Shakti and Shakta

Shakti and Shakta
Catalog # SKU0964
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 2.20 lbs
Author Name Arhtur Avalon (Woodroffe)


Shakti and Shâkta

by Arthur Avalon
(Sir John Woodroffe)

Essays and Addresses on the
Shâkta tantrashâstra

A FRIEND of mine who read the first edition of this book suggested that I should add to it an opening Chapter, stating the most general and fundamental principles of the subject as a guide to the understanding of what follows, together with an outline of the latter in which the relation of the several parts should be shown. I have not at present the time, nor in the present book the space, to give effect to my friend's wishes in the way I would have desired, but will not altogether neglect them.

To the Western, Indian Religion generally seems a "jungle" of contradictory beliefs amidst which he is lost. Only those who have understood its main principles can show them the path.

It has been asserted that there is no such thing as Indian Religion, though there are many Religions in India. This is not so. As I have already pointed out (Is India Civilized?) there is a common Indian religion which I have called Bharata Dharma, which is an Aryan religion (Aryadharma) held by all Aryas whether Brahmanic, Buddhist or Jaina. These are the three main divisions of the Bharata Dharma. I exclude other religions in India, namely, the Semitic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Not that all these are purely Semitic. Christianity became in part Aryanized when it was adopted by the Western Aryans, as also happened with Islam when accepted by such Eastern Aryans as the Persians and the Aryanized peoples of India. Thus Sufism is either a form of Vedanta or indebted to it.

John George Woodroffe was the eldest son of James Tisdall Woodroffe, Advocate-General of Bengal and sometime Legal Member of the Government of India, J. P., Kt. of St. Gregory, by his wife Florence, daughter of James Hume. He was born on December 15th 1865 and was educated at Woburn Park School and University College, Oxford, where he took second classes in jurisprudence and the B.C.L. (Bachelor of Civil Law) examinations. He was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple in 1889, and in the following year was enrolled as an advocate of the Calcutta High Court. He was soon made a Fellow of the Calcutta University and appointed Tagore Law Professor. He collaborated with the late Mr. Ameer Ali in a widely used textbook Civil Procedure in British India. He was appointed Standing Counsel to the Government of India in 1902 and two years later was raised to the High Court Bench. He served thereon with competence for eighteen years and in 1915 officiated as Chief Justice. After retiring to this country he was for seven years from 1923, Reader in Indian Law to the University of Oxford. He died on 18th January 1936.

A man of studious and retiring habits, he devoted his leisure from judicial duties in the main to Sanskrit and Hindu philosophy and specialized in the Shakti system to an extent not equalled probably by any other British Orientalist. Both in India and in England, he was induced to speak or lecture on the different aspects of Hindu philosophy, but most hearers and readers found and still find it difficult to follow him in the bewildering mazes of the subject. While the shyness of the absorbed student made him slow to reveal his mind to a casual acquaintance or to care for society, he could talk much and well in congenial company. His books are a never exhausting source of information as to the deepest essentials of Indian philosophy.

Sir John Woodroffe published most of his books under the name of Arthur Avalon. It was under his own name that he published Shakti and Shakta being essays and addresses on the Shakta Tantra Shastra, studies in Mantra Shastra.

Excerpt from the conclusion:

Brahmanism or Hinduism, as in its later development the former has been called, is not merely a religion. It is a Socio-Economic System, the foundation of which is the Law of Caste and Stages of life. That System has its culture of which several forms of Religion, resting on a certain common basis, are but a part. Dealing, however, with Brahmanism in its religious aspect, we may say that it, together with Jainism and Buddhism, are the three chief religions of India, as opposed to those of the Semitic origin. All three religious systems share in common certain fundamental concepts which are denoted by the Sanskrit terms Karma, Samsara and Moksha. These concepts constitute a common denominator of Indian belief as next stated.

The Universe is in constant activity. Nothing which is Psycho-physical is at rest. Karma is Action. The Psychophysical as such is determined by Karma or action, and, therefore, man's present condition is determined by past Karma, either his own, or that of collectivities of men of which he is a member, or with which he is in relation, as also by the action of natural causes. In the same way, present Karma determines the future Karma. The doctrine of Karma is thus the affirmance of the Law of causality operating not only in this but in an infinity of Universes. As you sow so shall you reap. The present Universe is not the first and last only. It is true that this particular Universe has a beginning and an end called dissolution, for nothing composite is eternal; but it is only one of a series which has neither beginning nor end. There has been, is now, and ever will be an Universe.

Mental action as desire for worldly enjoyment, even though such enjoyment be lawful, keeps man in the Worlds of repeated Birth and Death, or (to use the English term) of Reincarnation. These worlds the Greeks called the Cycle of Becoming, and Hindus the Samsara, a term which literally means the unending 'moving on' or wandering, that is, being born and dying repeatedly.

These worlds comprise not only Earth but Heaven and Hell, in which are reaped the fruits of man's actions on Earth. Heaven and Hell, are states of enjoyment and suffering which exist here on earth as well as in the after-death state as the result of man's good and bad actions returning. When man dies there is no resurrection of the gross body. That is resolved into its subtle elements, and the specific relation between man and a particular gross body comes to an end. But there is always some body until bodiless liberation is achieved. On death man in his subtle body enjoys the state called Heaven or suffers in that called Hell. Neither is eternal, but each a part of the Cycle of the Becoming. When, then, man has had Heavenly enjoyment or suffered the pains of Hell in his subtle body, in the afterdeath state, according to his merits or demerits, he is 'reincarnated' in a gross body on Earth.

He continues thus to be 'reincarnated' until he has found and desires the way out from the Cycle, that, is, until he ceases to desire world-existence. His desire is then not only for release from the sufferings and limited happiness of the Cycle but also (according to Vedanta) for the attainment of the Supreme Worth which is Supreme Bliss. There is, in short, a change of values and states. Man, as Nietzsche said, is something to be transcended. He cannot transcend his present state so long as he is attached to and desires to remain in it. This liberation from the Cycle is called Moksha or Mukti. For all Three Systems are at one in holding that, notwithstanding the Law of Causality, man is free to liberate himself from the Cycle. Causality governs the Psychophysical. Spirit as such is Freedom from the Psycho-physical. All three Systems assume a State of Liberation.

Paperback, 5 x 8, 500+ pages

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