Shakti, means energy but when we refer to it in the Tantra, we mean the Parashakti or the primeval, original Shakti. It is the source of all other pranas that function in the system and therefore another name given to it is Mukhyaprana. In the human structure it’s Mukhyaprana, in the outside world it is Parashakti which divides itself into energies and functions in different ways.
Tantra, Mantra and Yantra
Tantra is defined as Yogo bhoga–yate, which means Yoga through bhoga. The ultimate bhoga or enjoyment is when the energies awaken inside our system. The external enjoyments are manifestations of this energy in a small form. So in Tantra they have devised ways and means by which you live in this world, you enjoy this world to the best extent possible, meanwhile understanding that all enjoyment that comes in this world is actually coming from inside and so ultimately turn in and find the source and fountain of all the joy that you feel which is within, which is the Mukhyaprana, which is the Kula-kundalini, which is the Shakti, which is the Devi.
The key principle of Tantra is balance and no extremes.
Tantra, from the Samayamarga point of view, is the understanding of the activity of the shakti in the human system and how to awaken it and enjoy and get drunk in that, not from outside sources.
Mantra is the science of utilizing your mana – mind as a Yantra. It is the science of sound. Apart from the words and the meanings of a Mantra, the most important is the sound. The sound has a certain effect, even if you don’t know the meaning of the Mantra, if you are doing it properly, the proper sound, it does have an effect. If you know both, then it’s even better.
Yantra means a machine or that with which you can accomplish what you desire. In the science of Tantra, Yantras are those designs, pictures and blueprints with which you can achieve a certain result. It shows us how to tap that energy which pervades the universe, which is the original energy and which functions in the human system as the Mukhyaprana.
There are various textbooks on these subjects like Tantras, Kularnava Tantra, Mahanirvana Tantra etc. A combination of both – the practice of Yoga and the practice of Tantra are called the Yoga Tantras. Perfect example is the ‘Sat–Chakra Nirupana’ which Arthur Avalon translated as ‘The Serpent Power.’
So, for the Yogi, who does not touch Tantra as a major part of his progress, there is still the practice of Tantra because he’s dealing with the energy called Kundalini. The moment he fixes his attention on the energy, the Parashakti which is in the human being resting in the mooladhara, automatically the Yogi is also doing Tantra. Mooladhara is a Yantra. Moola–adhara, is the root foundation from which all other practices start, you use your breath as a sacrifice and all the yajnas are performed in the inner fire of the manipura.
According to me in the modern age, as we are now, Yoga Tantra is better than pure Tantra or pure Yoga. When I say pure Yoga, it means only the practices of asanas and so on. There has to be a judicial combination of both – the Tantra and the Yoga, so Yoga Tantras.
During Navratri, we worship Shakti and the different forms of Shakti, Sri Vidya, of the Devi, Tripurasundari, Rajarajeshwari etc. This universal energy is residing in all human beings in the mooladhara chakra; the lowest center. According to Saundarya Lahiri, she resides in the mooladhara, coiled three and a half times, like a snake.
For most human beings after food and shelter, the most powerful energy that drives people is sexual energy. Where does it originate for human beings? At the mooladhara, at the bottom of the spine. This is the most powerful energy. It’s also the creative energy.
Generally, biologically a sperm goes into the womb in the egg and a new person is created. It starts from mooladhara, where the energy is resting, and when it is awakened it creates a new entity all together.
So, this Parashakti after creating this human being fully, a new child is born, when its function is over temporarily, it goes and settles down in the mooladhara.
For the Yogi, it’s this essence from where the spiritual creativity can be tapped. This energy is made to go to the higher centers, through the spine, through the sushumna into the sahasrara, as celebrated even by great sanyasin like Adi Shankara in the Saundarya–Lahari, which means – the ecstasy of beauty.
For most people this energy flows only in one direction. So, according to the Yoga–Tantras, the yogi turns the energy in the other direction. But the Shaktas, the Tantras say that you can do that even without shunning everything by living in this world enjoying things, and understanding that the enjoyment is actually inside and not outside.
So, you can wear good clothes, have good food, not overdo anything and find out that the source and centre of enjoyment is actually the energy called Shakti which can be aroused and taken to the sahasrara.
Nine nights of navaratri are all stages through which the Shakti travels and finally on Dashami, the Shakti is in the sahasrara. There are only seven chakras including the sahasrara but nine is described as a number which is a number of energy which cannot be destroyed or created. Numerologically, nine is the only number multiplied with anything, then adding the numbers, you’ll still get only nine because it is a symbol of energy which is always there, nobody can destroy it, nobody can create it, it’s self-created.
From the Tantra point of view, the energy has generally been described and split into Dasha Mahavidyas. In the Dasha Mahavidyas, there are different manifestations of Shakti called Ghora devathas and are also Shantha devathas. The first vidya is Bhadrakali and then Durga, Smashana Durga and so on and the Shanta Durga, Rajarajeshwari, Tripura Sundari. It starts with Badrakali. Unless you want to cut your head and put it along with the garland that’s already hanging there, be very careful.
Kali a symbol of the whole creation, it is the reality – tongue out, blood dripping, this is reality everywhere you see it happening. Don’t run away from it. So, the ultimate sacrifice is to add your head, your ego as one of the heads that are munda mala on her neck munda mala vibushitam.
Anyone who wants to understand this in depth, I would suggest that they go through the Saundarya–Lahari with a good, reasonable translation and try to explore. Each of the seven chakras has its own description, beejakshara, mantra, sound, color and smell.
Shakti is most important because Shivam cannot be touched without the activation of the Shakti. Without the havan kund, no homa can be done.