Shakti and Maya

From: "jagbir singh" <adishakti_org@...>
Date: Fri Jan 27, 2006 4:07 pm
Subject: Shakti and Maya

> —- In, "jagbir singh"
<adishakti_org@y...> wrote:
> >
> >
> > Dear Semira,
> >
> > Definitely and without question the Divine Message will triumph
> > over the organization itself. In future more and more people
> > will embrace its central message of evolving into the eternal
> > spirit that all religions, holy scriptures and prophets have
> > since time immemorial upheld. The Divine Message is a spiritual
> > sanctuary, a beacon of hope, joy, peace of eternal life to all
> > humans. The Shakti/Holy Spirit/Ruh/Aykaa Mayee is the Divine
> > Feminine that gives Self-realization/Birth of Spirit/Baptism of
> > Allah/Opens Dasam Dwar for humanity to enter the Sahasrara/
> > Kingdom of God/Niche of lights/Inner Sanctuary within where
> > Brahman/God Almighty/Allah/ Waheguru resides as THE LIGHT.
> > Semira, not only the current Sahaja Yoga organisation but all
> > religious organizations as well have merely been intended as
> > temporary vehicles and starting points for the Divine Message.
> >
> > jagbir
> >
> >
> > —- In, "jagbir singh"
<adishakti_org@y...> wrote:
> By the way things are moving the Adi Shakti will eventually
> triumph. All we need to do as Her bhaktas is to stand our ground
> and not yield an inch because Truth always triumphs. Years of
> silence from religious regimes is the sure sign that the Devi and
> Her Divine Message to all humanity cannot be challenged, and will
> eventually be victorious in Her battle against the evil forces.
> All we need to do is to fearlessly announce the Truth. Shanti,
> Shanti, Shanti.

Shakti and Maya

In the Eighth Chapter of the unpublished Sammohana Tantra, it is
said that Shamkara manifested on earth in the form of Shamkaracarya,
in order to root out Buddhism from India. It compares his disciples
and himself to the five Mahapreta (who form the couch on which the
Mother of the Worlds rests), and identifies his maths with the
Amnayas, namely, the Govardhana in Puri with Purvamnaya (the
Sampradaya being Bhogavara), and so on with the rest. Whatever be
the claims of Shamkara as destroyer of the great Buddhistic heresy,
which owing to its subtlety was the most dangerous antagonist which
the Vedanta has ever had, or his claims as expounder of Upanishad
from the standpoint of Siddhi, his Mayavada finds no place in the
Tantras of the Agamas, for the doctrine and practice is given from
the standpoint of Sadhana. This is not to say that the doctrine is
explicitly denied. It is not considered. It is true that in actual
fact we often give accommodation to differing theories for which
logic can find no living room, but it is obvious that in so far as
man is a worshiper he must accept the world-standpoint, if he would
not, like Kalidasa, cut from beneath himself the branch of the tree
on which he sits. Next, it would be a mistake to overlook the
possibility of the so-called "Tantrik" tradition having been fed by
ways of thought and practice which were not, in the strict sense of
the term, part of the Vaidic cult, or in the line of its descent.
The worship of the Great Mother, the Magna Mater of the Near East,
the Adya Shakti of the Shakta Tantras, is in its essentials (as I
have elsewhere pointed out) one of the oldest and most widespread
religions of the world, and one which in India was possibly, in its
origins, independent of the Brahmanic religion as presented to us in
the Vaidik Samhitas and Brahmanas. If this be so, it was later on
undoubtedly mingled with the Vedanta tradition, so that the Shakta
faith of to-day is a particular presentation of the general Vedantik
teaching. This is historical speculation from an outside standpoint.
As the Sarvollasa of Sarvanandanatha points out, and as is well-
known to all adherents of the Shakta Agamas, Veda in its general
sense includes these and other Shastras in what is called the great
Shatakoti Samhita. Whatever be the origins of doctrine (and this
should not be altogether overlooked in any proper appreciation of
it), I am here concerned with its philosophical aspect, as shown to
us to-day in the teachings and practice of the Shaktas who are
followers of the Agama. This teaching occupies in some sense a
middle place between the dualism of Samkhya, and Shamkara's ultra-
monistic interpretation of Vedanta to which, unless otherwise
stated, I refer. Both the Shaiva and Shakta schools accept the
threefold aspect of the Supreme known as Prakasha, Vimarsha and
Prakasha-Vimarsha called in Tantrik worship, "The Three Feet"
(Caranatritaya). Both adopt the Thirty-six Tattvas, Shiva, Shakti,
Sadashiva, Ishvara and Shuddhavidya, preceding the Purusha-Prakriti
Tattvas with which the Samkhya commences. For whereas these are the
ultimate Tattvas in that Philosophy, the Shaiva and Shakta schools
claim to show how Purusha and Prakriti are themselves derived from
higher Tattvas. These latter Tattvas are also dealt with from the
Shabda side as Shakti, Nada, Bindu and as Kalas which are the Kriya
of the various grades of Tattvas which are aspects of Shakti. The
Shakta Tantras, such as the Saubhagyaratnakara and other works,
speak of ninety-four of such Kalas appropriate to Sadashiva,
Ishvara, Rudra, Vishnu, and Brahma, "Sun," "Moon,' and "Fire,"
(indicated in the form of the Ram Bija with Candrabindu transposed)
of which fifty-one are Matrika Kalas, being the subtle aspects of
the gross letters of Sanskrit alphabet. This last is the Mimamsaka
doctrine of Shabda adapted to the doctrine of Shakti. Common also to
both Shakta and Shaiva Sampradayas is the doctrine of the Shadadhva.
(See my Garland of Letters).

I am not however here concerned with these details, but with the
general concept of Shakti which is their underlying basis. It is
sufficient to say that Shakta doctrine is a form of Advaitavada. In
reply to the question what is "silent concealment" (Goptavyam), it
is said: Atmaham-bhava-bhavanaya bhavayitavyam ityarthah. Hitherto
greater pains have been taken to show the differences between the
Darshanas than, by regarding their points of agreement, to co-
ordinate them systematically. So far as the subject of the present
article is concerned all three systems, Samkhya, Mayavada,
Shaktivada, are in general agreement as to the nature of the
infinite formless Consciousness, and posit therewith a finitizing
principle called Prakriti, Maya and Shakti respectively. The main
points on which Samkhya (at any rate in what has been called its
classical form) differs from Mayavada Vedanta are in its two
doctrines of the plurality of Atmans on the one hand, and the
reality and independence of Prakriti on the other. When however we
examine these two Samkhya doctrines closely we find them to be mere
accommodations to the infirmity of common thought. A Vedantic
conclusion is concealed within its dualistic presentment. For if
each liberated (Mukta) Purusha is all-pervading (Vibhu), and if
there is not the slightest difference between one and another, what
is the actual or practical difference between such pluralism and the
doctrine of Atma? Again it is difficult for the ordinary mind to
conceive that objects cease to exist when consciousness of objects
ceases. The mind naturally conceives of their existing for others,
although, according to the hypothesis, it has no right to conceive
anything at all. But here again what do we find? In liberation
Prakriti ceases to exist for the Mukta Purusha. In effect what is
this but to say with Vedanta that Maya is not a real independent
category (Padartha)?

A critic has taken exception to my statement that the classical
Samkhya conceals a Vedantic solution behind its dualistic
presentment. I was not then, of course, speaking from historical
standpoint. Shiva in the Kularnava Tantra says that the Six
Philosophies are parts of His body, and he who severs them severs
His body. They are each aspects of the Cosmic Mind as appearing in
Humanity. The logical process which they manifest is one and
continuous. The conclusions of each stage or standard can be shown
to yield the material of that which follows. This is a logical
necessity if it be assumed that the Vedanta is the truest and
highest expression of that of which the lower dualistic and
pluralistic stages are the approach.

In Samkhya, the Purusha principle represents the formless
consciousness, and Prakriti formative activity. Shamkara, defining
Reality as that which exists as the same in all the three times,
does not altogether discard these two principles, but says that they
cannot exist as two independent Realities. He thus reduces the two
categories of Samkhya, the Purusha Consciousness and Prakriti
Unconsciousness to one Reality, the Brahman; otherwise the
Vakya, "All is Brahman" (Sarvam khalvidam Brahma) is falsified.
Brahman, however, in one aspect is dissociated from, and in another
associated with Maya, which in his system takes the place of the
Samkhyan Prakriti. Rut, whereas, Prakriti is an independent Reality,
Maya is something which is neither real (Sat) nor unreal (Asat) nor
partly real and partly unreal (Sadasat), and which though not
forming part of Brahman, and therefore not Brahman, is yet, though
not a second reality, inseparably associated and sheltering with,
Brahman (Maya Brahmashrita) in one of its aspects: owing what false
appearance of reality it has, to the Brahman with which it is so
associated. It is an Eternal Falsity (Mithyabhuta sanatani),
unthinkable, alogical, unexplainable (Anirvacaniya). In other
points, the Vedantic Maya and Samkhyan Prakriti agree. Though Maya
is not a second reality, but a mysterious something of which neither
reality nor unreality can be affirmed, the fact of positing it at
all gives to Shamkara's doctrine a tinge of dualism from which
Shakta theory is free. According to Samkhya, Prakriti is real
although it changes. This question of reality is one of definition.
Both Mulaprakriti and Maya are eternal. The world, though a changing
thing, has at least empirical reality in either view. Both are
unconsciousness. Consciousness is reflected on or in
unconsciousness: that is to state one view for, as is known, there
is a difference of opinion. The light of Purusha-Consciousness (Cit)
is thrown on the Prakriti-Unconsciousness (Acit) in the form of
Buddhi. Vij—anabhikshu speaks of a mutual reflection. The Vedantic
Pratibimbavadins say that Atma is reflected in Antahkarana, and the
apparent likeness of the latter to Cit which is produced by such
reflection is Cidabhasa or Jiva. This question of Cidabhasa is one
of the main points of difference between Mayavada and Shaktivada.
Notwithstanding that Maya is a falsity, it is not, according to
Shamkara, a mere negation or want of something (Abhava), but a
positive entity (Bhavarupamajanam): that is, it is in the nature of
a power which veils (Acchadaka) consciousness, as Prakriti does in
the case of Purusha. The nature of the great "Unexplained" as it is
in Itself, and whether we call it Prakriti or Maya, is unknown. The
Yoginihridaya Tantra beautifully says that we speak of the Heart of
Yogini who is Knower of Herself (Yogini svavid), because the heart
is the place whence all things issue. "What man," it says, "knows
the heart of a woman? Only Shiva knows the Heart of Yogini." But
from Shruti and its effects it is said to be one, all-pervading,
eternal, existing now as seed and now as fruit, unconscious,
composed of Gunas (Guna-mayi); unperceivable except through its
effects, evolving (Parinami) these effects which are its products:
that is the world, which however assumes in each system the
character of the alleged cause; that is, in Samkhya the effects are
real: in Vedanta, neither real nor unreal. The forms psychic or
physical arise in both cases as conscious-unconscious (Sadasat)
effects from the association of Consciousness (Purusha or Ishvara)
with Unconsciousness (Prakriti or Maya), Miyate anena iti Maya. Maya
is that by which forms are measured or limited. This too is the
function of Prakriti. Maya as the collective name of eternal
ignorance (Aj—ana), produces, as the Prapa—cashakti, these forms, by
first veiling (Avaranashakti) Consciousness in ignorance and then
projecting these forms (Vikshepashakti) from the store of the cosmic
Samskaras. But what is the Tamas Guna of the Samkhyan Prakriti in
effect but pure Avidya? Sattva is the tendency to reflect
consciousness and therefore to reduce unconsciousness. Rajas is the
activity (Kriya) which moves Prakriti or Maya to manifest in its
Tamasik and Sattvik aspect. Avidya means "na vidyate," "is not
seen," and therefore is not experienced. Cit in association with
Avidya does not see Itself as such. The first experience of the Soul
reawakening after dissolution to world experience is, "There is
nothing," until the Samskaras arise from out this massive Ignorance.
In short, Prakriti and Maya are like the materia prima of the
Thomistic philosophy, the finitizing principle; the activity
which "measures out" (Miyate), that is limits and makes forms in the
formless (Cit). The devotee Kamalakanta lucidly and concisely calls
Maya, the form of the Formless (Shunyasya akara iti Maya).

In one respect, Mayavada is a more consistent presentation of
Advaitavada, than the Shakta doctrine to which we now proceed. For
whilst Shamkara's system, like all others, posits the doctrine of
aspects, saying that in one aspect the Brahman is associated with
Maya (Ishvara), and that in another it is not (Parabrahman); yet in
neither aspect does his Brahman truly change. In Shakta doctrine,
Shiva does in one aspect (Shakti) change. Brahman is changeless and
yet changes. But as change is only experienced by Jivatma subject to
Maya, there is not perhaps substantial difference between such a
statement, and that which affirms changelessness and only seeming
change. In other respects, however, to which I now proceed, Shakta
doctrine is a more monistic presentation of Advaitavada. If one were
asked its most essential characteristic, the reply should be, the
absence of the concept of unconscious Maya as taught by Shamkara.
Shruti says, "All is Brahman". Brahman is consciousness: and
therefore all is consciousness. There is no second thing called Maya
which is not Brahman even though it be "not real", "not unreal";
definition obviously given to avoid the imputation of having posited
a second Real. To speak of Brahman, and Maya which is not Brahman is
to speak of two categories, however much it may be sought to explain
away the second by saying that it is "not real" and "not unreal"; a
falsity which is yet eternal and so forth. Like a certain type of
modern Western "New Thought," Shakta doctrine affirms, "all is
consciousness," however much unconsciousness appears in it. The
Kaulacarya Sadananda says in his commentary on the 4th Mantra of
Isopanishad (Ed. A. Avalon): "The changeless Brahman, which is
consciousness appears in creation as Maya which is Brahman,
(Brahmamayi), consciousness (Cidrupini) holding in Herself
unbeginning (Anadi) Karmik tendencies (Karmasamskara) in the form of
the three Gunas. Hence, She is Gunamayi, despite being Cinmayi. As
there is no second principle these Gunas are Cit-Shakti." The
Supreme Devi is thus Prakashavimarshasya-rupini, or the union of
Prakasha and Vimarsha.

According to Shamkara, man is Spirit (Atma) vestured in the
Mayik 'falsities' of mind and matter. He, accordingly, can only
establish the unity of Ishvara and Jiva by eliminating from the
first Maya, and from the second Avidya, when Brahman is left as
common denominator. The Shakta eliminates nothing. Man's spirit or
Atma is Shiva, His mind and body are Shakti. Shakti and Shiva are
one. The Jivatma is Shiva-Shakti. So is the Paramatma. This latter
exists as one: the former as the manifold. Man is then not a Spirit
covered by a non-Brahman falsity, but Spirit covering Itself with
Its own power or Shakti.

What then is Shakti, and how does it come about that there is some
principle of unconsciousness in things, a fact which cannot be
denied. Shakti comes from the root "shak," "to be able," "to have
power". It may be applied to any form of activity. The power to see
is visual Shakti, the power to burn is Shakti of fire, and so forth.
These are all forms of activity which are ultimately reducible to
the Primordial Shakti (Adya Shakti) whence every other form of Power
proceeds. She is called Yogini because of Her connection with all
things as their origin. It is this Original Power which is known in
worship as Devi or Mother of Many Names. Those who worship the
Mother, worship nothing "illusory" or unconscious, but a Supreme
Consciousness, whose body is all forms of consciousness-
unconsciousness produced by Her as Shiva's power. Philosophically,
The Mother or Daivashakti is the kinetic aspect of the Brahman. All
three systems recognize that there is a static and kinetic aspect of
things: Purusha, Brahman, Shiva on the one side, Prakriti, Maya,
Shakti on the other. This is the time-honored attempt to reconcile
the doctrine of a changeless Spirit, a changing Manifold, and the
mysterious unity of the two. For Power (Shakti) and the possessor of
the Power (Shaktiman) are one and the same. In the Tantras, Shiva
constantly says to Devi, "There is no difference between Thee and
Me." We say that the fire burns, but burning is fire. Fire is not
one thing and burning another. In the supreme transcendental
changeless state, Shiva and Shakti are one, for Shiva is never
without Shakti. The connection is called Avinabhavasambandha.
Consciousness is never without its Power. Power is active Brahman or
Consciousness. But, as there is then no activity, they exist in the
supreme state as one Tattva (Ekam tattvam iva); Shiva as Cit, Shakti
as Cidrupini. This is the state before the thrill of Nada, the
origin of all those currents of force which are the universe.
According to Shamkara, the Supreme Experience contains no trace or
seed of' objectivity whatever. In terms of speech, it is an abstract
consciousness (J—ana). According to the view here expressed, which
has been profoundly elaborated by the Kashmir Shaiva School, that
which appears "without" only so appears because it, in some form or
other, exists "within". So also the Shakta Visvasara Tantra
says, "what is here is there, what is not here is nowhere." If
therefore we know duality, it must be because the potentiality of it
exists in that from which it arises. The Shaivashakta school thus
assumes a real derivation of the universe and a causal nexus between
Brahman and the world. According to Shamkara, this notion of
creation is itself Maya, and there is no need to find a cause for
it. So it is held that the supreme experience (Amarsha) is by the
Self (Shiva) of Himself as Shakti, who as such is the Ideal or
Perfect Universe; not in the sense of a perfected world of form, but
that ultimate formless feeling (Bhava) of Bliss (Ananda) or Love
which at root the whole world is. All is Love and by Love all is
attained. The Shakta Tantras compare the state immediately prior to
creation with that of a grain of gram (Canaka) wherein the two seeds
(Shiva and Shakti) are held as one under a single sheath. There is,
as it were, a Maithuna in this unity of dual aspect, the thrill of
which is Nada, productive of the seed or Bindu from which the
universe is born. When the sheath breaks and the seeds are pushed
apart, the beginning of a dichotomy is established in the one
consciousness, whereby, the "I", and the "This" (Idam or Universe)
appear as separate. The specific Shiva aspect is, when viewed
through Maya, the Self, and the Shakti aspect the Not-Self. This is
to the limited consciousness only. In truth the two, Shiva and
Shakti, are ever one and the same, and never dissociated. Thus each
of the Bindus of the Kamakala are Shiva-Shakti appearing as Purusha-
Prakriti. At this point, Shakti assumes several forms, of which the
two chief are Cit-Shakti or as Cit as Shakti, and Maya-Shakti or
Maya as Shakti. Maya is not here a mysterious unconsciousness, a non-
Brahman, non-real, non-unreal something. It is a form of Shakti, and
Shakti is Shiva who is Consciousness which is real. Therefore Maya
Shakti is in itself (Svarupa) Consciousness and Brahman. Being
Brahman, It is real. It is that aspect of conscious power which
conceals Itself to Itself. "By veiling the own true form (Svarupa =
Consciousness), its Shaktis always arise", (Svarupavarane casya
shaktayah satatotthitah) as the Spandakarika says. This is a common
principle in all doctrine relating to Shakti. Indeed, this theory of
veiling, though expressed in another form, is common to Samkhya and
Vedanta. The difference lies in this that in Samkhya it is a second,
independent Principle which veils; in Mayavada Vedanta it is the non-
Brahman Maya (called a Shakti of Ishvara) which veils; and in Shakta
Advaitavada (for the Shaktas are nondualists) it is Consciousness
which, without ceasing to be such, yet veils Itself. As already
stated, the Monistic Shaivas and Shaktas hold certain doctrines in
common such as the thirty-six Tattvas, and what are called Shadadhva
which also appear as part of the teaching of the other Shaiva
Schools. In the thirty-six Tattva scheme, Maya which is defined
as "the sense of difference" (Bhedabuddhi), for it is that which
makes the Self see things as different from the Self, is technically
that Tattva which appears at the close of the pure creation, that
is, after Shuddhavidya. This Maya reflects and limits in the Pashu
or Jiva, the Iccha, J—ana, Kriya Shaktis of Ishvara. These again are
the three Bindus which are "Moon," "Fire," and "Sun". (See Author's
Garland of Letters.) What are J—ana and Kriya (including Iccha its
preliminary) on the part of the Pati (Lord) in all beings and things
(Bhaveshu) which are His body: it is these two which, with Maya as
the third, are the Sattva, Rajas and Tamas Gunas of the Pashu. This
veiling power explains how the undeniable element of unconsciousness
which is seen in things exists. How, if all be consciousness, is
that principle there '? The answer is given in the luminous
definition of Shakti; "It is the function of Shakti to negate"
(Nishedhavyapararupa Shaktih), that is, to negate consciousness and
make it appear to Itself as unconscious (Karika 4 of Yogaraja or
Yogamuni's Commentary on Abhinava Gupta's Paramarthasara). In truth
the whole world is the Self whether as "I" (Aham) or "This" (Idam).
The Self thus becomes its own object. It becomes object or form that
it may enjoy dualistic experience. It yet remains, what it was in
its unitary blissful experience. This is the Eternal Play in which
the Self hides and seeks itself. The formless cannot assume form
unless formlessness is negated. Eternity is negated into finality;
the all-pervading into the limited; the all-knowing into the "little
knower"; the almighty into the "little doer," and so forth. It is
only by negating Itself to Itself that the Self becomes its own
object in the form of the universe.

It follows from the above that, to the Shakta worshiper, there is
no unconscious Maya in Shamkara's sense, and therefore there is no
Cidabhasa, in the sense of the reflection of consciousness on
unconsciousness, giving the latter the appearance of consciousness
which it does not truly possess. For all is Consciousness as
Shakti. "Aham Stri," as the Advaitabhavopanisad exclaims. In short,
Shamkara says there is one Reality or Consciousness and a not-real
not-unreal Unconsciousness. What is really unconscious appears to be
conscious by the reflection of the light of Consciousness upon it.
Shakta doctrine says consciousness appears to be unconscious, or
more truly, to have an element of unconsciousness in it (for nothing
even empirically is absolutely unconscious), owing to the veiling
play of Consciousness Itself as Shakti.

As with so many other matters, these apparent differences are to
some extent a matter of words. It is true that the Vedantists speak
of the conscious (Cetana) and unconscious (Acetana), but they, like
the Shakta Advaitins, say that the thing in itself is Consciousness.
When this is vividly displayed by reason of the reflection
(Pratibimbha) of consciousness in Tattva, (such as Buddhi), capable
of displaying this reflection, then we can call that in which it is
so displayed conscious. Where, though consciousness is all-
pervading, Caitanya is not so displayed, there we speak of
unconsciousness. Thus, gross matter (Bhuta) does not appear to
reflect Cit, and so appears to us unconscious. Though all things are
at base consciousness, some appear as more, and some as less
conscious. Shamkara explains this by saying that Caitanya is
associated with a non-conscious mystery or Maya which veils
consciousness, and Caitanya gives to what is unconscious the
appearance of consciousness through reflection. "Reflection" is a
form of pictorial thinking. What is meant is that two principles are
associated together without the nature (Svarupa) of either being
really affected, and yet producing that effect which is Jiva. Shakta
doctrine says that all is consciousness, but this same consciousness
assumes the appearance of changing degrees of unconsciousness, not
through the operation of anything other than itself (Maya), but by
the operation of one of its own powers (Mayashakti). It is not
unconscious Maya in Shamkara's sense which veils consciousness, but
Consciousness as Shakti veils Itself, and, as so functioning, it is
called Mayashakti. It may be asked how can Consciousness become
Unconsciousness and cease to be itself '? The answer is that it does
not. It never ceases to be Consciousness. It appears to itself, as
Jiva, to be unconscious, and even then not wholly: for as recent
scientific investigations have shown, even so-called "brute matter"
exhibits the elements of that which, when evolved in man, is self-
consciousness. If it be asked how consciousness can obscure itself
partially or at all, the only answer is Acintya Shakti, which
Mayavadins as all other Vedantists admit. Of this, as of all
ultimates, we must say with the Western Scholastics, "omnia exeunt
in mysterium".

Prakriti is then, according to Samkhya, a real independent category
different from Purusha. This both Mayavada and Shaktivada deny. Maya
is a not-real, not-unreal Mystery dependent on, and associated with,
and inhering in Brahman; but not Brahman or any part of Brahman.
Maya-Shakti is a power of, and, in its Svarupa, not different from
Shiva: is real, and is an aspect of Brahman itself. Whilst Brahman
as Ishvara is associated with Maya, Shiva is never associated with
anything but Himself. But the function of all three is the same,
namely to make forms in the formless. It is That, by which the
Ishvara or Collective Consciousness pictures the universe for the
individual Jiva's experience. Shakti is three-fold as Will (Iccha),
Knowledge (J—ana), and Action (Kriya). All three are but differing
aspects of the one Shakti. Consciousness and its power or action are
at base the same. It is true that action is manifested in matter,
that is apparent unconsciousness, but its root, as that of all else
is consciousness. J—ana is self-proved and experienced
(Svatahsiddha), whereas, Kriya, being inherent in bodies, is
perceived by others than by ourselves. The characteristic of action
is the manifestation of all objects. These objects, again,
characterized by consciousness-unconsciousness are in the nature of
a shining forth (Abhasa) of Consciousness. (Here Abhasa is not used
in its sense of Cidabhasa, but as an intensive form of the term
Bhasa.) The power of activity and knowledge are only differing
aspects of one and the same Consciousness. According to Shamkara,
Brahman has no form of self-determination. Kriya is a function of
unconscious Maya. When Ishvara is said to be a doer (Karta), this is
attributed (Aupadhika) to Him by ignorance only. It follows from the
above that there are other material differences between Shakta
doctrine and Mayavada, such as the nature of the Supreme Experience,
the reality and mode of creation, the reality of the world, and so
forth. The world, it is true, is not; as the Mahanirvana Tantra says
absolute reality in the sense of unchanging being, for it comes and
goes. It is nevertheless real, for it is the experience of Shiva and
Shiva's experience is not unreal. Thus again the evolution of the
world as Abhasa, whilst resembling the Vivarta of Mayavada, differs
from it in holding, as the Samkhya does, that the effect is real and
not unreal, as Shamkara contends. To treat of these and other
matters would carry me beyond the scope of this essay which only
deals, and that in a summary way, with the essential differences and
similarities in the concept Prakriti, Maya and Shakti.

I may however conclude with a few general remarks. The doctrine of
Shakti is a profound one, and I think likely to be attractive to
Western minds when they have grasped it, just as they will
appreciate the Tantrik watchword, Kriya or action, its doctrine of
progress with and through the world and not against it, which is
involved in its liberation-enjoyment (Bhukti-mukti) theory and other
matters. The philosophy is, in any case, not, as an American writer,
in his ignorance, absurdly called it, "worthless," "religious
Feminism run mad," and a "feminization of Vedanta for suffragette
Monists". It is not a "feminization" of anything, but distinctive,
original and practical doctrine worthy of a careful study. The
Western student will find much in it which is more acceptable to
generally prevalent thought in Europe and America—than in
the "illusion" doctrine (in itself an unsuitable term), and the
ascetic practice of the Vedantins of Shamkara's school. This is not
to say that ways of reconciliation may not be found by those who go
far enough. It would not be difficult to show ground for holding
that ultimately the same intellectual results are attained by
viewing the matter from the differing standpoints of Sadhana and

The writer of an interesting article on the same subject in the
Prabuddha Bharata (August 1916) states that the Samnyasi Totapuri,
the Guru of Sri Ramakrishna, maintained that a (Mayavadin) Vedantist
could not believe in Shakti, for if causality itself be unreal there
is no need to admit any power to cause, and that it is Maya to apply
the principle of causation and to say that everything comes from
Shakti. The Samnyasi was converted to Shakta doctrine after all. For
as the writer well says, it is not merely by intellectual denial,
but by living beyond the "unreal," that Real is found. He, however,
goes on to say, "the Shaktivada of Tantra is not an improvement on
the Mayavada of Vedanta, (that is the doctrine of Shamkara) but only
its symbolization through the chromatics of sentiment and concept."
It is true that it is a form of Vedanta, for all which is truly
Indian must be that. It is also a fact that the Agama as a Shastra
of worship is full of Symbolism. Intellectually, however, it is an
original presentment of Vedanta, and from the practical point of
view, it has some points of merit which Mayavada does not possess.
Varieties of teaching may be different presentations of one truth
leading to a similar end. But one set of "chromatics" may be more
fruitful than another for the mass of men. It is in this that the
strength of the Shakta doctrine and practice lies. Moreover (whether
they be an improvement or not) there are differences between the
two. Thus the followers of Shamkara do not, so far as I am aware,
accept the thirty-six Tattvas. A question, however, which calls for
inquiry is that of the relation of the Shakta and Shaiva (Advaita)
Schools Mayavada is a doctrine which, whether true or not, is fitted
only for advanced minds of great intellectuality, and for men of
ascetic disposition, and of the highest moral development. This is
implied in its theory of competency (Adhikara) for Vedantic
teaching. When, as is generally the case, it is not understood, and
in some cases when it is understood, but is otherwise not suitable,
it is liable to be a weakening doctrine. The Shakta teaching to be
found in the Tantras has also its profundities which are to be
revealed only to the competent, and contains a practical doctrine
for all classes of worshipers (Sadhaka). It has, in this form, for
the mass of men, a strengthening pragmatic value which is beyond
dispute. Whether, as some may have contended, it is the fruit of a
truer spiritual experience I will not here discuss, for this would
lead me into a polemic beyond the scope of my present purpose, which
is an impartial statement of the respective teachings, on one
particular point, given by the three philosophical systems here

Shakti and Maya

by Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroffe), [1918]

Chapter 1: Indian Religion As Bharata Dharma

Chapter 2: Shakti: The World as Power

Chapter 3: What Are the Tantras and Their Significance?

Chapter 4: Tantra Shastra and Veda

Chapter 5: The Tantras and Religion of the Shaktas

Chapter 6: Shakti and Shakta

Chapter 7: Is Shakti Force?

Chapter 8: Cinacara (Vashishtha and Buddha)

Chapter 9: The Tantra Shastras in China

Chapter 10: A Tibetan Tantra

Chapter 11: Shakti in Taoism

Chapter 12: Alleged Conflict of Shastras

Chapter 13: Sarvanandanatha

Chapter 14: Cit-Shakti (The Consciousness Aspect of the Universe)

Chapter 15: Maya-Shakti (The Psycho-Physical Aspect of the Universe)

Chapter 16: Matter and Consciousness

Chapter 17: Shakti and Maya

Chapter 18: Shakta Advaitavada

Chapter 19: Creation as Explained in the Non-dualist Tantras

Chapter 20: The Indian Magna Mater

Chapter 21: Hindu Ritual

Chapter 22: Vedanta and Tantra Shastra

Chapter 23: The Psychology of Hindu Religious Ritual

Chapter 24: Shakti as Mantra (Mantramayi Shakti)

Chapter 25: Varnamala (The Garland of Letters)

Chapter 26: Shakta Sadhana (The Ordinary Ritual)

Chapter 27: The Pa—catattva (The Secret Ritual)

Chapter 28: Matam Rutra (The Right and Wrong Interpretation)

Chapter 29: Kundalini Shakta (Yoga)

Chapter 30: Conclusions




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