Who looks outside, dreams;
who looks inside, awakes.
– Carl Jung
The word Kundalini comes from a Sanskrit word “Kundal” which means “coiled”. Simply put, Kundalini is the spiritual potential that exists in every being, a potential that once unlocked, can take an individual on a journey to self actualisation.
Although the term Kundalini is derived from Sanskrit and is associated with the arms of Indian mysticism – Tantra and Yoga, the word finds mention in many religions by different names. In Judaism and Kabbalah, it is called Shekinah. In Christianity, it is the fire of the Pentacost that illuminated the apostles. In Buddhism it is known as Candali. Many ancient traditions across continents have acknowledged the existence of this energy of creation.
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, co-founder of the Theosophical Society, described Kundalini as “…an all-pervading subtle electric power, more powerful than physical electricity. Its movement is oblique like that of a serpent and so its shape is said to be like a serpent. The speed of light is one lakh eighty-five thousand miles per second but that of Kundalini is three lakh forty-five miles per second.”
Kundalini is regarded as the individualised form of feminine energy, Shakti. The opposite pole and pair of Shakti is Shiva, a male energy which resides in the crown chakra.
Let us visualise the kundalini as a treasure trove of subtle latent feminine energy, lying dormant at the base of the susumna, the central energy channel or spine of the subtle body. This energy cannot be accessed or moved because it is protected by a series of locks. These energy locks are called Chakras, spinning energy disks located in the subtle body, often depicted visually as many petalled lotuses.
In order to make its journey upward through the susumna toward the crown, the Kundalini has to penetrate these Chakras.
Yogic tradition has two main paths for achieving enlightenment. The classical path is stilling the fluctuations of mind and prana through inner focus, concentration, and meditation. The tantric path is the uncoiling of the serpent – awakening the kundalini and facilitating its upward movement via the susumna channel through seven chakras so she can unite with the male energy at crown. This union is the goal of all spiritual practice – plugging into super consciousness and achieving a state of oneness.
However, the chakras magnetize energy and prevent it from moving. It is imperative that an individual works consistently and diligently to ensure that the energy is allowed to flow in the upward direction.
How can we awaken the Kundalini and keep it moving upward?
Firstly, there is a very good reason why most religious and spiritual orders encourage their practitioners to follow humane and spiritually uplifting practices. Many spiritualists believe that doing good deeds, meditation and mantra recitation are the safest ways to send the Kundalini on its upward journey through the spinning energy disks towards the Sahasrara, the seat of Shiva.
To put it simply, the essential principle involves diminishing the identification with the self and tuning in to higher frequencies by acts of selfless service (seva) and through the amplification of the identification with one’s own divine nature.
When one begins to embody this, the Kundalini soars leading to the expansion of one’s consciousness.
However, baser human instincts like ego, greed, selfishness, desire and arrogance pull the Kundalini downward toward the base of the spine.
Paramhansa Yogananda described this perfectly when he said
The contemplative mind, attempting its return to divinity, is constantly dragged back toward the senses by the life currents. When the energy can be coaxed to reverse its flow from the senses to the brain, it reveals to our consciousness another world.
Most spiritual practices attempt to reverse the energy away from its lair at the base of the spine and unite it with the positive pole at the top of the head. When this union happens, enlightenment occurs.
The Kundalini is a constantly moving force; and it is extremely important to develop moral percepts and attitudes that facilitate the flow of energy upward.
All Sadhanas in the form of mantra recitation, meditation, audible prayers as well as all development of virtues, and observance of austerities are means to awaken this serpent-power and propel its movement toward to crown.
Kundalini can also awaken as a result of trauma, illness, a near-death experience, in a dream, through the misuse of drugs and because of past-life awakenings.
However, all traditions generally agree that it is dangerous to awaken Kundalini without the guidance of a realised Master. It is therefore accepted that the most potent way these energies are awakened is through Shaktipat , with the grace and the blessings of a Siddha Guru.
The Siva Samhita makes a mention of this,
When the sleeping goddess kundalini is awakened through the grace of guru, then all the lotuses and the bonds are readily pierced through and through.
The process of awakening the kundalini and its upward journey involves attainment of psychic abilities or Siddhis. Ironically, focusing on these psychic gifts can distance an individual from the real purpose of spiritual practice. The Guru’s grace and guidance allows the individual to expand his consciousness without allowing these attainments to impede his spiritual progress.
The kundalini is a potent energy and should not be trifled with. Many individuals use violent breathing exercises and other intense yoga practices to shake loose the life currents. The energy is akin to fire – a great power when used purposefully but extremely harmful when misused. Over-stimulating Kundalini by extremely physical and wilful means generates tremendous heat in the body and can damage the nervous system. Today, many members of the medical community recognize that incorrectly applied practices of self-study and self-discipline can lead to psychiatric and neurological disorders.
Its best that the kundalini rises safely and of its own accord as we advance spiritually. The rising serpentine power should be the result of spiritual development rather than forced physical and mechanical processes.
A seeker should focus on identifying with his/her divinity, practise uplifting spiritual practices, follow the instructions of a spiritual guide, serve selflessly, be kind and compassionate. This will propel the Kundalini upward until it takes flight in to the thousand petalled Chakra of consciousness, Sahasrara, to achieve undifferentiated bliss.