For thousands of years, yantras have been used in the Tantric tradition as visual metaphors for the body of the divine. As expressions of devotion and contemplation, they are similar to Tibetan mandalas in that meditation upon them is tantamount to returning to the primordial fiat of one’s being. Because yantras are comprised of archetypal geometric forms and shapes, they are believed to offer liberation from bondage.
There are many different yantras, all of which have specific intentions and meanings. For instance, the sri yantra (believed to be the mother of all yantras) is made up of nine interlacing triangles, five inverted ones which represent Shakti and four upright ones which represent Shiva. As a symbolic map of a human being’s spiritual journey, the sri yantra describes nine different routes (from the center, or bindu, to the outer plane) that represent a different stage in the process.
As a geometric symbol, the yantra represents everything that can be internalized in our consciousness. Ma Kali, the mother of time (and its destruction), is also the progenitor of breath, divine love, and transformation. The elegant Kali yantra can thus be understood as a signifier of transformation and healing. To meditate upon it is to surrender totally to the energy of spiritual growth, and to turn emotional catharsis to one’s spiritual advantage.
The 36 centers of the Kali yantra correspond to the 36 principles of creation. The central bindu itself is the elemental aspect of the soul, and of Kali, from which everything in the material world emanates.
The five inverted triangles of the yantra represent the sheaths of human consciousness: physical, life force, mental/emotional, wisdom, and bliss. And the inverted position of the triangles symbolize the regenerative power of the divine feminine. The two circles represent life and death. The eight lotus petals that surround the bindu represent the eight tattvas of nature: earth, water, fire, air, ether, the lower mind, the higher mind, and the ego.
The colors of the yantra are also, of course, symbolic. Red represents the life blood and energy of the manifested world, black represents the eternal mystery of the void from which creation ensues, and gray represents the liminal space between realms.
To meditate on the Kali yantra, simply do the following:
- Gaze at the bindu of the yantra, being sure to concentrate on your third eye, or Ajna chakra.
- Experience and relish the exchange of energy between the yantra and your heart center, which is where Ma resides.
- Let the colors of the yantra infuse your consciousness.
- Silently call forth on the regenerative power of Kali, which has the power to transform the deepest suffering into the deepest bliss and wareness.
- Close your eyes now, but let the image of the yantra remain with you.
- Chant the sacred breath of Ma Kali, “sa’ham,” and stay relaxed and peaceful.
Jai Kali Maa!
I strive to make my entire existence a prayer to the Divine. First thing in the morning and last thing at night, I offer prayers to Ganesh, Siva, and Kali Maa. When I retrieve the morning paper, I utter the Gayatri mantram. As I wash for the day, I recite the Seven Rivers mantram. Throughout the day, I try to remember the Divine.
Balipriya's Home Altar
However, I am frequently and woefully forgetful. For example: I am impatient with my four-year-old; I drive a little too aggressively; I snap at my spouse; I think that I'm all that and more. For these reasons and so many more, I'm grateful for my formal daily sadhana, or spiritual practice. My daily sadhana brings me back into alignment with the Divine - if only for a moment or two.
I typically perform my sadhana in the evening after my son is in bed. I begin by lighting candles on my altar and once again offer prayers to Ganesh, Siva, and Kali Maa. Next, I practice prana pratistha (a ritual involving specific prayers and hand gestures) and the ritual format that we use in the Yogini Teaching Circle.
Feeling thus grounded, I then perform three to five rounds on my mala, a practice referred to as japa. I chant to Ganesh, Siva, Kali Maa, my ishta devi (personal deity), or a combination thereof depending on my mood, need, or holiday. After chanting on my mala, I silently meditate for five to ten minutes. I finish with prayers for specific individuals and a closing prayer, usually the pavamana abhyaroha mantram (om asatoma sad gamaya...). I extinguish the candles and feel both renewed and grateful for my dedicated time with the Divine.
Since I've made a commitment to a daily practice, it has evolved from something that I have to do to something that I want to do. And while I'm a long way off from turning my existence into one continuous prayer, my daily sadhana gives me the strength and focus to say the words.
Contributed by Balipriya Arin Dahl
I. Sa'ham (She I am).
I am the Goddess manifest;
I recognize Her in all of Creation.
II. I remember all that is, was and ever will be.
Live the present moment, honor the ancestors, respect the future generations; time is not linear, but travels in a sacred spiral that spans all of existence.
III. I provoke, invoke and live the Divine Will.
Commit to transforming yourself, your community and the planet by doing the work of spirituality; make your practice that of the awakened mystic in our time.
Evam Astu!So mote it be!\
Reflections on Pagans & Hindus
“Hindus and Pagans can make a lasting contribution to the world by once again promoting pluralism as a core value of society and its individuals – something evidently lacking in the world today in which intolerance is so prominent.”
–Mihir Meghani, M.D.
Hinduism remains to be a faith shrouded in mystery to most Westerners. There is an undeniable draw to its myriad deities, its mythos and the root of its origins. Its practices and scriptures predate record. Much like the Old Religion recognized by eclectic Pagans in the west, it’s not easy to say exactly when and how it began. At the Pagans and Hindus Together panel in mid-February during PantheaCon, I was able to develop a stronger appreciation for where the two faiths converge and diverge and how cultures in the East and West perceive each.
The panel touched on several key concerns, including pluralism and diversity in the political arena, and joining together to create a more solid infrastructure within the
pagan community. T. Thorn Coyle likened our communities, small and large, to a network of termite mounds, an intricate and complex natural ecosystem. “Without diversity, ecosystems die,” she said. When there is no genetic diversity, isolated ecosystems become inbred, deformed, and diseased.
Here today, Christian men decide if women should have the right to choose and whether gay couples can marry. And while Congress claims to leave religion out of the supposedly secular debate, these issues are of a deeply spiritual nature. Jason Pitzl-Waters asked, “What if a Buddhist had been part of that debate?” What if a Sikh
or a Jew or a Muslim or even, a Witch, had been included? Without that option or even permission to be heard on these decisions, the results are laws informed by warped opinion that will ultimately touch us all.
Mihir Meghani and Raman Khanna talked about the inequality of women everywhere, but how Hindus could and have used their religion as a resource to elevate women in India. In ancient Hindu depictions of the Goddess, a man sips her nectars with reverence while in the Abrahamic faiths women are seen as unclean and untouchable during their bleeding times. The Goddess’ ability to bring forth life
from within her own womb is an incredible power and privilege in paganism, while in the Bible childbirth is seen as a curse brought down upon women after Eve was
forced from Eden.
For so long the Abrahamic scriptures have been used as a tool of gender repression against women, but maybe unnecessarily so. Because Anita Diamant chose to delve deeper into the stories of Dinah and the wives of Jacob, a new movement of Red Tents is spreading across the United States where women can come together and share and heal and honor themselves for who they really are,
divine as physical representations of the Goddess. Our spirituality is a resource for social change, healing, and ecumenical understanding if we let it be.
Contributed by Dove Shari Shepard
An Essay on Ma...and Fear
"She is Dark because she reveals our secrets.
She gives voice to the voiceless, creates room for the marginalized and oppressed, opens our eyes and moves us to greater depths of soul...if we are willing to struggle with Her and move mountains."
The orthodox Hindu image of the goddess Kali is one that is far removed from the aspect of the goddess most of us have internalized from cultural edicts that equate feminine power with gentleness, maternity, acquiescence, and enduring compassion. The earliest pictures I remember of Ma were steeped in a phantasmagoria of violence and the grotesque.
The dark goddess was equipped with wild hair, lolling tongue, bloodshot eyes, and a devastating strength that shattered all forms when they came into contact with her. The chain of decapitated heads around her neck, faces contorted with pain, was a testament to her massiveness, her power, her defiance of the constraints of space and time.
Despite the doctrinaire assessments of this powerful divine force by a western popular culture teeming with fantasies of blood sacrifice and savage practices, my love for Ma was as fierce as her demeanor was terrifying. For me, Ma was a being who encompassed the immense, awe-inspiring aspects of liberating energy. She held the keys to the door of Atman, the absolute Self—disrobed of all the prejudices and dogmas that make up the ego’s flimsy disguise. When I saw Kali, I saw a gateway to the transcendent, and I felt the fragility of my temporal armor, which created the very illusion of separation that is the source of all suffering.
It’s true that Ma has been reduced to a caricature, a ghastly behemoth, among some people, but even in Hindu culture, she is a dangerous deity. Her audacity and disregard for social mores is associated with divine madness and the violent wrenching away of the veils that mask our eyes from the blinding clarity of the divine.
Growing up, I noticed that the harmonious equilibrium of Shiva and Shakti was too often disrupted due to the pervasive fear of the dark, or feminine, side of this dichotomy. My love for Ma is based on my own intuition that if we accept only the gentle aspect of the Divine Feminine while neglecting the ferocity of her compassion—which demands nothing more than our very souls—we miss out on fully experiencing her liberating potential. For me, Ma represents the experience of coming into contact with naked reality—of fully feeling and integrating its disparate elements: violence, love, beauty, birth, death, suffering—and, in service of awakening, leaving nothing out. And, of course, the non-dual philosophy of Tantra is one that embraces all facets of human experience not as things that must be transformed but as portals into the ultimate nature of reality.
To the casual observer, Kali is a grotesque hellion writhing in bloodlust and excess, but look closer—and you’ll see that this is just another illusion born of the ego. One of Ma’s many names is “She who knows the nature of passion.” Ma’s impassioned energy is the essential nature of the spiritual quest, which has the capacity to return us to ourselves. Passion needn’t be about pain. When freed from the ego, we can experience the blossoming of pure energy and passion itself, when unmoored from suffering, becomes more intense and blissful, as it is no longer limited or chained to a finite object.
Many people who are too fearful to draw close to Ma see her as horrific only because we have banished our collective shadow self to the cellar of our being. For me, desire is a vital part of our internal landscape, and it’s one of my links to Ma. Desire seeks shelter in the watery, turbulent realm of the feminine. Its path is circuitous and labyrinthine, and it chooses detours, untaken paths, and perilous cliff edges over well-paved roads adhering to authority-stamped safety standards. The path to freedom offered by desire is feminine and deeply mysterious. And as we walk that dark path, we come face to face with our fear, which simply becomes another companion on the road, another player on the infinite stage of space.
In my experience, Kali is a force that is far removed from classical western archetypes of the punitive, castrating mother. She is the destroyer of time and illusion; when we find ourselves strong enough to recognize the call and approach her, we awaken to the exhilarating and infinite power of our true nature.
Contributed by Nirmala Nataraj
June 17 (public):
6th Annual Yoni Puja Festival
Aug - No Public Puja - Reserved for Initiation and Rededication in Community
Nov 10 (public):
9th Annual Kali Puja Festival
See the full calendar for additional puja and special event details...
Can't make it this month or live outside the San Francisco Bay Area? You can still be a part of our worship.
Learn more about our online mystery school:
NOW ENROLLING for June classes!
- SHA101: Devoted to Devi: Embracing Tradition, Walking the Path
- SHA201: Unveiling Goddess: Practices at the Heart of Tantra
What are your worship services like?
Truly, they must be experienced. Our services bring authentic ritual from both the Eastern and Western traditions, with an emphasis on interactive and participatory activities, with an equal voice for all. We offer open services (also called "circles") on the last Sunday of every month, unless otherwise specified. We also hold services for holy days and other rites. Contact us for the logistical particulars.
We can tell you though that the worship is participatory (by individual choice and discretion), moving, celebratory, meaningful, and fun.
Click here to read a bit about what the ceremony is like. Led by one of our clergy (Rashani is our term for minister or priestess of the faith), attendees bring the divine to life, pray, chant, meditate, and have an overall experience of community.
You are kindly asked to R.S.V.P. if you wish to attend; and do visit our Temple Etiquette page to learn more about what to expect when you join us.
The 6th Annual
Yoni Puja Festival
A Celebration of Goddess,
Women, Earth, Sacred Sexuality,
Creation and The Feminine in All ThingsEven if you can't be with us in person, join us in spirit!
Be with us in a devotional and celebratory festival dedicated to Mahadevi, Great Goddess, and Her most powerful manifestations through the Ten Great Insights, the Most Transparent Revelations of Consciousness, during the auspicious time of abundance in the cycle of life, death, and rebirth...the time when Devi, Goddess, bleeds.
Often, the connection between the power of women's blood and the paradoxical mystery of the Goddess is most fully recognized in the Crone or Dark Goddess aspect of the Divine because She is the doorway between the worlds of life and death. It is the raudra devīs (fierce goddesses) who, in India, are said to menstruate. In temples dedicated to these intense emanations of śākti (the feminine force), one finds the rites and rituals of the goddess' ritu, or menstrual blood.
At SHARANYA, we hold this space for Her and for all beings seeking peace, healing, truth and wholeness. During this time, we recognize the power of Her most holy festival of Ambuvāci--the three days the goddess menstruates (beginning on the new moon usually following Summer Solstice)--when the forces of life and death co-join at the temple of Kāmākhyā in northeastern India, birthplace of Tantra and a heartland today of goddess worship.
We also hold space during our ceremony for the energies of the Summer Solstice and the beauty expressed through Lingam Puja. Join to enter consciously into a sacred dance. Join us this year as we honor fathers, fatherhood, and the masculine birthed from out of pathology into a strong embrace...into a hieros unios, a sacred integral union.
We invite you to our Yoni Puja in anticipation of the unfolding Mystery! Come share your prayers and devotions with us!
In our Yoni Puja, we recognize that Her potency is so wild and intense, so sweet and sublime, that whether seen as fierce or mild She is a force offering both comfort and strength...even in our moments of silence and despair. We invite you to be with us. Open in the safe space of our temple to the paradox held in the quiet and the song in order to receive her lessons, as well as Her blessings, during this most auspicious time.
To join us, RSVP and get details,
visit our Yoni Puja
page. Jai Maa!
Fundamentally, the project of integral ecofeminism, an underpinning of our work at SHARANYA, is that of an embodied spiritual philosophy that understands the central role that women’s bodies, the Earth body and Goddess must play in dismantling the patriarchal paradigm. It motivates from a center that calls forth spirit as the foundation from which all life begins and ends.
A sense of relationship to the whole is what is required in order to break dualistic mindsets and create a worldview that incorporates the worth and wisdom of the female and her body, of the chthonic and the antinomian, readily into its awareness.
As Ynestra King has asserted, there can be no sustainable vision for the future until we realize that healing needs to occur, and that ours must be one effort.
With this in mind, meditate on the metaphor of life as an ocean of ever-shifting dynamic forces, much like the waves upon the sea that are ever rooted in the vastness of the water. Consider, as Charlene Spretnak does in The Spiritual Dimension of Green Politics, that "all forms of existence are comprised of one continuous dance of matter/energy arising and falling away, arising and falling away."
In this, we find that the Being of Heidegger becomes the Quantum of the physicists, becomes the Brahman of Hindus...and the cosmic creatrix Kali and the dance of Shiva keep the universe diverse and alive.
For a deeper look, engage with an Ecofeminism of Tantra.
With roots deep in ancient consciousness and a lineage of worship that has lived for millennia in the hearts of humanity, we at SHARANYA honor Goddess, She who facilitates the spiritual journey by taking us to the root of our yearning, beyond our fears, beyond our ego, beyond our attachments and into liberation. This is the work of Sha'can, our practice, and our devotion...
SHARANYA is a 501(c)3 non-profit Devi Mandir (Goddess Temple). All donations are tax-deductible. All are welcome.
Share your thoughts on Maa, the Dark Goddess, devotion, and other things spiritual--email us at email@example.com