Shaktadavaitavada is a term that refers to a tradition of Hindu philosophy that regards Shakti, the feminine principle of energy and power, as the ultimate reality (Brahman) and the source of all existence. Shaktadavaitavada literally means “the path of nondualistic Shakti”, implying that there is no distinction between Shakti and Brahman, or between the individual self (Atman) and the supreme self (Paramatman).

The Bahvricha Upanishad is one of the oldest Upanishads, and it contains a number of passages that reveal the feminine aspect of the Self. In one passage, the Upanishad describes the Self as a woman, saying:

“The Self is a woman, the wise say. She is the mother of the universe, the source of all life. She is the womb from which all things are born, and the tomb into which all things return.”

In another passage, the Upanishad compares the Self to a river, saying:

“The Self is like a river, ever flowing and ever changing. It is the source of all life, and it is the destination of all things. It is the feminine principle, the womb of creation, and the tomb of dissolution.”

These passages suggest that the Upanishads see the Self as a feminine principle, a source of life and creativity. This is in contrast to the more masculine view of the Self that is often found in Western philosophy, which sees the Self as a rational, individualistic entity.

The feminine aspect of the Self is also seen in the Upanishads’ use of the word “Shakti” to refer to the power of the Self. Shakti is a Sanskrit word that means “power” or “energy,” and it is often used to refer to the feminine aspect of the divine. In the Upanishads, Shakti is seen as the creative force of the universe, the power that brings all things into being.

The feminine aspect of the Self is a reminder that the Self is not just a rational, individualistic entity. It is also a source of life, creativity, and power. It is the womb of creation, the tomb of dissolution, and the river of life.

One of the texts that belongs to this tradition is the Bahvricha Upanishad, a medieval Shakta Upanishad attached to the Rigveda. The Upanishad is notable for asserting that the Self (soul, Atman) is a Goddess who alone existed before the creation of the universe. She is the supreme power, asserts the text, she is the ultimate reality (Brahman), from her being, and because of her the universe was born, she is the knowledge, the consciousness, and the soul (Atman) of every being.

The Upanishad opens with the declaration: “Devi is one and she alone existed in the beginning” (verse 1). Devi, meaning “the Goddess”, is identified with Kama, meaning “love”, and Atman, meaning “soul”. The Upanishad states that not only Brahma, Vishnu, and Rudra are her progeny but every being in the universe is her creation (verse 2). The Upanishad describes Devi as identical to all truth and reality, and whatever is not she as unreal, non-truth, and non-self. She is the ultimate unchanging reality (Brahman), the consciousness, the bliss who shines by herself. She is everywhere, within and without, asserts the Upanishad. She is pure, she is love and she symbolized as the Tripurasundari goddess is the form of all.

The Upanishad also presents a dialogue between Devi and Brahma, in which Devi reveals her true nature as Brahman and instructs Brahma on how to worship her. She says: “I am Brahman alone; I am Shiva alone; I am Hari alone; I am Indra alone; I am all this universe; I am five elements; I am all beings” (verse 5). She teaches Brahma to meditate on her as his own self, to chant her name as Omkara, to offer her oblations with fire, to worship her with flowers, incense, lamps, and food, and to recite her mantra: “Aim Hrim Klim Chamundayai Vicche” (verse 6).

The Upanishad concludes with a benediction that whoever studies this Upanishad attains liberation from samsara, the cycle of birth and death, and becomes one with Devi. The Upanishad thus exemplifies the Shaktadavaitavada tradition by affirming the oneness of Shakti and Brahman, and by prescribing a devotional practice of meditation, mantra, and ritual to realize this oneness.

The Bahvricha Upanishad is a fascinating text that reveals the feminine aspect of the Self and the ultimate reality. It invites us to explore the Shaktadavaitavada tradition and to experience the power and love of Devi in our own lives.

Works Cited:
(1) Tripuratapini Upanishad – Wikipedia.
(2) Bhahvrucha Upanishad – Brahma Granth.
(3) Tripuratapini Upanishad – Brahma.