Darshan (“viewing”) means being in the radiating presence of a holy person, or “realized” being.
It can also mean, for those on a specific path with a connection to a particular deity, to be in the presence of an image of that deity. Being in that special being’s presence could invoke a state where the recipient can “see” as they “see”, or feel as they feel.
During darshan, I have experienced enlightened energy transmission from spiritual teachers, and I have experienced it directly from Source during meditation and yoga practices.
This term darshan overlaps with the term “Shaktipat” – an intended transmission of awakening power from adept to aspirant. In Siddha yoga and Kundalini yoga cultures, Shaktipat can be meant as a deeper and permanent transmission, not just “seeing” but “becoming”. Shaktipat is also generally associated with teachers of enlightenment from various traditions, where the emphasis is on a felt or experienced kind of knowing, beyond “book knowledge”. These types of receivings can occur within many cultures and lineages, and such experiences vary in how they unfold.
Darshan, shaktipat, whatever term used, can be experienced as having found the thing you’ve been most longing for all your life, on the deepest level. A single taste could begin to shift a person, and such an experience could remain a source of faith and knowing for the rest of one’s life – particularly when cultivated with consistent spiritual practice.
Ways of Transmission
The terms darshan and Shaktipat are used to describe the wordless transmission itself, or the situation in which it was received:
“Received darshan from Guru”,
“Attended darshan at temple”,
“Yoga master transmitted kundalini shaktipat to her student”
“After shaktipat, his kundalini was awakened and began to rise up through the central channel”.
Wordless transmission can occur from person to person or from Source to person, and can be more intense or less intense. It can happen while hearing words spoken by a significantly enlightened being, or reading their words. It can happen sitting alone during silent meditation. It can happen during Kirtan (call and answer singing names of God). And, Wordless Transmission from Source, leading to to awakening can happen from profound life experiences such as giving birth, near death experience or for no obvious reason.
“Empowerment” is another term to describe Wordless Transmission from an awakened being. In Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism tradition, the protocol is that an aspirant’s Lama is required to transfer power so they can be successful in a particular set of transformational practices, especially Mantra Sadhana (daily mantra regimen).
Empowerment is a formal ceremony conducted by one’s teacher, involving prayers, incense, invocation, bell ringing, witnesses and more, during which the Lama is generating meditation power, or enlightened energy for the benefit of the student “and all beings”. Some degree of direct spiritual awakening is expected to be a result of both the ceremony and the follow-up purifications and practices the student will perform over time. These will include thousands of prostrations, certain ethical commitments, silent meditation practice and other yoga, and systematically repeating the given (empowered) mantra – out loud or silently, 100,000 times.
Of course, these are just tools and forms. The actual volition and internal execution that causes transformation is a somewhat mysterious process. It is an expression of how life force itself operates, and the mechanics of that movement may seem hidden. Each person is unique in how they find their way in (to greater Consciousness) or their way out (from overly conditioned existence). Or we can say, their “liberation” (in Hindu terms “Mukti”). Ultimately, one must find the way of their own unique heart’s path, even when performing a systematic method.
But one is not alone. There is an aspect of Grace, meaning: the Divine Source of all of us, which will partner with you and open doors at a time that could seem spontaneous or sudden. We cannot know the full mystery of the workings, but we practice on the mat and in life and benefits come, many of them ordinary benefits such as concentration ability or increased social kindness. It all works together, and in subtle and obvious ways, wordless transmission is part of what’s happening . This is true Initiation – not necessarily a ceremony, that is symbolic – it happens inside. Some masters have called it “remembering” “waking up” or “going home”.
In this article I will refer to all forms of wordless transmission from master to recipient or Source to person as “WT” (Wordless Transmission).
My experiences as a long-term student of a Korean zen meacher Venerable Samu Sunim and later with an Indian lineage Guru, led to ongoing meditation and yoga practice. In the case of my Zen teacher, he focussed on giving me tools and from practicing those I had several deep, extraordinary, all engrossing episodes of stillness and knowing that were humbling and these episodes were accessible for the rest of my life when in need of understanding, healing or inspiration, not just for myself but for others. With these teachers and later, with a Western “teacher of enlightenment”, I experienced recievings that were consciously transmitted to me, as a kind Offering of Light. A glowing candle held to an unlit candle and producing a second flame.
Sometimes it just flowed while in their presence, other times these transmissions were apparently beamed into my heart intentionally. On one occasion my teacher touched my head, on another we were singing together and when we stopped, out of the silence arose a profound invocation and profound sense of peace and light. On that occasion I felt as if in one of those renaissance pictures where the whole painting is dark-ish but Baby Jesus is beaming and that light emanates to the rest of us bowled over and receiving Grace, arms raised in surrender and reverence.
These rare episodes, these “downloads” lasted sometimes three minutes or 30 minutes, with an afterglow of days or weeks and a background presence for the rest of my life. They are unforgettable moments, and from having them I could better understand the words of Great masters or inner meanings of Sanskrit mantra, even science presentations. Besides understanding, my relationship with body and universe took on an an increased sense of well-being, and competitiveness with others decreased, instead, a greater capacity to see their love and their pain.
But all was not perfect! These openings were a pointer to the very ground we stand on, but one must still stand – and then learn to dance! One will falter, or even relapse, but you know and can feel where the ground is. That has been my experience.
Some beings are in what they feel (or say they know) is a completely realized state. In fact, all of the masters who were able to wordlessly transmit Awakening Energy to me claimed that to be their situation. Jesus said that too. I choose not to worry about who is perfectly “realized” -Jesus or Buddha, some of these yogis, or all of us to varying degrees. There’s enough to take care of in life without having to cognitively understand that (according to my Zen training). Neem Keroli Baba, yogi of yogis once said “It is better to learn to love things than to try figure them out”. And indeed it is a wonderful play, enlightened energy flowing between human beings, and from source to beings, through mentorship, music, prayer, child rearing and so on – the love that passes through all, and the moments of Wordless Transmission that lead to God.
And that brings us to the issue of believers and non-believers. One quality I have noticed about people who have experienced this WT (wordless transmission), either from a teacher or in some other way, is that they are more interested in loving things, “feeling” things, as a priority over merely figuring them out with logic only. Buddhism teaches that wisdom is made of equal parts insight and compassion. Osho said “facts are facts and Truth is Truth, but they are not the same thing”. “Truth” here is meant as Unity Consciousness/God/Pure Consciousness. The Truth of that as a basis of all else, the Truth of feeling it, being in it. This is Truth (“Satya”), as referred to by spiritual adepts, tens of thousands of them, in hundreds of thousands of documents, prayers, artistic works and mantras over thousands of years.
The debate between the evidence-based/materialist and the spiritual yogi is difficult to resolve if they haven’t both experienced this WT. I would say, knowing Truth will help one understanding facts, but understanding facts alone is unlikely to reveal Truth – it is more likely one will uncover additional facts, to feed the inquiry machine. And so, we have a pragmatic and beautiful purpose for WT.
Kundalini is a way of describing an aspect of Shaktipat – the spiritual transformation that Shaktipat awakens – and is another way of explaining “waking up” (with body heart and mind) to the truth of Unity Consciousness. Kundalini-Siddha masters often use Shaktipat process which will then motivate the person to undertake practices, or (reportedly) it can move their body into asanas beyond their own control. Being a different kind of practitioner, I have not personally experienced this flavour of Transmission, but have spoken with many who have and much is written about it.
As far as I can tell, these various transmissions are not all at the same “level” of Conscious energy. The highest pure energy of the universe is One Presence, one stuff. Hindus have names for different contexts of it – “Brahma”, “Narayana”, “AUM”, from which all things are formed as transitional separations, beings, for example. According to yoga-path Hinduism, the first separation is that of the form-changing energy (Shaki), separating from constant energy (Shiva). This Shakti energy travels through people and things and creates manifestations, by will and acts and it orchestrates nature, and so on. Shaktipat has been described as enhancing the presence or movement of this form-changing energy (Shakti) upwards, opening chakras to and finally meets with Shiva energy and becomes one again, which produces the realization of Peaceful Bliss. Or it can be described in terms of deities and roles of interaction. These are Indian terms and concepts. Terms are both Truth and cultural, various was of understanding something that is ultimately beyond cognitive conceptualization. Zen diesn’t use deities, chakras or any of these terms, but transmission and transformation occurs just the same.
Sometimes Shakti/WT is sent intensely, sometimes mildly. It can be transmitted by just sitting quietly in the same room with recipients, or more ritualized, for example, having conferees kneel before the conferer and the conferer touching their temples then looking in their eyes. In Kundalini-Shaktipat tradition it can be conferred by pressing or rubbing the recipients “third eye” area , or joining third eye to third eye, or by just touching the recipient on the head. Some say it can be sent through a flower or a mantra or over the phone.
In my experience, the highest, simplest, most “surrendered” states produced by WT, are, in a way, similar to each other. Going to true Source is a familiar, peaceful, still, calmly luminescent feeling. When I am in the presence of a highly realized being or in deeper states of meditation, it feels quite similar. And, after experiencing a certain level of awakening, just sitting in a green field, watching the sunset or engaging with any wholesome, holy, fundamental “hint’ of nature or heart interaction can recall this same familiar feeling. Nature/life is always trying to speak to us and wake us up. Waking up feels like a resolve, a sense of home. Wordless Transmission can offer a taste of this infinite reality. So, lets keep our antennae up!
What I felt with Mother Meera (pictured above) seemed like a cosmically comprehensive, pure and gentle “love-beyond love” kind of receiving, similar to what I had experienced with other realized Gurus or in various Unity Consciousness moments. And it was similar to a more ferocious(?) but equally profound and penetrating, strangely peaceful and highly memorable experience I had when coming face to face with Consciousness, several days into a silent Zen meditation retreat, five years into Zen meditation practice. In a way, they were all like going to the same space.
Mother Meera offers gentle but profound Darshan for three hours. The first two hours and forty-five minutes she received each of 330 people one by one in a formal procession, while the rest of us remained seated, during which time a mild, pleasant current seemed to be flowing into the heart and a sense of light was growing in the mind and body, while the room took on that familiar, unusually peaceful stillness. Then, at the end, it seemed like Mother turned it up to a “10” for fifteen minutes, standing up from her chair and transmitting intently, the peak of which aroused a full, rich feeling of awareness in my being for the following two weeks.
Some teachers do silent WT as their key teaching activity, others as an aspect – for example, sessions of pure Shaktipat and sessions of other things.
Shaktipat / Silent Darshan Teachers
Some teachers recognized for silent Darshan and Shaktipat:
Sathya Sai Baba (deceased in 2011 but his 1200 large-sized gathering centres are still operating, and one can still feel his transmission, alive when sitting in them and while chanting kirtan with his community). Sai Baba was known for giving Wordless Transmission to football stadiums full of people.
Mother Meera (who almost exclusively does silent Shaktipat in a ritual method and hadn’t spoken publicly for decades until January 2018. https://vimeo.com/254534634
Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri (known as Amma) who seems to emit Wordless Transmission at all times, concurrent with just sitting and smiling or as part of kirtan singing or hugging multitudes of people who line up to receive hugs.
Mangala Anshumati (Toronto) who does silent sitting, kirtan chanting, talks, and is sometimes “transmitting” other times just ordinary relating.
Two famous Indian Sadhgurus from the last century known for Wordless Transmission:
Ramakrishna, and Muktananda.
In Context of Personal Path
Sometimes in a Wordless Transmission group session, one person feels “nothing” while another has a life-changing experience or (rarely) “permanent” shifts in their being. The higher Gurus explain that proper special Transmission cannot be conferred without a realized being and the readiness and will of the recipient.
A separate point: those who “feel” it may be inferring or may initially have a shallow or self-centred goal and not yet willing to do purifications or inner work to take it to a lasting or deeper level. But they can still feel something “good” happening when in darshan with a gifted (or not so gifted) teacher. These people can get hooked like candy or a drug and start following the guru to keep feeling it. But it fades away quickly and they must go back again to get access to the “light”.
A Buddhist view might be to focus more on liberation practices to try find one’s way independently and access that which one is to access by their own workz Buddha recommended to rely more on personal investigation of Truth, and finding contentment in the moment, by the doing practice, let light come as a result. Nevertheless, I can appreciate that a glimpse of Reality from one’s teacher, by way of Wordless Transmission could have many beneficial effects.
Unique Kundalni teacher Yogi Bhajan reportedly felt that no one should give Shaktipat, that a person’s is on their own sacred timetable to wake up, and any obstacles/blockages they have in place are there at that time for a reason, and will open up at the right times.
Some Buddhist meditation paths refer to “absorptions” – deeper states where Samadhi occurs – a Unity Consciousness state where Transmission/Receiving with Pure Consciousness is going on . Perhaps these states access the same as what is accessed through Darshan/Shaktipat. Some teachers, many Zen teachers for example, say one should actually avoid absorptions or take them lightly and just keep practicing, because an experience of any kind is just another piece of content, not the essence of Self, which is closer to equanimity than euphoria. However, many have described Pure Consciousness as joyful in nature, which sounds warmer than neutral. Maybe it’s a quiet joy.
This brings up the issue of “insight path” (most Buddhism) vs. “devotion path”(much of Hinduism). In my view, access to bliss energy is a valid healing experience, and sometimes it feels like Buddhism culture errs on the side of sobriety. Those with an imbalance of too much desire/addictive behaviours might do better to go with insight path. Those with fear/anger tendencies might find healing in devotion/Shaktipat/absorption experiences.
Geshe Gedün Lodro, a highly achieved Tibetan Meditation master, in his book “Calm Abiding and Special Insight”, taught that some peoples’ tendencies are so strong they may not be able to make that choice wisely (insight path vs. devotion/bliss path) – hence the need to follow a guru’s guidance on practice methods. Of course, that can have its pitfalls too. Welcome to the perfect/imperfect world of irony, where we fumble in the mud to form a beautiful lotus flower. This isn’t like a math problem with one correct answer. It has mystery – beautiful mystery, and “Leela” – sacred play.
I highly recommend Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s book “Path of the Sacred Warrior” wherein he delivers non-technical, simple advice that takes much of the above into account. He reminds us to just live our everyday lives, seek actual “alive-ness”, engage the body and a simple meditation practice, keep it light, and cultivate an appreciation for the fundamentals without getting caught in the dogma and the details. I haven’t read that he formally did “Wordless Transmission” as a ritual, but just attending lectures, or reading his words, some have reported receiving special Transmission from him as a side effect, if you will.
One of my favourite quotes from Trungpa Rinpoche that sums it up simply but has a lot behind it goes like this. He says to
“Sit up straight,
Breath well, and
Find someone or something to love.”
That covers a balance of discipline, devotion and joy, leaving one to fill in the blanks on how to do so.