What is SHAKTIPAT - A route to Mukti

  • By Dr. Subhasis Chattopadhyay
  • June 7, 2022
  • Briefly compares Shaktipat with Vajrayana. What happens during and what is Shaktipat? What does the descent of Shakti teach us?

Buddhists know Vajrayana is the fastest path to nirvana. It is another matter that the techniques of Vajrayana are borrowed from Shakta Tantra. The point here is that Vajrayana is Tantric in nature and there we find the concept of a realised master bestowing unmerited grace on a student so that in the case of Vajrayana, the student understands the emptiness of everything and realises the truth of dependent origination. Only the right student can live through this experience and build upon it to propagate Buddha Vakhya. 


What would have taken aeons for the student to realise through self-effort, is made possible in less than a second by an enlightened lama.


Within Sanatana Dharma, Shakta Tantra is the fastest method to mukti. Here through unmerited grace, a realised Tantric master can force the descent of Shakti on a disciple without even being near the disciple. Unless this descent of Shakti is forced, the disciple might take millennia to realise the truth that is Brahman.


The Kathopanishad states that this ability to discriminate between the real and the unreal only arises in that person whom It (Brahman) chooses (Kathopanishad 1.2:23). So it is Shakti, through the guru, who decides who is fit for experiencing Shaktipat (Saktipata). 


Unlike within Vajrayana, the disciple is convinced of the reality of the Self, the reality of those who are caught up within samsara and actually sees that supreme effulgence, which is Brahman or, Shakti. It has to be remembered that Shakti is not a quality of Brahman, but Brahman is Shakti. Shaktipat, as it were, convinces the disciple of the existence of Brahman and validates the teachings of our Shastras. Namely, without the cessation of the modifications of the mind, there can be no mukti. Shaktipat, therefore, is a validation of the teachings of the Yoga Sutras.


What happens during Shaktipat?

As I have heard so I write. Who told me? Certainly, no books or online forums have what I shall relate. Yet it is necessary to retell what I have heard since book-learning and theorising can never relate the truth and Shakta Tantra will continue to be associated with the occult unless its aims are known. Let us begin.


One day this person, say Isha, who is well read and schooled in Western thought was eating her food at home. Whilst eating Isha spoke of her losses and gains. Isha had varied interests and is one for the good life. It is important to note that reading books, hearing music and being immersed in the higher pursuits of life are often all dry intellectual pursuits. Isha was with her family and suddenly, through no act of her own, could not speak. Neither could she move nor swallow her food. She forgot everything. Total amnesia. Isha’s body became stiff with no movements of hands and legs possible. Only garbled meaningless sounds came out of Isha. Worried Isha’s child call her Guru.


The Guru said to the child that Isha was tensed about something. Nothing more. But Isha knew within this whole episode that she was not tensed about anything. Her body and soul seemed different --- as if her body were being torn apart. Isha understood intuitively that our souls are just temporary residents in our bodies. Suddenly Isha snapped back to normalcy but was deeply shaken and scared. This entire episode lasted fifteen to twenty minutes. 


To stress, the truths experienced were that we have souls that live in bodies which are temporary abodes. What our Shastras teach was revealed to Isha through this very painful and scary experience. Just when Isha thought it was all over, the second episode took place. 


Suddenly Isha went stock-still, and her body felt as if it is a burden. Great need for renunciation came to her. She felt that the clothes on her body would burn her. This world faded. The movements in the first episode were spastic. In this episode there was only rictus, or stiffness of the body. Isha saw on the left a bright unending light, a light which is brighter than anything known to humanity and filled with love. On the right were millions of screaming paralysed women and men tied to their beds. Isha thought those were people in coma, or suffering from paralysing diseases and accidents. There was a distinct space between the light and the ill people.


This time Isha understood that there is Brahman and there are ill people suffering in their hospital beds horribly. This episode lasted for about half an hour. When the episode ended Isha knew it was Shaktipat because of the joy she felt. She rang up her guru and asked, why me? Why did you not tell me you were going to do this? The Guru was miles and miles away from Isha. So, what did Isha learn again? There is Shakti, there is love and peace in Shakti and there are people who are terribly ill, and they are all shrieking. 


About fifteen days after this, Isha went to her guru, and explained what she had understood from these two episodes. The Guru said to her, that she was touched by Him for one sixtieth of a second and she nearly died. Further, the Master corrected her: those were not ill people.


Those were people in the world (samsara): Nobel Prize winners, businesspersons, professors, diplomats, the poor struggling for their daily bread, and none was physically ill. Their souls were rotting. Isha begged her Guru to spare her this vision. Or so have I been told. She became convinced of the need to escape this world and follow our Shastras to reach out to the light. People within samsara do not even realise that there is this light which alone matters. 


The person who experienced these things suffers from no psychosis or any organic brain anomalies. This is Shaktipat.


I have taken liberties to hide the identity of the Guru and the disciple Isha. Further, at that point in the disciple’s life, the disciple wanted to practise Kriya Yoga and experience the awakening of Kundalini Shakti. By self-effort it would have taken decades if not many lives to do so. The Guru did the needful for Isha.


So, what does the descent of Shakti teach us?

The soul alone matters and survives death. We go on existing and transmigrating. It is useless to sorrow for the dead as the Bhagavad Gita teaches us.


Learning, wealth, and family are all traps. Nothing but Brahman matters.


Shaktipat can be a life-changing and even scary experience. It is not to be desired. It is an unmerited grace where the guru also opens the inner third eye to see the Truth.


Tantra is not jadu-tona. It is not black magic. This is Tantra. If you know a Tantric, ask him to change your life from being in bondage to wealth, power, good fortune to one of experiential bliss wherein you realise that the only bondage worth having is the desire to have mukti and to serve the Mother of this and other bubbling multiverses.


It saddens me that Tantra is now associated with everything other than mukti. The descent of Shakti as I have heard, teaches us to abide in Shakti and shun samsara. Anything that is temporary is useless.


We began this piece with Vajrayana; we would do best to remember the truth of the Buddhist teaching of momentariness. Tantra and Shaktipat teaches us to avoid the easy, move out of our comfort zones and to tell the world that our sages, Sri Utpaladeva, Sri Avinavagupta, Sri Kshemaraja, and Sri Bamdev were all correct in repeatedly asking us to shun the world. Shaktipat makes missionaries of us. Nobody who has experienced Shaktipat can sit still and not help those in samsara to come out of it.


This is the aim of Shakta Tantra. It is never to entangle a person in samsara. But to free us from this world.


Harih Om.


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Author Subhasis Chattopadhyay has a Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of Calcutta. His reviews from 2010 to 2021 in Prabuddha Bharata have been showcased by Ivy League Presses. He has qualifications in Christian Theology and Hindu Studies and currently teaches English Literature in the PG and UG Department of a College affiliated to the University of Calcutta. He also has qualifications in Behavioural Sciences. 

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