Shantanand Sarasvati, the Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math, was asked several times by some followers: "What is the nature of Shakti?" An associate of one of the followers, Vamana, reported that "His Holiness seems to have given some apparently conflicting answers on occasion. In one place he says that they are divine qualities which are beyond man's understanding; but on being pressed, he said we might recognise them in such as fame, honour and renunciation; then he related them to the kala, the phases of the moon; next equated them with a more human term elsewhere; sometimes they seem to be 16, sometimes 8; He says that they can be found listed in the 'Tripura' -- where his followers, looking up the reference, discovered they are not, since it is a bhakti hymn to Parvati; then Shantanand seemed to misunderstand a question about education, and launched into a splendid account of a boy at 16 possessing the 16 shakti in potentiality... "
".... Perplexed, the followers began to ask the question to themselves, passing the question on and around their group. They provisionally came to the conclusion that Shakti was more like the light of the Self which reflects from whatever mirrors it? All in all, to them, the shakti began to sound like an 'emanation', true at all levels for experiencing at that level."
The enquiry: "What is the nature of Shakti?" is a genuine and significant question, and when I heard it I began to write down the thoughts that appeared in mind. To this I added a little research on what others have said on the nature of Shakti, and then subjected it all to a little contemplation and reasoning. This essay thus appeared and... relatively surprised myself. But... I wondered... now what to do with the essay? It is the very nature of incarnations of Brahma to discover the principles of existence and then desire to share them with others. That is Brahma's essential desire. Desires unfortunately are our chief problem.
I realize that....
The wise remain still and silent.
The next degree of wisdom is to ask questions.
The least wise are those who, moved, try to give answers.
But a true jnani sees everyone as a jnani.
Therefore ultimately and now everyone is wise.
Because everyone's inner guru is wise it is unnecessary to answer anyone's questions?
But.... ahhh.... there is a stirring within.... from the left-hand side... something is prompting me.... there is desire to share the secrets of Shakti....
That is the fundamental problem... that desire.
All the trouble will now begin....
Who is doing the prompting?
Who is being prompted?
What is the original cause?
Shakti is the original cause, her power is Maya.
It is Ahamkara who is doing the prompting.
It is the sense of "me", the ego, that is being prompted.
Ahamkara is an emmissary of Maya.
Maya is that, who or which, is hiding in the subtle shadows of your life,
creating and controlling its every aspect.
Ahamkara is the "I am" maker.
Your buddhi is a mere static form floating in Isvara's light.
Buddhi is accessed in the higher intellect.
The Buddhi is your unseen spiritual self that is hiding behind you.
Ahamkara touches the buddhi, your spirit, bringing it into manifestation.
The sense of "me", the love of self, are latent in the buddhi and are brought into animation by the power of Ahamkara. A mere touch of subtle air and your spirit comes to apparent life.
Then your buddhi projects your jiva, your nature, in the manner of an actor projecting his part.
As soon as your jiva, your nature, appears, then your pure consciousness, the Atman, completely identifies with it. The jiva is therefore merely your consciousness, the Atman, identified with what it is not. You thus live the life of a jiva, a natural person, for ever lamenting your limitation.
The jiva is merely the part in the eternal drama to which you have been assigned.
You naturally believe you are the actor and you are in control of the part you play.
That is the completely successful deception that your buddhi plays upon you.
You do not realize that you are the part and it is your unseen spirit behind you who is the actor.
The part can do nothing. It does not even realize that it is a part in a drama.
You were offered the part at conception, but you have long forgotten that.
The instant you accept the part your Shakti goes away and arranges everything.
She arranges the life and her servants the dharmaduttas open a window and place you into it.
Your Shakti wanted you to accept the part... but did you really want to accept it?
You have forgotten all this, and thus....
According to the jiva, according to the part in the drama, according to the magical power of Maya...
....now all the trouble in your life will begin.
I do nothing, can do nothing, have never performed any action whatsoever.
Action is simply distasteful to my child-like self.
All actions are the responsibility of Shakti which she executes through a series of intermediaries.
This essay on Shakti is the work of those intermediaries.
It can be concluded therefore that Shakti wants to reveal the secrets of Shakti.
So let her take responsibility for it?
Something will observe it all happening.
That something is awareness.
That awareness observes everything. Awareness even observes consciousness.
That ultimate awareness is the Self.
At the absolute level, having had no direct experience, I do not know what Shakti is. As Shantanand implied, at the highest level Shakti may be beyond the range of human cognition and understanding? Shakti is an aspect, a deeply mysterious aspect, of the Absolute itself, and since the Absolute is beyond concept, thought and words... thus also is Absolute Shakti, at least to human powers of comprehension. It is not possible to have direct experience of Absolute Shakti because she is not experiencable, having no form. Absolute Shakti is one's own Self and it is intrinsically not possible to be conscious of one's own Self as an experiencable object. But naturally there is a desire to say something and here, woven together in essay form, are some ideas, some principles outlined by Sankara, statements made by various Indian learned swamis, some words of some jnanis, and some experiences and thoughts of 'my' own, on the subject of Shakti.
It is understandable why Shantanand gives different answers because Shakti seems to operate at different levels.... from Brahman the highest, down to human beings and the lower forms of consciousness, etc, on that we all probably agree? But what is not very often recognized is that Shakti creates her illusionary universe through the medium of two laws.... the law of three and the law of seven. The law of three is known in Advaita as the action and interaction of the three gunas, whereas the law of seven is commonly referred to in Western Civilizations as the Law of Octaves, and in Eastern Civilizations as the Circle of Nine Points. Superficially there seems to be a difference of 7 or 8 or 9 parts, but because different systems of philosophical thought tend to add or subtract to the octave, when understood, it is realized that the same fundamental Law of Octaves is being proposed. Sankara refers to the octave in his bhasyas...
This prakriti (primordial nature) thus described, is my divine power of Maya,
divided eightfold. Sankara: Bhagavad Gita Bhasya VII.4 trans Alston.
The main principle of creation is that Shakti first creates an octave of sucessionary forms and then enters into the octave at every level. Therefore, although you may not realize it, you encounter her at every level.
At this level, Shakti is the Cosmic Mother who is said to effortlessly hold trillions of universes in the palm of her hand. The cynic may suggest that this is Hindu religious bravado, supremism, 'my godess is greater than your god', and possibly there is some truth in that, but the idea of the Cosmic Mother is more probably indicative of the scale and incomprehensiblity of Shakti. Shakti is something coeval with the Absolute itself.
In a medieval text, the Shakta Advaita, it is said that at the beginning of Creation the Divine Mother took form and set in motion the wheel of manifestation. There are various clues here.... Shakti does not manifest before Creation. Shakti is associated with the taking of form. Shakti is the progenitive and nurturing mother. You may well have a divine mother in the causal world, a goddess mother in the subtle world, and a biological mother in the physical world, all responsible for creating your forms, animating and moving those forms and, seen or unseen, nurturing you. Another clue is that Shakti is associated with the motion of wheels, with the movement of cosmic machinery, with circles, spirals, and helixes. Just as in a theatre, the stage machinery moves and sets the scene, so cosmic machinery, prakriti, creates the scene of the world. When the wheels move, revolve, so the scenes change. The 'wheels' are Cosmic cogs turning human cogs. Advaita teaches that everything is a mechanism except the Absolute. Shakti, then is that which sets mechanical prakriti, Nature, in motion. On the individual scale, the wheels, coils, or discs, corresponding to the 7 chakras, located in the physical and subtle bodies, revolve, manifesting the illusion, producing the moving contents of space and time, and so influence and condition the Atman, the pure consciousness, residing in the body. Physicists tell us that time and space are curved in a circle, occultists intimate that each life is a spiral, and biologists inform that our genetic mother creates our bodily and natural forms by an arrangement of the double helix of the chromosomatic material. Circles, coils, discs, wheels, cogs and helixes... these are the characteristic patterns in which Shakti produces and then enters the forms. So, known or unknown to you, there must be a Shakti present in your human mother? In fact, present in every woman.
Krishna said: " I have put these various beings on the top of a machine of this illusion. They are mechanically going around". The mechanical movement is due to a motive, an intense desire for being, a greed for existence, a passionate fondness for life, which can be reduced to the phraze... 'I love to be'. Shakti, the Divine Mother, hears your desire for being, for perfect being, and places you, as purusha the highest witness, on the top of prakriti, a cosmic mechanism which connects, via a subtle thread, to one of the chakras in the body, turning slowly, sometimes suddenly rapidly, in a circle, in a spiral and.... magically the scenes of your life appear upon the screen of your mind. On the screen are all the things and people in your life, all your family and friends, all your lovers, all your children, all speaking, gesticulating, moving, laughing, loving and hating..... and.... it is nothing more than a cosmic machine, turning round and round, and your life merely a circle going round and round. That is Maya. That is what the Shakti arranges for you.
Life is the urge to grow in knowledge and being. Life is existence in limitation and separation, and in reality is very sorrowful, nevertheless we love it, no matter how despicable and painful it may become, because essentially we love to be. That is what the Shakti arranges for us. The Brihadaranyaka Upanisad states that you, the Atman, couldn't stand being one alone. You wanted a companion. Shakti is your companion, and by her power she turns you into a multitude. Jnanis say yes, this occurs at the threshold of beingness, the I-am state, but the ultimate state is beyond the grasp of both the mind and the Upanisads. In the ultimate there is no desire. Therefore Shakti is the companion of Brahman but the Absolute has no companion and is the One Alone. Shakti is Brahman's desire but the Absolute is desireless. It may be concluded that Brahman and the Absolute are not the same. The Absolute is beyond Brahman. Conceptually, Shakti cannot be understood unless the Absolute is transcendental to, and beyond, Brahman. For this reason the concept of the Parabrahman is proposed and formulated, as that which is transcendental to Brahman. The sanskrit word para means transcendental, in the remotest extreme, that which is faintly detectable only at the extremity of consciousness and which then is realized to be located beyond the range of human faculties. The Parabrahman is absolute, whereas Brahman is not an absolute. Brahman is in fact Visnu Loka, a transcendental mass of Being into which everything disssolves without trace, everything dissolving into impersonal being.
The Shakti of Brahman is Maya. Maya means magic, magical power. Many western scholars translate the word Maya into the English word 'illusion', 'the whole universe being an illusion', but really Maya in Sanskrit means magic, the power to create illusion, not the illusion itself. Maya is not so much physical power as will. It involves deception, illusion, dream, appearance, and the creation of the phenomenal world. Shakti is that power.
Maya Shakti is particularly associated with arousal and manifestation of the Aham (I am) and animation of the buddhi (intellect) in man, in the sense of evoking the illusion of the ego, and the formation of an image of a natural self in the mind, which is merely a projection of the intellect, and with which the consciousness so automatically identifies as itself. Identity occurs only when there is the ‘I am’. The Parabrahman is without identity. The concept or thought ‘I am’ is not there in the Parabrahman. Everyone assumes a certain image of themselves, believing I am so and so. The image is merely an intellectual concept about oneself. When this is seen for what it is, and understood to be the source of one’s actions, one becomes free of it by seeing it as false. But why the Shakti produces the illusion in front of our consciousness knowing we will identify with it.... is an interesting question. I do not know the answer, but I offer an hypothesis that it is connected with the separation of the Atman from Brahman. It is perhaps an attempt to remove ignorance associated with the atman? Atman has separated from Brahman and as a result the entire illusory manifestation, prakriti, comes into being with the object of helping the atman to return to the Self. In man the atman is the pure consciousness that is looking out. In ignorance atman identifies with something in prakriti, something illusory, a nature, a person, and the identified atman is now known as the jiva. Atman's identification with what it is not.... is ignorance. The jivaatman having become enmeshed in prakriti is played with mercilessly until it disengages itself from prakriti. By that disengagement it moves, it withdraws back into itself, and finds itself reunited with Brahman....? All that has happened is that the atman had separated from Brahman by looking out, and now that has been reversed, corrected, and the atman now looks within, remembering the self. Why? I am not sure anyone really knows. However the conventional answer in Advaita is that it is simply entertainment, the atman has never been other than Brahman. Brahman is merely putting on a magical illusionary show for the atman for the purpose of entertainment. The problem with the entertainment thesis is that it never asks or aswers the question whether entertainment is an appropriate activity for divine beings or even an absolute? Does the Absolute need entertaining or even find the entertainment of the universe entertaining? The entertainment thesis seems to fail to satisfy the ethical paradigm.
Maya Shakti is the principle means by which the not-self is believed to be the self. Although Brahman is one, it is perceived as multiple, as many individual jivas, due to ignorance. Sankara, in his commentary on the Brahma Sutras, explains the multiplicity of Brahman as being merely names and forms, illusions caused by the power of Maya-Shakti. These names and forms are mythia (things neither real nor unreal) and are adjuncts (things joined or added to something) which limit Brahman. When they are cleared by right knowledge, a state is of truth is reached in which the whole apparent world does not exist.
Brahman is regarded as transcendental unchanging awareness. Shakti is his power that produces change, and appears as mind and matter, to the ordinary human perception. Mind is subtle inner space, whereas matter, as is well known to physics, is essentially waves of energy, therefore Shakti is dynamic supreme energy producing and operating initially in space. Shakti is said to be polar, having two poles, one dynamic, the other static.
It is easiest to understand the concept of the polarity of Shakti by looking at and into one's own mind. Ask oneself a question and follow the question down into the mind searching for the answer, attempting to observe the source of ideas, within oneself. You appear to travel down and down into the mind, which initially seems like inner space, until you reach a great depth, and then with difficulty go beyond that great depth, where suddenly.... one seems to have gone outside of oneself. One has in fact passed through inner space into outer space. Mystics report the universe within to be as large as the universe ouside. What has happened is that one has passed from individual mind into universal mind. They are not separate. They connect in a straight line. The individual mind is simply a terminal of universal mind. In sanskrit and advaita mind is prana, air, subtle air. Beyond air is space, akasha. You watch your question go down into the profundity of mind, and it disappears into the transcendental, it goes beyond the range of your cognition. It passes from air into space. Somewhere in the transcendental, beyond observation, there is the faintest intimation that someone is putting something into your mind. At first you can see nothing, then it is minute. It is a mere point. It is a mere point in space. You look beyond the point to the source and see only silence. The question, the answer, have become so condensed, so intensely compressed, that they become still and silent. But idea has been placed in your mind, and next you see the transcendental point in space expanding, it is a bubble, it is a bubble rising up into mind. The silence has been moved to become the transcendental point in space, and the expanding transcendental point now appears as a bubble of air, a divine idea, still intensely compressed, magnificently dynamic, moving up from universal mind into individual mind. As it moves upwards it changes, in quantum transitions, from the incomprehensible intense to the comprehensible dynamic. From earlier magnificence to the merely marvellous. At that level the quality of the idea is still greater than anything one ordinarily experiences. But as the bubble continues to rise and expand the quality diminishes. In the levels of the mind below the surface at last it become comprehensible to the intellect. Finally it reaches the surface of the mind where the bubble breaks. It breaks open and becomes cast into words, and as it makes this last transformation so the supple and dynamic becomes form, static, fixed and lifeless. This is prana Shakti, mind with two poles, the dynamic idea at one end, and the static word at the other. In the mind Shakti produces the divine Lila, the great play of the universe, dynamic and magnificent at the deepest level, static and fixed at the other...
Brahman is the substratum enabling everything to happen, Shakti is the energy which produces the manifestation.
All the gods are said to have their Shakti. The Shakti is the power of the god.
The "8" mentioned by Shantanand seem to refer to the Matrikas, (meaning literally: The Mothers) who are the individual Shaktis, or goddesses, female consorts of the major Gods. Their names are... Brahma – Sarasvati (also called Brahmani), Visnu – Lakshmi (also called Vaishnavi), Siva – Parvati (also named Maheshvari, Durga, Kali, etc), Indra – Indrani, etc. In some texts they are a group of 8, in South India and in other texts only 7, and sometimes only the 6 main ones are referred to. These goddesses are collectively aspects of the great goddess Devi, who go about fighting demons. Shakti Devi is the divine force which manifests in order to destroy demonic influences and thereby restore balance in both the universe and the individual. Although essentially mythological, there is an intimation that there are definitive and fundamentally differing spiritual types of being, at both the divine and human levels, and it is important to choose harmonious company corresponding to type.
There is a god in every man and a goddess in every woman. One can classify the types of god and goddess into three, six, seven, or eight types, according to doctrine. Considering at the 'three' thesis first... Kali is the goddess of war (also destruction, suffering, misery), Lakshmi the goddess of prosperity (also children, family happiness), and Sarasvati the goddess of knowledge and wisdom (also culture, the arts, creativity). A great teacher once said: what one man creates, another destroys, what can the profit be in that? Siva the destroyer is eternally at war with Brahma the creator, and Visnu the maintainer tries futilely to profit from it all. Whatever Brahma creates can only be temporary. If Brahma chose a Kali as his consort he would find that she secretly tries to destroy both his creations and himself, or at least they would live a life of subtle suffering and misery together. Mate with wild sexually dissolute Kali and Brahma will end not necessarily as one of the skulls in her necklace, as is the usual fate of all her many lovers, but she would pull the strings out of his heart and possess and control him. If Brahma were to choose Lakshmi as his consort he would find that she would be mainly interested in him for the prosperity he could create for herself and her children, or at least his creativity would be dissipated in domestic and family affairs. He may well live a happy life with her but his energies would be diverted into creating family prosperity and then trying to maintain it, and so he would create nothing significant. Brahma has somehow to find Sarasvati among all the women in his life, only she will unite with him in the quest for knowledge and wisdom, encourage his creativity in the arts, together contributing to the high culture of their society. Similarly one can observe and study the various other possible combinations of inner gods, showing how each of the three main types of being finds dissatisfaction and unfulfilment when companioned with the inappropriate Shakti. Extending the thesis to six, seven or eight types is much more difficult.
How can the three types of inner god and goddess be identified? How can the hidden inner Shakti be detected? Dr Francis Rolls of the Study Society (a UK based society which studies advaita and other philosophies) thought they can be distinguished by the shape of their ear lobes, and also by their blood group type. My own observations suggest that.... Brahmas are the benevolent creative rajasic types, Sivas the malevolent destructive tammasic types, and whatever guna predominates in yourself, so you become attracted to other people of the same guna type, and conversely repelled by the opposite type. The Visnu types are the maintainers in society, those who naturally gravitate to the work of keeping all of life going. Brahmas are subtly attracted to cultured Sarasvati's, Sivas to voluptous Kalis, and Visnus to maternal Lakshmis.
Sarasvatis are noble, beautiful, lovers of culture and wisdom, they have light and love in their eyes, their ears are large and plainly shaped, their legs are practical and relatively unattractive. Kalis are ignoble, they are lovers of the dark sciences, they have blackness and malevolence in their eyes, their high cheek bones, flared nostrils and subtle primitive facial features are not genuinely beautiful, their ears are pointed or kinked, but their legs are perfect and very beautiful. Lakshmis are neither noble nor ignoble, often they are quite ordinary and plain looking although sometimes they have a sweet homely appearance, they are lovers of children, family happiness, wealth and good fortune, look deeply into their eyes and you will see utter slyness there, their ears are of medium size and simply formed, their legs are heavy with the calf muscles distinctively pulled down towards mother earth. Although each type can act and pretend to be another type, eventually they will, in a flash, reveal unmistakably their true inner spiritual nature.... benevolence, malevolence, slyness. These are the main characteristics by which each of the three main types of women may be recognized. Choose your company well, because you are, knowingly or unknowingly, choosing to live with a Shakti. For women, choosing the company of the right and appropriate god is equally important, vice versa.
The "16" mentioned by Shantanand may refer to the 16 Matrikas appearing in the Devi Purana, a 6th century manuscript. These Loka-Matrikas are 'mothers of the world' and are believed to live in various places and by nature they are kind to all creatures. Somewhat paradoxically, these Matrikas are created by the principal gods, Brahma, Visnu, Siva etc, but they are also their mothers? How is it possible to create your own mother who is in fact older than yourself? A quite perplexing enigma?
Shantanand mentioned Parvati. Parvati is a Shakti. She is the consort of Siva. Siva, like every god in Hinduism, has his Shakti or energy. Without that Shakti, Siva has no energy and therefore no power. The male aspect of god is consciousness, and the female aspect is energy. The male god, eg Siva, represents the masculine, unchanging aspect of divinity, and the Shakti represents the feminine, changing aspect. Although the Shakti is transcendent, the universe is her manifestation. The Shakti is the power, the ceaseless activity, the ceaseless movement, of the powerless, actionless, ever still Brahman. Although apparently dualistic, jnanis insist there is no duality since they are simply two aspects of the one divinity. Without Shakti nothing can move, even great Siva, when deprived of his Shakti, becomes surprisingly a mere lifeless inert form. That is another clue.... everything is name and form but made to move and become a living being by Shakti. Take Shakti away.... nothing can move, everything becomes static.
Shakti is said to be inseparable from the one who beholds her, ie the masculine principle.
Shakti appears to be an aspect of the Absolute, just as Maya appears to be an aspect of Brahman. Shakti and Maya are neither real nor unreal. They are mithia. They are shadowy. Shadows are neither light nor darkness, but something relating to both. Shadows follow one around.... try to run away from your shadow, try to escape from it, and it swiftly follows you. The female Shakti follows the male consciousness around, she can not live without him. But paradoxically the shadowy Shakti and Maya vanish when Brahman is realized, when Brahman remains perfectly still.
Lila, the play of female energy, has no beginning and no end. Although it is restless, the energy moves through alternating periods of motion and rest, during which order is re-established. The motivating force behind this eternal play that creates the illusionary world of phenomena is the power of desire. This desire is present in the one who is without attributes, the nameless and formless aspect of the divine. It is desire that causes Shakti to manifest.
Down at the village level in India, particularly among the Shaktas, there is a great deal of worship of the Great Mother, called Mahashakti. Mahashakti is the Mother of the universe, the female who conceives, bears, gives birth to, and nourishes the universe. The primary reason for great mother worship is that God, Isvara, is regarded as too remote, too transcendental, too inaccessible, whereas the Mother is regarded as being within human comprehension. Possible this demonstrates how, at the lower level, everything becomes reversed, inverted? The truth is that Brahman is oneself, what can be closer than that, whereas Shakti is a chimaera, shadowy and elusive and seems to be incomprehensible?
Shakti is the great mother goddess, the source of all and everything, the universal principle of energy, power and creativity. The worship of Shakti as this energy is the principle objective of the mysterious, dubious, and highly sexual Tantra Yoga.
In human beings the Cosmic Shakti, known as kundalini, is located in the muladhara chakra which is said to be located at the base of the spine, perhaps at the coccyx. (The sanskrit word 'chakra' means wheel or disc, disc being the better word, and chakras are considered to be whorls of energy, or rotating vortices of subtle matter, connecting the physical body with the subtle body, receiving and transmitting energies between the two). The chakras are located at the major nerve ganglia which branch out of the spinal column in the physical body. The solar plexus is the one with which western minds are most familiar and in Tantra Yoga it is called the manipura chakra. This is quite a significant chakra since it is associated with the control of time. It is a kind of switch, a switch in the subtle body, and as very young children, under the age of three years, we had the power to subtly press upon this switch and stop time. People in life and death events sometimes report the slowing or stopping of time... the manipura chakra is probably involved. The experience shows that time is inside oneself, not outside oneself, as the time known to physics would ordinarily suggest.
In Tantra Yoga the following seven primary chakras are commonly described:
1. Sahasrara: Crown Chakra (pineal gland or third eye)
2. Ajna: Brow or Third Eye Chakra (pituitary gland)
3. Vishuddha: Throat Chakra (throat and neck area)
4. Anāhata: Heart Chakra (heart area)
5. Manipura: Solar Plexus Chakra (navel area)
6. Swadhisthana: Sacral Chakra (ovaries/prostate)
7. Muladhara: Base or Root Chakra (last bone in spinal cord *coccyx*)
Chakras in the head from highest to lowest are: golata, talu/talana/lalana, ajna, talata/lalata, manas, soma, sahasrara (and sri inside it.)
Some chakras clearly are related to physical structures in the nervous system, others reveal nothing there under autopsy. Despite commonly being regarded as fantasies, the chakras nevertheless have 'reality' in the subtle world, and damage to them, or certain foods and other substances entering the body, can affect spiritual experience. Fasting affects the functioning of chakras, especially the manipura chakra. Fasting purifies and deepens consciousness. After three or more days fasting one can become slightly detached from events, from people, from the world. What is happening is that you have disengaged slightly and sufficiently from other people, the cogs in people no longer turn your own cogs. There is a sense of freedom from the manifestations of other people, yet one continues to be interested in people, studying them deeply, while enjoying the serenity of detachment. However, upon eating anything, breaking the fast, instantly rays eminate out from the manipura chakra, penetrating to every part of the body and head, destroying the quality of detached penetrative consciousness. One becomes ordinary again. Other people's cogs begin again to turn one's own cogs. Prakriti controls one again. The explanation is.... when Kundalini Shakti sleeps, man is awake to the world. He then has objective consciousness. When She awakes, he sleeps. The Shakti, being energy, cannot function normally when a relative food deprivation condition exists in the body. As soon as eating recommenses, the Shakti awakes and sends out her subtle rays to every part of the body, destroying the possibility of objective consciousness and replacing it with ordinary subjective consciousness in which everything becomes mundane and unseeing. The chakras are therefore associated with changes in states and qualities of consciousness. The experience demonstrates the importance of disengaging from prakriti, and escaping from the power of the Shakti over oneself. The control of quantity and quality of food affects the right functioning of chakras.
Some yogis, especially those interested in obtaining power, the siddhis, attempt to awaken the muladhara chakra and experience the powerful energy residing there (Significantly, some jnanis say that such a desire to obtain power is a serious mistake because power does not lead to self-realization, only knowledge can). The Tantra yogis claim that the awakening of kundalini is the beginning of enlightenment. In ordinary life only the female can awaken this chakra, for her it may occur during sexual activity, especially at orgasm, whereas the male can only awaken it by means of yoga. It is said that some neurologists claim this is due to a unique connectiion between the frontal cortex and the cerebellum in women, which is not found in men, resulting in "floating sensations, loss of bodily awareness, and a sense of unity with the cosmos, and other states of altered consciousness" occasionally experienced during female orgasm.
The Tantrics, having awakened the muladhara chakra, work for the ascension of the Shakti up the subtle channel of the spinal cord (called Sushumna) to the sahasrara chakra, which is located at the crown of the head. At the apex the Shakti unites in bliss with the supreme being, usually Siva. Thereby they believe they evolve. The word kundalini means 'coiled'. Some say it is a serpent coiled at the base of the spine, others say it is a goddess, or the Shakti. When kundalini Shakti uncoils herself, space, air, fire, water and earth appear in succession. These are the first five levels of an octave of levels. The remaining three higher levels are beyond ordinary human conception.
In the Samkhya system of philosophy, Maya is identified with prakriti, primordial matter or Nature, which is simply the equilibrium-disequilibium of the three gunas which is responsible for the phenomenon of the universe. The sanskrit word Maya is derived from the root 'ma' which means 'to measure', and 'miyate' which means 'by which measured'. The Hindu pandits elaborate the word Maya to mean 'the illusive projection of the world by which the immesurable Brahman appears as measured'. The Shakti is the will or power whereby Brahman accomplishes this.
Maya Shakti is in the causal world.
Aham and buddhi are in the subtle world.
Shakti is said to be the power and energy that conceives, bears, gives birth to, and nourishes the universe. Shakti similarly conceives, bears, gives birth to, and nourishes the 'you' and 'I' (NB. only the you and I which we are not). You are actually conceived in space, in subtle space. Your cosmic mother, a shadowy Shakti, is in space. She is behind you and presently does not wish you to see her, although certainly you hear the soundless sound of her voice. It is the voice, the sound, of a male, but if you could turn around and see her you may realize that she is female. You are the observing consciousness that cannot move. The jiva with which you have identified is also there, as is chitta (memory-understanding) which has also accompanied you in transmigratory existence. You hear her soundless voice because you hear her mind. You and she are in universal mind, space, and her mind is the same as your mind. She presents two forms of yourself, the perfect unmanifest form of yourself, and the imperfect form which is not yourself but is a form which moves. She subtly invites you to manifest the perfect form and take the imperfect form along the entire length of the way. But it has all happened before. Time past, present and future are all together in space. Therefore it is certain that you will manifest the perfect form of yourself because it has already been. The future has already been. Manifestation needs time and space. Space and time are both illusions. Accepting the form as identity is Maya.
It is very difficult for the western mind to contemplate, understand, or accept that the concept of oneself is illusory, and other people do not exist, and more, the whole universe is not real. There is a simple experiment that may give sufficient experience....
One great Jnani, said: This 'I am', this 'I amness' is the primary illusion, and the source of the illusion is Shakti Maya. The moment you observe 'I am' begin to manifest you see it is 'the love to be', the state of love of self. We love being, we love our being. It is due to desires contained in the subtle body. The knowledge of 'I am' is the greatest foe, and the greatest friend. Propitiate it properly and it will turn around and lead you to the highest state.
The experiment the jnani is referring to is the attempt to go as high as one possibly can inside one's head. Go up into the higher intellect. Then turn around. Turn completely around so that one is looking at what is behind one. What you see will surprise you. You will see the buddhi, the spiritual body, smiling at you. You may see that you, your nature, the natural body, the jiva, is nothing more than a projection of the buddhi, just like an actor projecting his part in a play. Then you may see very clearly that you do not exist. Further stages of discovery may lead you to the realization that the world is merely a projection of light upon the screen of the mind. Then you know that the whole universe is illusory.
In the theatre Shakti is the casting director. The universe is a theatre, the world is a drama that is being performed all around one. Shakti, the casting director, arranges your part, and casts you into a part within the drama. You were there when this part was offered and accepted by yourself, but if you forget, if you cannot remember this event, then it is almost certain that you have become completely identified with the part, believing it to be yourself. It is as if Hamlet believes that he is a real person, and no longer has any intimation that he is merely a part in a play.
In sleep Shakti is the creator of dreams. She is the creator of all the people in your dreams. Look carefully at the people in your dreams, closely examine the 'you' who appears in dreams, closely examine your beloved who appears in dreams, closely examine perhaps your children, parents and special friends who appear in your dream.... it is all pure suggestion, it is being suggested that it is they who are there, but do not so easily accept that suggestion... observe them close up.... study them closely.... then you will see clearly that it is definitely not them, it doesn't even resemble them, it is completely different from them. It is a hoax. They are not in your dreams, someone else is, other people are, who are pretending to be them. From a distance who you see may exactly resemble them, but close up it is nothing like them. And Shakti is responsible. As in your dreams, so exactly the same in life.... the 'you' that your Shakti places in front of you, the 'you' who Shakti suggests is yourself, the 'you' who you are going to be in life, the 'you' who you appear to be in life.... is nothing like you. It is a hoax. And the same with your wife, children, your friends.... it is all a trick!
At your conception Shakti presents you with the perfect form of yourself. Oh... how you long to be that self, so magnificent, such intelligence, such perfect quality of being, such beauty, such serene consciousness! You have been in search of yourself for a long long time. Chitta immediately sees that it is an unmanifest form. It is the Mahat, the perfect unmanifest form of yourself. It is the holy form of yourself. It is what you have always wanted to be. The Shakti knows what you want, she intimately knows your desires because you are in her mind. It is a hoax, but it is a very difficult one to reject. You do reject it, because you realize that manifesting the unmanifest is so intensely difficult that there is very little chance. The Shakti also knows there is very little chance.
Shakti tries another ploy. This time she presents you with the imperfect form of yourself. At first she presents the form some distance away, so that you see it only in general and not in detail. Remember... this is your conception.... at your conception the same principle applies as in a dream... from a distance you think the self presented is yourself, but then when it approaches, close up you immediately see that it is nothing like yourself. It is merely a clever imitation. The chitta immediately sees and understands the deception. At that moment, at the event of your conception, chitta is your greatest friend. Without chitta you would have no chance of perceiving and understanding the deception. Because the same principle applies in both dream and conception... perhaps it can be reasoned that your conception and life is also a dream? And perhaps your reasoning is also a dream? In advaita everything is the opposite to what it really is. In life you believe you are awake, but in fact you are asleep. In life if you think you are alive, you are not, you are not alive. You are not in life. Life is merely the magical touch of air, the magical touch of Ahamkara. Ahamkara is Shakti's emissary traversing from the causal world into the subtle world, and the Ahamkara is invested with Shakti's power. The power to bestow life on things that are not alive, the power to turn forms into apparently living beings, this is the illusion creating power of Shakti. Your being is a complete hoax. You have no being. You have no need of being. You are beyong being and non-being. If you think you are awake, you are not, you are alseep and dreaming. If you think you appear in your dreams you do not, someone else pretending to be yourself is making the appearance. If you think you have a form, you do not. You have no form.
You are not the perfect form of yourself. You are not Mahat. The holy form of yourself is presented to you, and you, identified with the jiva, identified with a desire body, want to be it. You want to be perfect. You want to be magnificent. It is an illusion created by the Shakti. We crave to be something, and feel terrified of being nothing. One has to have the courage to be as nothing, and to see the world as it is... nothing. All the forms of yourself, all the forms of the world are created directly or indirectly by Maya Shakti. You have merely accepted the invitation to get into one particular form. When you accept the invitation to enter a form... that is your conception. Then all the trouble begins.
The names are soundless sound associated with space. Isvara is the personal form of God. Forms are associated with fire, light, and consciousness. Light and consciousness are at the level of fire. Isvara's consciousness is light. Isvara is Brahman plus the three gunas, and it is the sattva guna assocuiated with Isvara which produces consciousness, sattva produces light. Floating in the light are the forms. Space is mind, it relects Isvara's light. Isvara's consciousness creates the forms, the appearance of the world. Maya, in the causal world, makes everything appear to come to life. Isvara, personal God, is part of the illusion. Isvara is in the vyavaharika and is merely a phenomenal appearance that is not genuine. Isvara is part of the superimposition upon Brahman.
Outer space is the universe of physics, inner space is the individual mind. Deep down in inner space the questioner reaches the very large inner-outer space which is universal mind. Individual mind is merely a terminal of universal mind. The outer space of physics is really in the mind. Mind is universal, but we believe it is restricted to the limits of the body, trying to claim some of it as our own. There is no individual mind. The flow through the mind is due to a Shakti, Prana Shakti. Only four processes present themselves in mind.... thought, reason, memory, and selfhood. All are the flow of Prana Shakti, none are your own, although in ordinary life they are all commonly believed to be 'my' thoughts, 'myself' in action. The Prana Shakti, the life force, and the mind are operating, but something in the mind will tempt you to believe that ‘you’ are the one who is thinking, reasoning, remembering and 'being yourself'. Do not believe the suggestion. Why? because you are the timeless, spaceless observer, not anything in the mind. The jnanis say that one should always keep one's identity separate from that which is doing the thinking, talking, and acting. It is merely an apparatus that is functioning, but the self is not an apparatus. This is a very difficult Shakti to step back from. If one does manage to disengage then one realizes that the self can never be a mental concept. Everything in mind, everything in inner space, is manipulated by Maya Shakti.
Space and time are in you, and not you in space and time.
A fundamental principle of advaita is that everything is the opposite to what it appears. Therefore we make a mistake. We take the inner for the outer, and the outer for the inner. What is actually in you, you take to be outside you, and what is outside, you take to be in you. The mind and the feelings are external, but we take them to be intimate, to be our own, of our own self. We believe the world to be objective, while it is entirely a projection of the psychological apparatus.
Ahamkara, the I-am-maker, is in air, in subtle air, the touch of Ahamkara awakens the latent I-am in buddhi. The forms are in consciousness, in the light, in subtle fire. Buddhi is an unmanifest form floating in the light of Isvara's consciousness. The self is not Isvara's light or consciousness.
Classification can sometimes be useful, although in those who do it habitually it can become tedious and deadening. Genuine classification is this... we have two witnesses, a lower witness called shaksin, and a higher witness called purusha. The witnesses can be compared with the audience that sits in a theatre, shaksin is located down in the stalls, and purusha high in the upper circle, familiarly called 'the gods'. Shaksin is the first of the real, purusha the other and second of the real. Everything else is illusion, due to the influence of Maya-Shakti. Shaksin sees the progression, sees the law of octaves, sees the passage from one level to the next, up and down, one large step to the next, all in conformity to the law of the circle of nine points as taught at Jyotir Math. Shaksin sees earth-water-fire-air-space, sees almost everything in the subtle world, sees the beginning of the illusion of it all, sees the effects eminating from two magicians, one light and one shadowy, although the magicians themselves are hidden in the causal world. Shakshin sees the subtle world but cannot penetrate into the causal world. Purusha sees the causes of action and interaction, sees the law of three, sees the gunas, sees their differing qualities and their endless conflict, and sees prakriti for what it is. Proper enumeration is to see everything as pure mathematics, everything conforming to either the law of three or the law of eight (octaves). Then, classifying everything as either the law of octaves or the law of three, the witnesses shows you where you are, and where everything else is in relation to each other, and where you must go next. Shaksin shows you the door, through which you can go through and be free from one major illusion. Shaksin also shows you how your consciousness, your atman, identifies with everything it sees. And shaksin shows you that the illusion that the atman, in its ignorance, identifies with is the creation of a combination of Isvara's light (sattva) and the power of Maya Shakti. That classification frees one from another set of illusions. Another result of classification is that reason enters and deduces from the witnessing of purusha that the whole show is useless.... have nothing to do with it. Have nothing to do with it because it is nothing to do with you. Detatch oneself from it, because you are already detached from it. The final thing to be said about the two witnesses is that they are both located in duality. They see things separately from themselves. The self is not either of the witnesses, the Self is not a witness, it is the awareness that is aware of everything as one, not two.
The Self does not have any light. The self has no characteristics, either inner characteristics or outer characteristics. The light is an emination of Isvara. Isvara is Brahman plus the gunas. Isvara is something still operating in the duality, the duality of yourself and The Lord God. In Isvara's light are the forms with which your consciousness identifies. It is Isvara's light that reflects in the screen of the mind to create the illusion of the world. It is the power of the Shakti, Maya, who brings the forms to life, making them seem amazingly real. If it were just and only Isvara's light being reflected in the mind the world would be merely a world of sculptures. With the Shakti's influence the sculptures, the forms, begin to move, walk about, talk, gesticulate, and do all the other things that living beings do. Without the Shakti you wouldn't be fooled by the illusion. The Shakti is not light, she is shadowy. What mirrors it, what mirrors it all is the mind. Mind is space, inner space. The reflection of light upon the inner space of mind creates the illusion of outer space, and the universe. It is all in the mind. Outer space and everything else is all in inner space, the universe is a reflection in inner space, a reflection in mind.
It is important not to get stuck in space, even in inner space. One has to go beyond space, to the source of all. If possible, by grace, to the ultimate, to your self, to beyond yourself, to beyond self. If you find yourself stuck in space, stuck in the mind of the Shakti, remember it is not you, not the genuine you that is in space, stuck in space. The genuine self is not in space or time. If you get stuck in space you will be born, in time, again. The Shakti keeps you waiting for a long time in space, until it becomes unbearable for you. It is called the waiting room. You cannot move, you cannot evolve, you cannot stand being yourself and you cannot change. You want to move. The Shakti will arrange another form, another life, another set of delusions, for you. A conception is arranged. The form is in fire, in light, so you leave space and pass through the air and arrive in fire, in the light. As a very young child you live in the light, merging in and out of the light. Then you separate, traverse into your individual separate form and then all the trouble starts. You feed on the light, but life and its dubious bent people, through ignorance,interferes and prevents you evolving. They frustrate your natural desire. Then passing through water, you identify with your young limited nature and later, as you age, you reach the earth, identifying with your physical body. Then, greatly suffering, if you are fortunate, you begin the journey back, but this occasion attempt to go beyond earth, water, fire, air and...... even beyond space. If you get stuck in space again.... it will all recur. As long as you are in space you are still in the mind. As long as you remain in the mind your Shakti will arrange for you to wander again in the labyrinth, lost in another series of circles of time.
I do not know if the Shakti is an emanation. I know that emanations come from her. Ahamkara comes from her. Ahamkara is the I am maker. It is a mechanism that makes you believe that you have an I, and are a being. 'I am' is a combination of I and being, ego and existence, which results in the feeling of I amness. The self is beyond being and non-being. Being is an illusion. Being is merely the touch of air, the touch of an emmissary of the Shakti upon your latent spirit. Being is pseudo. Non-being is pseudo. One becomes the other merely by the touch of the transmitted power of the Shakti. The self has no sense of I. I means I am different from everything else. I separates self from world. The self and the world are not separate. If you are not separate from anything how can you have an I sense, a concept of I, a concept of myself? Therefore it is wise to beware all emanations, divine or otherwise.
I have reached the limits of my understanding of Shakti, and can take you no further. There will certainly be others who know more, but there is considerable doubt whether they would be willing to tell you anything. The incarnations of Visnu have the unchangeable aim of slyly manipulating you to discover everything for yourself. The incarnations of Siva will malevolently deceive you, by changing the teaching in subtle ways so that all your endeavours will come to nothing, except your own self destruction. Only the incarnations of Brahma will benevolently share their discoveries with you, but even Brahma has his limitations.... he does not know everything. You will probably have several unresolved questions concerning the nature of Shakti and to resolve those questions you will probably have to make your own studies of Maya, Knowledge, Consciousness, Awareness, Brahman, and even the Parabrahman. You will only discover more about your own Shakti by making an attempt to escape the illusion she has created all around you.... You can escape your mother Shakti, flee her comfortable nurturing home, decline all her suggestions and desires, see through the chimera of her future good intentions for you, forsake her embalming maternal love and influence, you do not have to manifest the perfect unmanifest form of yourself that she presents before you because the future already has been, the Mahat has already been perfectly manifested before-future-now.... but you cannot escape your companion Shakti. You appear to be co-eternally married to her. Only when you awake will she subside in sleep. Atman has separated from Brahman. Atman is that pure awsome consciousness which is looking out. When Atman finally turns completely around and looks within.... then the separtion may end. Only then Shakti can subside into sleep... her magical purpose having been fulfilled.
Whatever appears must sooner or later dissapear, whatever comes and goes is merely a projection of consciousness. Everything is the play, everything is the drama of consciousness. Consciousness cannot be separated from the world and the universe because it is the same. The light of consciousness reflected in the mind becomes the universe, so how can consciousness be separated from the world? The universe is merely light dancing in the brain, consciousness reflecting upon the screen of the mind. Consciousness and the universe are the same. This is Maya. This Maya has come out of the Self, and all that can be known is that I know that I am not the Maya. I am the awareness of this Maya, I am the awareness of a drama, I am the awareness of this play created by my co-eternal companion Shakti.
The discerning jnani clearly states that Maya Shakti has originated from himself, as a projection rather than an emanation, and it consists of the consciousness that is inseparable from the world. Although the shakti has come from himself, he is not it but rather is the awareness of it, and he is aware that shakti Maya is a drama. He says further that Maya Shakti is the original illusion which cannot be stoped or removed since it has no colour or form and being nothing at all cannot be conceived... it continues indefinitely. The discerning jnani says that Maya Shakti does not operate independently of yourself, because you and it are partners. In fact you cannot divorce yourself from your companion Shakti. Maya is connected with your ego, with your belief in being someone and, because you are very reluctant to get rid of your sense of self, Maya deceives you. The 'I am' or being is the illusion, and if you can transced that then the Absolute prevails.
To understand Maya Shakti it is necessary to understand the difference between consciousness, awareness, and transcendenal awareness. Atman is the consciousness, and this consciousness makes perception of the universe possible. Brahman is that awareness which is aware of the consciousness. The Parabrahman is that which is awareness itself and is beyond Brahman. Brahman is transcendental but can be described. Brahman can be described as that great mass of Transcendental Being from which everything may arise towards the surface and appear in the form of personal consciousness. And Brahman is also that into which everything finally dissapears without trace. Brahman is impersonal awareness. The Parabrahman is however transcendental and cannot be described. The Maya Shakti is coeval with the Brahman, and when Brahman sleeps Shakti awares, when Shakti sleeps Brahman awakes, but the Parabrahman never sleeps. The universe is Brahman dreaming. The creator of Brahman's dreams is his shakti. Atman has separated from the Brahman and Maya produces the five elements of space (mind), air (prana, life ), fire (light and the forms), water (nature), earth (the physical manifestation). She then enters the five elements herself, and begins to weave the dream of the universe. That is the dream... the Atman separating from Brahman, becoming identified with the dream creation, disengaging from the dream, and returning to Brahman. It appears to be a very long dream.
All you can be done is to attempt to understand all this, not theoretically but actually. It is the Cit which sees and instantly understands all this. The Cit sees and understands that you are the awareness that observes consciousness, and that Maya, by means of her emissary Ahamkara, is playing with your pure consciousness, the Atman.... causing consciousness to identify with an illusory self which it is not. Cit is related to the subtle organ chitta and understanding is in the organ chitta. Ahamkara and Maya cannot deceive what is located in the chitta. Ahamkara and thus Maya only touch the buddhi, they cannot touch and affect the chitta. Although you cannot get rid of Maya Shakti, her servant Ahamkara cannot touch you when you really understand. Ignorance is in the Atman, and knowledge drives away ignorance. In the washing away of the ignorance the knowledge will also disappear, only you remain. Knowledge and ignorance both disappear into vijnana. Understanding is that there is no knowledge, that it is all ignorance. There is no knowledge whatsoever. When you understand yourself, both knowledge and ignorance disappear. You only require knowledge so long as the ignorance is there. You can never have knowledge about your Self because Parabrahman cannot be witnessed. You know what you are not.....what you are you cannot know. In the Parabrahman there is not even a trace of the knowledge “I Am”. The Absolute does not know itself.
"One who is Parabrahman does not know whether he is or is not. In the Parabrahman there is no awareness of existence, there is awareness of awareness only. As soon as awareness of existence comes, there is a duality and manifestation comes". Maya Shakti, your companion, unfolds herself as the manifestation, and she herself enters into it at all five known levels, (subtle space, air, fire, water and earth) as well as entering the three unknown levels beyond the range of human consciousness and comprehension. Upon entering the five known levels, Shakti then becomes your mother arranging your conception into it. She wants you to accept the offer of the incarnation, you hear her mind as a sound in shared space.... so that is where the desire resides, in your shakti. She hears your request to find yourself, to move. The universe is infinite response to request. It is you who requested the universe and it is Shakti who responds to your request. You may not realize that you requested the universe, and you may have thought that you were only requesting to find yourself. You believed you were searching for yourself. Because self and world are not separate, you were actually requesting the same thing. In your search for yourself you are presented with the world, because they are not separate. Conception occurs in space, and inner space is the mind.
"You will not escape the Maya of your Shakti until you realize that all is in your mind, and that you are beyond the mind, that you are truly alone, then all is you. You are beyond the mind. The mind cannot go beyond itself by itself. It must explode. The explosive power comes from that which is beyond the mind, from the paramarthika". Nisargadatta says you are well advised to have your mind ready for it.
The original question was: What is the nature of Shakti? One answer is: the Shakti has no nature. She is the creator of all nature. She who has no nature creates, through a series of intermediaries, your own nature with which you are identified. Because Shakti uses her magical power to create the illusion of nature, your own nature does not really exist. Therefore your consciousness is identified with something that does not exist.
Possibly to be continued....