The path of wisdom is a tool for gauging where you are in your yoga and spiritual practice, and I first become familiar with it while doing a Kundalini yoga teacher training.
“What exactly do you learn in yoga teacher training?”
This is a question I hear a lot, and most people are surprised when I report that most of my 200-hour Kundalini Yoga training program was centered less around the physical practice of yoga and more on philosophical ideas and practical lifestyle concepts.
Using a 300+ page textbook called The Aquarian Teacher, we discussed a wide range of subjects including, tantric numerology, the history of yoga, the importance of a yogic diet, fate versus destiny, the meaning of the Age of Aquarius, and the responsibilities of a Kundalini Yoga teacher. One of the more interesting ideas we discussed was the five stages of wisdom.
The Spiritual Path
Spirituality is a deeply personal exploration, but each person’s spiritual path has some common elements and characteristics. The journey is not a straight line but rather a complex path has many twists and turns. Metaphorically, you’ll walk through lush flower-filled meadows and struggle over steep, rocky mountain trails. At different moments, you’ll feel profoundly connected to everything and deeply isolated from all that you know and love.
It’s not a journey for everyone, but if you are among those who are called to it, it is the adventure of a lifetime. It is a journey into yourself that you take with your ego and your soul. And whether you go deep into the wilderness or stay on the periphery of the trail, it will change you.
Let’s explore the five distinct stages on the path of wisdom.
Stage 1: Saram Pad (the novice)
You begin down the path of awakening your consciousness. You feel a sense of excitement and enthusiasm. This is the “honeymoon period” when you consciously begin a relationship with your own spiritual path. You may be shedding pain from your past, and you feel the freshness of a new life as your awareness sharpens, and your consciousness shifts. You may have found a spiritual teacher, community, or a specific set of practices, and you feel the blessings of these gifts. You aren’t quite sure what to expect, but you eagerly take the first steps.
Stage 2: Karam Pad (the apprentice)
The freshness of the start of the journey wears off, and in this stage, you begin the deeper personal work on yourself. The excitement you experienced in Saram Pad is replaced by determination as you learn about your repetitive thought patterns, your blocks, your issues, and the growth needed to cultivate a deeper relationship with your spirituality and your Higher Self. The path remains clear, but the terrain becomes more difficult.
Stage 3: Shakti Pad (the craftsman)
This is the most difficult, transitional, and challenging of all the stages. The direction of the path becomes less clear, doubt plagues your mind, and you may experience inner confusion. The choices made at this stage are crucial. The transformation that occurs during Shakti Pad will determine whether you continue to progress toward mastery, stay at apprentice levels, or quit the journey altogether.
It is easy to lose your way at this stage, either by becoming disenchanted with the work you’ve done or by becoming hypnotized by the satisfaction and power of the skills you have already gained. The voice of your ego may drown out the voice of your soul. This part of the path may feel dark, confusing, and at times, even treacherous. However, if you stay committed, focused, and continue down the path, you emerge with a deep inner strength and an unshakable sense of direction.
Stage 4: Sahd Pad (the expert)
After emerging from the challenging phase of Shakti Pad, this is a stage of ease, balance, and grace when everything begins to fit together. Life starts to flow, and you have a sense of being deeply supported. Your decisions manifest. The creative force, which some think of as the universe or God, spontaneously serves your needs as you align with your destiny. You live richly in the present moment, allowing things to unfold and intuitively sensing when to act and when to surrender. Metaphorically, this is the part of the path where you experience stunning views, easy trails, and clarity.
Stage 5: Sat Pad (the master)
This final stage is attained by a precious few as this is the level of mastery. In Sat Pad, you are in harmony with the universe, living in great peace, grace, and happiness as a servant of the Divine Will. You sense no separation between duty towards the world and the choice of your own will. There is no duality but rather a sense of equality and transcendence. You inspire others while maintaining your humility.
As mentioned, the spiritual path isn’t a straight line, and you don’t always move in a single direction. You may move back and forth between two phases for long periods of time. The journey is deeply personal, and each person’s steps are uniquely their own.
And if you think that the five stages of wisdom don’t apply to you, think again. While these five stages apply to the spiritual path, on a meta level they represent the working of the human mind, and you can apply these principles to many aspects of your life. Observe these five stages in your important, intimate relationships. Apply these five stages to that new sport or hobby you are trying to master. One of the best gifts you can give yourself is to learn the workings of your own mind.
Getting Started on the Path to Wisdom
Like a walking stick, a daily yoga or meditation practice is a great tool to facilitate the journey down your spiritual path. Having a regular practice can serve as a compass to keep you in touch with your Higher Self and offer you stability as you pass through Shakti Pad and some of the more difficult stages on the path of wisdom. Explore Kundalini Yoga or any of the other forms of yoga, and if meditation is calling to you, find the meditation style that’s right for you.