In 1995, my Rahu dasha ended and the week my Jupiter dasha started a series of unexpected events led me meet my guru, Amma, the hugging saint. Jupiter is called Guru in Sanskrit because any spiritual karma that is due in the horoscope awakens with more ease during the dasha periods of Jupiter, the planet that is the giver of divine grace, wisdom, and higher consciousness.
Planets have their individual characteristics but these are incorporated into their house and sign placement. My Jupiter is placed in the Eighth House in Scorpio, both are called Mrityu sthana in Sanskrit, the places of "death and transformation". Scorpio and the eighth house get such a bad rap because planets here often bring unexpected, unsettling events and even crises, but these are also the pathways to our higher calling.
The dasha periods of the mysterious and impenetrable Scorpio and Eighth houses are where Kundalini energy can be awakened from its slumber at the base of the spine, which begins the slow and painful process of transformation of human consciousness to divine consciousness.
The word Kundalini is widely used in the Yoga culture today and it is often regarded as a metaphoric and symbolic aspect of the creative potential of humans. Yet, Kundalini is not a figurative phenomena but a real latent energy force in all of us, which can be awakened through any sincere spiritual practices, such as Yoga and Meditation.
In Hinduism there is another process to awaken Kundalini, called Shaktipat, which occurs through the transfer of energy from a spiritual master, like Amma, via a mantra, look or touch. It is this Shaktipat that I received from Amma as my Jupiter dasha started, and with no road map of Vedic Astrology to guide me, nothing in my life so far had prepared me for what lay ahead.
Below I share with you some diary entries of mine written in the first few months of meeting Amma, and of my experience with Kundalini energy, to illustrate the importance of the guidance of Spiritual Masters on our journey.
My friend Liz and I entered the Darshan (embracing the divine) line at 6:30 am on the last morning of the program. We had waited all night for out turn to receive the famous hug we had travelled across the country for. As we inched slowly forward one of Amma’s attendants handed me a brochure saying “Amma is offering mantra initiation today”. The brochure suggested that the mantra was for those who could see Amma as their Sat Guru – Truth Guru. I turned to Liz and said I was not ready.
When I was in Amma’s arms, I spoke to Amma in my heart and told her that I was a novice spiritual aspirant with an atheist background. This was only the second time I had met her and there were way too many doubts that still lingered in my mind. I would appreciate any help she could offer but I was not ready for this Sat Guru business. Amma kindly looked me in the eyes and directed me to go and sit in the Mantra line anyway.
I was asked to write down on a piece of paper the form in which I wished to worship the divine, so that I could get a corresponding mantra. In Hindu thought, since all forms in this world are an aspect of the divine, any form that evokes the specialness of divine in our senses is acceptable. Nature, light, music, art, knowledge, divine mother, Jesus, Krishna, Allah, or I have even heard of someone who was initiated into a mantra of their own name. Coming from my atheist background I told Amma’s attendant that the divine has no form. She smiled and said then Amma will give you a “formless” mantra.
Even though I had never done any spiritual practice or meditation before, I took the instruction booklet that came with the mantra very seriously (Rahu in the sixth house). I practiced daily and within a couple of weeks became quite a pro at silencing my overactive mind during meditation.
I closed my eyes and felt a surge of electricity in the lower part of my body. It rose up my body to the top of my head and subsided. Within a few minutes it rose again and again. The feeling that accompanied this mysterious electricity pulsating all over my body is that of sheer ecstasy. I continued in this state of bliss for thirty minutes or so. I did not want to leave it but I had to so I could go and pick up the children from school.
The strong sensation of electric currents rising through my body are becoming more profound each day, as is the bliss that accompanies them. I am beginning to feel separate and not very grounded in my physical body and existence, which sometimes brings up anxiety and fear, as I don’t know what I am doing or why this is happening. But I also know there is no turning back as this divine force that has been unleashed is a part of me now.
I am dropping into an altered state only two three minutes after chanting my mantra. The energy rises through me like thunder; it runs up and down my body lighting up every nerve and cell. I find I can now sustain this sensation for as long as I wish.
Today, while I was driving my daughter to school I passed Mansfield Dam and power plant. I wondered how strange it is that humans have built such huge structures to harness energy. What if we were to discover that each of us had enough energy stores within us to light up a city? I feel that my consciousness is slowly changing, I feel lighter, unburdened and my heart feels open. I am excited about this precious gift that has been bestowed upon me and feel no real urgency to get any answers.
There are some days when doubts fill my mind. I feel that I did not deserve this experience. After all I have never done any spiritual practice, I don’t really even believe in God or the supernatural or have truly accepted Amma as my Sat guru. Sometimes I wonder if there has been a mistake – perhaps I accidentally received a mantra that was really meant for someone else, someone deeply spiritual and more experienced.
Today, I accidentally (there are no accidents) came across a Yogic scripture that warned of the dangers of awakening Kundalini energy in a body, mind and spirit that has not been fully prepared for transformation. It states that the negative tendencies in our consciousness and toxins in our body must be purified first.
It described potential mental breakdowns, madness, spontaneous Samadhi and even death if the Kundalini energy is unleashed immaturely. I am really shaken by this revelation and I have decided to stop meditating. I can start again when I know more about what I am dealing with, or at the worst I could wait until I see Amma next month – now only a few weeks away. Surely, she can give me the answers I need.
My blissful days with the energy have ended and the dark days have begun. I stopped meditating on Friday and by Sunday I feel horrible. My head is full of heat, I feel like I am running a fever, my heart is racing and I am so tired.
The energy is rising even though I am not meditating. Today, while I was resting on the couch it came racing through my body and I felt as though a freight train had just run over me. I am beginning to be gripped in fear. I feel as though the some outside entity has taken control and is pushing negativities out of my body. Sometimes, I can literally see the negative forces within me like “fear” standing outside of my body looking at me. This scares me. I am not sleeping because it gets even stronger when I put my head on the pillow.
In panic I called Amma’s Ashram in California and got to speak to Amma's Swami (priests) who was sympathetic but did not explain much. He told me to stop all spiritual practices and involve myself in mundane activities such as shopping and house work. And if possible I should try to avoid vegetarian food and eat some eggs, fish or chicken to ground myself.
This makes sense because anything that is even remotely connected to the spirit is sending the energy shooting through me. Therefore, I am systematically removing all such objects from my environment. I even covered up my alter and changed my saffron colored bedcover to an old floral one.
Seven days have now passed and I am in a state of confusion. My husband has left for a Microsoft conference in California and I am scared. Last night, someone suggested I play the Om Namah Shiva mantra before bedtime to balance masculine and feminine energy. As a result, I think I clearly left worldly existence for over nine hours. I was in a deep delirium as the energy no longer rose and fell it was just spread to my whole body. Every cell and nerve ending was on fire, as I lay face down on my bed I felt as though I was being suspended above my bed. My body and soul separated, as I floated above my body.
I called my husband in panic and told him that I was afraid I was going to have a nervous breakdown or something and I just could not take one more day of this. He said he would get back as soon as possible, but in the meantime, being the practical man that he is, he suggested I get a grip of myself and pull myself out it – after all, “you are not taking any drugs”. I desperately booked a flight to India to see Amma, but didn’t have the energy to go.
Despite the rough times I am enduring I know that this energy has an intelligence of its own and its goal is not to hurt me but to help me see the non-physical reality that I have resisted all my life. I know I am going through some kind of purification, but I still wish it would stop. Fortunately, it always knows my limits. If I am not able to sleep for two or three nights it subsides just enough to let me have a few hours of rest. I am also learning to talk to it and sometimes it obeys when I am clear and not afraid. I need to get better at this.
I was so happy to be sitting on a plane to California to see Amma and finally ask her … what the heck is all this that is happening to me? I didn’t sign up for this. I had so many questions and expected some answers.
Amma’s Swami, who I had been talking on the phone, met me at the door of the temple and rushed me to her. He spoke fast in Malyalam (Amma’s mother tongue). I could not understand what was being said but I could tell he was alarmed but Amma looked relaxed. She gave me no explanations, just simply put her hand on my forehead and said “Shantam”… “be peaceful my daughter”.
I felt the heat in my body subside spontaneously and a calm, cool wave of peace descended in my heart. I continue to meditate but no longer struggle with the undisciplined Kundalini energy. It gently caresses me and I don't need to know what it means or what it wants.
It had been quite a journey the last few months to accept Amma as my Satguru.
Since these events of almost 20 years ago, I have come to realize that what follows the initial excitement and enthusiasm of our early spiritual experiences is a precious but difficult journey with few real sign posts and companions. Our gurus and teachers create situations that will allow us to learn; give us hope and faith to carry on but they don’t tell us what to do or remove our suffering. There are so many temptations and disappointments along the way, and it is so easy to lose ourselves and abandon our journey, or to look for easy answers and swift salvation.
Ultimately we cannot escape the grip of karma – no matter how spiritual our experiences, we still have to fulfill our karma and perform our duties here on this earth, as dictated by our horoscope, until we are completely cleansed of ego and attain self-realization – and that takes much sincere spiritual practice, devotion, self less service, and many, many lifetimes.