A Tribute to Śakti
In the Advaita Guru Parampara, Śakti is honoured right after Vasiṣṭha as follows:
nārāyaṇam padmabhuvam vasiṣṭham śaktim ca tatputra parāśaram ca
vyāsam śukam gauḍapadam mahāntam govindayogīndram athāsya śiṣyam |
śrI śamkarācāryam athāsya padmapādam ca hastāmalakam ca śiṣyam
tam toṭakam vārttikakāramanyān asmad gurūn santatamānatosmi ||
Many of us who claim allegiance to Advaita would repeat this prayer without understanding what made these Ācāryās the knowers of the Advaita Satyam. We understand the relevance of Śankara, his disciples and even his immediate predecessors such as Gaudapada, the author of the classic, “Mandukya Kārikās”. The characterization of Śuka as being born liberated and Vyāsa’s authorship of the Brahma Sūtrāni also make it easy for us to realize their status within the Advaita context.
However, we are dark with respect to the earlier masters and it would be pertinent to note that the above stutī has compress the chronology of the Vasiṣṭhās by making Parasara, the father of Vyāsa, identical with Parāśara Śāktya, the son of Śakti. Sakti was contemporaneous with Sudāsa who, if you refer to the genealogical table in the downloads, lived almost two dozen generations before his descendant, Pṛṣata, who was the father of Drupada and contemporaneous with the famous BhĪṣma whose half-brother was Vyāsa.
Coming back, I was thus meditating on this issue and sought an insight into Śakti from the Devas and the Ācāryās. While some of the Pauranika texts as well as the much later Sri Kāmakoti Pītha Jagadguru Parampararatnamālāstuti by Sri Sadāśiva Brahmendra speak of Śakti being a knower of Brahman, I was yearning for a proof from the Veda itself. Within a matter of days, the truth was revealed to me! Tradition holds that the first half verse of RV 7.32.26 was composed by Śakti when he was almost at the verge of death, right before he was consumed by the flames! This is that beautiful half-verse!
indra kratuṃ na ā bhara pitā putrebhyo yathā
“Grant us, Indra, knowledge, as a father to his sons”
As I reflected on these words, I felt a chill and intuited that this was the key to understanding the greatness of Śakti. The word “Kratu” has several meanings. It could mean rituals, actions, knowledge, intention to do the correct deeds, etcetera. It is very difficult to fully grasp the meaning of any ancient word whose original context would have eroded over time. But a potential hidden purport of this term shone on me when I read the Gītā 4.18:
karmaṇy akarma yaḥ paśyed akarmaṇi ca karma yaḥ
sa buddhimān manuṣyeṣu sa yuktaḥ kṛtsnakarmakṛt
“He who sees in action, inaction and in inaction, action;
He is the wise one among men, engaged in yoga and is a performer of all actions.”
As I reflected on “kṛtsnakarmakṛt” (“all actions”), I understood the hidden meaning of Kratu. The Kratu represented the knowledge that allowed the knower to be a perfect performer of all actions. And even as he was about to succumb to the raging flames of death, Śakti prayed for this knowledge to dawn upon all, even as a father passes wisdom to his sons. And even after his death, the Advaita-Jñāna passed from him to Parāśara and would continue for several unnamed generations till Vyāsa, the son of another Parāśara and then to his son Śuka, with whom the glorious Putra Parampara comes to an end, heralding in the birth of a Śiṣya Parampara. For me, this verse was an intuitive proof of the Advaita realization of Śakti and I dedicate this article to the remembrance of his lotus feet as well as that of all the masters.