Introduction: The Eternal Unity of Shiva and Shakti - Swami Shankaracharya interview by David Rivers
Introduction: The Eternal Unity of Shiva and Shakti
Swami Shankaracharya, born Steve Sabine, was blessed with the direct realization he refers to as, “God Alone Is” in 1981, while on pilgrimage in India. Previously, Steve had been working in the field of aerospace engineering and during this period felt a deep yearning to directly experience God. This yearning evolved into an all-consuming quest that eventually led him to serve two great masters of Kundalini Mahayoga: Baba Muktananda and Dhyanyogi Madhusudandasji. In the presence of these masters, he found himself undergoing profound kundalini awakening and during several years of intense spiritual discipline, progressed into advanced stages of mystical awareness. This culminated in the unbroken experience of undifferentiated Oneness (Parasamvit,) ending the fluctuation between the ecstasy of God and the turmoil of the world. The energy of Consciousness appeared to him in the form of the Divine Mother of the universe, giving him the command: “Bring my teachings to the West.”
Shankaracharya draws on the rich spiritual heritage of the ancient traditions to express his awakening and teaching. He was given the name Shankaracharya by Dhyanyogi after taking Tantric Sannyas (monkhood) and initiation into the formal practices of Divine Mother worship by Ramesh Moudgil. Ramesh is a Tantric master in a long line of Shakta adepts. Interestingly, this initiation into the formal Tantric path took place after Shankaracharya’s awakening into the Supreme.
My own association with Swami Shankaracharya spans many years, during which time we occasionally corresponded via mail and spoke on the phone. Then, coincidentally, while I was on pilgrimage in India, I ran into Shankaracharya, who was also on pilgrimage, thus meeting him personally for the first time. I was deeply moved by the pure radiance of divine Presence that shone in his eyes. Our eyes seemed to lock, and I found myself unable to break his gaze. I thought, How could I look away from this pure Light? I literally perceived that I was looking into the eyes of the Supreme, as if through those eyes shone an ocean of light. That afternoon, I returned to my hotel room and lay on the bed, absorbed in the scintillating field of Shakti, the activity and presence of which had been quickened by my meeting with Shankaracharya. I understand each such energetic encounter to be both a glimpse of a deeper level of revelation and also a purifying process. During the influx of energy, subtle blockages in the sushumna (the subtle counterpart to the human spine wherein the awakened life energy flows) are removed by the sheer force of the energetic flow. The result is a deeper experience of the inner Self.
Shankaracharya has been giving Shaktipat initiation in the West for many years and is the head of Sadhana Ashram where he resides. The ashram is currently in the process of relocating within California. It is dedicated to the Divine Mother and the awakening of the Kundalini Shakti. Shankaracharya has developed a profound teaching that marries the eternal unity of Being with the eternal becoming of the world, a teaching unsurpassed in its clarity and beauty. He has guided many seekers during their own inner awakenings and this contact with western seekers over the years has allowed him to refine his teaching greatly. What impresses me most is Shankaracharya’s integration of the notion of self-improvement within the broader understanding that all is unfolding perfectly according to divine Will. He sees a very valid and even necessary place for concerted effort to refine oneself on a personal level within the vaster perspective of the eternal oneness and perfection of Being.
During my stay in Topanga, where his Ashram was presently located, we called in to the Zen Zoo Café for tea, where we engaged in some penetrating discussions on the nature of spiritual awakening. At one point, I vividly recall Shankaracharya smacking his hand on the table, and with deep passion expressing, “This is the eternal Subject.” Thus, he was expressing the eternal unity of Being and becoming, the mystical truth that the objectless Awareness that is forever prior to the phenomenal universe is expressing Itself as this whole world play and is in no way separate from It.
I could feel the depth of his realization reverberate in his voice, and his passion for helping others to evolve spiritually was truly awesome. Shankaracharya told me that he is available to seekers 24 hours a day. “That’s the Guru’s job. It’s not a part-time affair,” he said with deep humility. As his ashram was under construction, I slept on the floor beneath the Mother’s shrine, with the Guru lying just across the room, also on the floor. It was a blissful night, to have such access to this master who literally radiates the light of the supreme Divinity. I felt deeply blessed.
Shankaracharya lives with his spiritual helper, Anandamayi, who receives Devi Bhavas (rare manifestations of the Divine Mother.) They are in a long-term committed relationship which he refers to as yogic. It was beautiful to behold such a pure coming together of two souls both utterly dedicated to serving the Divine. He spoke to me about the beauty of a relationship consecrated to the Divine, where supporting each other in their spiritual expression is the deeper context. He also spoke of relationship as an occasion for love to flash forth, noting that love is already within you, and the relationship is the occasion for it to flash forth. Shankaracharya’s life embodies the deepest understanding of the eternal unity of Shiva and Shakti.