In Praise of Adya Kali: Approaching the Primordial Dark Goddess Through the Song of Her Hundred Names by Aditi Devi (2014, Hohm Press)
In Praise of Adya Kali is an excellent book about the one person’s path to Kali. Aditi Kali was a professor of religion who traveled to India to experience the deity in Her raw form and came back a changed woman. This is a journal of her experiences, but it is also a devotional book on how the reader can apply the same methods for their own work. It is a book that is accessible to the average Western reader, yet shows some of the profound wisdom to be found in many of the sacred texts from India.
This is not a long book, but it is a very helpful one. The problem with accessing Kali in the West is that so much of what we have on this side of the planet isn’t very accurate. Many of us first encountered Her as the statue that comes to life in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. When I discovered there was more to Her than a dancing idol, it was very difficult to find information. Prior to the Internet, you were stuck haunting libraries with good religion sections. As these were usually college libraries, you had to pay a fee to have access to the books.
These days you can go online and find any number of tomes, which tell you about the many forms of Kali and how She relates to Shakti and Brahman. By the second chapter, you are slapped with so many Sanskrit terms and variations of Her name, that the casual seeker wants to give up. Combine this with Goth kids who tell you about their version of Kali, and one is ready to fugtitaboutit.
This is why this book is so valuable.
The author is able to explain her process in such plain terms:
“Part of the beauty of the liturgy of Kālī’s hundred names is that many of the names apparently contradict each other. Coming into relationship with this contradictory nature of Kālī (and thus all reality) allows us to practice into understanding how all aspects of existence are her. From here, we can begin to feel how our personal existence, just as it is, is her grace, her living embodiment. This is the mystery lived in full embodiment.”
Her explanations are often right to the point:
“86)Kāśīśvarī (She Who Is the Supreme Goddess of Kāśī-Varanasi)
Varanasi (aka Benares aka Kāśī) is one of the most sacred cities on the planet. Varanasi is to many Hindus what Rome is to many Catholics. The most sacred river, the Ganges (or Gaṅgā) runs here, and her banks are dotted with ghāṭs,* the places where human cremations take place. Kālī is highly revered here as the supreme goddess. Kāśī is a dirty city, a wild chaotic swirl of all existence. The Gaṅgā is one of the most polluted rivers on the planet, and yet demonstrates the miracle of pink dolphins jumping in her waves at dusk. Kāśī-Varanasi is rough and tumble and sublime, full of death and celebration. Her kind of place for sure. Ganges is her river (and thus she is one with Gaṅgā Mā), and her pollution, and her trash, and her Śiva, and her whirlwind of life and death, all mixed up together. Truly this is one of her sacred seats.”
Aditi Devi focuses on the recitation of the hundred names of Kali from the Mahanirvana Tantra. These are titles for the most part, but each one has its own power. They’re all based on one syllable root that leads into a mantra, which can be recited over and over. She lists the names, her translation of them, the correct pronunciation in Sanskrit, and a commentary on the meaning.
I’m sure there are Sanskrit scholars out there who may have issues with her translations. However, they are plain enough to me and I’ve found them quite useful. She even shows how to set up a small altar for devotion. Finally, the author includes the hand gestures needed for these devotions. I could go into the proper terms for all of these parts, but you’ll find them all in the book.
“What might unfold for you during the recitation of the Song of the Hundred Names of Ādyā Kālī can bring forth wholeness and fullness on all levels and in all ways. From this perspective, you might begin to get a small sense of how the womb also has the potential to be so central to the unfolding of our spiritual paths. The cyclic nature of the womb also connects us to the womb of Devī, great goddess, so that we know ourselves as her through this homology.”
I find this to be a very useful and instructive book. I’ve just started to explore it and use it myself. I wish there was some way to contact the author, but she seems to be on retreat for most of the year 2016. She seems pleasant enough and I wish there were more spiritual writers of her caliber.
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