Initiation and the Process of Self-Realization

by Acarya Pranakrsnananda Avadhuta

There is in every living being a thirst for limitlessness. This thirst motivates human beings to search in every nook and corner of their environment for something, someone to satisfy this thirst. When every possibility has been truly explored without satisfaction, the individual is ready to learn the correct process, the exact method from a competent teacher. The individual, humbled by his/her exhaustive search, surrenders to the authority of the teacher. The yogis say, “When the disciple is ready, the Guru appears.”

In teaching meditation to the disciple four factors make the initiation complete. The student makes a commitment to a moral life, understands the exact system of concentration in the Goal of life, is clear about the devotional meaning of the acoustic syllables or mantra empowered by the authority of the Guru and surrenders to the authority of the Guru as the new born child in the arms of the father’s care.

In ancient times the teachers of yoga practice wanted to communicate the idea of initiation to the common people in a language which could be equally understood by all. Therefore, they took an example from everyday life. In India there are people who specialize in snake charming. They travel from village to village carrying their basket of live snakes to earn money entertaining the people. They prepare a gourd, dry it, clean it and poke holes in its side to create the notes of music that they play on this gourd like flute. Attached to the end of the flute they tie a stick. Playing the flute with a particular tune, the snake charmer moves through the villages of India attracting the curious who like to see the snake “dance”. When he reaches the center of the village, he puts the uncovered basket of snakes on the ground, spreads a small cloth and strikes the head of the snake to wake it up.

The sleeping snake, instinctively knowing someone is attacking, raises its head and threatens to bite. While the snake is poised to strike, the charmer points the stick at the end of the flute in the face of the snake. The snake watches the end of the stick expecting it to strike again. As the snake is watching the stick, the snake charmer continues to play his simple tune while moving the end of the flute from side to side. Still expecting another attack, the snake follows the end of the flute also moving from side to side. Although the snake is deaf, it seems as though the snake is dancing to the music.

Using the familiar situation, the yoga teachers explained the process of initiation. At the base of the spine located within the spinal fluid is a potential spiritual force. This force is said to be coiled like a sleeping snake. At the time of initiation this sleeping potential force is awakened like the sleeping snake was aroused by the snake charmer. However, this spiritual force is awakened by the power of a scientifically prepared acoustic sound and the authority of the teacher, not by physical force.

This acoustic power of the teacher, repeated by the student with the breath causes the awakened spiritual power in the student to move upwards within the central canal of the spinal cord. It is the teacher’s authority which causes this upward movement until the ultimate experience of union of the soul with Supreme Consciousness is achieved. Therefore, it is essential that the acoustic power of the teacher have this capacity.

It should be very clear from the time of initiation that because of the authority of the teacher or Guru there is spiritual progress. The responsibility of the student is to follow the instructions of the teacher very strictly and precisely for physical and psychic purification. As a result of the sincerity of the student and the competence of the teacher, the student gets various experiences. These stages of realization are experienced as the spiritual force in the student rises up through the spinal cord to the crown of the head.

It is this process which is taught to the disciple by the Guru through His representative or Acarya at the time of initiation. By a very exact method of concentration the mind or “I feeling” of the meditator is brought very carefully and slowly from its association with the external world through the body to a point where the “I” sits. Each and every person has their own special, personal mental seat where the small self begins its movement towards the Universal Self. Just as our body occupies a physical seat, our mind also has a spot, a seat. That point differs from person to person depending on their psychic momentum. The seat of the mind and how to get there are explained by the acarya (teacher).

The meditator must be very clear about the goal of meditation. After the mind is brought to its seat, it must be aimed, directed at the target. Exploration of the heavens and hells within the mind is not the goal. No finite, limited experience of physical or mental pleasure will satisfy the soul’s longing for peace and joy. There will always be a desire for more until limitless happiness is achieved. So the disciple must be very clear form the start that the soul longs for freedom and the mind must be focused on that goal. Only then will the mantra, given by the Acarya, carry the mind to its destination.

The scientifically prepared acoustic sound, enlivened by the power of the teacher is called mantra in yoga. The effectiveness of the mantra depends on three conditions. First, it must be repeated with the breath. The mantra has two syllables. The first syllable is repeated with the inhaled breath associated with the sense of existence. The second syllable is repeated with the exhaled breath associated with the Supreme Consciousness. Our individuality or separateness is to be absorbed in that Supreme State of Being by the power of the mantra.

Therefore, the mantra must be repeated with each and every breath. This repetition, the second requirement, creates a momentum which the student must develop so that there will be no break or pause in concentration. All physical energy and all mental force is to be directed, channeled to the mantra in a continuous unbroken flow of mantra. Meditation practice gradually develops this ability through regular practice daily.

The meaning of the mantra is very important. There are two meanings of the mantra. One is the intellectual meaning which we can fins in the dictionary. The second meaning is the sentimental meaning or the meaning derived from the practice of meditation. These two meanings come together resulting in ideation, the third essential characteristic. Mere repetition of the mantra with the breath will not yield the desired result. There must be proper understanding of the underlying spirit of the mantra and the mind must be absorbed in that spirit.

As a result of this mental struggle to move in the proper direction to bring the “I feeling” to its seat, to focus the momentum of the mind in the goal, to repeat the mantra with the meaning and breath, the mind is steadily expanded. This expansion of mind allows greater expression of love for the Supreme Being. Meditation is the process of knowing, realizing the true Self within. Knowing leads to loving and love inspires sacrifice for the Beloved. The mother sacrifices for the children, the wife for the husband, the husband for the wife, the children for the parents. This sacrifice leads to giving without expecting anything in return. The tremendous power of Supreme Love experienced in meditation overwhelms the student, inspires sacrifice for the Beloved.

Through genuine spiritual practice the mind expands creating the feeling that everything and everyone in the world is a part of oneself in a similar way that one feels the human body to be a part of oneself. Analytical, compartmentalized thinking excludes, differentiates, separates, sees everything as outside oneself. Spirituality causes compassion, sharing, caring, sacrifice and service to arise spontaneously. Materialism, however, stimulates selfishness, greed, indifference and expectation of reward.

There are six stages of knowing or realization called “samadhi” in yoga. Samadhi is a word composed of two parts – “sama” plus “adhi”. “Sama” means together or oneness. “Adhi” means goal. So the complete meaning is oneness with the goal. As the spiritual force within the student rises up within the spinal cord, it passes through six controlling centers or chakras.
As the spiritual force leaves the home center at the base of the spine and crosses the next controlling center, there is a feeling that God is here in this same place with me. Prior to this the student only believed in or perhaps doubted the existence of God, but now he/she knows. This gives a particular kind of joy which invigorates the mind.

By further practice of meditation the spiritual force crosses the third controlling center, located at the navel. Here the feeling is that God is near to me. This is an emotional nearness which results in a more intense joy than the first. As we come closer to the one we love, familiarity increases. Not only does God exist, but my hesitation is gone. I feel that I can approach Him and find comfort and peace.

When the spiritual force passes through the heart center, the relationship is very intimate, no formalities, no barriers exist between us. I am with Him always and He knows all my thoughts and feelings. There are no secrets, everything is shared. We care for each other.

As the devoted meditator tries to absorb more deeply the meaning of the mantra, the spiritual force crosses the center at the vocal cord. Here the “I feeling” of the disciple and the “I feeling” of God seem to be the same. Although separate, they appear to be identical. The devotee loses himself/herself in the desires of the Beloved. There is extreme joy.

The spiritual force now reaches the pituitary gland. The mind bursts, individuality merges in oneness, the soul is satisfied, yoga occurs. “I am That” there is only God and my “I feeling” and His have become One. This universe is My body and My mind is expressed in it.

The final realization occurs by the powerful attraction of limitlessness as the spiritual force unites with the seventh center. The “I” has merged in only-ness. It is beyond expression, beyond any description or qualification.

Initiation is not complete unless the disciple surrenders to the authority of the Guru. Without the Guru’s involvement in the process of meditation from initiation to final realization these spiritual experiences cannot even be imagined. The disciple becomes like a child in the lap of the father. That is why the Guru is called “Baba” or Father. He is just like a father on the path to infinite happiness.

When we call a taxi to take us somewhere, we simply tell the taxi driver our destination, get inside the car and let the driver do the rest. We don’t ask the driver if he knows how to drive or not, whether he has had any accidents or not, whether he knows the roads or not. We simply get into the car and relax. Similarly, accepting the authority of the Guru is just like leaving the driving to Him. Of course,, He knows our destination better than we do. He knows where we have been, what we are now and what needs to be done to make our journey successful.

However, there is another aspect of His involvement. Let us take an example. A man has lived for 20 years. Each year has 365 days so we multiply 20 by 365. Each day has 24 hours so we multiply the total by 24. Every hour has 60 minutes so we multiply the total by 60. The total is 10.5 million. If the man has done one action, good or bad, every minute of his life, then he has accumulated 10.5 million reactions to these actions. As time passes the interest also increases.

As he continues to live the number of reactions builds up. Suppose we place a dollar sign before 10.5 million. Consider that you are this person and that you have to pay this debt to the bank with your present salary. How long will it take? If the debt continues to increase daily along with the interest, it becomes a never ending burden. Who will help you? Guru will help you, but only if you let Him. Only if you surrender to Him.

He helps us to pay our debts which are hindering our movement. Suppose a father gives his son a hockey stick for the son’s birthday. Excited, the child runs outside to play with his new gift. In his enthusiasm he hits the hockey puck through the neighbor’s window. Naturally, the neighbor will come out of his house to scold the boy. He will say, “Who’s going to pay for my broken window?” The child in all innocence will say, “My father will pay!” When the father accepts the son as his own, he also accepts the responsibility for child’s needs until he is mature enough to stand on his own.

The relationship between the disciple and the Guru is mutual. You accept the Guru and He accepts you. When you take the shelter of the Guru, then you have certain obligations. You must follow His instructions very carefully. The process of meditation which you learn at the time of initiation must be done regularly. His help is much more than your effort, but your sincerity is essential.

According to the science of Tantra Yoga whenever a worthy disciple is taught by a competent preceptor, spiritual progress is a certainty. Therefore, the student will have to take the trouble to practice this science precisely. It will not be enough to read the cookbook to satisfy hunger. We have to cook the food according to the recipe and then taste and enjoy it. It will not be enough to read or listen to this explanation. We will have to get initiated and meticulously follow the system so that with the Guru’s help our soul will be truly satisfied.

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