KUNDALINI FAQ Kurt Keutzer (keutzer@Synopsys.COM) 17 Aug 1994 writes: In [4]alt.meditation

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KUNDALINI FAQ Kurt Keutzer (keutzer@Synopsys.COM) 17 Aug 1994 writes: In [4]alt.meditation, [5]alt.magick and other newsgroups there have been recurrent discussions about kundalini, kundalini yoga, [6]Siddha yoga and other related topics. I personally find FAQ's and pointers to references the most useful aspect of netnews so I hope some find some use in this FAQ. Please feel free to post and send me feedback. I especially enjoy additional tidbits on kundalini. If this FAQ is successful I'll let loose a couple others on [7]Siddha Mahayoga and intentional forms of Kundalini Yoga. KUNDALINI: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND SELECTED REFERENCES Version 1.0, August 1994 Copyright Kurt Keutzer, 1994 (keutzer@synopsys.com) The author grants the right to copy and distribute this file, provided it remains unmodified and original authorship and copyright is retained. The author retains both the right and intention to modify and extend this document. TABLE OF CONTENTS: [8]1. What is kundalini? [9]2. What does kundalini have to do with spiritual enlightenment? [10]3. Does everyone agree that kundalini awakening is necessary for enlightenment? [11]4. Is there any scientific basis for kundalini and the cakras? Do I really have to believe that all these cakras physically exist? [12]5. Is kundalini the same as prana or qi? Is Chinese qi gong a kind of kundalini yoga? [13]6. What about Tibetan Buddhism - has kundalini been known in Tibet? [14]7. Are there any other traditions that show awareness of kundalini? [15]8. So how do I awaken kundalini? [16]9. Are these methods of awakening kundalini dangerous? What about Gopi Krishna's books? [17]10. Some approaches to kundalini yoga say there is no danger in their approach - are they misrepresenting themselves? [18]11. But even if kundalini is dangerous, isn't it a faster way to enlighenment? [19]12. There have been many scandals among kundalini yoga teachers - particularly sexual scandals. Is there a correlation between sexual scandals and kundalini yoga practice? [20]13. If my kundalini is awakened will I need to change my lifestyle? [21]14. Where can I learn more? I bow to the vibrant source of my innermost bliss. What is kundalini? ``Kundalini'' literally means coiling, like a snake. In the classical literature of hatha yoga kundalini is described as a coiled serpent at the base of the spine. The image of coiling, like a spring, conveys the sense of untapped potential energy. Perhaps more meaningfully kundalini can be described as a great reservoir of creative energy at the base of the spine. From a psychological perspective kundalini can be thought of as a rich source of psychic or libidinous energy in our unconsicous. What does kundalini have to do with spiritual enlightenment? First we need a few concepts: In yogic anatomy the sushumna is the central channel and conduit for the kundalini energy that runs along our spine and up to the crown of our head. Along this channel are placed additional channel networks called cakras. These cakras are associated with major aspects of our anatomy - for example our throat, heart, solar plexus, and in turn these aspects of our anatomy are related to aspects of our human nature. For example we have many everyday associations with the heart that do not make sense relative to our physical heart. We say: `` I don't have the heart to tell him.'' ;``Take heart.'' ``She's so kind hearted.'' All of these allude to some sort of subtle functioning associated with the heart area. In many systems of spiritual practice enlightenment is precisely correlated with the kundalini awakening from its slumber at the base of the spine rising through the sushumna and ultimately reaching our crown. When the kundalini is permanently fixed in the crown then enlightenment is achieved. It's not useful to sit with our consciousness fixed in our head and think of kundalini as a foreign force running up and down our spine. Unfortunately the serpent image may serve to accentuate this alien nature of the image. It's more useful to think of kundalini energy as the very foundation of our consciousness so when kundalini moves through the sushumna and through our cakras our consciousness necessarily changes with it. So does everyone agree that kundalini awakening is necessary for enlightenment? This view is held in the diverse literature of Kashmir Shaivism and in other Hindu Tantric literature. It is found in the literature of the Hatha Yogis and the Nath Sampradaya. You will find similar views in many Buddhist Tantric works. In addition this view is held by recent spiritual figures such as Shri Ramakrishna, Swami Sivananda, Paramahamsa Yogananda and Swami Vivekananda and of course by contemporary kundalini yogins themselves. Nevertheless there are some dissenters from this view. These include Sri Chinmoy, Da Free John and Gurdjieff. Then there are many other spiritual practices, such as Zen, Vipassana meditation that consider kundalini irrelevant. Is there any scientific basis for kundalini and the cakras? Do I really have to believe that all these cakras physically exist? Research on kundalini is especially spotty. There is no compelling work to show that the system represents insights into actual human anatomy. But it's important to understand that kundalini and its network of channels and cakras is simply how yogins have chosen to explain their experience and that yogins from many cultures have arrived at similar, though not identical, concepts. The true physical mechanisms underlying these experiences may be very different from those described. Izaak Benthov has proposed a model to explain kundalini in terms of micro- motion in the brain. In this model experiences are associated with parts of the body, such as the heart, because the part of the brain associated with that part of the body is stimulated by micro-vibrations. His model is treated in ``The Kundalini Experience'' by Sannella referenced below. From a practical perspective the key thing is our subjective experience and that the roadmap of these subjective experiences has been mapped out. Is kundalini the same as prana or qi? Is Chinese qi gong a kind of kundalini yoga? There is ongoing debate among scholars as to the precise relationship between prana and kundalini. Kundalini may be defined such that it subsumes the concept of prana. Alternatively prana may be defined such that is subsumes the concept of kundalini. What is probably more relevant is to distinguish two different experiences which are often confused. In one an individual experiences some pleasant energizing electric energy running along the spine. This experience brings vitality and sensitivity. This experience may be due to the activity of kundalini moving at the base of the spine but it is not the same as kundalini rising up the spine. It is often characterized as a movement of prana or qi. Another very distinct experience is the experience of kundalini entering the sushumna and rising up the spine. As soon as kundalini enters the sushumna this experience will completely overwhelm ordinary waking consciousness. This experience much more profoundly transfigures consciousness. What about Tibetan Buddhism - has kundalini been known in Tibet? Kundalini yoga in the Natha Sampradaya and Vajrayana in Tibetan Buddhism both take their origin from the Mahasiddhas who were active in India from the 8th century to the 12th century. Kundalini yoga practices formed the core of the teachings of a number of these Mahasiddhas and are strongly represented in Tibetan Buddhist practices. Kundalini yoga was spoken of as ``Candali yoga'' by these Mahasiddhas and became known as gTummo rnal 'byor in Tibet. Candali yoga was a key practice of the famous Tibetan yogin Milarepa. Are there any other traditions that show awareness of kundalini? If you believe that kundalini is at the basis of spiritual progress then every valid spiritual tradition must have some awareness of kundalini. Christianity, Sufism, Qabalistic mysticism, alchemy and magick all have literature which demonstrates an awareness of the kundalini process but these traditions are not, to this author's awareness, so open in their exposition of the techniques and so it is hard to judge the depth of understanding latent in these traditions. Nevertheless, the imagery is so unmistakable in these traditions that each must have, at least at one time, been conversant with the movement of kundalini. So how do I awaken kundalini? Indirectly kundalini can be awakened by devotion, by selfless service, or by intellectual enquiry. Broadly speaking there are two radically different direct approaches to awakening kundalini. One approach requires initiation by a guru and relies upon a technique called shaktipat, or ``descent of shakti.'' The other approach uses intentional yogic techniques . The yoga style using shaktipat is variously called: [22]Siddha Yoga, Mahayoga, [23]Sahaja Yoga (see Siddha Mahayoga FAQ - to be released). The styles using intentional techniques include [24]Hatha Yoga, Laya Yoga and [25]Kriya Yoga (see Kundalini Yogas FAQ - to be released). Are these methods of awakening kundalini dangerous? What about Gopi Krishna's books? If we take the psychological perspective and view kundalini as the power latent in our unconscious then it is easy to understand that awakening this force is going to bring a greater amount of unconscious material into our consciousness. Even in the best of circumstances this is likely to be uncomfortable and if an individual is barely coping with his unconscious even under normal circumstances then awakening kundalini may push the individual over into psychosis. This phenomenon has been documented many times. Forceful methods of awakening kundalini pose additional dangers. Because quite forceful methods can be used to awaken kundalini these techniques themselves are potentially physically and mentally disruptive. An individual named Gopi Krishna awakened his kundalini by doing unguided meditation on his crown cakra. His life after awakening was both blessed by ecstatic bliss and tormented by physical and mental discomfort. Eventually his experience stabilized. He wrote down his experiences in a recently re-released autbiography entitled ``Living with Kundalini.'' Gopi Krishna's autobiography appears to be an honest representation of his experiences but it is only one extreme datapoint in the panorama of experience on kundalini yoga. It represents dangers in forceful unguided practice but it is not representative of a typical practicioner's experience. Some approaches to kundalini yoga say there is no danger in their approach - are they misrepresenting themselves? These approaches typically do not try to awaken the kundalini directly - at least not for some time. Instead they focus on purifying or ``magnetizing'' the central channel without awakening kundalini. One sign of such approaches is that no breath retention is used. But even if kundalini is dangerous, isn't it a faster way to enlighenment? First of all it may be useful to observe that there is no technique currently known on earth that appears to be rapidly catapulting large number of individuals toward enlightenment. Because kundalini yogas deal so directly with a powerful enlightening force it seems natural that they would be ``faster'', but there appears to be alot of tortoise and hare phenomena at work with newbie kundalini yogins. Many people begin kundalini yogas, have strong initial experiences and then become frightened. Many who perservere through this initial phase become distracted by the energy and focus on temporal and phenomenal applications of the energy. There have been many scandals among kundalini yoga teachers - particularly sexual scandals. Is there a correlation between sexual scandals and kundalini yoga practice? There have been scandals regarding the teachers of many paths, both spiritual and non-spiritual ; however, it is probably fair to say that kundalini yogins have had more than their share. An advanced kundalini yogin is typically a powerful charismatic individual who has the ability to directly influence the minds of others. Westerners often mistake this power as a sign of enlightenment and allow such teachers liberties as a result. In addition it is quite common for kundalini yoga to temporarily accentuate the sex drive. This period requires extra discipline. Finally, kundalini yoga is closely associated with tantrism and sex is often used in conjunction with tantric practice. Where sex is used there is of course the opportunity for misuse or abuse. If my kundalini is awakened will I need to change my lifestyle? It's hard to have your cake and eat it too. If you awaken kundalini in order to change and enrich your life it's reasonable to expect you may need to change your lifestyle as a result. The recommendations of both classical literature and experience is that sleep and diet will need to be moderated otherwise severe discomfort may arise. Furthermore without moderating sexual activity and physical work it will be hard to experience much success with kundalini. The extent that these elements of your life need to be change depends on the nature of the individual. While genuine mental imbalances arising from kundalini are rare nearly every kundalini yogin will find periods when one needs to be especially sensitive to needs for sleep, quiet and diet. Where can I learn more? Here are some references for further reading. They may not be the easiest books to find but they are currently in print and are very good in their categories. Note that by definition no reputable book on kundalini will tell you how to awaken your kundalini. Either by effort or by shaktipat initiation, practicing kundalini yoga requires the instruction of an experienced teacher. Some introductory practices for cleansing the channels can be learned from books. Good introductory survey: White, John (Editor) (1990). Kundalini - Evolution and Enlightenment. New York: Paragon House. Classical Works: Svatmarama (1985). The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (Swami Muktibodhananda Saraswati, Trans.). (First ed.). Munger, Bihar: Bihar School of Yoga. Silburn, L. (1988). Kundalini - Energy of the Depths (Jacques Gontier, Trans.). Albany, NY: State University of New York. _________________________________________________________________ Contemporary Kundalini Yogins: Chetanananda, S. (1991). Dynamic Stillness. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Rudra Press. Muktananda, Swami (1989b). From the Finite to the Infinite (First ed.). Volumes I &II, South Fallsburg, NY: Siddha Yoga Dham of America Foundation. Tirtha, Swami Vishnu (1980b). Devatma Shakti (Fifth ed.). Rishikesh: Yoga Shri Peeth Trust. From Tibetan Buddhism: Gyatso, Geshe Kalsang (1982). Clear Light of Bliss. London: Wisdom Publications. Psychology and Pathology of Kundalini: Greenwell, Bonnie (1990). Energies of Transformation . Shakti River Press: Cupertino, CA. Sannella, Lee (1987). The Kundalini Experience. Integral Publishing: Lower Lake, CA.

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