Followers of this path base their practices on worship of Shakti, the cosmic power that creates, sustains and eventually withdraws the universe. This includes each and every individual. Shakti is rooted in and is the active form of the passive, unchanging aspect which is known as consciousness (Shiva). This split is made as a convenient method of trying to explain the unexplainable. The individual consciousness is rooted in and is Shiva, whereas the body and mind are manifestations of Shakti. Therefore, the sadhana of the shaktas is concerned with purification and use of the body, mind and the material world in general as a way of tuning in with the underlying consciousness. The emphasis is on Shakti because this is the manifestation of consciousness, and it is through the manifestation of Shakti in one’s own body and mind that one can attain the supreme experience. Therefore, the shaktas are worshippers of Shakti. They use the manifested world as a means of going beyond. They see the world as a place to be utilized and enjoyed in order to merge with consciousness. It is here that the followers of shaiva and shakta differ from each other: the shaivists say renounce and lose interest in the world of objects as much as possible, whereas the shaktas say that the world should be used and enjoyed. The end point is the same transcendence.
The shaktas depict Shakti in a vast number of forms. She is widely known as Kali, Tara, Devi, Tripura, Sundari, Bhairavi, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Durga and many more. These different aspects of cosmic energy are depicted as feminine figures or goddesses. In the widest sense, the shaktas worship everything in the world, for every object from the tiniest atom to the largest star is a manifestation, an expression of the cosmic power called Shakti. To the shaivite, she is the consort and insep-arable half of Shiva-Shakti. To the vaishnavites, she is the wondrous splendour in the heart of Vishnu. To the shaktas, she is the mother of all the universe, who controls the creation, sustenance and dissolution of everything.
These feminine forms are merely convenient ways of representing specific aspects of this cosmic power. And of course, this cosmic power is not really f eminine just as Shiva (conscious-ness) is not really masculine. They are denoted and portrayed in female and male forms only for convenience of understanding. Shakti is regarded as feminine for it is within the womb of a woman that new life grows and is created. Thus, the development of the foetus in the womb of a woman is very symbolic of the continuous process where the material universe grows in the cosmic womb of Shakti. What better way is there to depict this cosmic process in terms that the average man and woman can understand?
The path of the shaktas is to accept and utilize the forces that we see, feel and experience around us. The aim is to create harmony between the individual and the environment. This will bring calmness, acceptance, and understanding in relation to the world we live in. This contentment, together with the harnessing of cosmic forces through the use of mantras, yantras, etc. is a means to higher awareness. It is also the means to gain control of the world in which we live at all levels, whether physical, psychic, mental or whatever.