Kundalini Yoga — as Envisioned by the Ancient Yogis

Kundalini Yoga — as Envisioned by the Ancient Yogis


An astonishing energy, known as kundalini,
is said to lay coiled at the base of the spine, dormant, like a sleeping snake. This serpent energy can be woken from its
slumber by the practice of certain yoga postures, breathing exercises, and mantras. Aroused by these practices, kundalini surges
upwards through an invisible network of nerves, and pierces six lotus-like chakras, releasing
waves of ecstasy. When it reaches a magnificent, thousand petalled
lotus at the crown of the head, kundalini is said to merge into pure consciousness and
endow the practitioner with enlightenment. What is this extraordinary yogic practice
and its so-called serpent energy? And where did these esoteric teachings come
from? My name is Swami Tadatmananda. From 1981 onwards, I studied under a traditional
Indian guru, Swami Dayananda, who ordained me as a Hindu monk. I’d like to invite you to join me for this
unique exploration of kundalini yoga. We’ll seek out the roots of this tradition
and explore the intricacies of its practice. We’ll examine certain controversies and misconceptions. And I’ll share my own personal experience
of practicing kundalini yoga. For almost 30 years, I’ve taught the profound
spiritual truths of Advaita Vedanta, the complexities of Sanskrit language, and meditation. Because meditation helped me so much, I developed
a great love for leading others to discover its benefits. Over the years, I learned that that no single
meditation technique is equally effective for all meditators. Every person is unique. For this reason, I teach a wide variety of
meditation techniques. But somehow, I’ve never taught kundalini yoga. Why? There are two main reasons. First of all, my guru strenuously warned us
about a problem he called ‘experience seeking.’ He said that conventional life is driven by
the never-ending pursuit of new and better experiences. People love to watch new movies, dine at trendy
restaurants, and travel to exotic places. But experiences like these can never lead
to perfect peace and contentment. As a young man, Swami Dayananda observed the
problem of experience seeking when he lived in Rishikesh, a sacred town in the foothills
of the Himalayas. In the 1960’s, he was sought out by American
and European hippies, who had indulged in sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and now, they
wanted to experience meditation! But, if meditation is just another experience
to be enjoyed, then it’s not so different from sex, drugs, or anything else. In this way, some practitioners of kundalini
yoga might merely be seeking exciting new experiences, instead of seeking spiritual
growth. It’s easy to fall into the trap of experience
seeking, especially when this yogic practice seems to hold the promise of bliss and ecstasy. The other reason I’ve avoided teaching kundalini
yoga is that I’m completely turned off by the way it’s been distorted and misrepresented
by contemporary Western yogis. I’m tired of seeing dazzling, rainbow hued
chakras and bodies emitting fountains of light from every pore. Images like these portray a practice that
has virtually nothing in common with its ancient origins. Yet, people seem drawn to glitzy illustrations
and trendy new-age beliefs. On the other hand, kundalini yoga is an authentic
spiritual tradition whose roots go back at least two thousand years. In ancient India, the holy sages, known as
rishis, sought enlightenment by exploring within their bodies and minds to discover
the supreme divinity hidden deep inside. Their remarkable insights and the special
techniques they devised were recorded in Sanskrit scriptures called upanishads. A total of 108 upanishads are included in
the Vedas, the main scriptures for all Hindu religious and spiritual practices. Twenty of those upanishads are dedicated to
the theory and practice of kundalini yoga. Those yoga upanishads are the ultimate source
for the entire body of teachings on kundalini yoga. The separate tradition of Advaita Vedanta,
which I follow, is based on twelve other upanishads, which are focused on gaining spiritual knowledge
rather than yogic practice. All 108 upanishads contain the sacred revelations
of the rishis, so it seems hypocritical for me to study only the twelve vedantic upanishads,
and to ignore the twenty yoga upanishads, as I have for decades. I had to admit the narrowness of my studies,
and this led me to begin a research project, a project that developed into the film you’re
watching now. This project has two parts. First, to thoroughly explore the teachings
of kundalini yoga, relying exclusively on the 20 yoga upanishads, and studying them
in the original Sanskrit, along with their Sanskrit commentaries. By setting aside all yogic teachings that
evolved later, I can focus on what the rishis themselves taught. The second part of the project is to personally
undertake the practice of kundalini yoga, exactly as the rishis conceived it. When I began this venture, I wondered, what
will I discover? Will I hear celestial sounds and see inner
visions like some practitioners? More importantly, I wondered if my inquiry
would confirm or contradict the teachings of Advaita Vedanta I’ve followed for so long. Right now, I don’t know what the outcome of
this experiment will be, but, that’s the whole idea of an experiment, isn’t it? This is the book I’ve been studying in preparation
for this project. It contains all 20 yoga upanishads and their
commentaries. It will serve as a travel guide for the path
we’re about to explore. I haven’t started my formal practice of kundalini
yoga yet, but when I do, I’ll share those experiences with you. Kundalini yoga became well-known in the West
largely as the result of a 1967 book in which Gopi Krishna described his amazing experiences
of kundalini. Gopi Krishna was a government employee from
North India whose intense meditation had awakened his dormant kundalini with astonishing and
sometimes harrowing results. His book reached the shores of America just
at the time when the hippies had taken great interest, both in Hindu mysticism and in psychedelic
experiences from hallucinogenic drugs like LSD. Gopi Krishna’s mind-bending encounters with
kundalini seemed to resemble the LSD experiences of the hippies, and this perhaps, attracted
them to kundalini yoga. As a rebellious teenager, I also experimented
with LSD way back then, but I didn’t read Gopi Krishna’s book until years later. When spiritual teachings leave the lands of
their origin and are retold in different cultures and in different languages, they’re subject
to being revised or altered in various ways. Some changes are necessary, like the translation
of Sanskrit scriptures into English. But other changes can muddle or distort the
meaning of the original texts. And, all too often, spiritual teachings become
totally corrupted when they’re misinterpreted by people whose perspectives are utterly foreign
to the originals. For example, a famous book on the seven chakras
written by C.W. Leadbeater was filled with Western occultism and doctrines of the Theosophical
Society of which Leadbeater was member. Carl Jung, the famous psychoanalyst, gave
a seminar on kundalini yoga as a method for individuation, which is a special therapeutic
process he devised. More recently, Yogi Bhajan brought his highly
personalized version of kundalini yoga from India to the United States, replacing its
traditional Sanskrit mantras with others from his own Sikh religion. Swami Muktananda also introduced kundalini
yoga to Westerners, teaching a version extensively adapted by the Kashmiri Shaiva tradition to
which he belonged. Now, I don’t mean to imply that all these
derivative teachings are useless. Many spiritual seekers have benefitted from
them. I myself meditated with disciples of Swami
Muktananda as a young man. But, these modern spin-offs are not at all
in alignment with what the ancient rishis taught, and as a result, something of great
value has been lost. As kundalini yoga became more and more integrated
into Western culture, it began to lose its original identity, and eventually, it was
totally reshaped through the process of cultural appropriation. When a native American war bonnet is donned
by a famous model, or when bindis, which are sacred to Hindus, are worn by a popular singer,
these cultural forms are appropriated and adapted, without due respect for their time-honored
traditions. The original meanings of these cultural forms
are stripped away, and replaced by current fashions. Kundalini yoga has also fallen prey to cultural
appropriation. Westernized versions of the chakras present
them in hues of the rainbow instead of their traditional colors, and associate them with
emotions, which the rishis never intended. Chakras even get mixed up with other cultures,
like this Greek symbol and this ancient Egyptian figure. The New Age movement has commodified the chakras,
using them to advertise crystals, colorful stones, scented oils, and self-improvement
seminars. On a more serious note, a very damaging adaptation
of kundalini yoga has arisen due to the problem of experience seeking we discussed before. There’s an interesting story about this. Years ago, my guru asked me to drive him to
an ashram in New York State to meet an elderly swami who taught kundalini yoga. We were invited into a large room where the
guru and his students sat in meditation. After several minutes of perfect silence,
one of the meditators suddenly shrieked, and her body jerked violently. Swami Dayananda was so startled, he almost
fell out of his chair. Over the next half hour, several other meditators
had similar reactions. After our visit, I asked Swami Dayananda about
this. He said, these students were taught that whenever
a chakra is pierced, kundalini will produce spontaneous vocalizations and body movements. This isn’t taught in the yoga upanishads. But when students are led to believe that
occasional shrieks and jerks are sure signs of progress, a suggestion is planted in their
minds that can trigger reactions later. Psychologists say that suggestions like these
work in the same way as placebos. A patient’s trust in a doctor enables a placebo
to actually produce desirable effects. Similarly, student’s trust in a guru enables
meditation to produce reactions like those we observed. Swami Dayananda was highly critical of the
way kundalini yoga is usually taught, and he put the blame on the problem of experience
seeking. He said, many modern gurus put far too much
emphasis on gaining spiritual experiences, and not enough emphasis on gaining spiritual
wisdom. All experiences are temporary, including experiences
of kundalini. After a powerful spiritual experience comes
and goes, you might remain utterly unchanged, unless you actually learn something from that
experience. That’s exactly what happened to me when I
experimented with LSD as a reckless teenager. I had transcendent experiences and a sense
of complete oneness with the cosmos. But after the drug wore off, I found myself
no wiser than before. I failed to learn anything from those experiences. For this reason, the ultimate goal of spiritual
practice is not to produce short-lived experiences, but rather, to reveal the true divine nature
of the consciousness within us. According to the ancient rishis, our true
nature is divine — it is eternal, limitless, and untouched by worldly affliction. If that’s so, why are we still subject to
suffering? The problem is — the inner divinity is covered
by a veil of ignorance that obscures it and prevents us from recognizing its nature. The goal of spiritual practice, then, is to
remove that ignorance and discover the innate, ever-present divinity within. Look at this passage from the Yoga Tattva
Upanishad: Suffering is due to ignorance. Spiritual knowledge frees you from suffering. And that knowledge is to discover the true,
divine nature of your own consciousness. Enlightenment is the personal discovery of
your innate divinity. This discovery takes place when the veil of
ignorance is removed. And removing that ignorance requires spiritual
knowledge, because knowledge alone destroys ignorance. But then, where does kundalini yoga come into
the picture? If enlightenment is gained through spiritual
knowledge, then what’s the point of raising your kundalini and piercing your chakras? To answer this, we have to discern two distinct
factors that are required to accomplish anything, factors the rishis called primary cause and
secondary cause. If you want to make rotis for lunch from flour
and water, the primary cause is fire, since a fire’s heat can bake bread. A stove and pan are also needed, but they
don’t produce heat, so they’re considered secondary causes. For any goal, primary and secondary causes
are both necessary; without a fire, stove, or pan, you won’t have any rotis to eat. This demonstrates an important point: Spiritual
knowledge is the primary cause for enlightenment, because it can remove the veil of ignorance
and reveal the divinity within. But yoga is the secondary cause. So,without yoga, enlightenment is impossible. Both spiritual knowledge and yoga are required,
as the Yoga Tattva Upanishad says: Without yogic practice, how can spiritual knowledge
free you from suffering? Without spiritual knowledge, how can yogic
practice free you from suffering? Both are required for liberation. Many kinds of yogic practices can help you
gain enlightenment, including karma yoga – selfless service, raja yoga – meditation, bhakti yoga
– devotion, hatha yoga – postures and breathing exercises, and of course, kundalini yoga. Another important yogic practice, closely
related to kundalini yoga, is pilgrimage, traveling to a sacred place. The goal of pilgrimage is to be blessed by
the deity residing in a sacred place, usually inside a special temple. Yet, the rishis taught that the divinity residing
in each temple also resides in you, inside your own body. And they envisioned sacred places in the body
to be visited through an inner pilgrimage. This inner pilgrimage is a meditation practice
in which you deliberately imagine particular deities and sacred places within your body. The Darshana Upanishad says, The Himalayas
are at the top of your head. Lord Shiva dwells on your forehead. The sacred city of Varanasi is between your
eyebrows. Kurukshetra, where the Mahabharata war was
fought, is in your chest. Prayaga, where sacred Ganga and Yamuna rivers
meet, is in your heart. The practice of kundalini yoga is a kind of
inner pilgrimage. It begins at the muladhara chakra at the base
of your spine, and concludes at the sahasrara chakra at the crown of your head. During this pilgrimage, you are to meditate
on the deity residing in each chakra and receive the blessings needed for your onwards journey. Long before modern medical science, the rishis
mapped out the life-force in our bodies using their powers of intuition. Their pre-scientific model called this life-force,
prana, and identified five kinds: prana, in the heart, apana, in the trunk of the body,
vyana, pervading the body, udana, in the throat, and samana, in the stomach. These five pranas circulate throughout the
body following specific routes called nadis. Nadi is often translated as nerve, but it’s
not a physical tube or conduit. The nadis and pranas are not material in nature;
they’re subtle, non- tangible. Your brain is tangible; it weighs about two
pounds. But your mind is not tangible; it has no size
or weight. In the same way, the nadis and pranas are
non-tangible, subtle, unlike the nerves and blood vessels in your body. There are three main nadis, the sushumna which
rises inside your spine from its base to the crown of the head, the ida, which terminates
at your left nostril, and the pingala, which terminates at your right nostril. There are many other nadis in your body. They’re said to number 72,000 altogether. The sushumna nadi links together all 7 chakras. Chakra means wheel, but they’re usually described
as lotus flowers. According to the Yoga Cudamani Upanishad,
The muladhara chakra at the base of the spine has four petals. The svadhishtana chakra above it has six petals. The manipura chakra at the navel has ten petals. The anahata chakra at the heart has twelve
petals. The vishuddha chakra at the throat has 16
petals. The ajna chakra between the eyebrows has two
petals. And the sahasrara chakra at the crown of the
head has 1000 petals. Since the chakras are like flowers, they’re
actually turned upwards, not outwards. Lotus flowers symbolize purity. Even though they’re rooted in the slimy, stinking
muck at the bottom of a pond, their pristine beauty remains untainted. And even though chakras are located inside
an impure human vessel, their sanctity remains untainted. Before we examine the seven chakras in detail,
there’s an important question we have to consider. Do chakras and nadis actually exist inside
our bodies, or are they just concepts envisioned by the rishis long ago? When addressing this question, many scholars
and practitioners fall into the trap of treating nadis and chakras identically: either both
are real, or both are imagined. But, this assumption turns out to be incorrect. First of all,
nadis belong to a pre-scientific model of the human nervous system, but the seven chakras
are not part of that model, because chakras are not involved in channeling prana throughout
the body. Nadis direct the flow of prana, not chakras,
which serve a very different purpose. To understand how chakras are different, consider
this: Nadis are widely referred to in all 108 upanishads, but chakras are mentioned
mostly in the 20 yoga upanishads. This shows that that chakras have a more specialized
role than nadis, a role specific to the practice of kundalini yoga. What is that role? Chakras are richly symbolic forms that have
been envisioned by the rishis and deliberately superimposed on the body for the sake of meditation,
like the deities and sacred places in the body imagined during the practice of inner
pilgrimage. Deliberate superimposition, of this sort,
is widely used, like when we superimpose the God of the cosmos on statues standing barely
three feet tall, or when we superimpose monetary value on little bits of paper. Such symbolism is powerful and useful, as
it is in kundalini yoga, when chakras and their associated deities are deliberately
superimposed at locations along the spine to serve as focal points for meditation. Now we can see the difference between nadis
and chakras. Nadis are part of a model for the human nervous
system, which obviously exists. Chakras, on the other hand, are deliberately
superimposed on the body, and are to be visualized during meditation. To explain this difference, scholars say we
have to differentiate between descriptive statements and prescriptive statements. Descriptive statements describe the nature
of existent things, whereas prescriptive statements prescribe or specify what we should or shouldn’t
do. When we interpret scriptures, it’s crucial
to correctly determine which statements are descriptive and which are prescriptive. But, it’s not always obvious. One upanishad says, The human body is a leather
sack filled with stinking pus, urine, and feces. This is not a descriptive statement because
its intent is not to give a factual description of the body. This is a prescriptive statement because its
aim is to prescribe detachment towards our bodies and those of our loved ones. When the rishis portrayed the seven chakras,
their intent was not to describe objects that actually exist in the body. Rather, they prescribed a practice in which
chakras, deliberately superimposed on the body, were to be visualized for the sake of
meditation. Of course, not everyone agrees with this. Many modern practitioners believe that chakras
truly exist inside their bodies. Fortunately, this belief is extremely helpful
in the practice of kundalini yoga. To believe in the divinity of a three-foot
tall statue on an altar helps people pray. To believe that these little bits of paper
are valuable helps us buy things. And to believe that chakras truly exist inside
the body helps practitioners meditate. All these beliefs are helpful. The value of a belief is not in its veracity,
but in its ability to help us. Beliefs are not right or wrong; they are helpful
or harmful. And to believe in the existence of chakras
is an exceedingly helpful belief, one that need not be challenged or dismissed. The word kundalini means coiled and shakti
means power or energy. The rishis prescribed visualizing kundalini
shakti as a powerful serpent coiled up at the base of the spine. Why a serpent? Because they’re powerful: without arms or
legs, they move swiftly and strike fiercely. And, snakes are deeply revered in Hindu culture. After shedding their skin, they’re figuratively
reborn, and therefore associated with the rebirth of human souls. Serpents also play important roles in many
popular mythological stories. Kundalini shakti is best understood in its
philosophical context. The creation of the universe is said to result
from the union of Shiva, the masculine principle, and Shakti, the feminine principle. Here, Shiva and Shakti are not the four-armed
deities familiar to Hindus. Shiva is the fabric of reality that gives
existence to everything, like clay gives existence to pots and bowls. Because clay is inert, a separate creative
force is needed to transform it into various objects. Similarly, Shiva lacks the creative force
needed to produce the universe. Only when Shiva is accompanied by Shakti’s
infinite creative power can the universe arise. Shakti infuses everything in the cosmos with
energy, including every atom in your body. In this way, Shakti is present within you,
and it is this inner presence that is called kundalini shakti. If kundalini shakti is dormant, sleeping at
the base of your spine, then, how is it to be awakened? The Yoga Kundali Upanishad says: The sleeping
kundalini is awakened by agitating it, like hitting a snake with a stick. It then stands erect and enters the sushumna
nadi, like a snake entering its burrow. To awaken kundalini shakti, the yoga upanishads
prescribe a variety of asanas, pranayamas, and muscle contractions known as bandhas. It’s interesting that a method known as shaktipaat
is not discussed anywhere in the upanishads. Shaktipaat is a special blessing from a guru
– like a mantra, or even a mere touch or glance – that is said to immediately awaken your
kundalini. The use of shaktipaat is widely accepted by
modern teachers, even though the rishis never mentioned it. Once kundalini shakti has been awakened and
starts its ascent, some practitioners, like Gopi Krishna, report having amazing experiences
— mystical visions, celestial sounds, ecstasy. But, if the chakras and kundalini serpent
were deliberately superimposed by the rishis, and don’t truly exist, then how could these
experiences arise? For practitioners who strongly believe that
the chakras and kundalini serpent actually exist inside their bodies, the mind’s marvelous
power of suggestion is certainly capable of producing such experiences. The practice of kundalini yoga reaches its
climax when kundalini finally ascends to the sahasrara chakra. The Yoga Kundali Upanishad says: Having pierced
the six chakras, kundalini shakti merges with Shiva at the thousand-petaled lotus at the
crown of the head. That is the supreme state. That is the cause for liberation. This verse is easily misinterpreted, unless
we bear in mind our earlier discussions. Some contend that kundalini yoga is a self-sufficient
means for liberation or enlightenment. But, all forms of yoga, including kundalini
yoga, are secondary causes for enlightenment. To get enlightened through kundalini yoga
alone is like making rotis with a pan and stove, but no fire. The primary cause for enlightenment is spiritual
knowledge, which removes the veil of ignorance and reveals your true nature. Kundalini yoga helps you gain that knowledge
by leading you to a state of meditative absorption known as samadhi. Samadhi is the goal of many meditation techniques,
and for good reason. In that state of absorption, all distracting
mental activities are removed, and all that remains is you, your true nature, stripped
of everything that’s not you. After emerging from samadhi, you have an opportunity
to grasp a life-changing lesson from that unique experience — that your true nature
is pure consciousness, utterly independent of your body, mind, and the world around you. In this way, the state of samadhi produced
by kundalini yoga can be a gateway to enlightenment, as the the Trishikhi Brahmana Upanishad says:
A yogi whose mind is absorbed gains liberation as effortlessly as a fruit already in the
palm of his hand. We’ve just completed a rather complex inquiry. Next, we’ll focus on the actual practice of
kundalini yoga. So far, we’ve been studying the guidebook
for the inner pilgrimage mapped out by the rishis. Now, it’s time for us to begin the actual
journey, and follow in their footsteps by practicing kundalini yoga as they themselves
conceived it. This is where I meditate every day. I usually start with prayer and devotional
meditation, which help balance the lofty Vedantic meditations I practice next. Starting tomorrow, I’m going to set aside
this routine and focus exclusively on the practice of kundalini yoga. You can join me in this practice by using
the teachings that follow as a guide. I’m eager to begin this new adventure. But when I reflect on my guru’s negative comments
about kundalini yoga, I feel a bit uneasy. If he were still alive, I might not have undertaken
this project. Our inner pilgrimage begins with the muladhara
chakra at the base of the spine. Mula means root, and this chakra is the root
or starting place for this practice. Each of the lowest five chakras represent
one of the five elements known in ancient times – earth, water, fire, air, and space
– from the most gross, earth, to the most subtle, space. Inside the muladhara chakra, the element earth
is represented by a yellow square. It’s interesting that the yoga upanishads
specify colors for each of the five elements, but they say nothing about the color of each
chakra. The colors used here are based on later scriptural
traditions. You’ll often see Sanskrit letters adorning
the petals of each chakra, but these letters aren’t mentioned in the yoga upanishads; they
were a later addition. The yoga upanishads do specify mantras, not
for the chakras, but for each of the five elements. Lam is the mantra for the element earth. Chakras are often depicted with these mantras
drawn inside, but mantras are for recitation, not for visualization. Each chakra is the abode of a particular deity
to be meditated upon during one’s inner pilgrimage. For the muladhara chakra, the deity is Brahma,
God in its aspect as creator of the universe. So, the muladhara or root chakra is associated
both with the element earth, the root of all matter, and with Brahma, the root of existence
itself. In meditation, Brahma is to be visualized
according to the scriptures: seated on a lotus, with four arms and four heads. I’ve just finished my first meditation. For many years, I focused my attention between
my eyebrows, so it wasn’t difficult to concentrate on the base of the spine instead. With my attention fixed there, I visualized
the muladhara chakra while reciting the earth mantra, lam. I reflected on how the element earth is the
basis for my physical existence, for every atom in my body. Then, I imagined Brahma residing in the chakra,
and I settled into a deeply prayerful mood, feeling God’s divine presence within me. The ability to become deeply absorbed in devotion
is one of the many benefits of regular meditation. I find this prayerful state very nurturing
and healing. In that state, I sought Brahma’s blessings
for success on the journey that’s just begun. In order to proceed, we have to consult the
Yoga Chudamani Upanishad which says, Within the muladhara chakra is a yoni, and within
that yoni is a great linga. The words yoni and linga often denote the
female and male sex organs, but here, yoni means kundalini shakti, the feminine principle
we discussed before, and the word linga signifies Shiva as pure consciousness, the masculine
principle. In the muladhara chakra, kundalini shakti
is depicted as a powerful serpent…. and Shiva is depicted as a rounded linga encircled
by that serpent. Intimate contact between the serpent and linga
is said to generate heat or fire. According to the rishis, certain yogic practices
can kindle that fire until it becomes hot enough to wake up the dormant kundalini serpent
and drive it out of the muladhara chakra, upwards, into the sushumna nadi which emerges
from the top. To kindle the fire in the muladhara chakra,
the yoga upanishads prescribe several asanas, pranayamas, and bandhas. One, is mula-bandha which entails contracting
the muscles at the anus. Another, is a type of pranayama known as bhastrika,
which involves rapid, forceful exhalations, together with pulsations of the abdomen muscles.. These techniques are said to force prana into
the muladhara chakra, fanning the flames, so to speak, to produce enough heat to force
the kundalini upwards. In tomorrow’s meditation, I’ll try these techniques. While meditating today, I visualized a roaring
fire inside the muladhara chakra as I practiced mula-bandha. After each inhalation, I briefly retained
my breath and contracted the sphincter muscles. After a while, those muscles got tired, so
I switched to bhastrika pranayama. It’s often called bellows breath, because
of its vigorous exhalations. Bellows are used to force air into a fire
to raise its temperature. Bhastrika pranayama certainly raised my temperature;
it’s very energizing. With each exhalation, I also pulsed my abdomen
muscles, which shook the organs inside the trunk of my body, where the muladhara chakra
is located. This shaking is said to help wake up the serpent
sleeping there. Have you ever noticed how sensations like
itches, hunger and thirst become stronger when you focus your attention on them? That’s due to the power of suggestion, which
can actually be used as an valuable tool for meditation. Long ago, I found that by concentrating my
attention anywhere in my body, like between my eyebrows, I could produce various sensations
there. Today, as I visualized a fire blazing away
in the muladhara chakra, I began to feel a sense of warmth at the base of my spine. This physical sensation arose due to the combined
effects of mula-bandha, bhastrika pranayama, and the power of suggestion. Since kundalini yoga is based on chakras that
have been deliberately superimposed, the power of suggestion is crucial for its effectiveness. Skillful meditators intentionally wield this
power in their practice. For those meditators who believe that chakras
truly exist inside their bodies, the power of suggestion works unconsciously, and, it’s
actually strengthened by their beliefs, making their practice more effective than for someone
like me who doesn’t share their beliefs. Such is the nature of the power of suggestion. Each day I practice, the sense of warmth at
the base of my spine seems to grow more intense. So today, I shifted the point of my concentration
upwards, away from the muladhara chakra and towards the svadhisthana chakra above it. Not surprisingly, the sense of warmth at the
base of my spine also moved upwards. Could this modest experience be the initial
ascent of kundalini shakti? Shouldn’t it be something more dramatic? Some practitioners report having intense,
and even tumultuous experiences when kundalini begins its ascent. But every practitioner is different. Besides, what rises from chakra to chakra
is energy, like heat, not a snake. The snake is a deliberate superimposition
of the rishis who prescribed that meditators should shift their point of concentration
upwards, from one chakra to the next. Yet, for many practitioners, kundalini seems
to begin its ascent spontaneously, and continue to rise without any deliberate effort whatsoever. All such experiences could certainly be brought
about by the mind’s power of suggestion. Today, I began to meditate on the svadhisthana
chakra. Since my kundalini has apparently begun its
ascent, there’s no need to kindle the fire in the muladhara chakra anymore, so I stopped
practicing mulabandha and bhastrika pranayama. Instead, I visualized the svadhisthana chakra,
also known as the sacral chakra. Svadhisthana means the seat of existence,
and this chakra is fittingly located at your seat, the sacrum. It has six petals and is associated with the
element water, which is represented by a white crescent moon. Vam is the mantra for the element water. The deity abiding in this chakra is Vishnu,
God in its aspect as sustainer of the universe. Just as the element water sustains life, Vishnu
sustains the world. Vishnu is generally depicted with blue skin
and four arms. I visualized the svadhisthana chakra while
reciting the water mantra, vam, and reflecting on how water sustains my life. Then, I imagined Vishnu residing in the chakra,
and once again, I settled into a deeply prayerful mood. Today, after visualizing the svadhisthana
chakra as I did yesterday, I became aware of the sense of warmth
at my sacrum. The sensation grew stronger when I focused
on it more intensely. And when I shifted my attention upwards, towards
the manipuura chakra, the sense of warmth also climbed upwards. I’m a bit surprised to progress from chakra
to chakra so quickly, but it’s likely that all my prior meditation practice has helped
me a lot. For the past two days, I’ve been meditating
on the manipura chakra. Manipura means abode of gems. It’s also called nabhi chakra, because it’s
located behind the nabhi or navel. It not accurate to call it solar plexus chakra,
because that plexus is located well above the navel. The manipura chakra has ten petals and is
associated with the element fire, which is represented by a red triangle. Ram is the mantra for the element fire. The deity abiding in this chakra is Rudra,
a fierce aspect of Shiva, usually depicted as a warrior or hunter. In meditation, I visualized the manipura chakra
and recited the fire mantra, ram. When I reflected on the element fire, it became
obvious how the expression, fire in the gut, made its way into the English language. This region seems to be associated with power,
will, and assertiveness. I could sense these qualities with my attention
focused there. It’s no surprise that a powerful deity like
Rudra abides in the manipura chakra. For me, meditating on Rudra is like watching
a violent thunderstorm that evokes great awe and respect, mixed with a little bit of fear. In today’s meditation, after visualizing the
manipura chakra, I focused on the sense of warmth behind my navel. As before, the more I observed it, the stronger
it grew. Then, I shifted my attention upwards, to the
center of my chest where the anahata chakra is located. The sense of warmth rose from the navel and
gradually expanded, filling my chest. For three days now, I’ve been meditating on
the anahata chakra, the so-called heart chakra, located along the spine at chest level. Anahata means that which cannot be struck,
injured or killed, referring to one’s soul. This chakra has twelve petals and is associated
with the element air, aptly so, being near the lungs. The element air is represented by a smoky,
six-pointed figure. Yam is the mantra for the element air. The deity abiding in the anahata chakra is
a beneficent form of Shiva, depicted as looking in all directions simultaneously, to bless
everyone. Shiva is often called god of destruction,
but it might be more accurate to call him, god of transformation, purification, and growth,
since all these depend on the destruction of a prior condition, so a new and better
state can arise. When I visualized the anahata chakra, my attention
was drawn to the air passing into and out of my lungs. Air is constantly in motion, and it’s this
movement of air that fills us with life. When I meditated on Shiva, I felt deeply grateful
for the gift of life we receive with each and every breath. In today’s meditation I focused on the sense
of warmth that filled my chest. Once again, it grew stronger and rose when
I shifted my attention upwards, to my throat, where the vishuddha chakra is located. I’ve completed two more meditations, focusing
on the vishuddha chakra, located at the throat. Vishuddha means pure, untainted. This chakra has sixteen petals and is associated
with the element space, which is represented by a transparent circle. Ham is the mantra for this element. The deity abiding in the vishuddha chakra
is the bi-gendered form of Shiva, whose right side is male and left side is female. This form of Shiva reminds us that none of
us are exclusively male or female; nature is exuberant in its diversity and avoids such
absolute divisions. Meditating on this form helped me accept feminine
qualities which are as much a part of me as the masculine ones. In today’s meditation, I observed the sense
of warmth in my throat, and as before, it moved upwards when I shifted my attention
to the ajna chakra, between my eyebrows. Ajna means a command or order, which shows
this chakra’s association with the mind, our so-called command center. Even though the ajna chakra is located
between the eyebrows, to call it third eye chakra is problematic, since the yoga upanishads
make no references to a third eye. The ajna chakra is completely different from
the others. It’s not associated with a particular deity
or any of the five elements. And since it’s not associated with an element,
it has no mantra, although later traditions associate it with the mantra, om. The ajna chakra stands at the threshold between
the five elemental chakras in the body below and the transcendent sahasrara chakra above. From muladhara upwards, each chakra has an
increasing number of petals, but the ajna has only two. The yoga upanishads are curiously silent about
symbolic meanings for these petals. In fact, the rishis provide surprisingly few
details about any of chakras. Many of the details and the elaborate symbolism
that exists today was established by later generations of yogis, and compiled into Sanskrit
texts, like the famous sixteenth century work, Exposition of the Six Chakras. The rishis seem to have deliberately left
many details up to the imagination of practitioners, and this suggests that the rishis’ creative
use of deliberate superimposition could legitimately be used by later practitioners as well. Based on this, modern adaptations, like rainbow-hued
chakras, could certainly be considered acceptable, so I have to reconsider my earlier condemnation
of what I called, distortions and misrepresentations of contemporary Western yogis. If a particular adaptation is truly helpful
for practitioners, then it need not be criticized. But we can’t be naive; not all adaptations
are helpful. Some might even be detrimental, like modifications
introduced by unqualified teachers or by gurus with ulterior motives like those who charge
a fee for shaktipaat. Ok. Let’s return to the ajna chakra. Even though the rishis don’t specify a deity
for this chakra, they do prescribe visualizing a linga of light, by which they mean a form
of Shiva as pure consciousness within the ajna chakra. I’m back on familiar ground now, because meditating
on pure consciousness is central to advaita Vedanta. But there’s a misnomer here – you can’t actually
meditate on consciousness because as the meditator, you are that very consciousness. You can only meditate on objects in your mind
which are illumined by the light of consciousness. So, in Vedanta, to meditate on consciousness
means to meditate on the meditator, that is, to reflect on your own essential nature as
pure consciousness. Today, while visualizing the ajna chakra between
my eyebrows, I reflected on how my mental image of a two-petaled lotus can be observed
by me because it’s illumined by consciousness, the same pure consciousness which is my true
nature. That consciousness is utterly independent
of the mind, body, and world; it transcends them all. Having reached this lofty perspective, I think
I’m ready for the final stage of practice, when kundalini shakti ascends to the sahasrara
chakra. Sahasra means one thousand, which is the number
of petals in the sahasrara chakra at the crown of the head. The rishis give no further details about this
chakra. In fact, in many texts, the sahasrara is not
considered a chakra at all. It lies beyond the chakras, outside the body;
it’s usually depicted on the outer surface of the head, not within it. In Hindu scripture, the number one thousand
stands for infinity, suggesting that the sahasrara chakra is infinite in height and breadth,
infinite in brilliance, infinite in splendor. When kundalini shakti finally reaches this
limitless expanse, it’s amazing journey is complete. According to the rishis, after ascending to
the sahasrara chakra, kundalini shakti merges into pure consciousness and loses its individuality
altogether. But, the rishis say little about the meaning
and symbolism of this climactic event, because its significance is best understood through
meditation itself, not through words. I began today’s meditation by visualizing
the ajna chakra and focusing on the sense of warmth between my eyebrows. I allowed that sensation to grow stronger,
and then shifted my attention upwards, towards the top of my head. As before, the sense of warmth moved upwards,
but while rising, it changed into a brilliant light that seemed to fill my head and body,
and radiate beyond as well. Then, almost immediately, that light faded
and my mind became profoundly silent. I fell into a state of absorption, samadhi,
just like I had many times before using other techniques. Samadhi is somewhat like being blissfully
immersed in deep sleep, except that you remain fully awake. When you wake up from sleep, you know you
slept; when you emerge from samadhi, you know you were absorbed. Anyone who experiences samadhi for the first
time will find it a great achievement. And anyone who discovers their true nature
to be pure consciousness, utterly independent of the mind, body, and world, will find this
recognition to be absolutely life changing. Without doubt, many practitioners of kundalini
yoga have reached these great heights and were blessed by their efforts. But my prior practice has already blessed
me in these ways, so my experience of kundalini’s triumphant ascent seemed to lack the tremendous
intensity that other practitioners describe. Also, I have a hunch that if I firmly believed
in the actual existence of chakras, my experiences might have been far more intense. But then again, the ultimate goal of this
practice is not to produce rapturous experiences, but to support the attainment of spiritual
knowledge, enlightenment. I’ve learned a lot from this experiment. I’ve discovered how advaita vedanta and kundalini
yoga are actually complimentary to each other. I’ve learned to be less critical of modern
adaptations like rainbow colored chakras. And I’ve made friends with this often misunderstood
serpent. Will I start teaching kundalini yoga to my
students now? I don’t think so. This technique is rather complex, so it needs
lots of time to learn and practice. More than that, kundalini yoga seems like
a difficult way to gain a state of absorption that can more easily be reached through other
techniques. But then, if there are easier paths to samadhi,
why is kundalini yoga so widely taught? Its popularity is very likely in response
to the problem of experience seeking. The pursuit of worldly experiences can prevent
people from seeking spiritual growth. But, if kundalini yoga promises them exciting
new experiences, they might consider practicing it. Then, their practice could lead them to realize
that something far more valuable than exciting experiences is within reach. Such a recognition could wean them away from
experience seeking, and incline them to pursue enlightenment instead. This so-called bait and switch approach might
have lead many practitioners to find perfect peace and lasting contentment. If so, the ability to convert worldly experience
seekers into genuine spiritual seekers could be the most extraordinary feature of kundalini
yoga.

34 Replies to “Kundalini Yoga — as Envisioned by the Ancient Yogis”

  1. Its great..really liked your truthfulness if it's real..waiting for more knowledge and pure consesiousness from your side ..amazing….the only question I have is ..do I need to quit alchohol 100 percent for self realization ?

  2. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna says that for one who is sincere in their seeking enlightenment they will be helped by Krishna from within. Therefore one cannot be without guidance to reawaken their true divine nature, the main qualification is that one is genuinely desirous of the Truth.

  3. Thank you very much for this information. As a young woman living in western Europe, sometimes it gets a bit hard to distingiush between "new age bs" and real ancient knowledge. Thanks for helping out! <3

  4. I'm still curious about the physical aspects of Kundalini yoga.

    I will absolutely try to partake in this meditation, though I am unfamiliar with the Hindu gods.

    But still curious about the physical exercises.

  5. Chakras are real, it is not imagined, as they pop out whether one knows about them or not, as I know directly. The first time this happened had no idea of chakras whatsoever, and little about meditation either. Nadis are real and the kundalini, which is a liquid in a circuit, travels up two nadis up the spine and down the right side. The chakras are forward facing cones, and the heart chakra actually opens like a flower when happiness is felt. The forehead chakra is like a ball that can be thrown right out of the body. Advaita Vedanta, what i once followed is false in my humble opinion, even qualified dualism is false. Dualism is correct. The problem is lack of humility in people to the creator, Allah, and their refusal to do proper worship. Samadhi is not a revolutionary state I agree, but there is some celestial music and also fragrances, and it is really a state of clarity between the six states: me, my, mine, we, us, all, and finally the seventh which is oneness. Nirvana is beyond this state and is the sixth, and there yet one more state beyond that. the inner teacher (guardian angel?) will guide you if you sincerely are seeking God and not an experience. Salaam (peace ) to you all, with respect to you brother for this beautiful video.

  6. Thank you sincerely for this in depth documentary. I especially appreciate the "honest" non building up of what may come of this practice. Much love

  7. Robots can now chant the verses of The Bible Quran Torah
    But
    No Robot can meditate God

    We should stop teaching about human made languages French English arabic Chinese Japanese

    If we want to converse with the God we need to study God's own language that's Peace of Mind, Yoga and meditation

  8. I agree with the problematic nature of mixing up of traditional Kundalini yoga but I think it's safe to say that the Greek Caduceus wand of Hermes and other ancient symbols, Egyptian in particular, are indeed referring to the innate divinity of the human body and Kundalini energy.

  9. Thanks for the upload! Allot of work went into producing it I can see. Drukama school teaches this step by step also, along with tangent practices at each attainment. Check it out drukama .com

  10. It's not bliss don't advise no one to do this unless it's happened to you it has had me holding my head cry thinking I got brain tumor my heart racing my body heating to point thort I was truly dieing I had spinal operation at base I only just learning to try to control all of it so it's not a punishment I want to feel normal thankyou for this video I so need to try control all of this xx

  11. Arjuna was given "Divine eyes" so that he would see the "universal form" of The Lord Krishna. The description of Lord Krishna is consistent with the experience of DMT. DMT is "divine eyes". Yoga practice is a way to experience DMT…because DMT is naturally present in us all…and most everything else so far.

  12. I’m reminded that forced awakening (breath of fire etc) triggers hormonal imbalance when the centre below the first blocked chakra encountered by kundalini gets over-cooked. Like a river coming up against a dam. The subsequent hormonal adaptation or high is an achievement of nothing save the high itself, which is seized upon by the experience junkie as “something special”.

  13. Darstellung Patanjalis in Indien als Mischwesen bestehend aus einem männlichen Oberkörper und einer Schlange als Unterkörper. Über seinem Kopf breitet sich eine Schlange mit mehreren Köpfen aus.

    Das Yogasutra ist das Standardwerk des Yoga. Es wurde von Patanjali verfasst, der vermutlich im 2. Jh. n. Chr. lebte .

    Aber das konnten sie als angelernter TM Lehrt nicht so genau wissen das er nach Christus lebte.

    Ihr Guru bezeichnet das Christentum, in seinem Buch (Die Kunst des Seins …) als einen leblosen Körper. Das kann ich ihnen aus eigener Erfahrung auch nicht bestätigen.

    Das innwendige Himmelreich ist das Herz des Menschen.
    Es kommt aber darauf an ob der Heilige Geist von Gott darin wohnt oder hinduistische GötterDämonen!

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