During a car trip to San Diego, Gita and Usha were able to pose some questions to Haradhanji, the head priest of the Dakshineswar Kali Temple. The following is a transcribed translation of this informal Bengali interview.
Kali Mandir: Many Indians and Westerners are frightened of Kali. Why?
Haradhan Chakraborti: There is no reason for it. Everybody has a sense of right and wrong. Fear comes from this sense. Some people walk alone along deserted roads, thinking, “So what if robbers come? So what if wild dogs come?” On the other hand, some people are much too frightened and will not ever walk by themselves. It varies from person to person. It’s your own feeling. Some people are afraid of God while others are not at all afraid, even when they see Ma’s sword. Still others don’t believe in God at all. That’s why they don’t come to puja (worship) ceremonies. It’s all a matter of your own feeling. When you perform your sadhana (spiritual practice), you should not be frightened of anything. You have to be unaffected. Only when you are indifferent and unaffected can you do sadhana in any environment, even in a cremation ground at night. You can’t perform your sadhana if you have fear.
KM: What kind of relationship should we have with Ma Kali?
Haradhanji: You should love Ma in the same way you love your child, your mother or your father. You trust your family members, and you love them. In the same way, love Ma. If you do this from your heart, She will always be there to protect you. If your own daughter is standing right in front of you, what do you do? You bathe her, you dress
her and serve her good food. The Mother of the Universe is standing in front of you. You should do the same for Ma.
KM: How do you make Ma living?
Haradanji: Devotion brings Her to life. Words cannot explain how to attain devotion. You have to bring it out on your own. When you are sure that God is present, only then will devotion emerge. You respect your guru. Because you respect him, you bow to him, you serve him good food, you look after him well. That’s devotion. When you approach God in the same way, the proper bhava (mood or attitude) comes out.
KM: How should we prepare for worship?
Haradhanji: First of all, you should wear clean clothes that you use only for worship. Otherwise, it will be more difficult to concentrate. Keep in mind that this is a part of the puja. Just as you need to have fresh flowers, incense and candles, you also need to have clean, separate clothes when sitting for puja. Automatically the mind will change. When all these elements are combined, you will be able to concentrate as you worship God.
So you’ve bathed, you’ve put on your puja clothes. The flowers and offerings have been prepared. Spread out your asana (mat), light the pradip (ghee lamp), and light an incense stick. Offer a prayer of respect to God and to your guru. Now you can begin the puja.
Reaching out to Mother through japam (mantra repetition) and meditation, you will move closer to Her. Close your eyes and think of Ma. When you close your eyes while meditating, you reach out to Ma with your whole heart. If you open your eyes, you may become distracted. You have to think about Ma when you worship. Love Her more. Cry for Her. This is meditation. Imagine Her to be with you. You will sense Her presence. Your body shivers. You can feel Her.
If you follow this approach, then no matter which form of God you are worshiping, that form becomes your near and dear One. Each and every form of God should be worshiped in this way. Hold a place in your heart for every manifestation of God. Your heart will become pure and will clear out-all bad things will fly away. The more bad thoughts recede, the clearer your heart becomes. And then God reciprocates. God reaches out to you.