Do you remember the last time you were stunned? By an idea? A beautiful vista? An unexpected experience? Love or beauty? Beauty, in particular, has a ‘stunning’ effect. In fact, we use this very word to describe it. Think of the last time you told someone: ‘You looking stunning’. This stunning effect, according to the yoga tradition, happens by the grace of the divine feminine in her personification as the goddess Bagalamukhi, whose primary power is paralysis. Bagala literally means, ‘rope’ or ‘bridle’. Mukhi means ‘face’. Bagalamukhi brandishes her particular flavor of Shakti through her ability to control or conquer.
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Bagalamukhi can stop any movement or action in its tracks, and she does this, not just at the microcosmic level (the level of our personal experience), but at the macrocosmic level too. At the level of mundane experience, her power manifests as the ability to fascinate or influence others. One of the ways we experience this is charisma. Just as a truly charismatic person has the power to stop us in our tracks, on the cosmic level Bagalamukhi operates in the same way, by blocking, stopping or immobilising activity at any level of creation through the hypnotic power of spiritual awareness.
The most important expression of this hypnotic power, according to tradition, is the capacity to paralyze or annihilate forces that oppose our spiritual evolution. Which forces are these? The forces of our own ego. And so Bagalamukhi represents the power to destroy our own ego; to destroy the thoughts, ideas and feelings that arise from attachment to the façade of our own self image.
Yogic sages have said that one of the key ways ego manifests is through unconscious speech and so, to control the ego, we must control our speech (by not speaking ill of others). By controlling speech, we control our thoughts, by controlling our thoughts the reaches of meditation open up to us. And so, Bagalamukhi manifests as the ability to stop our own speech, when it does not serve our highest good.
Looking through the yoga tradition, we find many practices designed to help us develop Bagalamukhi’s power of stambhana (which means, ‘to stop’ or ‘to paralyse’). Its most gross or external manifestation is the power to stop those who might attack us. It also manifests as the power to hypnotize others such that they might act in accordance with our will. Look more deeply, however, and we find that, within us, stambhana is the capacity to master our own thoughts and energies.
Bagalamukhi is she who grants complete control over movement of all kinds and the capacity to halt movement in its tracks, at will. If our desire is to develop this capacity, we can begin with the simple act of pausing throughout the day to observe ourselves in mundane moments. Slowly, we develop the capacity to pause mid-moment, even when we are most busy, even when our minds are running like freight trains, even when we are stressed or upset. We realise that we have become hypnotized by the momentum of all this busy-ness, by the allure of external objects, of external markers of success and the veneer of our own self image.
Bagalamukhi’s power gifts us spiritual knowledge which, in moments of clear seeing, breaks our attachment to the external. When we lose interest in our ideas about the world, spiritual knowledge guides us within.
For more on Bagalamukhi and your spiritual practice, click here.