Shakti As Maya


devi_bhakta
This post builds on the foundation laid in the three "Back to Basics" posts if left here yesterday; if you've not read them and aren't familiar with the basic concepts of Tantric Shaktism, it would definitely help to review those earlier posts before trying to make sense out of this one!

Briefly, we begin with the understanding that everything in the Universe is the One Shiva-Shakti -- God-Goddess, if you will. Shiva -- the male principle, the right-hand side of the Ardhanarishvara -- represents Pure Consciousness, all-pervasive but inactive. Shakti -- the female principle, the Great Mother, the left-hand side of the Ardhanarishvara -- is the active aspect of God, taking the form of all manifest creation. Devi Bhaktas (devotees of Devi, another name for Shakti/Mother/Goddess/etc.) focus worship and devotion on Devi, rather than Shiva or Vishnu, the two other principle devotional strands of Hinduism. Devi bhaktas are therefore followers of Shakti Sadhnaa, or Shaktism. Today, I will attempt to define "Maya" in the context of Shaktism.

In the Macrocosm, the Universe, Pure Consciousness (Shiva) is infinite and formless. Life, Mind and Matter (manifestations of Shakti) are finite and have form. In the Microcosm, the human body, the soul (atma) is unchanging and inactive. Its animating principle, Kundalini Shakti, is active and changes in the form of both Mind and Matter.

Creation is the act of Mother apparently differentiating Herself from Shiva and manifesting as the Universe. As for the question of "Why" creation takes place, I'll attempt to address that in the next installment, "Shakti as Prakriti" -- or better yet, perhaps other members will share their wisdom and experience on this question! When we everyone contributes, the energy here becomes greater than the sum of its parts!

Suffice it to say for now that Creation occurs due to a cosmic imbalance between the three qualities (Gunas) by which Mother gives expression to Nature or Prakriti -- which is the creative power and "finitizing" principle, synonymous with "Maya". As stated more poetically in the "Kulacudamani" (Ch. I), with this imbalance of Gunas, "Devi becomes desirous of creation, and covers Herself with her own Maya."

The Ten Mahavidyas (Wisdom Goddesses) offer one excellent means of symbolically explaining this process. Sir John Woodroffe, in "The Serpent Power," elaborates: "Maya is in fact constituted by the Samskara [mental impressions] and Vaasanaa [tendencies] produced by Karma accomplished in previously existing worlds. They were produced by desire for worldly enjoyment, and they themselves produce such desire. The worlds exist because they, in their totality, will to exist. Each individual exists because [his or her] will desires worldly life."

So Maya (from the Sanskrit verb root "ma," to measure, to limit, to give form) is our sense of difference -- that power which makes us see the Universe, and all things and persons in the Universe, as different from ourselves, when in essence we and they are the One Shiva-Shakti. To again quote Woodroffe, "Shakti veils consciousness by negating in various degrees Herself as Consciousness."

Shaktas worship Mother and appeal to her to be their guide back to Universal Consciousness. For Devi is not only the One who veils. She is also the one who liberates. Woodroffe explains that the worship of Devi is "Philosophically sound, for all that [human beings] know -- outside the ecstasy of Samadhi -- is the Mother in Her form as the world. The Supreme Shakti, who is not different from Shiva, is embodied in every order of thing."

This is probably a good place to point out an important theological distinction between Shaktism and some other schools of Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) that interpret the term "Maya" as meaning "illusion." For example, in Shankara's Vedantic interpretation, maya is taken as pure illusion or unreality. For Shaktas and Saivites (and most other nondualists), it is understood not as illusion but as relative reality, in contrast to the unchanging Absolute Reality. Everything around us in our finite world is real -- it simply isn't the complete picture.

As stated by particle physicist Fritjof Capra in "The Tao of Physics", "Maya does not mean that the world is an illusion, as is often wrongly stated. The illusion merely lies in our point of view, if we think that the shapes and structures, things and events, around us are realities of nature, instead of realizing that they are concepts of our measuring and categorizing minds. Maya is the illusion of taking these concepts for reality, of confusing the map with the territory."

Shakti in the form of Mind performs the positive task of allowing humans to function in the finite Universe in which our physical bodies exist. The downside of this phenomenon, however, is that we then become entwined in this finite Universe, losing sight of the Ultimate Reality due to our entrancement by Veiled Reality and its attractions and distractions. Shakti Sadhana is a Path toward reunion with the Ultimate Reality, a method by which we can exchange this limited, worldly experience for Unlimited, Whole and Perfect Bliss.

dkSesh
Question about creation. why at all?

All that we have is a process. This explains how and what? perhaps where and also when? But all these, how , what where and when are relative to a starting point and this starting point is relative to time.

Time is truthfully not definable for it is not really comprehensible by the mind about the begining and the end of time for there cannot be any such thing. For a begin and end supposes there was something before and after that and this again falls back on the dependency of time.

One reason why God is also called Time.

Despite all these, why at all? why all these things at all?

devi_bhakta
Hi Seshadri:

About the fact of Creation, you ask: "why at all?" That's as big as questions get, isn't it? I guess I'd begin the discussion at least by saying it is in the nature of things. The saying goes, "Nothing is permanent but change."

That is reflected in the Tantric concept of Shiva-Shakti (or Shakti-Shiva, as you prefer!) ... Shiva, the static ground of Shakti's Energy represents the eternal urge toward inertia; Shakti is the eternal urge toward activity.

The balance, or stasis, between these urges is both the starting point and the ending point of Creation. The Unity of Shiva-Shakti is stasis; the three gunas are in balance . However, it cannot remain so --it is not in the nature of things. The essence of existence is in movement, change -- and so eventually, after seconds or eons we cannot know, the gunas begin to fall out of balance again, and creation rains down.Or -- to put it "scientifically," another Big Bang happens -- energy becames matter, matter expands and differentiates, life emerges and evolves, matter contracts, matter becomes energy and once again stasis is achieved.

The answer to the "Why?" of Creation is Desire. Shakti's Desire. She is the Ultimate Material Girl: When She has Unity, Her desire builds for the opposite -- to go off and do Her own thing. When She finally gets her independence, all She desires is Unity again. It is this dynamic flux and tension that -- quite literally -- makes the world go 'round.

dkSesh
That's as big as questions get, isn't it? I guess I'd begin the discussion at least by saying it is in the nature of things. The saying goes, "Nothing is permanent but change."

I would say that this looks so because we tend to perceive things as seen my the mind and its intrepretation. So the mind can't usually live without a state and its attributes. To say nothing is permanent would mean that attributes and methods that act on the attributes also change. My question is why even these? Hence the question - why at all? really encompasing all and including - at all? why the leela at all? Couldn't it have been possible without it? If shiva is a version without it and shakthi is a version of with it, then why the + & - at all? Because + & - are attributes themselves. So what will it look like to transcendthem, to see why at all?

May be why Upanishads say that one who says he knows does not and one who says he may not know and experiences it knows. Its a question which if asked for every answer until there is a situation where we can't ask it?

I was looking to see if the Tantra and the Shakthi saadhakas have an answer to it. Any help appreciated.

"That is reflected in the Tantric concept of Shiva-Shakti (or Shakti-Shiva, as you prefer!) ... Shiva, the static ground of Shakti's Energy represents the eternal urge toward inertia; Shakti is the eternal urge toward activity."

The balance, or stasis, between these urges is both the starting point and the ending point of Creation. The Unity of Shiva-Shakti is stasis; the three gunas are in balance .However, it cannot remain so -- it is not in the nature of things. The essence of existence is in movement, change -- and so eventually, after seconds or eons we cannot know, the gunas begin to fall out of balance again, and creation rains down.

"Or -- to put it "scientifically," another Big Bang happens -- energy becames matter, matter expands and differentiates, life emerges and evolves, matter contracts, matter becomes energy and once again stasis is achieved"

This is the process. The How, where, when and what kind of stuffs. The answer to the "Why?" of Creation is Desire. Shakti's Desire. She is the Ultimate Material Girl: When She has Unity, Her desire builds for the opposite -- to go off and do Her own thing. When She finally gets her independence, all She desires is Unity again. It is this dynamic flux and tension that -- quite literally -- makes the world go 'round.

The union form of shiva shakthi or ardhanaarishwara is the complete state.Apparently that is what the nirvikalpa samaadhi is all about. The complete consciousness as opposed to the sadguna or the nirguna which are the attributes again.

But I have not been able to recognise an answer to my question - why at all in shakthi worship. Advaitha has an answer which has a fantastic resonance in shakthi worship. But in shakthi worship, is there any transending beyond the shiva-shakthi status, a more true intrepretation of the ardhanareeshwara as a single entity rather than a joining of two entities?

Any help appreciated.

devi_bhakta
Hi Seshadri ...

Thanks for your observations. I don't know that I can go any further in my interpretation -- although I'd be very interested to see where others might go with the fascinating question of "Why?"

Perhaps you're right -- because we live in the manifest universe, it's hard for our minds to stretch beyond it. In the same way I have trouble envisioning a non-carbon-based life form, I have trouble picturing a universe without opposites.

If Shiva is Eternal Non-Change, and Shakti is Eternal Change, that creates a "circuit" in my conception -- a completion and wholeness that makes sense. And it fits with the Shakta idea that, without denying the all-pervasiveness of Shiva, we focus our worship on Shakti, because She is all we can ever really know so long as we are embodied in thisuniverse -- that's why I called Her the "Material Girl"

You ask about whether we can consider "Ardhanareeshwara as a single entity rather than a joining of two entities?" I think they are a single entity, as are we all. To call them "a joining of two entities" is like saying that a negative and a positive electric current are two "seperate entities," which, when joined, create a "single entity"; the circuit. That's inaccurate, because we are dealing with not matter alone, but phenomena. Shiva and Shakti are not merely two "entities," although the can legitimately be perceived that way.

They are more than that -- they are two complementary phenomena. Their differing aspects (comparable, for simplicity's sake, to the positive vs. negative current) are what make them "different" from one another, but they are also the very nature of what makes them a single whole.

Why this leela, this play? Because "play" is not a wholly accurate term for it -- if the microcosm truly relects the Macrocosm -- then we can safely assume that we are dealing with the elemental push and pull flux that creates the dynamic existence of all that is.

I know -- it's a circular answer, not a concrete one, to your question. But in my understanding it must be so, because the answer is a circle!



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