The Path of Siddha Mahayoga
There are numerous ways to awaken Kundalini but generally these approaches may divided into two groups. In the first group are paths such as Mantra Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Laya Yoga or Raja Yoga. In these paths the Kundalini is awakened through the effort of the individual. In the second group is the path that is variously called Sahaja Yoga, Kundalini Yoga or Siddha Mahayoga. In this path the Kundalini is spontaneously awakened by the grace of the Siddha guru in a process that is called Shaktipat. This path is called Siddha Mahayoga because the processes of Mantra Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Laya Yoga and Raja Yoga all take place spontaneously after being initiated through the grace of a Siddha. This path of Siddha Yoga can be briefly described as follows: The Siddha Guru conveys Shaktipat initiation to the disciple by means of touch, word or intention. Upon initiation the various practices of Mantra Yoga and Hatha Yoga occur spontaneously due to the activation of Kundalini. After some time the mind becomes concentrated the prana becomes steady, and with this Laya Yoga is said to be accomplished. Finally, through the steadiness of prana the union of the individual soul with the supreme Self is achieved and the goal of Raja Yoga is accomplished. As Swami Narayan Tirth said:
Mantra, Hatha, Laya and Raja Yogas are not separate from one another. They are merely the divisions of categories of a single yoga. Through practicing these four in their respective order and attaining competency is called Mahayoga. Knowledge will not be attained by depending on only one of the four, and only by attending wholly to all four will natural yoga, that is the union of the individual soul with the supreme Self, be perfected.
The path of Siddha Mahayoga is not a modern invention but in fact it has a history of at least one thousand years. References to initiation through Shaktipat can be found in classical works such as the Yoga Vashishta, Shiva Purana, the Kularnava Tantra and in the works of the great scholar and yogi, Abhinavagupta. In many works the role of the guru is emphasized but in no work is it better epitomized than in the Shiva Sutras which states in Chapter 2, Verse 6: gururupayah
In translation, this verse states that: “The guru is the means (to liberation).”
If one is intrigued by the promise of the path of Siddha Mahayoga it is natural to seek out a teacher who can offer Shaktipat initiation. Traditional sources on the path of Siddha Mahayoga encourage a careful review of the prospective disciple by the Siddha Guru as well as a review of the qualities of the Guru by the disciple. The qualities of a Guru are described in classical works of the path of Siddha Mahayoga and the Thirteenth Chapter of the Kularnava Tantra gives an extensive list of the qualities. First and foremost a Guru is expected to have a high degree of self-realization. Secondly a Guru is expected to have the knowledge and the capacity for conveying (Shaktipat) initiation. Thirdly the Guru is expected to have a knowledge of the aspects of the path. Finally a Guru’s behavior is expected to reflect his state of realization.
Even the literature of one thousand years ago discuss the difficulty of finding a Guru who embodies all these characteristics and in the selection of a guru the classical works are quite pragmatic. They encourage a critical attitude in the beginning and only after the Guru has met one’s criteria does one take initiation from him. From this point onwards they encourage unwavering devotion to the Guru. Unfortunately these days many students choose the opposite approach. They quickly adopt a devoted attitude toward a teacher and take initiation but over time some students become more and more critical of the teacher. This approach is generally ill-advised and is especially disastrous in the path of Siddha Mahayoga. Once one’s Kundalini is awakened through Guru’s grace a variety of experiences may occur, some of these potentially terrifying. At these times a total confidence in the Siddha Guru is absolutely necessary to calm the anxiety. If, on the other hand, at these moments one has residual doubts regarding the Guru then one’s anxiety and discomfort can become even more amplified. The literature of Siddha Yoga does acknowledge that a student may progress from one teacher to another but in doing so the student should never doubt or criticize prior teachers.
Kurt Keutzer and Narayan Prakash 1995.