Fires of knowledge: Ashes of wisdom

Shiva with Vibhuthi on his forehead from Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists (1914) Author: Nivedita, Sister, 1867-1911.
Shiva with Vibhuthi (ash) on his forehead from Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists (1914) Author: Nivedita, Sister.

Ash is a product of fire.

When fire burns, things perish. Ash remains.

As a symbol of purification, ash is the essence that remains when all else burns away. Carl Jung speaks of such things. He says:

‘Ash’ is an inclusive term for the scoriae left over from burning, the substance that ‘remains below [1]

Ash, as a symbol, is closely linked to the innermost Self (Ātman). The Self, like ash, is that which “remains below.”

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Chinnamastā: the negative sides of the mother archetype

Chinnamasta and Shiva, late 18th century. US public Domain via wikimedia
Chinnamasta and Shiva, late 18th century. US public Domain via wikimedia

In the above image, we see Chinnamastā. She copulates with Shiva as she severs her head with her fingernail. Three streams of blood flow from her head. The streams flow to feed the goddesses on her left and right, as well as her own head.

Carl Jung speaks of the “negative side the mother archetype” (CW 9i, para. 158) For many this image of Chinnamastā would certainly be a dark, foreboding, negative image. Yet, taking in its own context this image reveals the very nature of the ecstatic non-dual. There are many ways in which the image reveals such truth, most readily in the symbolic severing of the head. The severing of the head may represent moksha (liberation), as an image of non-dual ecstasy associated with the release of our individual identity.

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