Śaktipāta and Kuṇḍalinī Transmission

By Swami Khecaranatha

Śaktipāta is the descent of grace that comes directly from the Divine. We experience it as an awakening of the desire to know our true Self, which leads us to seek a teacher who can provide the energy necessary to allow that initial opening to further unfold. So what exactly is the role of śakti transmission in a student’s sādhana?

To answer that question, let’s take a step back and look at the structure of Consciousness to see how we come into existence. Ultimately, we are nothing other than the manifestation of Pure Consciousness as it expresses itself in individuated form, which is called kuṇḍalinī śakti. The purpose of that expression is simply the overflowing of the joy of God’s own being, the celebration of the power of Consciousness to express itself in the universe, in form, in individuation. Kuṇḍalinī is literally the individuation of that supreme cosmic force, the power of Consciousness.

Kuṇḍalinī is understood to have three fundamental dimensions: prāṇa kuṇḍalinī, the energy that gives life to our body; cit kuṇḍalinī, which gives life to our mind and our individuated consciousness; and parā kuṇḍalinī, the energy of our spiritual self. Parā kuṇḍalinī is in fact that same Pure Consciousness that descends into form without ever losing its unbounded awareness.

The Ascent of Consciousness

Kuṇḍalinī Sādhana is the reversal of the descent of Consciousness into individuated form. We’re attempting to ascend back from individuation into non-individuation—in other words, into universal awareness. The awakening of kuṇḍalinī is really the awakening of our awareness of the deepest core of ourselves. Sometimes kuṇḍalinī described as being dormant in the base of the spine. I like to say it’s not actually dormant; we’re just not aware of it because our own awareness and life force are projected outwardly, embedded in objectivity. Normally that energy is not internalized within us because we have extended it outside of ourselves through our engagement with the world of form.

It’s not that the energy was ever outside us, but we perceive it as something outside ourselves primarily because we’re not in contact with the internal dimension of it—that internal flow, that ever-present current, that ever-present thread. Our sādhana therefore necessitates internalizing our awareness and our life force, connecting to the kuṇḍalinī śakti that gave life to us, and allowing it to rise through the suṣumṇa back to its source in Consciousness.

Śaktipāta can be described as God calling us home, revealing Himself in us to whatever extent we are able to perceive the glimmer of that light. God is saying, “This is who you are. I am in you, find me.” This most often initially arises as an inner longing to truly know who we are, followed by our experience that there is a need for some energy source to fuel that longing, which is what propels us to find a teacher.

From a dualistic perspective we feel, “There’s me, and there’s an external force.” Yet, at the highest level, all of this happens in the field of Consciousness, in God’s awareness. The descent into individuation is not something outside of Consciousness; it is the expression of diversity within one field of unified awareness. The ascent of kuṇḍalinī is the expansion of our separated, individuated consciousness into the direct experience of universal awareness. But in order to have this realization, we must be freed from limited consciousness, which can only perceive duality.

The Role of the Teacher

In our sādhana, we’re opening to and strengthening the energetic pathway to consciousness so that we can ultimately just rest in a state in which awareness becomes aware of itself. When yogis of ancient times sat down and started looking for Consciousness, they first found that there was energy inside. By tuning in to that energy these inner scientists discovered their cakras and the ever-present liberating current of pranic flow. Becoming ever more still within that śakti, they were led to discover Consciousness itself.

Kuṇḍalinī śakti is a conscious energy; you can say it has an intrinsic GPS to lead it home. As kuṇḍalinī is activated, it begins its ascent through the suṣumṇa, breaking through the granthi—untying those accumulated knots of tension and karma—clearing the path back to the source from whence it came. As we surrender to that śakti, we’re allowing it to free itself and reveal to us its own capacity to be conscious.

What happens when we come in contact with a śakti transmission guru? There is at once a direct transmission of a spiritual force and also a redirecting inward of our own spiritual force that we have habitually extended outside our own awareness, outside the suṣumṇa. The spiritual force being transmitted contains three elements, like an electrical cord with three wires running through it:

• The actual individual spiritual force within the teacher, their own (hopefully) liberated śakti
• The transmission of the living spiritual force of a lineage
• The cosmic force of God’s energy

If the vessel of the teacher is not so clean, there’s more of their individual force being transmitted. The more surrendered the teacher is, the more the power of lineage or the energy of Consciousness itself comes through

This transmission acts as a magnet to draw the student’s own individual energy back to itself. There’s at once both energy and Consciousness being transmitted. The teacher is directing it into the suṣumṇa, internalizing that vital force, and letting its inner GPS find a pathway back up through the suṣumṇa to its source. There’s no limitation to what the student receives, regardless of the openness of the channel of śakti within the teacher. If the student finds a simple place of surrender from which to receive, there are no constraints on what can be transmitted.

The teacher provides the function of awakening us to the energy within us that was ever-present, but perhaps beyond our perception. We’re now in contact with it and can surrender to it and allow it to rise through us back to its source, which is Consciousness. As that energy rises, our own consciousness expands and our capacity to perceive our highest Self is revealed. We ultimately find the unimpeded channel, the Divine Thread, through which the pure light of our individuated spiritual self, parā kuṇḍalinī, can rise back to its own Self, in the space of dvādaśānta, twelve inches above our head.

Sometimes it’s said that when you receive śaktipāta, kuṇḍalinī is awakened, and when you meet a teacher and receive transmission, it’s time to get out of the way. Surrender is the key. Any limitation in the teacher’s capacity to transmit can be transcended through surrender; likewise, the student’s depth of surrender is the major determinant of what he or she receives. Fortunately, a teacher who lives in a state of surrender can even penetrate through any non-surrender within a student, allowing a greater transformation of consciousness than the student can find on his or her own. Such is the power of śakti transmission.