Initiation is like opening the doors of another reality, another room in the house. We live in a house with many rooms and many of the rooms are still locked. The chakras are the locks. What has been defined in religious terminology as removing the veil and in yogic terminology as awakening the chakras indicates that there are still many unopened rooms. There are different forms of initiation to open different doors. One door opens when you are initiated into mantra, another when you are initiated into sannyasa and another with shaktipat.
Mantra diksha, initiation into mantra, is the first and simplest initiation. Any mantra exerts a very powerful control on ajna chakra. Ajna chakra is the chakra of sensitivity, the chakra which has to become active before mooladhara chakra can be awakened. That is the theory of kundalini yoga. So the first initiation, mantra, opens a door. Apart from all the other effects, this is one of the functions.
In the tantras, emphasis has been given to the use of mantras for inner transformation, whereas the Vedas emphasize the use of mantras to propitiate nature and the elements. So vedic mantras and tantric mantras are different. In yoga we deal with tantric mantras for inner purification and inner transformation. Once you become a master of that, then other things can follow.
The spiritual name is an aim to follow and attain in life. It should work like a carrot dangling in front of a donkey. As long as the carrot is in sight, the donkey keeps walking towards it. You should all become like the donkey and follow the carrot. The only difference is that the carrot will not be illusive. By walking a few steps towards it, you will have the carrot in your mouth. The name provides the focus and aim to attain. A name has a relationship with an aspect of your nature and spirit which can be felt intuitively by a few people who are aware of it. That name represents the need, the aspiration of the human spirit in this life to become that, to attain that.
Being Sanskrit, the name also evokes a particular vibrational response because Sanskrit is a combination of sounds which creates a frequency change in the vibratory aspect of our personality. When we say the name in Sanskrit using a combination of sounds which has the power to harmonize, alter and change the pattern of our vibratory waves, spandan, then that quality of spirit is now lived. It doesn't only remain an aim to attain, but we become that. Of course, this has to be taken as sadhana and not for granted. If a plate of food is placed in front of you, you can eat it and satisfy yourself. If you choose to ignore it and just wear the name like a label, or use the mantra as an aid to deepen meditation, that is fine too but the potentials are much greater.
Sannyasa diksha opens another door, another chakra. Karma sannyasa diksha and the conviction to live like a karma sannyasin, not just being initiated but actually wilfully living like that, opens another door. It is creating harmony between the various dimensions of your expression and experience. By sensitizing the mind you are able to perceive and become aware of many other situations, events and happenings which previously you would have chosen to ignore. Initiation definitely cannot be escapism, rather it is becoming aware of areas which you ignored in the past and which created some psychological, emotional, intellectual, psychic or spiritual obstruction in your personality.
The third form of initiation after sannyasa is shaktipat. In this also there is the vedic way and the tantric way. There are different types of shaktipat: drig diksha, initiation through sight, sparsha diksha, initiation through touch, kurma diksha, initiation by thought, swapna diksha, initiation by dream. Only the guru can decide which type the disciple qualifies for. If there is aspiration for spiritual upliftment, then the choice has to be the guru's.
—Ganga Darshan, October 10, 2000