'Holy Spirit' is not the same as 'Shakti' or 'Kundalini'

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In Hinduism, there is no evil spirit or demonic Shakti. Rather, Shakti encompasses all polarities, being simultaneously one and many, light and dark, supportive and violently transformative; both sides of such pairs must be integrated in spirituality. Hinduism easily embraces the fierce, dark Kali alongside the nurturing Parvati. Christianity's emphasis on good/evil dualism results in fear of possession by evil spirits. This is often projected onto heathen or pagan religions, and particularly onto Kali, whose aesthetics shock Westerners. The name of Jesus is sometimes invoked, or a Bible kept on hand, to get rid of such evil spirits.

Hinduism sees that any negative effects of kundalini awakening stem from the individual’s preconditioning and nature, and not from evil spirits. Electricity is a helpful analogy. Neither inherently good nor evil, each electrical mechanism responds according to its own qualities. Yogis have fearlessly experimented with kundalini just as scientists do with electricity.

Shakti is explicitly feminine and has myriad representations. The Holy Spirit has also at times been conceived as female, yet, Christianity's most prominent female figure, the Virgin Mary, is not identical with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit mysteriously incarnates Jesus in Mary’s womb, but this experience is exceptional and is impossible in other humans (whereas Shakti can be experienced by everyone). There are no spiritual practices designed to elicit Mary’s experience in all Christians, except metaphorically.

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Many cross-cultural experts draw a parallel between kundalini awakenings and the phenomena associated with Pentecostal worship. Like shaktipat, or guru-awakened kundalini, Pentecostal experiences can involve extreme bodily responses triggered by a charismatic leader. However, to contain the risk of heresies, these experiences are carefully coded within the context of the historical struggle for salvation from sin that is available only by the grace of Jesus. Unlike Shakti, the Holy Spirit is not experienced as one’s inner essence manifesting through personal yoga but as an external and transcendent force invoked by communal prayer. Pentecostals are especially alert to the danger of evil spirits, and warn against any spiritual experience coming from a non-Christian, making a Hindu guru especially suspect.

Many Westerners have appropriated aspects of the Hindu Goddess to address issues within Christianity, in particular its patriarchy, institutions, weak ecological base and absence of yoga. While this is laudable, great care must be taken that core Hindu notions such as Shakti are not imported as mere "add-ons." Dissecting the tradition into separate parts and digesting them selectively distorts the source. Shakti cannot be domesticated.

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