by Vidur Mishra (Artist Vrindavan Das “Kala-Kali”)
They say today is Valentine’s day. Let us talk about the wildest couple in all of Space and Time. Shiva and Kali.
Why is Kali stepping on Shiva? You can read the story behind this somewhere else. I want to talk about something more profound in the symbolism.
Shiva is pure, powerful potential. Shiva is Raw. Kali is that Shakti (energy/power) that drives and differentiates Shiva into countless physical manifestations. But, Kali is not just some feeble energy. Kali is powerful, wild, and dynamic. Kali is Time—a feminine kind of Time. A kind of Time that can be a double-edged sword. Depending on the mood, she can be either madly creative or utterly destructive. She is full of anomalies. She is a little moody, a little impulsive, a little unpredictable.
When she gets creatively generous, manifolds fold upon manifolds, and you get Nature. You get countless lifeforms nested within each other. You get an endless web of celestial bodies and strange living organisms. And she drives them and flows through them as living Time. When she gets deadly, Time explodes. Universes, galaxies, solar systems, stars, planets, countless lifeforms are obliterated in a flash, without any mercy. But this lack of mercy is her own way of expressing love. Her love knows no attachment, no conditions. When she knows you are done, she wants to set you free from all physical bondages she seduced you in the first place. And if you fear and do not consciously comply, she will behead you and dance upon your corpse. She will do so, quite ecstatically.
Even though both Shiva and Shakti are present within each being, Shakti is bubbling more fiercely in females. Hence, a new creation (baby) happens within their womb. Also, women are more dynamic and unpredictable.
On social media, women like to pose with their tongues out. This goes back to ancient times. You can see in the image that Kali is with her tongue out. But unlike many women who lack Yogic practice of Khechari Mudra (tongue stretching), Kali’s bloodied tongue comes out entirely below her chin. The tantrics of Indian spiritual tradition like absolutely wild boundless women. They want to play with a fiery force that is willing to bite their heads out. A deadly force that would bring them to a peak level of such ecstatic union that would leave them dissolved forever. No rebirth. They desire total annihilation of their “selves.” Hence they manifest, worship, and play with deadly fearsome Goddesses.
Spacetime is not a single thing. There are many modes and forms of Spacetime. Proof? Look at yourself. You are one living biological organismic multi-being extended mode of Spacetime. Just as Kali is Time, so is Shiva. As Time, Shiva has many forms: Kala, Maha Kala, Kala Bhairava, etc.
The word “Kala” means Time, Space, Darkness, Blackness, and Death simultaneously. As Kala, Shiva is a bit different from Kali. Instead of acting as the TimeForce of Destruction like Kali, he serves as the SpaceStage upon and within which your Destruction takes place. He works as the Great Space of Pure Potential into which you will be dissolved. He is basically your living graveyard, not on some location on Earth, but as the basis of Spacetime itself. Kali is the TimeForce that destroys. Shiva is the SpaceStage upon which Destruction unfolds. Hence Shiva is depicted beneath the feet of Kali as she holds the chopped head of the poor guy.
Maha Kala means Great SpaceTimeDeath. As Maha Kala, Shiva is the Timeless Eternity beyond Time. As Maha Kala, Shiva is the Spaceless Infinity beyond Space. As Maha Kala, Shiva is the Living Death that is the active source of all beings unborn and undead.
Bhairava means “terribly fearsome form.” As Kala Bhairava, Shiva is just sheer utter Destruction itself. He is neither the Destroyer nor the Destroyed. He is also not Space within which Destruction takes place. He is not Time. He is not Space. He is not Death. He is the Destruction of this SpaceTimeDeath trinity. Kala Bhairava is simply Destruction itself. This form is said to be most fearsome. Yet for Yogis like me, it is most beautiful and lovely. It is most valentine. Haha.
Shiva had this habit of going into deep meditations for years on end. He would get extremely still. Shiva would become like a Shava. “Shava” means corpse. You can see there is not much difference between the words “Shiva” and “Shava.” But there is a small difference, a difference that makes all the difference. Shiva would get absolutely still and stiff like a dead body. Even his breath would stop. Despite this utter stillness and lack of breathing, he would not be dead. He would be more powerfully alive than all beings in motion. He would become a Living Death. He would be both dead and alive at the same Time. He would be neither dead nor alive. This is the highest state of meditation that a Yogi can enter. Only a few have entered and sustained this state. In this state, through consciousness, one internally catches that tiny thread that ties Life and Death, Space and Time, Physical and Non-Physical. Then one gently holds onto that thread. It takes lifetimes of serious one-pointed Yogic practice to master. All movement, including breath, stops. But one doesn’t die and remains powerfully alive. Named after Shiva himself, this state is called Parama Shiva: Absolute Nothingness.
When Shiva would go into this state, Shakti would get a bit annoyed. First, she would miss his movement and attention a little. Without Mind (Shiva), Nature (Shakti) remains unobserved, unattended, and undiscovered. Without Nature (Shakti), Mind (Shiva) remains unactualized, unembodied, and uncharacterized. Second, she would dislike that Shiva would leave all the living beings in ignorance while lost in his Timeless meditation. Shiva had so much human and non-human knowledge and power. Shakti wanted Shiva to share that with beings on this planet and help them reach their full unique potentials. Shiva didn’t really care. To bring back Shiva from his meditation is no easy task. You need to be an even fiercer freak. So, Shakti would take the form of Kali. She would become Time itself. Then, she would step on Shiva and give him a nice kick. The potential would actualize again into the physical realm through the kick of Time. This kick would tingle Shiva out of his meditation. This is the only kind of disturbance that he would not only tolerate but also low-key enjoy. Talk about fetishes.
Vidur doesn’t really need any valentine. Vidur has both Shiva and Kali performing their mad passionate play of Creation and Destruction within Vidur. Vidur is their Valentine’s day, every day.