An Alternative Spiritual Guide to Disaster
Photo Credit: Getty/PRASANNAPiX
“There’s always some new world on the other side of that destruction, even if we can’t imagine it yet.”
Sometimes I wish I had faith. I wish I had the kind of belief that would let me feel sure that some all-powerful deity would protect me from anything bad ever happening. But I can’t have that kind of faith because I know the world doesn’t work like that. Randomness and unpredictability are nothing if not inevitable.
I grew up in the Christian church, where the general message was that giving your life up to Jesus would be the path to peace and prosperity. But from a young age, I found myself drawn to the religions of other places, especially India. This was probably partly because of all the pretty goddesses in the Indian tradition—as a little girl, all the bloody images of Christ on the cross didn’t really draw me as much as the colorful saris and jewels that adorned the divine women of the Hindu traditions. I love them even more in the Shakta Tantra tradition, which is a goddess-focused offshoot of Hinduism with a wide pantheon of deities for every possible life situation.
In Hinduism in general, worlds are created, sustained for a while, and ultimately destroyed so that new worlds can be created. Metaphorically, our worlds get destroyed all the time—by sickness, death, or overwhelming events that make us see everything totally differently. There’s always some new world on the other side of that destruction, even if we can’t imagine it yet.
Shakta Tantra celebrates beautiful goddesses of wealth, luck, and beauty. It equally honors goddesses of death, despair, destruction, and all those darker aspects of life. From this perspective, everything that happens is part of the divine play of the goddess. There’s no morality to it, not even any internal organization. It’s up to us to create our own rules around the randomness of life.
As the Christian religion spread throughout the world, it tended to be spread by colonizers who had a lot of power. They could promise protection and wealth to those that joined its forces. Now, in many places in the world being Christian means having a certain kind of privilege. If you’re Christian, perhaps, it’s a little easier to believe that God is on your side, protecting you, because you have access to health care or wellness services that help you to be okay.
That’s a lovely way to walk through the world—until disaster hits. There’s so much about the world that we can’t control and that can be difficult to manage if we believe that God is up there pulling on puppet strings. Why do bad things happen so often to good people?
For some Christians, it’s because God gave us the free will to mess up our lives, and His job is just to be with us, whatever happens. From the Hindu or Tantric perspective, it’s because the fundamental quality of life is random energy reacting in unpredictable ways. We don’t pray to get what we want or prevent what we fear. We pray to feel close to the divine when everything is spiraling out of control.
So perhaps in a moment of disaster, we can consider the awe-inspiring beauty of the Tantric destroyer goddesses and remember their purpose—which is to clear the way for whatever comes next. Our job is to do the best we can to take care of ourselves and each other as we lean into the inevitable chaos of life on planet Earth.
During the current coronavirus crisis, Julie Peters is live streaming all yoga classes, for free, from her studio Ocean and Crow on Facebook Live.
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