Saturday, May 7, 2016

Chinnamasta, The Sixth Mahavidya

I know that different peoples' experiences are different, but Kundalini, to me, always feels female. How sheer energy, primordial life force should have a gender I'm not sure, but perhaps the realities indicated by the words male and female descend into depths of being where the external manifestation — thoughts, feelings and even bodies — no longer count. Perhaps it's at these deep levels of being, and not in thoughts, feelings and bodies, that male and female fully fuse and that wonderful reality called the Androgynous, an achievement in both Tantric and Western alchemy, is achieved. Kundalini, as a female energy, fuses with Siva, the still point, timeless being. Certainly, the Tantras seem always to refer to Kundalini as She, not It. (She Who Is Outside The Universe, And Goes Upwards)

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In this regard, icons of the Mahavidya Chinnamasta in Hindu Tantra are very revealing. The ten mahavidyas, or manifestations of the Goddess, represent the different stages of manifestation of Kali. And Chinnamasta, the sixth mahavidya is pivotal as She stands at the crossover point between the unmanifest and the manifest. Her transformation-icon also has deep erotic references. You can see one of these icons in Phillip Rawson's excellent book, The Art Of Tantra. It's an eighteenth century icon from Kangra titled Chinnamasta Arising From The Joined Bodies Of The Originating Couple.

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Last Tango In Paris (1972)
Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider

At the bottom of the image a man and woman copulate on an eight-petalled lotus. They may be the "Originating Couple," but in this particular icon they look wonderfully human, and happy. They are entwined in sexual union, the man on his back (stillness, immovability) the woman lying full-length on top of him (movement and energy.) The Goddess stands on top of them. The portrayal is so vivid that one could almost picture the Divine Woman standing on top of two people making love, too real and intense to disturb them. The Goddess's body is red, and the Kali chain of skulls (the chain of time, birth and death) hangs round her neck, or rather round what's left of her neck, because in her right hand she holds a pair of shears with which she's just cut off her (crowned) head, which she holds in her left hand. Spouts of blood from her severed neck are drunk by two maidens, who symbolize the right and left nadis (pingala nadi and ida nadi). It's a violent and grotesque image that generates power on many levels. On one level, it's a dramatic portrayal of sexual transcendence, the copulating couple are real, human lovers, but their ecstasy has ascended the central channel (the susumna nadi) and instead of a physical climax has entered the "no-head" state of consciousness beyond the brain, beyond bodily thought or feeling, a state which is more, not less, real than the physical body.

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