By Swami Shankarananda
Shakti means spiritual energy, and when a meditator says, ‘I am experiencing Shakti,’ or ‘I am in touch with the Shakti,’ he means that his inner feeling is full, energised, happy and peaceful. To lack Shakti means to feel contracted, depleted and depressed.
A meditator becomes familiar with the expansions and contractions of his inner world. He discovers that these movements are not random, but have causes. One who discovers the laws of these expansions and contractions (increase and decrease of Shakti) and comes into harmony with these laws, can lead a happy and effective life.
It seems that in every moment there is a choice to be made. Should I choose this or should I choose that? Perhaps even more important, shall I choose to think this thought, or that one? Sometimes it’s the case that one choice leads to darkness, contraction and meaninglessness, while another leads to increased light, expansion, and a fuller experience of the Divine.
This is the human condition, quite thrilling really. It is defined by freedom of choice. Some choices are clearly minor, while others are more important. However, to a yogi every choice is critical and each one builds an upward or downward momentum.
How can we know if our choice is in the right direction or not? Shall we ask our priest or minister? Our rabbi or mullah? Our husband or wife? Our therapist or clairvoyant? Is there an experiential gauge of the rightness of our direction?
Yes, there is. This experiential criterion is the Shakti. The Shakti is our moral and spiritual compass.
Am I de-emphasising the need for a Guru? Not at all. The true Guru is one who is perfectly in touch with the inner Shakti, and can guide us towards it. In learning this subtle inner art there is no greater ally than the true Guru, who is firmly established in the Self. The highest goal of such a Guru is to awaken and help us perfect our own relationship with the Shakti.
In true spirituality the movement is always towards a fuller immersion in Shakti. Bhagavan Nityananda expressed this with his great statement, Bhavana Rakho. It means cultivate that pure inner feeling, maintain that pure inner feeling, and if you lose it, return to that pure inner feeling. That pure inner feeling is nothing but the Shakti, which is characterised by peace, love, energy and illumination.
So the question now becomes, ‘Does this choice bring me closer to the Shakti?’ ‘Does this choice increase my experience of Shakti or is this choice Shaktiless, leading me to a feeling of emptiness or depression?’
Sometimes you make a bad choice. You think you are making the right moral, ethical or practical decision, and others may support or applaud your choice. Despite that, you find your life spiraling into suffering, devoid of divinity, dry and painful. It may have seemed like the right choice at the time, but if the Shakti doesn’t agree… it must be wrong.
Here, we have to be clearsighted and humble. Sometimes we go in the wrong direction and keep reinforcing our bad choices. We invest in them. If we are deeply invested in some wrong choice it becomes a ‘wrong crystallization’. Then it’s very hard to find the right path again. Only a lot of suffering or a profound spiritual experience can restore us to the light.
What to do? Easy, you might say, simply find where you went off the rails and make a better choice! Yes, that’s right, except that it’s usually not so simple. It takes a lot of humility to admit that we have gone down a wrong path and not to blame circumstances or other people. We should be able to take responsibility for our mistakes without hating ourselves. In the course of my fifty years in spirituality, I’ve seen many people stubbornly make bad choices. Happily, I have also seen many others learn to make good choices.
God has given us the Shakti as an inner thermostat, or GPS, to guide us towards the right direction. When our choices please the Shakti we feel a sense of upliftment, we are energised. The opposite happens when we go in the wrong direction. The Shakti is the energy of our true Self and is our greatest friend. Through listening deeply to the words of the Guru, and through our own meditation and Self-inquiry, we gradually learn to hear and feel what the Shakti is telling us.
Learn to hear that divine inner voice. When we not only hear it, but surrender to it, our life is utterly transformed.