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Kundalini Serpent – A myth?

Kundalini Serpent – A myth?

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Explore the fascinating realm of Kundalini awakening and its transformative power through rational inquiry and ancient practices. Discover the significance of cleansing the nadis and harnessing the serpent energy within, as elucidated by Tantric scriptures and modern explorations like those of Gopi Krishna and Lee Sannella.

I received a message from Siddharth the other day. It was talking about the Kundalini serpent and Ramkrishna Paramhansa. It read..

During Her stay at Dakshineswar, Sri Maa Sarada often used to feed Sri Thakur with Her own hands. On one such night, when Sri Maa was feeding Thakur, She suddenly felt as if a serpent’s head peeped out from Thakur’s mouth and ate up the morsel . This kept on happening for several times, which ended up giving Sri Maa the shivers.

Seeing Her clueless, Thakur explained that the ancient Yoga texts speak about the Kundalini serpent which resides in the bodies of the Yogis and accepts food on behalf of them. The serpent inside Thakur’s mouth is the same Kundalini who is none other than the Mother of the universe Herself.

As my readers are aware I am not superstitious and I reject any form of supernatural events, I went on to do a bit of study on the subject, and what the research revealed is rather fascinating. Let me share my rational findings with my readers.

Let us begin with some examples:-

A child who walks down the road would invariably spot a toy shop, a stock broker would first look at the stock market in the newspaper, an architect would easily notice an unusual building or a taxi driver would easily recognize an address the moment he is shown the same. If you notice in each of these examples the perception is selective and it depends on the person’s interest and attention. Interestingly this is not the only instance. If you notice our attitude to relationships, morality, work, leisure, health, sickness, pain, death, and the great beyond all depends on our outlook.

So, we are shaped by our past decisions and choices we have made in our past. So one can easily say we are creatures of habit. In Tantric scriptures and Yogic terms, this is described as our thoughts and actions for the most part following the path of least resistance. That is to say, the energetic template of the subtle body over determines them. This explains why it is so difficult to change our behavior even when we have realized that our old patterns are wrong, unproductive, or damaging.

Here, the practice of ancient Tantric processes helps us to modify the pathways of the life force directly. This modification is a matter of cleansing the nadis-a practice called nadi shodhana.

In most people, energy currents are in a relatively impure state, leading to diminished functionality that hinders both physical health and spiritual development. The specific aim of a Tantric practitioner is to open the central channel, allowing the life force to flow freely. Eventually, this practice draws the more potent energy of the kundalini to follow the same path.

Attempting to raise the serpent power (kundalini-shakti) along the central pathway without first cleansing the nadi system is not only impossible but also perilous. Without purification, the kundalini may inadvertently enter the ida- or pingala-nadi, leading to significant disruption in both body and mind.

Gopi Krishna, an Indian yogi, teacher, and social reformer, ventured into awakening the kundalini. However, his vivid narrative detailing the physical agony and mental torment that ensued serves as a timeless cautionary tale for all beginners delving into the realm of the serpent power or Goddess energy.

Lee Sannella, an American psychiatrist, was among the pioneering figures within the medical community to impartially explore the kundalini phenomenon. He proposed that the impediments in the energetic realm could be viewed as “stress points,” a concept he elucidated in his renowned book, The Kundalini Experience.

As the kundalini rises, it is believed to confront various impurities, which are purged through its dynamic movement. Sanskrit scriptures notably identify three significant structural barriers, referred to as “knots.” These obstacles can be likened to stress points. Consequently, as the kundalini ascends, it stimulates the central nervous system to release stress, often accompanied by sensations of pain. The kundalini persists in dismantling these blocks until they are completely dissolved.

Sannella’s assertion holds validity only in instances where the kundalini has been prematurely or incorrectly aroused, lacking adequate preparation. Tantric scriptures stress the necessity of thorough groundwork before engaging in practices aimed at directly awakening the serpent power. As the fourteenth-century master Svвtmarвma articulates, the kundalini “bestows liberation on yogins and bondage on the ignorant.” Just as a sharp knife in the hands of a skilled physician can save a life, but in the hands of a fool can cause irreparable harm, the kundalini itself is neither inherently good nor bad. It merely represents the Goddess energy as it manifests within the human body. Unless we actively collaborate with it, the kundalini remains at the subtlest level of existence, sustaining us through the life force (prвna) without entering our conscious awareness.

By engaging in self-purification and adhering to appropriate disciplines, we can promptly harness the kundalini as a potent transformative force in our lives. While in its dormant state, the kundalini is often described as pure potentiality. However, this characterization is somewhat misleading, as the Goddess energy is continuously active, supporting the intricate energetic processes that underpin our physical and mental functions. Upon awakening, the kundalini becomes a remarkable catalyst for transformation, spiritual evolution, and ultimately, enlightenment.

The Rudra-Yamala (2.26.41) states: “The kundalini is ever the master of Yoga.” In the same scripture (2.26.21-22), the serpent power is called the “mother of Yoga” and the “bestower of Yoga.”

To practice this ancient process one needs to adopt various postures (asana) which are said to effect the purification of the conduits or channels (nadi).

The Hatha-Yoga-Pradоpika (1.39) singles out the adept’s posture (siddha-asana) as being particularly suited for this purpose, but other scriptures favor different postures. The adept’s posture is practiced by placing the left heel at the rectum and the right heel above the genitals while resting the chin on the chest and gazing at the spot between the eyebrows. Sometimes the position of the legs is reversed. The potency of this very popular posture derives from the fact that it balances the subtle energies and thereby awakens the serpent’s power.

While postures like the siddha-asana are important, the principal means of cleansing the channels is controlled breathing, as it has been elaborated in great detail in the scriptures of Hatha-Yoga.

The Gheranda-Samhita (5.36) distinguishes between two basic types of purification practices: samanu and nirmanu, which denote “mental” and “nonmental” respectively.

Samanu consists the physical cleansing processes called dhauti, comprising the following techniques:

  1. antar-dhauti (“inner cleansing”) consisting of the following four techniques:
    • vata-sara (“air process”), which is done by inhaling through the mouth and expelling the air through the lower passage;
    • vari-sara (“water process”), which is done by sipping water until the stomach is completely filled and expelling it through the lower passage;
    • vahni-sara (“fire process”), which is done by pushing the navel one hundred times back toward the spine, which increased the “gastric fire”;
    • bahish-krita (“external action”), which is done by sucking in air through the mouth until the stomach is filled, retaining it for ninety minutes, and then expelling it through the lower passage; this is followed by one’s standing in navel-deep water and pushing out the lower intestinal tract for cleansing;
  2. danta-dhauti (“dental cleansing”), which includes cleaning the teeth, the tongue, as well as the ears and frontal sinuses;
  3. hrid-dhauti (“lit. “heart cleansing”), which consists of (a) introducing the stalk of a plantain, turmeric, or cane into the throat to clean it out; (b) filling the stomach with water and then expelling it through the mouth; (c) swallowing a long strip of thin cloth and then pulling it out again (a process called vвso-dhauti, “cloth cleansing”);
  4. mula-shodhana (“rectal cleansing”), which is done by means of turmeric, water, or the middle finger;

The samanu type of purificatory practice consists breath control “with seed” (sabоja), that is, with silent mantra recitation. As the Gheranda-Samhitв (5.38-44) explains:

Seated on a seat, the yogin should assume the lotus posture. Next, commence with the purification of the channels for purification through breath control.

To engage in the practice of contemplating the seed-syllable (bija) of the air element, which carries an energetic essence and resembles the color of smoke, the practitioner should begin by inhaling air through the lunar channel, signified by the left nostril, while repeating the seed-syllable sixteen times. Subsequently, the sage should retain the breath for sixty-four repetitions of the seed-syllable, followed by exhaling the air through the solar channel, represented by the right nostril, for thirty-two repetitions.

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Transitioning to the activation of fire from the root of the navel (the kanda), the practitioner should focus on the radiance associated with the earth element. During this phase, while repeating the seed-syllable of the fire element sixteen times, the sage should inhale through the solar channel, denoted by the right nostril.

Following that, he should hold the breath for sixty-four repetitions and subsequently release it through the lunar channel, which corresponds to the left nostril, for thirty-two repetitions. While contemplating the radiant reflection of the moon at the tip of the nose, he should then inhale air through the ida, symbolized by the left nostril, repeating the seed-syllable “tham” sixteen times.

Then, while contemplating the nectar oozing [from the moon at the tip of the nose], he should retain the air for sixty-four repetitions of the seed-syllable vam and thereby cleanse the channels. Finally, he should firmly exhale for thirty-two [repetitions] of the la-sound.

The seed-syllables mentioned in the above passage are the root sounds associated with the four elements: yam for air, ram for fire, lam for earth, and tham for the visualized moon, which stands for the water element in its higher aspect as the nectar of immortality (amrita). The common seed-syllable for water is vam. The fifth element, “quintessence,” is ether whose seed-syllable is ham.

Thus the renowned Hatha-Yoga master B. K. S. Iyengar has explained the connection between breath control and the elements as follows:

Within our bodies reside five elements. Earth serves as the catalyst for producing the elixir of life (prana). Air functions as the churning rod, facilitating inhalation and exhalation, while ether aids in distributing this vital energy. Ether, synonymous with space, possesses the unique ability to contract and expand. During inhalation, ether expands to accommodate the breath, whereas during exhalation, it contracts to expel toxins.

Two elements remain: water and fire. Water acts as the extinguisher for fire, illustrating their opposing natures. Utilizing the elements of earth, air, and ether, friction arises between water and fire, generating and releasing energy akin to water turbines in a hydroelectric power station producing electricity. Just as electricity requires a certain flow of water, our system necessitates a specific intensity of breath to generate profound energy. Insufficient breath flow leads to stress, strain, poor circulation, and diminished health and happiness. Merely existing without truly living results from this inadequate energetic flow.

In the practice of pranayama, we elongate the breath, bringing the elements of fire and water into contact. This interaction, facilitated by the element of air, unleashes a new energy known as divine energy or kundalini shakti, which is the essence of prana.

Other texts advocate similar techniques where the left and right pathways of the life force are alternately activated. According to the Shiva-Samhita (3.26-28), alternate nostril breathing should be performed twenty times, four times a day: at dawn, midday, sunset, and midnight. Consistent practice over three months purportedly cleanses the channels, paving the way for proper breath control.

The Shiva-Samhita (3.31-32) suggests that purified nadis manifest certain signs: the body becomes harmonious and emits a pleasant scent, the voice resonates, and appetite increases. Additionally, a yogin with thoroughly cleansed subtle pathways is described as full-hearted, energetic, and robust. The Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika (2.19) mentions leanness and brightness of the body as indicators of a purified nadi system. At this stage, the practitioner resembles a finely tuned instrument, prepared to engage in the advanced processes of Tantra, leading to the awakening of the serpent power.

Before delving into these processes, it’s crucial to introduce the concept of the serpent power, which lies at the heart of Tantra-Yoga.

So after all the reading, I realized, Kundalini is a process of self-purification that helps us to become better and healthier individuals. While it is difficult, but practicing this one can easily get rid of the dogmatism and fanaticism which is practiced these days in the name of religion.

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