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Bagalamukhi Reconsidered

"The Bridle of Destiny"

NOTE: I am posting notes and impressions for the devata or presiding deity of the current lunar cycle of dakini instruction, so that those who wish to follow this process can get up and running in time with the cycle. I will post similar pages for the two preceding cycles in the new format which is associative, not discursive. Explanation of my approach and further orientation to the instruction process is in the works. Thanks again for your patience. JLL

Bagalamukhi shift 2009: begins May 25 sunset crescent in the TWINS - ends
June 22 new moon 92 ECL, beyond the horns of the Bull, at the feet of the TWINS

Compare these notes with the retrospective of this lunar shakti in 2008.

It is presently day 20 of the Bagalamukhi shift that opened on May 26. Initially, I approached this lunar shakti with some doubts, sensing that the received lore on Bagalamukhi, including her image as a crane-headed totem, was bizarre and somehow incongruous. I had no empathetic rapport with Bagala previous to her shift, so the field of reception was totally blank. Along with some friends who are currently tracking the lunar shaktis with me, I was intensely curious about how this devata would manifest. I felt less confident about being able to detect her signature in the mindstream. And what about her main trait, the ability to paralyze? Unlike the other Mahavidyas, each with a rich array of attributes, this devata seemed limited or unduly focussed on one action in the attack mode. To characterize her predominantly as the Mahavidya who paralyzes enemies and renders them speechless seemed an undue and inept emphasis. Something was off here. Something was definitely missing.

Sutaka: Rendering

In the first commentary on this devata, I wrote:

Bagalamukhi means "with the head (mukhi) of a crane (baka)." Uniquely, this Mahavidya is theriomorphic, recalling Egyptian dieties such as the hawk-headed Horus and the lion-headed Sekmet. But she is not represented this way in the recent body of received iconography. I find no representation of Bagalmukhi with a crane's head, but Kinsley cites one instance of art from Kantra, India. No point in baffling over this matter. There is plenty of mysterious lore to explore in the domain of this Mahavidya.

The crane image bothered me. I could extrapolate some crane lore that seemed to fit, linked to the theme of erotic bonding displayed in the constellation of the TWINS, the Cretan crane dance which is a mating dance, etc. The notion of "reversal of fortunes" also fits that constellation: the TWINS display dyadic power realized and ritualized by Tantrikas who couple their intentions in a pat, or practice maithuna, sacred intercourse. With these cueing motifs defined I seemed to be on the right track... but the crane-head imagery still felt stilted and far-fetched.

How then did the shift open? With a conspicuous silence. As if the channel was tuned but no transmission was evident. The subliminal line was dead, it seemed. Dakini dial-tone experience, you might say. I had never had this impression before with any devata of the Shakti Cluster. Yet I sensed the situation was not as it seemed. The transmission was underway, but I was not picking up on it in the usual manner. In discussion with other transceiver trainees, one outstanding impression came to light: the sense of receiving brief, brilliant flashes of insight about "how everything could suddenly be different." The sudden and complete elimination of obstacles, or the reversal of a situation, with the blocking elements suddenly turned around, the realization that what appeared to be a problem was not a problem at all, the dissolution of fear in a flash, as if it had never been there in the first place—were some common impressions we discussed in the attempt to conceptually frame this transmission.

Then, looking back over the Bagala shift of 2008, I recalled the lead on the siddha of rendering, sutaka (pronounced SUIT-ah-kah):

To render is to convert, to pay off dues, to give in return or retribution, to cause to become, to surrender into another form or state. In Kalika slang, this dynamic process is called "turning." The primary skill of a Kala Tantrika is to "turn" any event, especially an event that involves obsessive and addictive emotions, extreme feelings of love and hate, compassion and disgust, joy and grief. The accomplished Kalika can render any situation by going to the core of the raw forces that produce and sustain it.

This Tantrika skill of turning around any experience fits the profile of Bagalamukhi so well that I felt certain of its relevance. Frawley's term, "the hidden presence of the opposite," continued to intrigue me as well. I sensed there was yet another level of meaning to discover. I began to understand that the dakini wisdom transmitted by Bagalmukhi was exceptionally subtle. One could say, perhaps, that this devata is markedly sly. With the trainees, I experienced this slyness in lightning-flashes of insight that shimmered right on the edge of language but were too subtle to put into words. If this was her style of delivery, it was exquisite.

In the interview with Jan Irvin for, I offered my personal definition of truth: it is what you slice as thin as the blade that slices it. I could have been referring to the delivery of Bagalamuhki.

June 2008

So, the motif of rendering fell into place as I reviewed the Bagalamuhki shift of 2008, but there was more, much more to emerge. Looking back, I realized that the shift of this devata in 2008 had been a momentous time in my life, a month when my entire destiny underwent a cataclysmic shift. Consider these events and experiences in the frame of Bagala's transmission:

June 4, the transmission starts. I was in Belgium at the time, writing the gratitude list to Emma. The rage, fear, and hurt I felt about breaking up with her was here converted according to "the hidden presence of the opposite": gratitude for the experience that was utterly transforming me.

June 11: I rewrote the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Talk about a reversal of fortune!

June 19: I print 248 pages of Farewell, Eurydice, "a pornographic novel of love," written at a fever pitch in three weeks. This exercise in writing was the main action I used for rendering, turning the breakup with Emma into a breakthough.

June 25: First anniversary of the death of the person who introduced me to Emma. This was the day I went up to Infinity Ridge with the intention of asking Gaia about survival through the coming extinction. As I explained in Gaia Responds to a Human Witness, my guardian Devi, a Naga who lives in a grove of trees on the Ridge, whacked me right between the eyes with the astounding announcement that a rite of initiation was underway, triggered by Emma abandoning me: the 108-day ordeal that eventually led to the discovery of the Shakti Cluster and the terma of Gaia Awakening.

June 30 to conclusion July 3: I began a nine-day kriya of rendering, a Tantric ritual performed under the cording tree on the hillside above my house. I recall that when I undertook this rite, I was acutely conscious of turning around waves of fear and denial that were being directed at me. I used the invocation: "I return it all in wrathful compassion." I could well have said "I render it into wrathful compassion," but I did not discover this term until a just short time later. This ritual, performed in three directions with three phases of nine counts using mudras and dakini blade, was the most elaborate shamanic feat I have ever performed. I could not believe it when I was doing it. It was as if I were possessed by another power, a force of dazzling ferocity. It was by far the most potent, elaborate Tantric ritual I had ever performed up to that moment. To this day, I don't know how I managed to pull it off.

In retrospect, this ritual of rendering would have been performed in the completion phase of the Bagalamukhi shift, the last five days when the instruction of the entire shift goes into embodiment, enactment. How appropriate is that. Without knowing it, my action mirrored the magical force of the dakini who works through "the hidden presence of the opposite" and reverses the dynamics of situations, especially where fear, denial, and withholding are directed against you. As happens a lot of the time in human affairs, folks. At that moment in June last year, Emma was totally inaccessible to me, and incommunicado. I did not know if this would be the case for the duration, a separation for life. At moments of anguish, I thought it would be so. I faced the total loss of this woman from my life. But I did not for an instant relent in my intention to realize my fate combined with hers. I did not back off one millimeter from my highest pleasure: to have my Eurydice beside me, for keeps.

Again, at the risk of getting tedious, I cite my own experiences because they are the only ones I have on record from that time. As if I were exploring unmapped territory in the Amazon completely on my own, the first person to reach that remote spot, taking notes. Later, others would come and provide their own observations... Today (June 25, 2009), on the first anniversary of these events, others who are tracking the lunar shaktis with me are beginning to weigh in and offer a wealth of experiences and impressions. Planetary Tantra was born from an intense personal crisis, a sexual-romantic breakdown. So far I have expressed the desolating impact of that experience, as well as the wonder and euphoria that exploded from it, in highly personal terms. But allusions to the Emma-John story are like bits of eggshell stuck on a newborn chick. In the future, I will present a more sober, depersonalized, and generically stated expression of my breakthrough and its attendent mystical phenomena.

I would add, though, that while these experiences of mine are merely anecdotal, the intensity of them is exemplary. Others will have quite different experiences, of course. Kalikas define the intensity of desire by the name of their addiction: I am a sex-and-romance addict. Others have different addictions, different personal obsessions and predilections. But one element remains universal in Tantra: the mode of extremity, overwhelming intensity. On this path no essential truth can be realized except through fearless, unrelenting intent to feel everything in the extreme. Such is "the ferocity and omniverous quality of the Tantric path, which requires that one confront and transform — 'digest,' as it were —every experience that arises" along the way (Miranda Shaw, Buddhist Goddesses of India).

The Bridle

To return to the current Bagalmukhi shift: the midpoint occurred with the full moon of sunday June 7, day 13, leading into the phase of reflect and select. Four days into this phase, I had a sleepless night and a major breakthrough.

Kinsley notes that the designation "crane-headed" is not accepted by some Tantric yogis. Crane in Sanskrit is baka, which becomes bagala—or does it? Is this slur of terminology valid? One yogi told Kinsley that this Mahavidya's name comes from valga, "bit," the piece of metal in a horse's bridle. But what if the bit, a part of the bridle, is a short expression for the entire bridle? Like the word "wheels" is short for an entire automobile. The moment I contemplated bagala as bridle, my mind went into subliminal mode and engaged transmission. Here is what came through:

Bagala is the bridle of rita, cosmic order, destiny, so this devata may also be called Bagalarita. The bridle of destiny is guidance, the uniquely subtle entrainment of this Mahavidya.

A horse is not restrained by forceful use of the bridle; the bit acts as a signalling device, telling the animal to check its power. The bridle guides the horse, allowing it to exert all its power in a direction, with intention, rather than aimlessly, recklessly. The bridle unites horse and rider into a single dynamic unit: another illustration of the power of the dyad or dynamic coupling (TWINS). The bit in the bridle exerts pressure on the horse's tongue, effectively silencing it. Bagalarita's act of pulling the tongue of an adversary to render it speechless fits the bridle allusion, but not the crane allusion. Crane's do not, as far as I know, use their bills to seize on people's tongues. The bit/silencing trope is apt and obvious, whereas the crane/tongue-pulling trope is neither. Motifs and allusions that fall into place in this manner confirm that transception is accurate.

The moment I heard Bagala as bridle, a network of associations fell into place. I realized that a great part of guidance involves steering around obstacles. Before some people and some situations, we find ourselves blocked, paralyzed. I suspect that the paralysis of Bagalamukhi is the self-induced kind we feel when confronted with a problem that will just not go away, an emotional block that seems insurmountable, a part of our own character that works against us and defies change. In Bagala's own power, her light-handed guiding skill, we encounter "the hidden presence of the opposite." In other words, her secret power is to release the moral and emotional paralysis of blocks and obstacles. She who paralyzes can also de-paralyze. Polarity is consistent with the nature of this Mahavidya and the associated constellation, the TWINS.

Discussing this aspect of the devata with friends, I coined the term "the Bagala switch." This happens when something you thought or felt, or something you held as a permanent view, suddenly switches to its opposite. For instance, you always hated classical music. Suddenly you like it. You always wanted to be famous. Suddenly, obscurity looks extremely attractive. You resisted a change of dress. Suddenly, you are totally into finding some new attire. Or vice, versa. It can go either way, but it appears that Bagala performs her switch exclusively with negative and blocking elements in your life that prevent you from attaining the best outcome of your desires.

Today I have the experience of others to compare to my impressions about the unique skill of this Mahavidya. With the instruction of Bagala, you do not have to learn anything from the blocks, you do not process negative material. The switch is abrupt, so sudden that you cannot rationally work it out. At one moment you just realize that you don't have to continue doing something that blocks you and holds you back. She switches the polarity and you are suddenly on the other side of the block. I compared it to seeing a sign in front of you, like an arrow pointing left, and suddenly it points right. This impression is unmistakable. Several people had it, and I had it several times myself duriong this shift. Reversal of attitude is immediate, breathtaking. The rare power of Bagalmukhi seems to inhere in the subtlety of the switch, which amounts to a kind of guidance, swift, silent, and impeccable. In this shift I have acquired enormous respect for the finesse of the devata. In many respects, her instruction is closer to that of a Diamond Sky Dakini than a Mahavidya. Her use of the dakini blade of discrimination is superb. There is much more to learn about the way this shakti operates.

As for guidance, this is a huge topic, of course. What came through in my mind about guidance on this shift is too rich to relate in these concluding notes. I will pick up this theme at a later time. Suffice it to say that guidance is the natural bent of your own divine potential, fulfilling itself. It is innate, intrinsic, playful and autonomous. Yet supernatural powers play into it, perhaps just because they enjoy taking part in human destiny, sharing the thrill. I define destiny as the pattern of events that leads each individual to his or her personal truth, or to true happiness, or both. Compelled by desire, we naturally follow the pattern of events the way water flows through rocks, or wind through the trees. But where the blocking effect of some events or attitudes is too strong, the supernatural may intervene.

Bagalamuhki reverses our blocking attitudes so that we flow around, rather than smash into, whatever impedes us from truth and happiness. She represents and informs that aspect of the human psyche that liberates itself spontaneously from conflict and contradiction. The bridle of destiny holds us on course, keeping desire tightly coupled with all that is truly ours to love, learn, and enjoy.

jll 25 June 2009 Andalucia


Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2018 by John L. Lash.