Monday, May 28, 2012

Shakti Shekhinah Sakinah

In all the major religious traditions there is, or was, the concept of a feminine manifestation or Presence of God.

Shakti from Sanskrit shak – "to be able", meaning sacred force or empowerment – is the primordial cosmic energy and represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe in Hinduism. Shakti is the concept, or personification, of divine feminine creative power, sometimes referred to as 'The Great Divine Mother' in Hinduism. On the earthly plane, Shakti most actively manifests through female embodiment and creativity/fertility, though it is also present in males in its potential, unmanifest form.

Not only is the Shakti responsible for creation, it is also the agent of all change. Shakti is cosmic existence as well as liberation, its most significant form being the Kundalini Shakti, a mysterious psychospiritual force. Shakti exists in a state of svatantrya, dependence on no-one, being interdependent with the entire universe.

In Shaktism, Shakti is worshipped as the Supreme Being. However, in other Hindu traditions of Shaivism and Vaishnavism, Shakti embodies the active feminine energy Prakriti of Purusha, who is Vishnu in Vaishnavism or Shiva in Shaivism. Vishnu's female counterpart is called Lakshmi, with Parvati being the female half of Shiva.
-Source Wikipedia

The feminine, creative, transformative Presence of God is called Shekhinah in Judaism. Shekhinah is associated with the Throne of God and the holiest precinct of the Temple. She is said to reside within the Ark of of the Covenant. As a Pillar of Cloud by day, and a Pillar of Fire by night, the Presence of God, the glorious Shekhinah, guided the people of Israel.

Shekhinah is a feminine noun in Hebrew and derives from a word meaning 'dwelling', while the Hindu Shakti means 'power'; however, it may not be a coincidence that the two words are similar, both referring to the feminine power or manifest presence of the Divine.
In the Talmud, Shekhinah is the power which caused the prophets to prophesy and King David to compose his Psalms. 

"The Shekhinah does not rest amidst laziness, nor amidst laughter, nor amidst lightheadedness, nor amidst idle conversation. Rather, it is amidst the joy associated with a mitzvah that the Shekhinah comes to rest upon people, as it is said: 'And now, bring me for a musician, and it happened that when the music played, God's hand rested upon him' [Elisha]"

There is a tradition of the Shekhinah as the Sabbath Bride. This recurrent theme is best known from the writings and songs of the legendary mystic of the 16th century, Rabbi Isaac Luria. Here is a quotation from the beginning of his famous shabbat hymn:

"I sing in hymns to enter the gates of the Field of holy apples. A new table we prepare for Her, a lovely candelabrum sheds its light upon us. Between right and left the Bride approaches, in holy jewels and festive garments..."

A paragraph in the Zohar starts: "One must prepare a comfortable seat with several cushions and embroidered covers, from all that is found in the house, like one who prepares a canopy for a bride. For the Shabbat is a queen and a bride. This is why the masters of the Mishna used to go out on the eve of Shabbat to receive her on the road, and used to say: 'Come, O bride, come, O bride!' And one must sing and rejoice at the table in her honor ... one must receive the Lady with many lighted candles, many enjoyments, beautiful clothes, and a house embellished with many fine appointments ..."

In Christianity, the inspirational powers of the Shekhinah have been absorbed into the figure of the Holy Spirit.

The Islamic form of Shekhina, is Sakinah, and is associated with the quality of Divine Tranquility. Sakinah is mentioned several times in the Koran.

According to Ali, nephew of the Prophet Muhammad, "Sakinah is a sweet breeze, whose face is like the face of a human".
Ali's son Hussein, named one of his daughters Sakinah. The name has now become popular in Islamic countries.

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