Shakti is the personification of the Divine Feminine, it is the primordial cosmic energy that represents the dynamic forces which move through the entire cosmos. It is a Sanskrit word and central to Hinduism.
It is 2019 and the most pertinent issue of our time is the issue of feminism and gender balance and female empowerment. In the west, people seem to be racking their minds trying to come up with a solution that can heal this issue. I observe this phenomena and am forced to look within, look at my own lineage, my culture my Dharma and I have a completely different perspective on the topic of feminism and female empowerment.
You see, in Sanathan Dharma, this is not even a question that will arise. Are men and women equal? Do we honor the feminine? Do we value our women? Are our women empowered? These seem to be questions that haunt the west and in contrast are not prevalent within Hinduism. That’s because Shakti- the divine feminine is central to our faith. Hinduism is the only religion that upholds the goddess energy even higher than God himself. In fact, there is a joke that goes” in Hinduism, we have more female goddesses than male gods”. This is true. Devi- (goddess worship) is the very essence of this ancient tradition and we have been practicing it for thousands of years. Hindus believe that Shakti is both responsible for creation and the agent of all change. Shakti is cosmicexistence as well as liberation.
Feminism in the 21st century in the west seems to have morphed into something very unpalatable. It had suddenly turned into a man-hating, male-bashing, venomous, entitlement –driven identity politics. Where activists are fighting for higher treatment based on entitlement rather than merit. They don’t take into account that men and women are different, that they are not supposed to be the same, each has their own spiritual purpose and marries perfectly into the other.
In this pursuit of equality of outcome, we are finding a reversal of the gender balance where the women are becoming harder and the men softer and almost ashamed of their inherit masculine power. This leaves women yearning for the divine masculine which they feel they have generate within themselves. And when a women is forced to be the “man”, she is unable to be her true self.
In contrast, when you look east, Indian women are an embodiment of this Shakti energy at its highest elevation. I find women in the west struggling to find their divine feminine essence and I see this very essence effortlessly manifested within Indian women. Observe any India woman, she proudly wears her femininity. Her real power is in her vulnerability, beauty, softness and sensuality. She knows that she does not need to give up who she is to be the person she wants to be. She is secure in her power and does not feel the need to prove it or to bring someone else down to validate her own self-worth. True Yoga (union) is embracing the Shiva and Shakti within ones self.
When looking at the Goddess energy, we see that there are so many faces to it. The benevolent Lakshmi, the fierce Kali, the powerful Durga, the compassionate Parvati, the sensual Quan Yin, the playful Radha, the wise Saraswati among others. We have all these different elements of the Goddess within us. Hinduism teaches us to embrace it all and not give up our essence to be something in the world.
Santana Dharma is as timeless as it is contemporary. It is needed now more than ever. The answers that the world is searching for lies in wisdom tradition.
The Hindu scriptures say:
“In Woman, is the form of all things, of all that lives and moves in the world. There is no Jewel rarer than woman, no condition superior to that of a Woman”.
For me personally, Shakti has played a great role in shaping me into the kind of woman I am today in the world. It has taught me the balance of Yin and Yang, to receive and exert. It has taught me to find my power in charm, softness, vulnerability and love rather than force. When I was an investment banker, I harnessed my Shakti energy to communicate and negotiate while keeping my center and now in entertainment and as a public intellectual, I have to express myself with grace, charm and light. There is a large void I see in society these days, where this notion of Shakti could fill a deep void.
Gender balance and equality is at the forefront of all social sciences and policy issues in the west as they struggle to find a stance that works. It is ironic that In the case of India, the British invaders tried to impose their flawed idea of gender equality and balance onto Indians. Thankfully we have kept our traditions and rejected their western idea of feminism. It is now our job to share the Dharmic idea of gender balance back to the west.
In the age of ‘Times up’ and ‘Me too’, the dance of Shiva Shakti becomes incredibly healing and necessary. Hinduism can play a role in the growing consciousness or gender activism and awakened living. Most problems arise because of the imbalance in the Shiva and Shakti.
We are finding that the western notion of feminism has not worked- more women are turned off from the brut notion of feminism in the west. Yet at the same time, they know that there has got to be something more out there. There has to be a better social framework where they get to keep what is unique about being a woman and not having to give that up. The very idea of what it means to be a woman is now being challenged and contemplated on. In the pursuit of socially generated equality it is important that we don’t loose the very notion of the male female dynamic as it has been for millennia.
The fact that women and men are seen as equals in the eyes of Sanatana Dharma reflects the egalitarian attitude of the Vedas, and how the tradition emphasizes that a spirit of cooperation and appreciation between men and women is what leads to societal progression. The west can take a leaf from these teachings and bring balance into their society. In Hinduism, we don’t encroach on each other’s space or impose our gender values onto them. It is ultimately a delicate dance in this divine Leela (Divine play) of life. That is why it has worked for over 5000 years and continues to even today.
It is part of my personal Dharma to share this with the world. By being an embodiment of Shakti herself and a conduit for this ancient wisdom to the rest of the world.