Encountering Kali and Kali Mandir
Foundations Course Assignment
When speaking of encountering Ma there is the outer journey and the inner experience. My outer journey began when I was young. I came of age in the 1960s at a time when a variety of Indian spiritual teachers came to America to teach meditation, and I was exposed to many new ideas. When I arrived at UC Berkeley in 1970, I decided to major in Religious Studies with an emphasis in Asian Religion. While there, my Buddhist Studies Professor, Lewis Lancaster, organized weekend retreats at a camp in the Redwoods, and he introduced us to some of the Buddhist and Hindu teachers of the day, including Suzuki Roshi and Eknath Easwaran.
After graduating college, I went to live in a log cabin in the forest of British Columbia to try to experience what was promised. While literally “chopping wood and carrying water” I received a letter in the mail containing a brochure from a College friend. I was way up north, and the mail train came three times a week. That was my only connection to the outside world. My friend told me about a Guru, Swami Muktananda, who was traveling around America, and he strongly urged me to go see him, proceeded to give me the mantra and told me to repeat it.
I looked at the swami’s schedule, and he was going to be in Olympia, Washington that summer. That was the closest he was going to travel to where I was 500 miles north of the Canadian border! When I looked at his photo and started repeating the mantra, I began to experience spontaneous meditation, and I had visions of Bhagawan Nityananda, Muktananda’s Guru.
I did go to the weekend retreat, and there in July 1974 I received shaktipat, Kundalini awakening. Was that my first inner experience of Ma? Indeed, it was my first encounter with Her tremendous power. Tightly held convictions, that I didn’t even know I had, fell away. There was a release, and a tremendous inner focus.
I spent the next eight years in Muktananda’s company, three years of which I lived in India in his ashram. We led a very strict traditional disciplined ashram life of sadhana, consisting of chanting, meditation, study, satsang, seva, yajna, and the continuous flow of devotees coming and going.
While I was in India, I became aware of Ma Durga. There were many Durga temples in Maharashtra state where I was living, and there was one temple attached to our ashram which was originally an Adivasi temple. She is called Gav Devi. I spent many hours in that temple meditating on Ma.
What I had encountered within, I now discovered had an outer form. From that encounter the scriptures of praise and story came. Ma was moving within like lightning speed: concealing and revealing Herself in so many ways. When is there a time when you are not encountering Ma? She is in every form, but sometimes She does come in a special energetic form. My encounters with Ma have been a wonderful tangle of experience, study, devotion and praise. But, only She knows when we first met.
I left India in 1983 after my Guru took mahasamadhi, and returned to Southern California. I started working, but I continued my studies of Indian philosophy, satsang, and kirtan. Around this time, I met a friend who performed homa, and we organized many backyard homas. In the 1990s I decided to go back to school to learn a trade and moved to Minnesota. There I met practitioners of Native American religion, Sufi Order of the West, and then, in 1996 I met the Living Goddess Ammachi who catapulted my inner and outer encounter with the Goddess tremendously forward.
After meeting Ammachi, I became very interested in studying Devi traditions. I started studying Srividya, Dashamahavidya and tantra.
I moved to Colorado in 1998. It was there I became aware of Kali Mandir. I’m not really sure how, possibly a computer search? My parents lived in Dana Point at the time. On one of my trips home in 1998, I visited Kali Mandir, and I met Usha. I became aware of the big puja at Annalise’s School, and for a couple of years I organized my visits to coincide with it, the last time being 2007.
After my parents passed one month apart in Jan-Feb 2008 I made arrangements to move back to Southern California and settled, by good fortune and not really planned, near the Kali Mandir Temple.
In January 2009 I started attending Kali Mandir regularly after luckily moving only 2 ½ miles away. I hadn’t really been much exposed to Kali worship specifically before this as Ma Durga is more popular in Maharashtra where I had lived. Kali and Durga are forms of the same great Devi, but with their own flavor, their own story. The Shakti is the same.
This brings us to the present. Since 2009 I have been regularly and gratefully attending Kali Mandir. I have delighted in the beautiful shakti of the mandir and the sincere and devoted yogis and yoginis who inhabit and breathe life into the temple. I bow to all of you.
I feel honored to be a part of the temple community.