"Whilst Brahman as Ishvara is associated with Maya, Shiva is never associated with anything but Himself. But the function of all three is the same, namely to make forms in the formless. It is That, by which the Ishvara or Collective Consciousness pictures the universe for the individual Jiva's experience. Shakti is three-fold as Will (Iccha), Knowledge (Jñana), and Action (Kriya). All three are but differing aspects of the one Shakti. Consciousness and its power or action are at base the same."
In the Eighth Chapter of the unpublished Sammohana Tantra, it is said that Shamkara manifested on earth in the form of Shamkaracarya, in order to root out Buddhism from India. It compares his disciples and himself to the five Mahapreta (who form the couch on which the Mother of the Worlds rests), and identifies his maths with the Amnayas, namely, the Govardhana in Puri with Purvamnaya (the Sampradaya being Bhogavara), and so on with the rest.
Whatever may be the claims of Shamkara as destroyer of the great Buddhistic heresy, which owing to its subtlety was the most dangerous antagonist which the Vedanta has ever had, or his claims as expounder of Upanishad from the standpoint of Siddhi, his Mayavada finds no place in the Tantras of the Agamas, for the doctrine and practice is given from the standpoint of Sadhana. This is not to say that the doctrine is explicitly denied. It is not considered. It is true that in actual fact we often give accommodation to differing theories for which logic can find no living room, but it is obvious that in so far as man is a worshipper he must accept the world-standpoint, if he would not, like Kalidasa, cut from beneath himself the branch of the tree on which he sits.
Next, it would be a mistake to overlook the possibility of the so-called "Tantrik" tradition having been fed by ways of thought and practice which were not, in the strict sense of the term, part of the Vaidic cult, or in the line of its descent. The worship of the Great Mother, the Magna Mater of the Near East, the Adya Shakti of the Shakta Tantras, is in its essentials (as I have elsewhere pointed out) one of the oldest and most widespread religions of the world, and one which in India was possibly, in its origins, independent of the Brahmanic religion as presented to us in the Vaidik Samhitas and Brahmanas. If this be so, it was later on undoubtedly mingled with the Vedanta tradition, so that the Shakta faith of to-day is a particular presentation of the general Vedantik teaching. This is historical speculation from an outside standpoint. As the Sarvollasa of Sarvanandanatha points out, and as is well-known to all adherents of the Shakta Agamas, Veda in its general sense includes these and other Shastras in what is called the great Shatakoti Samhita. Whatever be the origins of doctrine (and this should not be altogether overlooked in any proper appreciation of it), I am here concerned with its philosophical aspect, as shown to us to-day in the teachings and practice of the Shaktas who are followers of the Agama. This teaching occupies in some sense a middle place between the dualism of Samkhya, and Shamkara's ultra-monistic interpretation of Vedanta to which, unless otherwise stated, I refer. Both the Shaiva and Shakta schools accept the threefold aspect of the Supreme known as Prakasha, Vimarsha and Prakasha-Vimarsha called in Tantrik worship, "The Three Feet" (Caranatritaya). Both adopt the Thirty-six Tattvas, Shiva, Shakti, Sadashiva, Ishvara and Shuddhavidya, preceding the Purusha-Prakriti Tattvas with which the Samkhya commences. For whereas these are the ultimate Tattvas in that Philosophy, the Shaiva and Shakta schools claim to show how Purusha and Prakriti are themselves derived from higher Tattvas. These latter Tattvas are also dealt with from the Shabda side as Shakti, Nada, Bindu and as Kalas which are the Kriya of the various grades of Tattvas which are aspects of Shakti. The Shakta Tantras, such as the Saubhagyaratnakara and other works, speak of ninety-four of such Kalas appropriate to Sadashiva, Ishvara, Rudra, Vishnu, and Brahma, "Sun," "Moon,' and "Fire," (indicated in the form of the Ram Bija with Candrabindu transposed) of which fifty-one are Matrika Kalas, being the subtle aspects of the gross letters of Sanskrit alphabet. This last is the Mimamsaka doctrine of Shabda adapted to the doctrine of Shakti. Common also to both Shakta and Shaiva Sampradayas is the doctrine of the Shadadhva. (See my Garland of Letters).
I am not however here concerned with these details, but with the general concept of Shakti which is their underlying basis. It is sufficient to say that Shakta doctrine is a form of Advaitavada. In reply to the question what is "silent concealment" (Goptavyam), it is said: Atmaham-bhava-bhavanaya bhavayitavyam ityarthah. Hitherto greater pains have been taken to show the differences between the Darshanas than, by regarding their points of agreement, to co-ordinate them systematically. So far as the subject of the present article is concerned all three systems, Samkhya, Mayavada, Shaktivada, are in general agreement as to the nature of the infinite formless Consciousness, and posit therewith a finitizing principle called Prakriti, Maya and Shakti respectively. The main points on which Samkhya (at any rate in what has been called its classical form) differs from Mayavada Vedanta are in its two doctrines of the plurality of Atmans on the one hand, and the reality and independence of Prakriti on the other. When however we examine these two Samkhya doctrines closely we find them to be mere accommodations to the infirmity of common thought. A Vedantic conclusion is concealed within its dualistic presentment. For if each liberated (Mukta) Purusha is all-pervading (Vibhu), and if there is not the slightest difference between one and another, what is the actual or practical difference between such pluralism and the doctrine of Atma? Again it is difficult for the ordinary mind to conceive that objects cease to exist when consciousness of objects ceases. The mind naturally conceives of their existing for others, although, according to the hypothesis, it has no right to conceive anything at all. But here again what do we find? In liberation Prakriti ceases to exist for the Mukta Purusha. In effect what is this but to say with Vedanta that Maya is not a real independent category (Padartha)?
A critic has taken exception to my statement that the classical Samkhya conceals a Vedantic solution behind its dualistic presentment. I was not then, of course, speaking from historical standpoint. Shiva in the Kularnava Tantra says that the Six Philosophies are parts of His body, and he who severs them severs His body. They are each aspects of the Cosmic Mind as appearing in Humanity. The logical process which they manifest is one and continuous. The conclusions of each stage or standard can be shown to yield the material of that which follows. This is a logical necessity if it be assumed that the Vedanta is the truest and highest expression of that of which the lower dualistic and pluralistic stages are the approach.
In Samkhya, the Purusha principle represents the formless consciousness, and Prakriti formative activity. Shamkara, defining Reality as that which exists as the same in all the three times, does not altogether discard these two principles, but says that they cannot exist as two independent Realities. He thus reduces the two categories of Samkhya, the Purusha Consciousness and Prakriti Unconsciousness to one Reality, the Brahman; otherwise the Vakya, "All is Brahman" (Sarvam khalvidam Brahma) is falsified. Brahman, however, in one aspect is dissociated from, and in another associated with Maya, which in his system takes the place of the Samkhyan Prakriti. Rut, whereas, Prakriti is an independent Reality, Maya is something which is neither real (Sat) nor unreal (Asat) nor partly real and partly unreal (Sadasat), and which though not forming part of Brahman, and therefore not Brahman, is yet, though not a second reality, inseparably associated and sheltering with, Brahman (Maya Brahmashrita) in one of its aspects: owing what false appearance of reality it has, to the Brahman with which it is so associated. It is an Eternal Falsity (Mithyabhuta sanatani), unthinkable, alogical, unexplainable (Anirvacaniya). In other points, the Vedantic Maya and Samkhyan Prakriti agree. Though Maya is not a second reality, but a mysterious something of which neither reality nor unreality can be affirmed, the fact of positing it at all gives to Shamkara's doctrine a tinge of dualism from which Shakta theory is free. According to Samkhya, Prakriti is real although it changes. This question of reality is one of definition. Both Mulaprakriti and Maya are eternal. The world, though a changing thing, has at least empirical reality in either view. Both are unconsciousness. Consciousness is reflected on or in unconsciousness: that is to state one view for, as is known, there is a difference of opinion. The light of Purusha-Consciousness (Cit) is thrown on the Prakriti-Unconsciousness (Acit) in the form of Buddhi. Vijñanabhikshu speaks of a mutual reflection. The Vedantic Pratibimbavadins say that Atma is reflected in Antahkarana, and the apparent likeness of the latter to Cit which is produced by such reflection is Cidabhasa or Jiva. This question of Cidabhasa is one of the main points of difference between Mayavada and Shaktivada. Notwithstanding that Maya is a falsity, it is not, according to Shamkara, a mere negation or want of something (Abhava), but a positive entity (Bhavarupamajanam): that is, it is in the nature of a power which veils (Acchadaka) consciousness, as Prakriti does in the case of Purusha. The nature of the great "Unexplained" as it is in Itself, and whether we call it Prakriti or Maya, is unknown. The Yoginihridaya Tantra beautifully says that we speak of the Heart of Yogini who is Knower of Herself (Yogini svavid), because the heart is the place whence all things issue. "What man," it says, "knows the heart of a woman? Only Shiva knows the Heart of Yogini." But from Shruti and its effects it is said to be one, all-pervading, eternal, existing now as seed and now as fruit, unconscious, composed of Gunas (Guna-mayi); unperceivable except through its effects, evolving (Parinami) these effects which are its products: that is the world, which however assumes in each system the character of the alleged cause; that is, in Samkhya the effects are real: in Vedanta, neither real nor unreal. The forms psychic or physical arise in both cases as conscious-unconscious (Sadasat) effects from the association of Consciousness (Purusha or Ishvara) with Unconsciousness (Prakriti or Maya), Miyate anena iti Maya. Maya is that by which forms are measured or limited. This too is the function of Prakriti. Maya as the collective name of eternal ignorance (Ajñana), produces, as the Prapañcashakti, these forms, by first veiling (Avaranashakti) Consciousness in ignorance and then projecting these forms (Vikshepashakti) from the store of the cosmic Samskaras. But what is the Tamas Guna of the Samkhyan Prakriti in effect but pure Avidya? Sattva is the tendency to reflect consciousness and therefore to reduce unconsciousness. Rajas is the activity (Kriya) which moves Prakriti or Maya to manifest in its Tamasik and Sattvik aspect. Avidya means "na vidyate," "is not seen," and therefore is not experienced. Cit in association with Avidya does not see Itself as such. The first experience of the Soul reawakening after dissolution to world experience is, "There is nothing," until the Samskaras arise from out this massive Ignorance. In short, Prakriti and Maya are like the materia prima of the Thomistic philosophy, the finitizing principle; the activity which "measures out" (Miyate), that is limits and makes forms in the formless (Cit). The devotee Kamalakanta lucidly and concisely calls Maya, the form of the Formless (Shunyasya akara iti Maya).
In one respect, Mayavada is a more consistent presentation of Advaitavada, than the Shakta doctrine to which we now proceed. For whilst Shamkara's system, like all others, posits the doctrine of aspects, saying that in one aspect the Brahman is associated with Maya (Ishvara), and that in another it is not (Parabrahman); yet in neither aspect does his Brahman truly change. In Shakta doctrine, Shiva does in one aspect (Shakti) change. Brahman is changeless and yet changes. But as change is only experienced by Jivatma subject to Maya, there is not perhaps substantial difference between such a statement, and that which affirms changelessness and only seeming change. In other respects, however, to which I now proceed, Shakta doctrine is a more monistic presentation of Advaitavada. If one were asked its most essential characteristic, the reply should be, the absence of the concept of unconscious Maya as taught by Shamkara. Shruti says, "All is Brahman". Brahman is consciousness: and therefore all is consciousness. There is no second thing called Maya which is not Brahman even though it be "not real", "not unreal"; definition obviously given to avoid the imputation of having posited a second Real. To speak of Brahman, and Maya which is not Brahman is to speak of two categories, however much it may be sought to explain away the second by saying that it is "not real" and "not unreal"; a falsity which is yet eternal and so forth. Like a certain type of modern Western "New Thought," Shakta doctrine affirms, "all is consciousness," however much unconsciousness appears in it. The Kaulacarya Sadananda says in his commentary on the 4th Mantra of Isopanishad (Ed. A. Avalon): "The changeless Brahman, which is consciousness appears in creation as Maya which is Brahman, (Brahmamayi), consciousness (Cidrupini) holding in Herself unbeginning (Anadi) Karmik tendencies (Karmasamskara) in the form of the three Gunas. Hence, She is Gunamayi, despite being Cinmayi. As there is no second principle these Gunas are Cit-Shakti." The Supreme Devi is thus Prakashavimarshasya-rupini, or the union of Prakasha and Vimarsha.
According to Shamkara, man is Spirit (Atma) vestured in the Mayik 'falsities' of mind and matter. He, accordingly, can only establish the unity of Ishvara and Jiva by eliminating from the first Maya, and from the second Avidya, when Brahman is left as common denominator. The Shakta eliminates nothing. Man's spirit or Atma is Shiva, His mind and body are Shakti. Shakti and Shiva are one. The Jivatma is Shiva-Shakti. So is the Paramatma. This latter exists as one: the former as the manifold. Man is then not a Spirit covered by a non-Brahman falsity, but Spirit covering Itself with Its own power or Shakti.
What then is Shakti, and how does it come about that there is some principle of unconsciousness in things, a fact which cannot be denied. Shakti comes from the root "shak," "to be able," "to have power". It may be applied to any form of activity. The power to see is visual Shakti, the power to burn is Shakti of fire, and so forth. These are all forms of activity which are ultimately reducible to the Primordial Shakti (Adya Shakti) whence every other form of Power proceeds. She is called Yogini because of Her connection with all things as their origin. It is this Original Power which is known in worship as Devi or Mother of Many Names. Those who worship the Mother, worship nothing "illusory" or unconscious, but a Supreme Consciousness, whose body is all forms of consciousness-unconsciousness produced by Her as Shiva's power. Philosophically, the Mother or Daivashakti is the kinetic aspect of the Brahman. All three systems recognize that there is a static and kinetic aspect of things: Purusha, Brahman, Shiva on the one side, Prakriti, Maya, Shakti on the other. This is the time-honored attempt to reconcile the doctrine of a changeless Spirit, a changing Manifold, and the mysterious unity of the two. For Power (Shakti) and the possessor of the Power (Shaktiman) are one and the same. In the Tantras, Shiva constantly says to Devi, "There is no difference between Thee and Me." We say that the fire burns, but burning is fire. Fire is not one thing and burning another. In the supreme transcendental changeless state, Shiva and Shakti are one, for Shiva is never without Shakti. The connection is called Avinabhavasambandha. Consciousness is never without its Power. Power is active Brahman or Consciousness. But, as there is then no activity, they exist in the supreme state as one Tattva (Ekam tattvam iva); Shiva as Cit, Shakti as Cidrupini. This is the state before the thrill of Nada, the origin of all those currents of force which are the universe. According to Shamkara, the Supreme Experience contains no trace or seed of' objectivity whatever. In terms of speech, it is an abstract consciousness (Jñana). According to the view here expressed, which has been profoundly elaborated by the Kashmir Shaiva School, that which appears "without" only so appears because it, in some form or other, exists "within". So also the Shakta Visvasara Tantra says, "what is here is there, what is not here is nowhere." If therefore we know duality, it must be because the potentiality of it exists in that from which it arises. The Shaivashakta school thus assumes a real derivation of the universe and a causal nexus between Brahman and the world. According to Shamkara, this notion of creation is itself Maya, and there is no need to find a cause for it. So it is held that the supreme experience (Amarsha) is by the Self (Shiva) of Himself as Shakti, who as such is the Ideal or Perfect Universe; not in the sense of a perfected world of form, but that ultimate formless feeling (Bhava) of Bliss (Ananda) or Love which at root the whole world is. All is Love and by Love all is attained. The Shakta Tantras compare the state immediately prior to creation with that of a grain of gram (Canaka) wherein the two seeds (Shiva and Shakti) are held as one under a single sheath. There is, as it were, a Maithuna in this unity of dual aspect, the thrill of which is Nada, productive of the seed or Bindu from which the universe is born. When the sheath breaks and the seeds are pushed apart, the beginning of a dichotomy is established in the one consciousness, whereby, the "I", and the "This" (Idam or Universe) appear as separate. The specific Shiva aspect is, when viewed through Maya, the Self, and the Shakti aspect the Not-Self. This is to the limited consciousness only. In truth the two, Shiva and Shakti, are ever one and the same, and never dissociated. Thus each of the Bindus of the Kamakala are Shiva-Shakti appearing as Purusha-Prakriti. At this point, Shakti assumes several forms, of which the two chief are Cit-Shakti or as Cit as Shakti, and Maya-Shakti or Maya as Shakti. Maya is not here a mysterious unconsciousness, a non-Brahman, non-real, non-unreal something. It is a form of Shakti, and Shakti is Shiva who is Consciousness which is real. Therefore Maya Shakti is in itself (Svarupa) Consciousness and Brahman. Being Brahman, It is real. It is that aspect of conscious power which conceals Itself to Itself. "By veiling the own true form (Svarupa = Consciousness), its Shaktis always arise", (Svarupavarane casya shaktayah satatotthitah) as the Spandakarika says. This is a common principle in all doctrine relating to Shakti. Indeed, this theory of veiling, though expressed in another form, is common to Samkhya and Vedanta. The difference lies in this that in Samkhya it is a second, independent Principle which veils; in Mayavada Vedanta it is the non-Brahman Maya (called a Shakti of Ishvara) which veils; and in Shakta Advaitavada (for the Shaktas are nondualists) it is Consciousness which, without ceasing to be such, yet veils Itself. As already stated, the Monistic Shaivas and Shaktas hold certain doctrines in common such as the thirty-six Tattvas, and what are called Shadadhva which also appear as part of the teaching of the other Shaiva Schools. In the thirty-six Tattva scheme, Maya which is defined as "the sense of difference" (Bhedabuddhi), for it is that which makes the Self see things as different from the Self, is technically that Tattva which appears at the close of the pure creation, that is, after Shuddhavidya. This Maya reflects and limits in the Pashu or Jiva, the Iccha, Jñana, Kriya Shaktis of Ishvara. These again are the three Bindus which are "Moon," "Fire," and "Sun". (See Author's Garland of Letters.) What are Jñana and Kriya (including Iccha its preliminary) on the part of the Pati (Lord) in all beings and things (Bhaveshu) which are His body: it is these two which, with Maya as the third, are the Sattva, Rajas and Tamas Gunas of the Pashu. This veiling power explains how the undeniable element of unconsciousness which is seen in things exists. How, if all be consciousness, is that principle there '? The answer is given in the luminous definition of Shakti; "It is the function of Shakti to negate" (Nishedhavyapararupa Shaktih), that is, to negate consciousness and make it appear to Itself as unconscious (Karika 4 of Yogaraja or Yogamuni's Commentary on Abhinava Gupta's Paramarthasara). In truth the whole world is the Self whether as "I" (Aham) or "This" (Idam). The Self thus becomes its own object. It becomes object or form that it may enjoy dualistic experience. It yet remains, what it was in its unitary blissful experience. This is the Eternal Play in which the Self hides and seeks itself. The formless cannot assume form unless formlessness is negated. Eternity is negated into finality; the all-pervading into the limited; the all-knowing into the "little knower"; the almighty into the "little doer," and so forth. It is only by negating Itself to Itself that the Self becomes its own object in the form of the universe.
It follows from the above that, to the Shakta worshipper, there is no unconscious Maya in Shamkara's sense, and therefore there is no Cidabhasa, in the sense of the reflection of consciousness on unconsciousness, giving the latter the appearance of consciousness which it does not truly possess. For all is Consciousness as Shakti. "Aham Stri," as the Advaitabhavopanisad exclaims. In short, Shamkara says there is one Reality or Consciousness and a not-real not-unreal Unconsciousness. What is really unconscious appears to be conscious by the reflection of the light of Consciousness upon it. Shakta doctrine says consciousness appears to be unconscious, or more truly, to have an element of unconsciousness in it (for nothing even empirically is absolutely unconscious), owing to the veiling play of Consciousness Itself as Shakti.
As with so many other matters, these apparent differences are to some extent a matter of words. It is true that the Vedantists speak of the conscious (Cetana) and unconscious (Acetana), but they, like the Shakta Advaitins, say that the thing in itself is Consciousness. When this is vividly displayed by reason of the reflection (Pratibimbha) of consciousness in Tattva, (such as Buddhi), capable of displaying this reflection, then we can call that in which it is so displayed conscious. Where, though consciousness is all-pervading, Caitanya is not so displayed, there we speak of unconsciousness. Thus, gross matter (Bhuta) does not appear to reflect Cit, and so appears to us unconscious. Though all things are at base consciousness, some appear as more, and some as less conscious. Shamkara explains this by saying that Caitanya is associated with a non-conscious mystery or Maya which veils consciousness, and Caitanya gives to what is unconscious the appearance of consciousness through reflection. "Reflection" is a form of pictorial thinking. What is meant is that two principles are associated together without the nature (Svarupa) of either being really affected, and yet producing that effect which is Jiva. Shakta doctrine says that all is consciousness, but this same consciousness assumes the appearance of changing degrees of unconsciousness, not through the operation of anything other than itself (Maya), but by the operation of one of its own powers (Mayashakti). It is not unconscious Maya in Shamkara's sense which veils consciousness, but Consciousness as Shakti veils Itself, and, as so functioning, it is called Mayashakti. It may be asked how can Consciousness become Unconsciousness and cease to be itself '? The answer is that it does not. It never ceases to be Consciousness. It appears to itself, as Jiva, to be unconscious, and even then not wholly: for as recent scientific investigations have shown, even so-called "brute matter" exhibits the elements of that which, when evolved in man, is self-consciousness. If it be asked how consciousness can obscure itself partially or at all, the only answer is Acintya Shakti, which Mayavadins as all other Vedantists admit. Of this, as of all ultimates, we must say with the Western Scholastics, "omnia exeunt in mysterium".
Prakriti is then, according to Samkhya, a real independent category different from Purusha. This both Mayavada and Shaktivada deny. Maya is a not-real, not-unreal Mystery dependent on, and associated with, and inhering in Brahman; but not Brahman or any part of Brahman. Maya-Shakti is a power of, and, in its Svarupa, not different from Shiva: is real, and is an aspect of Brahman itself. Whilst Brahman as Ishvara is associated with Maya, Shiva is never associated with anything but Himself. But the function of all three is the same, namely to make forms in the formless. It is That, by which the Ishvara or Collective Consciousness pictures the universe for the individual Jiva's experience. Shakti is three-fold as Will (Iccha), Knowledge (Jñana), and Action (Kriya). All three are but differing aspects of the one Shakti. Consciousness and its power or action are at base the same. It is true that action is manifested in matter, that is apparent unconsciousness, but its root, as that of all else is consciousness. Jñana is self-proved and experienced (Svatahsiddha), whereas, Kriya, being inherent in bodies, is perceived by others than by ourselves. The characteristic of action is the manifestation of all objects. These objects, again, characterized by consciousness-unconsciousness are in the nature of a shining forth (Abhasa) of Consciousness. (Here Abhasa is not used in its sense of Cidabhasa, but as an intensive form of the term Bhasa.) The power of activity and knowledge are only differing aspects of one and the same Consciousness. According to Shamkara, Brahman has no form of self-determination. Kriya is a function of unconscious Maya. When Ishvara is said to be a doer (Karta), this is attributed (Aupadhika) to Him by ignorance only. It follows from the above that there are other material differences between Shakta doctrine and Mayavada, such as the nature of the Supreme Experience, the reality and mode of creation, the reality of the world, and so forth. The world, it is true, is not; as the Mahanirvana Tantra says absolute reality in the sense of unchanging being, for it comes and goes. It is nevertheless real, for it is the experience of Shiva and Shiva's experience is not unreal. Thus again the evolution of the world as Abhasa, whilst resembling the Vivarta of Mayavada, differs from it in holding, as the Samkhya does, that the effect is real and not unreal, as Shamkara contends. To treat of these and other matters would carry me beyond the scope of this essay which only deals, and that in a summary way, with the essential differences and similarities in the concept Prakriti, Maya and Shakti.
I may however conclude with a few general remarks. The doctrine of Shakti is a profound one, and I think likely to be attractive to Western minds when they have grasped it, just as they will appreciate the Tantrik watchword, Kriya or action, its doctrine of progress with and through the world and not against it, which is involved in its liberation-enjoyment (Bhukti-mukti) theory and other matters. The philosophy is, in any case, not, as an American writer, in his ignorance, absurdly called it, "worthless," "religious Feminism run mad," and a "feminization of Vedanta for suffragette Monists". It is not a "feminization" of anything, but distinctive, original and practical doctrine worthy of a careful study. The Western student will find much in it which is more acceptable to generally prevalent thought in Europe and America -- than in the "illusion" doctrine (in itself an unsuitable term), and the ascetic practice of the Vedantins of Shamkara's school. This is not to say that ways of reconciliation may not be found by those who go far enough. It would not be difficult to show ground for holding that ultimately the same intellectual results are attained by viewing the matter from the differing standpoints of Sadhana and Siddhi.
The writer of an interesting article on the same subject in the Prabuddha Bharata (August 1916) states that the Samnyasi Totapuri, the Guru of Sri Ramakrishna, maintained that a (Mayavadin) Vedantist could not believe in Shakti, for if causality itself be unreal there is no need to admit any power to cause, and that it is Maya to apply the principle of causation and to say that everything comes from Shakti. The Samnyasi was converted to Shakta doctrine after all. For as the writer well says, it is not merely by intellectual denial, but by living beyond the "unreal," that Real is found. He, however, goes on to say, "the Shaktivada of Tantra is not an improvement on the Mayavada of Vedanta, (that is the doctrine of Shamkara) but only its symbolization through the chromatics of sentiment and concept." It is true that it is a form of Vedanta, for all which is truly Indian must be that. It is also a fact that the Agama as a Shastra of worship is full of Symbolism. Intellectually, however, it is an original presentment of Vedanta, and from the practical point of view, it has some points of merit which Mayavada does not possess. Varieties of teaching may be different presentations of one truth leading to a similar end. But one set of "chromatics" may be more fruitful than another for the mass of men. It is in this that the strength of the Shakta doctrine and practice lies. Moreover (whether they be an improvement or not) there are differences between the two. Thus the followers of Shamkara do not, so far as I am aware, accept the thirty-six Tattvas. A question, however, which calls for inquiry is that of the relation of the Shakta and Shaiva (Advaita) Schools Mayavada is a doctrine which, whether true or not, is fitted only for advanced minds of great intellectuality, and for men of ascetic disposition, and of the highest moral development. This is implied in its theory of competency (Adhikara) for Vedantic teaching. When, as is generally the case, it is not understood, and in some cases when it is understood, but is otherwise not suitable, it is liable to be a weakening doctrine. The Shakta teaching to be found in the Tantras has also its profundities which are to be revealed only to the competent, and contains a practical doctrine for all classes of worshippers (Sadhaka). It has, in this form, for the mass of men, a strengthening pragmatic value which is beyond dispute. Whether, as some may have contended, it is the fruit of a truer spiritual experience I will not here discuss, for this would lead me into a polemic beyond the scope of my present purpose, which is an impartial statement of the respective teachings, on one particular point, given by the three philosophical systems here discussed.
Source: From The Shakti and Shâkta A Set of Essays on Tantra by Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroffe), 1918
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