Śakti

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Sakti, Zakti, shakti


Śakti literally means ‘Divine Power as Goddess’.

The universe that we see and experience is a bundle of energy, both packed and unpacked. This is the discovery of modern science, which incidentally, has demolished the distinction between the matter and energy. According to it, there is one basic energy behind all the forms of matter and energy. However, it seems to be still far off from discovering the relationship between matter on the one hand and mind and life on the other hand.

The question stand that whether they also, though apparently poles apart, manifest the same basic energy or not and could it have the same energy or matter, at one level of vibration, is called ‘matter’, at another, ‘mind’ and yet another, ‘life’? Modern science or the modern scientists, devoting most of their attention to the manifest material universe may not even be prepared to concede this possibility. Religious philosophy, based on the Vedānta and a group of works based on the Vedānta and more commonly known as the Tantras[1] postulates exactly this.

The source and sustenance of all the creation, whether at the level of matter or life or mind, is only one. It is Śakti.[2] Brahman[3] of the Vedānta and Śakti or Devī of the Tantras are identical. When that ‘energy’ is in a static condition, with neither evolution nor involution, when the universe to be created is not even in a seed-form as it were, it is called Braliman. When it starts evolving into this creation, sustains it and withdraws it back into itself, it is called Śakti. If Brahman is the coiled serpent in sleep, Śakti is the same serpent in motion. If Brahman is likened to the word, Śakti is its meaning. If Brahman is like fire, Śakti is its burning power. The two are inseparable:

  1. One in two
  2. Two in one

In the religious mythological literature, and also in the Tantras, this energy is always pictured as a female deity, the Devī, as the consort of its counterpart male deity. Each member of the Trinity has his Śakti or Devī as his consort:

  1. Sarasvatī of Brahmā
  2. Lakṣmī of Viṣṇu
  3. Pārvatī of Śiva

However, the mother-sect that has evolved over the last few centuries is predominantly centered round Pārvatī, the consort of Śiva. Mother-worship and mother-sect are not alien to the Vedic religion. The concept of Aditi, the mother of gods, personification of nature, the Ambhrnīsūkta and also the Rātrisūkta of the Ṛgveda clearly contains the origins of mother-worship.


References

  1. Tantras are a vast body of the religious literature devoted to expounding the cult of the Divine Mother.
  2. Śakti means energy.
  3. Brahman means the Absolute.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore