Offering for Challenging times: Tool to enhance your Exuberance and Inner Balance. Explore Now

Offering for Challenging times: Tool to enhance your Exuberance and Inner Balance.
Offering for Challenging times: Tool to enhance your Exuberance and Inner Balance.

Shiva and Kali: The Tantric Symbolism

article Stories of Shiva
Sadhguru explains the significance of the imagery of Kali standing on Shiva's chest. He tells us the story of how Kali once killed Shiva and what this symbolizes.

Question: Sadhguru, I have seen quite a few images of Kali standing on the chest of Shiva’s corpse. What is the significance of this scene?

How Kali Killed Shiva

Sadhguru: This is a certain story trying to depict how the feminine dimension of energy functions. Once, it so happened that various demons started dominating the world. Many evil forces started taking over the world. So Kali went into a fury. When she went wild, there was no stopping her. She just went and slaughtered everything.

Her fury would not stop. It was going on, beyond reason, beyond the necessary action needed for that situation, beyond everything. Because her fury had picked up such momentum and it would not subside, and because she was continuing the slaughter, no one dared to go and stop her. They approached Shiva and said, “She is going on like this. She is your woman. Please do something to rein her in.”

Shiva approached Kali as he knew her. He went towards her without aggression, not in a battle mode. He simply went. But Kali’s energy went to such a scale that it knocked Shiva himself down. Only when she stood over him did she realize what she had done. Then she slowed down and once again breathed life into him.

Devi Takes Off Her Own Head

There are various tantric processes which are based on this particular event. You might have seen images and paintings of tantrics who have taken off their own head and are walking, holding the head in their hand. Or you may have seen Devi herself, depicted as taking off her head and holding it in her hand and walking. There are various tantric processes involved where people actually decapitate themselves and once again fix the head back. There are certain rituals through which this is done.

Tantra: Unmaking and Making Life

I know that today, most people think tantra means unbridled promiscuity. This is because most of the tantric books today are written by Americans, and people read about tantra from magazines and books. Tantra does not mean promiscuity. Tantra means extreme discipline. Tantra means a technology, a method, a capability to unmake life and make life again. Tantra is to have such mastery over the system that you can dismantle life completely and put it back again.

The Symbolism of Kali Killing Shiva

You can have such mastery over life that life and death are both so completely in your hands, that you can dismantle life and put it back again. You can even kill the Divine and bring him back. This is not a feat that you are trying to show off to somebody. It is because you want to have such mastery over life.

Unless you have some mastery over life, you cannot do anything. Everyone has some mastery over life. Otherwise, what could you do? The level of mastery that you have determines how much you can do.

The image of Kali standing on Shiva essentially symbolizes having total mastery over the process of life. It means that you can kill God himself and then give life back to him. That is audacious, isn’t it? That is how the technology of tantra is.