Kundalini Yoga -Introduction and some perspectives

January 25, 2018 | Author: Dr Srinivasan Nenmeli -K | Category: Kundalini, Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Chakra, Devi
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A detailed article setting forth the fundamental concepts of kundalini yoga, the various methods and many caveats and wa...


Kundalini Yoga--an Introduction and a Perspective Dr Srinivasan Nenmeli-K A topic frequently asked of me is: "Kundalini Yoga". The FAQ's on this topic are: -- What is Kundalini? Is it real? Is there a coiled serpent storing lot of energy at the base of my spine? --- If so, why it remains coiled or latent? ---- Can it be awakened easily? ----- Will this awakening produce healthy body,vigorous mind, reduce aging and give longevity? ------Will the awakening lead to Pure Joy or Bliss in yoga style? or super-consciousness or Self-Realization or Nirvana Buddhist style or Moksha/liberation sought by Hindus? ----How is this related to various chakras and chakra healing? ---- How K Yoga is related to tantric practices,including sexual stimulations preached by some yogis/gurus ?

-----How is this related to traditional yoga of Patanjali [Ashtanga Yoga]? ----Why is this K-Yoga special ,unlike Bhakti yoga, Raja yoga or Jnana Yoga? Why is it esoteric? ----Why the secrecy surrounding this path? ---Why some rishiis and many gurus preach against this path or dissuade one in pursuing this path? This is so in India and in the west? Why is this labeled as a dangerous path by many saints? ----Is K Yoga bad for health, reducing one's life, by burning out? ---- How K Yoga is related to Tibetan {Mahayana/Vajrayana] Buddhism? ----Can Christians and others practice this? How is this related to Hinduism as such? ---This yoga should be learned from a master or "transmitted " by a Guru. Why so? ---- Does this yoga confer "psychic powers" like clairvoyance etc ?

In this article , I am attempting to answer all of these questions and more with the best intentions of clarifying your doubts,clearing your confusion and placing the Kundalini yoga in its proper perspective. Let me begin by saying that many are drawn to Kundalini Yoga or become curious, thinking that this is a short cut for spiritual elevation or get self-realization. Majority of young men and women get interested or practice in the presumption that they would get psychic powers or 'siddhis' mentioned in Hindu literature. A small number may be drawn by self-styled gurus who profess to confer bliss or sexual titillation in a quickie manner using K-Yoga. What is Kundalini Yoga? There is nothing mysterious or esoteric about this yoga. It is based on the physical fact that we have nervous centres or nodes with nadis spanning them all over the body.The seven chakras or wheels of energy are located in our spinal column. The lowest one is the base chakra or muladhara [which means 'basic root'] near the base of the


Kundalini also means coiled serpent which has two nadis, Ida

and pingala which twist around the spinal column or canal called 'sushumna' which is like a tube going upward. This canal is closed normally.When opened some fluid is supposed to go up, causing a tingling sensation as if some mercury is flowing up. The Chakras are nerve nodes which store lot of energy.They are like distribution transformers,changing the voltage of an electric supply and sending them to households. In this case, the chakras send lot of energy to other nerve centres and glands which regulate our metabolism,growth and moods.[The chakras may get charged with energy received through some nerve channels in the brain. Some yogis claim that cosmic energy, from outside of the body, enters through the skull and gets down-loaded into chakras. I am not able to confirm this .] Many medical men and yogis have tried to draw such parallels with physiological facts. For our purpose it is enough if we take the chakras

as store houses of energy [call it nervous

energy, if you like] to direct to other organs for positive benefits.This energy can also be called pranic energy,developed thru certain pranayama practices. It should be noted that there are other chakras besides these seven in th espinal column.. Infact there are strong chakras in

your palm and in the soles of feet which can also release energy.[Some writers have stated that there are 41 major chakras in the body--some of them are activated by acu-pressure practitioners.] Kundalini yoga involves activating these chakras while the kundalini energy passes through the sushumna canal upward, finally reaching the top most 'sahasrara" or thousand petalled lotus chakra in the skull. This union is figuratively spoken of as the union of th e Shakti or female goddess climbing up to unite with the Lord ,in the skull--called 'Shiva'. During thssi course of journey, the shakti or energy activates all the chakras in between, giving positive benefits to the person and also ennobling him or her to reach the highest state of bliss during the union. Note that this Kundalini shakti can rise to any particular chakra,remain there and again descend. Therefore this upward movement may be followed by downward

movement also.But once it

reaches the Shasrara or top chakra, it would not return.A person who has reached that state may remain in the physical body for 21 days, some say for 14 days only. Why the spinal column is normally kept closed? Where is the

need to open up the canal door at the base of the spine? Much metaphorical meanings have been given on this process. In simple terms, in almost all individuals the canal is closed because it is not developed or activated. You know that the human brain is raw when a child is born, and slowly a child 'learns' instinctively motor skills and then language skills aided by elders. In the same way, this process of awakening the kundalini requires some effort to happen. Again a girl attains puberty when certain harmonal changes takes place and her reproductive system is activated.In the same way, the Kundalini system needs to be activated ,not instinctively, but by some effort.An adept or master or yogi would guide a student towards this awakening process. More about this later. In the normal course of life, many jog along without this awakening since they operate in the mundane world caught up in life's problems or not being aware of the possibilities offered by Kundalini Yoga.Apparently lot of energy from the brain is needed to activate the Kundalini. This is the reason that a person undergoing this activation may get emaciated or weak for several months and also feel weak to carry on daily activities.

There is a real danger of someone losing his mind in this process. This is the reason that Kundalini Yoga is not taught to all the students. How this path is related to other yogas like Jnana [path of knowledge or self-enquiry] or bhakti yoga [the path of devotion].? In fact many ,in almost all religions, pursue some form of devotional path [prayer,worship,chanting or japa and meditation or dhyana]. Would they derive benefit from Kundalini Yoga? Is there a need for this yoga for those following devotional or bhakti path? My considered answer is that Kundalini yoga is only a special form of yoga which a person may not need as such, unless specially interested in this path. Awakening of Kundalini can and does occur when one follows Bhakti Yoga or Jnana yoga at certain stage, almost automatically or effortlessly, though he or she may not realize this. Great saints and yogis and rishiis did exhibit clear signs of kundalini awakening, if one reads their biographies carefully. They may downplay that or ignore, so that their followers or chelas are not diverted from their main path of Jnana or Bhakti.

As I said earlier, some are drawn to this path of Kundalini thinking that it is an easy path. This is a wishful thinking. Kundalini path is extremely difficult ,as are other paths. For many spiritual aspirants or sadhaks ,the easy path would be the path of devotion and not kundalini yoga.If some yogis/swamis claim to awaken Kundalini ina person in a few minutes or after a few days of any practice, you can infer that it is only to impress the student and what happens is not real awakening of kundalini at all.Such quickie methods or mass awakening in a large group are not to be trusted.These yogis and swamis are misguiding their students for getting popularity or money. Why this awakening of kundalini is difficult or fraught with dangers, if we are equipped with the necessary physiological apparatus for that? Why can't that be taught just as one learns bicycling or horse riding at a certain age, assuming he/she possesses normal health ? There are two main reasons for this. 1 Assuming one has normal healthy body and has no organic defect,assuming one has a good trainer or yogi to guide, the process of training is long and hard and many fall by the way side, distracted by minor benefits that may accrue during the

training period. For instance when one practices some simple K-yog technique, he/she may get the ability to foresee certain events--called 'precognition'.This simple 'power' or siddhi may distract him/her that one starts misusing that and cause more injury to others. A good guide or yogi master would immediately check the tendency to misuse. Many times the master is not always available.! 2 The second reason is that the demands made for Kundalini yoga in terms of energy and time are great, very few young men/women have the necessary will--power or facility to undertake this. As a young person, I did some practices along this line.I found that my body was activated so much that there was physical discomfort and also felt dazed that I could not pursue my duties as a professional person.I had to abandon the practice. [This was sometime in the late 1970's when I was about 40 years old.] [Please note that one practising K-yoga should take highly nutritious food in sufficient amount and also practice silence/solitude for many months.He should also be free from pressing domestic or professional work.] For these two main reasons. K_YOGA is not freely taught or

encouraged ,except for a few yogi-students under strict guidance or supervision. K-Yoga can not be a self-help or 'do-it-yourself' project.! What are the normal methods to awaken Kundalini and stabilize the process? There are several methods taught in India to those students who have done gentle forms of yoga and devotion in the traditional way. I explain them to the extent it is possible to write in a general article like this for an average reader. 1 Hatha Yoga methods: These are special asanas ,followed by certain bandhas or locking positions which pressurise certain points at the spine to effect the awakening.These are difficult and require careful practice with a yoga master specially trained for this practice. The master would also introduce some form of meditation and 'mudras' or hand signs with fingers --to control and calm the nerve currents in hands. These methods are taught after the student had practiced many asanas at least for several months. Certain methods of breath control or pranayama also can help to awaken kundalini, but it is a gradual process. One is advised to read the classic text: Light on Yoga by BKS

Iyengar and his book on "pranayama" before proceeding further in this path. I do not recommend the quick methods suggested by some gurus/yogis for this practice. 2 Mantra Yoga methods These methods are easier and safer to perform. The mantra to be chanted is invoked and initiated by a guru who knows this technique well. Several simple mantras known to Hindus [such as 'Hare Rama' or 'Om Nama Sivaiah' ] can be practised. These work by 'purifying' your mind first. Purification means "avoiding bad thoughts and also full harmonising of one's thought,word and deed.[Note that we often compromise our thoughts and words or words and actions in normal mundane life.] After this purification process, specific mantras can be used to activate certain chakras. These chakras pull the Kundalini upward by opening the path through the sushumna canal or danda. One important requirement is that the follower has a guru or satguru in whom he /she has complete faith.Without the guru bhakti ,mechanical chanting of mantra would not help. This ,of course ,is true of all Bhakti path methods. The process of guru bhakti enables the sadhak to undergo rigorous practice with

devotion.The guru would also slowly lower the ego or self-pride in the sadhak in many ways. In olden times,the sadhak, however rich or big he may be, would be asked by his guru to go begging for food inthe street.This practice is mainly intended to lower the ego of the person.The sadhak may also be asked to wander around to other cities without any money in his pocket. One well-known mantra , practised in Tibetan Buddhism, is "Om Mani Padme hum" This mantra is addressed to the mani-puri chakra or navel chakra. This chakra is called the "gem- city " or "City of Jewels."[mani-gems puri-city].Buddhist monks and novices chant this millions of times, with a prayer wheel. [Each chakra is referred to as a lotus flower,with specified number of petals. This is a way of pictorial representation and could have been used as a sign language among yogis/monks. Certain sylaables are written in each petal.] Such chanting would not only raise the Kundalini to navel chakra position or activate the chakra, but leads to a great sense of peace or calmness in a person.Later one becomes highly creative---not only in artistic sense, but also in creating social institutions. [Some writers have mistakenly written that this mantra "Om Mani

Padme Hum" activates the heart or anahata chakra.]The present author practised this for several months in the early 1970's with intense devotion and scriptural reading . it is difficult to describe the calmness and peace he felt for a year or two.Later he switched to other devotional/meditational practices. 3 Bhakti Yoga methods: Intense Bhakti or devotion to an Ishata or favorite God or guru can elevate the Kundalini.With devotion and surrender, the sense of ego gradually melts away. Then a sort of inner consciousness builds up.With that , petty thoughts disappear and one develops overarching love and compassion towards all. This level is exactly equivalent to awakening of the heart or anahata chakra.At the same time ,the Bhakta's throat or visudhi chakra is activated. The Bhakta becomes a poet and singer almost suddenly with profusion of songs/hymns. The Bhakta is now fully established in his awakened Kundalini yoga, but not reaching the ajna chakra or sahasrara chakra. He might open up those chakras towards the end of life or in certain moments to help a devotee or fellowtraveller in spirituality. In Bhakti cults, though such awakenings of kundalini are recorded, they are attributed to the grace of Devi or Goddess

in the Hindu pantheon of gods.An exemplar of this was Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa and some of his direct disciples.Many musician saints/composers like Saint Thyagaraja or Muthuswami Dikshitar in Southern carnatic style of music also reached the stages we have mentioned here.Poets like Kalidasa and Purandara were blessedw ith this awakening of throat chakra. 4 Shakti-path : This method dwells on the grace of a great realized guru who has a mission to awaken the kundalini to certain chosen disciples. This system has been down graded and corrupted in India and elsewhere . There is hardly any genuine shakti-pat gurus who can confer this ,though there could be some obscure yogi-gurus in the snowy Himalayas. The so-many institutes/ashrams that profess to 'teach' this method are mere commercial ventures. 5 Tantric methods: Tantra is based on a basic principle: Tantriks go beyond the normal cognition of what is pleasant and what is unpleasant, beautiful and ugly, sacred and profane.All the dual mental constructs must go.So they meditate in temples and also in burial grounds; they worship goddess bedecked with jewels and flowers and also a goddess wearing a garland of skulls and bloody hands. This approach is difficult and disconcerting.The biggest assignment for a tantrik is to go

beyond sexual attraction, worship a woman during menstruation and treat her as a man and so on.Such pratices are not easy to practise and requires a master or adept to train others. This method creates a mental outlook beyond the mundane life. After such expereinces, the tantrik becomes awakened beyond the base chakra and reaches the level of ajna or command between the eye brows and acquires many psychic powers and is established in highly evolved state. He may pass into nirvikalpa Samadhi at any time and leave the body out of his own volition.Such accomplished masters with ajna chakra activated and still teaching others are rare. Unfortunately this method degenerated several centuries ago in India and other Buddhist countries.The tantriks indulged in venal practices and sexual perversions. As a result tantrik methods became a forbidden method for most Hindus.Some indulged in gruesome sacrifices and some tended to practice black magic to harm others. Some form of tantric method ,realted to Goddess worship,called " Sri Chakara Upasana" has survived.This form of worship is reduced to a form of Bhakti method. In present day western world, tantrik methods with proclivity

for teaching and practising sexual stimulation had become a 'spiritual' pastime and a means of making money.This is not the proper Kundalini yoga as understood by us. 6 Jnana Yoga methods: Jnana yogis practise viveka [discrimination] and viragya[dispassion] leading to realisation of Self which is universal Self, not the individual ego or little self.The yogis discourage practices which dwell on the body.So they are averse to Kundalini yoga. But ,along the way, the Jnanis do awaken their kundalini unsought.Many become great poets and musicians of very high order, which indicates that their vishuddhi or throat chakra had been activated. For instance Sadashiva Brahmendra and Muthuswami Dikshitar who worshipped Shakti are such examples.The former was an accomplished yogi and also an advaitin. This means that K-Yoga is not excluded from the experiences of a Jnani. Kundalini Yoga and Consciousness In simplistic explanation, awakening of Kundalini is likened to the development of consciousness at various levels in an individual. From pure body and ego consciousness, one develops compassion and love for all life and goes towards cosmic

consciousness. I would desist from simple parallels between the Kundalini and the consciousness movement which has several proponents today...But kundalini awakening and its ascent is not an intellectual approach or something to be easily described in words. The spiritual market is flooded with books on "consciousness "development or evolution which ,for the most part , are academic or intellectual fair with some form of meditation thrown in. Kundalini Yoga is a much deeper process which requires a rigorous discipline and transforming a person in certain ways which cannot be discussed here in further detail. Kundalini Yoga is not for the common man and is restricted to small groups only. This naturally excludes the mass market consciousness groups and churches, though they may derive some benefit from the knowledge of K-Yoga. Kundalini and Goddess worship In Hindu forms of worship, Kundalini worship is identified with the worship of devi or Shakti or female aspect of Shiva or his consort Parvati. It should be noted that Goddess worship is a detailed subject by itself.Many Kundalini Yogis start with worship of Mother Kali, the gruesome aspect of Divine Mother.At

one stage,they outgrow that with the awakening of Kundallini. One should read the life of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, the guru of Swami Vivekananda, to learn much about this.As mentioned earlier,many approach t e Kundalini yoga as a form of Bhakti yoga with Goddess Parvati or Uma devi as their favorite goddess or Ishta devata. Some Books There are very few books of importance in this field. Arthur Avalon , Woodruffe's books on "Serpent Power" and "Intro to tantra" are valuable and the author derived from Buddhist and Tantra tests. He dwells more on rituals in this path. An elementary but good introductory book is by Swami Sivananda Radha--"Kundalini for the West".This swamini was a disciple of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, India ,who was the founder of Divine Life Society. Swami Sivananda was a great saintly-yogi and trained many disciples including Swami Vishnudevananda and swami Venkatesananda.[ happened to meet Swami Sivananda as a school boy.] I would not recommend many other books out in the market, including those early works of Gopi Krishna and some lamas of

Tibet. Can K Yoga give rise to or develop psychic or suprenatural powers or Siddhis? The answer is a definite yes, but with the caveat that this should be used for the welfare of an individual, say one's disciple or friend or for society/community in general. it should not be used for selfish purposes or to harm others.If one indulges in nefarious activities, the Yogi or guru would suffer immeditately and face terrible consequences. It is sad to mention that in spite of this caveat, several yogis/gurus have indulged in harmful practices and brought ruin for themselves and their followers. K-Yoga --Can it be practised by non-hindus? Yes-there is no restriction at all.This method however need to be learnt properly from experienced masters,hindus or non-hindus. How K-yoga is realted to other mystic paths such as sufism? All mystic paths invlove raising Kundalini to certain chakras, though t emethods may differ widely. I have explained many methods and some impinge of so-called mystic paths.

Can K - Yoga be included in normal Hatha Yoga practice? It is better not to mix up K-Yoga with hatha yoga practise meant for large number of persons. Can mental derangement set in due to wrong practice of K -Yoga? This possibility exists. There had been instances in India.But again, any yoga practice,wrongly performed, would do more harm than good.This applies to hatha yoga and anayama as well. here again a proper guru or teacher is essential. How K-Yoga is related to Buddhism? Buddhist practices ,especially Tibetan practice or vajrayana is linked to K-yoga. Most of their practices are also tied to Bhakti yoga with goddess worship in some sects.

The author may be contacted at: nksrinivasan at hotmail dot com. ----------------------------------Om Sai Ram


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