What is Shaktipata? This is a term often used in Trika Philosophy and is explained as the Descent of Śiva’s Grace on an individual. Apart from our spiritual practices, in order to attain Śakti-pāta (Shaktipata), we have to have Divine Grace and Divine Grace is directly related to the level of our spiritual evolution. The highest state of spiritual evolution is manifestation of Love for the Divine, a state beyond mantra japa, meditation, etc. Manifestation of Love means that our mind is completely pervaded by Divine thoughts and feelings. In that state of mind, there is no place for any impressions in the mind. What happens when Śakti-pāta (Shaktipata) is showered on us? To put this simply, our innate ignorance is removed at the time of descent of Śakti-pāta (Shaktipata). Who removes our innate ignorance? As we know, Śiva never acts directly and always acts through His Svātantrya Śakti (Independent and Absolute Power of Śiva), which is worshiped by us as Parāśakti. She has three types of forms – gross, subtler and subtlest. Gross forms are Her different forms which we worship. Her subtle form is Kāmākalā form (only from this form, universe is created), as explained in Lalitā Sahasranāma 322. Her subtlest form is Kuṇḍalinī. These three forms can be explained differently. Gross forms are Her Ṣoḍaśī, Kālī, and other forms as described in Daśamahāvidyā. By worshiping these forms through various rituals, we lay strong foundation for our spiritual evolution. Then we move to Her Kāmākalā form and this form is worshiped through Her various mantras like Pañcadaśī, Ṣoḍaśī, etc. Her Kāmākalā form refers to visarga, which means sending forth, creating, producing, etc which also includes different letters and alphabets from which Her various mantras are derived. Though there are millions of mantras, basically mantras are meant to cleanse various impressions from our mind. Mind can be broadly classified into two – conscious mind and subconscious mind. Conscious mind is where desires and attachments are stored as deep impressions and in the subconscious mind, our karmic imprints are stored. When karma is ripe for manifestation, impressions of subconscious mind percolate into conscious mind and make us to perform certain acts. When we surrender to the Divine, we can be sure that whatever acts we do now, will not cause karmic impressions and whatever pains and miseries we undergo are nothing but experiencing of our past karmas embedded in our subconscious mind. Now we can understand that we undergo several transformations in our lives before we become fit for Śakti-pāta (Shaktipata).
There are different levels of Śakti-pāta (Shaktipata). These levels can be explained through the following example. In every dam, flow of water is arrested by the giant iron shutters in the dam. Water is released from the dam according to the needs. When need is more, shutters are opened fully and water from the reservoir gushes out roaring and when the need is less, shutters are opened slightly, so that the water just flows across the river. Reservoir is Śiva, dam is Śakti, shutters are Śakti-pāta (Shaktipata) and requirement of water is the level of our devotion. If the shutters are fully opened, when there is no need there will be floods and when there is huge requirement of water and if the shutters are not released, crops will be damaged and life becomes difficult. Similarly, if Śakti-pāta (Shaktipata) is showered without Love for the Divine, it could go waste and if Śakti-pāta is not given even for the one who has intent Love for the Divine, one could become frustrated. In order to overcome this difficulty, Śakti-pāta (Shaktipata) is divided into several categories, which are discussed below. We move from the highest intensity of Śakti-pāta (Shaktipata) to lowest intensity. Intensity does not refer to the power of Śakti-pāta (Shaktipata), but is based on our spiritual level. Śakti-pāta (Shaktipata) always refers to the Grace of Śiva (referred as reservoir above), showered through the medium of Shakti (referred as dam above).
Tīvrātitīvra (तीव्रातितीव्र) śakti-pāta:
Tīvrātitīvra means excessively severe, which is normally used with relation to the intensity of penance. This is known as Sever Supreme Grace. This is like fully opening the shutters of the dam, where there is no control over the force of water. If Śiva decides to showertīvrātitīvra śakti-pāta (Shaktipata), any type of human body cannot resist His Power and on whom tīvrātitīvra śakti-pāta (Shaktipata) is showered, he dies instantaneously. In other words, his physical body is annihilated by Śiva and his soul is liberated instantaneously. This type of Grace is extremely rare and may not be possible, for who always live in this material world. To have this śakti-pāta (Shaktipata), one has to live with Śiva perpetually. There is no use of mantra japa or meditation here. It is sheer Love that alone matters. Many times these people are identified as (spiritually) insane.
2. Tīvramadhya (तीव्रमध्य) śakti-pāta:
This is His moderately severe Grace. At the time of this śakti-pāta (Shaktipata), the aspirant becomes completely illuminated. He is Self-realized instantaneously. But, he continues to live and becomes a Guru due to Śiva’s Grace. He begins to serve the humanity and works as Śiva’s representative and transforms lives of many by taking them in the right spiritual path and make them liberated at the end of this birth.
3. Tīvramanda (तीव्रमन्द) śakti-pāta:
This is His inferior severe Grace (inferior Grace is not about His Grace, but about the person on whom Grace is showered). When tīviramanda śakti-pāta (Shaktipata) is showered on someone, he or she is blessed with the Guru as explained in 2 above, who takes this person to higher spiritual levels which ultimately leads to liberation in this birth itself. It is always said that one should be blessed to have the right Guru. These types of Gurus never teach anything wrong and never work for material gains. These kinds of Gurus merely glance at their disciples or impartmahāvākya-s (You are That; You are Brahman; You are Śiva) and they are lead to higher levels bypassing mantra japa-s and other spiritual practices (not rituals, which are nothing to do with the highest levels of spiritual states). The disciple explores analyses and understands mahāvākya and becomes a Self-realised person. Entire path of liberation is through conversation between Guru and his disciple (Gurjui speaks).
4. Madhya-atitīvra (मध्यातितीव्र) śakti-pāta:
This is His mediocre Grace (word mediocre is not used here with reference to His Grace, but about the person who receives His Grace). These kinds of people go to Guru as mentioned 2 above, but they are taken through mantra initiations, yoga-s, etc. They have to go through sādhana or spiritual practices. A Guru as explained in 2 above will be able to differentiate his disciples between 3 and 4 discussed here. Even if Guru explained in 2 above wants to make his disciples to emancipate, they will not be enlightened that easily and they have to have to perform sādhana to move to higher spiritual level. Only at the end of his or her sādhana, they are enlightened with the help of Guru explained in 2 above.
5. Madhyamadhya (मध्यमध्य) śakti-pāta:
This is His moderately mediocre Grace, lower than 4 above. This is a person, who wants to enjoy his material life and at the same time, has aspirations to attain Shiva. He is also initiated by a Guru explained in 2 above, but he stops at the level of Bliss. He has two ambitions all the time – A. To remain in the material world and enjoy all the material pleasures; and B. To attain Śiva in order to avert transmigration. If we place A and B in a balance, both will be equal. He knows the pains of being born again and again. At the time of his death, he is not reborn and his soul is rested in the higher planes for a long time and finally his soul merges with Śiva. This person is not reborn.
6. Madhyamanda (मध्यमन्द) śakti-pāta:
This is His lower mediocre Grace. This is very similar to 5 above, but if we place both A and B in a balance, the balance will tilt towards A (material world). He also experiences Bliss, but he is reborn again and only in the next birth he gets liberated and becomes one with Śiva.
It is said that those who are in the levels of 4, 5 and 6 think about Śiva every half-an-hour once during day time and twice during the entire night. However, the intensity of thought about Śiva decreases from 4 to 6.
7. There are three other lower intensities of śakti-pāta.
More or less their spiritual statuses are almost similar, except the intensity of thought about Śiva. Typically speaking, though they want to go to higher spiritual levels, they are bound by their karma yoga and to sustain their family. They will develop intensified feelings of renunciation, but they cannot, due to their material commitments. They are reborn again and again and after several transmigrations, Śiva absorbs them with Him.
Tirumūlar, one of the well know Tamil saints, in his famous spiritual classic known as “Tirumantiram” explains about three types of śakti-pāta (Shaktipata)– slow pace, rapid pace and more rapid pace. In this classic, he also endorses the sayings of Trika Philosophy. He says, “In the dark corner of the chamber of primal stuff, the God of Grace courted the old man (Śiva). When this courtship unfolds, sweet ambrosia is secreted and once this ambrosia is tasted, Bliss is unfolded in his mind and he reaches the shores of Eternal Truth (Śiva). For such a person, She annihilates his karmic account and lifts Her veil of māyā and reveals Śiva in His Prakāśa form.”