The Gherand Samhita states that “Samadhi, the supreme yoga, is attained by great merit earned previously. It is achieved by the grace of the guru and by devotion to him. That yogi soon acquires this exquisite experience, who is convinced by what he has learned and heard from his guru, who has developed self-confidence and whose mind is becoming more and more enlightened.”
Grace or Anugraha is also known as Shaktipat (spiritual energy transmission). The intensity of Shaktipat depends on the intensity of a disciple’s desire to attain realization, and his previous Samskaras. Spiritually evolved souls can attain enlightenment through intense or Tivra Shaktipat without performing much sadhana. Those who are less evolved receive moderate or madhyam Shaktipat to help them realize their guru and to be initiated into yoga. Through regular practice of sadhana and patience, they can attain liberation. The third type of Shaktipat is slow or Manda Shaktipat which instills a yearning for spiritual knowledge and if the desire and perseverance in the quest are pursued there can be enlightenment.
Grace has to be earned by spiritual discipline and desire. It cannot be bought, nor can the guru be cheated.
In Shiva Sutra, there are four main ways or upayas described to purify the body and mind and earn this grace. They are known as anavopaya, shaktopaya, shambhavopaya and anupaya.
Anavopaya includes physical discipline, such as hatha yoga, which purifies the body and awakens the sushumna, the spiritual force. It is therefore also known as a kriyopaya.
Shaktopaya is for a person whose mind and body are already considerably pure. It consists of practices of concentration, repetition of a mantra, and instilling the idea that “I am the supreme consciousness. This is also known as jnanopaya because it utilizes the aspect of jnana. Kundalini rises by means of the higher intellect and, therefore, it includes jnana yoga and other higher stages of raja yoga.
Sambhavopaya is for those who are highly evolved, who can become realized by simply concentrating on the idea of pure consciousness or Shiva tattva. Through constant self-analysis, awareness, and reflection, they are led to self-realization. This is the path of adwaita philosophy.
Anupaya is direct realization through one simple action of the guru. Anu denotes something minute, ‘the nucleus of the nucleus’. Thus anupaya infers grace which is attained by nominal effort. Anupaya is, therefore, also known as Ananda Paya because it instills instant ‘bliss’.
In reality, we are searching for bliss, fulfillment, and contentment in our life. To attain the bliss, fulfillment, and contentment, we need upayas, the ways, the process, the method. Out of the above mentioned four upayas, it is of utmost importance to not overjudge ourselves and sincerely select the right category in which we fall in.
The practices of hatha yoga are the most suitable upaya for most of us to start the journey as the hatha yoga starts from the body and reaches the mind by strengthening all the systems of the body, harmonizing the pranas (energy) and balancing the mind.
But unfortunately, the misconception about yoga is mostly restricted to only asana and pranayama, in which, all the time people are busy with stretching and pulling the muscles and trying to perform the difficult asanas but are unable to develop positive qualities and manage stress. Yogis say that asana and pranayama are not more than 10% of total yoga. So the aspirants need to search and know that what is the rest 90% of yoga which they are missing to experience harmony, stability, and balance in life.