Lessons from the Dance of Kali, the Mother Nature
If we want to make progress upon earth, we must understand the methods, mechanism and intentions of Nature and live accordingly in harmony with it rather than against it. If people eat foods that are rich in sugars and fats, prefer good looking men and women as their partners, or indulge in corrupt and unethical practices to achieve their goals, it is Nature speaking through them.
We may worship Nature, but it does not make Nature more benign or peaceful. Nature keeps moving forward, learning lessons from its past. While we do not know its ultimate intent or design, we know that it is relentless in its functions. You may call it dance of Kali, but in reality it is more a trample than a dance. Watching that dance in which you are both a spectator and a victim you can learn many lessons of life and become wiser in your thoughts and actions.
We may become sentimental in our thinking and anthropomorphically project our beliefs and expectations into inanimate objects. It may temporarily help us overcome our fears and anxiety and live with hope and positive expectations. However, objectively speaking, we cannot live just by good thoughts and honorable intentions only. We have to live mostly according to the laws and principles enforced upon us by Nature by knowing its ways and understanding its design and purpose. If we learn from it, we will be happier and more successful and live in harmony with it rather than fighting it.
For our survival and wellbeing, we must learn to follow Nature as well as conquer it according to our intelligence, knowledge and circumstances. The Hindu school of Tantra follows a similar approach. It suggests that we should not fight Nature but flow with it to become free from it. Liberation comes from obedience to the laws of Nature. To conquer the game of life, you must play the game sincerely like a true champion, obeying the rules that govern it.
Symbolism of violent Nature in Hinduism
Hinduism comes closest in portraying the brutal, violent and impersonal aspect of Nature, with vivid religious motifs and symbolism. Images of Kali and Shiva in their most violent, virulent, and fierce forms, and descriptions of Death (Kala) in the Bhagavadgita and the Upanishads clearly portray the impermanence, death and destruction that characterize all existence upon earth. Nature has both benign and destructive aspects, and they are well portrayed in the pleasant and fierce aspects of our divinities. The images of Kali with a garland of skulls and her aggressive posture and violent looks symbolize the violence and brutality hidden in the mechanism of Nature.
Evil is as much part of Nature's design as good conduct and both manifest in all aspects of creation, from the highest to the lowest. Hence we find the duality in the highest gods also. The Bhagavadgita portrays the benign aspect of Brahman in the form of Krishna, but reveals His Universal Form as the Duty bound God of death and destruction, who spares none in ensuring the order and regularity of the worlds. In the images of Nataraja you may see beauty and symmetry encircled by the violent fires and resting upon an ugly image of a dwarfish human. It perfectly symbolizes our predicament and helplessness in the dance of a violent God. All these images convey that we live in an inhospitable world surrounded by dualities and contradictions.
Life is nothing less than a battlefield in which everyone hast to participate as a warrior. This is the message you find in Hinduism repeatedly. Our gods are noble, but do not hesitate to destroy demons. They may grant boons with one hand, while they may hold fierce weapons in the other ones. Such images of light and darkness clearly convey that life is not a smooth journey and you must be in a state of readiness to fight your enemies and your battles to protect yourself.
You also learn that death and destruction are inherent in creation. Death is hidden in the birth and existence of all life forms upon earth. None can escape from it. The moment a being is born, it is pitted against the most violent and brutal forces in the universe that work incessantly to destroy it. Hindu scriptures state that the world is ruled by god of Death for whom everything is food. He devours all life as Time to keep his universal body functioning.
The beginning of all that destruction is creation only, just as the source of death is birth only, because only those that are born or created are destined to die. We are caught in the duality of birth and death. They are the twins between whom we try to live as long as possible. Our scriptures describe them as functionally cyclical and repetitive, and compare the whole process to a wheel (samsara). As the Bhagavadgita describes, beings emerge out of the gates of creation only to enter the fierce flames of death.
Aspects of Nature
We may have illusions of grandeur about Nature, our existence, births and deaths. However, Nature favors only those that fit into its grand design and mysterious aims. The following are few observation about the nature of Nature itself, and what we may do about it.
1. Nature has three aspects, the lower, the higher, and the divine.
2. The lower Nature consists of the gross manifestations of matter and energy which strictly operate according to their inherent qualities, and universal laws. It is mechanical in its behavior and responses. In the human beings it is represented by the physical body and all the organs located in it. In the macrocosm it is represented by all inanimate objects and lower life forms. In Hinduism, it constitutes the food of God. In Hindu cosmology it is symbolized by the demons.
3. The higher Nature consists of the subtle manifestations of matter and energy which operate partly according to mechanical laws and partly according to will and desire. In human beings it is represented by breath and the mind. If Death is hidden in the gross body as decay, sickness and aging, it is hidden in the subtle body as desire and attachments. In Hindu cosmology it is symbolized by humans, ancestors, and the gods of Indra's heaven.
4. The divine Nature consists of pure consciousness or intelligence, also called the higher mind. It gives us the power of discretion and the ability to distinguish things and make decisions according to our best intentions and interests. With the help of intelligence we can transcend our brutal and violent nature and learn to live intelligently rather than mechanically and instinctually. In the cosmology, it is symbolized by the immortal souls and the immortal world of Brahman.
Nature is the most immediate and universal phenomenon, which we can interact at the most personal level as our own minds and bodies. We can learn from it. It is good that Nature does a lot of work on its own to ensure our existence and survival. Imagine, how tedious it would be, if we have to do all that work on our own using our discretion to perform our bodily functions or maintain our biological clocks. We can learn a lot from Nature by just observing it and understanding its principles, laws, and methods. The following are few examples.
1. Nature is neither moral nor immoral but a free flowing, transformative mechanism. There is nothing like moral or immoral in the lexicon of Nature. Nature's boundaries are defined by the principle of need and efficiency rather than morality and humanity. Hence in the natural world, brutality and violence are universally present.
2. For the same reason, wars, conflicts & evil methods are part of Nature's heuristics. They happen when our lower nature takes control of our lives and prevails over our higher nature.
3. Violence, wars, calamities, and conflicts are the means by which Nature removes redundancies, inefficiencies and weaknesses from its creations. In using them, Nature shows no remorse.
4. From Nature's perspective morality and virtues have no greater significance in creation than as tools in survival and continuity of species. Love, compassion, friendliness, charity and other virtues are meant to be used to forge relationships, earn trust, food, security, and friendship, and increase your chances of survival and enjoyment.
5. Since God or Self plays no role in creation, other than being a mere Witness, the so called intelligent design is but a brutal mechanism that promotes and preserves strength beauty intelligence and dominance.
6. Transformation is essentially a destructive and reconstructive process. Death and destruction are the means by which Nature regulates its production and renewal of life, and the use of its resources.
7. Nature takes everything and anything out of the equation if it does not serve its purpose or fit in its design. Earth air water, fire and space know no morality or humanity. They act according to their nature. So does all Material Nature. It is Nature's Way.
8. Our collective knowledge wisdom and consciousness constitute the Higher Nature upon earth. That alone qualifies upon earth as divinity. We are safe to the extent we collectively use it. We are safe to the extent we live rationally and intelligently. If we succumb to raw emotions, our lives will be unstable and chaotic.
9. You cannot avoid doing unpleasant tasks in life or causing pain and suffering to others. You must know how to do it without causing much destruction and suffering to yourself and others. It is where your higher Nature has to play a major role to minimize the negative consequences of your karma.
10. You become the Buddha, the enlightened one, when your intelligence (buddhi) is freed from the limitations of your lower and higher nature and enters an effortless mode of functioning, uninterrupted by will and intention.
Why Nonviolence is important
Since violence is so characteristic of our existence and mental condition, we can escape from it only by renouncing it and practicing nonviolence, which is considered the highest and the ultimate virtue. Violence not only means acts of aggression and destruction, but any behavior that leads to ripples or modifications (vrittis) in your consciousness or that of others. In other words, stirring up any feeling or emotion in you or in others that creates disturbances and instability is also violence only, whether such behavior is induced by good or bad intentions and desires. Freedom from all that commotion is the state of nonviolence. Living nonviolently in a violent world is the highest ideal envisaged in our scriptures. As the Bhagavadgita states, it is a condition in which one neither disturbs nor is disturbed by others. It is the combined state of detachment, renunciation and mindful observation. It is the state of the Self and the Supreme Self.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- Om, Aum, Pranava or Nada in Mantra and Yoga Traditions
- Brahmacharya or Celibacy in Hinduism
- Atheism and Materialism in Ancient India
- Solving the Hindu Caste System
- How To Choose Your Spiritual Guru?
- Creation in Hinduism As a Transformative Evolutionary Process
- Wealth and Duty in Hinduism
- Do You Have Any Plans For Your Rebirth or Reincarnation?
- Understanding Death and Impermanence
- Lessons from the Dance of Kali, the Mother Nature
- Letting your God live in You - The True Essence of the Hindu Way of Life
- prajnanam brahma - Brahman is Intelligence
- Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs From The Perspective Of Hinduism
- The Defintion and Concept of Maya in Hinduism
- The Meaning of Nirvana
- Self-knowledge, Difficulties in Knowing Yourself
- Hinduism - Sex and Gurus
- The Construction of Hinduism
- The Meaning and Significance of Heart in Hinduism
- The Origin and Significance of the Epic Mahabharata
- The True Meaning of Prakriti in Hinduism
- Three Myths about Hinduism
- What is Your Notion of God?
- Why Hinduism is a Preferred Choice for Educated Hindus