Shakti: Faces of the Goddess

About the Course

Within the Shakta Tantra tradition of South Asia, Shakti is a dynamic, creative, all- pervading power that animates reality. Shakti is the conscious, creative force that manifests every thought, mood and material form. As this power, she is depicted in many images of the divine, perhaps most vividly and profoundly as the goddesses of the South Asian pantheon.

In this four-week course, we will look at the mythology, history, and iconography of four goddesses: Saraswati, Lakshmi, Kali and Durga. We will consider the specific rituals and devotional practices that enliven their presence in the heart of practitioners.

We will also explore how the fields of consciousness associated with these goddesses function on a material level and investigate how an understanding of their different dimensions (historical, philosophical, spiritual and mythological) provides a deeper and more nuanced understanding of our roles in life and our place in existence. As fields of consciousness inherent in the fabric of reality, how do goddesses Durga, Kali, Saraswati, and Lakshmi influence and shape our awareness and everyday experience?

Each class begins with a meditation, a visualization and a mantra invocation to the Goddess. A visual presentation with teachings on the qualities, attributes, mythology, iconography, history and culture of these deities will be shared, with time reserved in every session for questions and discussion.

Adorned with a garland of skulls and wielding a sword and other weapons, the fierce goddess Kali invokes a quality of transformation, power, dissolution, and liberation. Her iconography is striking, perhaps even terrifying to behold. She wears a skirt of severed arms, has her red tongue hanging out and her hair disheveled and wild. Both feared and loved, Kali is an undeniably fierce presence who guides her devotees through the paradoxes of life. Working with Kali is demanding and yet ultimately liberating, if one surrenders to her wisdom. As absolute power, as the primordial mother, Kali embodies the mysteries of life: birth and death. She does not bow down to any hegemony. Kali removes the veils of our illusions and ignorance to reveal the underlying heart of reality. Her transformative shakti (or power) shows our conditioned and fear-based attachments, the ways we falsely believe we are separate, and all the contractions that limit our access to her knowledge. We will explore the iconography of Kali and her philosophical context within Shakta and Tantric traditions. We will discuss her history, her indigenous expressions, and look at devotional and ritual approaches to her worship.
Durga is a goddess of strength, justice and courage. She alleviates fear, grief and suffering and brings her fierce compassion to every challenging situation. Astride a tiger or lion, Durga has between eight and eighteen arms, which wield, among other things, a sword, mala, kalasha (sacred vessel), lotus, book, noose, goad, bow, arrows, spear, club, and trident. We will discuss the symbolism and esoteric significance of each of these instruments. What do Durga’s various manifestations (as the 8 Matrikas and 9 Durgas, for example) represent in the practitioner and scholar-practitioner’s trajectory or practice? How and why is Durga’s 5th century myth (the Devi Mahatymyam) relevant for these times? In addition to looking at Durga’s powers, iconography, history and function, an introduction will be given to the Devi Mahatmyam or Chandi Path, taking into account several perspectives: that of history, philosophy, and sadhana (or practice).
Goddess Lakshmi is most often known as a goddess of material abundance, but to the spiritual practitioner, the yogin or the tantrika, Lakshmi is a goddess of love and spiritual abundance. Most of the qualities we attribute to Lakshmi today are only part of her full range of expression. Within orthodox Hinduism, Lakshmi has been domesticated and her powers have often been appropriated for selfish and material gain. We will look to Lakshmi’s autonomous, sovereign and earth-based roots within the Shakta tradition in order to more fully understand what she offers to those on the spiritual path. We will see how and why Lakshmi is the original matriarch, who sustains harmony, balance and peace on earth. Lakshmi’s connection to early Goddesses like the Yakshis and the Lajja Gauris will be presented to further our understanding of the greater cosmic field of Lakshmi.
Saraswati appears with four arms, dressed in white, on her swan or goose, holding a book of sacred wisdom, a mala, and kalasha (sacred pot). Saraswati is a goddess of creativity, the arts, music, learning, and teaching. She is known for her powers of wisdom, contemplation and meditation. We will look to Saraswati’s most ancient form as a river goddess and then consider Saraswati’s energies as the sacred flow of water, purification, grace, and consciousness. In the Vedas, we learn she is Vaac, the supreme word, the sacred sound that brings consciousness into form. As a goddess of language and consciousness, what does this mean and how is it relevant to our lives today? We will also address the demonization of Saraswati and Lakshmi as jealous rivals and examine why the orthodox order would attempt to separate the powers of these forms and expressions of the goddess.

Students who take this course will:

  • understand the cultural, historical, and spiritual domains, as well as the ancient roots of four popular South Asian Goddesses that are appearing in emerging religious movements of the West (Bhakti, Yoga, Kirtan, Tantra).
  • receive an important and necessary contextual understanding for working with Goddess within contemporary devotional practices.
  • discern between the misperceptions, cooptation and gross appropriation of Goddesses within certain communities outside South Asia and learn how to respectfully honor and approach these shaktis.
  • learn about the cosmological implications of the worship of shakti in four different forms.
  • recognize and deepen one’s connection to these four forms of the shakti and their qualities through visualization and meditation:
    • the creative, meditative, artistic qualities of Saraswati
    • the passion, love, peace, and abundance of Lakshmi
    • the courage and strength of Durga
    • the liberating and transformative powers of Kali

About Laura Amazzone

Laura Amazzone, M.A. is a teacher, writer, intuitive healer, yogini and initiated priestess in the Shakta Tantra and Kaula Sri Vidya traditions of India and Nepal. She is the author of the award-winning book, ÒGoddess Durga and Sacred Female Power.Ó She has published numerous articles within the fields of Hinduism, Tantra and WomenÕs Spirituality in many different encyclopedias, anthologies, journals and also online publications. Laura teaches in the Yoga Philosophy Program at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She offers a diverse array of authentic and undiluted lineage-based rituals and spiritual practices as well as pilgrimages to Nepal that promote spiritual empowerment and divine embodiment.

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  • Access to this course
  • Member Only Content
    Unlimited access to premium articles, special podcast series, and other member only content.
  • EPTV Streaming Video Service
    Access to EPTV Original Series and our video library of over 250+ hours of lectures, talks and workshops.
  • Wisdom School Courses
    Access to 60+ on-demand courses plus two new courses every month.