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Finding the Mother Energy in Yoga

Posted by on Sep 7, 2010

The Iconic Female: Goddesses of India, Nepal and TibetMany places on this planet are comfortable honoring the feminine principle.  India, China and Japan have traditions of goddess worship, for example, but it can often be difficult to find the mother energy in their teachings.  Yoga, especially has been dominated by male practitioners for many centuries. With the exception of the Hindu Shakti Tantra tradition, for example, it is difficult to touch the core of the feminine in yoga. . .but not impossible. The female principle stays true to her nature as ephemeral.  You just have to know where to look for her.
The Shakta Tantra tradition is one of goddess worship, and though all aspects of the tradition are not for every practitioner, there are many insights to be gleaned. For women, or for those wanting to understand archetypes of feminine power, the tradition of Shaktism is invaluable in a world where more masculine traditions have become the norm, and out of balance with the divine feminine principle. We can see this imbalance in nature, in government, in social systems, and sometimes in our own homes or relationships.
Shaktism is the Hindu denomination which worships Shakti or Devi, names for the Divine Mother. Without pouring over history, I can offer several hundred examples of our patriarchal leanings in religion, sometimes to the detriment of our own well being as citizens and individuals.  In some of the greatest wisdom traditions, women have been valued less than men, and the fallout from those beliefs are apparent around the world.  If you know anything about the status of the modern world, you know that there have been over 250 major wars since the end of WWII, and according to women for women international, “Ninety  percent of casualties are civilians, 75 percent of whom are women and children; a century ago, whereas 90 percent of war casualties were male soldiers.”  Ethnic cleansing and rape are used as tools of war more now than in any time in history.  For many Western women who are just now struggling to lead lives with balance between their families and their jobs, these kinds of facts are unthinkable.  By learning of traditions which honor the Divine Mother, we might be able to transcend some of the violence and strife that women are facing around the world.
In Shaktism, all is connected to the supreme divine.  She is both giver of life and destroyer.  Shaktism venerates Devi as the absolute, ultimate godhead. She is the Supreme God itself regardless of the male or female form.  She is considered to be manifest in all things. It is one of the only religious traditions in the world’s entire history which reveres the Mother Energy so completely. Shaktas, or persons who practice Shaktism hold that the Great Goddess is both personification and vessel for the world’s primordial energy.
Masculine energy is not shunned or neutered in this tradition, but deemed inactive or pointless without the energy of the Goddess.  In fact, the Goddess Kali is often depicted standing atop her husband who lies like a corpse.  He is seen as fruitless energy without the Goddess to enliven him.  The Goddess Devi actually transcends gender in her highest form, but there is no mistaking the message of this tradition.  The Goddess Energy is the most dominant power of the universe.
In a time when statements such as these are still regarded as somewhat blasphemous, we might stand to learn from the tenets proposed by this mindset.  Tantric Shaktism concentrates on a more esoteric Goddess-focused Bhaktism as well as mantra, yantra, and certain asana practices aimed at awakening kundalini in the practitioner.  All these practices are taught by a qualified Shakti Guru who has been qualified in the traditional guru lineage. It is rare for other traditions to embrace women as Gurus.  Even Tibetan Buddhism only recently allowed women to become lamas and although there are female sadhus, they often are not given the same amount of respect as their male counterparts even in India, where spiritual worship is the norm.  Male aspirants can still be initiated in the tradition, but only after realizing the innate female principle within himself.
From a western perspective, more and more men are desirous of acknowledging the female energy within themselves.  They feel more and more out of touch with a male dominated society.  The opinions, physical proximity and caring of women are becoming more appreciated, as well as the definitions of labor and the relevance and importance of gender-biased roles are changing due to this longing of men as well as women.
Environmentalist causes, in fact have much in common with the feminist slant – of using fewer resources and of seeing the planet as an extension of ourselves rather than a wasteland to use and abuse as we see fit.  The seeds of a stabile future for men and women are very much reliant upon feminine principles.  Places like Iraq, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda, and the Congo are all testaments to the dearth of Goddess Appreciation.
As we practice yoga, we are constantly striving to balance our bodies with our minds, and like the yin-yang of the Chinese traditions or the Ayurvedic principles of balancing sun, moon, wind and earth principles in the body and mind, we must also balance the feminine and masculine energies which lay dormant within our energy bodies.  If we believe in reincarnation we have been both woman and man, and if we do not subscribe to this belief we can assume compassion for our mothers and sisters as well as our brothers and fathers.  By understanding one of the rare Goddess worship traditions more completely, we can begin to worship the masculine and feminine aspects of ourselves more fully, and become more realized, thus initiating ourselves into a higher state of consciousness.




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Christina Sarich

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