Posts Tagged ‘spirituality’

big-bang
Visualisation of the Big Bang

I had this piece sitting on my ‘to-publish’ list for a couple of weeks now. It was created by a friend of mine, to be written into a 30m long brass spiral, which is the main feature of the floor for a ritual space she has created at her and her partner’s home. The spiral is kind of a walk along the unfolding of our universe according to the cosmological views of a range of scientists, authors and poets, including mathematical cosmologist Brian Swimme, evolutionary biologist Elisabet Sahtouris and cultural historian, geologian and planetary guardian Thomas Berry.

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the present moment

Be the moment. Meditation is real life, as Thich Nhat Hanh explains in this excerpt from a mail by John Croft to the Gaia Foundation:

John Malkin: In meditation practice, it is very common for us to feel that our minds are very busy and that we’re not meditating very well. What do you have to say about this?

Thich Nhat Hanh: Meditation is a matter of enjoyment. When you are offered a cup of tea, you have an opportunity to be happy. Drink your tea in such a way that you are truly present. Otherwise, how can you enjoy your tea? Or you are offered an orange—there must be a way to eat your orange that can bring you freedom and happiness. You can train yourself to eat an orange properly, so that happiness and freedom are possible. If you come to a mindfulness retreat, you will be offered that kind of practice so that you can be free and happy while eating your orange or drinking your tea or out walking.

It is possible for you to enjoy every step that you make. These steps will be healing and refreshing, bringing you more freedom. If you have a friend who is well-trained in the practice of walking, you will be supported by his or her practice. The practice can be done every moment. And not for the future, but for the present moment. If the present moment is good, then the future will be good because it’s made only of the present. Suppose you are capable of making every step free and joyful. Then wherever you walk, it is the pure land of the Buddha. The pure land of the Buddha is not a matter of the future.

John Malkin hosts a weekly radio program on Free Radio Santa Cruz, focusing on social change and spiritual growth.

[Image: Flickr, Tara Studio]

Sufi devotees in Lahore

Some believe that Pakistan’s mystic, non-violent Islam can be used as a defence against extremism (Photos: Kamil Dayan Khan)

By Barbara Plett
BBC News, Lahore

It’s one o’clock in the morning and the night is pounding with hypnotic rhythms, the air thick with the smoke of incense, laced with dope.

I’m squeezed into a corner of the upper courtyard at the shrine of Baba Shah Jamal in Lahore, famous for its Thursday night drumming sessions.

It’s packed with young men, smoking, swaying to the music, and working themselves into a state of ecstasy.

This isn’t how most Westerners imagine Pakistan, which has a reputation as a hotspot for Islamist extremism.

Devotional singing

But this popular form of Sufi Islam is far more widespread than the Taleban’s version. It’s a potent brew of mysticism, folklore and a dose of hedonism.

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more about “BBC NEWS | South Asia | Can Sufi Isla…“, posted with vodpod

Inside the Sufi drumming session at the shrine of Baba Shah Jamal

Now some in the West have begun asking whether Pakistan’s Sufism could be mobilised to counter militant Islamist ideology and influence.

Lahore would be the place to start: it’s a city rich in Sufi tradition.

At the shrine of Data Ganj Bakhsh Hajveri, musicians and singers from across the country also gather weekly, to perform qawwali, or Islamic devotional singing.

Qawwali is seen as a key part of the journey to the divine, what Sufis call the continual remembrance of God.

“When you listen to other music, you will listen for a short time, but the qawwali goes straight inside,” says Ali Raza, a fourth generation Sufi singer.

“Even if you can’t understand the wording, you can feel the magic of the qawwali, this is spiritual music which directly touches your soul and mind as well.”

But Sufism is more than music. At a house in an affluent suburb of Lahore a group of women gathers weekly to practise the Sufi disciplines of chanting and meditation, meant to clear the mind and open the heart to God.

One by one the devotees recount how the sessions have helped them deal with problems and achieve greater peace and happiness. This more orthodox Sufism isn’t as widespread as the popular variety, but both are seen as native to South Asia.

‘Love and harmony’

“Islam came to this part of the world through Sufism,” says Ayeda Naqvi, a teacher of Islamic mysticism who’s taking part in the chanting.

“It was Sufis who came and spread the religious message of love and harmony and beauty, there were no swords, it was very different from the sharp edged Islam of the Middle East.

“And you can’t separate it from our culture, it’s in our music, it’s in our folklore, it’s in our architecture. We are a Sufi country, and yet there’s a struggle in Pakistan right now for the soul of Islam.”

Sufi drummer

Sufism is a mixture of music, chanting and meditation

That struggle is between Sufism and hard-line Wahhabism, the strict form of Sunni Islam followed by members of the Taleban and al-Qaeda.

It has gained ground in the tribal north-west, encouraged initially in the 1980s by the US and Saudi Arabia to help recruit Islamist warriors to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.

But it’s alien to Pakistan’s Sufi heartland in the Punjab and Sindh provinces, says Sardar Aseff Ali, a cabinet minister and a Sufi.

“Wahhabism is a tribal form of Islam coming from the desert sands of Saudi Arabia,” he says. “This may be very attractive to the tribes in the frontier, but it will never find resonance in the established societies of Pakistan.”

So could Pakistan’s mystic, non-violent Islam be used as a defence against extremism?

An American think tank, the Rand Corporation, has advocated this, suggesting support for Sufism as an “open, intellectual interpretation of Islam”.

There is ample proof that Sufism remains a living tradition.

In the warren of Lahore’s back streets, a shrine is being built to a modern saint, Hafiz Iqbal, and his mentor, a mystic called Baba Hassan Din. They attract followers from all classes and walks of life.

‘Atrocities’

The architect is Kamil Khan Mumtaz. He describes in loving detail his traditional construction techniques and the spiritual principles they symbolise.

Sufi gathering in Lahore

Huge crowds are attracted to Sufi gatherings

He shakes his head at stories of lovely old mosques and shrines pulled down and replaced by structures of concrete and glass at the orders of austere mullahs, and he’s horrified at atrocities committed in the name of religion by militant Islamists.

But he doubts that Sufism can be marshalled to resist Wahhabi radicalism, a phenomenon that he insists has political, not religious, roots.

“The American think tanks should think again,” he says. “What you see [in Islamic extremism] is a response to what has happened in the modern world.

“There is a frustration, an anger, a rage against invaders, occupiers. Muslims ask themselves, what happened?

“We once ruled the world and now we’re enslaved. This is a power struggle, it is the oppressed who want to become the oppressors, this has nothing to do with Islam, and least of all to do with Sufism.”

Sufi food distribution

Sufi people are often actively engaged in social welfare programmes

Ayeda Naqvi, on the other hand, believes Sufism could play a political role to strengthen a tolerant Islamic identity in Pakistan. But she warns of the dangers of Western support.

“I think if it’s done it has to be done very quietly because a lot of people here are allergic to the West interfering,” she says.

“So even if it’s something good they’re doing, they need to be discreet because you don’t want Sufism to be labelled as a movement which is being pushed by the West to drown out the real puritanical Islam.”

Back at the Shah Jamal shrine I couldn’t feel further from puritanical Islam. The frenzied passion around me suggests that Pakistan’s Sufi shrines won’t be taken over by the Taleban any time soon.

But whether Sufism can be used to actively resist the spread of extremist Islam, or even whether it should be, is another question.

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What it means to present

Posted: February 27, 2009 in reflections
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Spiritual teachers and sages throughout the ages have always talked about true knowing as being one with all existence and experiencing that oneness through being present in the moment through full awareness. Brian Swimme in this video clip looks at the same phenomena from an astrophysicist’s and cosmologist’s point of view: if there was a Big Bang, then we all are one with everything because we all and everything are composed of the same particles and energy that existed at the smallest imaginary moment of the beginning of the Big Bang and therefore do so now in the universe. This sameness is still unfolding, at least in the dimensions of time and space, and in stillness we can observe this unfolding process as well as the underlying sameness. And people like Jack Kornfield takes the quality of this observation process a step further by saying that the awareness in the moment of being totally present and love are the same, which makes presence being love.

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nature

I just subscribed to the digital edition of the Orion Magazine, and opening the November/December issue, I felt quite touched by this part the editors’ foreword, reflecting on our alienation from nature and especially our perception of what is real and true.

In 2004, an unnamed Bush administration aide famously derided New York Times writer Ron Suskind for languishing “in what we call the reality based community”. “We’re an empire now,” the aide went on to declare, “and when we act, we create our own reality.”

The world has suffered the consequences of that hubris for the past eight years, and the social and economic accounting of the damage and missed opportunities will go on for years to come. But soon – not long after this issue of Orion is published – the television networks will declare the winner of the U.S. presidential election and then, with great portent, their commentators will begin to decree what the new reality, defined by the election and their interpretation of it, means.

Meanwhile, in a quiet corner of Olympic National Park, rain will fall onto the lichen-covered trees of that teeming ecosystem. A beaver will reinforce its lodge on Lake Umbagog in northern New England in preparation for the oncoming winter. And uncounted Americans will gaze into the star-filled skies and reflect upon the order of the cosmos.

Which of these realities is more real? The voices coming from the television? Or the trees and beavers and stars, and the rhythms that have carried them through history? Which matters more?

It this neither newsworthy nor particularly insightful to observe that Americans live in an Orwellian world where language is twisted, culture is co-opted, and many of us, to put it bluntly are duped – duped in part by the unremitting Potemkin world of television and radio, newspapers and magazines, blogs and websites. But the reality of the natural world and the intelligence manifest in it – the world that lies behind the falsefront constructions thrown up by political posturing, greed-driven economics, and self-centered gratification – is a profound truth. Beyond being the source of our sustenance and a wellspring of inspiration, the natural world today serves a new function: it is a baseline of honesty at a time when we desperately need honesty.

The video by the leading complex systems scientist Stuart Kauffman proposes that the universe is being continuously creative, and that none of the tools of science have an effective way of studying it. It’s quite a long lecture with him just talking, without any jazzy Powerpoint presentation. Nevertheless, it’s a very profound talk. In it he stakes a very solid claim, stating that science can’t understand the world if doesn’t it recognise  that many systems are built by accumulative local design rather some generalisable grand scheme – which is the way biological evolution builds living things.

After having been harassed for 10 weeks by my o’seas family members 😉 to upload my holiday photos onto Flickr, I’ve finally started with the first batch on Italy and the first installment on Germany. That kept me away from blogging, but in the meantime my bellissimo friend Jeanie *) emailed this poem, which is remarkable because it was written by the father of one of the victims of the London bombings in 2005. And it is remarkable because it doesn’t join the usual chorus of hatred against ‘the other side’ but instead, as a expression of true humanness and deep connectedness to all life, appeals for forgiveness.

No Room for Hate.

There is no room within my heart
for revenge, fire or hate
there is no room within my mind
for any thoughts like these.

I cannot find the words to say
just how it is I feel
but I know from deepest hurt
I must forgiveness find.

The hurt that’s been done to us
cuts sore like a knife,
but we must not, repay in kind
what has been done to us.

Instead we must try and find
the way that is so hard,
and reach out our loving hands
to find some friendship now.

There can be no more healing thing
than opening wide our eyes
and seeing that most other folk
are really just like us.

David wrote this poem a year after his step daughter was killed in the London Bombings of 2005.

By David Gould

November 2006

My dear friend Helena pointed me to a post on EcoSpace that talks about introversion in a world that favours group-oriented personalities (the discussion threads following that article are quite interesting too, talking for example about the relationship between introversion in relation to activist groups, Aspergers or the lack of community).

Humans are social animals, so the cliche goes, yet according to Michael Lopez’ post maybe 25% of the Western population might lack the quality of group-orientation. That does not mean equal distribution throughout social groupings; I could imagine that artists, philosophers or political activists would have a larger share of introverts than let’s say CEOs of large organisations. As an overall figure though a quarter of the Western populace is a sizable minority.

In terms of understanding group and non-group oriented people, looking at language helps. Social and individual attitudes, behaviours and expectations are expressed in and reinforced by language: ‘outgoing’ and ‘sociable’ versus ‘shy’ and ‘anti-social’, ‘overbearing’ and ‘shallow’ versus ‘thoughtful’ and ‘personable’. Such ‘meaning’ contributes greatly to maintaining the structural imbalance between the majority of extroverts and socially oriented people and the minority of introverts who in one form or another experience devaluation, marginalisation and silencing.

People caught in the latter group often react with passive resistance, self-exclusion and/or feelings of coerced adaptation of group-type behaviour patterns. The problem with adaptation is that people do not take on the real qualities of mimicked personality type but play out what they think is this type, an assumption that often is negative (eg ‘shallow’ and ‘overbearing’). Adaptation in these cases will not lead to real change and growth but instead to exhausting and resentful copying, reinforcong the negative image the introvert has in his/her mind about the extrovert.

This reinforcement most likely will be enhanced by the feeling of having been coerced into adaptation in the first place because the majority socialiser culture does not recognise and respect the space the minority introverts occupy; it’s the alienation, discomfort, or dissatisfaction they experience that forces the non-group oriented people to adapt.

All of this suggests an obvious even though potentially idealistic solution: mutual acceptance. Societies and their sub-groups and communities need to create spaces for both forms of personality types to interact – spaces that are being regarded as equally valid. One-to-one interactions (the introvert’s preferred form of social interaction) would be seen as equally relevant, important, functional, productive and creative as the gatherings of the highly extrovert social. And where both personality types come together, space needs to be made for each to be able to unfold and to learn from one other.

Of course, the probability is low that either will be able to comfortably become the other, but learning, amongst other things, is about expanding one’s skill set and therefore adapting in the true sense of the word: by openly embracing challenges as seeds for personal growth. For the introvert learning to some extend what it feels to be an extrovert and vice versa for the extrovert will be enriching for the individual and our species in general.

One strategy for supporting us to become more respectful of ‘the other’ and to learn to integrate some of his/her personality traits into our own is to become more aware of ourselves, of ‘my self’. How? By beginning to be right here and now, observing oneself in every moment, or as Helena said: ” … focusing on being present to this particular moment at hand and responding from that place of presence. That’s all. Anything else other than being present is just extraneous mind chatter.” It’s a way not so much of introspection but of centredness. It gives us a choice to respond naturally to our environment, a choice ascending from a calm self-confidence, without hubris or fear, and it opens us up to let in other forms of expression and being. Simply being in the moment beats all other strategies of change, from from cognitive-behavioural to socio-political. It’s not easy to achieve that state of equilibrium but it probably is the most succesful way for us grow, to mature and to build a world in which difference becomes appreciated as an ingredient to enrich life and therefore our own selves.

Under the title “Nature Conservation + Spirituality = Sustainablity“, Anil K. Rajvanshi puts forward some very cogent arguments to pursue sustainable production and lifestyle practices.

We depend on and are supported by nature

  • our natural environment provides our food, and the majority of medicines today is derived from plants and animals, with many sources not yet discovered
  • natural ecosystems provide ‘services‘ like our atmosphere, climate, fresh water, fertile soil, nutrient cycling, waste cycles, pollination of crops, timber, animal feed and biomass fuel – amongst many other things; a 1997 team of economists and environmental scientists estimated that all ecosystem services provided free of charge have a value more than twice the world’s GDP
  • nature is superior partly because it had a long time to develop its blueprints and strategies through infinite permutations and combinations of designs; and since our brains too are a product of natural evolution and earth time, it could be conjectured that we a) cannot think more than what already exists in nature and b) cannot create in years or decades the complexity that took hundreds of millions of years to evolve
  • the fastest way for us to progress is to copy nature; design mimicry has been a catch cry for a number of years, yet we are just at the very beginning of understanding nature; for example, out of 10 to 100 million species on this planet we have only discovered about 1.5 to 1.8 million; even where we think we might have superior technology, we often just don’t have the smarts or the appropriate technology to probe nature
  • our brains have evolved with nature; they are wired in ways that allow us to appreciate the more subtle aspects of our natural environments (people being exposed to natural conditions recover quicker from illnesses, walks through forests are experienced as joyful and as a connection to their inner beauty, people on whose beliefs major religions have been founded laid claim to mystical experiences under trees, in deserts or on mountain tops)

Nature lost at this point of its and therefore our evolution is irreplaceable. Our science and technology cannot substitute for any disappearance resulting from us having destroyed the delicate balance that sustained nature.

Sustainable Living

To preserve at least our benefits (leave alone caring about other species too), we need to conserve nature and therefore stop destroying it. That does not mean stopping technological progress but rather working within the natural context to drive it further; what is needed is sustainable development. Rajvanshi defines it as “a process in which we use recyclable materials, resources and energy for our needs in an extremely efficient and environmentally sound manner. This process can be facilitated by advancement in technology.” That for example means:

  • moving away from eco-footprints that require four planets earth to maintain the US lifestyle
  • stopping mindless and wasteful exploitation of natural resources (which took millions of years to produce)
  • learning to use renewable energies through technologies with cycle times of 10-15 years, which may include fuel cells powered by liquid fuels from biomass, efficient biomass based power systems, solar and wind energy units
  • decentralising development by following evolution’s hallmark of size reduction; it leads to an increase in the system’s complexity, material and energy efficiency, and dynamic system’s equilibrium with forces surrounding it (for example, just as dinosaurs became extinct and were replaced by human beings and other small and highly evolved compact life forms, our big and sometimes ugly cities will hopefully be replaced by smaller more compact rural communities)

There is hope for compact and rural based evolutionary society models given current technological trends. From computers to power plants, technology systems are becoming more compact, complex and efficient. Energy production systems become smaller and more efficient in taking advantage of locally available diffuse natural resources like solar, wind and biomass. If this trend expands to our lifestyle, we should be able to feed ourselves and create goods and services from the raw materials available to us in our geographical area. Adding the availability of Internet communication, mobile computing, further development of small renewable energy power packs, genetically modified food and other advanced technologies being researched, it might be possible to have a sustainable development.

A recent study done in India showed that for a community the size of Taluka (comparable to a municipality or county), all its energy demand of electricity, liquid and gaseous fuels could be met by judicious use of locally available biomass resources. With provision of large-scale employment generation, Taluka model can provide critical mass for sustainable development.

Spirituality and Sustainability

However, sustainable development is not just a matter of desire, prescription, economic focus or philosophy. It can only be achieved when the process is underwritten by certain values, values that certainly eschew greed and replace it for example with need. To support the growth and survival of such value system is the role of spirituality.

“Spirituality is the state of mind that makes it understand that Truth is beyond the barriers of worldliness, caste, creed, race or geographical boundaries. It is universal in nature and a great spiritual thought is a cause of celebration for the whole mankind. It connects us to Universal Consciousness and gives a certain perspective in life. As a person progresses on the path of spirituality his or her priorities in life change. The focus of life shifts more towards getting personal happiness through mental peace and is less on material needs and desires and more towards sustainability.”

“Spirituality also helps us have a compassionate view of nature and as we evolve spiritually we become more tuned to it which helps us in preserving it. Besides it helps us live in harmony with each other and enables everybody to work together for the common good“, including that of nature.

Rajvanshi is optimistic that we will achieve this level of spirituality. The clock on technology cannot be turned back. But it can be seen as a product of an evolutionary process in which we become more spiritual as we advance technologically. Doing things more efficiently and thus having our needs satisfied with less quantity of materials and energy will “allow us to think and reflect on higher things in life. Eventually we will follow nature where all the processes are carried out extremely efficiently with few materials, in minimum number of steps and at room temperatures”. Thus a combination of advanced technology and spiritual growth will become a new paradigm of sustainable development.

How can we do it?

I am not so sure how Rajvanshi matches this optimism grounded in evolution with the ongoing need for intervention – maybe the latter is seen as part of evolution. He describes this intervention as creating “a change in mindset … necessary for sustainable growth”.

  • the best way to achieve this mind change is education – in schools, colleges and at home (which means enrolling women in this process, considering they constitute 50% of the human race and are the prime carriers of child raising)
  • what should young people be taught: facts about the wonders of nature, the limitations of natural resources and therefore the need to husband them carefully as well as developing an awareness of the need for frugality, facts about nature providing answers and blueprints to the problems we are trying to solve
  • scientists from major labs should be required to teach part-time in schools and colleges
  • scientists and technologists need to inform citizens about sustainability issues in a responsible manner and with a holistic approach – to help educate politicians, policy makers, the corporate world and environmental groups
  • international cooperation on development of sustainable and environmentally sound technologies needs to happen, including technology and resource transfers that will allow the developing countries to leapfrog into modern age; resulting improvements of living conditions and lifestyles leading to economic and social development might help reduce the social strife in the world
  • a spiritual movement needs to be created to ensure a value change as well as a more holistic approach to sustainability practices

Globally Rajvanshi believes in our innate ability to take corrective actions once the information and knowledge is available to us. Thus the fear of greenhouse gases, genetically modified foods, animal and human cloning might be allayed by continuously evolving technological and social interventions. In his mind, the upsurge of movements around the world in the renewable energy and environmental fields attests to this fact.

There is very little doubt that something needs to be done at least to limit the damage the human species has inflicted on the planet and therefore itself. All of the ideas above support sustainable development goals. They represent only a small fraction though of possible actions, especially as life on this planet will most likely change considerably – in ecological as well as social terms. And I think herein lies Rajvanshi’s most valuable contribution to present as well as future strategies and actions: if we don’t change spiritually, we will have a long uphill battle ahead of us. Let’s hope we don’t have to rely on evolution time frames to achieve this change.

Mahishasura Mardhini

Posted: August 3, 2008 in creativity
Tags: ,

Something for the open-minded. I am listening right now to an album by the Bombay Sisters called Mahishasura Mardhini, a part of Hindu mythology describing the fight between the gods and some demons. Below is a more detailed description which is rather intriguing.

Mahishasuramardhini – Saumya and Ghora

As Durga, the Goddess is “beyond reach” or “inaccessible.” She is Devi Mahishasuramardini (Goddess Killer of the Buffalo Demon) who appears to her devotees as both saumya (gentle and mild) and ghora (frightful and terrible). According to Skanda Purana, she is none other than Parvati who takes on the role of warrior at Siva’s request to kill a giant demon. The demon cannot be killed by any of the gods because he is protected against the torments of any male by a special boon. Thus Parvati alone is able to kill him, and in doing so, the goddess is named Durga. The demon then takes the form of a buffalo, an apparition that again appears in the famous Devi-Mahatmya tale of the slaying of Mahishasura, the buffalo demon (mahisha means buffalo).

Glory of the Goddess

Once in the land of the gods, a huge and terrible battle raged for hundreds of years. The gods were finally defeated, kicked from their celestial abode by the terrible leader of the demons, Mahishasura. The gods, who had fought the battle and lost, appeared before the greatness of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, explaining their defeat. The major gods became furious, and from their faces “came forth a great fiery splendor, and also from the…bodies of all the gods, Indra and others…and it congealed into a single form.”

Thomas Coburn’s translation of the Devi-Mahatmya at this point will give a feel for the power of the tale of Durga’s appearance: A stupendously fiery mass like a flaming mountain the gods saw there filling the firmament with flames. That matchless splendor, born from the bodies of all the gods, came together in a single place, pervading all the worlds with its lustre, and it became a woman…Devi bellowed aloud with laughter over and over again. The entire atmosphere was filled with her terrible noise, and from that deafening, ear-shattering noise a great echo arose. All the worlds quaked, and the oceans shook. The earth trembled, and the mountains tottered. The gods, utterly delighted, cried, “Victory!” to the one who rides on a lion.

And so the Great Goddess is born, ready to fight the enemies of the gods. In her battle with the demons, she easily wins, and must finally confront the general, Mahisha himself. For this battle she is called Chandika, “The Violent and Impetuous One,” in part because Mahisha so infuriates her by changing form every time she attempts to kill him. The goddess charges and he changes into a lion. She cuts off his head, and he emerges from that body as a man, armed for battle. She kills him, and an elephant appears in his place. She chops off the trunk, and the buffalo is once again before her. Needing something to channel her focus, Chandika drinks her fill of wine and becomes intoxicated. She laughs at Mahisha as he roars and throws mountains at her during her break. She yells at him that soon it will be the gods who are roaring over his death and defeat. Downing her last gulp, the goddess leaps across the battlefield at Mahisha, stands upon his neck to stop him from changing into any other form, pierces him with her spear and chops off his head. She is indeed victorious with this manoeuver, and the gods sing her praise. She so loves their devotion that she tells them she will come again to their aid if they merely call. With this boon, she disappears.

The most detailed and glorious tale of Durga’s battlefield prowess comes when the gods, who remember her earlier promise, again call upon her. This time, She is asked to defeat the demons Sumbha and Nisumbha (two brothers). These demons had somehow managed to amass so much power that they deprived the gods of sacrificial offerings for a long time. This caused the gods tremendous stress because the offerings are what sustains their purpose-if they are not honored, they are depotentiated. This had been going on for so long that none of the gods could live in heaven any longer. The gods therefore sung out to the goddess, praising her for all things, hoping that she would help save them a fate of anonymity. When called, She came in her most beautiful aspect as Ambika. When Sumbha’s generals, Chanda and Munda, saw her, however, they immediately reported back to Sumbha of her splendor. They told him that she would be most worthy of his favors. Sumbha, being vain and wanting all things of beauty for his own, decided to have his minions ask for her hand in marriage on his behalf.

The generals then go to the goddess, but she tells them of a vow taken in her youth to only marry the one who can defeat her in battle. Upon hearing this from his emissaries, Sumbha is angry to think that a “mere woman” would thus suggest challenging him. He calls another of his generals, Dhumralochana (Smoky-Eyes), and tells him to take sixty thousand of his forces, grab the woman by the hair and return her to him. Dhumralochana goes forth to Chandika and at first tries to persuade her to come peacefully to Sumbha. She is not so inclined, and when Dhumralochana attempts to attack her, Chandika turns him and his battalions to ashes. The goddess is not easily had. Sumbha quickly hears about his general’s defeat. He is so filled with hatred and desire to overcome and possess the goddess that he next summons Chanda and Munda, his most trusted officers. These two, acting on their commander’s request head off with the rest of the demon entourage and find Chandika in the Himalayas. They immediately begin firing arrows at her, and with this, the goddess lets her rage be known. She turns black in anger and fury, and from her brow, Kali emerges. This emanation of the goddess is her most fierce and gruesome.

She is depicted as emaciated, with red eyes, protruding tongue set for lapping up blood, black countenance, and wild, long, disheveled hair. She carries multiple weapons, a skull-topped staff, and emits alternatively hideous shrieks and deafening roars. Her only clothing, if any, is a tiger-skin wrapped about her waist, and she wears as ornaments a garland of freshly severed human heads and dead infant earrings. Kali easily slays the generals and offers their heads to Chandika, who then names her Chamunda, or slayer of Chanda and Munda. Then, both Chandika and Kali set out to kill Sumbha and his remaining armies.

The gods at this point send their power, or sakti, to the aid of the goddesses. Together, these forces, along with the sakti of Chandika, called Aparajita, decimate all foes while those demons still able to do so flee the battleground in terror. One demon though, named Raktabija (Blood Seed, or Drops of Blood), comes forward again to fight. He has the special gift of being able to multiply wherever one of his drops of blood falls upon the earth. But Chandika and Chamunda team up to defeat him. Chandika lances the demon, weakening him, while Chamunda laps up his blood before it can reach the ground, thus ensuring his death. Now, only Sumbha and Nisumbha are left to challenge the goddesses. To make a long story short, however, devi withdraws Her emanations back into herself, kills Nisumbha first and renders Sumbha powerless, finally destroying him with one fatal pierce of her spear. The Goddess is yet again victorious.

Source: ChennaiOnline