AOH :: KUNDAL.TXT|
From: email@example.com (Kurt Keutzer)
Subject: Kundalini FAQ 1.0
Date: 17 Aug 1994 23:40:02 GMT
In alt.meditation, alt.magick and other newsgroups there have been recurrent
discussions about kundalini, kundalini yoga, 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
Siddha Mahayoga and intentional forms of Kundalini Yoga.
KUNDALINI: FREQUENTLY-ASKED QUESTIONS AND SELECTED REFERENCES
Version 1.0, August 1994
Copyright Kurt Keutzer, 1994 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1. What is kundalini?
2. What does kundalini have to do with spiritual enlightenment?
3. Does everyone agree that kundalini awakening is necessary for
4. Is there any scientific basis for kundalini and the chakras?
Do I really have to believe that all these chakras physically exist?
5. Is kundalini the same as prana or qi? Is Chinese qi gong a kind of
6. What about Tibetan Buddhism - has kundalini been known in Tibet?
7. Are there any other traditions that show awareness of kundalini?
8. So how do I awaken kundalini?
9. Are these methods of awakening kundalini dangerous?
What about Gopi Krishna's books?
10. Some approaches to kundalini yoga say there is no danger in their
approach - are they misrepresenting themselves?
11. But even if kundalini is dangerous, isn't it a faster way to
12. There have been many scandals among kundalini yoga teachers -
particularly sexual scandals. Is there a correlation between sexual
scandals and kundalini yoga practice?
13. If my kundalini is awakened will I need to change my lifestyle?
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 chakras. These chakras 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
chakras our consciousness necessarily changes with it.
So does everyone agree that kundalini awakening is necessary for
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
Is there any scientific basis for kundalini and the chakras? Do I really
have to believe that all these chakras 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
chakras 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
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
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: Siddha Yoga, Mahayoga, Sahaja Yoga (see Siddha Mahayoga
FAQ - to be released). The styles using intentional techniques include Hatha
Yoga, Laya Yoga and Kriya Yoga (see Kundalini Yogas FAQ - to be released).
Are these methods of awakening kundalini dangerous? What about Gopi
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 chakra. 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 changed
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
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.
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:
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
Psychology and Pathology of Kundalini:
Greenwell, Bonnie (1990). Energies of Transformation . Shakti River Press:
Sannella, Lee (1987). The Kundalini Experience. Integral Publishing: Lower
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