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If kundalini is the key to unlocking the spectrum of psychological, psychic, occult, and spiritual phenomena, its importance for you and for all the human race will be enormous, for it would offer no less than an answer to the “riddle of life” and a demonstration of the transcendent cosmic intelligence behind creation. When the kundalini is ready to begin its gradual ascent through the chakras , and the process of inner alchemy begins. Alchemy ‘ s true purpose is not the chemical manipulation of gross matter , as is commonly thought , but rather the transmutation of unrefined elements of the human psyche. Kundalini is the main support of all the yoga practices. When kundalini is sleeping it is aroused by the favor of the guru [spiritual teacher], then all of the lotuses [lotus here stands for nerve center] and granthis [swallowings, nerve plexus?] are pierced. Then prana goes through the royal road, susumna. Then the mind remains suspended and the yogi overcomes death

If kundalini is the key to unlocking the spectrum of psychological, psychic, occult, and spiritual phenomena, its importance for you and for all the human race will be enormous, for it would offer no less than an answer to the “riddle of life” and a demonstration of the transcendent cosmic intelligence behind creation.

When the kundalini is ready to begin its gradual ascent through the chakras , and the process of inner alchemy begins.

Alchemy ‘ s true purpose is not the chemical manipulation of gross matter , as is commonly thought , but rather the transmutation of unrefined elements of the human psyche .

Kundalini is the main support of all the yoga practices. When kundalini is sleeping it is aroused by the favor of the guru [spiritual teacher], then all of the lotuses [lotus here stands for nerve center] and granthis [swallowings, nerve plexus?] are pierced. Then prana goes through the royal road, susumna. Then the mind remains suspended and the yogi overcomes death

There is a great irony in modern society. At the very moment when science and technology are achieving unprecedented feats in the manipulation of matter, large numbers of people are turning away from them with sadness, even dismay, be-cause these feats have failed to satisfy human aspirations and psychological needs.

The ancient dream of peace on earth, world brotherhood, and freedom from the perennial ills of life has not been realized, despite our glittering machines. The dream evades us, and science, for all its genuine benefits, spawns new ills to plague us. It is small wonder that people should look elsewhere for satisfaction and fulfillment.

Call it a Great Awakening, a Rebirth of the Spirit, a Con-sciousness Revolution, the Coming of the Aquarian Age. Whatever the name, a new and growing phenomenon is mak-ing itself felt today throughout society as many people—dis-satisfied with a materialistic life-style—seek a higher state of being. These people want to grow spiritually. They want to actualize their inner resources. They want to rise above the old forms that limited freedom and understanding, above the old values that brought about unacceptable conditions. They want to experience the transcendent dimensions of their existence.

Kundalini is traditionally symbolized in yogic texts as a sleeping serpent coiled at the base of the human spine. This indicates its close connection with the reproductive organs and life force. In fact, because according to the kundalini concept there is a direct connection between bioenergy and spiritual experience, some modem scholars translate kundalini as mean-ing “latent reservoir of energy,” “power at rest,” and “psycho-somatic power center.”

It objectifies Pascal’s maxim, “It is dangerous to tell people of their bestial origins unless at the same time you tell them of their divine potential.” Although the word kundalini comes from the yogic tradi-tion, nearly all the world’s major religions, spiritual paths, and genuine occult traditions see something akin to the kun-dalini experience as having significance in “divinizing” a person.

The word itself may not appear in the traditions, but the concept is there nevertheless, wearing a different name yet recognizable as a key to attaining godlike stature. The kundalini experience, then, considered from the view-point of individual transformation, is said to be a path to en-lightenment. But if a large number of enlightened people were to appear in society at the same time, the result could well transform society itself.

So the kundalini experience, in its broadest aspect, is evolutionary—a path for the advance-ment of the entire human race to a higher state. Thus kundalini presents a radical idea that goes to the roots of important social trends involving spiritual seeking and religious reawakening. Just as important, it has significance for a number of related aspects of unfolding human mental-ity: genius, creativity, intellectual and artistic talent, insanity, psychic powers, sociopathic behavior.

Last of all, it is a powerful idea for explaining in a unified way many of the mysteries of the biological, physical, and social sciences. The kundalini concept, it would seem, is a simple, logical, and compre-hensive theory of man-in-nature that is accessible to empirical testing.

Kundalini, as experienced and researched, may well be the means for a higher-level resolution to the antagonism existing in popular thought between science and religion, between technological materialism and unfulfilled human aspirations for a new state of being here on earth.

If kundalini is the key to unlocking the spectrum of psychological, psychic, occult, and spiritual phenomena, its importance for you and for all the human race will be enormous, for it would offer no less than an answer to the “riddle of life” and a demonstration of the transcendent cosmic intelligence behind creation.

What is Kundalini?

What exactly is kundalini? The answer has many levels, on which various difficulties and controversies will be encoun-tered. This book will explore them through the words of peo-ple whose experience and research have given them insight into the phenomenon of kundalini. However, these articles offer guidelines, not gospel. It will quickly become apparent that there are major divergences of opinion among those regarded as authorities on the subject. In general, the question can be answered briefly like this. Kundalini is the personal aspect of the universal life force named prana by the yogic tradition.

Prana has not yet been identified by modern science, but an-cient wisdom maintains that it is the means for raising human awareness to a higher form of perception, variously called il-lumination, enlightenment, cosmic consciousness, samadhl. Kundalini, often referred to as the “serpent power” because it is symbolized by a coiled snake, can be concentrated and channeled through the spine into the brain—a process like-wise not yet identified by modern science. The systematized process for accomplishing this upward flowing of energy is known as kundalini yoga.

One of the most ancient treatises on yoga, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, describes kundalini this way: As one opens the door with a key, so the yogi should open the gate to liberation . . . with the kundalini. The great goddess [kundalini] sleeps, closing with her mouth the opening through which one can ascend to the brah-marandhra . . . to that place where there is neither pain nor suffering. The kundalini sleeps above the kanda. . . . She gives liberation to the yogi and bondage to the fool. He who knows kundalini knows yoga. The kundalini, it is said, is coiled like a serpent. He who can induce her to move [upward] is liberated. [Vss. 105-10]

Swami Vivikananda, who brought Vedanta to the West at the end of the last century, reinterpreted the ancient wisdom with these words:

When by the power of long internal meditation the vast mass of energy stored up travels along the su-shumna and strikes the [chakras], the reaction is im-mensely more intense than the reaction of sense-perception. Wherever there was any manifestation of what is ordinarily called supernatural power or wisdom, there a little current of kundalini must have found its way into the sushumna. Only, in the vast majority of cases, people had ignorantly stumbled on some practice which set free a minute portion of the coiled-up kundalini. All worship, consciously or unconsciously, leads to this end. The man who thinks that he is receiving response to his prayers does not know that the fulfillment comes from his own nature, that he has succeeded by the mental attitude of prayer in waking up a bit of this infinite power which is coiled up within himself. What, thus, man ignorantly worships under various names . . . the yogi declares to the world to be the real power coiled up in every being, the mother of eternal happiness, if we but know how to approach her. And yoga is the science of religion, the ra-tionale of all worship, all prayers, forms, ceremonies and miracles.

Man’s predominant faculty is the capacity to be con-scious of himself and his surroundings. What is the tex-ture of this consciousness? What are the links between the genetic structure of man and his capacity for con-scious awareness? Can manipulating the one influence the other? What are the functions of those areas of the brain that are still unexplored? Is man, in fact, evolving toward a transmutation of consciousness in much the same way as animal consciousness after millions of years on this planet evolved and developed into human consciousness? Is it possible that man is on the threshold of a new evolution? If so, what will be the concomitant changes required in the human body, particularly the brain?

Yogi Bhajan. In his recent book The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan, he made this statement: What is kundalini? The energy of the glandular system combines with the nervous system to become more sensitive so that the totality of the brain perceives signals and interprets them, so that the effect of the sequence of the cause becomes very clear to the man. In other words, man becomes totally, wholesomely aware. That is why we call it the yoga of awareness. And as the rivers end up in the same ocean, all yoga ends up by raising the kundalini in the man. What is the kundalini? The crea-tive potential of the man.

THE AWAKENING OF KUNDALINI

The science of kundalini is one of the most advanced and difficult branches of yoga. In this article I hope to set right some misconceptions and abuses of this science and to give a clearer conception of what kundalini yoga is.

Shiva and Shakti

To understand the meaning of this word kundalini we must consider it in its proper context along with the word shakti, for the term kundalini modifies and explains this term, shakti. Kundalini comes from the world kundala, which means coiled. The image of a serpent coiled up while resting conveys the idea of kundalini. The word shakti comes from the root shak, to have power or to be able.

Taken together, these two Sanskrit words might be translated as the coiled-up power, or the resting potential. But what is this power and why is it resting? To understand this, we must go to the very foundation of tantric philosophy. According to this ancient philosophy, the entire universe is a manifestation of pure consciousness. In manifesting the uni-verse, this pure consciousness seems to become divided into two poles or aspects, neither of which can exist without the other. One aspect retains a static quality and remains identified with unmanifest consciousness. In tantra this quality is called Shiva, and is conceptualized as masculine.

Shiva is depicted as being absorbed in the deepest state of meditation, a state of formless being, consciousness, and bliss. He re-mains for the most part aloof from and uninterested in man-ifesting the universe. Shiva has the power to be, but not the power to become or change. He has no power to act or to manifest. He is the power holder, but has no energy in his own right. Nevertheless, consciousness as the power that builds the world is based on and arises out of this con-sciousness as being.

The practice of kundalini yoga involves not only awaken-ing this kundalini shakti but also systematically leading her through each of the chakras to the sahasrara or crown chakra, the abode of shiva. The word yoga means union, and this union can be understood as the uniting of kundalini shakti with shiva (pure consciousness). When this is achieved in the individual, he becomes fully conscious. There is no longer an unconscious or latent power—the individual is fully awakened and illumined. When the static shakti be-comes dynamic and travels upward, fully energizing each of the centers along the way, the polarization of the body gives way and one attains the highest state of samadhi. Con-sciousness of the body is withdrawn. Sir John Woodroffe eloquently says:

When Kundalini Shakti sleeps in the Muladhara, man is awake to the world; when she awakes to unite, and does unite, with the supreme static Consciousness which is Shiva, then consciousness is asleep to the world and is one with the Light of all things.4 As a static power, kundalini sustains consciousness of the world, but when she unites with shiva she loses consciousness of the world and goes to a state of consciousness without object or form.

When she is aroused and moves upward, kun-dalini withdraws into herself the dynamic forces that maintain the body. This is the reverse of involution, of consciousness involving itself in the universe. It is a process of evolution in which the human being comes to realize his full potential.

The final goal of the yogi is to dissolve the universe and abide in that state of pure consciousness. Outwardly the body may seem no longer to be alive, but it continues to function minimally so that it can again be used as an instrument of the individual who has temporarily left it.

The body may even become cold as a corpse. It is said that the union of shiva and shakti generates a nectar that contin-ues to sustain the body in this superconscious state. This union is the goal of the aspirant, but few achieve it. It is more common, although still rare, for the yogi to awaken kundalini shakti and lead her only part of the way toward her goal.

If the aspirant has not purified himself through various spirit-ual practices, the war that is waged within can be especially intense, even unbearable. Releasing kundalini without prepa-ration is like opening Pandora’s box without having cultivated the ability to master what emerges. For this reason the teacher who truly represents a tradition that teaches methods to awaken kundalini will never fully reveal these to an unprepared student, but will do his best to prepare him. Prepara-tion for awakening kundalini is more important than awakening kundalini.

The word kundalini also means a bowl of fire. In all great mystic traditions of the world there have been similar experi-ences of kundalini awakening.

In most of the spiritual practices, the awakening of this force is not clearly conceptualized or systematically brought under the control of the aspirant. Thus the mystic may have rare, inexplicable, and uncontrolled moments of ecstasy and illumination, but he does not know how to produce these again at will.

This is not the case in the systematic practice of yoga under the guidance of a teacher who himself has mastered this latent force. Indeed, it is the awakened master, as the representative of a perennial tradition, who makes it pos-sible through the practice of kundalini yoga, but sincere effort is essential. Under the close supervision of the master and through a series of initiations the student is guided toward his goal.

The first initiation on this path is the imparting of a mantra, a “seed” sound to concentrate on, which represents certain aspects of this vital force. Traditionally, mantra medi-tation is not given as an isolated practice but is considered an early step on the path. It is practiced in conjunction with a number of co-ordinate spiritual exercises and mental and physical disciplines to purify and prepare the student for fur-ther steps. If the student is successful in his practice, he is guided through more difficult and intricate forms of medi-tation in which he becomes sensitive to the forces within and is able to channel them.

The aspirant may have difficulty leading the energy up-ward. At times it may remain for a while in one of the lower chakras and return again to its resting place. There are three granthis (knots) through which the energy has a difficult time passing. In piercing the abdominal knot, pain or physical disorders may occur. The yogi may have to repeat the process of awakening kundalini a number of times, gradually leading her higher along her path. Specific spiritual exercises are given by the teacher to help the student overcome the obsta-cles encountered. It is said that bringing kundalini to the anahata chakra at the cardiac plexus is the most difficult task. At this point kundalini is said to pass from an infant state to a mature state.

The awakening of kundalini is a very specialized method of self-realization that can be attained after long, intense prac-tice. Silence and discipline of body and mind through self-effort, as well as sincerity, faithfulness, and truthfulness are necessary requisites in the path of enlightenment. Grace dawns at a certain stage of attainment. It is important to know and awaken the ascending force, kundalini. But it is equally important to be aware of this descending force called kripa (grace). Shaktipat is a form of grace that dawns when sincere, selfless effort is made by the student.

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