What is Śakti Transmission?
Śakti transmission is an essential means of awakening the kuṇḍalinī within a student. It is the fire that ignites and sustains our inner growth. This transmission carries the living spiritual force held within a lineage of teachers—a timeless thread of tradition that has its source in God. — Swami Khecaranatha
Our desire to know our highest Self may feel like our own longing, but in reality, it is God within us, wishing to know Himself, as us. When, through the descent of grace (śaktipāta), this spiritual longing begins to stir, it generally leads us to find a practice and a teacher who can help unfold that which is already within us. Śakti transmission provides the flow of energy that can cut through any level of psychic density, greatly augmenting whatever inner work we do on our own. This nourishment feeds the Divinity within, allowing It to emerge and reveal Itself to us. Transmission is love freely given, a living spiritual force that not only opens the door within us but provides the energy and support necessary to keep that door open.
From the highest perspective, although śakti transmission appears to originate and flow from the transmitter, it is actually called forth from the receiver. It is the response to the grace that is awakening within. Like a flash of lightning, the still point where the calling forth and the transmission merge explodes into the revelation that there were never two. There is only One — only the perfect eternal moment of grace. As we open and surrender to that grace, our sense of differentiation and of separate identity begins to fall away, like ice melting into water, and contracted awareness is absorbed into its unbounded Source.
In nondual traditions, śakti transmission is considered to be the highest form of spiritual initiation, providing students with immediate access to the divine energy that dwells within them. The transmission of energy, an essential ingredient in the awakening of kuṇḍalinī, is transmitted by the teacher in four primary ways: look, touch, thought, and word. Śakti transmission removes the restrictions that contract consciousness from its all-pervasive unlimited expanse down into limited awareness.
In our practice, the “eyes-open class,” or śakti transmission by look, is the principal method that allows for the direct transmission from teacher to student. During class the student meets and stays in contact with the direct gaze of the teacher, allowing for the transference of energy, all while remaining in full contact with sense perceptions and in view of the material world. As an energetic flow is established between teacher and student, the student can begin to internalize the energy, creating a deep connection to the sacred space of the heart that ultimately leads to the recognition of the true nature of the Self that lies within.
This relationship with a living spiritual force is always active, and in one sense has nothing to do with the person of the teacher. The energy in a teacher is not his or hers alone but rather a force that flows though them. But in our relationship with an individual teacher, it is imperative that we remember that every part of our interaction contains transmission. When we accept someone as a teacher, transmission happens on an ongoing basis, whether or not we are receiving transmission in person, online, or by word in an email. It is all an expression of the matrix of energy that is the autonomous power of Consciousness. We can tune in to the transmission that flows through the lineage at any time, in any place. Students are encouraged to establish a connection with the energy, follow it back to its Source (Divine Consciousness) and take in the nourishment that is being offered.
The great 11th century master Abhinavagupta described the power and sacredness of the teacher-student relationship in these words:
Ultimately, entering into a relationship with a teacher is the conscious choice on the part of the student to place his finite awareness in direct confrontation with the expanded consciousness of the teacher, which is the unbounded consciousness the student wishes to attain. This meeting of finite and infinite consciousness represents the very condition of vimarsa, consciousness doubling back on itself, the method of realization that abides perpetually in and as the divine heart. As the student comes into the gaze of the guru his finite consciousness encounters its own source in the person of the teacher. It releases the inner meditative current—the liberating grace, the self-referential nature of the unbounded consciousness of Śiva. In the process the teacher binds the student to service and growth and the inner practices required—the single purpose of the binding is the attainment of freedom. The teacher acts as God’s agent, to free the student from themselves. This all happens through śaktipata, the will of Śiva that has taken the disciple into the gaze of the guru.