Shakti: God’s Feminine Side

by Radhanath Swami

Once, when I was delivering a talk in Mumbai, a young man said, “It is said that behind every successful man, there is a woman. Does this statement hold true for a celibate like you?”

Yes, it does. The spiritual gifts I seek are possible to attain only by grace, and divine grace originates in Shakti, the motherly, feminine quality of the Supreme. Behind a monk like me is the Supreme Goddess, whom in my tradition we call Radha. She is Krishna’s feminine counterpart.

The Vedic literature informs us that the one Infinite Being is both male and female. The one becomes two to exchange love, and their love is the origin of all other love, all beauty, all ecstasy, and all compassion. They are called by many names, such as Krishna and Radha, or Shaktiman (the source of power, which is the masculine principle) and Shakti (the feminine, divine activating energy). It’s easier to think of these two through an analogy. Shaktiman, or the power source, is the sun, and Shakti, the sun’s energy, is the sunshine. The two can never be separated. There is no meaning to one without the other.

This concept of masculine and feminine divinity is found in other spiritual traditions as well. Think of the yang and yin of the Taoist tradition, the Logos-Sophia of the Christian tradition, and the Yah-weh-Shekinah of the Hebraic tradition. The word shekinah means “dwelling place,” and in classical Judaism, it is thought that when the Shekinah is near Yahweh, she makes it easier to see him.

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Reprinted from The Journey Within: Exploring the Path of Bhakti by Radhanath Swami, published by Mandala Publishing © 2017. For more information visit www.mandalaeartheditions.com.

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