There is a lot of shit going on in our country right now: people in literal cages, police officers still working and not charged after murdering (on video) unarmed citizens and a U.S. President that incites racism, misogyny and overall hatred every chance he gets. Many believe that the practice of Yoga is supposed to take us so far up into the Spiritual Realm that we are immune to the suffering on the Earth. This is false. Yoga is not the avoidance of toxicity, but instead, according to Douglas Brooks, PhD, "Yoga is the ability to alchemize toxicity into power." It is our solemn duty as yogis to speak out and take action whenever and wherever injustice, racism and hate reside and respond with Love, Empathy, Compassion and yes, Action.
It has taken me over a week to come to this computer and figure out exactly what I want to say. As a Black American, I have been asked more times than I can ever count "where are you from?" and my answer is always the same, "I was born in Baltimore and raised in Prince George's County, both in Maryland." To only hear this response, " No, I mean where are you from? Where are your parents from?" And, again, I answer the same way, "My mother was born in New Jersey. My dad was born in Baltimore. We are the survivors of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and we have been here for generations. Probably far longer than your family. Where are you from?"
I take the toxicity of this line of questioning and alchemize it into power in at least two ways: First, I am very proud to be descended from enslaved Africans. To me, no people are stronger. They were kidnapped from the only home they've ever known, put into a ship stacked one on top of another and bound by chains. They forcibly learned a new tongue. They were forced to worship a god that they did not know. Their children, wives, husbands were literally snatched from their arms and sold away. They were beaten. They were raped. And yet, through it all, here I am. The living proof of their existence. The proof of their power. Second, I am empowered by knowing that my blood literally built this country. This country would not exist if my Ancestors did not build it brick by brick. Including and especially The White House. People who ask Americans like me where I'm from need to be reminded of this. Constantly.
And with that prelude, let's get to our demon slaying story. It takes place long, long ago (about 3,000 years ago) in a land far, far away...
Once upon a time in a land called Trilok, there lived a demon named Mahishasura. Although he was a demon, Mahishasura dedicated 1,000 years to meditating on the god Brahma. This pleased Brahma greatly, so he appeared to Mahishasura to grant him a. boon. "I will give you one wish to demonstrate my gratitude for your devotion. What is it that you desire?" asked Brahma.
Without hesitation, Mahishasura replied, "I want you to make it so that neither god nor man can kill me."
"It is so," said Brahma as he granted the boon. Once the boon was granted, he added this, "understand that you said that your wish was to not be killed by god or man. But know this: it will be a woman that kills you."
Because Mahishasura was a chauvinist and thought that women only existed for his pleasure and had no power of their own, he laughed and said, "well in that case, I will be immortal. There is no way a nasty woman can conquer me!"
As his ego became less and less healthy with each day and he became drunk on his new found power, he decided to go and conquer Trilok, the place where heaven,. earth and hell meet. After he triumphed there, without impunity, he really believed that he was untouchable and set about to conquer the land of the gods themselves: Indralok. As you can imagine, this was not well received.
Of course the gods decided to wage war against Mahishasura but to no avail as he was protected by Brahma's boon. In confusion and disappointment, the lower gods met with what I will call The Big Three: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva to come up with a solution to this demon problem. Brahma admits to the boon he granted and The Big Three decided to combine their powers and bring forth the incarnation of Shakti (Divine Feminine) in the form of the goddess Durga.
Durga is a beautiful, 10-armed goddess with a god-given weapon in each of her hands. She rides upon the back of a male lion and is adorned in a red sari. Her appearance is so striking that when Mahishasura first sees her, he decides that he must have her (because when you're rich and powerful, women can't resist you). She, being a goddess of taste, rejects him but because he doesn't understand that no means no, he challenges her to battle and declares that when he wins, he will simply take her. She likes her chances and accepts his terms.
They battle for nine consecutive days and she uses a different weapon on each of those days. On the tenth day, she uses the trident, gifted to her by Shiva, the god that dances in the cemetery. The god that is the Divine Masculine matched to Shakti, the Divine Feminine and this trident finally slays the demon.
Proving that sometimes it takes a woman to take out a demon.....