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‘Kali the Mother’ by Swami Vivekananda


Swami Vivekananda - The one who brought Vedanta to the West Kali - The Creator, The Destroyer, The DancerThe stars are blotted out,

The clouds are covering clouds,

It is darkness vibrant, sonant.

In the roaring, whirling wind

Are the souls of a million lunatics

Just loose from the prison-house,

Wrenching trees by the roots,

Sweeping all from the path.

The sea has joined the fray,

And swirls up mountain-waves,

To reach the pitchy sky.

The flash of lurid light

Reveals on every side

A thousand, thousand shades

Of Death begrimed and black —

Scattering plagues and sorrows,

Dancing mad with joy,

Come, Mother, come!

For Terror is Thy name,

Death is in Thy breath,

And every shaking step

Destroys a world for e’er.

Thou “Time”, the All-Destroyer!

Come, O Mother, come!

Who dares misery love,

And hug the form of Death,

Dance in Destruction’s dance,

To him the Mother comes.

Mahakali Yantra

From → poetry

  1. Somehow I had never come across this poem before today, though Vivekananda’s writings take up a good stretch of my bookshelves.

    Since I first encountered Her I had a suspicion I knew who The Dancer was.
    Now I’m certain.


  2. You have liked your own post 😛
    The poetry is awesome no doubt…..
    And what did you figure out , who was the dancer ?


    • You have liked your own post

      Because it’s not really mine. It’s Vivekananda’s.

      And what did you figure out , who was the dancer ?

      The Dancer is my personal Goddess and the focus of my bhakti practice.

      I was exclusively a jnani up until last October and my perception of the ineffable was always during states of non-dual altered consciousness in which It manifested without attributes – no qualities, no emotions, no intentions, no judgement, no time, no space, neti, neti …

      Last October I had some kind of breakthrough and now that non-dual perception is available to me at all times – though to immerse myself in it makes it just about impossible to do day to day tasks.

      A few weeks after that I was in an altered state during which I focused on the concept of love. I didn’t believe in love – it seemed a conceited, possessive form of self-delusion to me – yet I felt very powerful love towards a friend of mine, who happens to be a dancer (she is the same person I refer to in my post ‘after the concert‘).

      After a couple of days of meditating on her and my feelings towards her – trying to unpack them and dispel them – there was the Dancer.

      She is infinitely beautiful, yet without physical form, and She is manifest in everything I can perceive from a dualist perspective (i.e. everything in my phenomenological universe – including time, space, matter, energy, my own body …). She dances eternally and brings every instant into existence while destroying the previous one – every instant and everything there is.

      In many ways She is the opposite of everything I am. The female to my male, the object to my subject …She is the ‘missing piece’ in the puzzle of my existence.

      She is Love. I was wrong. Love is real, not a conceit. It’s just that loving that which is not Her is misguided inasmuch as She is in everything and the extent to which you perceive Her in someone or something is the extent to which you love it.

      To me She is feminine and She is Kali.

      I guess to you He is masculine and He is Allah.

      I can tell you it was one heck of a surprise because it contradicted everything I’d previously believed about theology and many of my assumptions about metaphysics.

      I’d thought She resembled Kali before, but today I did some more reading about Kali and that, plus Vivekananda’s poem made me realise I hadn’t fully understood Kali and in fact She is the perfect match to the Dancer.

      The Dancer is Kali.
      Mahakali in fact.


      • Wow…..

        I have spent some time ignoring manifestations of the divine in life in my youth. Anger and frustration drove a lot of that. And while I don’t ascribe everything I cannot explain to the divine, I have noticed since I discovered and deepened my knowledge of my goddess, I have definitely been claimed by Her. My mysticism/spirituality has always been tempered by rationalism but I have had some experiences and felt certain things that can’t be anything other than Her. Your encounters with Kali sound amazing and wonderful. Will you write more about this or do you prefer to keep your experiences more private?


        • I’ve already written about my personal experiences of Her a bit on this blog.

          There’s things I can’t write about (yet?), not exactly because they are private but because I find it impossible to do so in a way that I feel does them justice. Even what I have written about makes me feel uncomfortable. When I fall that far short of expressing what I mean and reach for inadequate metaphors so often I feel like I’m lying.

          If you want to know more about Kali as she manifests to me the closest fit seems to be the Mahakali of Kashmir Shaivism. One of the decisive factors that led me to identify ‘The Dancer’ with Kali was learning that She is said to come to those who embrace death. A few weeks after I had broken a nine and a half year stint of disabling grief by embracing my own death She first manifested Herself.

          I still consider myself a rationalist and spent most of my life calling myself an atheist until Dawkins and his ilk cured me of that.
          I also still call myself agnostic but that’s because I really have little idea as to how to interpret my experiences of Kali and am now thoroughly convinced that I just don’t know what’s going on in the universe.


  3. Anonymous permalink

    beautifully clarified…..


  4. Rex permalink

    However many times I read this, I come back to it again. The reason is that this is one of the prayers I use to invoke Kali to trample on my weaknesses that live safely in the basement of my subconscious. I call her dance “the Winepress”.


  5. A thousand, thousand shades…….i’m a grey person too ~ smiles hedy 🙂


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