First published in Esamskriti
Words are inadequate and fail utterly to describe the experience or realisation of the experience of spiritual occurrences such as this “fall of grace.” I learned this as I struggled to put on paper the realisations that I have had over many years now, the word experience itself a very inadequate word for – well the experience of being a recipient of this grace and the realisations that it leads to!
Spelled variously Shaktipaat, Shaktipat, Shaktipata, Saktipata, this phenomenon is, as are many other concepts of Sanatana Dharma, a very personal perception. A constant stream of Shakti, emanating from a fountainhead such as a Guru, an image or idol of a revered deity or from nature, according to me. But whichever medium it might be, the source is always the immaculate, all pervading divine consciousness. It varies in intensity and degree depending on the source who bestows it, to the blessed who receives it; from the manner it descends or rises; from gross to subtle; partial or total. With great responsibility, I am writing this based on my own absorption of this phenomenal Grace over many years and have tried to give a description of the various nuances in which I perceive it. If the readers want a scholarly in-depth text on this subject I would suggest they read Abhinavagupta’s Tantraloka/Tantrasara, wherein he has detailed the various forms of descent of this energy, its source, scope and magnitude, refuting some and putting forth others. A sincere seeker will be able to glean from this a practical understanding of this esoteric occurrence. Kashmir Shaivism is a rich source for this topic and though Shaktipat is an intensely personal realisation and even though I truly believe that matters of the spirit are best based on one’s own realisations and progress, yet it gladdens the heart to read and connect with others who have passed on this path before us and left an impression via their writings and treatise for us to peruse and enlighten our knowledge of the subject. I have to point out here that there is a difference between studying a concept and understanding it and experiencing it through Shaktipat, after the experience is a point of no return to old patterns. Now you really Know!
In my writing I have taken care not to allude to the Universal Consciousness as a he and to the Shaktipat energy has a she, because for me they are Not. This energy can take what role it must for the best evolution of the receiver, ever versatile the form can be many the essence one, finally revealing the nature of pure Consciousness- Brahman. I continue, after once again reiterating that the following realisations are based on my own understanding and is in no way a debate or refuting of other systems that may be contrary. Herein lies the beauty of Sanatana Dharma that gives the seeker the independence to realise divinity as per their spiritual or scholarly status through various paths.
Shaktipat- as a blessing from the Guru & Guru Tattva
The very first time I “received” the Shaktipat was remotely even before I had met my Guru and this grace was instrumental in my journey towards him, his teachings and his ashram. This happened in 1998, I was sitting with a group of people in a seminar in Chandigarh a city in Northern India, when all of a sudden my body felt light and weightless, the room expanded and stretched out, the people sitting next to me seemingly drifted far away and the space between us filled with light and I saw a vision of a person standing and beckoning me. I later came to know the person to be Yogiraj Satgurunath and the place as his forest ashram in the outskirts of Pune, Maharashtra, India. The feeling of weightlessness and joy stayed with me for many days. Subsequently after meeting Yogiraj later that month and visiting the ashram, I have been constantly in the abha of the Guru’s Shaktipat for over 24 years. This was truly a divine guidance as, though well known today, Gurunath was not very visible publicly at that moment of time and his ashram was hidden away nestled in the forest of Sita mai Dara.
Over the years as consciousness expanded, I understood that a truly realised guru is constantly radiating this energy Shakti to all without bias. An overflow of their enlivened pran, the energy is neither calculatedly bestowed nor received but is an absorption. Each person absorbs it to the extent of their capacity to absorb. There are many factors that come into play here, according to my understanding. Let us for a moment perceive the Guru as the Sun, just as the sun radiates light the guru radiates the Shaktipat, this perception about the Sun is more real than imagined, but we will come to that later. The efficacy of the light that enters is proportional to whether one is out in the open, inside or in a dungeon deep underground, the degree of darkness to be dispelled and the extent of it. In the personal realm this availability relates to the state of the panchakoshas, the extent of naadi shodan and the degree of sahaj bhaav, the tamasic, rajasic or sattvic nature of the individual. The descent of this energy can bring about transformation in the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual states of the recipient, giving a boost to the evolution of their consciousness and bringing to light truths that were hitherto not in the conscious realm.
Descent of Grace from the Deity to the devotee
A living realised Guru’s contribution to the enhancing of the consciousness of the disciple is well documented and cannot be refuted. However, a disciples’ shaktipat absorption after once activated by the Satguru can lead them to this absorption from many sources as required for their individual progress along the path in sync with their Karma, prarabdh and sanchit. Once on a visit to Kashi in 2011, I was sitting in meditative silence in front of the statue of the Mahavatar Babaji at Lahiri Baba’s samadhi sthal. Almost playfully Babaji’s face transformed into the image of Mataji then back to Babaji, this play continued for a while. For me in that moment, as I was bathed in the energy flowing from the figure, the different aspects of masculine and feminine became one. As this realisation of Oneness poured in I was swept into the knowingness of non duality. In the Divine, all polarities become indivisible, inclusive and merged, yet are none. One yet None, my mind dissolved. The aspects of Purusha and Prakriti became crystal clear.
Though a realised Guru is one source of this grace, the divine flow of energy cannot be confined to only a single medium, is my understanding. There are examples of many seemingly normal persons, quietly engaged in their daily lives who had no present guru but received the flow of energy directly from an image or idol, through a vision or darshan, transforming their very beingness. Just as Vasugupta was led to the Shankaropala to discover the Shiva Sutras after a vision of Shiva or as some say a divine Siddha.
Since everything in the universe concerns the spiritual, including scientific discoveries, Shaktipat can transform a person into a brilliant mathematician or poet as we have seen in the case of personas such as Ramanujan and Kalidasa, both of whom attribute their sudden illumination to blessings from the Devi. In my understanding both were the result of the grace of Shaktipat from a divine source through the idol of the devi. We find that the Santana astronomers, scientists, inventors, rishis and yogis would readily attribute their knowledge and wisdom to a divine source, not so much in the western world. Though the Eureka moment of Archimedes in the bath for me is a Shaktipat moment. The firing of the neuron, a connect of the synapse bringing to light information and knowledge hitherto, in fact just moments ago hidden, but revealed in a flash is definitely a result of the fall of grace as the divine reveals itself to the devotee, in this case the scientist devoted to the study of the subject.
For me a Shaktipat is always accompanied by what I like to call the epiphany or Aha moment – a sudden brilliant deeper enlightening realisation accompanied always by a freedom from bondage. This happens without fail, whether its on a personal level of understanding ones limitations or in the universal level of our limitlessness, the result is always liberation. The final liberation, of course, is from the cyclic punarapi maranam, punarapi jananam, of birth, death and rebirth into ignorance and suffering.
Nature as dispenser of Shaktipat
There are many spots all over the world where visitors feel the grace of Shakti, after all what is Shakti, if not nature. The river Ganga, Narmada and Tungabhadra, the mountain Arunachala, Kailash, and Govardhan to name a few. There are instances of people taking a dip in a river and emerging transformed; Ramana Maharshi said it was the spiritual power of Arunachala that had brought about his Self-Realisation. Now we come to one of the greatest dispensers of Shakti, the Surya, in whose radiance we all live and breathe.
In the year 2003/2004 I was leading a farmers movement against land acquisition in Chandigarh, where the administration was engaged in taking over farmers land for various developmental projects without due diligence and proper dispensation. The full force of the administration’s might, the police, CID, IB etc were pitted against the agitating farmers including me, looking for ways to arrest and detain us. One morning I was doing my Surya sadhana called the Siddhanath Surya Yoga as taught by my Guru. As I faced the Sun and went through the movements of pranayam, I felt the sun blaze even more and articles resembling astra and shastra, emanating from the sun and entering my aura. A feeling of immense courage and love enveloped and emboldened me. As it happens after this incident our movement took on more vigour and the administration could not do much harm and we went on to stop completely the acquisition policies of the administration and it holds till today with a caveat from the Supreme Court.
The penultimate example of Shaktipat from the Surya is that of Brahmarisi Vishwamitra, who received the sacred Surya Gayatri as a result of his tapa and oneness with the Sun! The effect of this mantra is felt even today by those who chant it bathing them in the effulgence of the sun.
The Inner Surge of Shaktipat
Shaktipat, in tantra, is an established medium by which the Self reveals itself to itself and in that revelation expands the consciousness of the individual self towards their true nature as the universal Self. In fact it is a bit of an anomaly since there are no two selves. As the divine is all pervading and is not separated from the individual, the grace of Shaktipat can also rise from within, revealing the individual and universal to be of one nature.
One morning earlier this year as I sat in meditation in the predawn hour, there was a silent rising from the depths of my consciousness, like a gentle emergence of a colossal shivling from the depth of a still ocean. Stillness was the quality of this rising, stillness was the very essence of the core. The following phrase manifested without any vibration or movement, मम आत्मं निरञ्झनह्, accompanied by the experience of the stillness of my innermost core as Love. Still Love. Love without ripples. This is what the term nirajhanah meant to me. Then there was an outpouring of this stillness, and I realised that Pran was this energy in motion, pran is love in motion. In a flash I ‘experienced’ the divine in every breath. The still love at the core of each of my inhalation and exhalation and the stillness at the pause.
In the final stage, falling like gentle rain or striking like lightning as the Self reveals itself in totality, there is complete merging and the two become one. According to me, once this realisation has been had, it’s not possible to go back to old patterns of behaviour and suffering. One is truly a jeevan mukt, living in this world yet free of it.