundalini.
A guru can induce an instant awakening of one’s awakening. This is temporary and short-lived. This is called Shaktipat.
One experiences samadhi during this time. But of course, your guru does not owe you Shaktipat. It is for them to decide who is eligible and when they can receive this enlightenment.
When we are deep in meditation, we have no expectations for anything. It is during these times that the goddess may appear before us. Instead of thinking of the outcome, we need to focus on surrendering ourselves. This is perhaps the greatest way to awaken the kundalini. If it is in our destiny, then it will happen sooner or later.
Kundalini yoga is an extremely powerful system and cannot be practiced without a guru, unlike other forms of yoga. There are many false notions that goddess Kali is the keeper of Kundalini and by evoking her through practice one will automatically reach enlightenment. Kundalini tantra has also been exploited by many individuals in the west.
If you find yourself drawn to Kali and Tantra, then you must find yourself a true guru who can guide you. There are many ashrams in India where you can live and learn. You pay not with money, but through seva (service).
For Western aspirants, a good starting point is the book ‘Kundalini Tantra’ by Swami Satyananda Saraswati or ‘Nawa Yogini Tantra: Yoga For Women’ by Swami Muktananda of the Bihar School Of Yoga.