SHIVA symbolises consciousness, the masculine principle.
SHAKTI symbolises the feminine principle, the activating power and energy.
Whenever a power becomes active, and wherever energy exists, Shakti is working. Other terms for these primal principles are PURUSHA and PRAKRITI; Purusha is consciousness and Prakriti is nature.
Shiva is generally portrayed holding a trident, which represents the trinity of Īshwara, Purusha and Prakriti.
Īshwara is the omnipresent, eternal, formless divine principle; Purusha is the Ātmā and Prakriti is the manifestation, nature. An electric light can be used to explain their relationship. The electric current, which is the source of the light, is Īshwara; the light is Purusha, and the object that is illuminated is Prakriti.
SHAKTI (or Prakriti) means energy, power, movement, change, nature. It is the maternal principle – the provider, abundance. In the human as well as in the animal kingdom the mother offers nourishment, warmth and security.
SHIVA (or Purusha), on the other hand, is pure consciousness – the unchanging, unlimited and unswayable observer. Purusha has no desires whatsoever; these are inherent only in Prakriti. Purusha is the empty, clear screen onto which Prakriti projects her colourful film.
Shiva and Shakti are manifestations of the all-in-one divine consciousness. The left side is the Divine Mother, Pārvatī, the “feminine” energy, and the right side represents Shiva, the “masculine” consciousness.
Only when Shiva and Shakti combine can action, movement and creation arise. Until energy is impregnated with consciousness it is ignorant, disordered, aimless and “blind”. Energy alone can produce nothing; consciousness bestows upon it content, form and direction. Conversely, consciousness without energy is dormant power, sleeping energy, and on its own is unable to be the cause of anything. Just as Prakriti without Purusha is unable to act, and vice versa, Purusha without Prakriti is also incapable of creating anything.
Shiva resides in the Sahasrāra Chakra and Shakti in the Mūlādhāra Chakra. When Prakriti and Purusha unite in the Sahasrāra Chakra, knowledge, knower and the object of knowledge become one. Once we have experienced this no desires remain within us because we realise unequivocally that everything we have ever yearned for is carried within us. In this state of absolute consciousness there are no polarities and therefore no more sorrows; there is only everlasting joy, unconditional love, unlimited compassion and total understanding for all living beings.
For as long as consciousness is connected to the physical body it is unable to remain constantly in the Sahasrāra Chakra and so returns to the residence of the Ātmā in the Heart Centre (Anāhata Chakra). A realised person always thinks, feels and acts from the heart. Embedded in eternal love and eternal happiness, that person is always conscious of the immortal Ātmā, the ocean of bliss, and their consciousness is forever connected to the divine consciousness.