Sun Apr 01, 2012
It was perhaps no accident that exactly 108 of us gathered last night at 11PM for a ritual dedicated to the Divine Mother, Kali Maa. In Hinduism, the number 108 is considered especially auspicious, aligning the heavens and Earth in powerful relationship toward peace.
Indeed, our ceremony for the Dark Goddess was imbued with the special fragrance of the Divine as She opened internal gateways and sweetly unleashed her scythe of discrimination among us.
Some come to Kali hoping to score power and prestige, Her allure a false understanding of the wild ride She promises. Others come fearing Her mysteries, an ego-driven humility rather than a willingness to get raw to be found beneath their lowered gazes.
The work of our Kali Puja was to draw out the heartfelt yearning that lay at the bottom of it all, first using mantra to stir up our insides and strengthen our resolve. With reverberations of OM KRIM KALYAI NAMAH in the air, our pranayama then asked the guidance of Pranashakti to hold the channel of our potential open to let Goddess do what was needed.
Some called Her name with abandon, others cried softly into their palms. Maa was there, bold, audacious, soft and supple in all Her glory. Provocations to remember were made and community supported the energy of vitalization with focused breath, intention, and a drumbeat of connection to Earth and ancestors. We called on one another as family and the circle strengthened.
Our meditation began, like the chanting of Her sacred names, on the cremation ground. From there, the variety of our experience expanded, each of us engaged in relationship with Maa unique to our own souls calling. Some of us touched Her feet in our minds eye, lowering ourselves naked to the Divine Will. Others made offerings of flowers and incense, blood and ghee, a sacrifice that the eternal fire be lit within us in attunement with our personal sankalpa, our sacred intention.
From the internal landscape, we traveled into the space of celebration, singing Jai Maa! in praise of Her, honoring the work of the night and the work to come, for we had opened to Her in our lives, some of us, in new and deepened ways. Our hearts lifted with the clanging of the bell, knowing that hope lives eternal in Her embrace, and we each had our moment for darshan, the outward look of seeing Her eye to eye before the circling slowed and we grounded, answering the call, Jai Maa Kali ki with a resounding, JAI!.
Gratitudes offered, the circle returned to breath and awareness of the gifts of the night. Prayers and thanksgiving to those guardians and spirits who had accompanied us, and we were ready for a step, almost, back into the evenings mundane consciousness. A bit of prasad, the sacred food first offered to Maa within us, we learned some about Her favorite offerings and places in India before the circle was opened. Hearts full, we departed, 108 of us blessed.
Kali Puja: February Devotions
Before our temple doors open to the public each month, initiates who have committed to a year and a day of devotions and deeper study in Her name gather to circle and dive, like vultures, into the fires of self-transformation. February was no exception, and we found ourselves immersed in the embrace of one of our beloved Mahavidyas. She brought us each a special secret of Her path in the space of our meditations meant to help us in our spiritual blossoming. This powerful ritual work set the stage for a puja later in the day that brought the community gathered, newcomers and Shacan practitioners alike, into relationship with Maa in a quintessentially new way.
The difference began to be felt with the beginning of our invocations, the space for Agni set with the first verses of the Rig Veda. With this call to the God of Fire and our mudra creating a crucible for the work of our ritual, the mood noticeably shifted. A vibration began to hum through the air, in some creating a felt sense of connection to the Divine, a reflection perhaps of the focus of those gathered. Again and again we returned to our sacred intention for the puja, breathing the depth of our invocations into the center of our hearts. In this way, the more we opened, the more we received from beyond ourselves in direct alignment with our souls yearning in the moment. And the more we received, the more we strengthened the whole of our ceremony together.
On this night, the Sanctuary in which Maa resides was filled with red flowers, offerings of love and sweetness all around. We entered in the throes of our own personal ruminations; or for some of us, quietude, despite the slow and steady chant of OM MAA again and again. Although she is small in size, Maa is large. We felt Her calling us into truth and spiritual nakedness from the moment we crossed the threshold of Her home. For some, the prayers offered at Her feet were without thought, pure and gentle surrenderings of ego and attachment. For others, the prayers were precise and detailed, seeking an exchange of energy in the realm of taking and creating that is Her domain.
But as we each approached Her, those familiar with our ritual could not help but notice that the hold was stronger than usual, Her eyes meeting ours with knife-like certainty, and ours fixed on Hers just moments longer than usual. There was no harshness in this, mind you, just the sharpness of a clarity brought on by the clearing away that had been done hours before. Maa, it seems, had been ready for some moving and important connections to be made this day.
Gratitudes to all who journeyed with us into Her embrace on February 26, 2012. Jai Maa!
Tue Nov 22, 2011
Maa is calling me in this moment...
Women of Spirit and Faith asked for November: "What is the Divine Feminine calling you to do in this moment?"
Shakti is calling me to rise up. She is calling me to risk. She is calling me to relate. She rests on a bed of will, knowledge and action, entwined with Shiva, the pure consciousness that follows her call, in order to relax into some powerful creation work. There is not a moment that goes by in which I do not feel her. I am surrounded by the subtle notes of intuition that arise in her presence and the not-so-subtle ripples of her battles in this realm. I know you know what I mean. The trees, oceans, bears and wind all speak her name. A kirtancall and responseensues, and those who are attuned listen. The chanting has its charms.
Recently, she asked me to give more of myself. But I already , I start to say, and she just kisses me sweetly, replying, Darling, I know how much you do. Still, there is more to be done. She is right, of course, and I acknowledge that my energy is dispersed and needs to focus for better effect in the world. There are some things that are too important to be lost in my chaos. How then to manage this, I wonder; but not for long. My spiritual practice guides me to breakthrough on the inner planes that has real outer world ramifications and manifestations. I learn the first lessons of empowered spiritual leadership: listen, tell your truth, take responsibility, stand your ground.
She then asks me what I believe in. I go back to a childhood filled with lies, betrayal, physical violence, and an empty fridge until Grandma comes to fill it up. I realize that I have spent much of my life creating values in response to those around me, and I need to ask what is there that is genuinely born from within me. I meditate on my birth and the will to survive interweaves tightly with the wounding of abandonment. What is mine? I sink into awareness around subsequent years of therapy, anger, resentment, and a sense of loss in relationship to my youth. I take pause and realize that I have grown much, and the obstacles have provided me with strength and power. In my crafting of faith, these avenues of challenge have led directly to the unseen realms upon which I draw heavily in my work for social transformation. Nothing is wasted.
She called me today to ask that I make a personally significant donation to a cause I care a lot about. I was not planning on giving again before the year was out, but she just winked and said, You can do itthe women need your money as much as they need your prayers. Nothing could be more true. Had I not dived deep into my own story, I know the insights that came around what I believe and value would not have been revealed. I would not have found either justification or motivation for a financial contribution. Moreover, it would not have seemed relevant. No one would have benefited and I would have been less humble.
A brother in the work of ministry had her card not long ago, one on which she had written my name. Spirit babies, was all that was otherwise noted, and I was asked to help create a ritual for all the mamas and papas who grieved or sorrowed over the loss of a child through abortion, stillbirth or miscarriage. My own embodied experiences were present in the mix of emotions that circled through me with the call. I felt honored to be asked. I will help, and I will write a prayer that brings healing, if none but my own, and will ask for an opening to her mysteries, the greatest of them perhaps held in the spaces of life and death.
What is being created in response to her call? A life worth living.
Wed Jun 23, 2010
Our Kali Puja: What's It All About?
What's it like to experience (R)evolutionary Shakta Tantra up close and personal...to worship Kali Maa in Sanskrit...to bring your heart to a Goddess with roots in India but felt worldwide? Perhaps you've never been to a puja, or to a worship service that is fully participatory. Perhaps the notion of coming into a community to offer your devotions to Goddess is a bit scary. Well, be assured we understand that She can be intimidating at first. And we recognize that joining with people you may not know in something as intimate as worship of Her can perhaps be unsettling. So, let us offer comfort (we hope) by saying we all pretty much started at that place of uncertainty or fear or wondering...and we have come together to strengthen the path of our hearts.
We invite you to join us! The vibe is loving, embracing, inclusionary, welcoming...
Enter the temple of our worship for a taste of the experience through our most recent gallery here.
Jai Maa! And we look forward to seeing you at a puja soon (visit our calendar for dates of upcoming ceremonies).
Sat May 29, 2010
Festival of Sara-la-Kali
On Sunday, May 23, SHARANYA hosted our regular monthly public puja, except this month, we aligned our energies and intentions with the cross-roads of the dark goddess in Europe, a place where ancient traditions of the goddess came to shore and today, the Black Madonna stands as testimony to Her presence. For this worship, we recognized the concurrence of our puja with the Festival of Gitanes, or Gypsies, in the south of France, who come together to honor their Dark Goddess, Sarah the Black...Sarah-la-Kali!
The puja was particularly moving as we toned sacred syllables and took turns adorning Sara's altar with scarves from around our necks in the same fashion that those gathered in France for her festival do. As one of our initiates, Haravallabha, shared about her puja experience...
I got lots of images of constant movement of a tribe slipping through the edges of society, and after a night's sleep, a host of clear lessons from La Sara. They are about community, versatility, autonomy, and self-authority. Here are a few glimpses:
What do you think She offers, this dark goddess of the in-between, standing between worlds of East and West?
Wed Mar 10, 2010
Chanting Workshop: Vedic Mantras, Hindu Classics, & Goddess Devotionals
I found the Hindu chants workshop to be extremely informative, lovely and powerful. I believe it was perfect for Unitarian participation because it addressed the spiritual, emotional and intellectual aspects of this practice, as well as lots of live practice...
I have actually been using some of the chants, several times a week, having incorporated them into my normal meditation routine. Given that I work in a fast-paced environment in a pretty harsh town, I love the connection I feel to these chants & how incorporating them has resulted in a calmer, more intuitive Maureen. - UU Chant Workshop Participant
SHARANYA was recently invited by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto to be part of a series of chanting workshops dedicated to connecting members to various world traditions through song and chant. We were honored to be part of the series and grateful to Terry Passarotti from their congregation for asking us to join in!
About 25 of us gathered together on February 21st, a rainy Sunday evening, to explore the sacred sounds of chants from the Vedas, Upanishads and Tantras. We wove ancient and contemporary melodies together, honoring both tradition and the unfolding of spirit in the here and now through devotional renderings that one participant found strikingly similar to many Western hymns. Making the chants accessible to the audience despite the relative unfamiliarity of those attending with Sanskrit was certainly a challenge, but it was an easy hurdle in this group--many were willing to just go for it! Someone did mention he found it hard to connect deeply to the Divine through a foreign tongue, but everyone managed to follow the transliterations provided near enough to the letter.
We started and ended our evening with chants familiar to those who regularly attend pujas, opening with OM Maa! and ending with the Pavamana Mantra. Shakers and bells helped us feel the stirrings of energy as we sounded the syllables together, and everyone learned some of the deeper meanings intended by the sometimes seemingly simple words.
Both goddess and god were called throughout, and mantras acknowledging the divinity of Mother and Father, the sacred place of the ancestors, the desire for peace, and the beauty of Kali's heart were shared in circle. Releasing strict adherence to any formalities, we were able to also enjoy the power of sacred touch and healing energy, chanting OM Tara Tutare Ture Svaha while sharing heart space, hand to heart and heart to hand in pairs.
With gratitudes and blessings, we ended the evening together, a soulful "Jai Maa!" echoing with us all as we made our way, each one of us, home. Thank you to the UU community and those who gathered and participated for having this workshop. We hope to see you at a puja or in your space again soon!
Tue Feb 16, 2010
PantheaCon Kali Puja: The Dark Goddess Awakens!
Sunday night, 11:00pm. Kali Puja at PantheaCon. The doors opened and the sounds of Her sacred names began to fill the air, vibrations of Goddess Kali entering our bodies through ears first. Eyes began taking in the altar images as throngs of devotees and those entranced by Her mysteries circled to the tune. SHARANYA initiates and Daughters of Kali worked to guard, ground and move the dance of Shiva and Shakti as we together purified and began to feel that the night's celebration would be filled with power, grace, and Divine love.
As Rashani (priestess/purohit) for the ceremony, I let Her guide me. Sensing the yearning and open hearts of everyone gathered, it was easy to take us immediately deeper into communion with our Divine Mother through meditation and breath. Her sacred syllables guided us, helping to crystallize a sankalpa (sacred intention) and further unencumber our souls. Both a certain intensity and a genuine playfulness were with us as we each spoke our name, proclaiming the intention to perform worship, each of us owning the responsibility born of our passion and desire.
From honorings of Ganesha, Agni, Ancestors, and Shiva, we then worked our prana pratishta as a community, together intoning SA'HAM in meditation on Her eyes, allowing the energy on our breath to move from heart to Her. Awakening Her murti (image), Kali Maa joined us and we danced...Jai Maa!
Gratitudes to all who join in the magick of the night and to Amory, Satya, Jaratura, Jayada, and Sanatani especially for your dedication, energy, creativity, and presence.
In a hotel there are many aspects of the traditional puja that we cannot do. There is no fire, no incense, no juicy melon. But it doesn't matter. We bring forth the image of Maa, outside or in our own heads. We surround her with our presents and decorations, however great or small they are. We put ourselves totally into this moment, like children; and like children we scream "Maa!" until she comes to us. Maa, look at me! Maa, hear me! Maa, hold me! And she always does.
People came to Her, and they sang, danced, laughed, wept, tasted cream and chocolate prasad, and in the end, they felt Her gaze and Her embrace. - Sanatani
Sat Dec 05, 2009
- Surendra Nath Routaray
Hirapur's authorized archaeological guide, in a personal communication
The tradition of yoginÄ« worship likely derives from ancient practices formalized and brahmanized in the Agni PurÄnÌ£a. In this text, the mÄtrÌ£kÄs are said to be eight: BrÄhmani, MaheÅvarÄ«, KaumÄrÄ«, VaisÌ£nÌ£avÄ«, VÄrÄhÄ«, AindrÄ«, CÄmunÌ£dÌ£a, and MahÄlaksÌ£mi. These eight goddesses are multiplied by eight (because of this numberâs auspicious nature in Hindu belief) to derive the base of sixty-four yoginÄ«s. The names of these sixty-four are given in the KÄlÄ«kÄ PurÄna; although my contact at the temple, Mr. Routaray, has his own manifestation.
By the time of the 11th century CE, the worship of the yoginÄ«s as connected to the mÄtrÌ£kÄs is set in common folklore, and one can not easily talk about one group without mentioning the other. In fact, scholars often make classifications of yoginÄ«s at temples or in textual nÄmÄvÄlis (name lists) based upon the presence (or absence) of the mÄtrÌ£kÄs.
For example, at Hirapur, while iconographically one of the statues may appear CÄmunÌ£dÌ£a-like, Vidya Dehejia, whose ovular text on the yoginÄ«s, YoginÄ« Cult and Temples: A Tantrick Tradition details how the yoginÄ«s developed, how they are viewed and worshiped, and what forms they take historically in the literature, is reluctant to call Her such because the full array of mÄtrÌ£kÄs is not otherwise apparent or documented. Upon seeing this statue year after year, however, I am quite clear (as are the locals who frequent the temple for active worship) that it is the presence of CÄmunÌ£dÌ£a who inhabits this place.
The yoginÄ« temple at Hirapur, Orissa is located about 10km outside of Bhubaneshwar, the state capital. Those who visit are often treated to the services of a local village priest, no more than about 20 years old, who has been actively engaged in either orthodox pÅ«jÄ or the maintenance of the circular, open-air temple where once the MahÄyÄga rituals of yoginÄ« worship were carried out by adhikÄrÄ«s (male initiates) and bhairavÄ«s (female initiates) of the tantrick heterodox path known as Kaula.
Although the exact nature of historical worship at this temple has not survived in documents, the divine yoginÄ«s are still actively worshiped today through these and similar brahmanical rituals. Nevertheless, to be among the sixty-four yoginÄ«s here is to feel the power of the goddess in oneâs blood and bones. Upon entering the small temple, which one does through a vulva-like opening that proceeds past two skeletal male figures (which may at one time have been ithyphallic) and leads into the womb-like chamber around which the goddesses stand, the intensity of the figures and the feeling of being held and firmly embraced stands out in marked contrast to the open, expansive sky above. Can you imagine being in this temple, held in sacred embrace while the stars and blackness of a new moon bear witness to your rites?
Vidya Dehejia reports that at one time, the central image in the temple was of Åiva, although the particular statue (some report it was a large yoni-lingam) was stolen when the temple came into public notice in 1953. Today, merely the platform on which it resided remains.
At Hirapur, the exact philosophical and metaphysical relationship between the god and the goddesses is unclear, yet as Dehejia notes:
Perhaps as the time of the Yogini Festival draws neigh this year, we can all together dance this dance of union into Tantrick bliss. What with the deeper meanings of Christmas and Yule at our fingertips, it seems only appropriate. May our work to do so therefore be blessed and our spiritual practice bring us much peace, harmony, and fulfillment...by the grace of the yoginÄ«s themselves!
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Mon Nov 30, 2009
Spirit Fusion Festival - Fresno, CA
By: Maya (initiate member of the Yogini Chakra)
On November 25th, Fresno had its Spirit Fusion Festival (Fresno's Pagan Pride). I worked a table for SHARANYA for the day and got the chance to talk to people about the organization, give out information, and sell some of the beautiful images, ritual items, and Indian handicrafts we generally offer through the Apsara Store online and at pujas.
As part of the day, I also hosted a beautiful Ganesha Puja for all who were there. It was a small intimate group that came to puja; it was very sweet and all who attended were deeply touched by the ceremony. We all honored and were honored by the Spirit of Ganesha.
All of the people who came were active in the puja. We called upon the four elements to join us, along with Shiva, Kali Maa, and, of course, Ganesha took his place of prominence! The Ganesha altar was decorated with a variety Ganesha murtis, along with images and murtis of other deities, such as Shiva, Kali Maa, Tara, and Matangi.
The group assembled was invited to do invocations for the elements, and I taught them some short mantras to invoke Shiva, Maa, and Ganesha too. As the circle chanted to Ganesha, singing, OM GAM GANAPATAYAI NAMAH, I cleansed the space with charged moon water. Ganesha was then bathed in the charged moon water, milk, and moon water again.
I then anointed the central murti, in addition to everyone in circle, with water from the Ganges River to invoke for peace. Next, we moved on to anointing the various other murtis, coconuts, and bananas with kum kum, powdered incense for Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, dried rosemary and the charged moon water as well.
Everyone took turns anointing a specific coconut or banana with whatever they felt called to use and however they felt called to do so at the time. It was fun and touching as each person anointed their fruit and the different murtis while in their own special way invoking the beautiful spirit of Ganesha. They took their anointed fruit home with them to place on their personal altars once the ritual was complete.
Overall, it was a wonderful day of sharing in the beauty and fun in the spirit of an eclectic Pagan Festival, and I look forward to participating again next year.
Mon Nov 02, 2009
Dark Times, Divali, & Dancing the Spiral
On Sunday morning, I awoke from Samhain dreamtime to a recollection that I had something to do. Still feeling the presence of the ancients and moreover, some very achy muscles from a few good hours of altar building for SHARANYA's Spiral Dance South Fire Altar, I reviewed my notes for the day ahead. Ah, yes, Creatrix Media Live was hosting a show and had asked me to help focus a discussion on the Dark Times...specifically, these dark times.
What is conjured for you in this mentioning?
We considered much in our conversation, but naturally, the conversation turned toward the presence of the Dark Mother Herself, Kali Maa. Kali Maa as embracing and compassionate mother; Kali Maa as terrifying goddess; Kali Maa as equalizer, facilitator of social justice; Kali Maa as Goddess for our times. Joining the discussion were many powerful women (Max Dashu, D'vorah Grenn, Marsha Citra Lange, Jayne DeMente, Anniitra Ravenmoon and others) who know well how She helps us see through the obfuscations of truth that media and institutions uphold, who asks that we take personal responsibility, who calls us to action. We acknowledged the quick and ready relationship between our spirituality, Her presence, and action on behalf of the marginal--even when (and sometimes especially when) that marginal is to be found within ourselves.
At this time of the year, when so many are aware of how the darkness of the shortened days reflects our inward turning and the metaphorical darkness to be engaged in the recesses of our souls, we also recognize the power of just one small ray of light to illuminate the world. This is the story of Divali, the Festival of Lights for many in South Asia. And those at Reclaiming's Spiral Dance at the Witches' New Year this past night danced this dance of darkness and light, of inward turning and outward expression, and did so joyously and with great, passionate energy. This passionate energy was contained too in the south altar SHARANYA built and charged singing Maa's names. This sacred space held the potency of Shmashan Kali, Goddess of Cremation Grounds, She Who Burns Away. The process of letting go, of surrendering, of falling into oneself so that one may be propelled by the heart's yearning for love back into this reality, was our prayer for all gathered.
Later on New Year's Day, Satya, Haravallabha and I came together in community to offer up all the prayers gathered from our Shmashan Kali altar that visitors and devotees had contributed on pink slips of paper to our cauldron...and there were plenty to burn! Sitting around a fire, we chanted OM KRIM KALYAI NAMAH and brought each to our heart in turn, asking that the Divine Mother hear their prayers and be with them in this time, whatever that might hold for each person. The work completed, we consecrated the energy of our personal invocations and the transformational power of the fire by placing some of the ashes on our foreheads. Our right thumbs making the tilak, we spoke the blessing and gratitude, Jai Maa!
With all we have raised this weekend through song, dance, and collective wisdom, I invite us to honor that energy of darkness, of transformational power, and of personal ego surrendered to the Divine Will...that it be held continuously and reinvoked as we deal with our individual and collective Dark Nights of the Soul, and as we travel willingly or are spurred on by crisis, into Her embrace.
Happy New Year - May the Blessings of Goddess be forever in your heart!