How Shakti can help empower women in India
It refers not to the power of aggression that causes conflict, but to the power of integration that brings peace.
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India has always honoured the spiritual role of women and the feminine principle. We can observe this in the widespread worship of the Goddess in numerous forms starting with Durga, Lakshmi, Sarasvati, Parvati and Kali, along with their many temples and sacred sites.
In traditional societies, the role of women is centered in taking care of the home and raising children. That noble function remains relevant, but should not become restrictive. Today women are entering into the work force, assuming a variety of occupations. This is a necessary development of modern civilisation with smaller families and a wider scope for education. The role of the woman is being redefined accordingly, but it is still unclear as to who the new woman is or what she should aspire for.
Western perspectives on women’s rights – such as dominate in the women’s movement even in India – are formulated in a masculine image of aggression and assertion. They do not afford adequate respect for women’s inner qualities of caring, nourishing, peace-making and social integration. Many women throughout the world are confused as to who they are or how to develop supportive feminine values. Balancing family, education and career can be very daunting.
Understanding and Awakening Shakti
In India there is a traditional concept of women’s empowerment as Shakti. Shakti refers not to the power of aggression that divides and causes conflict, but to the power of integration that unites and brings peace. Shakti is the force of wisdom and enlightenment, not ignorance and inertia, a creative not a destructive energy. It gives refinement and sensitivity, not crudeness and intolerance.We can observe this in the widespread worship of the Goddess in numerous forms starting with Durga, Lakshmi, Sarasvati etc. [Photo: Pinterest]
Shakti unfortunately is misunderstood today as promoting the separate self, encouraging personal self-assertion as the highest goal. This is contrary to its true meaning of developing community and relationship, extending to the entire universe as a single family.
Awakening Shakti affords us a greater capacity in life, giving us the vitality and awareness to accomplish many different tasks and considerations. But it is a capacity that arises from aligning ourselves with the vast forces of nature and the divine energies behind the movement of life. When Shakti awakens, we are more artistic, articulate, and inspired, but for a higher purpose.
Shakti as the Force of Dharma
Shakti is the power of Dharma to uphold, support and develop, which brings about cohesion and consolidation. Such Shakti is the Yoga Shakti, the power to unify our individual nature with the Universal Being, fostering awareness, respect and harmony. Shakti energises Dharma in the outer world and Yoga Sadhana in the individual.
Shakti is a power of service and sharing not of domination and exploitation.
Shakti requires that our actions become Karma Yoga, a focused and dedicated offering to a higher power. This inner Shakti has no ideology and moves as a flow of grace.
An awakening of Shakti can aid in developing a truly democratic society, but only if such a democracy seeks to empower a higher consciousness, not just our material desires. Democracy today often ends up promoting the separate self, leading to social fragmentation. It ultimately leaves the individual alone and depressed, feeling alienated from life and other people. Shakti works best with community as Sangha Shakti, encouraging like-minded individuals to work together for their mutual well-being.
Shakti and Education
India needs to promote a new Shakti among its women, starting with young girls, empowering, ennobling, educating and respecting them. This is a necessary initiative for members of all religious groups. Women are too often left behind in education, sometimes under the excuse of religious propriety. If girls do not receive a good education by the age of fifteen, it becomes difficult for them to take their true role in society or to be confident as to who they truly are.
Such education for girls should address the necessary fields of modern learning but must also honour feminine values, and the Shakti or spiritual power that women can manifest. Women are natural doctors and healers and their work in the healing field is important. Another area is communication, art and the media, where women have natural skills to beautify and harmonise. In addition, the traditional arts and crafts that women uphold should be preserved. Yet women should also be honoured as teachers, leaders and innovators, allowed to bring their full creative talents and insights into the world at large.
India as a country is looked upon in a strong feminine light upon as Bharat Mata and Ma Durga. The Universal Mother is the deity or energy behind the country, its art, culture, Yoga and spirituality. That Shakti can bless all of us, but only if we honour it in our society and in our own families.