The sound of silence, a lyric made famous by Simon & Garfunkle, captures the essence of the supreme energy offered to us by the Goddess Bagalamukhi.
The eighth of the mahavidyas, the 10 wisdom goddesses of Tantra philosophy, this archetypal deity holds the tongue of a man in one hand whilst in the other a golden mace poised to strike! The ensuing stillness, the stunned stoppage in the midst of speech and action is the golden silence that follows. Her very form is golden. She sits on a swan headed throne which represents her purity. The swan is revered for being able to draw milk from water, to extract the truth. The purity of silence is that moment when we discern the real from the unreal - or truth from falsehood. The man whose tongue she holds represents the clutter of the mind that impacts the world we experience.
Patanjali tells us that yoga is the stilling of the mind; yoga citta vritti nirodha. When we evoke the goddesses either in meditation or practice, they offer another pathway to explore these ancient yogic principles. Visualising the goddess and tuning into one aspect of her imagery is a good place to begin. Bagalamukhi is golden. Her skin, her flowing robes and her swan faced throne all shimmering with golden radiance. As her mace is raised to strike, the intensity of her aura deepens; when the mace lands the glow dissolves and in the ensuing silence she pails to the colour of buttermilk before her golden glow gradually rises again pre-empting her next strike. She is the moment between thoughts where infinite possibilities exist in a timeless gap. In that repository moment a choice arises; to follow the pathway mapped by our likes and dislikes or to cut through limited knowledge and open up to other possibilities.
The myths of the goddesses leads us deeper into the imaginal realm and deeper into our own psyche. They come laced with ancient stories that hold truths or open portals to new perception. In the stillness Bagalamukhi's mace creates, we witness the limitations that obscure the 'True Self', (however we imagine this) as layers. In yogic terms, these are the koshas. Within these layers exist knots, - the granthis. These layers become finer, more subtle as we peel them away. Our outer most layer is easiest to discern and connect with. The food sheath known as annamaya kosha - our physical body, so called because we are made of food, comes from food and will eventually return to food! When we are fully in our bodies we feel grounded, aware of our own physicality, the space we inhabit and the substances we put into this vessle of flesh and bone. More subtle though is the energy layer of pranamaya kosha. This is experienced through attention to our breath and awareness of vibrational energies that exist inside the food sheath. We can develop our awareness further by noticing the changes that take place in energy during a yoga practice, going in feeling depleted and coming out energised perhaps. Our energy is influenced by the third layer - the manomaya or mind layer, where thoughts, emotions and memories exist and are processed. It's here, at this 3rd floor that the I-self (our ego and sense of self) is sustained mostly via validation and justification of who we are, what we like and dislike. In this limited sense of self our Vishnu granthi arise as a knot of accumulation, we are definined by me and mine. Deeper still and therefore even harder to access, two layers of our being; vijanamaya kosha, (Vi means special and jnana is wisdom, so special wisdom) here our intellect and intuition lurk in the control centre where judgment and discrimination effect our choices. This layer inevitably gets clouded by thoughts and contaminated by the validating mind that aims to manipulate our experience as we create the world around us. Rudra granthi forms here often by spiritual bypassing or sometimes spiritual materialism as we cover the cracks of what we feel is missing. The deepest layer, anandamaya kosha, (ananda means bliss) is way beyond the subtle realms. Here the cause or seed or even our truth lies or maybe even just beyond. The very few that experience this layer are able to recount the visit and the scriptures suggest it is only in deep sleep, beyond the consciousness that we gain fleeting entry.
Mahavidya sadhana then or practising with inspiration and of the goddesses is a method or pathway that acknowledges both dark and light. Bagalamukhi's mace stills the practice enabling discernment of what needs to be peeled away to reveal truth. In the moment between moments what obscures our perception and what obstructs our path at a deeper level? These obstructions are her shadow, our clutter!
Speech in Tantra refers to all forms of expression including thought. Whilst some of our thoughts are helpful or functional enabling us to get things done a great deal of our thoughts are chatter, or in fact clutter. Those constant ruminations that revolve inside out heads, replaying events, reliving memories and projecting into future 'what if's' and 'hope nots', all of these reinforce our I self and establish a view of what outcomes should be. They take us out of the present moment. Our clutter creates our suffering. The strike of the mace represents the stilling of activity within the 5 koshas and the potential to awaken to the purity of silence that has the potential to unknot our deeper layers.
When we evoke Bagalamukhi she makes it possible for us to become aware of the witnessing side of our being and shows us the vastness that exists beyond the limited body and mind. Our self centric view created by the I-self's need are based in a need more, an innate sense of lack and a desire for completion. When improving ourselves is our motivation we miss the goal of self realisation and like endless song, the seeking goes on.
So this really is where I personally feel the mahavidays make their practical offering. On the premise that their archetypal forms are characteristics that exist within us we can, through their illumination of symbolism, myth and metaphor, the experiential vibration of bija or seed sounds and mantras, start to open us up to deeper exploration and new ways of seeing and experiencing that is without limitation.
With her light of purity Bagalamukhi reminds of the first of Patanjali's 5 niyamas or observances: saucha, cleanliness which relates to purity of thought. For that to arise we need to declutter our lives. Noticing where we hoard can help determine how our mind works. Clutter might be in the physical, the objects we can't let go of or how we spend out time and who with or where our thoughts constantly fly to each time we find ourselves in a certain situation. As we pay attention to the clutter we can notice which areas need a clear out.
The strike of the mace is the momentary gap between choice and action. Here we get to recalibrate the 5 sheaths and start rewiring our brains. The how of this is easy - slow down, clutter thrives on activity. Complete tasks and put them to bed; don't store up multiple loose ends of unfinished projects. Rein in the monkey mind by focussing on one thing at a time. When we feel ourselves moving from a less cluttered place, one that is clean and pure and true we will start to cease worrying about outcomes of our actions and trust in the results.
When we commit to periods of silence and stillness our energy is empowered. Like a river which has been blocked and must now eddy or swirl around before it finds either a new course to take or overcomes the obstacle in front of it and surges through. Holding asana in the Hatha practice creates this energy accumulation and draws our attention to the subtle rivers that flow within us. When does the mind tell you you can't, when does a pose become an expression of your ego?
Bagalamukhi is calling us inward. Her compassionate gaze rather than wishing to strike us with fear of correction and clean us out is offering us her power to tune in and listen to the voice of our own inner teacher who speech is absolute silence. In the gift of silence we move from the 'should be' of our learned experience to what is right now. Thoughts that serve no purpose in the moment surrender themselves to the ocean as waves lost in the vastness of a body of water and we embrace the unknowing and the freedom that lies beyond.
Her golden glow casts a radiance of innocence upon us, a cloak of bliss that leads us out of the bonds of past and future, memories and projections, likes and dislikes that manipulate our experience on either side of her silent strike. We put down the baggage or maybe Bagala we carry and in the lightness that ensues suddenly our desire to know what comes next dissolves, we see our true face. And then it is that we feel free to deftly swan dive into the pool of what is and rise up piercing the surface bursting out with courage to enter into the vulnerability of not knowing what should be.
The wisdom offerings of Bagalamukhi's seem to be strikingly relevant in these uncertain times when we must resign ourselves to the unknowing but have the choice whether we open with grace to what is might offer.
"They follow the unseen leader in the heart.
Their lives obey the inner nature's law.
There is kept grandeur's store, the hero's mould.
The soul is the watchful builder of it's fate. "
Source Texts: The Ten Cosmic Powers - S Shankaranarayana; Shakti Rising - Kavitha M Chinnaiayn.