Mysterious kundalini. What is it? This subject finds its origins in some of the earliest and most antiquated divisions of esoteric philosophy. So, as a result, a lot of the information concerning it is remote in relationship to our modern understanding of it. A lot of attention has been given in regards to this question of “What is Kundalini?”, during the past 30 to 40 years or so within the building momentum of the “New Age” movement supposedly geared towards the raising of universal consciousness on the planet. Even some of the minds of conventional sciences have had to look at the reality of what this actually might be or questioning if it exist in actuality. So much so that we can presumably say from looking at the literature on this subject in the west, that its discussion here began closer to the turn of the late 19th century to the present. But the presence of it, has existed, if not in name, at least in concept from a much more remote time than we might originally suspect.

Some of the information written about kundalini has been attempted to be presented in a manner that quite scholarly and definitive. But really comprehensive presentations, relatively speaking, have been sparsely publicized and some other writings concerning it has been a veritable plethora of insightless stuff that has raised more questions than it has answered. Within the context of this, however, I hope to in this brief essay, shed more light on some of the more significant features of this. As an independent scholar of sorts, I cannot escape the trappings of dealing with unfamiliar terms and not be somewhat didactic. Please forgive my fifty dollar words and such but I AM attempting to be as succinct as I can in this very challenging undertaking. The earnest seeker will be rewarded with each reread that they can muster the strength to subject themselves to. I write here not to pose myself as some sort of an authority, necessarily, on the subject, but rather as a practitioner of the discipline of yoga who has been asked by a friend to share my thoughts on the subject with ALL f you. That being said, I hope that this offering will be helpful to you, if not directly, than maybe towards your taking up your own study to better understand this subject as well as my point of view.

The discussion of kundalini, really revolves essentially around experience but it involves a familiarity of the anatomy of the spirit body in order to even begin to appreciate it. A word of caution to those who may be tempted to dabble with it. It is best to have the guidance of a qualified teacher to engage the process that leads to the awakening of it. And while its energy is present and in some respects already engaged in our basic life support functioning, there are dangers in the handling of a snake whose venom is both a medicine as well as a poison.

Thus, in my attempt to later describe it, I will first lay out the topography of the subtle body, as well as the philosophy that composes the experience as best I can in descriptive terms here in part one of this essay and then share with the reader what my own understanding of it is from what my personal experiences have been in part two which will follow this one shortly. With the latter writing I will give book references that the reader may find useful about some of the things described. But I cannot overemphasize that no amount of information that I or anyone can offer can do justice to the experiential factors involved via the practices of the Eight Limbs of Yoga which I will also set to line in the second part of this exposition entitled MYSTERIOUS KUNDALINI – PART II: THE MOVEMENT OF PRIMAL ENERGY.

Within the context of the yogic tradition from which we have duly inherited this term, kundalini, it would be more correct to to inform with the seeds of clarity to ask not “What is Kundalini?”, but rather it it would be more appropriate to ask, “Who is she?” And so it is from this place that I find, based on my own study and experience that I must begin. Kundalini is described in the ancient texts as being a form of the Goddess Shakti.

The term kundalini from the Sanskrit, literally means “coiled” referring to its potential or dormant energetic state, but its meaning also alludes obliquely to the noun tense, “an ear ring” which is connotative and metaphoric expression of its relationship to sound as energy vibration. Yet such energy vibration is also of the nature of light. Kundalini is, most familiarly described, however, as a dormant and potential force that resides in the human organism. But it would be more correct to say that she is the formless power of vitality that resides in ALL life, hence her identification also with Shakti, a term which literally means “power” or “force”. All of the masculine forms of the yogic tradition admit readily that they are powerless with out their accompany feminine divinity forms which they each call their respective shaktis. Male Tantric practitioners seek union with her both from within as well as without in formal ritual or puja. It is a spiritual partnership that exists wherein the presence of women along with four other elements are essential in their worship of her. This is especially, but not exclusively the case in maithuna or ritualized sexual union with her. As the Goddess, she has been represented metaphorically in the image of a serpent that is sleeping, its body coiled three and one half times around the base of the spine. It is one of several components of an esoteric description of the “subtle body” in the yoga tradition, which consists of:

1) Prana, which is subtle energy that is composed of and enveloped in the breath.

2) Nadis, which are channels that form causeways for prana, subtle energy, to flow like the courses of a stream throughout the body. There are three main nadis:

a) Sushumna nadi, which runs straight through the center line of the body, along the spine from the sacrum to the crown of the head. The seven chakras are said to be positioned along this center line.
b) Ida nadi which runs from the left side of the body, beginning in the testicle of that side in men as well as the ovary of that side in women. And its course spirals around the center nadi until it ends on the right side of the brain.
c) Pingali Nadi which runs from the right side of the body, beginning in the testicle of that side in men as well as the ovary of that side in women. Its course spirals around the center nadi until it ends on the left side of the brain

3) Chakras, which are the seven main psychic centers or plexuses, represented in the form of lotuses with specifically numbered petals that have mantras or bijas , which are sound vibrations in the form of sacred letters of the Sanskrit alphabet associated with them. These petals which open when secretions are released in the brain and are said to be local station of accumulation of prana, i.e., life force energy, through which the nadis run that are generally said to begin in the base of the spine and extend up and into the crown of the head. These plexuses or centers have additionally been understood to have local and distal relationship in their positioning and functioning to the seven glands of the physical body via the autonomous nervous system but are generally understood to be subtle and thus understood as being immaterial although in their awakening or opening they have affect on the physical form.

4) Bindu, literally “seeds” which are identified as being drops of life essence that compose the potentiality for spiritual awareness and state of being. The object of yoga practice, in particularly beginning with but not ending with or being confined within asana or posture practice and pranayama, breath control practice is like watering these dormant seeds into sprouting that potential into actual manifestation. It is the awakening of Kundalini that releases their potentiality.

Kundalini, as aforementioned, is described as being a serpent coiled up at the base of the spine, usually within muladhara chakra. The image specifically given is that of a serpent coiled three and a half times around a smokey grey lingam or phallus. The lingam is a symbol of the sacred sexual energy of masculine divinity associated with the consort of the Goddess Shakti in the form of Lord Shiva. The term lingam literally means a “wand of light”, and thereby implies the magical/mystical properties of male sexuality in relationship to its union with feminine divinity in the form of the yoni or female sexual organ, more specifically the vulva proper and it literally is understood to mean “a sacred space”. Each of these coils of the sleeping serpent wrapped around the lingam is said to represent one of the three gunas, with the half coil signifying transcendence. Divinity is one. The practice of yoga is the science and art of living as one. We are bound to ALL life around us and our divinity by a common thread.

Guna also from the Sanskrit, literally means “a string” a single thread”, “strand of a cord or twine”. In behavioral terms it refers to “a way of functioning” or in social terms more specifically to “a human tendency”. Traditionally, throughout the schools of yoga, there are three major guṇas that are the primary operating principles or ‘tendencies’ of prakṛti or “universal nature”. These three gunas which are called: rajas guṇa, or the creative tendency, sattva guṇa, the preservation tendency and tamas guṇa, the destructive tendency. The three primary gunas.The entire creation and its process of evolution is thus considered to be carried out by these three major gunas. And they are represented metaphorically by archetypes of masculine divinity in the forms of Brahma, the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva, the Destroyer. Brahma is the consort of Saravati, Vishnu is the consort of Lakshmi and Shiva is the consort of Shakti proper. Mind you as we have mentioned these male deities ALL consider themselves powerless without sexual union with their respective forms of shaktis who provide for them the movement of kundalini’s rise within to cause their active states of functioning. Shiva and Shakti, furthermore, are the ultimate expression of this beauty of sexual bliss. Through their union, i.e., their love making the creation, preservation and destruction of the world is maintained in every stroke of their conjoined members by their hips. These have internal connotations within the sadhana or disciplined yogic practice of the individual yogi or yogini. It essentilally is the sublimation of sexual energy in a celibate or solo practice,. But it can also have meaning in the interpersonal relations of tantric practitioners who observe practice of maithuna, or sacred sex.Unfortunately more emphasis has been placed in the west on the latter without the practices of the discipline.

It is essentially through meditation, and other various esoteric practices, within the schools not styles of yogic discipline such as Kriya Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Sahaja Yoga, Hatha Yoga, etc. is the active force of kundalini awakened. It thus can be triggered to rise up through the aforementioned central nadi called sushumna,up inside the spine by the practice of the breath. The progression of kundalini in its rise ever upward once awakened through the different chakras leads to different levels of awakening and mystical experience, until it eventually reaches the crown of the head in the “Thousand-Petalled Lotus or sahasrara chakra. This, in turn is said to produce an extremely profound mystical experience that is said to be indescribable but has been labeled by such terms as nirvana, not movement or more appropriately to our discussion here, it is called ananda or bliss!

In the next half of this essay, as promised, I will share some of my own experiences. Some of them involved my solo practices and others I will share of my experience with partners that I have been blessed to have in consummate awareness. In the interim, please feel free to share this note, if you like, or ask questions, pose concerns or in general spark a conversation on any of the points. I did not want to exceed too much more information than can be reasonably grasped, although I know that many of these terms and ideas are new to many of you. But I know that I have not exhausted the subject by any means. More dissemination of authentic practice and true understanding will only come when we are ALL willing to share some of our light.

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