Everybody loves energy. It is everywhere, and manifests in countless ways. Without energy, there is no life. In my tradition, the term for energy is shakti; the shakti is God’s power of manifestation. Spiritual energy is latent, asleep, in each of us. And the term for that spiritual energy is kundalinī-shakti. In order to return home to who we really are, we must have our kundalinī awakened and then fully unfolded; this cannot be done without real understanding and committed practice. Baba used to say that the bird to paradise flies with two wings: self-effort and divine grace. It can also be said that the bird to paradise has the two wings, of shakti and wisdom. You can’t fly with just one wing.
The shakti is conscious energy. It is all-knowing. But we aren’t. The shakti is wise; we are stupid. One of the most common and damaging mistakes a spiritual aspirant can make is to believe that the shakti will take care of everything, and it isn’t necessary to cultivate wisdom. That way, we believe we are freed of responsibility for our own spiritual condition. From all my years with Baba, I can say with certainty that such a belief couldn’t be further from the truth.
Shaktipāt—the “descent of power” that constitutes awakening—can be an overwhelming and ecstatic experience. Still, it is only a glimpse of where we are heading; it is an invitation to undertake the journey. It is like receiving a picture postcard of a destination we must now set out to reach. Baba used to say, “Even a dog can give shaktipāt”. His point was that spiritual awakening can happen spontaneously and does not necessarily require a Guru. But discerning what to do after shaktipāt requires wisdom, and this is where the Guru is essential. If you do not have wisdom, then you are going to misinterpret the shakti. A great teacher has wisdom and shakti. Better the teacher who has wisdom and no shakti than the teacher with great shakti and no wisdom.
Wisdom arises from nonattachment, acceptance and surrender: nonattachment to all that is not the Self, acceptance of who and what we really are, and surrender to what God has in store for us.
The shakti enlivens. Where there is no wisdom, it will enliven ignorance and delusion. It will enliven the small self, and its desires for power and control, money, sex, food, or intoxicating substances. Without the guidance of a wise teacher, the shakti will delude the small self into thinking it is powerful and enlightened. Wisdom, on the other hand, will teach the small self what it actually is, and then the shakti will enhance and enliven that wisdom. All too often around Baba, I saw people go for the shakti and forsake the wisdom—there was no need for wisdom in their minds, because the shakti would do all the work.
Baba had me look after many people who came to the ashram. Some of them were false Gurus. Often, they had tremendous shakti, without a jot of wisdom—but their followers were hooked on the intoxication of shakti. Many people were intoxicated by Baba’s shakti, which was overwhelming. But when Baba used to say, “I give you what you want, so that one day you’ll want what I have to give you”, part of what he meant was that he was giving people shakti so they would someday want to receive his wisdom.
Shakti can give you an experience of true witness consciousness, but without wisdom everything will be again cloaked by shrunken consciousness. Until we are willing to develop the wisdom to know our shrunken self for what it is—a limiting system of thought constructs—and then dismantle it, we are destined to be bound in a prison of our own creation. But if we seek wisdom with the guidance of a teacher, the shakti will help us on our way. Together, Guru and shakti will lead us home.