Friday, July 29, 2005

The 1000 Names of Kali

Selections from the Sri Kali Sahasranama Stotram (1000 Names of Kali), translated by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, published in Kali Puja.

She Who Confronts the Forces of Duality

She Who Illuminates the Whole World Family

She Whose Forehead is Marked with the Vermilion of Love which Brings the Light of Wisdom

She Who Tears Apart Thought

She Who Dwells in All

She Who Creates

She Who Destroys

She Who is the Spirit of Illumination

She Whose Neck has Lines like a Conch Shell

She Who Has Disheveled Hair

She Whose Beauty Radiates the Light of Knowledge

She Who is a Young Girl

She Who is a Middle Aged Woman

She Who is an Old Woman

She Who is Beyond Age

She Whose Heart is Very Soft

She Who is the New Moon

She Who is Beyond

She Who is Hidden

She Who is Everywhere

She Who is the Beloved

She Who is the Intrinsic Nature of the Intoxicating Light of Infinite Love

She Who is the Energy that Pulls Beyond Fear

She Who Holds an Unusually Small Bell

She Who is the Life Force of the Flower Which is Born of Itself

She Who Always Moves with the Flowers of Light

She Who is the Enjoyer of Passion

She Who is the Mother of the Bliss of the Female Seed of Life

She Who is the Expression of All That Can be Expressed

She Who Causes Dissolution of the Subtle Body into the Causal Body [this is Shakta tantric lingo for the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, expressed in the syllable

You can listen to three characteristically energetic talks by the Swami about the 1000 names here or here.

Monday, July 25, 2005

A Sunday Stroll

I was talking with Laura yesterday as we walked past a church, and she called me on the instinctive shudder of loathing that this building and its denizens inspired in me.

"You know why you feel this way, don't you?"

From the tone of her voice, I knew a lesson was on its way.

Me [sarcastically]: "No. Why don't you tell me?"

"You've pretty much made your peace with the Christian religion, but you haven't yet forgiven yourself for being drawn into fundamentalism when you were a kid. Why you can't forgive yourself, I can't imagine--you were young, ignorant, had seen nothing of the world, were vulnerable and gullible and looking for easy answers, like everyone else."

Just then a white couple, about my age, walked past us, on their way to the church--very odd, as this church, from all my observations over the past seven or eight years, has seemed exlusively African-American.

Laura continued: "That guy could be you now. And what would be wrong with that? Do you really think a person has only one True Will, decreed from the beginning of time? The universe isn't nearly that euclidean, my dear. And--had you stayed a Christian, let's think about it. You would have tried to emulate Christ, and thus would have tried to surrender your ego to the will of a loving divine parent. As you are doing now.

"You would have eventually realized that in God there is neither male nor female, and thus you would have come to some kind of gnostic/advaitic understanding of the divine. As in your heart of hearts you have now. You would have eventually understood sensuality as a gift from God, as a lot of these evangelicals are finally doing, and you would have striven to attain oneness with God in lovemaking and in all other experience. As you are doing now. You would have kept on reading T.S. Eliot and would have eventually come to understand that scriptural truths are best understood as deep psychological truths, not as scientific or historical truths. As you have done. So--what would be the difference?"

Apparently angels have trouble with the finer points. And my Angel, at least, has an annoying tendency to be right.

Zim Zum

[Excerpts from The Exegesis of Mogen David ben Chatterjee, the Mad Jew of Calcutta, appear in italics.]

Art transforms us because it shatters, or at least rearranges, our symbol systems. Religion should do this, too, but we all know how that goes. Why did Kali--or was it Laura?--or Ammachi?--or blind chance?--lead me to that Kiefer painting, hanging beside a sculpture by the same artist called Angel of History? (OK, it's a B-52 bomber, but I still appreciate the seraphic synchronicity...after all, by my own admission, I'd come to DC seeking answers about "the light and dark sides of my Mother Kali--pleasure and pain, love and violence, beauty and horror.")

On the painting's name/meaning: usually transliterated "tzimtzum"...get this, from Daniel Matt's
The Essential Kabbalah (the one book everyone should read on this subject)--page 93, no less:

In the words of Shabbetai Sheftel Horowitz, 17th-century wise guy, "Before the creation of the world, Ein Sof withdrew itself into its essence, from itself to itself within itself. It left an empty space within its essence, in which it could emanate and create."

This space is the tzimtzum. Some of its earthly analogues are the Ark of the Covenant, the Grail, the heart chakra, the Mandelbrot Set...there's at least one more...

In our Divine Mother's original act of self-love, when pure consciousness noticed Itself and swoon'd in delight--a space opened in which everything could happen. And is happening--wave on wave of happening on the face of the waters. What did Amma say? Something to the effect that no true separateness exists--Kali is an infinite ocean on which we and all we know are wavelets and waves. This is the form in which Ramakrishna perceived Her after begging and begging for a vision; it's a lot like what I saw when Amma hugged me the first time.

Kabbalah's "shattered vessels" become, in Shaktism, Mother Kali's divine play (lîlâ) forms a part of Her essential nature, which I suppose is why Kali, in traditional Shakta iconography, is a sexy young woman who also happens to carry a sword. In Judeo- Christianity, what we call good, evil, creation, destruction, etc. reflect a lost unity that will one day be restored. In Shaktism, these appear as manifestations of Kali's that a picture of a stagnant, forboding pool, or of a sweet beginning of beginnings?

...or--for now, anyway, this is the "strong and delicious word which...the sea whisper'd me."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

But Wait--It Gets Weirder...

Or maybe not...this is the post where I try to tie it all together, a patently artificial act but one seemingly demanded by--the blog form? The basic rules of spiritual narratives? The entropic direction of the universe?

I forgot to mention the pyramid-sales people; they were hangin' out in the hotel, too, with their name tags and the white ring binders with the klunky, desktop-published logo on the front. So you had your get-rich-quick dreamers, your make-schools-safe
hopefuls, your Win the War on Terror fantasists, and your god-wishers, all in one suburban enclave. A little cross-section of the USA--the capitalist, bureaucratic, patrio-militarist, and theo-bamboozle parts, anyway--all sipping their lattés and checking their voice mail. This is how I would have seen it, were I not so invested in one of those groups, were the stories I tell myself about myself not so laden with metaphors from one of those lexicons.

Art used to be my Big Story, even back when I was trying and failing (yes, quite miserably) to be a Christian, and especially later when I'd given up and started building my heaven drug by drug and pose by pose. Were I still a member of the church of art, I would have fancied myself at the very tabernacle one day in DC, as I stood in one little room in the National Gallery and gazed on four or five works that changed everything for me when I was a teen art geek, most importantly The Human Condition by Réné Magritte. It struck me that this painting "said" exactly what Amma had been saying in her talks: we inherit a story about the world, call it "the world," and slumber contentedly away.

Knocking over the easel is the hard part. Once that's done you have to either open the window or--it's best not to think about it. On looking at the Magritte painting I felt surrounded by Kali's caring and felt my past perceptions fall away--never had this painting looked so cartoonish, yet never so eloquent. I felt led by Her as I meandered into a gallery radiating so much shakti it felt as though I were back at Amma's feet. On one wall shimmered and echoed Something so magnificent--terrible and beautiful, and mesmerizing and repellent--a portrait of my Divine Mother, yet so imprisoned was I by my knowledge of the painter's work that I first assumed it was a commentary on World War II (!).

Next: Absolutely the Last Amma Post

Magick at Princeton

Minds influencing machines (maybe); there are quite valid criticisms of this stuff. Page 2 is particularly interesting.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

It's Been Storming Here All Day...

...and one of my cats sniffed glue. Is there a support group for that?

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Epic Post on Ammachi, part 2

(Entries from The Diary of a Thuggee appear in italics.)

Love is kinda crazy with a spooky little girl like my Guardian Angel...she's started telling me things before they happen, and in a way I wish she would stop. No stock picks or lotto numbers; it all has to do with the Goddess in one way or another. And--it comes in handy. She gave me some instructions to follow on Day 2 that ended up getting me very near the front of the line for the morning darshan, though I was not supposed to be there. No--I didn't lie or cajole or anything; one must be extra nice and moral and stuff around souls like Amma, because everything speeds up, including karma. But, anyhow--for the second day in a row, there I am, sitting, meditating in Amma's presence, this time the meditation is getting deeper and deeper and my heart chakra is hurting, and then I get this hug that reminds me of the time when I was 3 and stuck the screwdriver in the outlet, except this feels really, really good.


Waiting for that illicit second darshan:
I figured: now is really a time for gratitude. Sat in meditation saying the Gayatri from my heart chakra & sending Her pure gratitude. I reflected on how hard gratitude exercises like this used to be--I had to think of stuff to be grateful for, I had to make conscious list of real people, things, events. Now Amma/Kali is teaching me pure gratitude--how miraculous.


Amma: "We have to be able to greet death with a smile."


It's the last night, which an acquaintance I ran into in the darshan line said would have by far the most intense shakti. I'm sitting meditating, waiting for the program to start (thank god I brought the zabuton)...getting very deep into the gratitude. It's not only pure now, it's becoming All There Is...a rosy sea, sometimes shot through with green [the color of the heart chakra]. I open my eyes, sensing that Amma's about to enter the hall, and I'm shocked to see a room full of people. I'd forgotten they were there, but what a blessing that they are--hundreds of people whose main desire right now is to draw nearer to God.


My friend Fiorenza, whom I'd hoped to see at this event, says she can always tell when Amma's plane lands--if F. happens to be in town at the time, she gets a definite jolt. It's easy to laugh at statements like this, even for a flake like me, but it's a bit harder now having spent time in Amma's orbit. I doubt anyone would look askance at such a claim were F. talking about David Bowie's plane landing...they'd smile and say, man, she's a real Bowie fan. If it's a spiritual teacher, though, F. must be the slightest bit wacko to say such a thing. Don't wanna sound defensive or anything--but it's interesting how desperate many people
are (especially "religious" ones) to insulate themselves from any kind of intense spiritual experience.

Under L's influence, on the other hand, I resolved not to be too, too holy--a couple of hours in the morning, a couple more in the evening in the ballroom/temple, and the rest of the day was spent in pursuit of Kali in the secular, profane world of Dupont Circle, the National Gallery of Art, U Street, Mass. Ave., etc. As my guru is fond of saying (and this is a near paraphrase), if you can't feel God's presence while doing the dishes, you sure as hell aren't going to cozy up to Her in some ashram or spiritual retreat. Amma emphasized this, too, saying in effect that we should make the small stuff in our lives as sacred as possible (note to Sophia: that was the point of the motorcycle story (another version here)--I finally remembered: what we see depends on our prior assumptions... believing is seeing).

Next: But Wait--It Gets Weirder...

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Epic Post on Ammachi, part 1

I said I wasn't going to be a perfectionist about blogging, so--

I'll just start. Entries from
The Diary of a Devotee appear in italics.

This Amma appearance was attended by thousands and was held in a large hotel outside DC. I overheard some devotees saying that last year it had been held in a way-too-small venue and was "total chaos"...hmm...this was chaotic enough, though in a good way, mostly. Amma is the guru equivalent of The Rolling Stones, and so a lot of people show up. Many, many Indians; many, many westerners--some rational and sincere, like your reporter, of course, and some mad as hatters. We shared the hotel with a teachers' conference on safe schools and some DoD thing that drew camo and plainclothes special-ops types in equal numbers. I kept getting asked who Amma was and why I was there and--I still don't know. And any answer I give sounds completely stupid.

I managed to get to the hotel in time to attend the morning program at 10:00, sat & waited (trying to meditate) for darshan for several hours....Finally, 2 or 3 people away from her in line, I'm really feeling her shakti now, I start giggling uncontrollably--as I did when she first entered the room--now it's getting a little scary, except I'm mediating it (à la de Zengotita) & thinking, "Is this it? I'm really not that high"...making the mistake of comparing this with seeing my guru, with other experiences. --then smacking myself, "Stay in the present! No editorials!"

...then it's my turn and I'm convinced, alas, that this will not be such a big deal. I'm pushed into Amma's arms and it's like--I'm falling. Into Her heart. I'm surprised, a bit startled, scared--I've been pushed off a cliff into a surging sea of love. Nothing can describe Her--she's muttering "Ma, Ma, Ma, Ma, Ma, Ma" into my ear, I'm crushed against her breast, I'm giggling/crying as I fall, fall; I'm sure she thinks I'm sobbing (so many people do), she lets me up at last and I'm trying to say Thank You, or I Love You, or Something, and all that's coming out is "Oh, Ma." She grabs me again and says "Oh, my child" and really crushes me to her this time. Now she's muttering "Daughter, daughter, daughter, daughter"...was she talking to Laura?? When this ends the sevaks help me up and I need it--I'm stumbling and the main helper guy says, "Stay--sit close by and feel her energy" and I do.

And as I sit and meditate, I'm gasping every so often as if I've stayed under water too long; I'm doing it again while writing this, while remembering Her embrace.


(About that de Zengotita stuff--it figures in a later post. Amma kept coming back to a point similar to de Z when he says, "we are most real, when we are at the disposal of accident and necessity.")

What was the thing I wanted to do the second most while in DC? Oh, yeah, visit the Wall for the first time. I've been trying, for who knows what reason, to reconcile in my mind the light and dark sides of my Mother Kali--pleasure and pain, love and violence, beauty and horror. And--I have this irrational obsession with the Vietnam War, which contained about as much pain, violence, and horror as any human event I know of. I had never been to the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial, was always too scared but always felt very drawn there, and after picking myself up and dusting myself off in the darshan ballroom I figured, there will never be a better time. There's no point in describing the Wall, other than--if something this terrible had to happen (and it didn't, but it did anyway so--it did), there could be no better monument than Maya Lin's somber V and Frederick Hart's terribly tender statue. (The World War II memorial, by contrast, is just plain silly--something out of Duck Soup.)

This was all over by about 3:00, and then I realized I'd eaten nothing but a power bar since 4:00 that morning and so I set off up the Mall--miles and miles in the 100 degree heat and 100% humidity--to find something to eat. That's another (very pathetic) story.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Airplane Reading

Let's face it: I'm picky. No, I have impossibly high standards. The choice of what to read on the plane: a nightmare. It can't be too complicated, because it's hard to concentrate on planes, but it had better not be too moronically simple, either. I want to be entranced. I want to forget where I am, what's going on, who's there, and, since I travel for business fairly often, where I'm going.

Good airplane reads of yore:
  • Super-Cannes, J.G. Ballard
    • Absorbing, scary, creepy as hell.
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John Le Carré
    • In 200 years it'll be Coetzee who? De Lillo what? Did they ever hang with JLC?
  • Durga Puja, ed. Swami Satyananda Saraswati
    • I was trying to read this in Sanskrit and it was like closing my eyes and imagining I was assembling an ocean liner piece by piece.
The best ever:
  • Drawing Blood, Poppy Z. Brite
    • I not only forgot I was on a plane, I forgot who I was or that I was. Exquisite Corpse gave me another great Brite flight; that time we had delays from hell and I was glad--if the plane took off and I got where I was going, I'd have to stop reading the book!
The Iliad I'm reading is the Robert Fagles translation and it's sheer beauty. It's a little like a samurai flick scripted by Walt Whitman. Why I'm reading this I really don't know--I spent my childhood with Burroughs, Ballard, and Bukowski and now I'm evolving into an old fart, I guess. Soon you'll log on and see a new title: The Purpose-Driven Blog. There'll be posts about how feminism is ruining the world! And I'll be denouncing evolution and recreational abortion! And raving about my crush on Anne Coulter!

I'll be back in a few days and will try to get this unicycle on track again...


So I'm going to go see Ammachi. I've got
  • my mp3 player
  • a pair of Sennheiser headphones that could shut out a row between Jerry Lewis and Diamanda Galas
  • The Iliad
  • one of my Al Anon books
  • notes for a reference letter I'm supposed to have written already
  • my journal
  • two bottles of water
  • trail mix
  • a power bar
  • my cell phone
  • with the hotel phone # programmed into it
  • a zabuton
  • pictures of Kali, the Virgin Mary, my guru, and Ramakrishna
  • I will probably buy The Secret Life of Bees at the airport.
So, I'm ready. Enlighten me. Thanks.

I really have a much better attitude than it sounds. It's absurd to me that I prepare to this extent for a direct flight that's going to take about 90 minutes and whisk me from one strip-mall glutted consumer paradise to another. I'd make a great mountain climber or safari-er, I'm sure, except my idea of roughing it is a weekend at the Ritz.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Stooges Woke Me Up

I made Laura this mix CD last night...I've made several bhakti CDs like this, consisting mostly of sticky, gooey pop luv songs that I dedicate to the Divine Mother. Listening to the radio and trying to hear all the really, really disgustingly sweet songs as hymns to Kali was one of my early bhakti exercises; I can't remember if Laura thought of that one or if I did.

One of the songs on this one is "The Great Curve," by Talking Heads. Jemiah Jefferson writes of this song, "The planets converge and destroy all matter!" She is not exaggerating.

A Normal Blog Post

I almost bought a BlackBerry the other day, but it didn't have voice dialing. You'd think they'd...but, never mind. My friend Tom cheered, as he disdains any cell-phone-like device that does not feature a flip top like the communicators on Star Trek.

My intention was to be your Action News Reporter from the retreat I'm going to with Ammachi in a few days, bloggin' like Kenny Loggins while I stand in line to receive darshan. This might not be a great idea, after all, since based on my experiences meeting other saints I'm either going to be so zapped by Amma's energy that I'll barely be able to stand up, or so annoyed by the "spirituality" of her followers that I'll have to chant the Gayatri mantra or the Serenity Prayer nonstop.

(This is tantra: transforming one kind of energy into another. Annoyance at guru groupies becomes bhakti. It's hard as hell, but the alternative, living life as a hockey puck at the mercy of all those skating emotions, is something I've tried and not liked.)

Ugh--I used the last molecules of coffee in the house to make this pot, and it's nowhere near strong enough. I'm passing out even though Van Morrison is playing ("The Way Young Lovers Do")...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Scenes from the Temple of Doom

1. I'm at the crunchy granola grocery store where they sell the black sesame rice crackers I like, and all that great coffee--the organic mocha java, the Peru Norte, the Cameroon Boyo. I check out the magazine rack and there's a new Sage Woman and, strangely, an interesting-looking What Is Enlightenment? I don't usually buy this latter mag, as it tends to be verbose and BS-laden, but a couple of articles look quite promising.

Later, Teresa's reading
WIE aloud; Teresa, the alcoholic I live with and may still be in love with. She's drunk and verbally ripping the magazine to shreds--these people have gone to the dark side, they're spiritual vampires, Ken Wilber looks like Mini-Me, this all reads like a parody by Percival Everett. She's hilarious and vicious and she goes on and on and it's the best time we've had in a thousand years.

2. She's drunk and she stumbles towards me covered in blood, she has no idea where all this blood came from. She's afraid and I tell her not to be, though I am--though I am very much afraid.

3. Dreams of violent storms: thunder like mortar rounds, booming sharp and rippling under my skin; myriad tornadoes birthing in grey dreadlocks from layers of purple cloud. In one dream I'm at the gas station at the end of my street, buying Teresa more booze, the stormfront a terrible bruise across all the sky. I know there's just enough time to get home and not a second more.

4. I spent much of July 4 giving myself degrees from Miskatonic University: Doctor of Experimental Philosophy; Master of Occult Sciences; Master of Codependency; Doctor of Chaotic Dynamics. As dweeby as it sounds, this was a lot of fun. I even went to Target and got fancy paper to print a couple of them on--they're definitely going up in my office.

5. I'm washing cilantro in the sink--long, green leaves, so soft in my hands, and I'm loving Kali in these leaves, their softness, their viriditas. Touching them is like getting kissed by the Goddess.

Saturday, July 2, 2005


This angel lives and works in a large graveyard near my house. I've taken hundreds of photos of her since last summer, when my Angel revealed Herself to me in fulness. (I promise I will get around to some kind of operational definition of what that means ...eventually.)

Before last summer, I didn't think much of, or about, angels. People who
did bugged the crap out of me. I loved Wings of Desire, don't get me wrong, and for years have collected masses of religious kitsch, which I enjoy totally without irony: all manner of Marys, including a prized, glitter-covered dashboard model from a local Mexican grocery; psychedelic Hindu devotional art, more garish and multifaceted than any 1960s album cover; saint candles, including a black one bearing the image of a robed skeleton holding a skull and the legend "La Santísima Muerte"; a framed, sequin-adorned image of the Santería pantheon, plucked from a curbside trash pile.

You get the idea.

But--Holy Mother of Jesus! Angels?? They always seemed like fluffy flunkies, hovering over catastrophes (and not helping much) or delivering some inane message from "God." If the bible is to be believed, angels are even going to gather round and get off on the tortures of the damned (those who take the mark of the beast, anyway).

And then there's this Laura character I hang out with. When I asked her once, in astonishment and fear, what she was, she answered, "I am pure, unconditional love." You might guess, if you've read other posts below, that I was far from satisfied with this answer. Ever patient, she's given me more elaborate answers, including a visual one last night in which Kali was a polished stone sphere, I was a subatomic particle therein, and L. was all possible trajectories of that particle as its quantum wave function unfolded.

Some of you are now wanting to stop reading WiHW once and for all and find a nice political blog, and I don't blame you. If I sound like some unthinkable offspring of Terence McKenna and Jean Teasdale--mea damn culpa