Some state that the ultimate aim of yoga, is to facilitate the awakening of kundalini- the Divine power in the human body. From a certain standpoint, this is correct, and from different perspectives it’s not. So what’s kundalini and what’s yoga’s connection to it?
Vedic philosophy, particularly the faculty of Tantra, visit Kundalini as the connection between the human body and cosmic Divine consciousness, responsible for production. Kundalini is a powerful seed of the force lying dormant at the bottom of the spinal column in each human body. According to Vedic and Tantric texts it is coiled around the base of the spinal column in 3 and a half spirals. Hence the ancient sages of India called it kundalini, the one coiled like a snake, and a snake was emblematic of kundalini ever since. Kundalini is deemed manifest element of the Divine – the Divine Mother -‘Shakti’ (Power or Force). She’s viewed as the element of the Divine present in and as the manifestation and that animates ‘life’.
The early Rishsi (seers) described an elaborate network of 72,000 nadis, an energetic web-like system spread across the body, very similar to the meridians of far Eastern systems. The three most important of the nadis spiral upward from the root of the spinal column ascending into the crown of the head and the yogic chakra named Sahasrahara. The middle station, considered the most important of all, is named Sushumana. The other two significant nadis on each side of Sushmana are known as Ida (the feminine/moon station) and Pingala (the masculine/sun station ). The six yogic chakras, centers of consciousness, are situated vertically above one another at specific intervals along Sushmana where Ida and Pingala cross it.
When kundalini is awakened, it starts to rise through sushmana finally to reach sahasrahara, uniting with Param Shiva, the eternal unmanifest manly aspect of the Divine. As it spirals up through sushmana, kundalini enters the network of nadis and in ascending opens the chakras one by one as it climbs. (NB: The chakras of the Indian yogic tradition don’t correspond to the chakras as they’ve been known and popularized in modern times.)
It’s here that we can see clearly the connection between yoga and kundalini. As outlined through the eight limbs of yoga, yoga as a spiritual practice is a practice of ‘purification’. This purification can be regarded as preparation for the awakening and rising of kundalini. Essentially the more purification was achieved, the quicker and more readily kundalini will ascend to the anticipating ‘marriage’ in the crown of their head.
There are lots of differing ways for the kundalini to wake up and rise. Probably the rarest is when the kundalini rises straight to the crown of their head Sahasrahara chakra. For such a rising of the kundalini to occur a good deal of ‘purification’ must have occurred, as spiritual training in today’s or alternative lives. Unfortunately this is often how kundalini awakening is thought of, and with no proper understanding appears highly desirable. More commonly the procedure takes many years, and might not even complete in precisely the identical lifetime the rising began. In this instance the procedure begins again and continue in a different life, sometimes starting as early as childhood.
Ideally a individual has a well-established and incorporated spiritual practice before, and initiating kundalini awakening and rising. Even more ideally they have the protection and guidance of a Sat Guru or ideal master. Otherwise, my advice is to find one, and satisfy yourself that they’re really a fully liberated being. Each person experiences this opening in a special way according to the karmic content of the unconscious. There are plenty of common experiences, but each individual moves into this stirring on a course of their own. Only a perfect master will be in a position to help guide someone with a kundalini rising.
The Kundalini force in rising, initiates irreversible spiritual purification as it goes through the subtle channels of the body. This cleansing process manifest in the body as yogic ‘Kriyas’. Kriyas are involuntary body movements which occur mostly during meditation or even comfort. Swaying of the body, rapid movements of the shoulders and head, twitching and jerking, even debilitating appearing contortions, are typical of those ‘Kriyas’. Sometimes kriyas take the kind of yoga asanas, with individuals performing them involunatrily. For the onlooker kriyas may seem strange or even terrifying when we do not understand what’s going on within the person. For the individual experiencing them they don’t cause any bodily injury and may even lead to states of deep absorption. ‘Kundalini’, being a power of Divine consciousness, is conscious of what is the proper step in the process, making the practitioner function ‘Kriyas’ that are particular to this end.
Often of greater challenge would be the mental and psychological dimensions of the transformational process. Our vasanas*, samskaras* and karmas are held, or stored, in the subconscious. The body subsequently retains, or stores the subconscious. We can liken the nadis into the subtle energy storage arrangement of the subconscious from the body. It follows that all experience from our past, that’s unhealed, unresolved, or incomplete, is transmuted from the kundalini in it’s movement upward through the body to the crown of their head ‘sahasrahra’. This subconscious material, feelings, emotions, and accompanying beliefs invariably contains injury, pain, and anxiety. In the process of its transformation that the egoic mind can experience depression, darkness, and psychological pain, sometimes so profound and inexplicable it sounds unbearable. Obviously this can be deeply distressing, not only to the individual, but also those close to them. This is exacerbated if there’s absolutely not any sense of kundalini as the cause, or spiritual procedure.
Yogic texts elaborate how the kundalini piercing the various consciousness centers (chakras/cakras), can equip the practitioner with siddhis (powers) such as, clairvoyance, the ability to see the future and past, and perceive the presence of subtle planes of existence (one of the least dramatic). The vivid and vibrant descriptions of the siddhis can be another misguided incentive to pursue awakening the kundalini, in fact these can be quite an unhelpful diversion. When the Kundalini reaches Sahasrahara, and the whole system is ‘purified’ the human spiritual journey is complete as nothing now remains to make the illusion of separation from the Divine and True Nature. This last condition, when all vasanas, samskaras and karmas are dissolved, is the condition called Moksha. Moksha is then the condition of complete liberation. This differs from enlightenment that begins with the conclusion of identification with mind and reaches it’s final decision only with Moksha. Until Moksha is attained, the ‘educated’ can become more identified with mind, it is vasanas, samskaras and karmas.
If we make an examination of mystical literature and traditions in cultures outside India we find that kundalini, called by several names, appears to have been a worldwide phenomenon in esoteric teachings for the past three thousand years. Kundalini-type descriptions or adventures are located in esoteric teachings and symbolism of the Egyptians, Tibetans, Chinese, some Native Americans, and the Kung bushmen of Africa. Kundalini has been translated from the Bible as “the solar principle in man,” or the concept as ‘pneuma’, and is referenced in the Koran, the works of Plato and other Greek philosophers, possibly too in alchemical tracts (the philosopher’s stone), and in Hermetic, Kabbalistic, Rosicrucian, and Masonic writings.
Kundalini is then the power of the Divine in us, and it is awakening and rising will finally lead to the ultimate ‘marriage’ of yoga, the union of Divine consciousness in the human body.
*vasana: (Sanskrit) “Subconscious inclination.” From vas, “alive, staying.” The subliminal inclinations and habit patterns that, as driving forces, colour and inspire one’s attitudes and future activities. Vasanas are the conglomerate results of subconscious impressions .
*samskaras: generated through experience. Samskaras, experiential impressions, unite from the subconscious to form vasanas, which then contribute to mental fluctuations, known as vritti. The most complicated and emotionally charged vasanas are located in the measurement of mind known as the subsubconscious, or vasana chitta.