At The Feet of The Yogi
By Kirpal S. Khalsa, Ph.D.

Chapter Four
Saram Pad*

After 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.”

Yogi Bhajan

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 asked.

“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."

(Web 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.

“Just because I practice his yoga?”

“No, because you chant Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo.”

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?”

Ong 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 me now.

“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.”

“How about between Milarepa and Marpa?” I added, having recently read about it.

“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 spiritual teacher.”

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 he cares.

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. --

*The Path

"When you come upon a difficult task ... start." Yogi Bhajan

Web 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 changes.

Saram Pad

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.

Karam Pad

Karam 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.

Shakti Pad

Next 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 Shakti Pad.

Shakti 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 Yoga.

Sahej Pad

When 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.

Sat Pad

Sahej 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.
-- Chapter Five is next.



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