Catalyst of change

Catalyst of Change

Pentecost 117

Yesterday we discussed the Indian mythological god Shiva and his wife Parvati.  Today we continue with the rest of their story, a story that is as old as time and as pertinent as today.  Theirs is not just the typical fantasy tale of imaginary creatures with unbelievable powers and whimsical and sometimes scary acts.  It is also quite possibly the first recorded history of racism.

There are several stories about how the Hindu god Shiva would tease his wife about her complexion.  Parvati had a darker hue of skin tone than her husband.  One story has her shedding her skin, taking the name Gauri, and then turning gold.  The sloughed-off skin took on a life of its own, becoming the goddess Kali.

There are other origins for Kali.  One tells that she is really the breathing being of the thoughts of another goddess known as Durga who furtively sought for an answer when embroiled in a battle with the demon Raktabija.  Still another legend maintains that Kali was killed immediately after birth and ascended to the heavens, only to mock her killer.  Kali became the revered goddess of a group of professional assassins known as the Thugs and they ritualistically went about killing people as a sacrifice to her.

Kali is depicted as a most gruesome character, usually all black and wearing a necklace of skulls.  Around her waist she wears a belt of severed arms or snakes with long tongues or fangs dripping blood.  Her hair is disheveled which, along with her other distinguishing characteristics, makes her one of the most recognizable mythological characters around the world.

Kali serves a real purpose, though as she represents ignorance and hatred.  She reminds us that death is a part of life, one phase of the evolution that the life cycle is and that while we are living, we need to address those things which need to be eliminated from our living.  The Sanskrit alphabet comes from the lettering on the skulls around her neck.  Kali often is illustrated as having four hands but two are always empty – seen as a sign of hope that one can always find more life to live.  In many of the myths about her, Kali is seen dancing on Shiva’s grave which reanimates him.

In his book “Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes”, Steve Spangler has many interesting science experiments.  One involves the use of milk, food coloring, and liquid dish detergent.  About one-half a cup of milk is poured into a saucer or bowl.  Then several drops of various colors of food coloring are dropped carefully into the milk.  Lastly, one drop of liquid dish detergent like the brand Dawn is dropped into the middle of the milk.  What happens is a kaleidoscope of movement and color changes.

The detergent is a catalyst; all soap is.  Soap works to clean things not by any magical powers but by being a catalyst.  It changes the surface tension of the dirt molecules and releases their hold onto the object which is dirty.  Simply rinsing one’s hands in water does not clean them.  By applying soap, the surface tension is lessened and then the dirt is washed off by the water.

Parvati shed her skin and it became Kali.  There are, I am certain, a great many things you and I could “shed” in our lives to make our living better, smoother, cleaner.  Many religions encourage one to pray for one’s enemies – a really tall order, if you ask me.  Even Islam, while not specifically saying this, has a similar edict.  In fact, I think it is most easily understood how to do this by what the Quran says:  “…let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice.” (5:8)

It is not easy to pray for one who has wronged you.  However, if we don’t release that pain, let our beliefs release the surface tension of that negativity, then we become the gruesome depiction of Kali.  Faith, whether religious or spiritual, is a catalyst for change.  Perhaps you have faith in a deity or perhaps you simply have faith in living.  Go forward today and let that faith become your catalyst for change.  Allow it to release the surface tension of past hurts so that you can move forward and shine like the golden skin of Parvati.  Just like the drop of detergent in the milk creates a seemingly never-ending wonderment of activity, releasing hurt through prayer and faith can create a new living, glorious and amazing.  You and only you can be the true catalyst of change for your life.

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