The Touch of Grace
by Sundari Ma
“… the Guru is literally both the teacher and the student as one indivisible whole. One makes the other. Just as the teacher makes the student, so the student makes the teacher—mutually supporting each other in the spirit of highest truth. This giving and receiving is the greatest teaching in disguise…”
– Igor Kufayev
The most luminous gifts in our lives arrive completely unexpected. They are washed ashore in our hearts in response to a longing that we were not even aware of. These rare gifts carry a light that illuminates unknown terrain in our being. And often it only dawns on us much later that the beauty of this gift is its mysterious way of awakening new life within us.
I met Igor Vamadeva Kufayev, an Advaita Tantra teacher from Uzbekistan, for the first time in Holland in June 2015—nearly six years ago. This encounter marked a turning point in my life. Everything I had experienced before felt as if it was only preparation for the moment of meeting my ultimate spiritual teacher. It was an immeasurable gift coming from the depth of the heart that transformed my life as I knew it.
The encounter was set into motion when a friend had recommended that I attend one of the retreats of a spiritual teacher he had found resonance with, during a time when I was undergoing a full blown Kundalini awakening. In his words, Igor Vamadeva was “the real deal”—a master in the state of Unity who could safeguard the intense process I had found myself in. And just like that, a few days later I sat in a train traveling north to attend the 4-day immersion “Vibrant Self” and be in this teacher’s presence. I pondered a strange dream that I had the night before: I dreamed I was formless presence. In the vastness of this emptiness were two eyes that made perception possible. I intuitively knew that these eyes were the eyes of Shiva , but simultaneously belonged to a giant cobra, and were the eyes of Vamadeva and myself. The radiant light that was shining through them held all existence in deep stillness and bliss. While the landscape rushed by outside the window, I wrote this dream in my notebook. It was only much later that I realized that the dream was a vision of Oneness—I had received a glimpse of where my teacher would lead me.
During this first encounter, my teacher initiated me into the path of the spontaneous realization of our divine essence—the path of the Siddhas—which leads us to the innate perfection of our being. The Path of the Heart. It is the path that has always been there beyond tradition and within any tradition, hidden like the nectar in the bud of a flower. The portal to this path opened with the transmission of spiritual energy—the touch of grace. With the initiation into the path of the heart, the consciousness that my teacher embodied began to vibrate in the depth of my being. This living light was so powerful that it consumed what I had previously believed myself to be. It gradually purified me from the illusion of duality, from the shackles of finitude, and led me into the ocean of the heart, eventually preparing me to return to the finite world with a clear and fresh vision of the omnipresence of Shiva.
In my perception, the living teacher held the great paradox of the human and divine, of personal and transpersonal, of unique and universal, which shattered my mind and could only be reconciled by merging into the vastness of Being as well. The relationship to my teacher unfolded in the depth of the heart as a whisper, as a storm, as a subtle touch, as the melody of silence. No words could ever touch this dimension. It remained hidden from the human mind and therefore from any conceptual understanding or critical analysis. My path ended in this encounter. My teacher became my path and any trace of direction, progress, evolution disappeared.
On the second day of this retreat, I received shaktipat  from Vamadeva during a meditation session. The tantric scriptures tell us that there are different ways of transmitting spiritual energy. Shaktipat can be given through the glance from the Master, through touch, through intention, through a word or mantra, or through silence. In order to assist his students during meditation, my teacher used a grey cashmere scarf, which had been in his possession for a very long time and in which the energy of his own spiritual master Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his Guru Swami Brahmananda Saraswati was present. He once told me that he only starts working with his students after invoking his own Masters and getting permission to do this work. This sentence touched me deeply, and for me contained the great, inexpressible beauty of the teacher-student relationship.
I was sitting in deep meditation when I suddenly felt the pressure of Vamadeva’s hand on my head. A bright flash of light seemed to split my entire being—radiant light was everywhere. I was bathed in a light that was brighter than millions of brilliant suns. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. It was so strong that it completely eclipsed the notion of myself and dissolved my previous perception of reality. This light illumined the depth of my consciousness and brought to the surface what felt like entire lives of terror, pain, and despair. I was emptied of accumulated inner baggage by vibrating currents of absolute bliss. An incredible energy filled my body. Spontaneous movements, also called kriyas , made my body tremble and manifested as involuntary pranayama  and yoga postures such as the bridge, the fish, the wheel, and other asanas I cannot name. Laughter erupted while tears ran down my face. My heart felt as if it was going to break because I could not hold this tremendous light that seemed to flood me from the source of the universe. I was in a state of indescribable ecstasy.
In the darshan  that followed, Vamadeva addressed the phenomenon of the spontaneous yogic processes in our meditation. He explained that kriyas manifest because of the activation, awakening, and ascension of Kundalini Shakti , which sends tremendous waves of energy throughout the subtle body. It was eye-opening to hear that there is no true awakening without kriyas, as these involuntary physical, emotional, and mental movements indicate a cleansing of our system of all the information that keeps our consciousness in a state of contraction—separate from the perception of who we truly are. However, Vamadeva added that these spontaneous manifestations occur in all phases of the transformative process, as the way the Divine power expresses itself through and as us. For the first time I became aware of the role the nervous system plays in the process of Self-realization, and that liberation from deep-seated stresses can reveal to us the great miracle of being human and God at once. This darshan had a profound impact on me.
After this first encounter, my heart was filled with overflowing gratitude and quiet joy. Vamadeva’s last words to me were, “You don’t need to worry. Now the guidance is finally here.” Back home from our immersion, I found myself in a state of ongoing spontaneous absorption. The bliss was so overwhelming that my mind was blank; everything around me seemed to glow and I had difficulties to tend to my daily duties. After I had asked Vamadeva for his advice, I stopped teaching yoga classes and meditation at the yoga studio which I was running together with my husband. My teacher had suggested that I give myself entirely to this powerful unfolding if I could afford to do that. He said I would never regret doing this as I was in the midst of an unstoppable process of giving birth to divine consciousness through and within this body.
It was a very intense time. Kundalini Shakti now orchestrated the yogic process through my body in absolute spontaneity. I was in meditation 24/7. Day and night I was immersed in the stream of my Guru’s  grace and the electrical currents of the Shakti. Kundalini revealed aspects of my personality that had always been covered up; outlived roles and psychological tendencies were illumined by the light of consciousness. The person I had imagined myself to be was falling apart and I was faced with an instinctive fear—the fear of being extinguished by this tremendous force of light. The self-sustaining parts of my personality tried to hold the reigns of control and find an escape route but all routes seemed to be blocked. My teacher had done an excellent job. I remembered a poem by Jalāl ad-Dīn Rumi which had always touched me: “And when He closes all paths before you, He will show a hidden path that nobody knows.” This path was revealed inside when I realized my utter helplessness behind the mental storm on the surface; it made me sink to my knees. I didn’t know what to do next. It was a ground-breaking moment because only now was I really able to receive and say with all my heart: “Please guide me…”
This prayer-like wish unfolded with full force shortly after this revelation, during my third and next immersion with Vamadeva in Sedona. The emotional intensity had reached a crescendo and I found myself at a threshold, which the mind couldn’t grasp. Yet the most important thing was that I was back in the presence of my teacher to continue my work with him.
The meditations were deep right from the beginning, as many participants were long-time American students of Vamadeva. Spontaneous vocalizations, low humming, and overtone singing filled the entire room. In one of these sessions, I felt the presence of my teacher in front of me and my body became utterly still. It was as if pure light was streaming into me through my breath, entering the heart. My breathing stopped. I sat in deepest inner beatitude like an Indian statue—both hands completely still in mudras. My consciousness expanded beyond all limitations. I saw planets in their orbits moving within the infinity of my hands and arms. My own awareness held them in place. The sounds in the room were on the periphery of my perception, like waves on the shore of the infinite ocean of consciousness.
From far away I heard our Teacher’s instruction to relax and to lie down on the floor after meditation, but I could not move. There was no connection between the thought waves and any physical reaction. I stayed in this posture, without breathing, until what felt like ripples moved through my body and I slowly melted to the floor. I still couldn’t move my head or limbs. Someone called Vamadeva, who immediately saw what was going on with me and touched a few points on my head. He said—more to reassure the people around—that there was nothing to worry about. I myself didn’t feel any fear.
My metabolism slowed down so tremendously that my legs and arms became very cold. It felt like my body was dying, as prana left the limbs and withdrew into the heart. My perception of myself expanded in all directions until there was nothing in this universe that I was not. There was a humming sound that filled my entire being. I witnessed huge rivers of information rushing through my mind. I saw everything I had thought myself to be—myriads of accumulated thoughts and beliefs—passing through the infinity of my mind. I watched the condensed information of this life and past lives flowing through the vastness of consciousness. I saw the world and what I had thought this world to be—and everything dissolved in this magnificent stream of light. None of what was witnessed had anything whatsoever to do with who ‘I am.’
I was brought to the home of our host in Sedona, where I rested in a beautiful room that he had turned into a chapel. Two sangha sisters cared for me by giving me some water now and then and helping me to the bathroom. After two days of being immersed in that motionless state of samadhi , the Shakti breathed life back into my body. Intense heat began to spread from the center of the heart into my spine and limbs. It felt as if there was a raging fire in my bones. I was sweating and in physical pain. Vamadeva reassured me that this was indeed how it feels when coming back from these expansive states. The following night I had a dream. I dreamed I was eating sweet fruits from a beautiful, earthen bowl. When I told my teacher about this dream, he said “This is a very auspicious dream, you are reaping the fruits of your sadhana .”
For many months after this experience, the Grace I have been receiving immersed me in a state of blissful rapture so delicious that nothing could ever come close. I was merging with a presence that seemed intimately familiar to me, yet was beyond any imagination. The ecstasy that took over drowned the chatter of the mind—language made no sense at all. The love that was given was so overwhelming, so full of beauty, so full of danger. It made melodies flow through my veins and emerge from the depth of the earth as endless laughter. It made poetry manifest through me and turned my body into an endless stream of bliss. It made me dance and forget about all rules—and it made me behave in ridiculous ways. Nobody would be crazy enough to leave the shores of the familiar behind without being taken and carried by this ecstatic love. But my teacher had written Shiva’s name in my heart, and now every breath reverberated with Om Namah Shivaya—and echoed through the space of my being.
After this period of immense expansion, the pendulum inevitably swung into the other direction. Very difficult and often painful years of integration followed—yet these challenges gifted me with deep insights and revelations. Selfless service was my anchor and focus throughout this time, and serving my teacher as my own Self was the catalyst for stabilizing the state of Oneness. I learned invaluable lessons while I assimilated the teachings without even being aware of it fully. In the container of the team around Vamadeva—in this powerful vessel of the force of Shakti—my heart was polished while I was bathed in the vibration of fierce love. Inevitably, the waves of inner transformation sent ripples through all areas of my life, and familiar structures, perspectives, and relationships dissolved or took on different forms. These years carried the distinct fragrance of dissolution, deep solitude, and Mother Nature’s compassionate embrace. Here I learned to fine-tune my attention to perceive the silent song beneath the endless play of light and darkness.
It was also the time when I entered a new stage in my spiritual training—my teacher began to ignore me. The changes were extremely subtle, but when the heart-to-heart connection is so strong, every word, every change in the tone of the voice, is potent enough to touch hidden pain. I learned to hold rising emotions and sensations in the space of the heart, where they were processed and slowly transformed back into the fabric of awareness without leaving any traces. It helped me in this phase to read authentic spiritual autobiographies such as The Daughter of Fire by Irina Tweedie, which powerfully documents the depth and uncompromising nature of transformation. Irina’s diary from her spiritual apprenticeship with her Sufi master, Bhai Sahib, was a reminder of what it means to walk the path to freedom that calls us to embrace the totality of who we are not before we rest in the Silence of our own Self. Kundalini Shakti is the reflective power of consciousness, and She now illumined the unknown terrain of my psyche and brought to light what had been covered up since aeons—individual trauma, collective shadows, archetypal energies. It was an intense ploughing process as literally no stone was left unturned. It is also the reason why Vamadeva emphasizes in his immersions that psychological maturity is the prerequisite for walking this path. Honest self-inquiry and being anchored in the Witness are essential in order to look into everything that is emerging from the depth of consciousness—without getting stuck in identification and projection or getting involved in strategies of avoidance or the mentality of the victim. It requires great trust in the workings of Grace.
My teacher taught me to stand on my own two feet, as Shiva and Shakti in perpetual embrace. He showed me that there is nothing outside of my Self to lean on or cling to. No longer was I drifting in silky waters; instead I found myself in some kind of advanced “martial arts training,” where a laser-beam like focus of attention was of utmost importance. It was a very profound time when I was taught to re-align my perception with the silent, inner guidance, the flow of love from heart to heart, which is completely independent from external behavior or any personal preferences. Again and again, I was taken out of comfort zones and tested until no experience had the power to eclipse the Silence of my being. Self-actualization in Vamadeva’s words is simply spiritual maturity—the direct realization of one’s true essence in the heart. And the first and last step on this path is to stand in and as the light of your own consciousness.
It takes great courage to walk a path that is without direction, and often the challenges feel insurmountable. But only when Supreme Love breaks the heart open can the fullness be tasted that life in a human body has to offer. There is so much beauty waiting to be discovered. And perhaps the greatest beauty is in opening to the embrace of Grace, “to be able, at any moment, to sacrifice what we are for what we could become,” as the great Seer Maharishi Mahesh Yogi once expressed.
The all-encompassing teaching of the Self was the invisible compass that allowed me to surrender fully to this process. Vamadeva had continuously been emphasizing the essence of Kashmir Shaivism . This tantric philosophy states that the Self consists of two aspects: the silent aspect of transcendence or pure consciousness (Shiva) and the dynamic aspect of immanence or Self-awareness (Shakti) that form the two banks of the river of existence. The One can only recognize itSelf through being Two. It is through the self-reflective power of Shakti that pure consciousness can know itself. Through sadhana we are taken to the silent shore—the state of transcendence—and then we gradually integrate transcendence into our entire neurophysiology. Over time, Oneness stabilizes and we live attuned to our innermost nature as Being-Consciousness-Bliss . The process of awakening is the birth of divine consciousness; it is the transformation of human consciousness in all its rawness and beauty. It is the process in which individuality is willingly sacrificed through the power of devotion, until we merge with the stream of Universal Love. Entering this ocean of Love is not a dissolution but a sacred transformation through which the uniqueness of our embodiment only begins to shine in the temple of being.
Each age has its relevant spiritual teachings, and in the words of my teacher, the path of the Sacred Feminine—the path of the awakened Kundalini Shakti—is the teaching of our time. Though not everyone is convinced that the purpose of life is to turn within and awaken to one’s full potential, I was guided to realize that it is the level of our consciousness which drives the current state of affairs on this planet. When we reflect on that, then awakening is no longer just an option, but an evolutionary necessity to safeguard humanity through these adharmic times. Grace is the only power that reveals the eternal bliss of being and manifests heaven on earth—through the human heart. It is the power that shows us the silver lining as we witness an entire culture and society crumble. This silver lining is like the dawn—the birth of something new. It cannot come from the dualistic mind but emerges from the field in which all potentialities vibrate like liquid, golden light—the womb of the Shakti.
I am infinitely grateful that I have been guided back into the presence of my ultimate spiritual Guide in this lifetime. What has been offered to me and is being offered in the depth of the heart-to-heart connection is the purest blessing and beyond any words—and offering myself back to life is my only possible answer. What initially felt deeply personal in my relationship with Vamadeva is slowly giving way to the experience of universal love. His essence is now reflected everywhere as my own; I cannot be anywhere where he is not. My teacher made me who I am. He is the light of my own heart. And my worship of his Being is the worship of all of creation and its source…
With deepest gratitude and love I bow at the lotus feet of my Guru, again and again I bow.
Jai Guru Dev
Sundari Ma — Freiburg, January 24th, 2021
1) Thumbnail, light descending through trees.
2) Igor Vamadeva Kufayev, England, Summer of 2018.
3) Sundari Ma during meditation session at “Touch of Grace & The Rise of Gnosis” Immersion, Soma Yoga, Freiburg, Germany, 2017.
4) Green Tea Ritual, Mallorca, 2018.
FLOWING WAKEFULNESS GLOSSARY:
- Shiva — auspicious; the Ultimate Reality; Absolute. According to Shaiva schools, Shiva is the all-pervasive supreme Reality, one without a second. According to Kashmir Shaivism, Shiva has five principles and five faces which act as the powers of creation, sustenance, dissolution, concealing itself in creation and grace-revealing power of its own magnificence. In Hinduism, the aspect of God known as the destroyer (of ignorance) in the Hindu trinity (Trimurti), where the three supreme deities in which the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction are personified by the forms of Brahma as the creator, Vishnu the maintainer, preserver or protector and Shiva as the destroyer or transformer. In Shaivism, Shiva refers to Paramashiva, the supreme Reality, pure divine Consciousness.
- Shaktipat — literally means, “descent of divine grace,” and is the transmission of Shakti or spiritual energy from the guru to the disciple, which awakens and enlivens the Shakti within the disciple for spiritual awakening to take place. Shaktipat can be given by touch, through the Guru’s word (mantra), look, and by intention or thought, and there are nine degrees of this transmission, and three forms — gentle, medium, and intense — rendering twenty-seven possible levels of shaktipat.
- Kriyas — physical or subtle (i.e., emotional or mental) involuntary movements brought about by increased pranic flow in the subtle body; the awakened Kundalini performing purification of the body and nervous system, to increase the individual’s capacity to endure and conduct the energy of higher states of consciousness.
- Pranayama — is a yogic science of the breath which aims to control and stabilize the prana (vital force), and thus still the mind for the seeker to experience the Self, which is beyond the mind. In Hatha Yoga, specific breath exercises are practiced as a means; however, once the Kundalini has been awakened, spontaneous pranayama arises naturally as part of the inner purification process.
- Darshan – is seeing or being in the presence of a holy being or sacred idol or place.
- Kundalini — “coiled one” (from the verb root kund = “to burn”); primordial cosmic energy, life force; latent spiritual power coiled three times at the base of the spine, at the Muladhara Chakra of every human being. According to Tantric doctrines Kundalini is one of the forms of Shakti as contracted Awareness, which gives rise to the experience (and notion) of the individual consciousness.
- Guru Principle — is present and the same in all gurus, despite their different physical appearances and apparent personalities; the guru has attained oneness with Self/God, and is the manifest form of God who removes the darkness of ignorance from his disciples. The word “guru” is derived from two Sanskrit roots, “gu” and “ru”; “gu” means darkness or ignorance, and “ru” denotes the remover of that darkness. Therefore, a guru is one who removes the darkness of our ignorance, and the true purpose of the guru is to initiate his/her disciples and devotees into the spiritual path, and guide them to Self-realization.
- Samadhi — a deep state of absorption in meditation which has been described as a transcendent state of consciousness in which the consciousness of the experiencing subject becomes one with the experienced object.
- Sadhana — spiritual practice; discipline; the means for liberation (Self-realization).
- Kashmir Shaivism — also known as Trika Shaivism, is a nondual philosophical system originated in India around 8th – 9th CE. A monistic philosophy with its four principal doctrines, it recognizes the entire universe as a manifestation of conscious energy (Citti Shakti). This ancient tradition explains how the formless Universal Consciousness (Shiva) manifests as the universe. The foundational text of Kashmir Shaivism is the Shiva Sutras, attributed to Lord Shiva, and is said to have been revealed to sage Vasugupta in a dream; other central texts of Kashmir Shaivism include Pratyabhijnahridayam, Spanda Karikas, and the Vijnana Bhairava. Kashmir Shaivism is an esoteric and contemplative householder path, where the role of the Guru and the transmission of spiritual energy called shaktipat is the key to one’s spiritual evolution. Kashmir Shaivism describes the spiritual practices which enable the aspirant to prepare himself or herself for liberation, which is sustained recognition — pratyabhijna — of one’s true Self as nothing other than Shiva.
- Sat-Chit-Ananda — Being-Consciousness-Bliss. These three Sanskrit terms used to describe the subjective — sublimely blissful — experience of Brahman, the Absolute. Sat is the Absolute, changeless pure Being, chit is consciousness, or to be conscious of, and ananda is true bliss — all three describe the nature of the Absolute, our true nature — Consciousness gazing upon Itself; it is ever-present, ever-conscious, and ever-blissful — the ground of Consciousness Itself.