(c) 2013 Durgadas (Rodney) Lingham
All Rights Reserved.
[This article has appeared in some of my books on Yoga and Tantrism].
As children of Dhumavati and Kali (Nirrita), the highest transcendental truth, let us invoke their own inner, not outer spirits, and let us bow to their outer appearances and let them guide us with this higher knowledge, unto the state of Supreme Transcendence and dissolve our egos and Self into the great unknown!
The secret wisdom (guhya-vidya)of the present dark age of Kali resides in the Tantric Goddess Dhumavati and her hidden aspects and forms, as can be discovered in the Rig Veda.
In my earlier years in sadhana or spiritual practice, this crone form of goddess Kali appeared to me and was somewhat puzzling at first. Her aged appearance, her strange glances and her disproportionate face as Nirriti, the goddess of decay and spouse of Kali-Purusha (the deity of this age of Kali-Yuga – himself also known as Nirrita and Adharma) and also Asuri, Rakshasi and Danavi or Danu – the demon-goddess and mother of the Titans or Asuras herself isn’t always an auspicious symbol in Hinduism. Her practice takes place in a cemetary or cremation ground where one reveres datura as being sacred, being her rosary itself (or one can use human bone). She represents the ashuddhi (unclean) and the taboo of Hindu culture. She is Purani Dhumra-Bhairavi or the older form of the Smokey Bhairavi, the wrathful and terrifying form of the Goddess. Yet, she holds in herself, a deeper mystery – that of the dhumavidya or smoke-wisdom.
To start with, Dhuma vidya, which means ‘smoke wisdom’, must first be understood. Firstly, Dhuma as smoke relates to Akasha or Space, which is not simply empty but contains the potential of all existence. Space is also the Paramatma, the Supreme Self. The Supreme Self is also Prana or the Breath of Life. Here, she is the transcendental and unbounded (adi-ti – also meaning ‘primal reality’).
The Upanishads (Brihadaranyaka) explain this, and the fundamental keys to understanding the Dhumavidya or Smoke-wisdom:
Smoke is the Clouds (BU.VI.2.10)
Smoke is Fire (BU.VI.2.11)
Smoke is Prana (Breath of Life) (BU.VI.2.12)
The second thing we must note is that Dhumavati equates to the highest state of Anatman (non-ego) or Sunyata (Void) in Buddhism – what non-dual (Advaita) Vedanta in the Hindu school describes as ‘Neti neti’ (not this, not that’ and Nirguna (void of qualities). It is known as atattva (‘without principles) in the greater Saiva Siddhanta / Visishtadvaita systems.
It is also interesting to note that Jainism and Buddhism also used the svastika symbol – the Hindu symbol of the Self in their art-work and faiths. The svastika represents the Sun’s Rays and hence the Supreme Self as the Dhuma (smoke) or Prana (breath) form.
In fact, it is noted in the Upanishads also (Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad, VI.2.9), that the rays of the Sun are Smoke! This ties into these ideas as well, as gives a better understanding of what the higher dhuma or smoke is, in relation to Vedic wisdoms.
Simply, when the Atman (soul) attains the state of the greatest being or Brahman / Mahaprana / Paramatma or whatever we may call it, this is literally the ‘non-ego’ state, since it no longer identifies with the body or the mind.
As the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad states:
“When the person goes away from this world, he comes to the wind. Then the wind makes room for him, like the hole of a carriage wheel, and through it he mounts higher. He comes to the sun. Then the sun makes room for him, like the hole of a Lambara, and through it he mounts higher. He comes to the moon. Then the moon makes room for him, like the hole of a drum, and through it he mounts higher, and arrives at the world where there is no sorrow, no snow. There he dwells for eternal years.”(BU.V.10.1)
The myth where Dhumavati ‘eats’ her own consort, Lord Shiva (himself being Atman, Prana or the Conscious Being), is the tale of the Self merging into the highest state of realisation – sunyata, neti neti ,beyond all form.
She eats him since the Mother in Vedic times was seen as speech or vak, and hence in the later Tantric tale where she becomes the ‘eater’ (Vedic Aditi), it relates to the organ of speech or the mouth. As also noted above – Dhuma or Smoke is also Fire (Agni) which consumes the sacrifice.
To understand this further, we must point to the Upanishads (BU.V.2.6), where it is stated that the Self is composed of three elements – Speech (vak), Mind (manas) and Breath (prana). These are the Mother (Speech), Father (Mind) and Breath (Child (verse 7).
Hence, by killing his parents Vritra and goddess Danu (later Dhumavati) in the ancient tale in the Rig Veda (I.32.8-9) the deity Indra is able to transcend both mind (father) and speech (vak) and therefore merge into his own self-formlessness, known as Prana, which we know as Dhuma (smoke).
By committing such an act of evil or wickedness, Indra in a material or mundane physical sense can be seen as the deity Kali / Nirrita or Goddess Dhumavati. But as we see with Vedic Indra, as with Dhumavati, there is a much higher sense relating to Prana and transcending the mind and senses in order to reach such a state. Vedic Indra is also a deity of lightning (vidyut), which is born from the clouds, which as above as stated, is also Prana in the form of Dhuma (smoke).
The teaching here is that we must become the Mother through rising above the senses and all forms of maya or illusion, which in a sense, is Dhumavati in a lower form, as maya or illusion (creation), is the cosmic smoke-screen that obscures our spiritual view and outlook. So, we must embrace that darker side of smoke through the maya, in order to realise its higher potentials. That is where we come to the subject of Dhumavati, the Smoke-Wisdom and the dark age of Kali Yuga, our present age which began around 3102BC with Krishna’s disappearance from this earthly dimension.
The personality of Kali (masculine and short vowels, not goddess Kālī ), the demon this age is named after, is also called Nirrita (destruction), Adharma (non-righteousness) and his wife is called as Nirriti, Alakshmi (Poverty – anti-Lakshmi) etc. which are names for Dhumavati. She is the crone form of Goddess Kālī and also worshipped in India as Chamunda, and her appearance is usually more gruesome than the Goddess Kālī, since she is her mother. Kālī is actually Vedic Indra’s later female counterpart, and hence the correlative tales.
As briefly noted, in the Vedas, Dhumavati relates to the widow-Goddess Danu, the spouse of the demon of eclipses named Swarbhanu or Vritra (obstruction). Vritra, as noted as the father, is the mind.
He eats the Sun (symbol of the Self) and sometimes also the Moon (symbol of the mind or ego). In later Hinduism he is known as Rahu, the immortal head of heaven. Danu like Dhumavati is a widow-goddess, since her son Indra slays his own father, making her a widow.
From this, we see that the deity of this age, Kali (Rahu, Nirrita), or rather his Shakti – Dhumavati-Nirriti, is, in fact, the key to the highest Realisation. So – are we really in a dark Age or an age where sinful souls can be quickly elevated?
The secret here is that Dhumavati’s followers do not see poverty. They are the ideal Yogis – possessing nothing and yet being merged with the highest transcendental truth, which is expressed asPara-tamas (transcendental darkness) – the Void beyond. Poverty and distress – ‘evil’ so to speak, to them, does not exist, as she is, in fact, the wickedness of society – dirt, death, decay, poverty etc. of which we all dread (since we possess the ego, which she consumes).
So in truth, this dark age of Kali Yuga is, in fact, the age of Dhumavati! It is the age of her devotees, where they can grow into great Illuminaries for the world – teaching that (outer) suffering can lead to the bondage of the ego for the material – but also the forcing inwards for the spiritual, and thus realising the highest goal within her own infinite being.
Her great teaching is that in the pursuit of material possessions, we become karmically entangled. Due to the bondage of the ego, we do not want to invoke her, as she comes to us as distress and poverty – what the ego fears most in its lust for control. The individual Self which tries to find it’s original place in the cosmos, or ‘find itself’, cannot due to the bondage of the ego blinding it.
Thus, Dhumavati is actually a blessing in disguise. This age is her cremation ground through which we can invoke her (since her shakti is prevalent in this age more so) for positive purposes to destroy the ego and consume our outer self. This is metaphorical; to consume our ‘sun’ and our ‘moon’, or as some Vedic texts mentioned have referred to it, as the mother and father etc.
Tamasic (dark-Natured) deities such as the Rahu-Kali and Dhumavati are usually shunned – since they attract the negative results that are actually the transcending powers which drive us away from ego!Brahmins, the highest caste of those who carry the inner knowledge, it is known, can also be greatest possessors of ego, since Brahma the creator, and Vritra were both originally Brahmins who Shiva or Indra beheads.
Even the popular Indian deity Ganesh, the elephant-headed divinity that removes obstacles and grants wisdom and wealth, began as the priest of the Celestials known as Brihaspati (a Brahmin Seer of theAngirasa lineage), who in later tales was beheaded by his father Shiva.
This tells us also that the Devas (deities) or Brahmins in India had to be checked many times, due to their egoic traits. These later became not just historical, but also spiritual examples.
Anything that we fear or hate in society can function as Dhumavati or Kali. But this is just a dualistic standpoint from the ego’s outer perspective, lost in the ‘outer Dhumavati’ or obscurity of maya or illusion.
As true non-dualism teaches – how can even the most impure or wicked people such as criminals and witches – social deviants not be part of the Supreme Consciousness? They are all manifestations of the One Supreme Truth and as such are even lauded in the great Rudram chant of the Vedas. The One Being must be perceived in all, and it transcends all forms, both the good and the bad.
This is why we see things in Hinduism, such as Supreme deities like Shiva, who surround themselves with wizards, ghouls, ghosts and prefer to have pets such as a wild jackals and owls and dwell in cremation grounds.
In such imagery – it is as a test for the ego – since only those who go beyond the mind can enter such realms and see the higher truth that lies beyond them.
Smoke is also the great force that takes us above into the higher realms of the Clouds or Prana when the body is consumed. As the smoke rises above the Fire, it thus shows that it is the shakti or force that guides us upwards into the Celestial realms and above.
This is why we find many Tantric Masters in India such as Vamakhepa acting in a bizarre way, committing and social taboos. Or why Vedic Indra and Shiva commit such acts as slaying their own parents, eating flesh, drinking wine or Soma etc. These are a spiritual challenge to our ego-attachment to outer forms even of the good, not meant to be taken literally
There is also the greatest or highest truth represented here in this age. One can invoke the higher transcendental tamas or darkness in this age, and have the opposite effect of the times: rather than being a bound soul due to the materialism and perversity of the age, one can invoke and grasp the highest forms of Kali or Dhumavati, and transcend all of the ages and the worlds – ascending to the highest state of para-tamas (transcendental darkness), the non-dual state!
Each age has its own wisdom, but here presented is the greater wisdom of the deities for this age. One need not embrace or fear this age, or its actions, if one can see the higher teachings it presents through the deities ruling it, and their own higher / transcendental teachings!