The Divine Mother: or "How a nice Lutheran girl..."
By: Balipriya Dahl
This past November, I had the honor of being the guest speaker at The Interfaith Circle’s monthly Sunday Program. While that month’s topic was already “The Divine Mother,” I was free to say whatever I wished. The title of talk was “From personal darkness to Primordial Darkness: My Encounters with Kali Maa.” The unofficial subtitle was actually: “How a nice Lutheran girl from rural Michigan became a tattooed, skull-wearing Kali devotee in the SF Bay Area” but that was just too long to be printed on the program.
The whole story behind that subtitle was too lengthy and convoluted to expound upon, so I narrowed my focus to how I came to be initiated in Her mysteries and my life since that pivotal moment. For the purposes of this newsletter, here are some of the highlights of that talk:
Like many people, I have had my share of shame, rage, and guilt and have fought most of my life to overcome those feelings/emotions. Talk therapy only took me so far, as did praying, chanting, bodywork, and meditation. I needed something more – something that could take all this negativity and darkness within me and transform it – not necessarily into light – but into embodied wisdom. That something, that someone, is Kali Maa.
I was initially attracted to Kali because She is the ultimate outsider; pollution, death, and decay are not items to be denied or repressed; these are Her tools and Her gifts. I felt a kinship with Her as I, too, have felt like an outsider and I, too, was not afraid to delve into the darker areas of the human experience. Yet, when confronted by Her during my initiatory process, I reverted back to my feelings of insignificance and shame. I felt unworthy in Her Presence and did not want to attend puja or chant Her names.
Months later, a gentle remark made by my teacher, Chandra Alexandre, jolted me into realizing that certain thought patterns were arrogant. Thinking that I was unworthy before Her was essentially the same as thinking that I was better than Her. Furthermore, my thoughts about feeling outside of Her were equally arrogant as though I had the power to separate myself from Kali. I further saw how these feelings of smallness and shame were all mine; Kali never made feel like that. She acted as a mirror and gave me both the responsibility and opportunity to work through my own garbage.
I am aware that Kali is much more than death and destruction. Her ferocity and outsider status drew me to Her but it is Her love and protection that keep me in Her embrace. She does not coddle me but She also does not condemn me or turn away. And only now am I beginning to understand that Kali and I are one in the same: Sa’ham Ham’sa; I am She, She I am.
As I spoke these words to the congregation, I saw several heads nod in understanding and even noticed that a couple of people were moved to tears. Out of the clear blue, one woman gave me a book on healing, while another told me that I had piqued her interest in Kali. Everyone was very welcoming and even if the worship of Kali did not resonate with them, I think that it is fair to say that they could all relate to the journey.
Read other stories of encounters with Maa... >>
Why Donate? You Make a Difference...
There are many ways to take an active role in community with us whether you're near or far, and we're trying to help you feel connected through ways big and small, in the every day as well as through the seasons and festivals of the Divine Mother.
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Check out the simple download and other options to keep us connected over the ethers!
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Delighting in the Mysteries
Join the dance!
SHARANYA is dedicated to promoting a vision of the world as a global community, alive in its diversity, united in its essential humanity. We recognize the spark we all share no matter what our address, be it
New York or Kolkata.
Through open hearts, surrendered egos, willingness, and a deep commitment, SHARANYA helps to create a compassionate and strong, safe space for individuals of all backgrounds and faiths to engage spirituality and explore the inner landscape toward mind-body-spirit well-being.
Your contributions make all the difference as we work to keep engaged spirituality and a unique spiritual expression of service viable in the world. At SHARANYA, our Goddess Temple survives because of you, because of your support. For all of the ways in which you love the Divine and make Her manifest, we are deeply grateful.
Thank you for your commitment
to making spirituality
a vehicle for social justice
and life-affirming change.
Thank you for helping the spread of
Maa's love in the world. Jai Maa!
Supporting an Evolution of Consciousness
In all that we do, we seek to remember the united soul of humanity as we strive to support an evolution of consciousness through engagement in the communities and diversity of perspectives that promote sustainability of Earth and her inhabitants.
Today, in a culture in crisis, with dislocated global citizens, the looming dark cloud of climate change, diseases of the heart and soul, and other ills plaguing our planet, people are looking for a safe place to call home; they are looking for community, for others who share their deep-felt concerns and worries, and above all else, they are looking to find a family where people are committed to making a better future through the hard work of personal growth, community building, and service to others.
Can I make a donation for Maa's worship if I live
Our mission is to empower seeds of change on personal, collective, and planetary levels towards respect, responsibility, and the fullest awareness of an interconnected, interrelated cosmic reality that promotes peace, truth, and a (r)evolution of consciousness that works toward wholeness. We welcome any and all of your contributions to our efforts...join us!
outside the Bay Area or can't attend this month?
Jai Maa! Absolutely.
Should you wish to contribute to the worship, know that we will call your name into circle so that your intention will be with Maa and held by community in sacred space. We can also mail you a flower from the ceremony to put on your altar if you desire. Just let us know with your donation and be sure to provide a current mailing address.
Offer flowers to Maa & Shiva >>
Kali Puja (1/31): Work the Magick & Attend a Puja!
Be with us on
the last Sunday of January
to celebrate Her mysteries!
At SHARANYA, we are dedicated in our worship to Goddess Kali in Her myriad forms, including those as She is expressed through the world's various traditions that honor the Dark Goddess, the one who holds the wisdom of the full spectrum of human beingness. Ceremony is held in the Sha'can tradition and lead by Rashani (ordained clergy) with help from community...
Our puja infuses methods and practices from East and West in order to create a sacred space for worship, deepening, and opening on the path of the bhakta, or devotee of the Divine. Learn more about what our ceremonies are like with this brief introduction.
What to bring... Offerings for the main altar are welcome. It is customary to bring flowers, fruit, wine, vegetarian offerings, or sweets and to refrain from wearing black to our public rituals. If you wish to wear a special color for Kali, we invite you to don red, a color associated with Her power in the phenomenal world as shakti, the activating force and the energy of creation. You are also invited to bring an object you would like to have blessed.
A sliding scale donation of $21-11 is suggested to cover the cost of the space, puja supplies and prasad (blessed food); however, no one is ever turned away for lack of funds, and any donation is graciously accepted; we appreciate so much the offerings you make to support our work and the community.
An R.S.V.P. is requested if you would like to participate, and you may do so by making a contribution online. All regular monthly Kali Puja ceremonies begin at 5:30 p.m. No one is admitted after 5:45pm. Worship usually ends at 8:00pm and is followed by community time and sharing of prasad (blessed food).
For all events, children are welcome, but no childcare is provided.
Cushions and chairs are available (arrangements can be made for wheelchair access - kindly let us know in advance).
Read On! Temple Etiquette
(and Good Things to Know for Puja)
Not in the San Francisco Bay Area?
All are welcome at our mandir (temple). Maa embraces all: sarvam sarvatmakam...for everything is the essence of everything else.
If you are not in the Bay Area or cannot attend events
for any reason, please join one of our online communities
and participate in learning more about Maa through...
A Wisdom School for Her Mysteries & Dedicated to
(R)evolutionary Shakta Tantra
Kali Vidya is offering a series of classes that you can work through independently or with your current worship circle.
NEXT CLASS STARTS JANUARY 5, 2010
Learn more about the offerings at our mandir... >>
A Personal Memoir from Australia
by Chamundai (Jackie Curran)
There is a saying that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. I understood this as I felt love and devotion to my Guru, Shakti Durga. On the 21st September 2009, while on a Spiritual retreat at Uluru (Ayers Rock in Central Australia ) with Shakti Durga and a group of students from the Harmony Centre, I was blessed and received my spiritual name - the name of my soul - Chamundai. Two days later, I was initiated as a guru by Shakti Durga and joined an ever-growing group of amazing spiritual aspirants.
Chamundai is one of the Hindu mother goddesses and is known as the Kali aspect of Saraswati. She is the one who destroys ignorance. Receiving this name somehow made sense of every experience I have had in this lifetime; all of the learnings and all of the work I have done seem now to have been leading me slowly and surely towards my part in the Divine plan.
As I have gradually learned about and merged my energy more with Chamundai and Shakti Durga, I have felt many changes. My energy field is stronger and my healings are more effective. My ability to manifest is vastly improved. The strongest change is my desire to serve Shakti Durga and the Shanti Missions to anchor the Golden Age of Peace on Earth.
How this will happen is (as always) in the hands of the Divine. Becoming surrendered to the Divine is an ongoing lesson. I have found it is this surrender and trust in the Divine, through my Guru, that leads to profound inner peace, and to states of bliss. I am now surrounded by loving friends both in the Harmony Centre and in my life outside the Harmony Centre. I still work part time as a lawyer and that work is also Divine service—just service in a different form. I also continue to teach laughter-yoga workshops
, a passion which developed in 2005.
Shanti Mission & Harmony Centre
Shanti Mission is a spiritual philosophy, based upon eight pillars that if implemented consistently will ignite the spirit, create enlightened consciousness and Divine self-realization. Many courses of study in a multi-faith framework give Harmony Centre goers many options for personal and spiritual development, as well as offering great music, meditations, and profound physical, mental emotional and spiritual healing.
Shanti Mission Harmony Centres are the hubs of spiritual community, training, music and joyful Divine worship which attract people from many different religious traditions. We come together to celebrate what we have in common and to learn about life from the mystical point of view. The visions and deep insights of famous mystics and spiritual Masters throughout history have held common characteristics. If we are prepared to learn, we can access this vast inner world of Grace, with safety, discernment, and in the process access our own higher consciousness, thus becoming self empowered.
Shanti Mission is a visionary organisation under the spiritual guidance of Shakti Durga (Kim Fraser). This multi-faith charity serves those looking to improve their wellbeing, put more meaning in their life, more spring in their step and more joy in their hearts.
I found the Harmony Centre in 2004 and quickly attended all the courses then on offer and found instant results in my life - I was more relaxed - I had tools to deal with health issues, techniques to clean my chakras and aura, ways to relate to people with more love and acceptance. I felt great! Today, I have the joy of teaching and watching those coming to the Harmony Centre progress and experience huge positive changes in their lives. Life is full of excitement and fun. Shanti Mission Harmony Centres can currently be found in Australia in Sydney, Cooranbong and Bundanoon.
Learn more ... >>
Near or Far - We Welcome You!
Interested in lending your love of Maa, your creativity, your inspiration to Kali Puja? Feel free to bring us your ideas and energy! We have many ways for you to become immediately and directly involved in a vibrant and growing spiritual community, and look forward to your unique expression of joy in Her name. We welcome your suggestions too; your experience, expertise, and desire can inform many of the ways we do Her work in the world!
Are you a spiritual activist?
Click the button to volunteer!
Click here to learn more about joining in the celebration of Her through SHARANYA...and be with us in cyberspace if you're not able to join us in person. And of course, stay in touch with us in all the old-fashioned ways too!
Want to know more about our tradition? >>
Our Sanctuary is your sanctuary.
Everyone is welcome in Maa's house!
In the sacred texts of Tantra, we learn of Her expression of virtues. She is Divine Mother, and we honor Her as such. Yet, it is also true that sexuality, the fecundity of menstrual blood, the wild and untamable nature of reality, and all things antinomian come together in Her. Through Her, Dark Goddess, we see the potential for liberation because Devi is able, as dictated in the scriptures and by the lineage of the ancients, to lead aspirants to the highest and most engaged reality.
Learn more about our work and worship... >>
...A Mantra for Daily Use
That is perfect; this is perfect.
If perfection is taken from the perfect, only the perfect remains.
This mantra, from the first verse of the Isha Upanishad, is translated in many ways. Some say this short mantra sums up the nature of reality, and all spiritual seekers benefit from chanting it and contemplating its underlying meaning. It is a most popular mantra, one often used to end yoga classes as much as pujas.
Bring this mantra into your daily practice to facilitate connection with the Ultimate Reality and bring equanimity, tranquility, and peace to your life.
Listen to the mantra >>
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Read other community stories or contribute to them...! >>
Home-made Puja in a Box
Just had to let you know what an exceptional experience I had with my home-made puja!
I became interested in puja during my SHA 101 studies through Kali Vidya
. So interested in fact, that I designed and constructed an altar box to compliment the puja and began collecting special bits and pieces for the future ritual. By SHA 201 I felt inspired to give the ritual a try.
The day of puja I power shopped for beer, wine, tobacco, spring water and honey. I found beautiful red roses for Ma and the Asta Matrikas
and decided on dates as my sweet offering. As evening approached, I draped my altar area with red fabric, lit incense, candles, adorned myself with festive jewelry, and chanted a mala to Ma. I opened my big red class binder to “Awakening Devi Through Western Hearts: New Rituals and Ancient Practice
” and began creating sacred space. The instructions were clear and user friendly. I did my best with the Sanskrit and pondered the English translations.
During meditation, I dreamed my dream of a peaceful world and a clean, healthy planet. I felt surrounded and embraced by Grandmothers, Mothers, Aunts, and Sisters. I felt release and healing in the energy of acceptance. My inner child was very happy and I was very happy!
I highly encourage everyone to give puja a try at home. Personally, the investment of time and preparation resulted in a deeper connection with Ma, a greater awareness of the Asta Matrikas, and an undefinable amount of inner peace.
Learn more about Kali Vidya... >>
Quote of the Month
अयं निजः परो वेति गणना लघुचेतसाम् ।
उदारचरि तानां तु वसुधैव कुतुम्बकम् ॥
ayaṃ nijaḥ paro veti gaṇanā laghucetasām |
udāracaritānāṃ tu vasudhaiva kutumbakam ||
It is the calculation of those of small minds to think that someone
is either 'one of us or one of them.' But for those of generous heart
all the world is their family.
Add to our community musings! >>
Calendar of Events
Reserve your place at
2010 Puja Calendar
We welcome you to worship, meditate, attend classes (either in person or online, and participate in other events at our sanctuary. Let us know if you'd like to help out at a puja, learn more about our tradition, or have ideas to share with us. Your participation in worship is helping to create a living Tantrick tradition of the West today. Mark your calendars to join us soon!
- Jan 31
- Feb 28
- Mar 28
- April 25
- May 23
- June 20 - Yoni Puja & Solstice Ritual
- July 25
- Aug 29
- Sept 26
- Oct 17
- Nov 6 - 7th Annual Kali Puja Festival
- Dec 5
upcoming worship events...Jai Maa!
Ongoing Open Community Puja
Kali Puja - Devi (Goddess) Worship
Our ongoing puja, or worship ceremony, is open to all! Held in our sanctuary space located in San Francisco, we gather to celebrate the Divine every month at the Cultural Integration Fellowship (CIF). Click here for directions.
See other upcoming events and celebrations >>
To the Kaula & Community
Gratitudes and Blessings...
for a wonderous, fun-filled, inspired, magickal,
and beautifully outrageous New Year!
Engage your heart with us in Her name... >>