Above the ordinary animal stands man. He has not merely discrimination but also the aesthetic and the ethical sense, in other words, he has the full use of the intellectual, emotional and volitional powers. That is why he stands far above the animal. His Sakti may be spoken of as the Jiva Sakti, because the Jiva embodied in a human being makes full use of the Manas and the Indriyas.
Beyond the ordinay Jiva Sakti, which every human being-has, there is the special Sakti which we find in saints, who are able to have full control of their minds. The great Yogi who is expert in Chitta Vritti Nirodha, i.e., the control of the modifications ofthe mind, has what we may call Atma Sakti, because when he has cleared the mind of its agitations, it received the energy of the Atman residing in his body. This is the highest form of Sakti which man, as man, can aspire for.
When the perfect man lays down his body, he is free to remain apart from the Paramatman or to merge himself in it. If he chooses to remain separate, he will be rendering service to the different orders of beings in the universe. In doing so, they will be making use of Chit Sakti (which is also Atma Sakti) and thus helping God in the discharge of His functions.
(Dr. Т. M. P. Mahadevan, M.A., Ph.D.)
There is an exquisite verse in the Svetasvatara Upanishad exquisite both in form and meaning which reads : " Thou art woman; Thou art man ; Thou art lad, and the maiden too; Thou art the old man who totters with a stick ; Thou art born with Thy face turned everywhere." In myriad forms God 'appears. In the gracefulness of woman and in the strength of man, in the joy of youth and in the wisdom of age, the Divine Power manifests itself.
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Tin's is not all. It is God's Sakti that creates all things, sustains them and withdraws them unto itself. And as Power and the Possessor of Power are non-different, God Himself has often been conceived as She.
The Motherhood of God is a very old conception. Among the relics of ancient civilization are to be found images of the Mother Goddess. In one of the hymns of the Rig Veda, Sakti is described as residing in heaven and supporting the earth. In another passage the goddess Aditi (meaning the ' Boundless ') is identified with all gods and all men, with ' whatever has been and whatever shall be.' In the Taittiriya Upanishad the teacher, while giving his final instruction to the pupil says : ' Regard thy mother as a god.' In the Kenopanishad a story is told of Indra, the king ofthe Devas, who, on account ofthe pride of power and victory, could not recognize God when He appeared before him and had to receive wisdom from the Mother. " Then in the same region of the sky, Indra came across a woman who was shining brightly, Uma the daughter of Himavan. He asked Her, ' What Spirit is this ? ' She replied : ' It is Brahman. ' And there are a host of minor Upanishads which speak of Sakti as the highest Being, as the absolute Brahman, one without a second.
A system of philosophy and a set of occult practices have been woven round Matrilatry or Mother worship in India. And Saktism has been one of the potent forces for the spiritual regeneration of the Hindus, though in corrupt times and practised by ineligibles it has led to certain abuses. The Saktas accept the Vedas as the basic scriptures and the Sakta-Tantras as texts expounding the means to attain the goal set forth in the Vedas. As the Kamika Agama puts it, the Tantra, is so called because it explains (Tanoti) in great detail knowledge concerning Tattva (truth) and Mantra (mystic syllables) and because it saves. (Tranat). Tantra is the ■ saving knowledge, the craft which carries the squI safely to the port of freedom. It is wrong to regard the Tantras as books of necromancy, magic spells and mysterious
formulae. They are open scriptures from which all persons without distinctions of caste, creed or colour may draw inspiration. They are primarily Sadhana Sastras, the teaching about the paths to perfection.
The metaphysical position of Advaita or non-dualism is taken over by the Sakta as the foundational theme. Reality is one, and that is Satchidananda, existence, consciousness, bliss. As Sir John Woodroffe points out, " Sakta doctrine is a special presentment of the so-called Monism, (Advaita : Lit. ' not-two '), and Sakta ritual, even in those condemned forms which have given rise to the abuses by which this scripture is most generally known, is a practical application of it. The Sakta subscribes without reservation to the view-that ultimate Reality is one, of the nature of Pure Consciousness or Experience ' per se ' and that it is the ground of the manifest universe which appears therein through Maya. But while the Advaita. of Sankara would regard this appearance as illusory, the Advaita of the Sakta would consider it to be real. Maya in Saktism is not the indeterminable nescience that somehow illusorily manifests the world, but real power or Sakti identical with ultimate Reality, causing the origination, sustention and destruction of the universe. Pure Consciousness as the unperturbed substrate (Nirguna Brahman) is Siva. The same Reality in the Creative Force or the ' elan vital' is Sakti. The Sammohana Tantra says : " Without Prakriti or Sakti the transmigratory world cannot be. Without Purusha or Siva true knowledge cannot be attained. Therefore both should be worshipped—the Maha-kali and the Mahakala." The Absolute is a word, is Siva-Sakti, Man-Woman, or God-power. It evolves into the world of finite existence, and yet does cease to be what it is, namely, pure Consciousness, Existence and Bliss. The individual soul or the Pasu-Jiva is none other than Siva. Through limitation it feels estranged, or sundered from its 'moorings. Through sublimation it is resolved, along with the universe, into the unitary Consciousness which is perfect Bliss.
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Popular religion has identified Sakti with Mahadevi (magna mater), the eternal Spouse of Siva and the adorable Sister of Narayana. But the Saktas realize that the Supreme Mother transcends the divine trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra. She is Durga or Power as Action (Kriya) ; She is Lakshmi or Power as Will (Iccha) ; She is Saraswati or Power as Knowledge (Jnana). For the first three days of Navaratri She is worshipped as Durga, for the second three days as Lakshmi, and for the last three days as Saraswati. And on the tenth day She is adored as Rajarajeswari. the Queen-Mother transcending the triple aspects that go to constitute the changing world.
Creation and Destruction
A unique feature of Hinduism, in general, and of Saktism, in particular, is that the powers of destruction are not delegated to Satan standing opposite and alien to God. The Mother not only creates but also destroys. Death loses all its horror when it is regarded as a portal to new life. Destruction is no destruction when it leads to a fresh mode of existence. Just as creation is an expression of the divine power, so too is destruction. Hence the Sakta conceives of the Mother both as Tripurasundari, the beautiful creatrix and as the terrific Kali, the dark Goddess, who revels in the dance of death. Swamy Vivekananda captures the spirit of the Sakta in a hymn to Kali where he signs :
Destroys a world for ever ; Thou time, the All-destroyer !
Come, О Mother, come!"
Symbol of Brahman
It is often criticized that Saktism is ' a doctrine teaching the primacy of the Female and thus fit only for suffragette
monists,' that is ' a mere feminization of orthodox Vedanta.' That this criticism is pointless will be evident when one understands the implications of the Sakta-doctrine. It is no more wrong to call God Mother than to call Him Father. From the empirical point of view, both the principles, static and dynamic, male and female, are needed for explaining world-creation. The Sakta lays the emphasis on the female because, while the man's part in procreation is fleeting and momentary, the woman's part is more abiding and intimate. The Supreme Mother sacrifices Herself to become the world. And so, from this point of view, the Mother-conception is more important than the Fatherhood of God. At the same time ths Sakta knows well that from the transcendental standpoint the distinctions of sex have no application to the Absolute. The Sanskrit word Matri (in English ' Mother') is both feminine and masculine. The Mahakala-Samhita addresses the Mother thus in a hymn : " Thou art neither girl, nor maid, nor old. Indeed, Thou art neither female, nor male, nor neuter. Thou art inconceivable, immeasurable Power, the Being of all which exists, void of all duality, the Supreme Brahman, attainable only through illumination or wisdom."
OM SAKTI MA YAM JAGAT 4
The Sakta System
(By Sri Dewan Bahadur K. S. Ramaswamy Sastrigal)
The Sakti philosophy also is as old as the Vedas. I do not think that there is any real basis for the Western view which is echoed by Dr. Radhakrishnan when he says : ;' Sakti Worship, there is no doubt, prevailed originally among the non-Aryans and was gradually adopted by the Aryans." The Rig Veda refers to Rudrani and Bhavani. The Devi Suktha in the Rig Veda (X-125) is a real source of ■ the Sakti doctrine. It says : " I am the Sovereign Queen, the treasury of all treasures ; the chief of all objects of worship whose all-pervading self all Devatas manifest, whose birth place is in the midst of the causal waters ; who breathing
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forth gives form to the created worlds and earth extends beyond them, so vast am I in greatness." In it and in Sri Sukta, Bhu Sukta, Neela Sukta and Durga Sukta we have the Central truth of Sakti enunciated in wonderful words. In the Keno Upanishad She is described as Uma, Haima-vathy Bahu Sobhamana (Uma, daughter of Himavan and infinitely radiant) and as bestowing Brahmavidya on God Indra. In the Devi Upanishad and other Sakta Upanishads Her glory is described in detail. Thus Devi is not only the principle of creation, the principle of auspiciousness, the principle of cosmic energy, and the principle of austerity, (Thapasi Jwalathi), but is also the principle of Divine knowledge. She is Jada Sakti and Chit Sakti. She is Iccha Sakti, Jnana Sakti and Kriya Sakti. She is not only the Maya Sakti but is also Moksha Lakshmi. In the Vaishnava Agamas Lakshmi is described as mercy and as the means of salvation. But in the Sakta Agamas, Devi is described as the creator and ruler of the Universe and as the Saguna aspect of Brahma as well.
In the Puranas also, her glory is sung. In the Ithihasas, she is described as having shown grace to Rama and Arjuna. In the Srimad Bhagavatha, she is described as the sister of Krishna. But it is in the Sakta Agamas and Tantras and in the Devi Bhagavatha that her glory is most elaborately sung. The Sakta Agamas are five Subhajagamas, sixty-four Kantagamas and eight Misragamas. I got from a friend of mine a copy of Agastya's Sakti Sutras which deserve a wide circulation and homage. The famous poems attributed to Sri Shankara viz-, Sivanandalahari and Soundarya-lahari show how he revelled in the worship and adoration of Siva and Devi. Baskararaya's commentary on the Lalita Sahasranama is a valuable work. Recently the enthusiastic labours of Sir John Woodroffe (Arthur Avalon) have made Tantra works available to the modern reader.
In the Sakti doctrine Siva is the Supreme unchanging eternal consciousness and Sakti is His kinetic power. Siva and Sakti are described as Prakasa and Vimarasa i.e., glory and power. Siva is Chit and Sakti is Chidrupini, i.e., static and dynamic consciousness. They are really one. Siva becomes the creator of the Universe through the power
of Sakti. If Siva is in union with Sakti, He becomes the Lord ofthe Universe ; if not, he cannot even move. Brahma, Vishnu, and Rudra perform the functions of creation and preservation and destruction of the Universe in accordance with the will of Sakti. It is from Her that Tirodhana (obscuration of the Divine nature) and Anugraha (grace revelatory of Divine nature) come.
The course of manifestation is Siva, Sakti, Nada, Bindu and Suddhamaya. From Maya which assumes the form of Prakriti comes the evolution of the Universe, the total number of categories being thirty-six as in the Saiva Tantras. The Jivas are Amsas of Siva and are really one with Siva. Sir John Woodroffe says in his Shakthi and Shaktha : " The function of Prakriti is to veil, limit or finalise pure infinite formless consciousness, so as to produce form, for without such limitation there cannot be the appearance of form." These Gunas work by mutual suppression. The function of Tamas is to veil consciousness, of Sathva to reveal it and of Rajas the active principle to make either
Tamas suppress Sathva or Sathva suppress Tamas......
The forms of life are therefore the stairs (Sopana) on which man mounts to the state of infinite eternal and formless bliss.
One peculiar feature is that Siva is described as Satchi-dananda, Nirvikara (changeless), Nishkala (partless), Nirmala (untouched by Maya), Nirguna (without attributes), Arupa (without form) and all-pervasive like space. Sir John Woodroffe says : " The Sakta Tantra is thus Advaita Vada, for it proclaims that Paramatma and Jivatma are one." One of the Devi's names in Lalita Sahasranamam is " Brah-matmeikaswarupini " (whose nature is of the identity of Brahma and Atman). The Sammohana Tantra says in Chapter VIII that Sri Sankaracharva was an incarnation of God Siva for the destruction of Buddhism. The Sakti worshipper is asked to meditate at dawn on the following verse :
" I am the Devi and none other. I am Brahman who is beyond all grief. I am of the form of Satchidananda and am eternally free in my nature."
The great glory of the Sakti doctrine is its affirmation that the Universe is Power—a manifestation of Devi's glory.
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But Power is not blind physical force but is the power of knowledge, the power of bliss, the power of love (Chit Sakti, Ananda Sakti, Prema Sakti). While not denying the Advaita doctrine that from the standpoint of noumenal reality there is in reality no creation at all, the Sakti Sastras which are Sadhana Sastras describe the Universe as the manifestation of Sakti.
Another great aspect of the Sakti philosophy is the emphasis placed by it on Yoga by which the higher energies in us can be awakened and brought into play to help the world and to enable us to realise the Supreme. It teaches us how to awaken the Kundalini Sakti and pierce the six centres of power (Shatchakra) and realise the ineffable glory of Siva-Sakti in the Sahasrara (the spiritual centre in the brain).
A third great feature of the doctrine is the emphasis laid by the system on mystic mantras and worship, though all the Sadhanas i.e., nishkama Karma and Bhakti and Yoga and Jnana are accepted as sadhanas (means of liberation).
It is true in some degraded forms of Saktism there have been magic and immorality and seeking of occult powers. The theory of the five mathras—madya or wine, mamsa or flesh, matsya or fish, mudra or symbolical acts, and maithuna (sexual union)—is a travesty of the truth. But it is not-proper to undermine the pure doctrine on account of its temporary degradations and corruptions. Sir John Wood-roffe says well : " Ritual is an art, the art of religion. Art is the outward material- expression of ideas intellectually held and emotionally felt. Ritual art is concerned with the expression of these ideas and feelings which are specifically called religious. It is a mode by which religious truth is presented, and made intelligible in material forms and symbols to the mind. -It appeals to all natures passionately sensible of that beauty in which, to some, God most manifests Himself. But it is more than this, for it is the means by which the mind is transformed and purified. The Sakta is thus taught that He is one with Siva and His Power of Sakti. This is not a matter of mere argument. It is a matter of experience. It is ritual Yoga practice which secures that experience for them.
The concept of the Motherhood of God is a most beautiful and tender and attractive concept. The Gita says : "lam the father of the Universe. I am the Mother of the Universe." The Sakti cult is open to all including women. God is neither male nor female. Gender has no place in the concepts of Divinity. But the Mother aspect of God is no less true than the father aspect and is infinite mercy and love and grace.
Every year in the later half of the month of Asoj, Hindus, all over the Bharatvarsha worship Sri Durga Devi for nine days continuously, setting up on each of those days a particular image of that Maha Sakti Devi, and conclude that worship on the 10th day or the Vijayadasami Day.
Let us consider : what does all this signify and how does this religious worship help us in fulfilling the aim of human life on this earth-plane. In the Hindu mythology Maha Devi or Maheswari is considered as the Supreme Sakti or Power of the Supreme Being and is known as Jagadamba, the creatrix of the universe.
According to Sankhya She is the Mula-Prakriti or Supreme Prakriti of the Supreme Purusha.
The word "Sakti" comes from the root " Sak" which means " to be able, " " to do " and this indicates both activity and capacity therefor. Sakti because it is the productive or creative principle is symbolically female, but it is in reality neither male nor female, but only a power which manifests itself in various forms.
Sakti in its static state is Chit-Sakti and in its kinetic , state it is Maya-Sakti.
(1) As Chit-Sakti she is the Ultimate Changeless Reality ;
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(2) As Maya-Sakti she evolves into and appears in the form of the world.
These two are in their essence :
(1) The Enduring Real that is Herself and
(2) Forms of Herself, the passing yet real objects of
According to Sakta Darshan, the Universe is the product of these two Saktis—Chit-Sakti and Maya-Sakti. It is in the nature of this Ultimate Reality (Chit) to manifest itself. In Chit or Consciousness there is the seed of Power to manifest itself as object to limited centres of it. That seed is the collectivity of all tendencies (Samskaras) towards life and form acquired in an infinite number of past universes. The distinctive changes in such collective tendencies in terms of Time is designated as Yuga and is classified in accordance with the predominating element of Guna in that collective tendencies. That in which Pure Sattva Guna prevails is called Satya Yuga and so on.
We thus see that Sakti means both power in general and every particular form of Power. Life is a power of consciousness or Chittha. Mind also is a power and so is matter. Mind is constantly functioning in the form of Vrittis. Reasoning, will and feeling or Bhava and so forth are all aspects of mind-power in its general sense. Power translated to the material plane is force and therefore only one and the grossest aspect of Sakti or Power.
In short, all these aspects or special powers are limited forms of the Great Creative Power, the Mata Durga Devi, the Mother (Ambika) of the Universe. It is She who personalizes in the form of all beings in the universe ; and it is She again who as the essence of such personalizations, is the Supreme Personality (Parahamta)'who in manifestation is " God in action." Worship of Maha-Sakti is not, therefore, worship of these limited forms ; but of the Divine Will, Knowledge and Action as revealed in the Universe. Worship of mere force is Asurik. Force, however, may be moralised by the good purpose which it serves. The antethesis is not rightly between might and right, but between might in the
service of the right and might in the service of the wrong. To worship force merely is to worship matter.
Similarity between Sankhya system and Sakta doctrine of Sakti
It has been stated above that in terms of Sankhya system, Maha-Sakti is the Mula-Prakriti of the Supreme Purusha. Speaking in a general way, we may convert the second element of that system, viz-, the Infinite Purushas into one Siva and Prakriti into Siva's Power or Sakti and then affirm that Siva and Sakti are not as the Sankhya says two independent Realities, but one Reality in twin aspect— static and kinetic—and thus perceive some similarity between the Sankhya and the Sakta doctrines of Sakti. Sankhyan Purusha is changeless Consciousness (Chit). So is Siva. Prakriti is as unlimited cause, the principle of change, and as effect limited changing forms, which are as effects or modifications of their cause. Similarly, Sakti is that which in itself unchangeable, produces forms out of itself, as material cause, the world of change. In common language, we speak of the Power or Sakti of Siva, but strictly Sakti is Siva ; there is no Siva without Sakti nor Sakti without Siva. This substantial units' with diversity of aspects involves another distinct view of the nature of cosmic process. In Sankhya there arc two realities ; in Sakta-cioctrine there is only one with dual aspect.
As we are dealing here with the Power-aspect of Consciousness to recollect and imagine forth the universe, we may speak only of Power or Sakti, if we are careful to remember that the universe is the product of Chit-Sakti and Maya-Sakti, that is, Chit or Consciousness in its aspect as power and efficient cause and Maya-Sakti or power as material cause. There is thus one ultimate enduring absolute Reality of which all other relative realities as mind, life and matter are transient forms.
The Ultimate Reality is Eternal Being-Consciousness (Sat-Chit) which in itself is changeless. Consciousness whether transcendent or immanent never changes or moves. If in the world process it appears to do so, this is due to the modes of mind of which it is the basis. But this consciousness
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is nevertheless a true efficient cause, that is, one which moves without itself being moved. As such, it is consciousness-power (Chit-Sakti). But it may be asked what is this Substance-Energy which is the material cause of this universe ?
The answer depends on how we look at it. If we look at it from the other-world aspect, that is, the Reality which we call Sakti or Power as it is in itself, then the answer is that it is consciousness (Chidrupini Sakti). If we look at it on this-world side, then it is the Root-Substance-Energy of the Universe which appears as mind and matter. That root as cause is however neither the one nor the other, but the Power (Maya-Sakti) to produce to itself and to appear as both, when consciousness becomes outer-turned (Bahirmukhi) and sees in its gradual awakening to the world, the " This " (Idam) or Universe.