[Shaktipāt] is not an independent yoga system. It is simply an ancient yoga technique. However, it is the highest yoga technique or the mother of all yoga techniques known to mankind. In this, the supreme cosmic power itself is used as the technique on itself.The Secret Science of Shaktipat by Colonel T Sreenivasulu
Like a spark that ignites whatever latent fuel is in its path, the ancient technique Shaktipat is believed to be a catalyst that can ignite the dormant spirituality within us, unleashing a powerful and fervent fire of transformation.
A unique spiritual practice, Shaktipat involves transferring divine energy from a realized spiritual master to an individual seeking this spiritual growth.
Closely linked to kundalini, this energy transmission is believed to awaken the dormant spiritual energy within the seeker, leading to profound transformation and spiritual awakening.
In this article, we’ll be looking at:
- An Overview of Shaktipat
- Can Anyone Experience Shaktipat?
- The Process of the Shaktipat Technique
- Controversies and Considerations
Shaktipat: An Overview
Rooted in ancient Hindu tradition, where the worship of Shakti, the divine female, has always held significance, the shaktipat practice has been handed down through generations, from guru to disciple, evolving and splintering into different techniques over time.
According to the seminal text Kundalini Tantra, shaktipat is the ninth method of awakening.
Performed by an experienced guru, it is believed to provide the experiencer an instant glimpse of enlightenment, known as samadhi.
Derived from the Sanskrit words “shakti” (meaning divine energy) and “pata” or “pat” (meaning to fall), shaktipat can be understood as the bestowal or ‘descent’ of supreme conscious energy to a seeker from an enlightened being.
This transmission is believed to be completely transformative, accelerating spiritual growth and experience by exposing them to enlightened consciousness.Despite some exceptions, this enlightenment is a fleeting experience rather than a permanent state. In this sense, the process of shaktipat is like an induced experience of expanded consciousness, rather than a genuine and lasting achievement of samadhi.
What’s more, the shaktipat initiation is a highly personal experience, with each individual undergoing their own unique levels of awakening intensity and duration.
Yet despite its brevity, through shaktipat practitioners are said to gain spontaneous and expert knowledge of all pranayama, asanas, mudras, bandhas, mantras, and scriptures, able to perform each even without any prior exposure or experience with them.
In the moment of shaktipat, physical changes are also said to arise, including softer skin, glowing eyes, and even a notable, distinct aroma. These too, are impermanent.
As will be explored in more detail below, shaktipat can be conveyed through various means, such as the use of sacred words or mantras, a gaze or look, thoughts, touch, or even through objects like flowers or fruits.
Whatever the medium, however, shaktipat cannot be forcefully imposed, nor can a receiver make it happen. It is a matter of compatibility between the guru and the seeker.
Can anyone experience shaktipat?
The quick answer? . . . No – and the reasons why aren’t completely clear.
When explaining who is qualified to experience the Shaktipat awakening, there is no clear conclusion. Swami Satyananda Saraswati writes:
“It is very difficult to say who is qualified for this awakening [. . .] Your eligibility for shaktipat does not depend on your social or immediate conduct, but on the point of evolution you have reached.
There is a point in evolution beyond which shaktipat becomes effective, but this evolution is not intellectual, emotional, social or religious. It is a spiritual evolution which has nothing to do with the way you live, eat, behave or think”– Kundalini Tantra
The Process of Shaktipat Initiation
Shaktipat is an ancient and multifaceted spiritual process, meaning the specific methods and practices vary depending on the tradition or lineage. However, there are a number of components to the shaktipat initiation that are somewhat consistent:
#1: Finding a genuine and enlightened guru:
In the process of shaktipat, it’s crucial to find a guru who is not only knowledgeable and spiritually awakened, but also someone who makes you feel relaxed and comfortable – a personality suited to your own character and needs.
The guru or spiritual guide acts as a channel or conduit for transmitting the spiritual energy, and for this reason, their own realization and spiritual attainment are considered essential for an effective transmission.
In modern times, it may appear that the accessibility of shaktipat has increased, with numerous spiritual masters offering this initiation to seekers.
However, this expansion has gone hand in hand with the commercialization of the practice which can make it even more difficult to find the real deal.
I can’t overstress the importance of this step, for another key reason:
Being such an intimate technique predicated on trust, shaktipat sadly leaves lots of space for abuse of power, so be very careful about the spiritual teacher you get instruction from for a shaktipat initiation.
#2: Methods of initiation:
Shaktipat can be transmitted through various means. The guru may use touch, where they make physical contact with the seeker, often focusing on specific energy centers or points in the body. This touch serves as a direct, physical transfer of spiritual energy.
Some gurus may also use sight or gaze as a method of initiation. By maintaining eye contact or directing their gaze towards the seeker, the guru can transmit powerful spiritual energy, triggering a transformative experience for the receiver.
Resolve or intention is another technique employed in shaktipat. Here, the guru can guide the seeker to cultivate a strong resolve or intention to receive the transmission of shaktipat, with this intention becoming a catalyst for the awakening of spiritual energy.
The above are just a few of the methods involved in the shaktipat initiation. For more information on the methods, I really recommend reading the book Secrets of Shaktipat: Awakening of Kundalini by the Guru By Ravindra Kumar, Jytte Kumar Larsen.
#3: Secret mantra:
Similar to traditional transcendental meditation wherein the student is gifted a unique mantra as a complement to her spiritual journey, shaktipat also often involves the giving of a secret mantra to the student by the guru.
This mantra is not an ordinary chant but rather is considered to hold the power to awaken the dormant kundalini energy within the seeker.
Through repeating the mantra, the seeker aligns their consciousness with the transformative energy being transmitted, facilitating the process of awakening and spiritual growth.
#4: Receptivity and removal of barriers:
The seeker’s receptivity and readiness to receive shaktipat are vital components of the transmission. This requires them to approach the initiation with an open and receptive mindset, surrendering any preconceived notions, expectations, or resistance.
The guru may help the seeker remove psychological, energetic, or emotional barriers that hinder the free flow of shaktipat energy, through processes like counseling, energy-clearing techniques, or other calming, cleansing spiritual practices to prepare the seeker.
#5: Awakening and experience of the divine:
After receiving shaktipat, the seeker may undergo various experiences and levels of awakening (useful table of level categorization here).
These experiences include heightened states of consciousness, visions, an incredible sensation of inner peace, spontaneous inner revelations, increased energy flow, purification processes, profound spiritual insights, and more.
The nature, intensity and duration of these experiences does, of course, vary among individuals, depending on their readiness, receptivity and guru, as well as their unique spiritual identity.
Controversies and Considerations
Despite being a widely respected and practiced spiritual tradition, a number of controversies and concerns have arisen regarding the safety and effectiveness of shaktipat.
Of course, these controversies do not represent a deciding opinion on the shaktipat tradition, and perspectives vary greatly from person to person. Understanding the criticism remains however, a key component to a complete understanding of the shaktipat tradition.
Some of the most common criticisms include:
#1: Misuse of Power:
In line with a regretful trend in the yoga world, one of the main controversies surrounding shaktipat is the potential for misuse of power by gurus or spiritual teachers.
In some cases, there have been allegations of gurus (including Swami Satyananda Saraswati who is mentioned above) exploiting their authority and engaging in unethical behavior, such as financial exploitation, manipulation, or sexual abuse of their students.
#2: Lack of Scientific Evidence:
Shaktipat and its effects are primarily subjective and experiential in nature, making it extremely challenging to provide reliable scientific evidence to back its efficacy or the claimed spiritual experiences.
Skeptics argue that the effects of shaktipat may be attributed to psychological manipulation, suggestibility, delusion, and even forms of psychosis rather than the direct transmission of divine spiritual energy.
#3: Psychological Effects:
Similar to kundalini awakenings, shaktipat initiations have been reported to have profound psychological effects on individuals. Some may experience overwhelming experiences, such as volatile emotional states, anxiety, or even destabilization of their mental well-being.
In these situations, critics argue that gurus fail to provide proper preparation, guidance, and support to navigate any potential psychological challenges that may arise.
#4: Commercialization and Dilution:
Shaktipat has gained much popularity in modern spiritual circles, which has sadly led to some commercialization and the dilution of its essence – not only denying seekers a genuine experience, but also defaming the authentic spiritual essence of the practice overall.
For example, there are many instances where shaktipat is marketed as a quick fix that promises immediate and lasting spiritual awakening by spiritual guides whose primary motivation is to make money.
Yet, as a practice predicated on the presence of an enlightened guide or being, the presence of a guru who is focused on funding is not conducive to a rewarding experience.
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