According to ancient Hindu religious teachings and yoga science, a latent force in the human organism responsible for sexual activity and (in a sublimated form) higher consciousness. In Hindu mythology kundalini—from the root word kundala meaning coiled—is personified as a goddess, sometimes with the aspect of Durga (a creator) and sometimes Kali (the destroyer) or Bhujangi (the serpent). Kundalini is often described as a serpent that sleeps at the base of the spine and, when aroused, darts upward, bringing enlightenment or pain. According to classical literature, signs of awakened kundalini are grouped into three categories: vocal, physical and mental signs. Kundalini is also believed to be connected with certain psychic powers, known to yogis as siddhis.
The traditional Hindu yoga texts state that kundalini can be aroused by a combination of hatha yoga positions, pranayama (breathing exercises), meditation, and spiritual practices. It is said much of the yogic practice is designed to release knots or blockages in the body which prevent the flow of kundalini energy. However, kundalini may emerge within one who has never performed traditional kundalini rising practices. Often it is not a matter of the seeker grasping Enlightenment, but Enlightenment snaring the seeker.
Some claim when kundalini is incorrectly aroused, physical disability or even death can result. Students are often frightened when they experience signs of kundalini if they have not been properly instructed because the characteristics of the kundalini episode can be frightening. The signs are similar to a manic or psychotic episode: spontaneous vocal expression, trembling, shaking, spontaneous postures, periods of elation or fear, visionary or hallucinatory episodes, and feelings of bliss or anxiety.
The Panchastavi is an esoteric Hindu scripture in which kundalini is addressed as the mother of all beings. The arousal of kundalini for mystical enlightenment is described in ecstatic terms:
"Flawless, exceedingly sweet and beautiful, soul-enchanting, fluent speech manifests in all ways in those [devotees] blessed with genius who keep Thee, O Shakti [power] of Shiva, the destroyer of Kamadeva [god of love] constantly in mind, as shining with the stainless luster of the moon in the head…" (3-12).
"O Goddess, rising from the cavity of Muladhara [ chakra or center at the base of the spine], piercing the six lotuses [ chakras ] like a flash of lightning, and then flowing from the moon into the immovable sky-like center [in the head] as a stream of Supreme nectar, Thou then returnest [to Thy abode]" (4-6).
These descriptions, in context, indicate that kundalini is considered to be the creative force expressed in procreation. It is also responsible for mystical enlightenment when sublimated by rising up the spine through the chakras, or psychic centers, to the highest center in the head. These centers are located in the physical vicinity of primary nerve and glandular centers which govern actions and responses of the body. From bottom to top, the chakras are commonly identified as:
Muladhara -The earth or root chakra is located at the base of the spine. It is said to be the chakra most connected with the earth, mother nature, the human animal, and the base self.
Svadhisthana -Also known as the sexual chakra, svadhisthana is found in the area of the reproductive organs. It is concerned with sexual energy, procreation, erotic feelings, and interactions.
Manipura -The third chakra is the power chakra, identified with action, will, anger, laughter, and courage. It is said to be located in the naval and the solar plexus. It is said to be "the energy of the solar system radiating in our personal lives."
Anahata -The heart chakra is located in the center of the chest and is associated with compassion, acceptance, and unconditional love. As it is located equidistant between the highest and lowest chakras, it acts as the mediator among the chakras.
Visuddha -The throat chakra, is situated in and around the larynx and therefore is known as the communication chakra. It is associated with the powers of speech, communication, and expression and is the center for mantras and other vocalizations associated with kundalini.
Ajna -The sixth center, located at the base of the nose between the eyebrows, is also known as "The Third Eye." It governs the principles of wisdom, knowing, intuition, and psychic abilities. It is where God speaks to one directly during meditation.
Sahasrara -Sahasrara, the mystic chakra, is located in the crown of the head, in the cerebrum. The mystic chakra is said to control the brain's pineal gland, unrecognized in modern medicine, but known by yogis for thousands of years. The mystic chakra is the spirit, the higher self, the connection with the Brahman. It is said to be beyond human comprehension and gurus warn again attempting to attain seventh-chakra consciousness until the nervous system is fully prepared.
There are foreshadowings of the biblical story of the Garden of Eden in the poetic myth of the serpent and the tree with the fruit of knowledge or of sexual force, and there are similar myths in many ancient religions, suggesting a lost secret of the relationship between sex and mysticism. Esoteric groups in many countries have guarded this secret. There is evidence of meditation systems in ancient Egypt, China, and Tibet that, under one name or another, taught the arousal of the serpent like force for higher consciousness instead of procreation. Many other religions have emphasized a relationship between sex and mysticism by enjoining celibacy for priests and monks.
In the nineteenth century B. D. Basu of the Indian Medical Service, in a essay entitled "The Hindu System of Medicine" (Guy's Hospital Gazette, London, 1889), identified kundalini and the chakras with nervous energy and the main plexi of the human body. This theory was elaborated by Dr. Vasant G. Rele in his book The Mysterious Kundalini (1927).
The controversial psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, originally a pupil of Freud's, developed a theory of orgone energy expressed in different segments of the human body, closely paralleling the course of kundalini through the chakras. Reich also associated this energy with sexual activity. However, he was strongly opposed to yoga, which he mistakenly considered merely a system of fixed physical positions with rigid musculature.
In the twentieth century the ancient concept of kundalini has been revived and spread in the West by several Indian teachers, such as Pandit Gopi Krishna of Srinagar, India. Gop Krishna aroused this legendary force and claimed to experience a continuing state of higher consciousness. He describes his experience in Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man (1970) and a number of other books. Among other modern Hindus who claimed to have aroused kundalini is Swami Muktanada, who was said to have the power to communicate this arousal by touch, a technique traditionally known in India as shaktipat.
Pandit Gopi Krishna believed that kundalini is an evolutionary force that will play an increasingly important part in the development of the human race and its goals, indicating new directions for both science and religion. Unfortunately, his followers have not been able to see his goal realized. Following up on the writings of Gopi Krishna, Karan Singh, union minister of health in India, announced in 1974 an ambitious kundalini research project, to be sponsored by the All-India Institute of Medical Science, to research the "Kundalini concept and its relevance to the development of higher nervous functions." The project failed, however, to secure official funding following a general election and change of government. Meanwhile, sympathizers with the work of Gopi Krishna founded the Central Institute for Kundalini Research at Srinagar, Kashmir, India, but it too became inactive following the death of Gopi Krishna in 1984.
There are now several organizations concerned with kundalini. The Kundalini Research Association International is located at Gemsenstrasse 7, 8006 Zürich, Switzerland. In the United States the Kundalini Research Foundation 's address is P.O. Box 2248, Darien, CT 06820. In Canada the FIND (Friends in New Directions) research trust publishes books and audio tapes on the work and thought of Gopi Krishna. It may be reached at R.R. 5, Flesherton, Ontario, Canada, NOC IEO. Through the Dhyanyoga Centers, located in California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maine, Shri Ananda Ma directs yogis who direct students in the awakening of kundalini. The Dhyanyoga Centers can be contacted through their website at http://www.dyc.org/.
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Condron, Barbara. Kundalini Rising: Mastering Creative Energies. Windyville, Mo.: SOM, 1992.
Gopi Krishna. The Awakening of Kundalini. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1975.
Greenwell, Ph.D, Bonnie Energies of Tranformation: A Guide to the Kundalini Process Saratoga, Calif.: Shakti River Press, 1995
——. The Biological Basis of Religion and Genius. New York: Harper & Row, 1972.
——. Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man. Boulder, Colo.: Shambhala, 1970.
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Madhusudaandasji, Shri Dhyanyogi. "The Path of Kundalini Maha Yoga." http://www.dyc.org/. May 8, 2000.
Narayananda, Swami. The Primal Power in Man of the Kundalini Shakti. Risikesh, India: N. K. Prasad, 1950.
Radha, Swami Sivananda, Kundalini Yoga for the West Spokane, Wash.: Timeless Books, 1978
Rele, Vasant G. The Mysterious Kundalini. Bombay: Taraporevala, 1927.
Savola, Marja, "Kundalini-Network in Denmark." http://home5swipnet.se. May 8, 2000.
Selby, John Kundalini Awakening: A Gentle Guide to Chakra Activation and Spiritual Growth New York: Bantam Books, 1992
Vyasdev, Brahmachari Swami. Science of Soul (Atma Vijnana). Gangotri, India: Yoga Niketan Trust, 1964.
kundalini: see yoga.