Hinduism is an ocean with a variety of treasures hidden in its depths. The follower can dive in and choose whatever appeals to him/her the most. We can choose from a pantheon of Devis and Devatas and have a wide variety of choice as far as the shastras are concerned as well. Hindu shastras are as much a treatise in various branches of science as they are spiritual in nature. One must read with an open mind to understand the concepts explained therein. The Rishis and Maharishis have passed on knowledge that was both revealed to them and that which they gathered through their Yogic power.
The universe is a fascinating place and its creation is a subject matter of research. How did the various life forms come into existence? Are there other similar planets and universe; containing similar life-forms, in existence? Answers to these and many such scientific questions, which are being discovered by scientists today, can be found in our shastras. The need is for us to decode and understand them. In this post, we are going to attempt to understand the creative force behind the universe; namely Shiva and Shakti.
Process of creation
Science states that the universe was created through the Big Bang; which means energy was needed to bring it into existence. This energy is embodied in the Purusha and Prakriti which is represented by Shiva and Shakti respectively. One cannot separate the two from each other and one without the other is nothing but null and void.
When Brahma Dev set out to create various species that would inhabit the earth and continue the process of life; He found that there were no female species that were needed for the continuation of life. He then meditated upon Mahadev and sought His help in the task of creation. Pleased by Brahma Dev’s penance Mahadev appeared before the former as Ardhnareshwar and asked the former the reason for His penance. Brahma Dev explained how he was unable to continue his task of creation in the absence of feminine power. It was then that Mahadev separated Shakti from Him and Brahma used Her for the process of procreating the universe.
Purusha and Prakriti
Purusha and Prakriti are two aspects of the same Parabrahman that regulate and implement the universal creative process. Purusha signifies the creative consciousness which activates the creative process in combination with Prakriti. Prakriti stands for pure, natural energy and means that which gives shapes or forms. The latent energy Purusha and active energy Prakriti unite to set the process of creation into motion. Both of these are everlasting and indestructible energies and while Purusha is the fundamental cause; Prakriti is the material cause of creation.
At the beginning of creation Brahma Dev draws forth all entities which dissolve into Prakriti at the end of every cycle of creation. Within Prakriti lies Purusha who creates the entire creation; both moving and non-moving. Simply put Purusha is the energy seated within Prakriti who enables creation to take place. However, although Purusha enables creation He never creates Himself.
Both these principles operate at two levels: the individual and universal levels. At the individual level; Prakriti is the Kshetra (body and mind) and Purusha is the Kshetragna meaning knower of the body (indwelling spirit). The lower nature of Prakriti is composed of the eight-fold elements i.e. earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, reason and ego and its higher nature comprises of the life force by which all living entities are brought forth. Prakriti is responsible for the illusion and sense of duality and through the interplay of Gunas; it binds the Purusha to sense objects. This bondage is responsible for the cycle of birth and rebirth through various lifetimes till such time that one is able to transcend the duality and set the soul free (Mukti). Realization of the true nature of Purusha and Prakriti is, therefore, a path for an individual to attain Moksha.
Any discussion on Shiva and Shakti is incomplete without the mention of Ardhnareshwar. It is that form of Maheshwara where the right half is male (Shiva) and left one is the female (Shakti). This form not only signifies equality between both genders but also the inseparability of the two. It also means that it is the union of opposites that enables creation to come into existence. At the spiritual level Ardhnareshwar represents the duality and non-duality of Parmatma existing at the same time. In other words, it represents the reconciliation of completely diverse nature represented by the spiritual and ascetic nature of Shiva and materialistic and familial nature of Shakti.
Shiva & Shakti are not only inseparable and incomplete without each other but cannot operate without one another. Just like the sun (Shiva) is nothing without sunlight (Shakti) and a seed (Shakti) cannot germinate in the absence of soil (Shiva); Purusha and Prakriti are Shunya individually and infinity when they unite. Just like without Shakti Shiva is merely Shava (corpse) what use is Shakti when there is no field (Shiva) to channelize that energy. All creation exists because of the interaction and inter-play of these apparently opposite but essentially the same powers.