O gracious One, whatever there is in this world, of things which have and are without motion, from Supermind to an atom, owes its origin to and is dependent on Thee, Goddess. Thou art the Original of all the manifestations; Thou art the birthplace of even us, the gods; thou knowest the whole world, yet none know Thee. -On Śakti, Mahanirvana Tantra (4.11-12)
The Reigning Queen
The Great Vibration of Eternity, the Evolutionary Force that spins through all creation, the Primordial Power that ripples through all of existence, in every given moment of time, while working secretly in the soul of every aspiring man, is none other than the Great Mother- the Adi Shakti – who fashions the worlds and the many ages, shaping them thus through the many cycles of life.
The Hindu mind has envisioned that Great Goddess as the boundless energy of all existence, as the primeval impetus of all movement and activity, pouring itself into the vast vicissitudes of space, manifesting as the major churning events of nature, as well as the creative expressions of life.
Although attributed with the qualities of ‘Force’ and ‘Energy’, she is no mere material force or subtle-energy that is currently being explored by modern science (matter, vital-energy and mind being only the lower formations and manifestations of her superior Force); for she is the Divine Power of the Supreme Being or Absolute Consciousness, forming itself not merely materially, not just in the substance of matter or in the substance or subtle life-energy, but in the substance of that Supreme Consciousness itself- which is the eternal reality and infinite substratum of all the worlds.
Since the Great Goddess thus holds that Infinite Consciousness concealed within her, it is only she who can therefore bring us back in touch with the highest liberation, with the Supreme Truth and Delight of existence- Satchitananda.
The Primal Power and Cause of the Universe
In the Indian metaphysics of Purusha and Prakriti (Spirit and Nature), as explained by Sri Aurobindo, Purusha is understood as the Absolute Reality or unmanifest field of infinite potentialities. Yet, although the Purusha is considered the Infinite Intelligence of all existence, the Great Goddess or Adi-Shakti is said to be the Conscious-Force and executive power of that intelligence.
The Seven Levels of Reality- as derived from Sri Aurobindo’s elucidation of the Veda are:
The realms of Nature or Prakriti comprise the first three levels- matter, vital-force and mind (these are referred to as the lower nature). The higher, unmanifest realms of Purusha, which are infinite and immutable, are designated as sat-chit-ananda – pure existence, consciousness and bliss. Between Purusha and Prakriti rises the realm and power of Mahat – The Supermind of Purusha, invested with the Dynamic Force and Intelligence of Chit-Shakti.
At the source she is pure conscious-dynamism in her full power and torrential force of Being; as she descends, she moves from pure infinite force to finite formations, through the descending gradations of creation- from the supramental- to the mental- to the vital- and to the material sheaths of the universe, transmuting therein into the manifold forms of physical and subtle existence- as air, water, fire, earth, becoming therein the imperceptible basis of the grand Prakriti or the world of Samsara.
However, it would be a mistake to identify the Adi-Shakti with the lower Prakriti and its mechanism of mental, vital or physical forces. There is no doubt that there is something of her even in the lower nature, says Aurobindo, maintaining it for the evolutionary purpose, but what she truly is- is the highest Power and Divine Force of the Universal Spirit. The Great Goddess’s consciousness is thus the consciousness of the Divine itself, and the light that issues from it is the light of the divine Truth that she brings down.
In the yogic practices and journey of consciousness, one thus ascends from the moulds of matter, from the modes of lower Prakriti, moving higher to experience her power in expanding forms of existence, ascending thus towards her higher nature as the Conscious-Force, until one finally reaches her source where she as the Paraprakriti, as the Adi-Shakti (the primordial cause and power of the Supreme Spirit himself) shines in her complete glory and infinite light as the fountainhead of all life and existence.
Shiva, Shakti and the Secrets of Creation
The symbolism of Shiva and Shakti in Hindu mysticism is thus representative of the creative principle of Consciousness, which brings this phenomenal universe, as it were, into existence.
Shiva is seen as that immutable consciousness, as the carrier of this power, and Shakti is seen as the creative force, the movement of consciousness itself. Shiva is thus the eternal stillness out of which the movement of Shakti flows.
Without the Goddess there can thus be no world-creation or manifestation, for it is through the Cosmic Shakti that the Divine creates, which is why in the vision of the Hindu seers, the whole universe has been perceived as the embodiment of the Great Goddess herself.
For anything to thus exist in this world, the presence of the Goddess, of Śakti, is preeminent; for it is because of Śakti, that the Absolute consciousness of Purusha appears as the many worlds of Prakriti.
The history of India, her culture, her traditions, her philosophy, and her art, have at their core therein borne the sacred mark of the ancient Goddess; for it was she who gave birth to the Devas as Aditi, and it was she who inspired Brahmā through the primal sound of Saraswati.
As the Nature-Soul, or Prakriti, she has governed all the processes of the world, and as the Time-Spirit- Kali- she has reigned in all those forces that churn the mystic wheel of life. She is the immanent and the transcendent; she is both- Mahamaya, the great enigma, and Mahavidya, the great knowledge. Consequently she is referred to as- the Divine Mother, Aditi, Para-Prakriti, Chit-Shakti or the Universal Creatrix, through whom all things are attained.
As the Mother Goddess or Adi-Shakti she thus becomes not just the life-force of the cosmos, but the source of all realities, the source of the gods, rishis and men, as well as their sacred initiator into the profound mysteries and secrets of samsara; the secrets of the manifest universe, and the secrets of life- all of which are contained within her being.
Slaying the Demons of Monoculture
The current monoculture that is rapidly spreading in the world, through a mix of global capitalist expansionism, socialist utopianism, monopolistic consumerism, one-god right wing fundamentalism, and myopic secularism, is slowly destroying not just the sacred feminine and cultural diversity of many ancient civilizations, but it is also enslaving and destroying the human mind by placing it in a straight-jacket, thereon promoting the ‘one homogenous standard’ of- same belief, same path, same ideal, same dream, same lifestyle, same values and same point of view for everyone.
Therefore, despite the creative thinking and diversity, that is by means of Shakti, built into mental nature, all people now tend to blindly and mechanically think the same, and live the same; they’re either theists or they’re atheists, they’re either right wing or they’re left wing, capitalist or communist, pacifists or warmongers, materialists or spiritualists, and so on; with no original thought or fluid intelligence, which would respond to situations, not mechanically, not through conditioned constructs, but dynamically and integrally, after exploring multiple perspectives, as is done in Dharma traditions.
Renowned Vedic scholar and author, Dr. David Frawley, asserts that, ‘the destruction of cultural diversity, like that of biodiversity, is devastating to living systems. The loss of cultural diversity does to human beings what the destruction of biodiversity does to the world of nature.
Just as we are destroying our outer landscape of forests and wilderness, so we are destroying our inner landscape of art and spirituality. Our minds are as polluted as our rivers.’ Polluted and deeply conditioned indeed, by western models and commercial monocultures, which tell us what to buy, how to look, what to eat, what to think, what to own, and basically what to want, in order to be happy; rendering us through those socially-programmed and subliminally-induced behaviours, as controllable puppets.
A revival of the eclectic wisdom and diverse intelligences of Shakti, is thus the paradigm shift that is much required today in an automated world that is rapidly dissolving in the prisons of a uniform existence and in the emptiness of a mechanized monoculture.
‘The real aim of Nature is a true unity supporting a rich diversity. Her secret is clear enough from the fact that though she moulds on one general plan, she insists always on an infinite variation,’ says Sri Aurobindo; for it was by virtue of the advanced and multifaceted consciousness of Shakti that the supernal energies and forces of the cosmos incessantly blossomed into diverse mental, physical and cultural manifestations of perennial wisdom.
In his book (Being Different), challenging the narrow western constructs, by means of more integral Dharma models, Rajiv Malhotra thus argues against this monoculture of the West, stating that:
‘Oneness’ is sometimes cited as if it meant the denial of all difference, but Vedanta actually asserts that there are both the ‘One’ and the ‘Many forms of the One’ which comprise our cosmos in its infinite diversity… no school of Dharma calls for the abandonment of the relative world… the idea that everything is the same cannot be used to guide our actions in this relative world… principles of relative and multiple perspectives of truth, combined with inherent uncertainty in knowledge, serve as protection against dogmas and universal absolutes.’
In the Dharma teachings, although the Purusha, or the Absolute Reality is thus formless and unmanifest, the moment it projects itself as the universe, by means of the Cosmic Shakti, it therein manifests in an infinite array of potentials and forms, each of those forms being real and valid.
In proposing Aurobindo’s vision, Malhotra further states that this infinite diversity and pluralism is built into the very nature of the universe; and life and nature in general can afford such an infinite multiplicity without fearing collapse into disintegration or chaos, because this diversity and this multifaceted universe of Shakti, is firmly grounded in the immutable unity-consciousness of the Purusha. It is upon this foundation of the ‘one and the many’, and of unity in diversity, that the Hindu civilization has thus built its pluralistic ethos, and its multi-cultural expressions of Shakti and Sanatan Dharma, which is reflected in India’s diverse languages, ideologies, philosophies, traditions, sampradayas, worldviews, lifestyles, food-cultures, etc.
Divine Shakti versus the One Masculine God of Monotheism
The roots of today’s monoculture can be traced back to Monotheism (authoritarian religions and ideologies expounding belief in the one god). The Monotheistic creeds and religions, with their blind attachment to the ‘one’ true masculine god, have not only denied the universe of Shakti, but in their extreme ignorance and hateful intolerance, have sapped the very life-force that runs through their own veins.
In their politics of power masquerading as religion, what they thus worship now is a decadent form of materialism that is devoid of the sanctity of life and the divinity of the various forms and forces of mother-nature, and the Divine Shakti.
On the other hand, because the Hindu psyche is naturally imbibed with the integral notions of Dharma and Shakti, it is able to recognize and revere the multiple levels of reality, and the myriad forms and forces of nature, which it identifies with millions of gods and goddesses- who are the powers and cosmic agencies of Adi-Shakti.
This multiplicity of gods and goddesses (more correctly- Devas and Devis), is but the natural and spontaneous expression of an evolved consciousness that perceives reality through many different dimensions, whereas the creeds of the one god, one book, one path- are but imperialist ideas, or totalitarian systems, which aim to arrest freedom of thought and creative expression, by seeking to enslave the human mind in set beliefs and fixed templates, presenting thus, in evolutionary terms, a dead-end to mankind.
Rajiv Malthotra thus elucidates that, ‘for a Hindu to say ‘one lord, one church, one way’ is unacceptable, naïve, and completely unimaginative; it is to ignore nature’s diversity, the human situation and the abundance of divine communication that is available.’ And in his book ‘Hinduism and the Clash of Civilizations’, David Frawley also argues that, ‘Western civilization as it has developed over the past centuries, is monolithic and singularistic.
It imposes a single point of view on everyone. Its sense of unity arises from uniformity. We thus see this in western religions that require a single God, book, savior, prophet or church for everyone. The One God of western monotheism reflects this need for control, uniformity, power, retribution and revenge.’
With regard to India’s understanding of many gods and goddesses, diverse dharma-cultures, and its grasp on multiple realities based in unity, Sri Aurobindo therefore asserts that:
‘There is no exclusiveness asserting each as the sole truth of being or the others as inferior truths: each God knows all the Gods and their place in existence; each Idea admits all other ideas and their right to be; each Force concedes a place to all other forces and their truth and consequences; no delight of separate experience denies or condemns the delight of other existence or experience… The underlying unity remains a fact but the focus at this level is to achieve the independent manifestations of each unique opportunity or idea.’
Thus as opposed to the intolerant One-God creeds, the Dharma-cultures view all worlds and all forms in creation as the diverse manifestations of a grand unified Consciousness; admitting the integral reality of both: Many-in-One and One-in-Many.
These were then the mystery schools and advanced cultures of Sanatan Dharma, which marked the primal underpinnings of civilization; within which thrived the nature-soul, the multicultural grandeur of the many worlds, and the unfolding saga of the innumerable gods and goddesses; revealing a Divine Shakti secret in everything, everywhere; delivering to the world an ecological sanctity in which the earth became not just a vital community within the universe, but a living organism- a Cosmic Mother- who harboured and nourished all beings and all forms of life in her maternal embrace.
Divine Shakti versus Feminism
The modern feminist movement and ideology, which advocates the rights and equality of women in relation to their political, economic, social and cultural roles, aims to provide them with the same opportunities and intellectual expression that is given to men.
Although this movement has succeeded in empowering and fulfilling the material, social and intellectual potentials of women, it has nevertheless largely failed in anchoring that womanhood in a deeper spirituality and a universal sense of self, which would enable them to develop their deepest potentials of Shakti.
Perhaps having developed in the long-run as a rightful reaction to patriarchal societies and monotheistic religions, which have often perceived women as either inferior or sub-human, Feminism greatly fulfilled its role in restoring a woman’s dignity.
However todays Feminism has become more than just a legitimate advocacy of woman’s rights; often appearing more as a reactionary movement that now favours gender supremacy over gender-equality, with feminist dogma replacing holistic thought, and with prominent feminist icons marginalizing men and excessively demonizing masculinity.
With female supremacy taking the center-stage, Feminism thus runs the risk of moving towards yet another form of imbalance and even totalitarianism, by elevating women’s rights and interests above men and society as a whole, by rendering men in general as the enemy, and by developing an ideal but singular standard of how a woman should be, ultimately encouraging not creative individuality but conformity to group-think.
Such behavior on the whole ironically becomes an asymmetric endorsement of the very evil and corruption that one was trying to fight in the first place. By creating this imbalance, Feminism like any other form of religious extremism, then eventually divides society on narrow grounds.
The Divine Shakti on the other hand, unites and synthesizes, while at the same time maintaining the complimentary diversities in human nature, for the scope and benediction of the Goddess is not limited to women or to men alone; by pervading the universe of all beings, she manifests in diverse forms and forces- that are feminine, masculine, both, as well as neither; finally containing, integrating and harmonizing all.
Moreover, in her book, on the ‘Death of Feminism’, feminist Phyllis Chesler, through her vast amount of documentary evidence, substantiates how the Feminist movement has been largely unsuccessful with regard to the ‘big picture’ because they ‘have failed the women of the third world,’ by obsessing with their body rights, sexuality, and other insular issues while ignoring the plight of the Islamic women who are everyday terrorized, abused or stoned to death in the name of god.
Such a matter should be the most important feminist priority of this century. But Chesler argues that, ‘On the subject of terrorism, many feminists have been missing in action. Looking at mainstream feminism in the west, there is a moral failure, a moral bankruptcy.. Freedom separated from justice is half a freedom, for defending only our “own” freedom is an insult to justice’.
With regard to the larger picture, a woman who is thus empowered by the Cosmic Shakti rises beyond her lower nature and realms of Prakriti to serve an end beyond her (material, vital and mental) self, discovering thus the true light and liberation of the Infinite Consciousness that extends beyond her self. She is therefore swayed neither by the karmic currents of life, nor by the needs of her ego-self, her every movement thus being the spontaneous expression of the Universal Shakti, and her dharma being not merely a personal reaction or an act of self-interest, but a reflection of the Universal Dharma. And it is this quality of the Dharma Shakti- of the universal within the individual- that differentiates an ordinary feminist from a woman empowered by the Cosmic Shakti.
If feminism thus wants to reclaim the power of true womanhood, beyond mere social and materialistic values, and if it wants to reach a greater realization of self that transcends the narrow frames of gender and material personhood, then it must embrace the larger unified forces of Shakti and its Integral Reality, which rises beyond the mere outer appearances and ego-oriented achievements of life.
The Bio-psychological Matrix, Physical Ailments and Mental Disorders
According to the ancient Hindu records, the hostile forces of falsehood, obscurity, inconscience, greed, egoism, inertia, ignorance, etc. further expressed in the imbalance of the gunas and the doshas, do much to corrupt and upset the natural equilibrium of the body and the mind, eventually leading to various physical and mental dysfunctions. However, these conditions only affect the lower Prakriti of earth and man- the physical, vital and mental sheaths; but not the Cosmic Shakti or the Purusha (Consciousness) within, who are beyond the effects of the phenomenal world.
Moreover, the body and mind are considered as instruments, and the limited formations of the lower Prakriti or mechanical nature, separated or veiled from the divine consciousness; they can be trained to learn things, but they cannot ultimately transform themselves. The true intelligence that runs through the lower matrix of Prakriti – is that of the Chit-Shakti’s (found even in herbs and plants which are used in Ayurved to invoke healing power).
It is the forces of this higher Divine Shakti that when brought down into the mind and body (through various Yogic disciplines), heal and transform the lower nature, and provide the light by which human mind and consciousness ultimately evolve. When matter is thus infused with the Divine Shakti it becomes physical power or Anna-Shakti, when the vital-force is infused with the Divine Shakti it becomes the vitalizing and healing Pran-Shakti, and when the mind is infused with her, it becomes an instrument of higher intelligence and illumined-will -Sankalpa-Shakti.
The healing, transformation and perfection of the mind-body apparatus that unleashes its deepest potentials, can thus only be brought about by the Divine Mother, and Hinduism’s advanced yogic disciplines and integral dharma technologies pave the way for establishing that contact and union with the Shakti. Sri Aurobindo explains, that through the perfection sought in the Integral Yoga, ‘we have to become aware of the Divine Shakti, draw her to us and call her in to fill the whole system and take up the charge of all our activities. She will change the mechanical energies of the mind, life and body, which now
govern us, into delight-filled manifestations of her own living, her
conscious power and presence.’
The Goddess, Human Instrumentation, and World-Destiny
This universe of time and form is said to emerge, live, and die, transmuting through the endless cycles of creation and dissolution, by the power of Kali, who is the exacting force of the Divine Shakti, and the time-consciousness of the Divine Intelligence, propelling thus the progression, the transformation and evolution of the universe.
According to the ancient seers of Hinduism, to understand the vast truth of Adi-Shakti and her secret workings of time, one thus needs to ascend to the consciousness of Infinity itself, for it is only in that integral light that we can grasp the actualities of her manifestation, her movements, her laws and her subtle processes.
Without such an integral knowledge of her operations, the universe is rendered a mere play of chance and random probabilities.
Yet, the Adi-Shakti is that Power of the Divine Consciousness, which is neither random, nor pre-determined; for it is that superior intelligence that dynamically sustains the myriad universes, setting into motion the Rta- the universal flow and natural order of the cosmos.
That Power which thus guides the movements of the world, says Aurobindo, which acts within us and within all others, at all times, is none other than the power of the Goddess herself. Thus the greatness of a man, all the strength, the beauty, the glory and power of a being, is but only the radiance of that eternal energy- of the Goddess within. And this is that same power, he says, which either crushes men or renders them great vibhutis or instruments of the cosmic order:
‘When a man seems to have rejected his work, it merely means that his work is over and Kali leaves him for another. When a man who has carried out a great work is destroyed, it is for the egoism by which he has misused the force within that the force itself breaks him to pieces, as it broke Napoleon. Some instruments are treasured up, some are flung aside and shattered, but all are instruments. This is the greatness of great men, not that by their own strength they can determine great events, but that they are serviceable and specially-forged instruments of the Power which determines them.’
The Man who knew Infinity
Given the understanding of the infinite intelligence and dynamic workings of Shakti, it would not be untenable to thus assume that the great seers, thinkers, writers, scientists and other geniuses of history, have been either directly or indirectly powered and guided by the creative forces of the Great Goddess, whether they have been aware of it or not.
One such case, that occurred in recent history and which thus requires a special mention- is the case of the ‘Man who knew Infinity’: – Srinivas Ramanujan- the world-renowned, self-taught, Indian mathematician- who made extraordinary contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series and continued fractions, helping to pave the way for today’s digital age.
What is interesting to note is that Ramanujan ascribed all his brilliance and his ideas to Namagiri- the Hindu goddess- who is said to have appeared in his dreams and visions, providing him with theorems and formulae of complex mathematical content.
He said he saw the Divine and the Goddess in the dance of Infinity and numbers, that the number zero represented the Absolute Reality (Purusha), and that infinity represented the many manifestations (Shakti) of that Reality. He told people that the Goddess visited him in his dreams and wrote equations on his tongue, and he also believed that the purpose of his life was to serve the Goddess.
It is often assumed that an objective scientific mind, by virtue of its logical-analytical skills, and its rational information processing, would naturally be devoid of all notions of the mystical, the spiritual or the immaterial; with sensory processing and cold clinical logic its only way of arriving at knowledge. Yet, it was precisely an extraordinary, supra-rational consciousness, which was at once logical, intuitive, mystical as well as metaphysical, that set the Hindu civilization thousands of years ahead and apart from the others. With regard to that peculiarly spiritual and inexplicable genius of Ramanujan (which still baffles the rationalists), John Lienhard from the University of Houston said-
‘Mathematicians have mined his theorems. They’ve figured out how to prove them… Only recently a lost bundle of his notebooks turned up in a Cambridge library. That set mathematics off on a whole new voyage. And where did all this unproven truth come from? Ramanujan was quick to tell us. He simply prayed to Sarasvathi, the Goddess of Learning, and she informed him. The unsettling thing is, none of us can find any better way to explain the magnitude of his eerie brilliance.’
Dawn of the Goddess
The ancient Puranic records elucidate that whenever a great evil overtook the world, it was always the power of the Goddess that restored ultimate balance in the Cosmic Order, and that even the Devas who could not collectively confront this evil often approached the Great Goddess for help. This reality is symbolized in the ancient saga of the goddess Durga violently slaying the demon, Mahishasura.
However, to a mind unfamiliar with Hinduism’s ethos, it would appear horrifying to perceive the Divine as the slayer, or as that which is destructive, to which the sage Ramakrishna would say, ‘learn to recognize the Divine Mother in creation and in destruction, in terrifying wrath as well as in sweetness and joy,’ for therein lies the difference between Dharma and the other creeds, that it looks reality in the face, that it does not ignore or subdue it.
Given the rising forces of darkness that are now overtaking the world, what the world thus needs is a revival of that same spirit of courage and Shakti that was once upheld by the dharma-visionaries and warriors of the past, for it is only by living in tune with the strength and integrity of her timeless Dharmic ethos that we can attempt to sustain, safeguard and enrich the world.
Therefore says Sri Aurobindo:
‘That which must seek now to awaken is not an anglicised oriental people, or docile pupil of the West, doomed to repeat the cycle of the occident’s success and failure, but the ancient immemorable Shakti recovering her deepest self, lifting her head higher towards the supreme source of light and strength, to discover the complete meaning and vaster form of her Dharma.’
Devi Bhagavad Puran – translated by Ramesh Menon
Mahanirvana Tantra – translated by Arthur Avalon
Sri Aurobindo – The Life Divine (2006), The Integral Yoga (1993), Secret of the Veda, The Synthesis of Yoga (2007)
David Frawley – Hinduism and the Clash of Civilizations, Inner Tantric Yoga
Rajiv Malhotra – Being Different (2011)
Sita Ram Goel – Defense of Hindu Society (Hindu Spirituality versus Monotheism). Voice of Dharma Books.
Phyllis Chesler. The Death of Feminism (2005)- http://www.phyllis-chesler.com/books/the-death-of-feminism
Swami Nikhilananda. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna (1942)