The following article by Yogini Shambhavi was first published in Tathaastu Magazine.
Now, more than ever, women need to open themselves to the flow of divine grace and the power of the Devi, the Mother Goddess, to facilitate the birth of a higher consciousness in the world, not merely at an individual but also at a planetary level. We must recognize and honour the Goddess in all of her forms, of which her transformative manifestations are the most central. Feminine gentleness, nurturing, healing, sustenance and compassion are the key tools necessary to soothe the turmoil, anguish, pain and anger that is burning us from within, stoked by the voracity and arrogance of the commercialisation, ambition and ignorance that seems to surround us on every side.
Women Hold the Shakti of Dharma
What is Shakti? Shakti has very much been misunderstood. It is not a mere outer self-assertion, control or power over others. Nor is it mere economic or political dominance. Shakti is the inspiration and joy arising from an inner steadiness, contentment and openness to the flow of divine grace. Shakti exists all around us in the forces of nature, particularly in the earth, the cosmic waters and the sacred heavens that carry and sustain all things without rejection. Shakti holds the essence of all existence at an inner and an outer level. Worshipping Shakti through surrendering to her transformational movement, we align ourselves with the Her universal power and unfold our own deeper potential in life.
Women especially need to cultivate Shakti or the Goddess energy to enhance the nurturing and calming nature of the home and the hearth, which sustain the family, community and society. The feminine principle must be revered and protected to allow universal healing at a deeper emotional level. Women must be encouraged to cultivate the flow of grace, love and devotion in order to sustain this.
Shraddha or deep faith is a feeling of understanding and trust with conviction in the beneficent powers of the conscious universe. Shraddha or faith without wisdom, on the other hand, turns into mere human emotion that can be manipulated by ego drives and personal desires. True Shraddha must be born out of awareness, discrimination, maturity and responsibility.
Shraddha is the mark of distinction for every woman who unfolds Divine Love as an expression of gratitude, caring and inspiration. Pure gentle love guides us into conscious relationships beyond illusion and manipulation. It allows us to be harmonious and kind with ourselves, enabling us to heal the anguish and strife surrounding our lives. In healing at the deepest core of our being, we are able to honour and heal our environment as well. We must rediscover the universal love dwelling within our own hearts. In the union of the inner self with the Mother Goddess, there is a divine beauty and purity which reinforces the innate sacredness of the feminine nature.
Honouring the Goddess as Shakti
Today our civilization does not truly recognize the Divinity inherent in the universe. We feverishly pursue human and worldly deities instead, that bring more turmoil into our troubled existence. We have lost touch with the ancient reverential practice of honouring the Devata, the cosmic forces of the Gods and Goddesses that embody the sacred powers of Mother Nature, which we must relate to for our well-being at a soul level.
Our current culture is outwardly oriented, subjugated by lower masculine values of achievement, acquisition and even hostility. We are caught up in trying to manipulate and exploit the outer world to fulfil our urges and impulses that are often excessive and distorted. The feminine values of fostering, surrender and respect for all creatures are being ignored or denigrated by society, even by women.
Women are usually looked upon as mere objects of attraction and pleasure in today’s media world, lured into the new fads of Botox and artificial implants to enhance the world of Maya and its distractions. We end up playing into the forces of illusion and delusion, scarring our deeper psyche by trying to keep up with a teenage youthfulness that denies any deeper maturity or wisdom.
Meanwhile, intellectuals and academics make sweeping statements denigrating sacred ancient traditions that worship nature and the Goddess, as if these were but superstition and oppression. The media holds our minds captive with the world’s violence, corrupting religion with politics, seeking domination and control in the name of God, rather than spreading a message of love and unity beyond all outer identities and beliefs.
Empowering the Yogini Shakti in Every Woman
The Yogini as the Yoga Shakti represents the deep intuitive voice of the ‘Inner Guru‘ or spiritual guide. The outer guru works to awaken our inner being and to direct us to the sacred practices necessary to connect with it. The quintessential spirit of the Yogini is to provide an expression for our inner being, who unfolds the flow of divine grace. Without the anugraha or grace of the Devi, we cannot move far on the spiritual path. It is her divine benevolence that steers us into surrendering to the higher consciousness, letting go of our outer confusion and agitation.
The teachings of Devi Tantra enhance the Yoga Shakti lying dormant within our deeper selves, through the mystical rhythms of the Mother Goddess’s numinous healing powers. Tantric worship allows us to consecrate the deity within us, bringing out the vibrations of our own deeper Self. Women need to reclaim this power and grace of the Mother Goddess in the prayer that we can once again restore healing, calm, peace and well-being in our homes and in the world around us.
As a form of spiritual instruction, Tantra teaches us a sacred path through clarity of thought and a deep awareness of the intrinsic coexistence between our higher being and the cosmos. Fostering an inner and outer purity along a dharmic path allows us to manifest and sustain this higher reality hidden within all. Tantric symbolism unfolds the mystic secrets of divinity in varying forms, appearances and manifestations, covering all aspects of our lives.
The Devi or Mother Goddess bestows us with the vital source of her mystic grace. Worshipping the Goddess in her various forms reiterates to those of us as women the eternal bliss and grace of creativity at the matrix of the universe. The purity and strength of Devi worship requires that we draw in the Devi energies manifesting the power of the Yogini and enter into her cosmic dance or divine Lila!
Shakti Samkalpa for Sacred Womanhood
Every woman spiritual seeker or sadhak should learn to cultivate the right sacred intention or samkalpa for the yogic path. To consecrate the flow of Shakti in our lives we must first create and hold to a strong samkalpa or sacred intention of honoring the Goddess power. Samkalpa holds the essence of our sacred intent, divine wish or deep desires unfolding both time and eternity.
Together we must reinforce the samkalpa of “sacred womanhood”, where every woman venerates the virtues of divinity through worship, expansion, education and universal well-being. Raising this voice of unison will draw attention to the importance of the feminine principle in this day and age. Consecrating our sacred space will draw the appropriate masculine energy to rest in the warm glow of the revitalized hearth and home. The Shiva force will reciprocate with the protection, security and refuge, harbouring a safe haven for the Shakti to unfold through the gift of sustenance for the well being of humanity.
Women must learn to bond on a collective level, setting aside all trivial attributes of an inconsequential nature. We must encourage education, growth, stability and independence not through aggression and power mongering, but through dignity, nurturing and graciousness. Women need to invoke the power of the divine feminine to capture its deeper essence of healing and universal well-being.
Ma Kali’s Lightning Dance takes Women beyond all suffering
My unique Devi sadhana paved the way for the intrinsic lightning dance of Ma Kali to color my life. Experientially one sought Her in the heart as Subhadra the ever auspicious Goddess of beauty, bliss and abundance. Ma Kali reveals the divine magnificence and splendour in all creation. She gently guides us from darkness to the idyllic light of dawn. Kali lends mystery to Shiva’s enigmatic transcendence. Kali is the yogic power of Shiva which dwells beyond the illusory Maya.
In Hindu thought, Ma Kali symbolizes the power of the Absolute beyond all creation, the supreme consciousness and energy. She is not merely a Hindu Goddess but the benevolent, auspicious Mother who gently guides us through the shadowy illusory world of Maya towards eternal light. Attachment to our personal identity, money and outer existence creates a fear of Kali as eternity and infinity. We are apprehensive about our return to our origin, even though it is merely uniting with our higher self. Yet because it requires giving up our ego’s illusion of worldly knowledge, control and power, we fear the loss of our transient and mortal attachments.
I have not experienced Ma Kali as fierce or even intimidating in any way. For me the Goddess represents the soul’s victory over all darkness, sorrow and conflict, encompassing the higher virtues of feminine divinity. Kali is severe with all that is unconstructive, negative, trivial and narcissistic. She gently purifies the heart, mind and body to help us heal through our karmas. Yet there is no divine being more compassionate and blissful. In surrendering to her, she guides us through the vortex of suffering.
The Healing Power of Shakti Yagya or Sacrifice
Women are natural healers, with the power to create, restore, reform and transform. The Garbha or the womb is the sacredkunda or space which unfolds the alchemy of mysticism. This special power invokes an offering or surrendering into the fiery matrix of the Agni as the inner power.
Surrendering is a sacred action which every woman must inculcate into the stream of life. Surrender is not a mark of weakness, it is the sacred art of yielding, to concede, acquiescence that finds the middle path. Kali epitomizes our inner surrender to the great unknown. It is easier to surrender to someone or something that we know and feel a certain comfort level with. Yet it is hard to surrender when it calls for giving up all that is familiar and reassuring in our lives. Shakti sadhana guides us to this deeper surrender which is like taking a leap into the void. In this conscious surrender we realise that we have nothing to fear!
The sacred art of living life unfolds as a Yagya or sacrifice. Life unravels a series of soul stirrings, sometimes stirring up a hornet’s nest through our personal experiences. Suffering arises from a refusal to accept the transformative changes of life that continuously break down our boundaries. We create our own suffering when we refuse to open ourselves up to life’s new movements, particularly those which go against our worldly expectations and cherished beliefs. Only when we learn to honour this power of transformation even in death and destruction will we move beyond the limitations that surround our existence with suffering, strife and pain.
Vedic Yagyas or sacrifices, involving special offerings into a sacred fire, are not mere outer ceremonies; they reflect prime cosmic processes and transformational events in our universe. Everything in the universe is a sacrificial interaction as it were of receiving and giving, taking in and letting out. All that we do on a biological level is a kind of sacrifice. Eating is the first of the bodily Yagyas, an offering of food to the digestive fire or Jatharagni. Breathing is an offering of the inhaled air to the Pranic fire or Pranagni.Sensation is offering sensory impressions into the fire of the mind or Manasika Agni.
Yagya is not simply sacrifice in the rudimentary or outer sense, but the way of transformation inherent in every movement of life, in which all things become interrelated and unified. Yagya entails the active principle of Shakti, in which all life is a perpetual offering to the highest being. As women, these transformative movements are part of our inherent growth and development as the Shakti force. Being aware and making sacred this path of transformation guides us in relating to the deeper factors which colour our relationships in our everyday lives as Mothers, Lovers, Caretakers and Nurturers.
All cosmic processes are a Yagya or transformative action filled with the grace of Shakti. The very movement of time is the greatest Yagya or sacrificial offering of life, comprising creation and destruction, birth and death of all creatures and all worlds, reflecting the power of Kali, the supreme Mother Goddess of time and eternity. Women hold this inherent essence of transformation and creativity as the Yogini, Mother, Wife, Muse, Sister, Daughter, Nurse and spiritual Guru.
Women consecrate the Shakti of fire in the universe. The cosmic form of Agni in the Vedas called Vaishvanara or the ‘Universal Person’ indicates the supreme power of time. The same deity is referred to as Kalagni Rudra, as the fire of time, the intense, forceful form of Shiva, whose powerful cosmic dance or Tandava dissolves the universe into Divine fire and light. He carries the Kala Shakti or transforming power of time, which is the eternal dance of Shakti through the Goddess.
We cannot really enter into the Yoga Shakti, or power of Yoga, unless we view it as an inner sacrifice or self-offering. Otherwise the asana, pranayama, and meditation we do remain limited to the ordinary human sphere of desire and self-justification. Authentic Yoga begins with selfless sacrifice as Karma Yoga, which is action done in recognition and honour of the sacred. The great powers or Devatas of Yoga are the powers of sacrifice. The Devi Shakti sanctifies and consecrates all things in life, from the flow of prana and blood in our body to the rivers and mountains of Mother Earth enhancing the scripting of every thought and action in our lives.
The Yogini, as in the conscientious Tantric adept, understands this divine Lila of cosmic power. Her life reflects this transformative Shakti through holding to the equipoise, affability, benevolence and empathy of her role as the Goddess muse. Every girl child must be nurtured in the footsteps of Shakti, to enable her to hold the powers of healing, prosperity and well-being in the world of her unfolding. The grace of this Shakti force steers us in healing ourselves at a subtler level from the vociferous attacks of our society as well enabling us in our adulthood to cope with the vagaries of womanhood, while Motherhood allows every woman to experience the matrix of creativity through the flow of divine grace.
To discover the sacred nature of reality, our lives must become offering to the Divine, a yogic sacrifice or Shakti Yagya. By honoring all things as sacred, we can discover the eternal presence that is Brahman, the Absolute beyond all time, space and action. This must remain the ultimate goal and supreme power of Shakti in every woman’s existence. It is not a matter of antipathy but of the deepest sensitivity to the nature of the universe and the Divine presence that overflows from all that we see. If we open up to the inner surge of grace and surrender to its silent flow, we can draw in the power of the Mother of the Universe, who will draw out the highest in all.
Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu Shaktirupena samsthita
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah!
To that Devi who dwells in all beings in the form of Shakti!
We offer our reverence to her again and again!