Shiva & Shakti – the Twin ‘Realities’
Satsang from Swami Nischalananda Saraswati
Source : http://www.yogamag.net/archives/1991/bmar91/twins.shtml
(One of the best articles I have ever read…)
“Utterly fearless and uninhibited it is this consciousness that brings
into manifestation and sustains the infinite
variety of beings, from the creator to the
blade of grass. It is ever dynamic and active,
yet it is more inactive than a rock and is more
unaffected by such activity than space.”
(Yoga Vashishtha – 5:23)
Shiva represents the unmanifest and Shakti the manifest; Shiva the formless and Shakti the formed; Shiva consciousness and Shakti energy, not only in the cosmos as a whole but in each and every individual. The roots of Shakti are in Shiva. Though one is manifested and the other unmanifested, they are in the ultimate sense one and the same One is the principle of changelessness and the other, the principle of change- Shakti is change within changelessness while Shiva is changelessness as the root of change. The experience of perfect unity of the changeless and the changeable, the dissolution of duality, is the aim of Tantra, and thus of Yoga.
Everything you see around you, whether physical, psychic, mental or whatever, is Shakti, both individually and collectively. This includes everything from a pebble to the sun. All manifestations of Shakti come from the underlying substratum, Shiva. The aim of Tantra is to invert the process to retread the path of creation as it were, back to union with Shiva or the Paramatman (supreme).
Tantra says that Shakti or the power of creating separate centres of manifestation (i.e. objects, individuals, etc.) is in essence consciousness itself (Shiva). However, the power of the phenomenal world around us veils itself through the power of maya. Each and everything in the created universe is actually no more than manifested consciousness and even though everything comes from it, there is no change in the nature of consciousness. From Shiva comes the universe as a whole and everything individually through the power of Shakti, yet Shiva remains the same. The eternal wonder and mystery is that Shiva and Shakti are one and the same.
Tantra regards the material universe as the form, pattern, or expression of the totality. According to Tantra both the manifest and unmanifest are real; to tell someone that the things around him are unreal is nonsensical, because his experience on normal levels of awareness is otherwise. The world, says Tantra, must be regarded as real. One must utilise the body, mind and environment to know that which is beyond. Other systems, like Vedanta, regard the universe as unreal because it changes, but Tantra states that everything, whether changing or changeless, is ‘real’; both are no more than two different aspects of the totality.
Shiva is father (pita) of all that moves and is motionless; he is said to be naked, clothed in open space, or digambara, (clothed in the universe). Now he is usually depicted as wearing a tiger skin and holding a trident which represents the three gunas of which he is the eternal master. He is said to ride a bull called Nandi and contains within himself the seeds of creation. He is symbolised by the shiva lingam and is totally unconditioned, in a continual state of nirvikalpa samadhi. Shiva is the king of all yogis – Yogeshwara – for he represents the supreme experience. He is also known as Kuleshana, lord of the kaulas, those who have reached the highest stage of Tantra (Kaulachara).
Shiva has many aspects. Sometimes he is called ‘Rudra’, the destroyer, who appears to be more like Shakti in nature (the dissolving aspect). This merely emphasises that the active and the inactive, manifest and unmanifest, are really one and the same. All the personifications or deities eventually represent exactly the same thing- the absolute. Only the symbol is different. If you wish you can create your own deity. The widespread worship of vast numbers of dieties indicates the incredible complexity (yet underlying simplicity) and tolerance of the all-embracing spiritual climate of India.
Shakti also has many names and aspects. She is known as ‘prana’ when associated with the organisation and growth of matter in all forms of life. She is ‘kundalini’ – the power that lies dormant in everything and which can be unleashed through yogic and tantric practices. She is called ‘Kali’, the dissolver of the world, who withdraws everything into her womb at the end of the allotted life-span or yuga. She is depicted as ‘Parvati’, the epitome of the loving and faithful consort of Shiva. She is the primordial power- ‘Adya’, the universal mother, ‘Ishwari’ – the consort of Ishwara Lord of the universe. Shakti is also referred to as ‘Avidya rupini’ (the form of ignorance), for it is she who produces ignorance and individuality. Conversely, she is known as ‘Vidya, rupini’, (the form of knowledge) for she is the means of removing bondage and achieving liberation or enlightenment.
The ‘Kularnava Tantra’ says, “By that which one falls, so one will raise oneself”. Shakti is the mind of each one of us which can either enslave us or free us. She is ‘Maya’, (the creator of illusion), for it is through her power that one fails to see ‘reality’. At the same time it is through the power of Shakti that the world is experienced; through her that Shiva can experience himself. Shakti is para brahman, the absolute, when she becomes a brahman at the time when Shiva and Shakti unite. Endless different forms of Shakti are worshipped in India – ‘Uma’, ‘Gaud’, ‘Durga’ – her forms are infinite, for there is no end to her power and manifestation. Her forms are as numerous as the reflections of the moon. Continually active, creating, sustaining and dissolving everything into Shiva, only to be re-created – this is the unending process of Shakti.
The concept of Shakti and Shiva is by no means confined to India. In Plato’s ‘Phaedrus’, a book of the ancient Greeks, he states “What is on earth is merely the resemblance and shadow of something that is in a higher sphere, a resplendent thing which remains in an unchangeable condition.” The ancient Gnostics were really a European tantric sect which interpreted Christianity in the light of higher experience. One of the Gnostic mystics, Simon the Magus, is reputed to have said, “The universal eons consist of two branches, without beginning or end, which spring from one root………the invisible power and the unknowable silence. One of these branches is manifested from above and is the universal consciousness ordering all things and is designated male. The other branch is female and is the producer of all things.”
The Gnostics divided man into three distinct groups in the same manner as does Tantra. The lowest group in terms of awareness, are those who worship the material world- ‘pashu’ in Tantra, The second group includes those who worship an underlying reality with blind faith devoid of experience- ‘veer’ in Tantra, The third group are those wild live in higher awareness – ‘divya’ in Tantra. So the ancient system of Gnosticism is fundamentally tantric in nature, and many other systems throughout the world are very similar. Energy, including matter and consciousness, are functioning together in the cosmos as well as in each and every human being. This combination gives rise to the world we see around us, to time and to place. Energy is controlled by consciousness and consciousness cannot express itself except through energy. As Sri Adi Shankaracharya writes in the first sloka of his ‘Saundarya Lahari’, the sixty-fifth Tantra: ‘How can Shiva function without Shakti?’ Therefore Tantra says that in order to merge with consciousness, one must take the help of Shakti.
There is a supreme experience where Shiva and Shakti no longer exist as separate entities. Some call it ‘Brahman’, others refer to it as being ‘Not this, not this’, meaning that it is inexpressible, while still others say that it is one without a second. This is the state of nirvana, samadhi, perfect oneness, moksha or enlightenment. It is the state where Shiva merges so closely with Shakti that they become one. They embrace each other so tightly that they cease to be separate. And this is the meaning of the many ‘seemingly’ erotic sculptures which personify these two principles – Shiva and Shakti. They symbolise that enraptured state where separateness is no more. This is ‘The divine embrace of Tantra’.
FURTHER INFORMATION from Different Sources
Some further explanation on the archetypal symbols of Shiva and Shakti. Frawley uses the word ”Yoga” but this can be translated as meaning any discipline for cultivating awareness of the reality behind all things. Whatever is floating your boat.
David Frawley has a new book on Shiva and Shakti Yoga and this is an excerpt from it. Frawley teachers on Ayurveda and tantra. I have his books on herbs and ayurveda and have found him a good reference. But you can judge for yourself. I don’t know anymore who is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, nor do I mind. His wife, Yogini Shambhavi, teaches on Shakti tantra.
Shiva and Shakti as the dual cosmic principles are an intrinsic part of all Yoga, which constitutes a natural process of integration and transformation. Recognition of the cosmic duality leads us into the practice of Yoga, which is their unification. All Yoga is a development of Shiva awareness and Shakti energy, the state of the seer and its energy of seeing…
- Shiva is pure Being and Shakti is its power of becoming on all levels.
- Each world has its Shiva nature, its Self or Spirit, and its Shakti power or energy movement.
- Each creature has its Shiva nature or inner Self and its Shakti or diverse manifestation.
- Each one of us has our underlying Self or Shiva factor and our outer expressions through body and mind or Shakti factor. Shiva and Shakti form the Being and power of the individual soul.
Shiva is Being or the inherent reality that ever is what it is.
Shakti is the power of action or doing arising from it.
Shiva is beyond all action, while Shakti is its power of action on all levels.
Being or the Divine presence has a tremendous power to act when the moment is appropriate, which is the expression of its Shakti. Shiva is the underlying unmanifest reality and Shakti generates its outer appearance.
Every substance has its underlying essence or reality that is unchanging like the wetness of water, and its manifest relativity like the waves through which water moves.
Shiva is reality, that which is ever enduring, while Shakti is relativity, that which is ever fluctuating, arising and returning to the real.
Shiva is unitary reality or common ground of being while Shakti is the web of multiplicity, relativity, relations, or interdependence that arises from its manifestation. Every aspect of the universe has a complementary duality of Being and its Power of Becoming.
Yoga consists of the proper alignment, balance and union of the Shiva and Shakti energies within us on all levels. The more we hold to Shiva or stillness within, the stronger, higher, and subtler our Shakti or energy level naturally becomes.
Shiva is the state of balance; and Shakti is the energy of transformation that naturally arises from it.
The state of balance is not a mere neutral zone, like a scale held static between equal weights on either side. Whenever we reach a state of balance, the energy is naturally taken to a higher level. There are many such points of balance or equilibrium that we can cultivate in Yoga, whether it is a still asana, relaxation of the breath, or meditation and equipoise of the mind.
The path of spiritual growth does not mean to deny Shakti in favor of Shiva, but to align Shiva and Shakti together in the fullest possible manner.
That affirms the essence of both Shiva and Shakti. The highest Shakti is abidance in the state of the Supreme Shiva. The still point of the Absolute, that is Shiva, naturally unfolds the full manifestation of Shakti that is the entire universe.
Shakti creates all things through the presence of Shiva. All her creations are manifestations of qualities inherent within Shiva.
Shiva meanwhile is the essence or inner nature behind Shakti, not a separate principle.
In our outer manifestation, we are Shiva and Shakti under limitation, with a limited understanding of Self and a limited capacity for creative action. In our inner nature ,we are Shiva and Shakti unbounded, with an unlimited understanding and unlimited capacity for creative action.
Shiva Yoga cultivates such Shiva-based qualities, attitudes, and energies as steadiness, stillness, peace, and quiescence.
It emphasizes inaction, withdrawal, and silence, not as the mere cessation of energy but as its internalization for transformation. Shiva Yoga is primarily a Yoga of being Shiva, rather than of doing something to arrive at the state of Shiva. This allies it primarily with Jnana Yoga or the Yoga of Knowledge as a cultivation of awareness, inquiry and insight, rather than technique, method or practice. It often follows a path of world negation, renunciation or hermitage in nature. Relative to practices and techniques, Shiva Yoga involves working with Shakti as the power of action, particularly relative to Raja Yoga. Shakti is the power and process of Shiva Yoga.
Shakti Yoga cultivates Shakti energy as transformation, play, and expression. It works through creativity, bliss, and ecstasy extending into all forms of art and culture. It is primarily a Yoga of awakening the Shakti within us and letting the flow of Shakti guide us on our path. Shakti Yoga employs a variety of techniques, practices, images, and actions but emphasizing the inner energy over the outer form. Shakti Yoga does not always have fixed forms or fixed techniques, but emphasizes the adaptation of form according to and force that ultimately resides beyond all forms. It proceeds more through inspiration than through technique, though it may employ many methods. The formless inner orientation of Shakti Yoga is its Shiva point or Shiva bindu. Most forms of Hatha Yoga and Tantric Yoga have a strong Shakti orientation.
Shiva Yoga often follows the way of Self-inquiry, similar to Advaita Vedanta, diving directly into the transcendent reality of Shiva within the spiritual heart as the unitary truth. It can also develop through a devotional surrender to Shiva as the Divine essence of all.
Shakti Yoga works more through energetic techniques of Kundalini Yoga, Kriya Yoga and Mantra Yoga, as the Goddess herself is the power behind the Kundalini. It also proceeds through a devotional surrender to Shakti in various forms of the Goddess or Divine Mother.
Shakti is the way to Shiva, so Shakti Yoga or union with Shakti takes us to Shiva Yoga or union with Shiva. Shakti Yoga leads us to the state of Shiva awareness, while Shiva Yoga leads us to absorption in the highest Shakti or inherent power of Pure Being itself. As the energy of Shakti unfolds, it will take us to the state of total transformation that is the stillness of Shiva.