Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Nature of Śakti

Inherent in Śiva is His infinite power. Essentially one with Him, His power represents the freedom of His absolute nature from the limitations of the finite, and the freedom to assume the form of the finite while abiding as the infinite. Freedom from limitations implies the capacity to become manifest in countless diverse forms. Ultimately, it is Śiva’s freedom alone which unfolds everywhere as all things. The universe exists by virtue of His power which is at once the universe itself and the energy which brings it into being. Thus Abhinava says [Iswara-pratyabhijna-vimarshini 1.5.15]:
"The Lord is free. His freedom expresses itself in various ways. It reduces multiplicity into unity by inwardly uniting it and of one it makes many. ... He is therefore described as the knowing and acting subject, perfectly free in all His activities and all-powerful; this [freedom] alone is the essential nature of consciousness"
This freedom is also the inherent nature of the Self—man’s authentic identity. Perceiving nothing but itself in all things, the Self requires no external aid in order to manifest itself in the sphere of objectivity. The ego, confined to the physical body and fashioned by the thought-constructs generated by a form of consciousness whose focus of attention is (apparently) outside itself, is not free. It is a ‘non-self’dependent on outer objectivity. However, even in this condition destitute of power (śakti’ daridra) the fettered, individualised ego-consciousness partakes of the autonomy of the pure conscious Self. One’s own authentic nature (svabhāva) is independent of objectivity and so must necessarily objectivise itself for the world to become manifest without impinging on its freedom.
Thus the perfect autonomy of the Self is also its universal creativity. Absolute independence implies more than a transcendental, autonomous state of aloofness. It requires that this autonomy be creative. This is the freedom which is Śiva’s power to do ‘that which is most difficult’ (atidurghatakāritva). His capacity to accomplish that which would be logically impossible (virodhate) in the domain of the empirical (māyā), governed by the principles of natural law (niyati). In order for Śiva to manifest as the diverse universe, He must deny His infinite nature and appear as finite entities and “what could be more difficult than to negate the light of consciousness just when it is shining in full?” Thus, negation or limitation is a power of the absolute. Śakti is the principle of negation through which Śiva conceals His own undivided nature and becomes diverse.
As the source of diversity, Śakti is the absolute’s creative power of Māyā. Due to Māyāśakti, an initial contrast emerges within universal consciousness between the conscious (cit—subject) and the unconscious (acit—object). This split goes on to develop into the innumerable secondary distinctions which obtain between specific particulars. The one power made manifest in this way appears to be diverse due to the diverse forms of awareness the subject has of the many names and forms of the object.
Mark Dyczkowski

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