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Kundalini, chakras, and nadis
Kundalini, chakras, and nadis

Kundalini (Sanskrit: कुण्डलिनी kuṇḍalinī, About this soundpronunciation , "coiled one"), in Hinduism is a form of divine energy (or shakti) believed to be located at the base of the spine (muladhara). It is an important concept in Śaiva Tantra, where it is believed to be a force or power associated with the divine feminine. This energy, when cultivated and awakened through tantric practice, is believed to lead to spiritual liberation. Kuṇḍalinī is associated with Paradevi or Adi Parashakti, the supreme being in Shaktism; and with the goddesses Bhairavi and Kubjika.[1][2] The term, along with practices associated with it, was adopted into Hatha yoga in the 11th century.[3] It has since then been adopted into other forms of Hinduism as well as modern spirituality and New age thought.

Kuṇḍalinī awakenings have been described as occurring by means of a variety of methods. Many systems of yoga focus on awakening Kuṇḍalinī through: meditation; pranayama breathing; the practice of asana and chanting of mantras.[4] Kundalini Yoga is influenced by Shaktism and Tantra schools of Hinduism. It derives its name through a focus on awakening kundalini energy through regular practice of Mantra, Tantra, Yantra, Asanas or Meditation.[4][5] The Kuṇḍalinī experience is frequently reported to be a distinct feeling of electric current running along the spine.[6][7][8]

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  • ✪ Kundalini Yoga -- as Envisioned by the Ancient Yogis
  • ✪ How to Awaken Kundalini Safely, Instantly & Easily Now? Awakening Explained in Simple Words
  • ✪ What is a Kundalini Awakening?
  • ✪ The Power and Mystery of Kundalini
  • ✪ What happens after the kundalini is awakened?


An astonishing energy, known as kundalini, is said to lay coiled at the base of the spine, dormant, like a sleeping snake. This serpent energy can be woken from its slumber by the practice of certain yoga postures, breathing exercises, and mantras. Aroused by these practices, kundalini surges upwards through an invisible network of nerves, and pierces six lotus-like chakras, releasing waves of ecstasy. When it reaches a magnificent, thousand petalled lotus at the crown of the head, kundalini is said to merge into pure consciousness and endow the practitioner with enlightenment. What is this extraordinary yogic practice and its so-called serpent energy? And where did these esoteric teachings come from? My name is Swami Tadatmananda. From 1981 onwards, I studied under a traditional Indian guru, Swami Dayananda, who ordained me as a Hindu monk. I'd like to invite you to join me for this unique exploration of kundalini yoga. We'll seek out the roots of this tradition and explore the intricacies of its practice. We'll examine certain controversies and misconceptions. And I'll share my own personal experience of practicing kundalini yoga. For almost 30 years, I've taught the profound spiritual truths of Advaita Vedanta, the complexities of Sanskrit language, and meditation. Because meditation helped me so much, I developed a great love for leading others to discover its benefits. Over the years, I learned that that no single meditation technique is equally effective for all meditators. Every person is unique. For this reason, I teach a wide variety of meditation techniques. But somehow, I've never taught kundalini yoga. Why? There are two main reasons. First of all, my guru strenuously warned us about a problem he called 'experience seeking.' He said that conventional life is driven by the never-ending pursuit of new and better experiences. People love to watch new movies, dine at trendy restaurants, and travel to exotic places. But experiences like these can never lead to perfect peace and contentment. As a young man, Swami Dayananda observed the problem of experience seeking when he lived in Rishikesh, a sacred town in the foothills of the Himalayas. In the 1960's, he was sought out by American and European hippies, who had indulged in sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and now, they wanted to experience meditation! But, if meditation is just another experience to be enjoyed, then it's not so different from sex, drugs, or anything else. In this way, some practitioners of kundalini yoga might merely be seeking exciting new experiences, instead of seeking spiritual growth. It's easy to fall into the trap of experience seeking, especially when this yogic practice seems to hold the promise of bliss and ecstasy. The other reason I've avoided teaching kundalini yoga is that I'm completely turned off by the way it's been distorted and misrepresented by contemporary Western yogis. I'm tired of seeing dazzling, rainbow hued chakras and bodies emitting fountains of light from every pore. Images like these portray a practice that has virtually nothing in common with its ancient origins. Yet, people seem drawn to glitzy illustrations and trendy new-age beliefs. On the other hand, kundalini yoga is an authentic spiritual tradition whose roots go back at least two thousand years. In ancient India, the holy sages, known as rishis, sought enlightenment by exploring within their bodies and minds to discover the supreme divinity hidden deep inside. Their remarkable insights and the special techniques they devised were recorded in Sanskrit scriptures called upanishads. A total of 108 upanishads are included in the Vedas, the main scriptures for all Hindu religious and spiritual practices. Twenty of those upanishads are dedicated to the theory and practice of kundalini yoga. Those yoga upanishads are the ultimate source for the entire body of teachings on kundalini yoga. The separate tradition of Advaita Vedanta, which I follow, is based on twelve other upanishads, which are focused on gaining spiritual knowledge rather than yogic practice. All 108 upanishads contain the sacred revelations of the rishis, so it seems hypocritical for me to study only the twelve vedantic upanishads, and to ignore the twenty yoga upanishads, as I have for decades. I had to admit the narrowness of my studies, and this led me to begin a research project, a project that developed into the film you're watching now. This project has two parts. First, to thoroughly explore the teachings of kundalini yoga, relying exclusively on the 20 yoga upanishads, and studying them in the original Sanskrit, along with their Sanskrit commentaries. By setting aside all yogic teachings that evolved later, I can focus on what the rishis themselves taught. The second part of the project is to personally undertake the practice of kundalini yoga, exactly as the rishis conceived it. When I began this venture, I wondered, what will I discover? Will I hear celestial sounds and see inner visions like some practitioners? More importantly, I wondered if my inquiry would confirm or contradict the teachings of Advaita Vedanta I've followed for so long. Right now, I don't know what the outcome of this experiment will be, but, that's the whole idea of an experiment, isn't it? This is the book I've been studying in preparation for this project. It contains all 20 yoga upanishads and their commentaries. It will serve as a travel guide for the path we're about to explore. I haven't started my formal practice of kundalini yoga yet, but when I do, I'll share those experiences with you. Kundalini yoga became well-known in the West largely as the result of a 1967 book in which Gopi Krishna described his amazing experiences of kundalini. Gopi Krishna was a government employee from North India whose intense meditation had awakened his dormant kundalini with astonishing and sometimes harrowing results. His book reached the shores of America just at the time when the hippies had taken great interest, both in Hindu mysticism and in psychedelic experiences from hallucinogenic drugs like LSD. Gopi Krishna's mind-bending encounters with kundalini seemed to resemble the LSD experiences of the hippies, and this perhaps, attracted them to kundalini yoga. As a rebellious teenager, I also experimented with LSD way back then, but I didn't read Gopi Krishna's book until years later. When spiritual teachings leave the lands of their origin and are retold in different cultures and in different languages, they're subject to being revised or altered in various ways. Some changes are necessary, like the translation of Sanskrit scriptures into English. But other changes can muddle or distort the meaning of the original texts. And, all too often, spiritual teachings become totally corrupted when they're misinterpreted by people whose perspectives are utterly foreign to the originals. For example, a famous book on the seven chakras written by C.W. Leadbeater was filled with Western occultism and doctrines of the Theosophical Society of which Leadbeater was member. Carl Jung, the famous psychoanalyst, gave a seminar on kundalini yoga as a method for individuation, which is a special therapeutic process he devised. More recently, Yogi Bhajan brought his highly personalized version of kundalini yoga from India to the United States, replacing its traditional Sanskrit mantras with others from his own Sikh religion. Swami Muktananda also introduced kundalini yoga to Westerners, teaching a version extensively adapted by the Kashmiri Shaiva tradition to which he belonged. Now, I don't mean to imply that all these derivative teachings are useless. Many spiritual seekers have benefitted from them. I myself meditated with disciples of Swami Muktananda as a young man. But, these modern spin-offs are not at all in alignment with what the ancient rishis taught, and as a result, something of great value has been lost. As kundalini yoga became more and more integrated into Western culture, it began to lose its original identity, and eventually, it was totally reshaped through the process of cultural appropriation. When a native American war bonnet is donned by a famous model, or when bindis, which are sacred to Hindus, are worn by a popular singer, these cultural forms are appropriated and adapted, without due respect for their time-honored traditions. The original meanings of these cultural forms are stripped away, and replaced by current fashions. Kundalini yoga has also fallen prey to cultural appropriation. Westernized versions of the chakras present them in hues of the rainbow instead of their traditional colors, and associate them with emotions, which the rishis never intended. Chakras even get mixed up with other cultures, like this Greek symbol and this ancient Egyptian figure. The New Age movement has commodified the chakras, using them to advertise crystals, colorful stones, scented oils, and self-improvement seminars. On a more serious note, a very damaging adaptation of kundalini yoga has arisen due to the problem of experience seeking we discussed before. There's an interesting story about this. Years ago, my guru asked me to drive him to an ashram in New York State to meet an elderly swami who taught kundalini yoga. We were invited into a large room where the guru and his students sat in meditation. After several minutes of perfect silence, one of the meditators suddenly shrieked, and her body jerked violently. Swami Dayananda was so startled, he almost fell out of his chair. Over the next half hour, several other meditators had similar reactions. After our visit, I asked Swami Dayananda about this. He said, these students were taught that whenever a chakra is pierced, kundalini will produce spontaneous vocalizations and body movements. This isn't taught in the yoga upanishads. But when students are led to believe that occasional shrieks and jerks are sure signs of progress, a suggestion is planted in their minds that can trigger reactions later. Psychologists say that suggestions like these work in the same way as placebos. A patient's trust in a doctor enables a placebo to actually produce desirable effects. Similarly, student's trust in a guru enables meditation to produce reactions like those we observed. Swami Dayananda was highly critical of the way kundalini yoga is usually taught, and he put the blame on the problem of experience seeking. He said, many modern gurus put far too much emphasis on gaining spiritual experiences, and not enough emphasis on gaining spiritual wisdom. All experiences are temporary, including experiences of kundalini. After a powerful spiritual experience comes and goes, you might remain utterly unchanged, unless you actually learn something from that experience. That's exactly what happened to me when I experimented with LSD as a reckless teenager. I had transcendent experiences and a sense of complete oneness with the cosmos. But after the drug wore off, I found myself no wiser than before. I failed to learn anything from those experiences. For this reason, the ultimate goal of spiritual practice is not to produce short-lived experiences, but rather, to reveal the true divine nature of the consciousness within us. According to the ancient rishis, our true nature is divine -- it is eternal, limitless, and untouched by worldly affliction. If that's so, why are we still subject to suffering? The problem is -- the inner divinity is covered by a veil of ignorance that obscures it and prevents us from recognizing its nature. The goal of spiritual practice, then, is to remove that ignorance and discover the innate, ever-present divinity within. Look at this passage from the Yoga Tattva Upanishad: Suffering is due to ignorance. Spiritual knowledge frees you from suffering. And that knowledge is to discover the true, divine nature of your own consciousness. Enlightenment is the personal discovery of your innate divinity. This discovery takes place when the veil of ignorance is removed. And removing that ignorance requires spiritual knowledge, because knowledge alone destroys ignorance. But then, where does kundalini yoga come into the picture? If enlightenment is gained through spiritual knowledge, then what's the point of raising your kundalini and piercing your chakras? To answer this, we have to discern two distinct factors that are required to accomplish anything, factors the rishis called primary cause and secondary cause. If you want to make rotis for lunch from flour and water, the primary cause is fire, since a fire's heat can bake bread. A stove and pan are also needed, but they don't produce heat, so they're considered secondary causes. For any goal, primary and secondary causes are both necessary; without a fire, stove, or pan, you won't have any rotis to eat. This demonstrates an important point: Spiritual knowledge is the primary cause for enlightenment, because it can remove the veil of ignorance and reveal the divinity within. But yoga is the secondary cause. So,without yoga, enlightenment is impossible. Both spiritual knowledge and yoga are required, as the Yoga Tattva Upanishad says: Without yogic practice, how can spiritual knowledge free you from suffering? Without spiritual knowledge, how can yogic practice free you from suffering? Both are required for liberation. Many kinds of yogic practices can help you gain enlightenment, including karma yoga - selfless service, raja yoga - meditation, bhakti yoga - devotion, hatha yoga - postures and breathing exercises, and of course, kundalini yoga. Another important yogic practice, closely related to kundalini yoga, is pilgrimage, traveling to a sacred place. The goal of pilgrimage is to be blessed by the deity residing in a sacred place, usually inside a special temple. Yet, the rishis taught that the divinity residing in each temple also resides in you, inside your own body. And they envisioned sacred places in the body to be visited through an inner pilgrimage. This inner pilgrimage is a meditation practice in which you deliberately imagine particular deities and sacred places within your body. The Darshana Upanishad says, The Himalayas are at the top of your head. Lord Shiva dwells on your forehead. The sacred city of Varanasi is between your eyebrows. Kurukshetra, where the Mahabharata war was fought, is in your chest. Prayaga, where sacred Ganga and Yamuna rivers meet, is in your heart. The practice of kundalini yoga is a kind of inner pilgrimage. It begins at the muladhara chakra at the base of your spine, and concludes at the sahasrara chakra at the crown of your head. During this pilgrimage, you are to meditate on the deity residing in each chakra and receive the blessings needed for your onwards journey. Long before modern medical science, the rishis mapped out the life-force in our bodies using their powers of intuition. Their pre-scientific model called this life-force, prana, and identified five kinds: prana, in the heart, apana, in the trunk of the body, vyana, pervading the body, udana, in the throat, and samana, in the stomach. These five pranas circulate throughout the body following specific routes called nadis. Nadi is often translated as nerve, but it's not a physical tube or conduit. The nadis and pranas are not material in nature; they're subtle, non- tangible. Your brain is tangible; it weighs about two pounds. But your mind is not tangible; it has no size or weight. In the same way, the nadis and pranas are non-tangible, subtle, unlike the nerves and blood vessels in your body. There are three main nadis, the sushumna which rises inside your spine from its base to the crown of the head, the ida, which terminates at your left nostril, and the pingala, which terminates at your right nostril. There are many other nadis in your body. They're said to number 72,000 altogether. The sushumna nadi links together all 7 chakras. Chakra means wheel, but they're usually described as lotus flowers. According to the Yoga Cudamani Upanishad, The muladhara chakra at the base of the spine has four petals. The svadhishtana chakra above it has six petals. The manipura chakra at the navel has ten petals. The anahata chakra at the heart has twelve petals. The vishuddha chakra at the throat has 16 petals. The ajna chakra between the eyebrows has two petals. And the sahasrara chakra at the crown of the head has 1000 petals. Since the chakras are like flowers, they're actually turned upwards, not outwards. Lotus flowers symbolize purity. Even though they're rooted in the slimy, stinking muck at the bottom of a pond, their pristine beauty remains untainted. And even though chakras are located inside an impure human vessel, their sanctity remains untainted. Before we examine the seven chakras in detail, there's an important question we have to consider. Do chakras and nadis actually exist inside our bodies, or are they just concepts envisioned by the rishis long ago? When addressing this question, many scholars and practitioners fall into the trap of treating nadis and chakras identically: either both are real, or both are imagined. But, this assumption turns out to be incorrect. First of all, nadis belong to a pre-scientific model of the human nervous system, but the seven chakras are not part of that model, because chakras are not involved in channeling prana throughout the body. Nadis direct the flow of prana, not chakras, which serve a very different purpose. To understand how chakras are different, consider this: Nadis are widely referred to in all 108 upanishads, but chakras are mentioned mostly in the 20 yoga upanishads. This shows that that chakras have a more specialized role than nadis, a role specific to the practice of kundalini yoga. What is that role? Chakras are richly symbolic forms that have been envisioned by the rishis and deliberately superimposed on the body for the sake of meditation, like the deities and sacred places in the body imagined during the practice of inner pilgrimage. Deliberate superimposition, of this sort, is widely used, like when we superimpose the God of the cosmos on statues standing barely three feet tall, or when we superimpose monetary value on little bits of paper. Such symbolism is powerful and useful, as it is in kundalini yoga, when chakras and their associated deities are deliberately superimposed at locations along the spine to serve as focal points for meditation. Now we can see the difference between nadis and chakras. Nadis are part of a model for the human nervous system, which obviously exists. Chakras, on the other hand, are deliberately superimposed on the body, and are to be visualized during meditation. To explain this difference, scholars say we have to differentiate between descriptive statements and prescriptive statements. Descriptive statements describe the nature of existent things, whereas prescriptive statements prescribe or specify what we should or shouldn't do. When we interpret scriptures, it's crucial to correctly determine which statements are descriptive and which are prescriptive. But, it's not always obvious. One upanishad says, The human body is a leather sack filled with stinking pus, urine, and feces. This is not a descriptive statement because its intent is not to give a factual description of the body. This is a prescriptive statement because its aim is to prescribe detachment towards our bodies and those of our loved ones. When the rishis portrayed the seven chakras, their intent was not to describe objects that actually exist in the body. Rather, they prescribed a practice in which chakras, deliberately superimposed on the body, were to be visualized for the sake of meditation. Of course, not everyone agrees with this. Many modern practitioners believe that chakras truly exist inside their bodies. Fortunately, this belief is extremely helpful in the practice of kundalini yoga. To believe in the divinity of a three-foot tall statue on an altar helps people pray. To believe that these little bits of paper are valuable helps us buy things. And to believe that chakras truly exist inside the body helps practitioners meditate. All these beliefs are helpful. The value of a belief is not in its veracity, but in its ability to help us. Beliefs are not right or wrong; they are helpful or harmful. And to believe in the existence of chakras is an exceedingly helpful belief, one that need not be challenged or dismissed. The word kundalini means coiled and shakti means power or energy. The rishis prescribed visualizing kundalini shakti as a powerful serpent coiled up at the base of the spine. Why a serpent? Because they're powerful: without arms or legs, they move swiftly and strike fiercely. And, snakes are deeply revered in Hindu culture. After shedding their skin, they're figuratively reborn, and therefore associated with the rebirth of human souls. Serpents also play important roles in many popular mythological stories. Kundalini shakti is best understood in its philosophical context. The creation of the universe is said to result from the union of Shiva, the masculine principle, and Shakti, the feminine principle. Here, Shiva and Shakti are not the four-armed deities familiar to Hindus. Shiva is the fabric of reality that gives existence to everything, like clay gives existence to pots and bowls. Because clay is inert, a separate creative force is needed to transform it into various objects. Similarly, Shiva lacks the creative force needed to produce the universe. Only when Shiva is accompanied by Shakti's infinite creative power can the universe arise. Shakti infuses everything in the cosmos with energy, including every atom in your body. In this way, Shakti is present within you, and it is this inner presence that is called kundalini shakti. If kundalini shakti is dormant, sleeping at the base of your spine, then, how is it to be awakened? The Yoga Kundali Upanishad says: The sleeping kundalini is awakened by agitating it, like hitting a snake with a stick. It then stands erect and enters the sushumna nadi, like a snake entering its burrow. To awaken kundalini shakti, the yoga upanishads prescribe a variety of asanas, pranayamas, and muscle contractions known as bandhas. It's interesting that a method known as shaktipaat is not discussed anywhere in the upanishads. Shaktipaat is a special blessing from a guru - like a mantra, or even a mere touch or glance - that is said to immediately awaken your kundalini. The use of shaktipaat is widely accepted by modern teachers, even though the rishis never mentioned it. Once kundalini shakti has been awakened and starts its ascent, some practitioners, like Gopi Krishna, report having amazing experiences -- mystical visions, celestial sounds, ecstasy. But, if the chakras and kundalini serpent were deliberately superimposed by the rishis, and don't truly exist, then how could these experiences arise? For practitioners who strongly believe that the chakras and kundalini serpent actually exist inside their bodies, the mind's marvelous power of suggestion is certainly capable of producing such experiences. The practice of kundalini yoga reaches its climax when kundalini finally ascends to the sahasrara chakra. The Yoga Kundali Upanishad says: Having pierced the six chakras, kundalini shakti merges with Shiva at the thousand-petaled lotus at the crown of the head. That is the supreme state. That is the cause for liberation. This verse is easily misinterpreted, unless we bear in mind our earlier discussions. Some contend that kundalini yoga is a self-sufficient means for liberation or enlightenment. But, all forms of yoga, including kundalini yoga, are secondary causes for enlightenment. To get enlightened through kundalini yoga alone is like making rotis with a pan and stove, but no fire. The primary cause for enlightenment is spiritual knowledge, which removes the veil of ignorance and reveals your true nature. Kundalini yoga helps you gain that knowledge by leading you to a state of meditative absorption known as samadhi. Samadhi is the goal of many meditation techniques, and for good reason. In that state of absorption, all distracting mental activities are removed, and all that remains is you, your true nature, stripped of everything that's not you. After emerging from samadhi, you have an opportunity to grasp a life-changing lesson from that unique experience -- that your true nature is pure consciousness, utterly independent of your body, mind, and the world around you. In this way, the state of samadhi produced by kundalini yoga can be a gateway to enlightenment, as the the Trishikhi Brahmana Upanishad says: A yogi whose mind is absorbed gains liberation as effortlessly as a fruit already in the palm of his hand. We've just completed a rather complex inquiry. Next, we'll focus on the actual practice of kundalini yoga. So far, we've been studying the guidebook for the inner pilgrimage mapped out by the rishis. Now, it's time for us to begin the actual journey, and follow in their footsteps by practicing kundalini yoga as they themselves conceived it. This is where I meditate every day. I usually start with prayer and devotional meditation, which help balance the lofty Vedantic meditations I practice next. Starting tomorrow, I'm going to set aside this routine and focus exclusively on the practice of kundalini yoga. You can join me in this practice by using the teachings that follow as a guide. I'm eager to begin this new adventure. But when I reflect on my guru's negative comments about kundalini yoga, I feel a bit uneasy. If he were still alive, I might not have undertaken this project. Our inner pilgrimage begins with the muladhara chakra at the base of the spine. Mula means root, and this chakra is the root or starting place for this practice. Each of the lowest five chakras represent one of the five elements known in ancient times - earth, water, fire, air, and space - from the most gross, earth, to the most subtle, space. Inside the muladhara chakra, the element earth is represented by a yellow square. It's interesting that the yoga upanishads specify colors for each of the five elements, but they say nothing about the color of each chakra. The colors used here are based on later scriptural traditions. You'll often see Sanskrit letters adorning the petals of each chakra, but these letters aren't mentioned in the yoga upanishads; they were a later addition. The yoga upanishads do specify mantras, not for the chakras, but for each of the five elements. Lam is the mantra for the element earth. Chakras are often depicted with these mantras drawn inside, but mantras are for recitation, not for visualization. Each chakra is the abode of a particular deity to be meditated upon during one's inner pilgrimage. For the muladhara chakra, the deity is Brahma, God in its aspect as creator of the universe. So, the muladhara or root chakra is associated both with the element earth, the root of all matter, and with Brahma, the root of existence itself. In meditation, Brahma is to be visualized according to the scriptures: seated on a lotus, with four arms and four heads. I've just finished my first meditation. For many years, I focused my attention between my eyebrows, so it wasn't difficult to concentrate on the base of the spine instead. With my attention fixed there, I visualized the muladhara chakra while reciting the earth mantra, lam. I reflected on how the element earth is the basis for my physical existence, for every atom in my body. Then, I imagined Brahma residing in the chakra, and I settled into a deeply prayerful mood, feeling God's divine presence within me. The ability to become deeply absorbed in devotion is one of the many benefits of regular meditation. I find this prayerful state very nurturing and healing. In that state, I sought Brahma's blessings for success on the journey that's just begun. In order to proceed, we have to consult the Yoga Chudamani Upanishad which says, Within the muladhara chakra is a yoni, and within that yoni is a great linga. The words yoni and linga often denote the female and male sex organs, but here, yoni means kundalini shakti, the feminine principle we discussed before, and the word linga signifies Shiva as pure consciousness, the masculine principle. In the muladhara chakra, kundalini shakti is depicted as a powerful serpent.... and Shiva is depicted as a rounded linga encircled by that serpent. Intimate contact between the serpent and linga is said to generate heat or fire. According to the rishis, certain yogic practices can kindle that fire until it becomes hot enough to wake up the dormant kundalini serpent and drive it out of the muladhara chakra, upwards, into the sushumna nadi which emerges from the top. To kindle the fire in the muladhara chakra, the yoga upanishads prescribe several asanas, pranayamas, and bandhas. One, is mula-bandha which entails contracting the muscles at the anus. Another, is a type of pranayama known as bhastrika, which involves rapid, forceful exhalations, together with pulsations of the abdomen muscles.. These techniques are said to force prana into the muladhara chakra, fanning the flames, so to speak, to produce enough heat to force the kundalini upwards. In tomorrow's meditation, I'll try these techniques. While meditating today, I visualized a roaring fire inside the muladhara chakra as I practiced mula-bandha. After each inhalation, I briefly retained my breath and contracted the sphincter muscles. After a while, those muscles got tired, so I switched to bhastrika pranayama. It's often called bellows breath, because of its vigorous exhalations. Bellows are used to force air into a fire to raise its temperature. Bhastrika pranayama certainly raised my temperature; it's very energizing. With each exhalation, I also pulsed my abdomen muscles, which shook the organs inside the trunk of my body, where the muladhara chakra is located. This shaking is said to help wake up the serpent sleeping there. Have you ever noticed how sensations like itches, hunger and thirst become stronger when you focus your attention on them? That's due to the power of suggestion, which can actually be used as an valuable tool for meditation. Long ago, I found that by concentrating my attention anywhere in my body, like between my eyebrows, I could produce various sensations there. Today, as I visualized a fire blazing away in the muladhara chakra, I began to feel a sense of warmth at the base of my spine. This physical sensation arose due to the combined effects of mula-bandha, bhastrika pranayama, and the power of suggestion. Since kundalini yoga is based on chakras that have been deliberately superimposed, the power of suggestion is crucial for its effectiveness. Skillful meditators intentionally wield this power in their practice. For those meditators who believe that chakras truly exist inside their bodies, the power of suggestion works unconsciously, and, it's actually strengthened by their beliefs, making their practice more effective than for someone like me who doesn't share their beliefs. Such is the nature of the power of suggestion. Each day I practice, the sense of warmth at the base of my spine seems to grow more intense. So today, I shifted the point of my concentration upwards, away from the muladhara chakra and towards the svadhisthana chakra above it. Not surprisingly, the sense of warmth at the base of my spine also moved upwards. Could this modest experience be the initial ascent of kundalini shakti? Shouldn't it be something more dramatic? Some practitioners report having intense, and even tumultuous experiences when kundalini begins its ascent. But every practitioner is different. Besides, what rises from chakra to chakra is energy, like heat, not a snake. The snake is a deliberate superimposition of the rishis who prescribed that meditators should shift their point of concentration upwards, from one chakra to the next. Yet, for many practitioners, kundalini seems to begin its ascent spontaneously, and continue to rise without any deliberate effort whatsoever. All such experiences could certainly be brought about by the mind's power of suggestion. Today, I began to meditate on the svadhisthana chakra. Since my kundalini has apparently begun its ascent, there's no need to kindle the fire in the muladhara chakra anymore, so I stopped practicing mulabandha and bhastrika pranayama. Instead, I visualized the svadhisthana chakra, also known as the sacral chakra. Svadhisthana means the seat of existence, and this chakra is fittingly located at your seat, the sacrum. It has six petals and is associated with the element water, which is represented by a white crescent moon. Vam is the mantra for the element water. The deity abiding in this chakra is Vishnu, God in its aspect as sustainer of the universe. Just as the element water sustains life, Vishnu sustains the world. Vishnu is generally depicted with blue skin and four arms. I visualized the svadhisthana chakra while reciting the water mantra, vam, and reflecting on how water sustains my life. Then, I imagined Vishnu residing in the chakra, and once again, I settled into a deeply prayerful mood. Today, after visualizing the svadhisthana chakra as I did yesterday, I became aware of the sense of warmth at my sacrum. The sensation grew stronger when I focused on it more intensely. And when I shifted my attention upwards, towards the manipuura chakra, the sense of warmth also climbed upwards. I'm a bit surprised to progress from chakra to chakra so quickly, but it's likely that all my prior meditation practice has helped me a lot. For the past two days, I've been meditating on the manipura chakra. Manipura means abode of gems. It's also called nabhi chakra, because it's located behind the nabhi or navel. It not accurate to call it solar plexus chakra, because that plexus is located well above the navel. The manipura chakra has ten petals and is associated with the element fire, which is represented by a red triangle. Ram is the mantra for the element fire. The deity abiding in this chakra is Rudra, a fierce aspect of Shiva, usually depicted as a warrior or hunter. In meditation, I visualized the manipura chakra and recited the fire mantra, ram. When I reflected on the element fire, it became obvious how the expression, fire in the gut, made its way into the English language. This region seems to be associated with power, will, and assertiveness. I could sense these qualities with my attention focused there. It's no surprise that a powerful deity like Rudra abides in the manipura chakra. For me, meditating on Rudra is like watching a violent thunderstorm that evokes great awe and respect, mixed with a little bit of fear. In today's meditation, after visualizing the manipura chakra, I focused on the sense of warmth behind my navel. As before, the more I observed it, the stronger it grew. Then, I shifted my attention upwards, to the center of my chest where the anahata chakra is located. The sense of warmth rose from the navel and gradually expanded, filling my chest. For three days now, I've been meditating on the anahata chakra, the so-called heart chakra, located along the spine at chest level. Anahata means that which cannot be struck, injured or killed, referring to one's soul. This chakra has twelve petals and is associated with the element air, aptly so, being near the lungs. The element air is represented by a smoky, six-pointed figure. Yam is the mantra for the element air. The deity abiding in the anahata chakra is a beneficent form of Shiva, depicted as looking in all directions simultaneously, to bless everyone. Shiva is often called god of destruction, but it might be more accurate to call him, god of transformation, purification, and growth, since all these depend on the destruction of a prior condition, so a new and better state can arise. When I visualized the anahata chakra, my attention was drawn to the air passing into and out of my lungs. Air is constantly in motion, and it's this movement of air that fills us with life. When I meditated on Shiva, I felt deeply grateful for the gift of life we receive with each and every breath. In today's meditation I focused on the sense of warmth that filled my chest. Once again, it grew stronger and rose when I shifted my attention upwards, to my throat, where the vishuddha chakra is located. I've completed two more meditations, focusing on the vishuddha chakra, located at the throat. Vishuddha means pure, untainted. This chakra has sixteen petals and is associated with the element space, which is represented by a transparent circle. Ham is the mantra for this element. The deity abiding in the vishuddha chakra is the bi-gendered form of Shiva, whose right side is male and left side is female. This form of Shiva reminds us that none of us are exclusively male or female; nature is exuberant in its diversity and avoids such absolute divisions. Meditating on this form helped me accept feminine qualities which are as much a part of me as the masculine ones. In today's meditation, I observed the sense of warmth in my throat, and as before, it moved upwards when I shifted my attention to the ajna chakra, between my eyebrows. Ajna means a command or order, which shows this chakra's association with the mind, our so-called command center. Even though the ajna chakra is located between the eyebrows, to call it third eye chakra is problematic, since the yoga upanishads make no references to a third eye. The ajna chakra is completely different from the others. It's not associated with a particular deity or any of the five elements. And since it's not associated with an element, it has no mantra, although later traditions associate it with the mantra, om. The ajna chakra stands at the threshold between the five elemental chakras in the body below and the transcendent sahasrara chakra above. From muladhara upwards, each chakra has an increasing number of petals, but the ajna has only two. The yoga upanishads are curiously silent about symbolic meanings for these petals. In fact, the rishis provide surprisingly few details about any of chakras. Many of the details and the elaborate symbolism that exists today was established by later generations of yogis, and compiled into Sanskrit texts, like the famous sixteenth century work, Exposition of the Six Chakras. The rishis seem to have deliberately left many details up to the imagination of practitioners, and this suggests that the rishis' creative use of deliberate superimposition could legitimately be used by later practitioners as well. Based on this, modern adaptations, like rainbow-hued chakras, could certainly be considered acceptable, so I have to reconsider my earlier condemnation of what I called, distortions and misrepresentations of contemporary Western yogis. If a particular adaptation is truly helpful for practitioners, then it need not be criticized. But we can't be naive; not all adaptations are helpful. Some might even be detrimental, like modifications introduced by unqualified teachers or by gurus with ulterior motives like those who charge a fee for shaktipaat. Ok. Let's return to the ajna chakra. Even though the rishis don't specify a deity for this chakra, they do prescribe visualizing a linga of light, by which they mean a form of Shiva as pure consciousness within the ajna chakra. I'm back on familiar ground now, because meditating on pure consciousness is central to advaita Vedanta. But there's a misnomer here - you can't actually meditate on consciousness because as the meditator, you are that very consciousness. You can only meditate on objects in your mind which are illumined by the light of consciousness. So, in Vedanta, to meditate on consciousness means to meditate on the meditator, that is, to reflect on your own essential nature as pure consciousness. Today, while visualizing the ajna chakra between my eyebrows, I reflected on how my mental image of a two-petaled lotus can be observed by me because it's illumined by consciousness, the same pure consciousness which is my true nature. That consciousness is utterly independent of the mind, body, and world; it transcends them all. Having reached this lofty perspective, I think I'm ready for the final stage of practice, when kundalini shakti ascends to the sahasrara chakra. Sahasra means one thousand, which is the number of petals in the sahasrara chakra at the crown of the head. The rishis give no further details about this chakra. In fact, in many texts, the sahasrara is not considered a chakra at all. It lies beyond the chakras, outside the body; it's usually depicted on the outer surface of the head, not within it. In Hindu scripture, the number one thousand stands for infinity, suggesting that the sahasrara chakra is infinite in height and breadth, infinite in brilliance, infinite in splendor. When kundalini shakti finally reaches this limitless expanse, it's amazing journey is complete. According to the rishis, after ascending to the sahasrara chakra, kundalini shakti merges into pure consciousness and loses its individuality altogether. But, the rishis say little about the meaning and symbolism of this climactic event, because its significance is best understood through meditation itself, not through words. I began today's meditation by visualizing the ajna chakra and focusing on the sense of warmth between my eyebrows. I allowed that sensation to grow stronger, and then shifted my attention upwards, towards the top of my head. As before, the sense of warmth moved upwards, but while rising, it changed into a brilliant light that seemed to fill my head and body, and radiate beyond as well. Then, almost immediately, that light faded and my mind became profoundly silent. I fell into a state of absorption, samadhi, just like I had many times before using other techniques. Samadhi is somewhat like being blissfully immersed in deep sleep, except that you remain fully awake. When you wake up from sleep, you know you slept; when you emerge from samadhi, you know you were absorbed. Anyone who experiences samadhi for the first time will find it a great achievement. And anyone who discovers their true nature to be pure consciousness, utterly independent of the mind, body, and world, will find this recognition to be absolutely life changing. Without doubt, many practitioners of kundalini yoga have reached these great heights and were blessed by their efforts. But my prior practice has already blessed me in these ways, so my experience of kundalini's triumphant ascent seemed to lack the tremendous intensity that other practitioners describe. Also, I have a hunch that if I firmly believed in the actual existence of chakras, my experiences might have been far more intense. But then again, the ultimate goal of this practice is not to produce rapturous experiences, but to support the attainment of spiritual knowledge, enlightenment. I've learned a lot from this experiment. I've discovered how advaita vedanta and kundalini yoga are actually complimentary to each other. I've learned to be less critical of modern adaptations like rainbow colored chakras. And I've made friends with this often misunderstood serpent. Will I start teaching kundalini yoga to my students now? I don't think so. This technique is rather complex, so it needs lots of time to learn and practice. More than that, kundalini yoga seems like a difficult way to gain a state of absorption that can more easily be reached through other techniques. But then, if there are easier paths to samadhi, why is kundalini yoga so widely taught? Its popularity is very likely in response to the problem of experience seeking. The pursuit of worldly experiences can prevent people from seeking spiritual growth. But, if kundalini yoga promises them exciting new experiences, they might consider practicing it. Then, their practice could lead them to realize that something far more valuable than exciting experiences is within reach. Such a recognition could wean them away from experience seeking, and incline them to pursue enlightenment instead. This so-called bait and switch approach might have lead many practitioners to find perfect peace and lasting contentment. If so, the ability to convert worldly experience seekers into genuine spiritual seekers could be the most extraordinary feature of kundalini yoga.



The concept of Kuṇḍalinī is mentioned in the Upanishads (9th – 3rd centuries BCE).[9][verification needed] The Sanskrit adjective kuṇḍalin means "circular, annular". It is mentioned as a noun for "snake" (in the sense of "coiled") in the 12th-century Rajatarangini chronicle (I.2). Kuṇḍa (a noun meaning "bowl, water-pot" is found as the name of a Nāga (serpent deity) in Mahabharata 1.4828). The 8th-century Tantrasadbhava Tantra uses the term kundalī ("ring, bracelet; coil (of a rope)").[10]:230[clarification needed]

The use of kuṇḍalī as a name for Goddess Durga (a form of Shakti) appears often in Tantrism and Shaktism from as early as the 11th century in the Śaradatilaka.[11] It was adopted as a technical term in Hatha yoga during the 15th century, and became widely used in the Yoga Upanishads by the 16th century. Eknath Easwaran has paraphrased the term as "the coiled power", a force which ordinarily rests at the base of the spine, described as being "coiled there like a serpent".[12]

In Śaiva Tantra

Statues of Shiva and Shakti at Kamakhya temple, one of the oldest Shakti Peethas, important shrines in Shaktism, the goddess-focused Hindu tradition
Statues of Shiva and Shakti at Kamakhya temple, one of the oldest Shakti Peethas, important shrines in Shaktism, the goddess-focused Hindu tradition

Kuṇḍalinī arose as a central concept in Śaiva Tantra, especially among the Śākta cults like the Kaula. In these Tantric traditions, Kuṇḍalinī is "the innate intelligence of embodied Consciousness".[13] The first possible mention of the term is in the Tantrasadbhāva-tantra (8th century), though other earlier tantras mention the visualization of Śākti in the central channel and the upward movement of prana or vital force (which is often associated with Kuṇḍalinī in later works).[14] According to David Gordon White, this feminine spiritual force is also termed boghavati, which has a double meaning of "enjoyment" and "coiled" and signifies her strong connection to bliss and pleasure, both mundane physical pleasure and the bliss of spiritual liberation (moksha), which is the enjoyment of Shiva's creative activity and sexual union with the Goddess.[15]

In the influential Śākta tradition called Kaula, Kuṇḍalinī is seen as a "latent innate spiritual power", associated with the Goddess Kubjika (lit. "the crooked one"), who is the supreme Goddess (Paradevi). She is also pure bliss and power (Śākti), the source of all mantras, and resides in the six chakras along the central channel. In Śaiva Tantra, various practices like pranayama, bandhas, mantra recitation and tantric ritual were used in order to awaken this spiritual power and create a state of bliss and spiritual liberation.[2][15]

According to Abhinavagupta, the great tantric scholar and master of the Kaula and Trika lineages, there are two main forms of Kuṇḍalinī, an upward moving Kuṇḍalinī (urdhva) associated with expansion, and a downward moving Kuṇḍalinī (adha) associated with contraction.[16] According to the scholar of comparative religion Gavin Flood, Abhinavagupta links Kuṇḍalinī with "the power that brings into manifestation the body, breath, and experiences of pleasure and pain", with "the power of sexuality as the source of reproduction" and with:

"the force of the syllable ha in the mantra and the concept of aham, the supreme subjectivity as the source of all, with a as the initial movement of consciousness and m its final withdrawal. Thus we have an elaborate series of associations, all conveying the central conception of the cosmos as a manifestation of consciousness, of pure subjectivity, with Kuṇḍalinī understood as the force inseparable from consciousness, who animates creation and who, in her particularised form in the body, causes liberation through her upward, illusion-shattering movement."[16]


According to William F. Williams, Kundalini is a type of religious experience within the Hindu tradition, within which it is held to be a kind of "cosmic energy" that accumulates at the base of the spine.[17]

When awakened, Kundalini is described as rising up from the muladhara chakra, through the central nadi (called sushumna) inside or alongside the spine reaching the top of the head. The progress of Kundalini through the different chakras is believed to achieve different levels of awakening and a mystical experience, until Kundalini finally reaches the top of the head, Sahasrara or crown chakra, producing an extremely profound transformation of consciousness.[6]:5–6

Swami Sivananda Saraswati of the Divine Life Society stated in his book Kundalini Yoga that "Supersensual visions appear before the mental eye of the aspirant, new worlds with indescribable wonders and charms unfold themselves before the Yogi, planes after planes reveal their existence and grandeur to the practitioner and the Yogi gets divine knowledge, power and bliss, in increasing degrees, when Kundalini passes through Chakra after Chakra, making them to bloom in all their glory..."[18]

Reports about the Sahaja Yoga technique of Kundalini awakening state that the practice can result in a cool breeze felt on the fingertips as well as the fontanel bone area.[19][20]

Kundalini experiences

Invoking Kundalini experiences

Yogis such as Muktananda consider that Kundalini can be awakened by shaktipat (spiritual transmission by a Guru or teacher), or by spiritual practices such as yoga or meditation.[21]

The passive approach is instead a path of surrender where one lets go of all the impediments to the awakening rather than trying to actively awaken Kundalini. A chief part of the passive approach is shaktipat where one individual's Kundalini is awakened by another who already has the experience. Shaktipat only raises Kundalini temporarily but gives the student an experience to use as a basis.[22]

He subsequently came to believe "As the ancient writers have said, it is the vital force or prana which is spread over both the macrocosm, the entire Universe, and the microcosm, the human body... The atom is contained in both of these. Prana is life-energy responsible for the phenomena of terrestrial life and for life on other planets in the universe. Prana in its universal aspect is immaterial. But in the human body, Prana creates a fine biochemical substance which works in the whole organism and is the main agent of activity in the nervous system and in the brain. The brain is alive only because of Prana...[23]

...The most important psychological changes in the character of an enlightened person would be that he or she would be compassionate and more detached. There would be less ego, without any tendency toward violence or aggression or falsehood. The awakened life energy is the mother of morality, because all morality springs from this awakened energy. Since the very beginning, it has been this evolutionary energy that has created the concept of morals in human beings.

The American comparative religions scholar Joseph Campbell describes the concept of Kundalini as "the figure of a coiled female serpent—a serpent goddess not of "gross" but "subtle" substance—which is to be thought of as residing in a torpid, slumbering state in a subtle center, the first of the seven, near the base of the spine: the aim of the yoga then being to rouse this serpent, lift her head, and bring her up a subtle nerve or channel of the spine to the so-called "thousand-petaled lotus" (Sahasrara) at the crown of the head...She, rising from the lowest to the highest lotus center will pass through and wake the five between, and with each waking, the psychology and personality of the practitioner will be altogether and fundamentally transformed."[24]

Hatha yoga

Mode of action of mudras, serving to trap energy-fluids (breath, prana, bindu, amrita) and thus help to unblock the central sushumna channel, allowing kundalini to rise[25]
Mode of action of mudras, serving to trap energy-fluids (breath, prana, bindu, amrita) and thus help to unblock the central sushumna channel, allowing kundalini to rise[25]

According to the Goraksasataka, or "Hundred Verses of Goraksa", hatha yoga practices such as mula bandha, uddiyana bandha, jalandhara bandha and kumbhaka can awaken Kundalini.[26] Another hathayoga text, the Khecarīvidyā, states that khechari mudra enables one to raise Kundalini and access various stores of amrita in the head, which subsequently flood the body.[27]


The spiritual teacher Meher Baba emphasized the need for a master when actively trying to awaken Kundalini:

Kundalini is a latent power in the higher body. When awakened, it pierces through six chakras or functional centers and activates them. Without a master, the awakening of the kundalini cannot take anyone very far on the Path; and such indiscriminate or premature awakening is fraught with dangers of self-deception as well as the misuse of powers. The kundalini enables man to consciously cross the lower planes and it ultimately merges into the universal cosmic power of which it is a part, and which also is at times described as kundalini ... The important point is that the awakened kundalini is helpful only up to a certain degree, after which it cannot ensure further progress. It cannot dispense with the need for the grace of a Perfect Master.[28]

Kundalini awakening

The experience of Kundalini awakening can happen when one is either prepared or unprepared.[22]

According to Hindu tradition, in order to be able to integrate this spiritual energy, a period of careful purification and strengthening of the body and nervous system is usually required beforehand.[29] Yoga and Tantra propose that Kundalini can be awakened by a guru (teacher), but body and spirit must be prepared by yogic austerities, such as pranayama, or breath control, physical exercises, visualization, and chanting. The student is advised to follow the path in an open-hearted manner.[22]

Traditionally, people visited ashrams in India to awaken their dormant kundalini energy with regular meditation, mantra chanting, spiritual studies and physical asana practice such as kundalini yoga.

Religious interpretations

Indian interpretations

Kundalini is considered to occur in the chakra and nadis of the subtle body. Each chakra is said to contain special characteristics[30] and with proper training, moving Kundalini through these chakras can help express or open these characteristics.

Kundalini is described as a sleeping, dormant potential force in the human organism.[31] It is one of the components of an esoteric description of the "subtle body", which consists of nadis (energy channels), chakras (psychic centres), prana (subtle energy), and bindu (drops of essence).

Kundalini is described as being coiled up at the base of the spine. The description of the location can vary slightly, from the rectum to the navel.[10]:229–231 Kundalini is said to reside in the triangular shaped sacrum bone in three and a half coils.[19]

Swami Vivekananda describes Kundalini briefly in his book Raja Yoga as follows:[32]

According to the Yogis, there are two nerve currents in the spinal column, called Pingalâ and Idâ, and a hollow canal called Sushumnâ running through the spinal cord. At the lower end of the hollow canal is what the Yogis call the "Lotus of the Kundalini". They describe it as triangular in a form in which, in the symbolical language of the Yogis, there is a power called the Kundalini, coiled up. When that Kundalini awakens, it tries to force a passage through this hollow canal, and as it rises step by step, as it were, layer after layer of the mind becomes open and all the different visions and wonderful powers come to the Yogi. When it reaches the brain, the Yogi is perfectly detached from the body and mind; the soul finds itself free. We know that the spinal cord is composed in a peculiar manner. If we take the figure eight horizontally (∞), there are two parts which are connected in the middle. Suppose you add eight after eight, piled one on top of the other, that will represent the spinal cord. The left is the Ida, the right Pingala, and that hollow canal which runs through the center of the spinal cord is the Sushumna. Where the spinal cord ends in some of the lumbar vertebrae, a fine fiber issues downwards, and the canal runs up even within that fiber, only much finer. The canal is closed at the lower end, which is situated near what is called the sacral plexus, which, according to modern physiology, is triangular in form. The different plexuses that have their centers in the spinal canal can very well stand for the different "lotuses" of the Yogi.

When Kundalini Shakti is conceived as a goddess, then, when it rises to the head, it unites itself with the Supreme Being of (Lord Shiva). The aspirant then becomes engrossed in deep meditation and infinite bliss. Paramahansa Yogananda in his book God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita states:[33]

At the command of the yogi in deep meditation, this creative force turns inward and flows back to its source in the thousand-petaled lotus, revealing the resplendent inner world of the divine forces and consciousness of the soul and spirit. Yoga refers to this power flowing from the coccyx to spirit as the awakened kundalini.

Paramahansa Yogananda also states:

The yogi reverses the searchlights of intelligence, mind and life force inward through a secret astral passage, the coiled way of the kundalini in the coccygeal plexus, and upward through the sacral, the lumbar, and the higher dorsal, cervical, and medullary plexuses, and the spiritual eye at the point between the eyebrows, to reveal finally the soul's presence in the highest center (Sahasrara) in the brain.[33]

Osho, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, gave detailed talks on the journey of the kundalini through the seven chakras and the relation of the seven chakras to the esoteric map of the `seven bodies`, or planes of human existence. Rajneesh defined the seven bodies as 1.The physical 2. The Etheric 3. The Astral 4. The Mental, or physic 5. The Spiritual. 6. The Cosmic(or Brahman). 7. The Nirvanic (or Void). The fifth, sixth and seventh bodies were, according to Rajneesh, related to the three stages of enlightenment.[34][35][36]

Western significance

Sir John Woodroffe (1865–1936) – also known by his pseudonym Arthur Avalon – was a British Orientalist whose published works stimulated a far-reaching interest in Hindu philosophy and Yogic practices. While serving as a High Court Judge in Calcutta, he studied Sanskrit and Hindu Philosophy, particularly as it related to Hindu Tantra. He translated numerous original Sanskrit texts and lectured on Indian philosophy, Yoga and Tantra. His book, The Serpent Power: The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga became a major source for many modern Western adaptations of Kundalini yoga practice. It presents an academically and philosophically sophisticated translation of, and commentary on, two key Eastern texts: Shatchakranirūpana (Description and Investigation into the Six Bodily Centers) written by Tantrik Pūrnānanda Svāmī (1526) and the Paduka-Pancakā from the Sanskrit of a commentary by Kālīcharana (Five-fold Footstool of the Guru). The Sanskrit term "Kundali Shakti" translates as "Serpent Power". Kundalini is thought to be an energy released within an individual using specific meditation techniques. It is represented symbolically as a serpent coiled at the base of the spine. [37]

In his book Artistic Form and Yoga in the Sacred Images of India, Heinrich Zimmer wrote in praise of the writings of Sir John Woodroffe:[38]

The values of the Hindu tradition were disclosed to me through the enormous life-work of Sir John Woodroffe, alias Arthur Avalon, a pioneer and a classic author in Indie studies, second to none, who, for the first time, by many publications and books made available the extensive and complex treasure of late Hindu tradition: the Tantras, a period as grand and rich as the Vedas, the Epic, Puranas, etc.; the latest crystallization of Indian wisdom, the indispensable closing link of a chain, affording keys to countless problems in the history of Buddhism and Hinduism, in mythology and symbolism.

When Woodroffe later commented upon the reception of his work he clarified his objective, "All the world (I speak of course of those interested in such subjects) is beginning to speak of Kundalinî Shakti." He described his intention as follows: "We, who are foreigners, must place ourselves in the skin of the Hindu, and must look at their doctrine and ritual through their eyes and not our own."[39]

Western awareness of kundalini was strengthened by the interest of Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr. Carl Jung (1875–1961). Jung's seminar on Kundalini yoga presented to the Psychological Club in Zurich in 1932 was widely regarded as a milestone in the psychological understanding of Eastern thought and of the symbolic transformations of inner experience. Kundalini yoga presented Jung with a model for the developmental phases of higher consciousness, and he interpreted its symbols in terms of the process of individuation, with sensitivity towards a new generation's interest in alternative religions and psychological exploration.[40]

In the introduction to Jung's book The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, Sonu Shamdasani puts forth "The emergence of depth psychology was historically paralleled by the translation and widespread dissemination of the texts of yoga... for the depth psychologies sought to liberate themselves from the stultifying limitations of Western thought to develop maps of inner experience grounded in the transformative potential of therapeutic practices. A similar alignment of "theory" and "practice" seemed to be embodied in the yogic texts that moreover had developed independently of the bindings of Western thought. Further, the initiatory structure adopted by institutions of psychotherapy brought its social organization into proximity with that of yoga. Hence, an opportunity for a new form of comparative psychology opened up."[39]:xviii-xix

The American writer William Buhlman, began to conduct an international survey of out-of-body experiences in 1969 in order to gather information about symptoms: sounds, vibrations and other phenomena, that commonly occur at the time of the OBE event. His primary interest was to compare the findings with reports made by yogis, such as Gopi Krishna (yogi) who have made reference to similar phenomenon, such as the 'vibrational state' as components of their kundalini-related spiritual experience. He explains:

There are numerous reports of full Kundalini experiences culminating with a transcendental out-of-body state of consciousness. In fact, many people consider this experience to be the ultimate path to enlightenment. The basic premise is to encourage the flow of Kundalini energy up the spine and toward the top of the head—the crown chakra—thus projecting your awareness into the higher heavenly dimensions of the universe. The result is an indescribable expansion of consciousness into spiritual realms beyond form and thought.[41]

Sri Aurobindo was the other great authority scholar on Kundalini parallel to Woodroffe with a somewhat different viewpoint, according to Mary Scott (who is herself a latter-day scholar on Kundalini and its physical basis) and was a member of the Theosophical Society.[42]

New Age

Kundalini references may be found in a number of New Age presentations, and is a word that has been adopted by many new religious movements.[43]


According to Carl Jung "... the concept of Kundalini has for us only one use, that is, to describe our own experiences with the unconscious ..."[44] Jung used the Kundalini system symbolically as a means of understanding the dynamic movement between conscious and unconscious processes. He cautioned that all forms of yoga, when used by Westerners, can be attempts at domination of the body and unconscious through the ideal of ascending into higher chakras.[45][page needed]

According to Shamdasani, Jung claimed that the symbolism of Kundalini yoga suggested that the bizarre symptomatology that patients at times presented, actually resulted from the awakening of the Kundalini. He argued that knowledge of such symbolism enabled much that would otherwise be seen as the meaningless by-products of a disease process to be understood as meaningful symbolic processes, and explicated the often peculiar physical localizations of symptoms.[45]:xxvi

The popularization of eastern spiritual practices has been associated with psychological problems in the west. Psychiatric literature notes that "since the influx of eastern spiritual practices and the rising popularity of meditation starting in the 1960s, many people have experienced a variety of psychological difficulties, either while engaged in intensive spiritual practice or spontaneously".[46] Among the psychological difficulties associated with intensive spiritual practice we find "Kundalini awakening", "a complex physio-psychospiritual transformative process described in the yogic tradition".[46] Researchers in the fields of Transpersonal psychology,[30] and Near-death studies[47] have described a complex pattern of sensory, motor, mental and affective symptoms associated with the concept of Kundalini, sometimes called the Kundalini syndrome.[48]

The differentiation between spiritual emergency associated with Kundalini awakening may be viewed as an acute psychotic episode by psychiatrists who are not conversant with the culture. The biological changes of increased P300 amplitudes that occurs with certain yogic practices may lead to acute psychosis. Biological alterations by Yogic techniques may be used to warn people against such reactions.[49]

Some modern experimental research seeks to establish links between Kundalini practice and the ideas of Wilhelm Reich and his followers.[50]

See also


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  3. ^ Mallinson, James. "Śāktism and Haṭhayoga." In: Goddess Traditions in Tantric Hinduism: History, Practice and Doctrine, edited by Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen London: Routledge, 2016. pp. 109–140.
  4. ^ a b "Spotlight on Kundalini Yoga". Yoga Journal. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  5. ^ Swami Sivananda Radha, 2004, pp. 13, 15
  6. ^ a b Saraswati, Swami Satyananda (1984). Kundalini Tantra (2nd ed.). Munger, Bihar, India: Bihar School of Yoga. pp. 34–36. ISBN 978-8185787152.
  7. ^ Judith, Anodea (2004). Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self (Revised ed.). Berkeley, California: Celestial Arts. pp. 451–454. ISBN 978-1-58761-225-1.
  8. ^ Paulson, Genevieve Lewis (1998). Kundalini and the Chakras: A Practical Manual--evolution in this Lifetime (1st ed.). St. Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications. pp. 7–10, 194. ISBN 978-0-87542-592-4.
  9. ^ Dale, Cyndi (2011). Kundalini: Divine Energy, Divine Life (1st ed.). Woodbury, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications. ISBN 978-0-7387-2863-6.
  10. ^ a b White, David Gordon (2004). Kiss of the Yogini: "Tantric Sex" in its South Asian Contexts (Paperback ed.). The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-89483-6.
  11. ^ Saivism, Kashmir Saivism (1990). Vac: The Concept of the Word in Selected Hindu Tantras. Sri Satguru Publications. pp. 124–136. ISBN 978-1-4384-1532-1.
  12. ^ Morrison, Diana (1977). A Glossary of Sanskrit from the Spiritual Tradition of India. Nilgiri Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-915132-11-9.
  13. ^ Wallis, Christopher, Recognition Sutras: Illuminating a 1,000-Year-Old Spiritual Masterpiece, Mattamayura Press, Oct 6, 2017, Introduction.
  14. ^ Flood (1996), p. 99.
  15. ^ a b White, David Gordon, The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India, University of Chicago Press, 1998, pp. 219–220.
  16. ^ a b Flood, Gavin, The Tantric Body: The Secret Tradition of Hindu Religion, I.B.Tauris, Jan 5, 2006, pp. 160–161.
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  20. ^ Coney, Judith (1999). Sahaja Yoga: Socializing Processes in a South Asian New Religious Movement. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon. pp. 55–56. ISBN 978-0-7007-1061-4.
  21. ^ Muktananda, Swami (1978). Play of Consciousness. Siddha Yoga Publications. ISBN 0-911307-81-8.
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  24. ^ Campbell, Joseph (2011). A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living. San Anselmo, California: Joseph Campbell Foundation. p. 117. ISBN 978-1-61178-006-2.
  25. ^ Mallinson, James; Singleton, Mark (2017). Roots of Yoga. Penguin Books. pp. Chapter 6, especially pages 228–229, 231. ISBN 978-0-241-25304-5. OCLC 928480104.
  26. ^ White, David Gordon (2012). Yoga in Practice. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. pp. 2, 268–270. ISBN 978-0-691-14085-8.
  27. ^ Mallinson, James (2007). The Khecarividya of Adinatha: A Critical Edition and Annotated Translation of an Early Text of Hathayoga. London: Routledge. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-415-39115-3.
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  30. ^ a b Scotton, Bruce W. (1999). Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology. New York: Basic Books. p. 261. ISBN 978-0-465-09530-8.
  31. ^ Swami Satyananda Saraswati. Kundalini Tantra. Bihar School of Yoga, 2006. ISBN 978-8185787152
  32. ^ Vivekananda, Swami (1995). Raja Yoga: Conquering the Internal Nature. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama. pp. 48–49. ISBN 978-8185301167.
  33. ^ a b Yogananda, Paramahansa (1995). The Bhagavad Gita: God Talks with Arjuna: Royal Science of God Realization: the Immortal Dialogue Between Soul and Spirit: a New Translation and Commentary (1st ed.). Los Angeles: Self Realization Fellowship. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-87612-030-9.
  34. ^ Rajneesh, Bhagwan Shree. "In Search of the Miracolous".
  35. ^ Rajneesh, Bhagwan Shree. "In Search of the Miraculous Chapter 20".
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  37. ^ Taylor, Kathleen (2001). Sir John Woodroffe, Tantra and Bengal: 'An Indian Soul in a European Body?'. Routledge. ISBN 978-0700713455.
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  39. ^ a b Jung, Carl Gustav (1996). The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1932 by C.G. Jung. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. p. xvi. ISBN 978-0-691-02127-0.
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  44. ^ Hayman, Ronald (2001). A Life of Jung. New York: W. W. Norton. p. 304. ISBN 978-0-393-32322-1. Retrieved 5 January 2017. the concept of Kundalini has for us only one use ...
  45. ^ a b Shamdasani, Sonu (2012). The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1932 by C.G. Jung (New ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-1-4008-2191-4.
  46. ^ a b Turner, R. P.; Lukoff, D.; Barnhouse, R. T.; Lu, F. G. (July 1995). "Religious or spiritual problem. A culturally sensitive diagnostic category in the DSM-IV". The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 183 (7): 435–444. doi:10.1097/00005053-199507000-00003. ISSN 0022-3018. PMID 7623015.
  47. ^ Kason, Yvonne (2008). Farther Shores: Exploring How Near-Death, Kundalini and Mystical Experiences Can Transform Ordinary Lives (Revised ed.). Bloomington, New York: Author's Choice Press. ISBN 978-0-595-53396-1.
  48. ^ Greyson, Bruce (1993). "Near-death experiences and the physio-kundalini syndrome". Journal of Religion & Health. 32 (4): 277–290. doi:10.1007/BF00990954. PMID 24271550.
  49. ^ Bharadwaj, Balaji (2012). "Proof-of-concept studies in Yoga and mental health". International Journal of Yoga. 5 (1): 74. doi:10.4103/0973-6131.91719. PMC 3276938. PMID 22346071.
  50. ^ Rudra. Kundalini, die Energie der Natur, die Natur der Energie im Menschen körperliche und psychische Begleiterscheinungen bei Erweckung der Energie im Körper (Worpswede, Germany: Wild Dragon Connections, 1993) ISBN 978-3980256018 (in German)

Further reading

External links

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