Śhakti and Me - The Winning Entry of Shaktitva Essay Competition

Śhiva Śhaktyā Yukto Yadi Bhavati Shakta Prabhavitum
- Śhrī Ādi Śhankarā

Nestled between the icy cold walls and peering through fogged eye-wear, a group of scientists test a sample of mitochondrial DNA present in the zygote within an IVF canister. These Berkeley biochemists discover that when it comes to biology, men really have a very unequal, and rightly so, playing field. Soon research papers flood the journals of the year 1987 and propels further studies each one testifying and reinforcing the ancient esoteric practices of Bhāratam. The female generously gives her XX chromosome and the male his XY chromosome for the formation of the zygote, which later blossoms into the offspring. However, it is only the female’s XX chromosome, present in the Egg, which can pass on a unique chemical - ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) - from the mitochondrial DNA into the zygote. The mitochondrial DNA which is present in the sperm gets eaten up by the egg for the purpose of fusion. The bottom-line, males cannot give ATP to the zygote. A simple, grade 9 biology class will teach us ATP is nothing but the energy currency of the cell. Hence, from the very first instance, the energy to the offspring is given only by the mother. 

Śhakti and Śiva

Śhakti and Śiva

In Sāmkhya, an Indian philosophical school that informs much of Yoga and Vedānta, and therefore everything that can be called Sanatana Dharma today, Purusha, the male principle, is inactive. It is Prakṛti, the female principle, that is dynamic. The Purusha acts only in conjunction with Prakṛti, through Prakṛti, because by himself, Purusha can do nothing. Without Śhakti, Śiva is incapable. It is with this scientific result Śhrī Ādi Śhankaracharya casually, and with unparalleled devotion, lets flow the waves of beauty of the divine Śhakti, in his Saundarya Laharī, two thousand five hundred years ago. When Śhrishtī itself validates this down to the cellular level, what can be said then about this Jagat (world), where every element and tatva reverberates with this truth? The Śhruti declares that this Jagat is nothing but the work of Māya and also attains layam (dissolution) in Māya. The very reason this Jagat, which is Mithyā (illusion), emerged is due to the Prakāsha (light) aspect of the Nirghuna Brahman (sans-qualia ultimate consciousness) attaining Vimarsha and flowering as Jagat. Essentially, the ancient Śhākta texts, having Vedās as the shabda pramāna (testimonial means of knowledge), openly declare Śhaktir Śhaktimathor Abhedaha (Śhakti and Śhiva are non-distinct). 

I can’t claim to be realized and in the state of Abhedam (non-distinctiveness). I will have to resort to speaking as a Jignāsu and treating this Jagat as real. Therefore, I look into the Manu Smriti, which is the magnifying glass of the Vedas. There the following words beam out radiantly:

Yatra Nāri Pūjyante Tatra Ramante Dev‌atā
(where women are worshipped, there rejoices the divine)

There are so many esoteric evidence of this both in real life and in Upāsana Śhastras. It is only by Gāyathrī Upāsana does one get Adhikāra into Adhyātma Vidyā. Anyone can adopt the path of Śhaivam, Vaiśhnavism, Gānāpathyam, Kaumāram or Śhauram. But verily everyone is a Śhākta, as they do the Upāsana of Gāyathrī. Therefore, Śhāktam is indispensable for anyone. Having thoroughly been moved by the aspect of attaining Adhyātma Vidyā, I’ve been deeply following Śhākta for a few years and doing Upāsana in the same. 

A Shakta Archaka at a Goddess Temple

A Shakta Archaka at a Goddess Temple

The end goal of every Upāsana is to attain the non-distinction between Upāsakā and Upāsyā. The triputi - the seer, the seen and the act of seeing - reaches the singularity and this culminates into non-dual bliss. Being enchanted by Māya, one gets enamored by the illusory jagat and develops a mirage of distinction between oneself and the Ādi Śhakti. The very title of this essay is a testimonial to this entrapment. But then, how does one go about realizing the Śhakti within? The Tantra Rāja Tantra and Varivasya Rahasyā of Śhrī Bhāskarāya Makhin shed light on this and teach us how the Devi herself manifests within each of us to take us to the ultimate Śhivam

A human faces from three defects that prevents her/him from realizing the Ādi Śhakti: it is impure thoughts, a vacillating mind and ignorance. It is for this reason Kriyā Śhakti, Ichchā Śhakti and Jnāna Śhakti manifests to elevate us.

The celebrated Lalitā Sahasranāma extols the Devi as

“Ichchā Śhakti-Kriyā Śhakti-Jnāna Śhakti Swarūpini”
(She manifests in the form of will, actions and knowledge)

Hence by doing Kriyā - Karma Yogā - one attains cleanliness of thoughts. This is done by dedicating the fruits of one’s actions to Ādi Śhakti. Ichcha shows ones desire and here Śhrī Bhāskarāya Makhin says that it means complete devotion, by having Ādi Śhakti in every Ichchā. This gives the devotee one pointedness. Finally Jnāna Śhakti removes the veil of ignorance. Having removed these defects, one sublimates the word “and” in Śhakti and Me. What remains is just Śhakti

I’ve been deeply involved in Śhakti Upāsana and that gives me a deep understanding of going beyond the ephemeral tenets of Ultra Feminism or Male Chauvinism. I understand when one inches forward slowly towards the certainty of realization one slowly loses hold on the illusion called Jagat. That position emerges from cleanliness of thoughts, and one naturally treads the path of Dharma. In the eyes of every Upāsakā, every woman naturally becomes the embodiment of the divine mother. Hence the entire Jagat, needless to say, is the very embodiment of all vidyā - Parāvidyā

Lord Hayagrīva, The God of Learning

Lord Hayagrīva, The God of Learning

I would hence like to conclude my essay by resonating the open proclamation of Lord Hayagrīva, the god of learning, to the venerable sage Agasthya in the peerless Brahmānda Purāna. Sage Agasthya begs Lord Hayagrīva to reveal the exalted and secret practice of Śhrī Vidyopāsana. The Devi manifested before them and Lord Hayagrīva was instructed to impart the knowledge of Śhakti because of only one qualification of Sage Agasthya: he was the husband of Riṣhini Lopāmudrā. When Lord Hayagrīva, the Lord of learning, proceeded to describe Devi, he says thus, “How can I describe Goddess Lalitha adequately? Even in the course of a thousand crore years, even a fraction of her cannot be described. She who is to be described, is in the form which is beyond the realm of speech. Oh what avail is profuse utterance? Listen to this fact. This not being spoken by me out of partiality, love or delusion. Oh ascetic, let the branches of the Kalpa tree be pens. Let the seven oceans of yore be ink pots. Let crores of Brahmanda be parchments. Let the time for writing her glory be more than a Parādha (1 followed by 17 zeros) of years. Let the people of the crores of Brahmandas be writing each with crore of hands, and everyone as eloquent as Bṛhaspati. Even after all this, it is impossible to adequately describe a thousandth part of luster of the toenail of the lotus-like feet of Śhakti. Hence, I offer my obeisance to her and proceed in describing her to you, even though I will be doing it in vain.” Such is her glory and such is this effort which can be nothing more than a flower placed softly on her radiant feet.

About the Author

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Manas Bharadwaaj Subramanian

Manas Bharadwaaj is a junior majoring in Mathematics and Physics from Drexel University. He comes from the parampara of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham and Sringeri Sharada Peetham. He loves analyzing Santana Dharma and contemplating on Adhyatma strictly according to Vaidika Sampradaya.