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A Group Statement of Purpose

One of the elements that has somewhat alienated and isolated the Shakta belief system from mainstream Hinduism is the mistaken belief that its practitioners seek not spiritual liberation (moksha), but merely the accumulation of occult powers (siddhis).

One of the primary purposes of this Group is to counterbalance this incorrect perception by providing accurate, detailed and truthful information about Shaktism. In fact, almost all spiritual systems are expected to fetch siddhis. Shaktas are simply supposed to get them easier and faster. In Shaktism also, the basic concept is merger with the absolute even while living in the world, without renunciation. In fact it is said this is the ONLY path that offers both Bhukti (worldly happiness) and Mukti (spirtual liberation).

Those with narrower approaches to Shakta systems have sometimes disagreed with our efforts in this Group, saying that we reveal too much that should remain secret, or that we allow the discussion to stray too far from (their) standard interpretations. Our response is always the same: Theirs is only one possible understanding of Shaktism -- even within the SriVidya system itself. It is an excellent and admirable understanding, but it is still only one of many valid possibilities.

Our goal is to encourage open debate and discussion of Shaktism, whether positive or negative, in the belief that the best cure for ignorance, misunderstanding, and -- above all -- misinformation, is a frank discourse between people who truly love Devi, and have chosen to approach the Ultimate Divine through Her myriad forms. Moreover, and fundamentally, we want to provide the tools necessary for those who want not merely to discuss Shaktism, but to actually PRACTICE it in a manner appropriate to their circumstances and development.

The transcripts, translations and other source materials we offer at Shakti Sadhana are our prime building blocks. They will help you to practice what we discuss. The photos, paintings and essays in the Group and on our Homepage are auxiliary materials to deepen understanding, provide food for thought and visualizations for worship; and perhaps provoke debate. The exchanges in this Group are (obviously!) the lifeblood of our satsang (gathering). The newspaper and magazine articles occasionally posted here encourage us to understand Shaktism as a living, vital force in the world; and also to test our convictions and apply them to real-life scenarios and dilemmas.

That's the idea anyway. We would appreciate any and all feedback as to how we can make this Group more useful to you. We'd like to know what you'd like to see here. What you've sought and not yet found. Ask questions and those that know will answer if they can. And if you'd like to get more involved, let us know. There's always plenty to do!

As always, thank you for your continuing interest in and support for this group. We are honored that you have chosen to dwell among us.

The Whom, What and Why of the Group

Devi Bhakta

I do not personally believe (as I've said as nauseum and will continue to say) that the gender of the group moderators should be a factor is determining whether the group is "legitimate" or not. I am also experienced enough to know that what I believe matters to few, and will change the minds of even fewer.

That's why our front page contains this "statement of purpose," penned by the great Shakta teacher Sri Amritananda Natha Saraswati: "Make information available. Let people take it or leave it, think it is true or false. All that matters is: Are you convinced that this is the way? Let people judge you as they think fit.

Tell them

'Come here if you like. Don't come if you don't like. Only try to see for yourself. Don't blindly accept what others say.'"

The legitimacy or otherwise of this group lies not in trying to convince anyone else of our value -- it lies in putting forth accurate information about an ancient, complex and beautiful religious system. It was here for millennia before we were, and it will be here millennia after we are gone.

Social and ideological agendas change with the times, and get stale and dated very quickly. These are the swirls and eddys on the edges of a great river. They rise, swirl, make a commotion -- a great deal of noise and foam -- and then the rejoin the river and flow on. Shaktism is the river. You are shortchanging yourself if you get so busy studying the busy, percolating eddys along the edges that you miss the majestic flow of the Whole.

Cathy wrote: ***It is my understanding that this list is run by two women. ***

We have five moderators now. Among us are both women and men; heterosexual, gay and lesbian; Indian, Asian, African and European; and distributed around the globe; three are Srividya initiates in two different lineages; one will be soon, one is not interested in Srividya. That's astonishingly diverse. We did not plan it that way. That is how it evolved. Pretty extraordinary.

Who "runs" the group? We all do. No one is "boss." No one sets an "agenda." The group is technically "owned" by an umbrella ID to which we all have access. That ID "added" each of us as moderators. Any one of us could conceiveably enter the umbrella ID and delete any other moderator, or delete the whole group for that matter. The only thing that holds us together is love and trust. Some have advised us that this is a risky way of doing business. But the thing is, it's not a business. If the love and trust are not strong enough to hold us together, then we have no right being here under Devi's name.

Cathy told Ellen: *** You've made your point: you want MORE WOMEN SHAKTAS ***

The thing is, they exist, and in great number. They are not "oppressed"; they are not "used". Perhaps the reason why Ellen is not finding them is that her call does not resonate. Eastern feminism indeed exists, and is very powerful. But is it not at all similar to Western feminism. It is not better or worse -- it is just different.

Shaktism, you see, does not really lend itself to extended discussion in a vacuum. Sure, the tossing around of technical terms and dueling esoteric tracts and ideologies (of which one wise friend once hilariously quipped, "Wow, look at them polishing their yonis and linghams!") is interesting for a while. But ultimately it means nothing unless you eventually switch off the damned computer and go to your pooja room (or pooja corner, or whatever your space is) -- and begin the worship. Begin working with japa and other rituals. Cultivate bhakti. Read the texts. Hell, learn Sanskrit -- it's not an impossible skill for a normal human being to acquire, and it almost immediately begins opening new levels of understanding.

Unlike many faiths, which say, "Believe or you will be damned!" ... Shaktism says, "Try it, then decide." Work with the techniques. See if they deliver what the rishis promise. Find out for yourself who Devi is and what Her worship implies and delivers -- rather than fighting over what you think it might end up being. Again I refer you to Amrita's front page statement: "Try to see for yourself. Don't blindly accept what others say."

I do not mean to insult anyone else who comes here with lots of opinions and critiques. It makes the board interesting. But until you actually try it, it is just absurd to judge it. Shaktism can only be understood in the most limited and sterile fashion from the outside. To get to the essence, you have to step inside, at least for a little while. Otherwise, you're like a music reviewer writing about a concert you didn't attend or an album you've never listened to. It shows.

About the Group : Questions[Q] and Answers[A]

Q: *** I think it might be helpful to you all in the future to inform people that the site is mainly Kaula and vamacharya. ***

A : "This is a site for devotees of Devi in Her many forms by the many paths that lead to Her. It is explicitly a Hindu group, though a good number of active members are not Hindus. Their respectful views, questions and comments are welcome also. This is not explicitly "a site for vama-marga," but that path is respected here, as are its followers, and you will certainly see posts of vama persuation. You will also see the Samayachara, the Dakshinachara, the Kaulachara and the Vamachara traditions represented here."

Q: *** I suspect that you are in the business of drawing in new individuals ***

A : No, actually I am an attorney who works in the publishing field; another of our moderators is a nurse; one is a United Nations diplomat; one is an account executive for The Gap; still another is a university IT professional. Some are in the U.S., some in India and Malaysia. We all have families and busy lives, and maintain the Shakti Sadhana sites strictly as an act of love and devotion toward the Devi, to Whom we all bow by our various paths. It is not a "business," we make no profit from any of this, and we are not most certainly not interested in "drawing in" anybody.

As stated in my previous post, our goal is simply to: "Make information available. Let people take it or leave it, think it is true or false, judge you as they think fit. Tell them: 'Come here if you like. Don't come if you don't like. Only try to see for yourself. Don't blindly accept what others say.'"

Q:*** I also know several people involved with the more fierce paths that are devotees of his [ refer to Amritananda Nath Saraswati of Devi Puram], and he has always sent them to other persons to learn these things ***

Yes. But please know that the Vamachara paths involve much more than the worship of "fierce" goddesses. Kaali, Praytangira, Vanadurga, Shoolini, etc. (all of whom are frequently invoked in Guruji Amrita's practice and practice prescriptions), in my opinion can be classified as Vama. Vama is, after all, largely about breaking the traditional taboos; "fierceness" apart, when one who is by definition a vegetarian uses meat it is vama.

Q:*** [...] to my knowledge [Guruji Amrita] seldom if ever gives out mantra for these paths - certainly not to beginnners. Sri Svaprakashanada [...] was not one to overly encourage people on these paths, either. Please rethink what you are doing. ***

A : Again agreed. But what exactly is it that you think we "are doing" that must be re-thought?

Q :*** if I was mislead by the site and I have been around these things for awhile, think of the younger people. ***

A : I think this is the crux of the issue. Just as a some poor experiences with some (fake or real) Vamacharis turned you against the entire path, a poor experience with one or two members here seem to have turned you against the entire list wholesale.

Q: *** Please be honest enough to describe the different paths, to counsel caution and investigation -- which is one of Guruji's big teachings -- before attempting to become involved in these things.***

A : All of my posts at SS are "honest"; whether they are valuable and accurate or worthless and misguided is for the reader to judge (as you obviously have). But what I post is sincere, for better or worse. I have no desire to deceive or mislead anyone.

Q: *** Please admit that the Samacharya and dakshinacharya schools do not accept vamacharya -- and that the site is mainly for Vira Kaulas and vamacharyas. ***

A : While I respect your 14 years in Srividya, I disagree with your statement and your characterization of the Srividya traditions. Knowledgeable practioners, Amrita very much included, do not reject any of the traditions within Srividya. In any event, I have prepared a discussion of the four main traditions of Srividya and will post them forthwith.

Q:***I think many youth will be attracted in this group , because this group serves the purpose of the youth have sex ,gain divine knowledge, we will have more premarriage sex to gain Shakti Sadhana. What a lovely spiritual thought!!***

A : Now for your information, not many youth are attracted to our group. Kochu is past 50 yrs old. He initiated at the age of 16 yrs. Devi bhakta and me are 43's. We are both married with children, And abt 80% of our members past the 40 age group. Majority of them are householder. So your statement is baseless..

The Focus of Shakti Sadhana

Devi Bhakta
I would like to add my voice to the chorus regarding denigration of the great souls and their teachings. It simply should not be done, under any circumstances. When you read the great commentaries, for example, you will note that the great souls may differ in their teachings within the traditions called Hinduism, but that they do not attempt to glorify their own opinions by denigrating the opinions of their peers.

A week ago, I spoke against the discussion of non-Shakta practice in this group, noting that this is neither a New Age discussion group nor a generalized "Goddess-y" group. This brought an immediate showering of objections: In off-board e-mails and off-line IM's, I was roundly criticized as being everything from a New Age flake to an intolerant, hidebound traditionalist. By various persons, I was told that I had to learn to "let things flow," that I was a big-mouthed know-it-all, and that I quite possibly required psychological counseling.

So be it. As Amritaji taught us, "Make information available. Let people take it or leave it, think it is true or false, judge you as they think fit." And judge they do, and I sincerely appreciate their caring enough about me and/or this group to take the time to form an opinion on what me and/or the group should be like.

My motivation in taking a strong stand in favor of received Hindu Shaktism (or whatever more accurate name someone wants to call it; you get my meaning) was not to disrespect or denigrate people who are interested in the many non-Hindu paths; I respect them all greatly for their sincere spiritual impulses and wish them every success on their path (if chosen) or search for a path (if not).

The thing is, Yahoo Groups has grown ever more vast in the years since Nora and I first started this board back in the prehistoric days of Yahoo Clubs. Back in those days, there was a need for groups to be many things to many people. Nowadays, there is a group for every possible shade of interest and focus. Groups need to define themselves and their purpose, or they will dissapate and end up as becalmed behemoths, drifting rudderless -- their mesage boards dominated by whatever subject any particular someone decides to post. This is not paranoia; I have seen it happen to some very good, sizeable and once-vital Hindu groups. I would like to learn from their sad experiences and preserve a better fate for Shakti Sadhana.

So what is the focus and purpose of this group? The Hindu (vedic/Tantric) paths of Shaktism; or if you please, the Devi- centered permutations of the Sanatana Dharma. Some of the more self-proclaimed "serious" Yahoo Hinduism groups have dismissed our board as "pop-Shaktism," but it is an appellation that I welcome -- "pop" being short for "popular," I like the basic dynamic of the group. There is serious material and discussion galore here for serious, practicing sadhaks on the Shakta paths. There is also an interesting East-meets-West feel, in which people from outside the Hindu traditions can get a foothold and/or comparative understanding of our approaches vis a vis their own.

Whether Aleister Crowley and Deepak Chopra and Dr. Wayne Dyer, etc., really belong here is rather more questionable, though I think an outright "ban" on such postings would be both foolhardy and counterproductive. I would simply ask members to carefully consider, when posting, whether their selections actually advance the stated subject matter of the group, which is, as our front page has stated for five years, "Shaktism, a Hindu spiritual tradition focusing worship upon Devi, the Goddess, the Divine Mother who creates and embodies all the Universe."

aim mAtangyai namaH

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