What Are the Beliefs of Shaktism?
Strength in the Feminine
- Those who follow Shaktism have as their focus the female goddess Shakti. Shiva embodies a male god perspective in Hinduism and Shakti is seen as his female counterpart. The role of the goddess is that of a creative spiritual side, attributed to fertility and creation. Devi as goddess is the supreme being in control of all of the universe. Because of this view, Shaktism is the only religion that has a female-centered deity as its origin.
- Shaktists also engage in the erotic through tantric studies. This is not always sexual; it is more related to being thoroughly connected to the senses, which if deeply explored through meditation can be erotic. This meditation allows for a follower to be intrinsically related to all forms of nature. Tantric meditation and study is intensive and may include mantras, which are prayers; bijas, which are symbols; yantras, which are diagrams; mudras, which are hand positions; and nyasas, which reflect feeling the deities within the body.
The Universe is Within
- Becoming one with the goddess and fully connecting to the knowledge that the universe exists within is a primary belief and goal of Shaktism. There are three spiritual steps or stages towards this goal: pasu, where worship of a sectarian god is allowed and the follower abides by the prevailing rules of social morality even if those rules do not hold the female as supreme; vira, where the follower fully sees the female as supreme and moves to proves this within themselves by disregarding all social norms of food, drink, and behavior while becoming free of prejudice; and finally divya or divine, where the follower becomes elevated and is above all moral judgements and maintains no worldly attachments.
- The Devi Mahatmyam is seen as an important text to those who follow Shaktism. It tells the story of the goddess overcoming and defeating a demon. Arranged in 700 verses in 13 chapters, this text is important because it introduces the philosophy of the feminine. In it, the goddess makes her way through symbolic battles of worldly pleasures to understand the connection that forsaking them will provide. "All lives are conscious, but that knowledge is connected with senses," is a quote that reflects that journey for followers.