What is the meaning of Advaita Philosophy?
While Śāktā is Advaitic in nature, there is a difference between Śankara Advaita and Advaita of Śāktā Tantra.
There are three main schools that explain the relation between universe and Brahman. One is āramba vada, which says universe has a beginning and an end. Nyāya and Vaisesica follow this. The other schools hold that universe is eternal, its dissolution and next cycle of creation are linked with the continuity of the seed of creation. The second school is Parināma Vāda, which says that the universe is a transformation of Brahman, emerges and dissolves in Brahman. The way a spider’s web comes from it, the universe comes from Brahman. Brahman is the essential substantial (upādana) cause for the universe. Śānkhya, Yoga, Karma Mimāmsa follow this. The third is Vivarta vāda, which says that universe is a manifestation, an appearance over Brahman. Śankara Advaita comes under this. According to him, Brahman is the nominal (nimitta), substantial (upādana) and undifferentiated (abhinna) cause for the world. Śankara Advaita holds that Māya bounds and releases the being. World as it appears, appears because of Māya, and it is not what the world really is. The world, in reality, is Brahman only. Thus when one realizes Brahman and gets beyond the veil of Māya, then only Brahman remains, not the world. Śāktā Tantra holds that Ātman is same as Brahman, like other versions of Advaita, but the universe is real and eternal. It is not just an appearance that gets dissolved with realization. The Mother is primal rhythmic energy, Śakti and not Māya.
ŚrīVidyā is popularized by Śankara. The Vedic followers (who follow śmritis and dharma sāstras) of ŚrīVidyā go by Śankara Advaita. Ātman is always liberated, but appears to be bound because of ignorance caused by Māya over the individual soul. Here Ātman is to be called self. Soul is actually the subtle body that is constituted of subtle senses, mind and intellect. The Causal being of the universe, Īśvara, associated with His consort Māya, rules the universe. The veil of Māya is lifted through the grace of ŚādaŚiva – and the individual being identifies its oneness with Ātman which is beyond Maha Maya.
The primary difference between Vedic and Śāktā Tantra philosophies lies in the fact that in Vedic philosophy desire is seen to be transcended(surpass). Though desire is not sought to be suppressed by force, it is not seen as a means to transcendence – it is seen as something that is to be grown over.
In Śāktā, Nature, whether it is desire or natural tendency or instinct, is seen as a divine manifestation of the Mother Śakti. It is through fulfillment of it, with the sense that it is divine, as a form of worship of the Mother, that one seeks to please the Mother.
The Vedic practitioners of Śāktā Tantra take a middle path, by praising the Mother as Māya who creates these tendencies to bind the being, seek to be liberated from these by Her grace.
Aspects of Agama There are two major schools of literature in Hinduism. One is the Vedic literature, consisting of Vedas, various subjects that the Vedas deal with, Purāṇās, Dharma Sāstrās and so on. They deal with theology, spiritual philosophy, procedure and philosophy of rituals, various paths to salvation, code of conduct and righteousness, world views, the subjects one needs to learn to be able to understand such as the science of chanting, grammar, etymology, astronomy and so on. There is another stream of literature that deals primarily with the methods of worship. Though some of these are found in the Brāhmana and Aranyaka portion of the Veda, Mimāmsa (inquiry into the message of Veda), Kalpa Sutrās (code and procedure for rituals), most of the elements practiced in popular Hinduism are from Agamas.
Agamas expound many aspects, including personal worship, temple construction and architecture, Iconography, worship in temple, Vāstu and so on. It is not an exaggeration to say that most of the popular aspects of Hinduism are found in Purānic and Agamic literature. Primarily Agamas are of three schools – Vaishnava, Saiva and Śāktā. They are followed by Vaishnavites, Saivaites and Śāktās respectively. Agama has three parts, Mantra, Tantra and Yantra-------
Mantra is a divine word which is chanted repeatedly as part of worship. Yantra in general, is a contrivance inspired by the power of a mantra. In many cases it is a geometric shape, carved on a metal plate or stone or crystal or floor. In case of ŚrīVidyā, it is Śrī CHakra. Tantra is the entire philosophy and procedure of worship. The Tantra expounding ŚrīVidyā is called ŚrīVidyā Tantra, and is found in many Śāktā texts like Prapancha sāra and Rudra Yamala.
Uniquely to ŚrīVidyā, the name of the Vidyā or the Goddess or Yantra does not have a separate name. It is not popularly called Lalita Vidyā or Tripura Sundari Vidyā. The tantra is called ŚrīVidyā, the Yantra ŚrīYantra, the city of the Mother’s residence is called Śrī Nagara. However “Śrī” as we saw means divine and it is like saying divine Yantra, divine city and divine Vidyā, without a specific name of the deity. Every other Vidyā, is explicitly referred to, with the name of its presiding deity, Viṣṇu or Gaṇapati.