What is Kundalini-Shakti?
O voyagers in the world! If you want your journey to be free of obstacles, become aware of your venerable Goddess, Kundalini. Awaken Her with meditation, behold Her everywhere, and live in happiness.
– Swami Muktananda
Upon conception of a human fetus, the cosmic Shakti makes her descent through the subtle-body chakras, and deposits in each of these centres a vital energy or life-force called prana. She then comes to rest just below the muladhara, which corresponds to the base of the spine in the physical body. At this point, she becomes essentially dormant within us and will remain so for our entire life unless she is deliberately reactivated, in which case she will then proceed to make her way back up through the chakras by the same route employed in her descent, and when she reunites with her cosmic mate—Shiva—the effect upon us is known as Self-realization. This process of her concealment and revealment in the human body is central to the Tantric teachings.
Kundalini is not energy that can be forced by will, effort and friction. It is analogous to growing a flower, all we can do as good gardeners, is prepare the soil and proper conditions, and let nature take its course. If you force a flower to open prematurely, you’ll destroy it. It grows with its own intelligence, with its own self organizing direction.
– Daniel Schmitt
The spiritual evolution of each human is mirrored by the cycle of mother Shakti: her descent represents our swing away from Shiva into perception of duality and ignorance of our essential nature, while her reactivation and ascent symbolize the swing back to Shiva, toward perception of unity and Self-knowledge (see Tattvas for a more universal perspective of her cycle). According to Yoga, the spiritual evolution to enlightenment is a journey of only about three feet (which is why Kundalini is said to be three and a half “coils”)—the ascent from the base of the spine to the top of the head.
In every human being dwells an infinite power, the root of the universe. That infinite power exists in a latent condition in everyone.
– Gnostic Christianity Belief
Although kundalini shines brilliant as lightning in every individual, it is only in the hearts of yogis that she reveals herself and dances in her own joy.
– Sharada Tilaka
In the illustration above we will notice that snakes are used to represent ida and pingala. The symbolic use of serpents in connection with Kundalini is common in many traditions, for two primary reasons:
- When the Kundalini awakens, she often feels and sounds like a snake inside us, and dreams or visions of serpents are commonly experienced by meditators and are considered to be very auspicious.
- In her dormant state, Kundalini is described by Yoga as lying coiled like a snake at the base of the spine, and her name is derived from the Sanskrit root Kundalini, meaning “coil.”
How to Awaken the Serpent?
Kundalini is nothing less than the primordial spiral, that dances your human life into existence. It is a different order of energy than we normally understand. Like a bridge from gross matter to the most subtle energies, you are that bridge.
– Daniel Schmitt
We can awaken the Kundalini in one of four ways:
- Yoga Asana / Pranayama Exercises
- Concentrated Meditation, Worship and Prayer
- Transmission from Guru
What happens when Kundalini rises?
When you succeed in awakening the Kundalini so that it starts to move out of its mere potentiality, you necessarily start a world which is totally different from our [usual] world. It is a world of eternity.
– C.G. Jung
In practices which are powered by self-effort, we must work on our self from the outside inward, while practices powered by awakened Kundalini work on us from the inside outward. Meditators practising the latter often experience a wide range of events taking place inside them automatically, without any instigation on their part.
She transforms the body and improves our daily lives according to our destinies. She generates a feeling of deep friendship among people, enables them to see the divine in one another, and thus turns the world into paradise. She makes perfect whatever is not perfect in our lives.
– Swami Muktananda
Usually, the very first indication that our meditation practice is starting to bring us extraordinary powers of perception is when we become aware of and begin to experience our own prana. As soon as we can unmistakably feel the tingle or flow of our own life-force—even briefly, in any part of our body—we can be sure that our practice has begun to bear important fruit.
Inner Cleansing – Kriyas
Any such spontaneous activity of the physical body, mind or emotions, resulting from a therapeutic movement of Shakti in the nadis is called a kriya. As the Shakti performs her daily work of inner cleansing and strengthening, a meditator may experience physical kriyas such as altered breathing, muscular spasm, change of body position, shaking limbs, head gyrations, vocal sounds, rushes of energy, chills or fever, etc.; occasionally a mild illness may manifest temporarily, as a latent infirmity is rooted out and eliminated from the system forever. As mental or emotional blockages are burned away, they often intensify briefly before becoming consumed in Shakti’s Fire. If the obstacle is mental in nature, the mind may suddenly begin racing wildly or it may become perfectly still; memories, desires and other thoughts may suddenly grip the mind and prove impossible to banish willfully. If the impurities are emotional, their release may cause weeping for no apparent reason, uproarious laughter or perhaps an overwhelming feeling of joy, love or inexplicable sadness.
As the Shakti reaches a dormant chakra and pierces it, we may feel pain, and as she vitalizes that particular psychic center our meditation may become graced by such delights as fantastic visions, divine music, ambrosial scents, rapturous intoxication and enchanting physical dance-movements, called mudras. As our instrument becomes more and more pure through meditation, we will also find changes occurring spontaneously in our daily life. A hot temper may gradually come under control, for example, or we may find our diet changing without any effort on our part, as the Shakti gently gives us a taste for those foods which best suit our special needs and takes away our desire for dishes that do us harm. The closer the process of Yoga leads us to a realization of our inner perfection, the more we find our daily life becoming a reflection of this perfection.
Kundalini is like a wound-up spring waiting to unleash its awesome energy. The process of Yoga begins when this sleeping power is activated and begins to move upward through the chakras, piercing and revitalizing each one along the way. As she enters a chakra, its circuitry becomes operational again and the plane of existence to which it is connected becomes known to the meditator. To say that the planes become “known” to us means that we actually begin to function in those realms and even control the elements of which they are made. One result of this is that we gradually develop a host of phenomenal psychic powers, called siddhis. By learning to operate on all levels of reality with much more ease and effectiveness than most people can manage in just the Earth Realm alone, we soon find it quite natural to perform feats which seem fantastic or superhuman to the average person. For an accomplished practitioner of Yoga, moving from one plane of existence to another is as simple as it is for us to move from one room to another in our own home.
Then, in due course, if the Kundalini has been awakened within us, as soon as she can squeeze through even a partially cleared course all the way to the sahasrara, the Shakti will suddenly ascend to the top of the head for a brief time. This temporary reunion with Shiva gives us an experience of the state called samadhi—immersion in the Self. At this point it becomes absolutely clear to us that our own soul is an eternal, deathless entity. Once this state is reached even for an instant, we have attained the first level of Realization. Having touched the core of all Creation, we can never be the same again: we are permanently transformed.
At first, the Samadhi state cannot be sustained for prolonged periods, since the impurities which still partially clog our instrument make it unfit to handle unmodified cosmic power indefinitely. As the purification and strengthening process continues, however, we become able to experience more frequent and prolonged Samadhi states, each one reaching deeper and deeper into the Self until the center is finally reached, at which point we become fully and permanently Self-realized. Meanwhile, each time the Shakti separates from Shiva and returns to the muladhara chakra, she deposits increased vitality in all the chakras along the way, causing them to function with more and more efficiency. As our practice continues, we become increasingly aware of the various levels of our own being as well as those of the entire cosmos, and this super-consciousness functions in us all the time, both in meditation and amid all the activities of our daily life.
Follow the path of the radiant life-force as she flashes upward like lightning through your body, thus become intimate with the life of all beings.
– Radiance Surtas