Shakti is the divine force, energy; it manifests to destroy demonic and evil forces, and restores balance. As an archetype, Mother Durga, as a fierce warrior who kills the demon Mahishasura and other evil creatures, is invoked as a universal source of energy, fertility, prosperity and creativity.
Shakti is both desirable and adorable, and is accumulated, even pooling other sources of strength. Mother Durga, as Mahashakti, as legend goes, was created by combining strengths of gods who offered different weapons for the noble cause of annihilating the demon.
Unlike Shakti, power is transient, meets limited purposes and is prone to misuse and abuse. Shakti is inner energy-force, indefatigable and inexhaustible, and ought to be conserved, valued and cherished as a potent agency and force to fulfil noble and worthy causes. Power is external manifestation of Shakti. By virtue of being external, exhibitionistic and intoxicating, power is susceptible to manipulations and corruption. It has proclivities that could be antithetical to liberal values and humanism.
Selfishness, arrogance, intolerance, belligerence, expansionism, unilateralism are some of the facets of centralisation of power at individual, societal, national and global arena.
Political centralisation of authority leads to intolerance and diminishes heterodoxy. Economic centralisation results in disparity in income and distribution, crony capitalism and exploitation. Cultural centralisation manifests in hegemony of the mainstream community. Centralisation of power by superpowers undermines multilateralism, pluralism and rule-based order.
In the path from Shakti to power, what changes is addition of ahamkara, ego, the ‘I’ factor, that is not shared with or devolved in ‘we’. So accumulated power, unshared and undistributed, becomes prone to misuse and abuse.
Scriptures say visarjan, immersion of ‘I’ in ‘we’, immersion of self in society, are of the highest order. Through visarjan, one can have srijan, that is, creation. When a person constructs an individual ‘I’, one chains oneself in a maze of success and failure, gain and loss. Then, one has a feeling of self-importance, arrogance and power. Delusion of power and authority can cause severe damage to self and society. Decentralisation, devolution and delegation are some pathways for visarjan of power. These are processes by which authority passes from one level to another, by reposing responsibility, confidence and trust in another. Visarjan of power sets free the latent capacity of people, thereby helping srijan of Shakti in people and institutions. It also improves openness and accountability.
Yet, over-obsession and clinginess with power is so common, and shedding of power is a rarity. Insecurity of position and influence, lack of trust, and fear of being outshined are some common barriers. But in all these barriers, mostly mental, the false and inflated sense of ego, the feeling that ‘I am the doer’ is the demon that needs to be sublimated. But for this, Shakti of willpower is needed. Let us invoke Shakti, not power. ■