The word ‘Guru’ means the One or That which takes away the blockages, karmas, sins and illusions that keep you away from God. The Guru is the person who gives Diksha or initiates you into spiritual practice. He is the One through whom the descent of grace occurs. The Guru is self-realised, that is, He has attained God. He has, moreover, the mandate to initiate others. This mandate is given by his own Guru. Such Gurus belong in the lineage of Siddha Gurus. The ‘Guru’ appears in most ways like any ordinary person. However, the outer signs of a Guru are His aversion to worldly matters, and extreme compassion and understanding of others. The unmistakable sign of the Guru is the capacity to set you on the spiritual path. The Guru renders the greatest service that one may render to another. The Guru considers His role as that of a ‘Kinkar’ that is, ‘one who serves’. Sri Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath had the appellation ‘das’ (servant) attached to His first name ‘Sitaram’. His disciple, Sri Sri Vitthal Ramanuj, the present President of the Order, signs His name as ‘Kinkar Vitthal Ramanuj’.

It is said that when the soul is ready (that is sufficiently evolved), the Guru comes; you do not have to strive to reach Him. This principle is absolutely true, for the Guru is really a representative of, and abides in the Guru tattva (element). He can reach you anywhere in any form when you are ready. But then, often a tamasic interpretation is made of this principle. Some feel that God and Guru are to be realized ever in a remote future, which is always on the receding horizon. In the meantime leading a life of gross self-indulgence as the principal means of gratification appears harmless. It is a truth that ‘Guru’ is deathless. It is said that it is a sin to think of Guru as ‘dead’. Why so? It is simply untrue that Guru can ‘die’ for He abides in a tattva that is deathless. If a Guru is no longer inhabiting a physical body, He may visit you in another form, e.g. an astral form, or may materialize Himself in a physical form. Your receptivity is the necessary and sufficient condition for such a visitation by Him.


‘Diksha’ is a process in which ‘Shakti’ or spiritual energy is infused into the disciple. The Guru, by word, touch, look or mere thought transmits his own shakti. Sometimes the photograph of the Guru, perhaps the mention of the name of the Guru, or the words in a book written by the Guru can result in such transmission. Such a process is called ‘Shaktipaat’ or descent of Shakti. This transmission will result in unmistakable signs. Some will break into inexplicable tears accompanied by ineffable joy or perhaps by complete absence of thought. Some will feel the rising Kundalini in the spine. Some will find the limbs assuming a posture without volition on one’s part. Some will see ghosts or monsters in dreams or visions. Some will see deities, hear sounds of various sorts or see lights. Some will smell fragrances or feel a touch of bliss. You may read highly detailed descriptions of such experiences in ‘Naad Leelamrit’ by SRI Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath or ‘Chitshaktivilas’ written by Swami Muktananda. All these are Kundalini phenomena. What are these Kundalini phenomena? It is believed that when the form of an organism is created the power of Nature or ‘Prakriti’ resides in a coiled-up form (unknown to the conscious mind) in some centre, e.g. the vital centre or the muladhara chakra in a human being. The awakening of Kundalini in our cognitive faculty results in such phenomena. With the ongoing action of the descent of Guru’s grace (shaktipat), the physical body, the psychic body and lastly the causal body, each in turn undergo purification. Experiences of shunyata (void) of different grades arise. It is remarkable, to say the least, that a touch, a look, a word or thought on the part of the Guru can lead to such phenomena. Such a Guru is known as a Siddha Guru.

Sitaramdas Omkarnath, among His works has written ‘Birahinir Abhisar’ which has been translated under the title ‘The Maid in Quest of Her Beloved’. The ‘maid’ is a metaphor for the Kundalini. The ‘beloved’ is a metaphor for Divinity. Presented as a conversation between a disciple and a most unassuming Guru, this work makes for excellent reading even from a purely literary standpoint. This remarkable work contains a perfect exposition on the theme of Shaktipaat and Siddha Yoga.


The objective of diksha or spiritual initiation is only one …to enable a second birth of the disciple. You become twice-born when you are initiated by your Guru. In the Siddha Yoga tradition, when you are initiated you are put on the fast track of spiritual progress. Sri Sadananda Chakravarti, a teacher of our Guru Sri Vitthal Ramanuj says ‘…one has not to mount the steps, one rises in an elevator’. No longer do you have to strive and clamour. You do not have to do anything special, anything that is artificial. Asanas, mudras and bandhas happen to you willy-nilly. Surrender to the Guru and total acceptance of the refuge granted by the Guru is necessary. This spirit is called ‘Guru prapannata’. A spirit of obedience translates into a willingness to allow the Shakti to take its own course. Interference of any sort will not harm but slow down the process. However, the power of diksha is such that the habitually disobedient student is won over. Obedience after all is won over when there is conviction, which is born of the demonstrable goodwill of the Guru. The Guru is there to give you something precious and not to take away anything except that which you must be rid of, e.g. your illusions, the blockages that prevent you from realizing your higher Self. When you take diksha from a Siddha Guru of the Siddha Yoga tradition, all that the spiritual aspirant does is to perform an exceedingly simple exercise of japa or meditation.

The objective of the Guru of the Siddha Yoga tradition is startlingly simple and ambitious: to bring about God-revelation to the disciple. In this process the entire being of the disciple evolves at a tremendous speed. Nothing less than this can be satisfactory to Guru or disciple. Most devotees have a laid-back attitude when it comes to spiritual exercise. Many among us are not given to serious thinking; we dismiss the most serious issues of our life as unworldly concerns of the philosopher. Most believe that ‘God’ is an insoluble mystery that Man can never hope to fathom. How can Man presume to grasp something that he cannot even properly define? What or who is God? Does He have qualities or is He free from attributes? Is God different or apart from Nature? Is He merciful or sternly fair? Does He have a will or does He work strictly by the laws laid down… laid down by whom? Is He a person or an entity? The bases of atheism, agnosticism and theism are all generally too childish to have any long-standing appeal for anyone. Hence the confusion. The inability of science to even address these issues has rendered it relatively barren. Many a scientist who derives intellectual joy from his work turns to spiritual activities to derive something more…an unalloyed bliss or ananda that comes from spiritual practices given by the Guru.

The Hindu philosophy is the only one that uses words like ‘God’ and ‘Self’ as synonymous! To have self-realization is to realize God. Swami Vivekananda has said that every soul is potentially divine. At first, you will realize ‘God’ as a being outside of yourself, with name, form and blissful qualities. Then you will realize ‘God’ as the very essence of your own self! This last attainment happens when the Kundalini Shakti unites with her Lord. The forces set in motion through diksha raise the psychic energies from the muladhara to higher centers and finally to the crown chakra, the sahasrara. Such diksha is known as ‘Niradhara Diksha’ or ‘Veda Diksha’ or ‘Jnanavati Diksha’.


Sri Sri Vitthal Ramanuj, the present head of the ‘Jaiguru Sampradaya’ continues the tradition of Siddha Yoga and the giving of Jnanavati Diksha. How exactly is diksha given?


Japa is done in a seated posture. An ‘asana’ is a special mat on which one sits to perform japa. In modern times you will be generally asked to sit for meditation on a woolen mat. It is not practicable to obtain kusa grass, deerskin or tigerskin. Sometimes the Guru granting diksha gives you the mat. Otherwise you are asked to procure a certain sort of mat. This asana is not to be used for any purpose other than the given one. It is not to be treated like other articles of clothing and cut up, stitched or altered in any manner. With repeated use the asana gathers certain vibrations, which get transmitted when the practitioner sits on it again. For this same reason, the asana is very personal and cannot be used by another.

Determination of Ishta Mantra

Vitthal Maharaj (as He is called by the disciples), inquires of you ‘Who is your favourite deity?’ In the vernacular this translates into ‘Who is your ishta devata?’ Depending on your answer, your ishta mantra will be determined. This is a unique (and democratic) inquiry. He does not at the outset tell you to worship a specific deity. Suppose you were to say that ‘Tripura Sundari’ is your favourite deity, you would be given an ishta mantra pertaining to Shakti. Once in a while it happens that you may be refused a mantra relating to your favourite deity, for it may not be suitable for you. He may give you a mantra relating to another deity. This is because the Ishta is determined either by traditions running in a family, unity of belief for aspirants in a single family or preponderance of one of the five elements in the aspirant’s body, the deity presiding over which comes to be the Ishta Deva and the preceptor knows it by insight. The repetition of the mantra is meditation or japa. You may call this Mantra Yoga.

Hindus are given to the worship of a very large number of deities. The Hindu pantheon is indeed overpopulated! The vast infinitude that is ‘God’ may be represented by an infinite number of forms, for everything in the universe is imbued with ‘God’! The myriad deities can all be regarded as the various names and forms of five principal deities: Ganapati, Surya, Shiva, Vishnu and Shakti . These five principal deities are the manifestations of the Absolute that can only be expressed as Aum.

A question arises in the mind of the ones who are much used to the ways of the different Hindu traditions:

How does the Guru of this particular fold grant diksha by giving various mantras? The Paramguru, Sri Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath, had realized God as with attributes, that is as having name and form, and also as the Absolute, that is One without Name or Form. The Word ‘AUM’ had descended upon Him. The name ‘Omkarnath’ is a title that indicates this. This completeness in His spiritual attainment qualified Him to grant a mantra relating to any deity. Continuing in this tradition, His disciple, Sri Vitthal Ramanuj, for the same reasons, is qualified to grant ishta mantra relating to any deity. This is a unique feature of the japa as given by the Gurus of this Vaishnavite tradition. It is noteworthy that Sitaramdas worshipped Shiva whom He realized in His early childhood. Yet He belonged to the Vaishnavite tradition.

So, let us say, your ishta mantra has been decided, by the Guru.


Keeping the Count

Now the Guru tells you that the ishta mantra is to be meditated upon, or recounted mentally, a certain number of times. But then how do you keep count? Hindus have devised many elegant methods by which count may be kept fairly effortlessly. A rosary made up of rudraksha beads or tulasi seeds is used by most. The Vaishnavites mostly use the tulasi mala, a string made up of tulasi seeds. The number of seeds is such that you know automatically you have completed the requisite number in one round of meditation. One round consists of a number of one hundred and eight. You may be asked to meditate to the count of 108 or 1008. Today, in the age of high-tech, you may find gadgets that help you to keep count. All these methods forge dependence and this dependence can become a hurdle in achieving a higher state.

A unique method is devised in some traditions. This is the method of keeping count on one’s fingers, using the left hand fingers to count the tens, and the right hand fingers to count the units. When you use this method you are using the kar mala. The exact method is given by the Guru and is generally known only to the initiates. The kar mala is shown below:

Kar mala diagram

But then proper meditation is performed with jnana mudra, is it not?

This is a serious question that a disciple may ask. At the end of one round numbering 108, and also at the end of numerous rounds, say numbering 1008, you find that your fingers are in jnana mudra.

So now you have a mantra and a method of keeping count.

But there is something more…


Now that the ishta mantra is selected and the method of keeping count shown, the Guru introduces to you the sequence in which the disciple performs japa or meditation. Japa or meditation is done in silence; it is done by silent repetition in the inner space. In this context, even the word ‘chanting a shloka’ means silent chanting.

1. At the outset, you chant a shloka asking forgiveness for possible lapse on your part in observing rules prior to starting japa. Then you chant a second shloka invoking the Guru. Next, you pray to the principal deity, again through a shloka.
2. Now you begin Guru japa. You have to use the kar mala to keep count. Meanwhile you have to place your attention in the middle of your eyebrows. After completing the given number, you offer the japa in the right palm of the Guru.
3. Next you do ishta japa, using the kar mala. Again this japa is offered, in the same manner as ishta japa, to the Guru.
4. Last, you perform japa of the Naam, which is the Taarak Brahmanaam. At the end you again invoke Guru and Ishta Devata and recite the purification shloka.
  1. Shloka , Purification Prayer
  2. Pranam Mantra/ Invocation Of Guru
  3. Pranam Mantra/ Invocation Of Ishta Devata
  1. Japa Of Guru Mantra
  2. Offering Guru Japa To Guru
  1. Japa Of Ishta Mantra
  2. Offering Ishta Japa To Ishta Devata
  1. Japa Of Hare Krishna Mahamantra
  2. Pranam Mantra/ Invocation Of Guru
  3. Pranam Mantra/ Invocation Of Ishta Devata
  4. Shloka , Purification Prayer

You may notice the preponderance of Guru in the entire proceedings. Yes, achieving the Guru is the summum bonum of spiritual endeavour. The Guru tattva is the same as the sahasrara chakra, to which you want the kundalini shakti to rise up. You therefore start by invoking Guru. After completing Guru japa, you offer your Guru japa to Guru. After completing Ishta Japa, you offer the Ishta Japa to the Ishta Deva. Finally you acknowledge your gratitude to Guru. This ensures that your endeavour involves the highest sublimation and is marked by the maximum auspiciousness. Also the tender offering of your japa directly in the right hand of Guru fosters a feeling that something very precious, indeed the best possible offering, is being given to the Guru. An emotional bond is forged which makes you take refuge with the Guru.

Now the next question that is bound to crop up is ‘Why do we end with Naam? What exactly is Tarak Brahmanaam?’

Taarak Brahmanaam

The Tarak Brahmanaam is the sixteen-worded Mahamantra that goes as follows:



Sitaramdas Omkarnath preached the Naam or the Taarak Brahmanaam as given above because He was commanded by His Guru (Sri Sri Dasharathi Deva) to do so. Later in a vision, Lord Jagannath reiterated the command. Several shastras explain that in the Kali Yuga, the only practice that is unfailingly efficacious is the Naam. The Naam serves as a stand-alone practice. If you are initiated into another mantra, the Naam, as a supplementary practice, will enhance its efficacy. The sixteen words of the Naam correspond to the sixteen petals of the Kala Chakra. Each petal represents a specific differentiation of the Pranic energy or Prakriti, which in turn is an attribute of the Absolute. The Naam can yield the most blissful samadhi.

The granting of the Naam is one more of the unique features of the tradition. There are absolutely no restrictions as to the place, time or person (caste and creed) for resorting to the Naam. It may be chanted, or meditated upon silently. It may be chanted with or without faith, its efficacy unimpaired. It may be sung to the accompaniment of instruments with dancing. All the great saints held sessions in which the Naam was chanted and sung. The absence of rules and regulations makes Naam the choice instrument for continuous japa. The devotee who is in the habit of continuously doing japa of the Naam is in continuous communion with Divinity. After completing the formal japa of Guru, Ishta Devata and then the Naam, you can continue to do japa of the Naam the rest of the time! You are then said to be doing Naam Yoga. Is the Naam yoga meant only for those who are emotional in their attitude towards God? How can you adore an entity that you have never known? However, Naam Yoga is for everyone, even the faithless.


….Naam Yoga, Laya Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Siddha Yoga…..

You must wonder at the numerous streams of ‘yoga’. How do you choose among them? If your Guru initiates you into any one stream of yoga, is it sufficient? Do they all have different objectives or a common one? Fortunately for all of us, Sitaramdas Omkarnath in His inimitably sweet and affectionate manner explains the essence of each sort of yoga. Please refer to ‘Works of Sri Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath’. The different forms of yoga are not really mutually exclusive. The practice of each will lead to most of the others automatically. However, Raja yoga is simply too demanding, appearing rather as the achievement rather than the means in spiritual endeavour. Most sorts of yoga require a massive amount of patient honing of a certain sort of skill involving great subtlety. Jnana Yoga demands open-mindedness and far too great an intellectual capacity. Karma yoga is a matter of holding on to an attitude of detachment and self-surrender. Bhakti Yoga implies an adoration of an entity that you know nothing of. Hatha Yoga is very demanding, requiring much observation of the nadis and meditation on light. Kriya Yoga is a compendium of many practices, that the average person in the present times has not the time or patience to even find out about! Laya Yoga and Naam Yoga depend on sound as an instrument of meditation. Laya Yoga is perhaps a little more difficult than Naam Yoga. It requires the practice of Naad Anusandhana, which is possible for only a person with the mind of a deeply meditative musician. And so on…. Sitaramdas Omkarnath fully aware of the features of all the sorts of Yoga, recommended the one He thought was the most effective, practicable for all and also the easiest. This is Naam Yoga. Naam Yoga can be done by just anyone, hence its universal applicability as an instrument of meditation. Naam Yoga is indeed so powerful that it need not be granted by a Guru as part of diksha. It is specially recommended in this chaotic and confused age (Kali Yuga) that we find ourselves in. Siddha Yoga is that in which the Guru’s power simply unfolds within you as you follow the easy instructions of the Guru.

The crux of the matter is that all streams of yoga result in the dawning of Naad and Jyoti experiences in the disciple. Naad means Unstruck Sound. Jyoti means light visible to the inner eye in the absence of an external stimulus. As the disciple carries on faithfully with the given practices, finally Omkar or the naad ‘AUM’ dawns. Please read ‘The Eternal Festival’ authored by Sri Vitthal Ramanuj, to find an enlightening exposition on 1. Naad and Jyoti and 2. Pranavavaad or philosophy of Omkar (the sound ‘AUM’). Naad and Omkar are the two experiences that all disciples are bound to have, whether they are Jnanis, Bhaktas, Karma Yogis, Hatha Yogis, Naam Yogis, beneficiaries of Siddha Yoga, or some other sort of yogis.