From Sanskrit, Shakti translates to power or energy in common terms. This energy belongs to the domain of “Prakriti” or the female aspect of creation. She is the Mother Goddess and is worshiped in various occasions all around the Hindu customs.
How does it work?
First of all, you should know that God is an undivided consciousness. In other words, he is nothingness, if you want to look it from perceptual perspective. In this devoid form, he is the Nirguna Brahman, that is devoid of any distinguished features or appearance. In him, the division of time and space, and other forms of ego consciousness do not exist. But for some reasons, he awakens and sets in motion with Prakriti. He enters into the universal energy, and from this amalgamation, what we know as “reality” is created. And thus, there is a Big Bang with the latent energy hidden in the cosmic egg (Hiranyagarbha), and it is pretty much in cohesion with the modern theory of Big Bang too.
Everything in the world, tangible, sensible, unstable, anything within the aspect of the sensory world, can be transformed from one state to another and is a part of Prakriti only. Law of Conservation of Energy?
Matter possesses energy at any time. Even the human body and the mind and other constituents are a manifestation of energy in one way the other of the Prakriti but at the higher form. The divine energy is way higher than the humans, in terms of evolutionary scale. The Holy Trinity – Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwar – are indeed above the rest, and at the highest level can be the combination of distinguished energy sources. This energy is the energy of Mother Goddess acting as the Shakti of Isvara. When Brahman is awakened, Isvara arises. Brahman is the field of play for Shakti.
This is how Shakti is structured and this is how Shakti originates.
The Manifestation of Things and Beings
According to Hindu Dharma, when Pure Self, Purusha, combines with the matter or energy, Prakriti, then there is some sort of creation. What happens is the Pure Self-enters into the matter and awakens the various energies in the matter, thus, leading to the formation of false self, known as ego. All of this happens over a period of time, through differentiation and combination of five Mahabhutas (the five gross elements), Panchendiryas (the five sense organs), the Karmendriyas (the five organs of action), the Tanmantras (the five subtle elements), manas (mind), ahamkara (deluded self) and buddhi (discriminating intelligence).
With this, the individual beings come into the world and then move towards liberation. The same happens in the most macro of a level, resulting in the creation of the world and higher divinities.
Ego is formed as part of the process, and it is an important tool in an armory. This ego is driven by three Gunas: Sattva, rajas, and tamas, which is nourished by an activity of senses and motivated by force of desires. These are nothing but the false sense of identity, developed through the formation of mind and mind’s awareness of the body.
The Bondage and Delusion in Prakriti
A mind is only a field in space and time for the ego to distinguish from the rest of the creation. It acts as if it is the only real self, and separates from the rest of the creation. This is ignorance at its highest form, and it leads to the belief that the real self that the ego created exists in a reality when it does not. The Real Self-exists, losing its own buddhi and higher intelligence, keeping the body, the mind and the false ego ticking and breathing.
This leads to the bondage of the self. Mind you that this doesn’t mean the soul suffers, and you should also know that soul cannot suffer since it is pure consciousness. Nothing can touch it or punish it. But we do say it suffers because it goes through the same cycle of birth and death, stopping it from going back to the source. From our “conscious”, “self-ego” point of view, soul suffers, but not from the “soul” point of view. Wherever it is – in heavens or in Timbaktu – the soul is the same: eternal, unchanging and pure bliss consciousness.
But what suffers then? It is the false self or the ego that suffers. But this suffering doesn’t stop the self from indulging in its desire driven action, until one point, when this suffering becomes unbearable too. And this is when the ego turns into spiritualism. Otherwise, this ego would not mind to exist in the “reality” for even thousands of years if it could, considering the physical limitations.
When life ends, the ego is frustrated with itself because it leaves behind a lot of tasks unfinished, dreams unrealized and fruits of the past actions untasted. Nature also limits itself from escaping the clutches and perpetuation of the delusion is the chief design of nature.
Thus, there is a compromise between nature and ego by which each created ego is permitted to return to the “reality” for another rebirth and continue the unfinished work. Even when a being dies, the ego does not die completely. A small portion of it survives containing the basic tendencies, desires, and impulses, which then becomes attached to the soul as a kind of program file, and passes through the door of death, heaven or hell, as the body is reborn again. This is the cycle of Prakriti.
For us, the Prakriti will always keep us in delusion by the use of elements and interplay of triple Gunas. For the highest levels, Prakriti acts in the same way by combining with Shakti of various worlds and divinities. However, she cannot delude the awakened soul. She, instead, becomes a force in their consciousness to help them in their assigned responsibilities.
In the world of Brahma, she is the Saraswati who helps Brahma in his responsibility of creation. In the world of Vishnu, she is the Laxmi, who manages the world through wealth and resources. In the world of Shiva, she is the yogini or Siddhi, who helps in destroying the illusions.
But she is divine at the same time. Whoever worships her can seek liberation from bondage through her grace. The logic in Hindu dharma is that she is the cause of illusion, and is in a better state to relieve us from bondage.
Is Shakti female?
The simple answer is no. Shakti is neither male or female. The interpretation is only human, and should not be taken literally. One should never consider energy to be female while the self in the male. The Purusha exists in both male and female, and so does Prakriti. They are two sides of the same truth and is difficult to impose who is superior to whom. But consider this: without energy, self cannot move, and without self, the energy does not have any field for its move. It can be said, “Prakriti is undivided consciousness (Purusha).”