What is Shakti and Shiva?
We very often use the terms ‘Shakti’ and ‘Shiva’ while talking about Tantra, sometimes without being sure of what they are and what actually stand for. In seminars and workshops, the female participants are sometimes called Shaktis and the males Shivas.
But what are they and how do they function in Tantra on a deeper level?
Many of us know that Shiva and Shakti are basically Hindu deities, the main deities in a polytheistic religion. Shiva is the male and part of the holy trinity, consisting of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer. In this sense of the word, ‘destroyer’ is interpreted as the annihilator of ‘worldly’ needs that we shed when the time is ripe, making room for enlightenment.
Shakti is the female and known in Hinduism as the main Goddess and Shiva’s consort. The deities appear in several manifestations by quite a few names. Many mythological tales are associated with Shakti and Shiva.
So which role do they play in Tantra practice?
In Tantra, also called Kundalini Tantra, these deities are not worshipped as identities separated from ourselves, but looked upon as energy aspects within all of us.
Shakti represents our vital energy, or sexual energy, the energy we are all born with. She also represents matter, what we can comprehend with our senses and what we can smell, taste, feel, see and hear. She is the concept of duality, of our tendency to experience everything in the Universe as pairs, of yin/yang, male/female, day/night, the idea of ourselves as separate individuals. This energy, in other words, represents the way most of us see and experience the world, in an ‘unenlightened’ state, as dual.
She also represent our female aspect, and Mother Earth
In our chakra system, the energy of Shakti, (also called Kundalini), resides in Mooladhara, our ‘first’ or base chakra.
Shiva, on the other hand, represents the realm of experience we can reach when we are able to transcend the present limitations of the mind. He represents the aspect of pure consciousness, an ‘enlightened’ state, in which we stop seeing the cosmos as dual. We understand, not theoretically but with our senses, the meaning of the microcosm and macrocosm, that whatever is on the ‘outside’ basically is nothing but an extension of what is already within us, and that there is no separation between us and everything that surrounds us.
In our chakra system, the energy of Shiva resides in Sahasrara, the ‘seventh’ and the crown charka.
The ultimate aim of Tantra is the cultivation of Shakti energy as a path to infinite bliss. In other words, the ‘Shakti’ is awakened and ‘raised up’ through the chakra system. The energy is transformed and purified through this system till it reaches and unites with the energy of Shiva, thus enable us to experience what is called ‘enlightenment’ …
The essential step for reaching this state of mind is the energizing and purifying the chakras. This can be done by a variety of techniques, and preferably with the guidance of an enlightened teacher.
Reaching the ultimate aim of Tantra takes time, determination and patience, as there are no shortcuts.
Enjoy the journey.