Shaktipata: Bestowing Bliss
Stories of the Sages
September 9, 2019
I was preoccupied with the desire to experience samadhi. My master had told me, “Unless you sit completely still for four hours, you will never realize samadhi.” So I practiced sitting from childhood on. More than anything else, my time was spent sitting to experience samadhi—but I failed to attain it.
After studying many books I became a teacher, but I felt that it was not good to impart secondhand or indirect knowledge. It would be better to teach philosophy in the university and elsewhere than to teach monks in the monastery in this way. I thought, “This is not right; I am not realized. I only teach what I have studied through books and what I have learned from teachers rather than what I have experienced.” So one day I said to my master, “Today I am going to give you an ultimatum.”
He said, “What is that?”
“Either you give me samadhi or I will commit suicide!” I was really determined.
He asked, “Are you sure?”
Then he calmly said, “My dear boy, go right ahead.”
I never expected him to say that. I had expected him to say, “Wait for ten or fifteen days.” He had never been rude to me, but that day he was very rude. He said, “Going to sleep at night does not solve your problems—you will have to face them the next day. In the same way, committing suicide will not solve your real problems either. You will have to face them in your next life. You have studied the ancient scriptures and you understand these things. Yet you are talking about committing suicide. But if you really want to, go ahead.”
I always used to hear about shaktipata. Shakti means “energy”; pata means “bestowing.” Shaktipata means “bestowing the energy, lighting the lamp.” I said, “You have not done shaktipata for me, so it means either you don’t have shakti or you don’t intend to do it. For so long now I have been closing my eyes in meditation, and I end up with nothing but a headache. My time has been a waste, and I find little joy in life.” He didn’t say anything, so I continued. “I worked hard and sincerely. You said it would take fourteen years; this is my seventeenth year of practice, and whatever you have asked me to do I have done.”
He said, “Are you sure? Are you really following the practices I have taught you? Is this the fruit of my teaching, that you are committing suicide?” Then he asked, “When do you want to commit suicide?”
I said, “Right now! I am talking to you before I commit suicide. You are no longer my master now. I gave up everything. I am of no use to the world; I am of no use to you.” I got up to go to the Ganges to drown myself. The river was quite near.
He said, “You know how to swim, so when you jump in the Ganges, naturally you will start swimming. You’d better find some way so that you will start drowning and not come up. Perhaps you should tie some weight to yourself.”
He was teasing me. I said, “What has happened to you? You used to love me so much.” Then I said, “Now I am going, thank you.” I went to the Ganges with a rope and tied some big rocks to myself. Finally when he noticed that I was indeed serious and was ready to jump, he called and said, “Wait! Sit down there and in one minute I will give you samadhi.”
I did not know if he really meant it, but I thought, “I can at least wait for a minute to see.” I sat down in my meditation posture and he came and touched me on the forehead. I remained in that position for nine hours and did not have a single worldly thought. The experience was indescribable. When I returned to normal consciousness I thought it was still nine o’clock in the morning, for samadhi annihilates time.
I begged, “Sir, please forgive me.”
The first thing that I lost with that touch was fear, and I also found that I was no longer selfish. My life was transformed. After that I started understanding life properly.
Later I questioned my master. I asked, “Was it my effort, or your effort?”
He replied, “Grace.”
What does grace mean? People think that by the grace of God alone they will be enlightened. That is not the case. My master said, “A human being should make all possible sincere efforts. When he has become exhausted, and then cries out in despair in the highest state of devotional emotion, he will attain ecstasy. That is the grace of God. Grace is the fruit that you receive from your faithful and sincere efforts.”
I now realize that shaktipata is only possible with a disciple who has gone through a long period of discipline, austerity, and spiritual practices. Shaktipata on a mass scale seems suspicious to me. It is true that when the disciple is ready, the master appears and gives the appropriate initiation. When a student has done his sadhana with all faithfulness, truthfulness, and sincerity, then the subtlest obstacle is removed by the master. The experience of enlightenment comes from the sincere effort of both master and disciple. Let us put it in different words: When you have done your duty skillfully and wholeheartedly, you reap the fruits gracefully. Grace dawns when action ends. Shaktipata is the grace of God through the master.
I eagerly anticipate the times when I can be alone at night and can sit in meditation and experience that state. Nothing else even approaches being so enjoyable.
Source: Living with the Himalayan Masters by Swami Rama
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