Shakti: The World as Power Shakti: The World as Power

From: "jagbir singh" <>
Date: Thu Jan 26, 2006 6:16 pm
Subject: Shakti: The World as Power

> —- 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: The World as Power

There is no word of wider content in any language than this Sanskrit
term meaning 'Power'. For Shakti in the highest causal sense is God
as Mother, and in another sense it is the universe which issues from
Her Womb. And what is there which is neither one nor the other?
Therefore, the Yoginihridaya Tantra thus salutes Her who conceives,
bears, produces and thereafter nourishes all worlds: "Obeisance be
to Her who is pure Being-Consciousness-Bliss, as Power, who exists
in the form of Time and Space and all that is therein, and who is
the radiant Illuminatrix in all beings."

It is therefore possible only to outline here in a very general way
a few of the more important principles of the Shakti-doctrine,
omitting its deeply interesting practice (Sadhana) in its forms as
ritual worship and Yoga.

Today Western science speaks of Energy as the physical ultimate of
all forms of Matter. So has it been for ages to the Shaktas, as the
worshipers of Shakti are called. But they add that such Energy is
only a limited manifestation (as Mind and Matter) of the almighty
infinite Supreme Power (Maha-Shakti) of Becoming in athat' (Tat),
which is unitary Being (Sat) itself.

Their doctrine is to be found in the traditions, oral and written,
which are contained in the Agamas, which (with Purana, Smriti and
Veda) constitute one of the four great classes of Scripture of the
Hindus. The Tantras are Scriptures of the Agama. The notion that
they are some queer bye-product of Hinduism and not an integral part
of it, is erroneous. The three chief divisions of the Agama are
locally named Bengal (Gauda), Kashmira and Kerala. That Bengal is a
home of Tantra-shastra is well known. It is, however, little known
that Kashmir was in the past a land where Tantrik doctrine and
practice were widely followed.

The communities of so-called atantrik' worshipers are five-fold
according as the cult is of the Sun, Ganesha, Vishnu, Shiva or
Shakti. To the Knower, however, the five named are not distinct
Divinities, but different aspects of the one Power or Shakti. An
instructed Shakti-worshiper is one of the least sectarian of men.
He can worship in all temples, as the saying is. Thus the Sammohana
Tantra says that "he is a fool who sees any difference between Rama
(an Avatara of Vishnu) and Shiva'. "What matters the name," says the
Commentator of the Satcakranirupana, after running through the gamut
of them.

The Shakta is so called because the chosen Deity of his worship
(Ishta-devata) is Shakti. In his cult, both in doctrine and
practice, emphasis is laid on that aspect of the One in which It is
the Source of Change and, in the form of Time and Space and all
objects therein, Change itself. The word Shakti is grammatically
feminine. For this reason an American Orientalist critic of the
doctrine has described it as a worthless system, a mere feminization
of orthodox (whatever that be) Vedanta—a doctrine teaching the
primacy of the Female and thus fit only for "suffragette monists".
It is absurd criticism of this kind which makes the Hindu sometimes
wonder whether the Western psyche has even the capacity to
understand his beliefs. It is said of The Mother (in the Hymn to Her
in the Mahakala-Samhita): "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 in Illumination
alone." Those who cannot understand lofty ideas when presented in
ritual and symbolic garb will serve their reputation best by not
speaking of them.

The Shaiva is so called because his chosen Divinity is Shiva, the
name for the changeless aspect of the One whose power of action and
activity is Shakti. But as the two are necessarily associated, all
communities acknowledge Shakti. It is, for the above reason, a
mistake to suppose that a atantrik,' or follower of the Agama, is
necessarily a Shakta, and that the atantra' is a Shakta Scripture
only. Not at all. The Shakta is only one branch of the Agamik
school. And so we find the Scriptures of Saivaism, whether of North
or South, called Tantras, as also those of that ancient form of
Vaishnavism which is called the Pancaratra. The doctrine of these
communities, which share certain common ideas, varies from the
monism of the Shaktas and Northern Shaivas to the more or less
dualistic systems of others. The ritual is to a large extent common
in all communities, though there are necessarily variations, due
both to the nature of the divine aspect worshipped and to the
particular form of theology taught. Shakta doctrine and practice are
contained primarily in the Shakta Tantras and the oral traditions,
some of which are secret. As the Tantras are mainly Scriptures of
Worship such doctrine is contained by implication in the ritual. For
reasons above stated recourse may be had to other Scriptures in so
far as they share with those of the Shakta certain common doctrines
and practices. The Tantras proper are the Word of Shiva and Shakti.
But there are also valuable Tantrik works in the nature of compendia
and commentaries which are not of divine authorship.

The concept 'Shakti' is not however peculiar to the Shaktas. Every
Hindu believes in Shakti as God's Power, though he may differ as to
the nature of the universe created by it. Shakta doctrine is a
special presentment of so-called monism (Advaita: lit. 'not-two')
and Shakta 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. Whatever may have been the case at
the origin of these Agamic cults, all, now and for ages past,
recognize and claim to base themselves on the Vedas. With these are
coupled the Word of Shiva-Shakti as revealed in the Tantras. Shakta-
doctrine is (like the Vedanta in general) what in Western parlance
would be called a theology based on revelation that is, so-
called 'spiritual' or supersensual experience, in its primary or
secondary sense. For Veda is that.

This leads to a consideration of the measure of man's knowing and of
the basis of Vedantik knowledge. It is a fundamental error to regard
the Vedanta as simply a speculative metaphysic in the modern Western
sense. It is not so; if it were, it would have no greater right to
acceptance than any other of the many systems which jostle one
another for our custom in the Philosophical Fair. It claims that its
supersensual teachings can be established with certainty by the
practice of its methods. Theorizing alone is insufficient. The
Shakta, above all, is a practical and active man, worshipping the
Divine Activity; his watchword is Kriya or Action. Taught that he is
Power, he desires fully to realize himself in fact as such. A
Tantrik poem (Anandastotra) speaks with amused disdain of the
learned chatterers who pass their time in futile debate around the
shores of the 'Lake of Doubt'.

The basis of knowing, whether in super-sense or sense-knowledge, is
actual experience. Experience is of two kinds: the whole or full
experience; and incomplete experience—that is, of parts, not of,
but in, the whole. In the first experience, Consciousness is said to
be 'upward-looking' (Unmukhi)—that is, 'not looking to another'.
In the second experience it is 'outward-looking' (Bahirmukhi) The
first is not an experience of the whole, but the Experience-whole.
The second is an experience not of parts of the whole, for the
latter is partless, but of parts in the whole, and issuing from its
infinite Power to know itself in and as the finite centers, as the
many. The works of an Indian philosopher, my friend Professor
Pramatha Natha Mukhyopadhyaya, aptly call the first the Fact, and
the second the Fact-section. The Isha Upanishad calls the Supreme
Experience—Purna, the Full or Whole.

It is not, be it noted, a residue of the abstracting intellect,
which is itself only a limited stress in Consciousness, but a
Plenum, in which the Existent All is as one Whole. Theologically
this full experience is Shiva, with Shakti at rest or as Potency.
The second experience is that of the finite centers, the numerous
Purushas or Jivas, which are also Shiva-Shakti as Potency
actualized. Both experiences are real. In fact there is nothing
unreal anywhere. All is The Mother and She is reality
itself. "Sa'ham" ("She I am"), the Shakta says, and all that he
senses is She in the form in which he perceives Her. It is She who
in, and as, he drinks the consecrated wine, and She is the wine. All
is manifested Power, which has the reality of Being from which it is
put forth. But the reality of the manifestation is of something
which appears and disappears, while that of Causal Power to appear
is enduring. But this disappearance is only the ceasing to be for a
limited consciousness. The seed of Power, which appears as a thing
for such consciousness, remains as the potency in infinite Being
itself. The infinite Experience is real as the Full (Purna); that
is, its reality is fullness. The finite experience is real, as such.
There is, perhaps, no subject in Vedanta, which is more
misunderstood than that of the so-called 'Unreality' of the World.
Every School admits the reality of all finite experience (even
of 'illusive' experience strictly so-called) while such experience
lasts. But Shamkaracarya, defines the truly Real as that which is
changeless. In this sense, the World as a changing thing has
relative reality only. Shamkara so defines Reality because he sets
forth his doctrine from the standpoint of transcendent Being. The
Shakta Shastra, on the other hand, is a practical Scripture of
Worship, delivered from the world-standpoint, according to which the
world is necessarily real. According to this view a thing may be
real and yet be the subject of change. But its reality as a thing
ceases with the passing of the finite experiencer to whom it is
real. The supreme Shiva-Shakti is, on the other hand, a real, full
Experience which ever endures. A worshiper must, as such, believe
in the reality of himself, of the world as his field of action and
instrument, in its causation by God, and in God Himself as the
object of worship. Moreover to him the world is real because Shiva-
Shakti, which is its material cause, is real. That cause, without
ceasing to be what it is, becomes the effect. Further the World is
the Lord's Experience. He as Lord (Pati) is the whole Experience,
and as creature (Pashu) he is the experiencer of parts in it. The
Experience of the Lord is never unreal. The reality, however, which
changelessly endures may (if we so choose) be said to be Reality in
its fullest sense.

Real however as all experience is, the knowing differs according as
the experience is infinite or finite, and in the latter case
according to various grades of knowing. Full experience, as its name
implies, is full in every way. Assume that there is at any atime' no
universe at all, that there is then a complete dissolution of all
universes, and not of any particular universe—even then the Power
which produced past, and will produce future universes, is one with
the Supreme Consciousness whose Shakti it is. When again this Power
actualizes as a universe, the Lord-Consciousness from and in Whom it
issues is the All-knower. As Sarvaj—a He knows all generals, and as
Sarvavit, all particulars. But all is known by Him as the Supreme
Self, and not, as in the case of the finite center, as objects other
than the limited self.

Finite experience is by its definition a limited thing. As the
experience is of a sectional character, it is obvious that the
knowing can only be of parts, and not of the whole, as the part
cannot know the whole of which it is a part. But the finite is not
always so. It may expand into the infinite by processes which bridge
the one to the other. The essential of Partial Experience is knowing
in Time and Space; the Supreme Experience, being changeless, is
beyond both Time and Space as aspects of change. The latter is the
alteration of parts relative to one another in the changeless Whole.
Full experience is not sense-knowledge. The latter is worldly
knowledge (Laukika J—ana), by a limited knowing center, of material
objects, whether gross or subtle. Full Experience is the Supreme
Knowing Self which is not an object at all. This is unworldly
knowledge (Alaukika J—ana) or Veda. Sense-knowledge varies according
to the capacity and attainments of the experiencer. But the normal
experience may be enhanced in two ways: either physically by
scientific instruments such as the telescope and microscope which
enhance the natural capacity to see; or psychically by the
attainment of what are called psychic powers. Everything is Shakti;
but psychic power denotes that enhancement of normal capacity which
gives knowledge of matter in its subtle form, while the normal man
can perceive it only in the gross form as a compound of sensible
matter (the Bhutas). Psychic power is thus an extension of natural
faculty. There is nothing 'supernatural' about it. All is natural,
all is real. It is simply a power above the normal. Thus the
clairvoyant can see what the normal sense-experiencer cannot. He
does so by the mind. The gross sense-organs are not, according to
Vedanta, the senses (Indriya.) The sense is the mind, which normally
works through the appropriate physical organs, but which, as the
real factor in sensation, may do without them, as is seen both in
hypnotic and yogic states. The area of knowledge is thus very widely
increased. Knowledge may be gained of subtle chemistry, subtle
physiology (as of the cakras or subtle bodily centers), of various
powers, of the 'world of Spirits,' and so forth. But though we are
here dealing with subtle things, they are still things and thus part
of the sense-world of objects—that is, of the world of Maya.
Maya, as later explained, is, not 'illusion,' but Experience in time
and space of Self and Not-Self. This is by no means necessarily
illusion. The Whole therefore cannot be known by sense-knowledge. In
short, sense or worldly knowledge cannot establish, that is, prove,
what is super-sensual, such as the Whole, its nature and the 'other
side' of its processes taken as a collectivity. Reasoning, whether
working in metaphysic or science, is based on the data of sense and
governed by those forms of understanding which constitute the nature
of finite mind. It may establish a conclusion of probability, but
not of certainty. Grounds of probability may be made out for
Idealism, Realism, Pluralism and Monism, or any other philosophical
system. In fact, from what we see, the balance of probability
perhaps favors Realism and Pluralism. Reason may thus establish that
an effect must have a cause, but not that the cause is one, For all
that we can say, there may be as many causes as effects. Therefore
it is said in Vedanta that "nothing (in these matters) is
established by argument." All Western systems which do not possess
actual spiritual experience as their basis are systems which can
claim no certainty as regards any matter not verifiable by sense-
knowledge and reasoning thereon.

Shakta, and indeed all Vedantik teaching, holds that the only source
and authority (Pramana) as regards supersensual matters, such as the
nature of Being in itself, and the like, is Veda. Veda, which comes
from the root vid, to know, is knowledge par excellence, that is
super-sensual experience, which according to the Monist (to use the
nearest English term) is the Experience-Whole. It may be primary or
secondary. As the first it is actual experience (Sakshatkara) which
in English is called 'spiritual' experience.

The Shakta, as a 'monist,' says that Veda is full experience as the
One. This is not an object of knowledge. This knowing is Being. "To
know Brahman is to be Brahman." He is a "monist,' not because of
rational argument only (though he can adduce reasoning in his
support), but because he, or those whom he follows, have had in fact
such 'monistic' experience, and therefore (in the light of such
experience) interpret the Vedantik texts.

But 'spiritual' experience (to use that English term) may be
incomplete both as to duration and nature. Thus from the imperfect
ecstasy (Savikalpa-Samadhi), even when of a 'monistic' character,
there is a return to world-experience. Again it may not be
completely 'monistic' in form, or may be even of a distinctly
dualistic character. This only means that the realization has
stopped short of the final goal. This being the case, that goal is
still perceived through the forms of duality which linger as part of
the constitution of the experiencer. Thus there are Vedantik and
other schools which are not 'monistic'. The spiritual experiences of
all are real experiences, whatever be their character, and they are
true according to the truth of the stage in which the experience is
had. Do they contradict one another? The experience which a man has
of a mountain at fifty miles distance, is not false because it is at
variance with that of the man who has climbed it. What he sees is
the thing from where he sees it. The first question then is: Is
there a 'monistic' experience in fact? Not whether 'monism' is
rational or not, and shown to be probable to the intellect. But how
can we know this ~ With certainty only by having the experience
oneself. The validity of the experience for the experiencer cannot
be assailed otherwise than by alleging fraud or self-deception. But
how can this be proved? To the experiencer his experience is real,
and nothing else is of any account. But the spiritual experience of
one is no proof to another who refuses to accept it. A man may,
however, accept what another says, having faith in the latter's
alleged experience. Here we have the secondary meaning of Veda, that
is secondary knowledge of super-sensual truth, not based on actual
experience of the believer, but on the experience of some other
which the former accepts. In this sense Veda is recorded for
Brahmanism in the Scriptures called Vedas, which contain the
standard experience of those whom Brahmanism recognizes as its
Rishis or Seers. But the interpretation of the Vaidik record is in
question, just as that of the Bible is. Why accept one
interpretation rather than another'? This is a lengthy matter.
Suffice to say here that each chooses the spiritual food which his
spiritual body needs, and which it is capable of eating and
assimilating. This is the doctrine of Adhikara. Here, as elsewhere,
what is one man's meat is another man's poison. Nature works in all
who are not altogether beyond her workings. What is called the 'will
to believe' involves the affirmation that the form of a man's faith
is the expression of his nature; the faith is the man. It is not
man's reason only which leads to the adoption of a particular
religious belief. It is the whole man as evolved at that particular
time which does so. His affirmation of faith is an affirmation of
his self in terms of it. The Shakta is therefore a 'monist,' either
because he has had himself spiritual experiences of this character,
or because he accepts the teaching of those who claim to have had
such experience. This is Apta knowledge, that is received from a
source of authority, just as knowledge of the scientific or other
expert is received. It is true that the latter may be verified. But
so in its own way can the former be. Revelation to the Hindu is not
something stated 'from above,' incapable of verification 'below'. He
who accepts revelation as teaching the unity of the many in the One,
may himself verify it in his own experience. How? If the disciple is
what is called not fit to receive truth in this 'monistic' form, he
will probably declare it to be untrue and, adhering to what he
thinks is true, will not further trouble himself in the matter. If
he is disposed to accept the teachings of 'monistic' religion-
philosophy, it is because his own spiritual and psychical nature is
at a stage which leads directly (though in a longer or shorter time
as may be the case) to actual 'monistic' experience. A particular
form of 'spiritual' knowledge like a particular psychic power can be
developed only in him who has the capacity for it. To such an one
asking, with desire for the fruit, how he may gather it, the Guru
says: Follow the path of those who have achieved (Siddha) and you
will gain what they gained. This is the 'Path of the Great' who are
those whom we esteem to be such. We esteem them because they have
achieved that which we believe to be both worthy and possible. If a
would-be disciple refuses to follow the method (Sadhana) he cannot
complain that he has not had its result. Though reason by itself
cannot establish more than a probability, yet when the super-sensual
truth has been learnt by Veda, it may be shown to be conformable to
reason. And this must be so, for all realities are of one piece.
Reason is a limited manifestation of the same Shakti, who is fully
known in ecstasy (Samadhi) which transcends all reasoning. What,
therefore, is irrational can never be spiritually true. With the aid
of the light of Revelation the path is made clear, and all that is
seen tells of the Unseen. Facts of daily life give auxiliary proof.
So many miss the truth which lies under their eyes, because to find
it they look away or upwards to some fancied 'Heaven'. The
sophisticated mind fears the obvious. "It is here; it is here," the
Shakta and others say. For he and every other being is a microcosm,
and so the Vishvasara Tantra says: "What is here, is elsewhere. What
is not here, is nowhere." The unseen is the seen, which is not some
alien disguise behind which it lurks. Experience of the seen is the
experience of the unseen in time and space. The life of the
individual is an expression of the same laws which govern the
universe. Thus the Hindu knows, from his own daily rest, that the
Power which projects the universe rests. His dreamless slumber when
only Bliss is known tells him, in some fashion, of the causal state
of universal rest. From the mode of his awakening and other
psychological processes he divines the nature of creative thinking.
To the Shakta the thrill of union with his Shakti is a faint
reflection of the infinite Shiva-Shakti Bliss in and with which all
universes are born. All matter is a relatively stable form of
Energy. It lasts awhile and disappears into Energy. The universe is
maintained awhile. This is Shakti as Vaishnavi, the Maintainer. At
every moment creation, as rejuvenascent molecular activity, is going
on as the Shakti Brahmani. At every moment there is molecular death
and loosening of the forms, the work of Rudrani Shakti. Creation did
not take place only at some past time, nor is dissolution only in
the future. At every moment of time there is both. As it is now and
before us here, so it was 'in the beginning'.

In short the world is real. It is a true experience. Observation and
reason are here the guide. Even Veda is no authority in matters
falling within sense-knowledge. If Veda were to contradict such
knowledge, it would, as Shamkara says, be in this respect no Veda at
all. The Hindu is not troubled by 'biblical science'. Here and now
the existence of the many is established for the sense-experiencer.
But there is another and Full Experience which also may be had here
and now and is in any case also a fact,—that is, when the
Self 'stands out' (ekstasis) from mind and body and sense-
experience. This Full Experience is attained in ecstasy (Samadhi).
Both experiences may be had by the same experiencer. It is thus the
same One who became many. "He said: May I be many," as Veda tells.
The 'will to be many' is Power or Shakti which operates as Maya.

In the preceding portion of this paper it was pointed out that the
Power whereby the One gives effect to Its Will to be Many is Maya

What are called the 36 Tattvas (accepted by both Shaktas and
Shaivas) are the stages of evolution of the One into the Many as
mind and matter.

Again with what warrant is this affirmed? The secondary proof is the
Word of Shiva and Shakti. Revealers of the Tantra-shastra, as such
Word is expounded in the teachings of the Masters (Acaryas) in the

Corroboration of their teaching may be had by observation of
psychological stages in normal life and reasoning thereon. These
psychological states again are the individual representation of the
collective cosmic processes. "As here, so elsewhere." Primary
evidence is actual experience of the surrounding and supreme states.
Man does not leap at one bound from ordinary finite sense-experience
to the Full Experience. By stages he advances thereto, and by stages
he retraces his steps to the world, unless the fullness of
experience has been such as to burn up in the fire of Self-knowledge
the seed of desire which is the germ of the world. Man's
consciousness has no fixed boundary. On the contrary, it is at root
the Infinite Consciousness, which appears in the form of a
contraction (Shamkoca), due to limitation as Shakti in the form of
mind and matter. This contraction may be greater or less. As it is
gradually loosened, consciousness expands by degrees until, all
bonds being gone, it becomes one with the Full Consciousness or
Purna. Thus there are, according to common teaching, seven ascending
light planes of experience, called Lokas, that is 'what are seen'
(lokyante) or experienced; and seven dark descending planes, or
Talas, that is 'places'. It will be observed that one name is given
from the subjective and the other from the objective standpoint. The
center of these planes is the 'Earth-plane' (Bhurloka). This is not
the same as experience on earth, for every experience, including the
highest and lowest, can be had here. The planes are not like
geological strata, though necessity may picture them thus. The Earth-
plane is the normal experience. The ascending planes are states of
super-normal, and the descending planes of sub-normal experience.
The highest of the planes is the Truth-plane (Satya-loka). Beyond
this is the Supreme Experience, which is above all planes, which is
Light itself, and the love of Shiva and Shakti, the 'Heart of the
Supreme Lord' (Hridayam parameshituh). The lowest Tala on the dark
side is described in the Puranas with wonderful symbolic imagery as
a Place of Darkness where monster serpents, crowned with dim light,
live in perpetual anger. Below this is the Shakti of the Lord called
Tamomayi Shakti—that is, the Veiling Power of Being in all its
infinite intensity.

What then is the Reality—Whole or Purna? It is certainly not a
bare abstraction of intellect, for the intellect is only a
fractional Power or Shakti in it. Such an abstraction has no worth
for man. In the Supreme Reality, which is the Whole, there is
everything which is of worth to men, and which proceeds from it. In
fact, as a Kashmir Scripture says: "The 'without' appears without
only because it is within." Unworthy also proceeds from it, not in
the sense that it is there as unworthy, but because the experience
of duality, to which evil is attached, arises in the Blissful Whole.
The Full is not merely the collectively (Samashti) of all which
exists, for it is both immanent in and transcends the universe. It
is a commonplace that it is unknowable except to Itself. Shiva in
the Yoginihridaya Tantra, says: "Who knows the heart of a woman?
Only Shiva knows the Heart of Yogini (the Supreme Shakti)." For this
reason the Buddhist Tantrik schools call it Shunya or the Void. This
is not 'nothing' but nothing known to mind and senses. Both Shaktas
and some Vaishnavas use the term Shunya, and no one suspects them of
being 'Nihilists'.

Relatively, however, the One is said to be Being (Sat), Bliss
(Ananda) and Cit—an untranslatable term which has been most
accurately defined as the Changeless Principle of all changing
experience, a Principle of which sensation, perception, conception,
self-consciousness, feeling, memory, will, and all other psychic
states are limited modes. It is not therefore Consciousness or
Feeling as we understand these words, for these are directed and
limited. It is the infinite root of which they are the finite
flower. But Consciousness and possibly (according to the more
ancient views) Feeling approach the most nearly to a definition,
provided that we do not understand thereby Consciousness and Feeling
in man's sense. We may thus (to distinguish it) call Cit, Pure
Consciousness or Pure Feeling as Bliss (Ananda) knowing and enjoying
its own full Reality. This, as such Pure Consciousness or Feeling,
endures even when finite centers of Consciousness or Feeling arise
in It. If (as this system assumes) there is a real causal nexus
between the two, then Being, as Shiva, is also a Power, or Shakti,
which is the source of all Becoming. The fully Real, therefore, has
two aspects: one called Shiva, the static aspect of Consciousness,
and the other called Shakti, the kinetic aspect of the same. For
this reason Kali Shakti, dark as a thundercloud, is represented
standing and moving on the white inert body of Shiva. He is white as
Illumination (Prakasha). He is inert, for Pure Consciousness is
without action and at rest. It is She, His Power, who moves. Dark is
She here because, as Kali, She dissolves all in darkness, that is
vacuity of existence, which is the Light of Being Itself. Again She
is Creatrix. Five corpse-like Shivas form the support of Her throne,
set in the wish-granting groves of the Isle of Gems (Manidvipa), the
golden sands of which are laved by the still waters of the Ocean of
Nectar (Amrita), which is Immortality. In both cases we have a
pictorial presentment in theological form of the scientific doctrine
that to every form of activity there is a static background.

But until there is in fact Change, Shakti is merely the Potency of
Becoming in Being and, as such, is wholly one with it. The Power
(Shakti) and the possessor of Power (Shaktiman) are one. As
therefore He is Being-Bliss-Consciousness, so is She. She is also
the Full (Purna), which is no mere abstraction from its evolved
manifestations. On the contrary, of Her the Mahakali Stotra
says: "Though without feet, Thou movest more quickly than air.
Though without ears, Thou dost hear. Though without nostrils, Thou
dost smell. Though without eyes, Thou dost see. Though without
tongue, Thou dost taste all tastes." Those who talk of
the 'bloodless abstractions' of Vedanta, have not understood it. The
ground of Man's Being is the Supreme 'I' (Purnosham) which, though
in Itself beyond finite personality, is yet ever finitely
personalizing as the beings of the universe. "Sa'ham,"— "She I am."

This is the Supreme Shakti, the ultimate object of the Shaktas'
adoration, though worshipped in several forms, some gentle, some

But Potency is actualized as the universe, and this also is Shakti,
for the effect is the cause modified. Monistic Vedanta teaches that
God is the material cause of the world. The statement that the
Supreme Shakti also exists as the Forms evolved from It, may seem to
conflict with the doctrine that Power is ultimately one with Shiva
who is changeless Being. Shamkara answers that the existence of a
causal nexus is Maya, and that there is (from the transcendental
standpoint) only a seeming cause and seeming modification or effect.
The Shakta, who from his world-standpoint posits the reality of God
as the Cause of the universe, replies that, while it is true that
the effect (as effect) is the cause modified, the cause (as cause)
remains what it was and is and will be. Creative evolution of the
universe thus differs from the evolution in it. In the latter case
the material cause when producing an effect ceases to be what it
was. Thus milk turned into curd ceases to be milk. But the simile
given of the other evolutionary process is that of 'Light from
Light'. There is a similarity between the 'conventional' standpoint
of Shamkara and the explanation of the Shakta; the difference being
that, while to the former the effect is (from the transcendental
standpoint) 'unreal,' it is from the Shakta's immanent
standpoint 'real'.

It will have been observed that cosmic evolution is in the nature of
a polarization in Being into static and kinetic aspects. This is
symbolized in the Shakta Tantras by their comparison of Shiva-Shakti
to a grain of gram (Canaka). This has two seeds which are so close
together as to seem one, and which are surrounded by a single
sheath. The seeds are Shiva and Shakti and the sheath is Maya. When
the sheath is unpeeled, that is when Maya Shakti operates, the two
seeds come apart. The sheath unrolls when the seeds are ready to
germinate, that is when in the dreamless slumber (Sushupti) of the
World-Consciousness the remembrance of past enjoyment in Form gives
rise to that divine creative athinking' of 'imagining'
(Srishtikalpana) which is 'creation'. As the universe in dissolution
sinks into a Memory which is lost, so it is born again from the germ
of recalled Memory or Shakti. Why? Such a question may be answered
when we are dealing with facts in the whole; but the latter itself
is uncaused, and what is caused is not the whole. Manifestation is
of the nature of Being-Power, just as it is Its nature to return to
Itself after the actualization of Power. To the devotee who speaks
in theological language, "It is His Will". As the Yoginihridaya
says: "He painted the World-Picture on Himself with the Brush which
is His Will and was pleased therewith."

Again the World is called a Prapa—ca, that is an extension of the
five forms of sensible matter (Bhuta.) Where does it go at
dissolution? It collapses into a Point (Bindu). We may regard it as
a metaphysical point which is the complete 'subjectification' of the
divine or full 'I' (Purnahanta), or objectively as a mathematical
point without magnitude. Round that Point is coiled a mathematical
Line which, being in touch with every part of the surface of the
Point, makes one Point with it. What then is meant by these symbols
of the Point and Line? It is said that the Supreme Shiva sees
Himself in and as His own Power or Shakti. He is the 'White Point'
or 'Moon' (Candra), which is Illumination and in the completed
process, the 'I' (Aham), side of experience, She is the 'Red Point'.
Both colors are seen in the microcosmic generation of the child. Red
too is the color of Desire. She is 'Fire' which is the object of
experience or athis' (Idam), the objective side of experience.
The athis' here is nothing but a mass of Shiva's own illuminating
rays. These are reflected in Himself as Shakti, who, in the
Kamakalavilasa, is called the 'Pure Mirror' of Shiva. The Self sees
the Self, the rays being thrown back on their source. The athis' is
the germ of what we call 'Otherness,' but here the 'Other' is and is
known as the Self. The relation and fusion of these two Points,
White and Red, is called the Mixed Point or 'Sun'. These are the
three Supreme Lights. A = Shiva, Ha = Shakti, which united
spell 'ham' or 'I'. This 'Sun' is thus the state of full 'I-ness'
(Purnaham-bhava). This is the Point into which the World at
dissolution lapses, and from which in due time it comes forth again.
In the latter case it is the Lord-Consciousness as the Supreme 'I'
and Power about to create. For this reason Bindu is called a
condensed or massive form of Shakti. It is the tense state of Power
immediately prior to its first actualization. That form of Shakti,
again by which the actualization takes place is Maya; and this is
the Line round the Point. As coiled round the Point, it is the
Supreme Serpent-Power (Mahakundalini) encircling the Shiva-Linga.
From out of this Power comes the whisper to enjoy, in worlds of
form, as the memory of past universes arises therein. Shakti
then 'sees'. Shakti opens Her eyes as She reawakens from the Cosmic
Sleep (Nimesha), which is dissolution. The Line is at first coiled
and one with the Point, for Power is then at rest. Creation is
movement, an uncoiling of Maya-Shakti. Hence is the world called
Jagat, which means 'what moves'. The nature of this Power is
circular or spiraline; hence the roundness and 'curvature' of things
of which we now hear. Nothing moves in a really straight line. Hence
again the universe is also called a spheroid (Brahmanda). The gross
worlds are circular universal movements in space, in which, is the
Ether (Akasha), Consciousness, as the Full (Purna), is never
dichotomized, but the finite centers which arise in it, are so. The
Point, or Bindu, then divides into three, in various ways, the chief
of which is Knower, Knowing and Known, which constitute the duality
of the world-experience by Mind of Matter.

Unsurpassed for its profound analysis is the account of the thirty-
six Tattvas or stages of Cosmic Evolution (accepted by both Shaivas
and Shaktas) given by the Northern Shaiva School of the Agama, which
flourished after the date which Western Orientalists assign to
Shamkaracarya, and which was therefore in a position to criticize
him. According to this account (which I greatly condense) Subject
and Object in Pure Being are in indistinguishable union as the
Supreme Shiva-Shakti. We have then to see how this unity is broken
up into Subject and Object. This does not take place all at once.
There is an intermediate stage of transition, in which there is a
Subject and Object, but both are part of the Self, which knows its
Object to be Itself. In man's experience they are wholly separate,
the Object then being perceived as outside the Self, the plurality
of Selves being mutually exclusive centers. The process and the
result are the work of Shakti, whose special function is to negate,
that is to negate Her own fullness, so that it becomes the finite
center contracted as a limited Subject perceiving a limited Object,
both being aspects of the one Divine Self.

The first stage after the Supreme is that in which Shakti withdraws
Herself and leaves, as it were, standing by itself the 'I' side
(Aham) of what, when completed, is the 'I-This' (Aham-Idam)
experience. But simultaneously (for the 'I' must have its content)
She presents Herself as a athis' (Idam), at first faintly and then
clearly; the emphasis being at first laid on the 'I' and then on
the athis'. This last is the stage of Ishvara Tattva or Bindu, as
the Mantra Shastra, dealing with the causal state of 'Sound'
(Shabda), calls it. In the second and third stage, as also in the
fourth which follows, though there is an 'I' and a athis' and
therefore not the indistinguishable 'I - This' of the Supreme
Experience, yet both the 'I' and the athis' are experienced as
aspects of and in the Self. Then as a preliminary to the division
which follows, the emphasis is laid equally on the 'I' and
the athis'. At this point Maya-Shakti intervenes and completely
separates the two. For that Power is the Sense of Difference (Bheda-
Buddhi). We have now the finite centers mutually exclusive one of
the other, each seeing, to the extent of its power, finite centers
as objects outside of and different from the self. Consciousness
thus becomes contracted. In lieu of being All-knowing, it is
a 'Little Knower,' and in lieu of being Almighty Power, it is
a 'Little Doer'.

Maya is not rightly rendered 'Illusion'. In the first place it is
conceived as a real Power of Being and as such is one with the Full
Reality. The Full, free of all illusion, experiences the engendering
of the finite centers and the centers themselves in and as Its own
changeless partless Self. It is these individual centers produced
from out of Power as Maya-Shakti which are 'Ignorance' or Avidya
Shakti. They are so called because they are not a full experience
but an experience of parts in the Whole. In another sense
this 'Ignorance' is a knowing, namely, that which a finite center
alone has. Even God cannot have man's mode of knowledge and
enjoyment without becoming man. He by and as His Power does become
man and yet remains Himself. Man is Power in limited form as Avidya.
The Lord is unlimited Power as Maya. In whom then is the 'Illusion'?
Not (all will admit) in the Lord. Nor is it in fact (whatever be the
talk of it) in man whose nature it is to regard his limitations as
real. For these limitations are he. His experience as man provides
no standard whereby it may be adjudged 'Illusion'. The latter is non-
conformity with normal experience, and here it is the normal
experience which is said to be Illusion. If there were no Avidya
Shakti, there would be no man. In short the knowing which is Full
Experience is one thing and the knowing of the limited experience is
another. The latter is Avidya and the Power to produce it is Maya.
Both are eternal aspects of Reality, though the forms which are
Avidya Shakti come and go. If we seek to relate the one to the
other, where and by whom is the comparison made? Not in and by the
Full Experience beyond all relations, where no questions are asked
or answers given, but on the standing ground of present finite
experience where all subjectivity and objectivity are real and where
therefore, ipso facto, Illusion is negative. The two aspects are
never present at one and the same time for comparison. The universe
is real as a limited thing to the limited experiencer who is himself
a part of it. But the experience of the Supreme Person (Parahanta)
is necessarily different, otherwise it would not be the Supreme
Experience at all. A God who experiences just as man does is no God
but man. There is, therefore, no experiencer to whom the World is
Illusion. He who sees the world in the normal waking state, loses it
in that form in ecstasy (Samadhi). It may, however, (with the
Shakta) be said that the Supreme Experience is entire and unchanging
and thus the fully Real; and that, though the limited experience is
also real in its own way, it is yet an experience of change in its
twin aspects of Time and Space. Maya, therefore, is the Power which
engenders in Itself finite centers in Time and Space, and Avidya is
such experience in fact of the finite experiencer in Time and Space.
So much is this so, that the Time-theorists (Kalavadins) give the
name 'Supreme Time' (Parakala) to the Creator, who is also called by
the Shakta 'Great Time' (Mahakala). So in the Bhairavayamala it is
said that Mahadeva (Shiva) distributes His Rays of Power in the form
of the Year. That is, Timeless Experience appears in the finite
centers as broken up into periods of time. This is the 'Lesser Time'
which comes in with the Sun, Moon, Six Seasons and so forth, which
are all Shaktis of the Lord, the existence and movements of which
give rise, in the limited observer, to the notion of Time and Space.

That observer is essentially the Self or 'Spirit' vehicled by Its
own Shakti in the form of Mind and Matter. These two are Its Body,
the first subtle, the second gross. Both have a common origin,
namely the Supreme Power. Each is a real mode of It. One therefore
does not produce the other. Both are produced by, and exist as modes
of, the same Cause. There is a necessary parallelism between the
Perceived and the Perceiver and, because Mind and Matter are at base
one as modes of the same Power, one can act on the other. Mind is
the subjective and Matter the objective aspect of the one polarized

With the unimportant exception of the Lokayatas, the Hindus have
never shared what Sir William Jones called "the vulgar notions of
matter," according to which it is regarded as some gross, lasting
and independently existing outside thing.

Modern Western Science now also dematerializes the ponderable matter
of the universe into Energy. This and the forms in which it is
displayed is the Power of the Self to appear as the object of a
limited center of knowing. Mind again is the Self
as 'Consciousness,' limited by Its Power into such a center. By such
contraction there is in lieu of an 'll-knower' a 'Little Knower,'
and in lieu of an 'll-doer' a 'Little Doer'. Those, however, to
whom this way of looking at things is naturally difficult, may
regard the Supreme Shakti from the objective aspect as holding
within Itself the germ of all Matter which develops in It.

Both Mind and Matter exist in every particle of the universe though
not explicitly displayed in the same way in all. There is no corner
of the universe which contains anything either potential or actual,
which is not to be found elsewhere. Some aspect of Matter or Mind,
however, may be more or less explicit or implicit. So in the Mantra
Scripture it is said that each letter of the alphabet contains all
sound. The sound of a particular letter is explicit and the other
sounds are implicit. The sound of a particular letter is a
particular physical audible mode of the Shabdabrahman (Brahman as
the cause of Shabda or 'Sound'), in Whom is all sound, actual and
potential. Pure Consciousness is fully involved in the densest forms
of gross or organic matter, which is not 'inert' but full
of 'movement' (Spanda), for there is naught but the Supreme
Consciousness which does not move. Immanent in Mind and Matter is
Consciousness (Cit Shakti). Inorganic matter is thus Consciousness
in full subjection to the Power of Ignorance. It is thus
Consciousness identifying Itself with such inorganic matter. Matter
in all its five forms of density is present in everything. Mind too
is there, though, owing to its imprisonment in Matter,
undeveloped. "The Brahman sleeps in the stone." Life too which
displays itself with the organization of matter is potentially
contained in Being, of which such inorganic matter is, to some,
a 'lifeless' form. From this deeply involved state Shakti enters
into higher and higher organized forms. Prana or vitality is a
Shakti—the Mantra form of which is 'Hangsah'. With the
Mantra 'Hang' the breath goes forth, with 'Sah' it is indrawn, a
fact which anyone can verify for himself if he will attempt to
inspire after putting the mouth in the way it is placed in order to
pronounce the letter 'H'. The Rhythm of Creative Power as of
breathing (a microcosmic form of it) is two-fold—an outgoing
(Pravritti) or involution as universe, and an evolution or return
(Nivritti) of Supreme Power to Itself. Shakti as the Great Heart of
the universe pulses forth and back in cosmic systole and diastole.
So much for the nature of the Power as an evolutionary process. It
is displayed in the Forms evolved as an increasing exhibition of
Consciousness from apparently, though not truly, unconscious matter,
through the slight consciousness of the plant and the greater
consciousness of the animal, to the more highly developed
consciousness of man, who in the completeness of his own individual
evolution becomes freed of Mind and Matter which constitute the
Form, and thus is one with the Supreme Consciousness Itself. There
are no gaps in the process. In existence there are no rigid
partitions. The vital phenomena, to which we give the name
of 'Life', appear, it is true, with organized Matter. But Life is
not then something entirely new which had no sort of being before.
For such Life is only a limited mode of Being, which itself is no
dead thing but the Infinite Life of all lives. To the Hindu the
difference between plant and animal, and between the latter and man,
has always been one rather of degree than of kind. There is one
Consciousness and one Mind and Matter throughout, though the Matter
is organized and the Mind is exhibited in various ways. The one
Shakti is the Self as the 'String' (Sutratma) on which all the Beads
of Form are strung, and these Beads again are limited modes of
Herself as the 'String'. Evolution is thus the loosening of the
bonds in which Consciousness (itself unchanging) is held, such
loosening being increased and Consciousness more fully exhibited as
the process is carried forward. At length is gained that human state
which the Scripture calls so 'hard to get'. For it has been won by
much striving and through suffering. Therefore the Scripture warns
man not to neglect the opportunities of a stage which is the
necessary preliminary to the attainment of the Full Experience. Man
by his striving must seek to become fully humane, and then to pass
yet further into the Divine Fullness which is beyond all Forms with
their good and evil. This is the work of Sadhana (a word which comes
from the root sadh ato exert'), which is discipline, ritual, worship
and Yoga. It is that by which any result (Siddhi) is attained. The
Tantrik Shastra is a Sadhana Scripture. As Powers are many, so may
be Sadhana, which is of various kinds and degrees. Man may seek to
realize The Mother-Power in Her limited forms as health, strength,
long life, wealth, magic powers and so forth. The so-called 'New
Thought' and kindred literature which bids men to think Power and
thus to become power, is very ancient, going back at least to the
Upanishad which says: "What a man thinks, that he becomes."

Those who have need for the Infinite Mother as She is, not in any
Form but in Herself, seek directly the Adorable One in whom is the
essence of all which is of finite worth. The gist of a high form of
Kulasadhana is given in the following verse from the Hymn of
Mahakalarudra Himself to Mahakali:

"I torture not my body with penances." (Is not his body Hers? If man
be God in human guise why torment him?) "I lame not my feet in
pilgrimage to Holy Places." (The body is the Devalaya or Temple of
Divinity. Therein are all the spiritual Tirthas or Holy Places. Why
then trouble to go elsewhere?) "I spend not my time in reading the
Vedas." (The Vedas, which he has already studied, are the record of
the standard spiritual experience of others. He seeks now to have
that experience himself directly. What is the use of merely reading
about it? The Kularnava Tantra enjoins the mastering of the essence
of all Scriptures which should then be put aside, just as he who has
threshed out the grain throws away the husks and straw.) "But I
strive to attain Thy two sacred Feet."

Shakti: The World as Power

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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