Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man
The ordinary mind and body have to be trained and trans-formed to withstand that vision and influx of Divine power. All the yogas and tantric training disciplines done with the guidance of a master teacher aim at such preparation. However, when the Divine suddenly penetrates people’s lives as a result of trauma, near-death experiences, or the innocent use of powerful practices done with inadequate guidance or with none at all, people need help to integrate the experiences and move on with their quests. Kundalini and the system of chakras of the subtle body provide an ancient and richly detailed symbolic map of the spiritual journey to ultimate meaning, freedom, wisdom, and love.
THE POWER OF CONSCIOUSNESS
The power of Consciousness that propels us along our inner journey of discovery is given different names in various spiritual traditions: grace, the Holy Spirit, the soul’s yearning, mumukshtva (Sanskrit for “longing for liberation”), the bond between the lover and the Divine Beloved, the fire of yoga, and divine discontent are just some of those names. That power of all-encompassing Divine Consciousness, what we in the West call God, which seeks to reveal our own true nature and unite us with itself, is called Kundalini in the yogic tradition. She is spoken of as a Goddess. Though this may make her seem alien or separate from us, She is not. In fact, She is more fundamentally “you” than you can imagine, and if you follow her with reverence and devotion She will reveal the mysteries of the universe to you. In essence, She is formless, not a goddess at all, but pure Divine Consciousness. She’s the very power of grace, of revelation, residing within you even now.
THE FIVE POWERS OF GOD
In the monistic tradition of Kashmir Shaivism, one of India’s ancient and most sublime expressions oldie mystical vision of God and the Universe, the Lord is said to have five powers. Everything else in the universe is a manifestation of these five: the power of creation, the power of sustenance, the power of destruction, the power of concealment, and the power of grace, or revelation.
When the Divine goes to create the universe, there’s nothing to create it out of other than God. He or She (it doesn’t matter which, since God is neither and both) can’t run down to the nearest building supply center for stuff to create it with, so she uses herself. What is God? The Divine is Pure Consciousness, infinite power or energy that has the quality of all-encompassing Consciousness.
That’s what the universe is made of. Everything is united with God because everything is made of God. God has the power to create all the forms of the universe, the power to sustain the continued existence of those forms, and the power to dissolve them back into the formless Divine.
Now, in order for God’s play of creating. sustaining, and destroying to really work, all the forms in the universe—which are in union with God because they are made of God—have to forget they are one with the Divine. For their individual existence and the world drama to fully evolve, their union with God must be concealed from them.
That’s where the power of concealment comes in. Our truly unbreakable union with God is concealed, hidden from us by God. It’s as if a part of God hides from another part of God in order to allow the drama of God’s creation to unfold.
That drama is the seemingly disconnected part of God evolving and beginning to yearn for reunion with God once again.
This is a symbolic, mythic understanding of the unfolding of Creator: creature and creation in constant union while the illusions of separation, suffering, and reunion are played out. Imagine a vast, deep ocean, calm and still, as the infinite Consciousness of God.
God begins to create, and a wave forms on the ocean, a form that seems to have its individual existence yet is still one with the ocean. Now imagine that the wave’s one-ness with the ocean is concealed from it, and the wave is given permission to play at taking on all different kinds of forms.
The wave is conscious and experiences itself as a huge wave, then a small wave, a ripple, a tall wave, a fat wave, and on and on. But, as with all activities, this gets boring after a while. The wave has learned all it can from taking on different shapes, and now it’s no longer creative or meaningful to continue doing that.
The wave has a vague memory of having been a part of something greater and begins to long for something greater. It wants to reunite with the ocean, with God. This is where the fifth power of God comes in, the power of grace, the power of revelation. By an act of grace, God undoes the work of the power of concealment and reveals our true unity with God.
The wave delights in being a projection of the ocean. The illusion of separation is dissolved, and once again we enjoy the ecstasy of oneness with our Creator.
The 13″ century poet saint Kabir wrote:
Rising, water’s still water, falling back, it is water, will you give me a hint how to tell them apart?’
With the bestowal of grace, shaktipat, a Sanskrit term for the awakening of Kundalini, we awaken to the Truth, the truth of our union of God, the direct experience of the union of the wave and the ocean.
You, in contrast, already possess the most subtle and powerful instrument capable of apprehending such memories and even subtler phenomenon: that instrument is consciousness. Your conscious attention is your power of apprehension, and it can be developed and refined through meditation and the awakened Kundalini.
During ordinary waking-state awareness, our consciousness is almost entirely identified with the physical body. In waking-state consciousness, our experience is dominated by body awareness and things related to it. We’re aware of various sensations, feelings, and thoughts about ourselves that are rooted in the gender of our bodies, the shape they are in, and the functions or roles they perform in our families or in society; we think of ourselves as man or woman, fat or thin, husband or wife, boss or employee. Waking-state awareness is primarily physical-body consciousness.
Even the subtle-body activities of our minds and emotions are primarily related to the physical realm and what is happening there. Sadly, for most of us this comprises all of what we will give our attention to for our entire lives. But there’s infinitely more to who we are and what we have available to experience and learn front. The subtle body is another reahn entirely.’
We experience it most exclusively when we are in the dream state of consciousness and in some meditative states. In the dream state, which is the experience of the subtle body that people are most familiar with, we are outside the physical realm. The laws of physics no longer apply; we leave behind the constraints of ordinary time and space.
We experience consciousness relatively free of the fetters of the physical body, but consciousness is still bound in certain ways. We’re still identified with a limited sense of self, with the thoughts, feelings, and reflections of our body identity, but these can change dramatically and easily in this shape-shifting state. At the same time, we can move about through time and space in ways the physical body never can. In our dreams, we fly, and we move back to the past, ahead to the future. or to some alternate present.
Because we are so identified with the body and waking-state consciousness, the subtle body and the subtle realms of dreams, thoughts, feelings, imagination, and intuition are often disorienting. These realms may seem alien, unknown, perhaps even incomprehensible to our waking-state sense of self. Usually our waking-state “I” dismisses or devalues our dreams and any other unusual subtle body experiences. But through meditation, we can enter and explore the subtle realms quite consciously.
The great yogic sages have done this and reported on the physiology of the subtle body.’ Just as our physical body has conduits for vital fluids and nerve impulses, the subtle body has conduits for the energy of consciousness. They are the naclis, and they carry the living conscious energy, prana. In meditation the nadis may appear like the filaments of light in fiber optics.
Where several nadis join together, the conduit is larger, like a bigger fiber-optic cable. In the physical body, the main nerve conduit running from the brain down to the base of the spine is the spinal cord, a great bundle of nerve fibers that connects the highest centers in the brain to the entire body. In roughly the same location in the subtle body there is the main conduit of Kundalini, called the sushumna nadi, which runs from the head down to the base of the spine. The sushumna nadi is seen as not only the major channel the creative energy of consciousness flows through as it manifests the universe of personal experience; it is also the repository for all the past impressions left by our actions, both mental and physical.
To become liberated or enlightened requires becoming free of those samskaras and the limited “I” awareness that creates them. This is the work of the awakened Kundalini. She does this in two ways. First, the Kundalini moves through the sushumna nadi “erasing,” if you will, the impressions stored there and releasing the energy bound up in them.
This extraordinary purification process then releases us from the patterns in our lives created by those impressions. Second, she opens up states of consciousness that give us access to unbounded awareness, awareness of the transcendent self, what some call God-consciousness, Buddha mind, or Christ-consciousness, totally free of ego-mind.
These are the altered states of consciousness, the experiences of mystical union and profound meditation that allow us to perceive directly, perhaps for the first time, that we are much more than we think we are.
In order for that state of unity consciousness to become stable and fully manifest in the individual’s mind, body, and actions, the sushumna nadi and all the lesser nadis must be purified: cleansed of impressions and blocks that contract or restrict consciousness to the confines of ordinary human experience.
Though we are discussing the subtle body, nadis, samskaras, chakras, and the like, as if they are concrete things, we must always be mindful of the fact that this is the result of our language and not their subtle, symbolic true nature.
No matter how beautiful or seemingly complete a description you may find in any ancient or modern text, it will always be incomplete. This keeps what needs to be hidden inaccessible to the uninitiated, for their own protection.
However, it also means that people can spend years or lifetimes lost in delusions of their own incomplete knowing. The dharma of true teachers is to protect their students from that prolonged route of suffering.
Even within the most bound forms of the physical realm, the full power and presence of God, of Divine consciousness, are present.The release of that bound energy is like the release of the potential energy bound in matter that suddenly results in the extraordinary power and light of nuclear reactions.
The awakening of Kundalini is the release of the bound power and light of God present within the human form. When Kundalini awakens—in other words, when our innate power of Consciousness to move our awareness beyond the limi-tations of body and mind comes to life—then the energy of Consciousness, also called Shakti, moves up the sushumna nadi and pierces the chakras in ascending order.
Consciousness moves from the constrictions of the earth realm, ever expanding, shedding limi-tations along the way until it finally reaches the unbounded realm of the sahasrara once again.The wave once again knows its union with the ocean, and we experience reunion with God, the Self of All.
KUNDALINI IS THE most mysterious force in the universe, bar none. Compared with the behavior of infinitely small particles such as quarks and neutrinos, or with astronomical objects such as black holes and quasars, all of which mystify scientists to no end, kund-alini tops them all by many light years. Gopi Krishna, who attributed his kundalini awakening at the age of thirty-four to a practice of single-minded concentration, a disciplined moral code, favorable heredity, and most especially grace, said nearly fifty years later, “The Mystery surrounding Kundalini is so deep that the human intellect can never hope to fathom it. It is, in other words, the profound Mystery behind the universe:”
When the Large Hadron Collider goes into operation at CERN in Switzerland, sometime in 2009, launching what is being called the “God particle” hunt, scientists hope to solve one or two longstanding puzzles about the nature of the universe and how it came into being. No doubt they will discover some extraordinary new facts, but I believe they will come away more baffled than ever. Does this mean that we may never discover all of the great mysteries?
Never say never. For as long as our sun continues to shine forth as it does now, the human race will continue to steadily climb up the ladder of evolution. We may colonize other planets similar to earth, and the path of evolution will still be beckoning us to keep on climbing.
There is no end. For us humans, evolution has hardly begun. After he had awakened kundalini, Gopi Krishna hovered between life and death for nearly a dozen years, with no help available to show him what to do to lessen his agony. His story, a classic tale of survival, has been published in many languages all over the world. Although he lived in India, where just about every yogi has some knowledge of the phenomenon, no one came forward to help him in any way.
A person such as Gopi Krishna doesn’t come on the world’s stage by an accident of nature. His physical and mental torment for more than a decade after his awakening wasn’t without purpose. He had to learn everything possible about the phenomenon so that he could pass it on to future generations.
His first book, “Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man” (can be download free from pdfdrive.com), was published in 1967, and it still stands as the primary source for all other writers on the subject. It may well be that nothing new will be added to the world’s store of knowledge on kundalini for another two or three centuries, until the next specimen of illumi-nated consciousness appears on the stage.
One of the chief results of the publication of Gopi Krishna’s experiments may well be a thorough overhauling of Sanskrit-English lexicography. In view of his detailed testimony it becomes clearly impossible to treat the whole realm of Kundalini-experi-ences as something belonging to the Western concept of either biology or psychology.
The Indian concept of the Sukshma Sarira, which is after all the main subject of Gopi Krishna’s reports, cannot possibly be translated into a Western vocabulary which, thus far, divides itself into the two fields of either physic or psyche. By now it is probably well-known that the formerly usual translations of Brahman with God and Atman with Spirit or Soul bar any possible understanding of Indian philosophy. It is as yet less known that the translations of Sukshma Sarira with subtle body, electric or astral body, are equally misleading. So are all other translations of this term into the vocabulary of Western anatomy, when reference is made to the spine and to the organs and glands of the physical body.
The vocabulary of the Kundalini-Yoga-system refers neither to those facts which in the West are considered to be psychological nor to anything within the realm of the physical body as it is observed from the outside.
The realm of inner body feelings, which are so elaborately described in Yoga texts, has never been adequately systematized by Western observers and has therefore never led to the creation of a vocabulary in Western languages which would make it possible to translate Indian texts pertaining to this field of experience. Only in the totally unscientific language of laymen do we occasionally have unsystematic attempts to describe this realm, particularly in cases of illness.
Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man
THE sudden awakening of Kundalini in one whose nervous system has reached the ripe stage
of development as a result of favourable heredity, correct mode of living, and proper mental
application, is often liable to create a most bewildering effect on the mind.
The reason for it, though extremely simple, may not be easily acceptable to the present-day intellect, which treats the human mind as a finally sealed product, dependent, according to some, exclusively on the activity of the brain cells, beginning and ending with the body; according to others, on the responsiveness of the bone-shielded grey and white matter to the extremely subtle all-pervading cosmic mind or Universal spirit; and according to still others, on the existence of an immortal individual soul in the body
Without entering into a discussion of the correctness of these hypotheses advanced to account for the existence of mind, it is sufficient for our purpose to say that according to the authorities on Yoga, the activity of the brain and the nervous system, irrespective of whether it proceeds from an eternal self-existing spiritual source or from an embodied soul, depends on the existence in the body of a subtle life element known as prana, which pervades each cell of every tissue and fluid in the organism, much in the same way that electricity pervades each atom of a battery. ‘
This vital element has a biological counterpart as thought has a biological complement in the brain, in the shape of an extremely fine biochemical essence of a highly delicate and volatile nature, extracted by the nerves from the surrounding organic mass. After extraction, this vital essence resides in the brain and the nervous system, and is capable of generating a subtle radiation impossible to isolate by laboratory analysis.
It circulates in the organism as motor impulse and sensation, conducting all the organic functions of the body, permeated and worked by the super-intelligent cosmic life energy, or prana, by which it is continuously affected, just as the sensitive chemical layer on a photographic plate is affected by light.
The term prana, as used by authorities on Yoga, signifies both the cosmic life energy and its subtle biological conductor in the body, the two being inseparable. At the very moment the body dies, the rare organic essence immediately undergoes chemical changes, ceasing to serve as a channel for the former in the previous capacity.
Normally, the work of extraction of prana to feed the brain is done by a limited group of nerves, operating in a circumscribed area of the organism, with the result that the consciousness of an individual displays no variation in its nature or extent during the span of his life, exhibiting a constancy which is in sharp contrast to the continuously changing appearance of his body. With the awakening of Kundalini, the arrangement suffers a radical alteration affecting the entire nervous system, as a result of which other and more extensive groups of nerves are stirred to activity, leading to the transmission of an enormously enhanced supply of a more concentrated form of prank radiation into the brain drawn from a vastly increased area of the body.
The far-reaching effects of this immensely augmented flow of a new form of vital current into the cephalic cavity through the spinal cord before the system becomes fully accustomed to it may be visualized by considering the effects of a sudden increase in the flow of blood to the brain such as faintness, complete insensibility, excitement, irritability, or in extreme cases, delirium, paralysis, death.
The awakening may be gradual or sudden, varying in intensity and effect according to the development, constitution, and temperament of different individuals; but in most cases it results in a greater instability of the emotional nature and a greater liability to aberrant mental conditions in the subject, mainly owing to tainted heredity, faulty modes of conduct, or immoderation in any shape or form. Leaving out the extreme cases, which end in madness, this generalization applies to all the categories of men in whom Kundalini is congenitally more or less active, comprising mystics, mediums, men of genius, and those of an exceptionally high intellectual or artistic development only a shade removed from genius. In the case of those in whom the awakening occurs all at once as the result of Yoga or other spiritual practices, the sudden impact of powerful vital currents on the brain and other organs is often attended with grave risk and strange mental conditions, varying from moment to moment, exhibiting in the beginning the abnormal peculiarities of a medium, mystic, genius, and madman all rolled into one.
In the normal man, the flow of the stream of consciousness is so nicely regulated that he can notice no variation in it from boyhood to death. He knows himself as a conscious entity, a non-dimensional point of awareness located more particularly in the head with a faint extension covering the trunk and limbs. When he closes his eyes to study it attentively, he ends by observing a conscious presence, himself in fact, round the region of the head.
Kundalini, as known to and described by the ancient authorities, signifies the development, sometimes spontaneous and less frequently through special psycho-physiological exercises, of extraordinary spiritual and mental powers associated with religion and the supernatural. There can be no doubt whatsoever that the incessant, easily perceptible, rapid movement at the base of my spine, affecting the nerves lining the whole area, was an indication of the fact that, controlled by an invisible mechanism, a hidden organ had begun to function all of a sudden in the hitherto innocent-looking region, converting the reproductive fluid into a radiant vital essence of high potency which, racing along the nerve fibres as well as the spinal canal, nourished the brain and the organs with a rejuvenating substance out of reach in any other way.
The whole organism now begins to function in a most amazing manner which cannot but strike terror into the stoutest heart. Tossed between the old and yet incompletely built new conscious centre, the subject, unprepared for such a startling development, sees himself losing control of his thoughts and actions. He finds himself confronted by a rebellious mind and unruly senses and organs working in an inexplicable way, entirely foreign to him, as if the world, suddenly turned upside down, had dragged him to a topsy-turvey existence as weird and bizarre as the most fantastic dream. It is for this reason that the ancient teachers of Kundalini Yoga, taught by an experience extending for thousands of years, insisted on an exceptionally robust and hardy constitution, mastery over appetites and desires, voluntarily acquired control over vital functions and organs, and, above all, the possession of an inflexible will as the essentially needed qualifications in those offering themselves for the supreme undertaking of rousing the Shakti.
An excellent condition of both body and mind, difficult to achieve in the unfavorable environment of modem civilization, is absolutely necessary in an enterprise of this nature to prevent the brain from giving way completely under the unbearable strain. It is not surprising, therefore, that any one who set himself determinedly to the hazardous task of awakening
Kundalini before her time was acclaimed a Vira, meaning a hero, and the practice itself designated as Vim Sadhana, or heroic undertaking, even by fearless ascetics themselves, indifferent to physical torture and death.
It should not be thought even for an instant that the alarming alteration in mental processes and the condition of the nervous system tending to produce a most stupefying and bizarre effect on even the most daring, persists for a short duration, only to be followed by a return to normality with a mastery over the newly developed powers.
After the awakening, the devotee lives always at the mercy of Kundalini, wafted to a new state of existence and introduced to a new world as far removed from this one of rapid change and decay as reality is from a dream.
The hypersensitive and critical condition of the nerves and the brain caused by the unceasing effort of the marvelous, invisible power to mould them to a higher and higher state of cognition, the possibility of injury and damage to the over-sensitive tissues, the process of repair and rejuvenation with the administration of nerve tonics and restoratives present in the system, and the tremendous strain on the excessively worked reproductive organs may continue un-diminished for years. The only change is that with the lapse of time the individual becomes more and more accustomed to the play of the newly developed force in him and is able to regulate his habits and appetites according to the revised requirements of his system on the strength of the experience gained.