class a group of us often sat around and talked about many aspects
of yoga. Dawson’s favorite topic was his teacher, whom he reverently
and affectionately referred to as Yogiji.
“This is Yogiji’s meditation picture,” said Dawson,
taking the black and white picture off the altar and passing it around.
“You can look into his eyes and go right into a meditative state.
It’s very powerful.”
I didn’t like those eyes and I didn’t like that picture.
His eyes were fierce, his eyebrows slanted down as if he were ready
to bite me. Why anyone would want to stare into those eyes was beyond
me. “Why isn’t he smiling?” one of the students
“He’s a Saturn Teacher,” Dawson said with a hint
of awe in his voice. “He teaches with force and power. He uses
the hammer of truth to crack the ego shell of the student."
Master's Note: The planet Saturn is known as the Lord of Karma in
many texts. Saturn manifests the lessons we need to learn, and forces
us to face them. We can choose the easy way or the hard way, but Saturn
makes sure we take responsibility for past actions, thoughts and feelings.
Saturn teachers take the same approach. They can give difficult, tedious
tasks to teach a lesson and reveal you to yourself. They are taskmasters
who seek to confront you with things that you don’t want to
see. These guides ask us to face our fears and the very things we
run away from. They push us past our emotions, and give us limits
for us to push and test. Saturn is the higher vibration of the emotionally
reactive Moon, setting boundaries and discipline with our feelings.
Saturn teachers aid in breaking down the ego and false identities.
Saturn teachers push your buttons, and during the process you may
not like them, but the result is very worthwhile.)
I had no desire to get hammered or cracked. Why would a teacher even
do such a thing? None of this endeared him to me. “Sounds pretty
heavy to me,” I said.
“Oh, he can be heavy,” said Dawson with a knowing nod.
“Yogiji says that there are three types of teachers. A first
rate teacher is a teacher who is very hard, very intolerant of the
mistakes of the students, and he gives a crushing blow on every step.
This is first rate. A second rate teacher just reminds a person of
his mistake, and a third rate is one who just pleases people. The
harder the teacher is, the better one can learn; the softer the teacher
is, the less one can learn.”
I looked at his black and white picture with a sense of foreboding.
This was not my idea of a teacher. I resolved to keep my distance.
“I take it he’s a first rate teacher,” I said as
neutrally as possible but my skepticism was obvious.
Dawson picked up on it. “You know, you are already his student,”
he said pointedly.
That one stopped me. I knew the chant was powerful. With just three
repetitions at the beginning of class I tuned into my inner teacher.
But the part of being his student didn’t seem right. “How
can I be his student if I haven’t accepted him as my teacher?”
Namo Guru Dev Namo is a two way flow of energy. As you tune into
Yogi Bhajan and the Golden Chain, he tunes into you. Not only that,
with your first chanting of the mantra he accepted you as his student.”
Whoa, I thought. Can you do that? I wondered if he were somehow watching
“It’s called saram pad. It’s the first step on the
spiritual path. It’s when you come under the protection and
grace of a spiritual teacher.”
“Amazing,” I said at a loss for words. I didn’t
believe it. The whole idea of someone guiding and protecting me without
my knowledge was way too freaky.
“It’s not just amazing,” Dawson continued. “It’s
a blessing. The relationship between you and your spiritual teacher
is the most beautiful and powerful relationship you’ll ever
experience in this lifetime. It’s deeper than the relationship
you’ll have with your wife. It’s even deeper than your
relationship with your mother, although in this there are similarities.
Your mother delivered you to adulthood. The spiritual teacher will
deliver you to your destiny.”
I hadn’t even signed up and here he was talking like I had practically
married the guy. “I don’t even know him,” I said.
“He knows you,” said Dawson. “It’s like the
relationship between Jesus and his disciples, or Socrates and Plato,
or Merlin and Arthur.”
“Right. Our Western culture has pretty much lost this relationship.
It’s only found today in myths and legends but not in practice.
Only in the East do they really understand the relationship with a
I thanked Dawson for his discourse but was a little freaked out by
it. I really did not like the idea that somehow this Yogi guy had
chosen me as a student without my consent or knowledge. Wasn’t
the student supposed to choose the teacher? My comfort zone had been
breached. I could have just walked away and never returned. But next
day I was back at class working hard and huffing and puffing.
Years of practice would prove Dawson’s words true. It is the
blessing of the Master. What was impossible for me to accept then,
and is still amazing to me today, is that long before I accepted Yogiji
as my teacher, he had already accepted me as his student.
Today there are many thousands of students of Kundalini Yoga who may
think they missed the Master. Well, the Master did not miss them.
Not only that, he is with them now. As was the case with me, when
they chant Ong
Namo Guru Dev Namo they come into his protection and grace. This
is a beautiful thing. Just occasionally, they might send up a prayer
of gratitude and let him know they care. I promise you, he hears and
After Yogiji’s visit to Tucson, recounted
earlier, I resolved to stop taking drugs. I gave my various stashes,
pipes and other paraphernalia to my stoner friends and looked to yoga
classes and weekly fasts as my turn-ons. Basically I substituted one
method of getting high for another. The difference was the previous
method was based on the use of external substances to change my perception.
The new method was based on the internal working of body, breath
and mind, using the ancient technology of yoga to change my perception.
Little did I realize this simple and logical decision would impact
all aspects of my life? Substance abuse problems are core personality
deficits that effectively shield us from dealing with many of our
personal challenges. Suddenly I had bouts of depression, anxiety attacks,
insecurity and anger. Normally I would anesthetize myself through
drugs. Instead Yoga became my crutch. Unlike drugs, yoga gave me elevation
from which to analyze my problems and a slowly growing sense of self-worth
and courage with which to confront them.
One of the difficulties I faced was that my stoner friends expected
me to get high with them. When I went out with them it seemed so natural
just to join them. I quickly realized that in order for me to go straight
I had to consciously break away from this group. Little do we realize
just how strongly we are affected by our social networks? It is not
a sign of personal weakness. In fact you can use this very human characteristic
to better yourself. If there are qualities you want to incorporate
into your life then choose friends who embody those characteristics.
Soon I had a new set of friends who were into yoga, natural food and
conscious living. This is why the scriptures from all religious
traditions emphasize the importance of the fellowship of the holy.
It is also why I soon moved into an ashram.
"When you come upon a difficult
task ... start."Yogi
Master's Note: Everyone on their spiritual path experiences, in the
course of time, five distinct phases -- Saram Pad (as in Pod), Karam
Pad, Shakti Pad, Sehej Pad and Sat Pad. These five phases are stepping
stones in the growth of consciousness; rites of passage that allow
us to grow in an organic way. Look at it this way: metal must be fired
properly, steel must be tempered -- otherwise the metal will be brittle
and cannot hold up. Understanding these phases will help one to stay
tuned in and keep up with their head held high when the path becomes
difficult; to know what to expect; and to look forward to their coming
Saram Pad is that point at which you acknowledge and commit yourself
to your spiritual destiny. Here, you have only just begun a whole
new transformational process and at the same time your soul feels
as if it has finally come home. There is a distinct and strong feeling
of elation. The student has come under the protection of the teacher.
You feel peaceful and renewed, rejuvenated and, in a way, like a child.
Deep down you have made a commitment and you indulgently feel absolved
from responsibilities. The Divine is now taking care of you and the
loneliness of the self is temporarily eclipsed. There is an exciting
feeling of “Yes, this is it! This is what I have been looking
for.” The soul is honeymooning with the Infinite and you feel
as if all the angels are heralding your coming home. It is a time
of wonder, innocence and deepening of values.
Pad (same root as Karma) is when the work begins. The honeymoon is
over, the wonder and excitement is fading. You are not a novice anymore.
You know your duty (your sadhana),
your practice. You are conscious of the issues that you are working
on (a servant of the Divine) and have taken on many altruistic and
selfless jobs. The
experience of this phase is being neither good nor bad. The joy of
“being on the path” compensates entirely for the hardship.
You know that you are doing the right thing.
is Shakti Pad -- a major threshold. The student has developed Shakti
and feels quite free and empowered. You have worked on issues within
yourself and what used to be a problem no longer is. You are quite
confident to handle just about any situation. The sweet experience
of success is heady. And yet you are not happy. Your spiritual practice
is floundering; you can be totally careless about what used to be
of paramount importance. Look out for the tell-tale signs -- if you
do not want to get up and do yoga and meditation, maybe you are in
Pad is ego confrontation. Some part of you feels ready to challenge
your spiritual teacher and any teacher who is worth his salt will
provide you with tests. The healthy approach to Shakti pad is to continue
to dedicate yourself. In your ups and downs, bow to your teacher.
You are still under their protection and they will see you through.
The problem in Shakti Pad is that sometimes you trick yourself into
believing that all this gain has been due to your own efforts and
your own prana. You feel you have done it all yourself. If you know
your identity to be in God, you will grow and expand in the most incredible
way in this phase. You may feel tempted to “drop out”,
to turn away from the spiritual path or, alternatively, seek another
path and teacher who, ironically, will not let you in but rather withdraw
from you. You, the student, will have forgotten (maybe you never knew)
that there is only One Teacher and only One Path, which is God and
You are IT.
If through your changes and mood swings you can see your goal of coming
closer and closer to God, you will be fine, and whatever may happen
to you, you are still under God’s protection. All in all, Shakti
Pad is a most exciting phase. Scores and scores of souls long for
this experience, this initiation. You are strong now and you are being
tested. This is time to Keep Up and look forward to the next phase.
However much you want to challenge, confront and overtake your spiritual
teacher, try and see the humour in the situation. Let the sweet smile
of devotion shine through the tears of your frustration. Yogi Bhajan
says that Shakti Pad can come anytime after three to 11 years of Kundalini
you come out of Shakti Pad, Sahej Pad is the reward. Sahej pad is
a very different phase, characterised by sobriety, sweetness, grace
and openness. You know the difference when you’re in it! You
realise as a fact that you were only fighting with and against yourself
and the fight is now over. No longer is their a need to conceal hang-ups
that are unacceptable to you. You have dropped the hang-ups and this
comes as a real surprise and change in energy. You are humble and
at peace, friendly and loving with everybody, you have no enemies
and await in patience God consciousness unfolding.
Pad crystallises into Sat Pad (Sat means truth). You are very clear,
you are enlightenend. You are fearless and you do not notice a sacrifice
as a sacrifice because, for you, there is no longer any duality. Your
will and the will of God are identical as one. Strictly speaking,
you are not a student anymore but a master in your own right, except
that it does not matter in any way to you. Sat pad is very carefree
and a truly liberated way of being.
Sahej and Sat Pad make life that divine and uplifting experience that
we all long for. Shakti pad is a dense forest that obliterates a magical
garden. Take your practice in full stride and move towards Shakti
Pad with anticipation. If your heart is pure you will make it unscathed.
Persevere, you are nearly there.
Five is next.