|“During meditation you behold divine visions, experience divine smell, divine taste, divine touch, hear divine Anahata [heart chakra] sounds…When there is throbbing in Muladhara [the base of the spine chakra], when hairs stand on their roots…when the breath stops without any effort…when you feel currents of prana rising up to the Sahasrara [Crown Chakra], when you experience bliss, when you repeat [the Holy Word] automatically, when there are no thoughts of the world in the mind, know that Kundalini Shakti has awakened.“When, in your meditation, the eyes become fixed on…the middle of the eyebrows…when you feel vibrations of prana in different parts inside your body, when you experience jerks like the shocks of electricity, know that Kundalini has become active.“When you meditate, when you get inspiration and insight, when the nature [sic] unfolds its secrets to you, all doubts disappear…know that Kundalini has become active.”
Swami Sivananda-Kundalini Yoga
Picture the scene. You are doing your spiritual practices, with more than usual intensity, when, for some reason the mysterious power of Kundalini chooses this moment to move. You start to feel some of these sensations. How prepared would you be?
When you consider that raising Kundalini is the only reason we are on Earth, it is amazing that so little is known about it. If any subject is shrouded in mystery and surrounded by confusion, this is it. Even people who are well versed in yoga and metaphysics are generally un-versed when it comes to this fundamental principle of life.
On the basis that the more you know, the better prepared you will be, in this article we will attempt to demystify Kundalini and give a balanced appreciation of the do’s and don’ts.
| There is a tide…
Kundalini is, in Dr. King’s brilliant phrase, “the primordial life force”, which animates the mind and body and makes all function possible. It is very primordial, and very much a life force—a massive, inexhaustible power that streams from the underground river of existence. It is a spring that will one day become a flood, and carry you out to the ocean of Cosmic Consciousness. Shakespeare’s powerful statement, with its metaphor of the sea, “There is a tide in the affairs of men,/Which, taken at the flood leads on to fortune” could have been written for the moment that Kundalini moves.How it causes thought is brilliantly explained by the Master Aetherius (follow this link to read how). This tiny atom of substance resides in the chakra, or psychic centre, at the base of the spine. Indian Tantra depicts it as a three-and-a-half coiled serpent, which is dormant, but rises up when awoken. Kundalini means ‘coiled up like a snake’. It is feminine, a divine power, a Goddess.When rising, Kundalini travels up a channel in the centre of the spine—the susumna. As it climbs up, it takes us into higher states of consciousness.Remote though it may seem, this issue concerns all spiritual aspirants. The awakening of Kundalini is the most real thing that will ever happen to us—and it could happen sooner rather than later.
She can be awakened by practices like those of Kundalini Yoga (about which more later), but any intense spiritual practice can have the same effect. Here is the great poet Tennyson:
“A kind of waking trance I have frequently had, quite up from boyhood, when I have been all alone. This has often come upon me through repeating my own name to myself silently till, all at once, as it were, out of the intensity of the consciousness of individuality, the individuality itself seemed to dissolve and fade away into boundless being; and this not a confused state, but the clearest of the clearest, the surest of the surest, the weirdest of the weirdest, utterly beyond words, where death was almost a laughable impossibility, the loss of personality (if so it were) seeming no extinction, but the only true life.”
By Sivananda’s definition, Tennyson had activated Kundalini.
This is Brahms on the process of composition:
“I immediately feel vibrations that thrill my whole being. These are the Spirit illuminating the soul power within, and in this exalted state, I see clearly what is obscure in my ordinary moods. Then I feel capable of drawing inspiration from above, as Beethoven did…the ideas flow in upon me, directly from God, and not only do I see distinct themes in my mind’s eye but they are clothed in the right forms, harmonies and orchestration.”
This echoes Dr. King’s description of a person entering the deeper states of meditation by drawing Kundalini, in its entirety, up into the throat centre: “He could write, if he were consciously able to move that is, great symphonies of Nature’s wonderful sounds. He would speak, if he were capable of moving his lips, greater words than Shakespeare ever wrote.”
Such moments of inspiration are the result of one thing—Kundalini. With even a partial activation of Kundalini, we become changed, capable of greater things, having experiences that are completely new to us.
During a full rise of Kundalini, by contrast, a tremendous explosion of energy places great stress on our physical, mental and psychic bodies. As it goes up the spine, ‘the serpent power’ energises each chakra that it reaches to an almost unimaginable extent. From the base of the spine centre, it travels to the sex, solar plexus, heart, throat and Christ centres, finally leaving the backbone and travelling up to the Crown Chakra, which is located above the head. As it moves on, it takes all the powers upwards and completely closes down each chakra and the bodily functions associated with it, so that eventually the individual is in a state of conscious death.
There is no finer description of this process than Dr. King’s accounts in The Nine Freedoms, in the chapters on Enlightenment and Cosmic Consciousness.
| Riding the wave
All spiritual practice, to one degree or another, affects Kundalini. Any activation is generally very minor indeed, but we should cooperate with it, and aim to enhance it, for She could choose to rise at any time.
The route may be the same, yet, for each of us, the atom-propelled journey into the vastness of inner space is unique: it occurs in a unique set of karmic circumstances, which dictate how straightforward the trip will be. Kundalini may move unforced, or forced. She may rise in her entirety, or only fractionally. She may take one step up the ladder of susumna or race to the Crown Chakra. We may control Her, or not. The event may be apparently spontaneous, or stimulated by spiritual practices. We may be prepared for it, physically, mentally and spiritually, or ill-equipped to leave our inner terra firma. We may understand what is happening as we blast off, or be ignorant, and easily scared.
These simple factors are very important.
We will have to learn to ride the wave when it comes. When Kundalini rises, it can be disturbing, especially if you do not understand what is going on. Kundalini experiences can come when you are performing spiritual practices or are feeling uplifted for some reason, or they may happen for no obvious reason at a quiet time. The feeling of impending annihilation of the self, and the fact that Kundalini, in its journey up the spine, is travelling the same route that it takes at the time of death can be rather scary. And such is the tremendous power of Kundalini that it can seem almost uncontrollable, a force of nature.
Consequently, even minor rises of Kundalini can be unnerving. Not that there is necessarily anything to worry about, even if the conscious mind does not appreciate that at the time. On a different level entirely, Swami Vivekananda, described by Dr. King as a ‘latter-day saint’, in his second encounter with his guru, Sri Ramakrishna, received an awakening of Kundalini, in a process known as shaktipat. Here is how his biographer describes it: ‘After a minute or two, Sri Ramakrishna drew near him in an ecstatic mood, muttered some words, fixed his eyes on him, and placed his right foot on Narens’s [Vivekananda’s] body. At this touch Naren saw, with eyes open, the walls, the room, the temple garden—nay the whole world—vanishing, and even himself disappearing into a void. He felt sure he was facing death. He cried in consternation: “What are you doing to me? I have my parents, brothers and sister at home.”
‘The Master laughed and stroked Naren’s chest, restoring him to his normal mood. He said, “All right, everything will happen in due time.”’
| Bravery is the First Freedom
We should be concerned about more than just getting a scare. Just as the sailor is taught to treat the sea with reverence and to never underestimate its power, so we should approach Kundalini not with fear, but care, and set sail well prepared.The real danger comes if we try to force a premature rise of Kundalini. A whole branch of yoga—Kundalini Yoga—tries to make it rise, using physical exercises, pranayama and concentration on certain chakras. This has been described as being like someone who disturbs the sleeping snake with a stick. Causing her to rise up before she chooses of Her own volition can be dangerous.Dr. King practised Kundalini Yoga and mastered it, and warned against indiscriminate practice. He said that it should only be attempted under supervision, and that, anyway, most people were unsuited to it. Kundalini Yoga (or what passes for it) is fashionable at present, but one hears little about its dangers. Forcing Kundalini is fraught with peril. The presence of a ‘teacher’ is not a guarantee of safety if, as sometimes happens, the teacher is unable to deal with the situations he helped to create. “These things really are dangerous and ought not to be meddled with in our typically Western way,” said the great psychologist Carl Jung, and he was right.But if in the matter of Kundalini Yoga fools rush in, it is important to maintain a balanced perspective: no sincere spiritual aspirant should fear the Goddess Kundalini Herself. Wise caution and reverence are the orders of the day; seeking powers, stimulation or the gratification of idle curiosity through a premeditated attempt to force Her to rise is wrong, and could be dangerous; but cowardice has no place in spiritual life.
| Charting the ocean
Each ship needs a navigator, and each aspirant needs a Master. The great Law states that when the student is ready, the Master will appear. For thousands of people around the world, Dr. King is their guide through the mysteries of Kundalini. He did, though, make the decision to do this with caution.“When I was writing Realise Your Inner Potential with him,” says Richard Lawrence, “I raised the question of including the Kundalini breathing exercises, which he had taught to limited groups in Spiritual Development Classes. I was quite surprised by how willing he was to authorise the giving of several mantras in the book, but how cautious he was about releasing the Kundalini breathing visualisations. He decided to do so, but instructed me to include a health warning.” He had described the activation of Kundalini as an atomic explosion in the spine, so, in one way, a health warning was hardly surprising. It is as follows—and it is very important indeed: you should only practice the Kundalini Breathing Exercises in the context of a moderate, spiritual, balanced lifestyle.Common sense should tell you what this means: cultivate spiritual habits of life; curb ‘anti-spiritual’ ones like drink and drugs; don’t be over-zealous or extreme, but do make a positive effort to move along the path of spiritual advancement. Sexual continence is important too; this subject is discussed further below.If we do not cultivate physical, mental, emotional and spiritual balance, we risk having blockages within the nadis, or psychic channels, when Kundalini starts to move. Such blockages can force massive powers in directions other than the susumna, with drastic results. They can cause serious physical, mental and energetic problems. And once Kundalini is activated recurrences are likely. Swami Vishnu-Devananda, in his commentary on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, describes such blocked prana as being like a ‘wild river’, which will go wherever it can indiscriminately. People who have this happen are, he says, very difficult to help. The only solution is to do what you should have done in the first place, and prepare yourself properly for the movement of the powers.
| Be prepared
However, if we heed the health warning, there is nothing to fear and everything to look forward to. We will then be able to boldly go where, actually, many have gone before.Traditionally the practitioner of Kundalini Yoga performs observances, renunciations and physical Hatha Yoga exercises, designed to purify and strengthen the mind and body for the great rigours which come when She Moves.The first two of the eight limbs of yoga are, with very good reason, self-restraint and spiritual observances, since they are essential preparation for the higher states. They traditionally include non-violence, adherence to truth, honesty and refraining from theft, detachment from possession and celibacy. Other observances are purity, contentment, austerities such as fasting, self-awareness, and surrendering one’s actions to God.Only when the student was successful in these, would he or she move on to higher things.
This is a great teaching: mental and physical preparation is essential. Conversely, failure to transmute our inner nature means that the ‘dross’ can be raised from the riverbed along with Kundalini and that this pollution can cause mental and physical problems.
| The vital life fluid
Of these classical preparations, Dr. King singled out sexual control as being particularly important in the raising of Kundalini. This is not a repressive teaching, or one based only on a sense of morality. Sex is natural. It is, however, a ‘technical’ fact that the sexual force has to be transmuted, for successful raising of Kundalini. His lecture Control the Vital Life Fluid deals with this topic in depth, describes celibacy as the first step on the metaphysical ladder and warns of the serious dangers involved if one combines the raising of Kundalini with sex. Any serious student should study this lecture. Suffice it to say here that such control allows the accumulation in the spine of a mystical substance called ojas, which is translated by the great Swami Sivananda as “spiritual power”.
Yoga may traditionally have eight ‘limbs’, but the Yoga of The Aetherius Society, has another. The most muscular limb of all is Service. ‘Serve,’ says the Master Mars Sector Six in The Nine Freedoms, ‘and the mighty Power of Kundalini will rise in natural, unforced fashion and open the Chakra jewels in your higher bodies, in will pour inspiration and you will be standing on the verge of the Initiation into Adeptship.’Quite early in his career, Dr. King delivered a lecture entitled Karma Yoga—The Masters’ Command. In it he said that we should perform as much Karma Yoga—service to others—and as much Raja Yoga—meditation—as possible. Service was the more important: this was the Masters’ Command, and the reward for obeying it was dawning enlightenment.True service involves many of the preparations prescribed above: non-violence, contentment in accepting restrictions, the sacrifice of lesser things and the surrender of our actions to God.The intensity of purpose in Service, and its use of practices such as prayer and mantra, also stimulates Kundalini.
Dr. King, in his younger days, had believed that Karma Yoga was a lower path. He later realised that: ‘When we serve others, we are performing the highest Yoga and the greatest Religion. We are gaining control over the great Fire of Kundalini to such an extent that we will not have to force any rise of this Power. It will rise in a natural fashion, little by little, until we will be standing on the verge of the Initiation into Adeptship.’ Small wonder that, when those who worked with him complained about the long hours and hard graft, his response was “You want to be an Adept don’t you?”
| Service through spiritual enlightenment
In The Twelve Blessings, he makes a fascinating remark: the Blessings constitute, he says, “a system of sacred practices by the continued use of which the student may avail himself of the energy necessary to gain enlightenment.” For ‘gain enlightenment’ read ‘raise Kundalini’: enlightenment comes only from the rise of Kundalini.A few lines later, he describes the practice of the Blessings as a form of “service through Spiritual enlightenment”. This wonderful phrase encapsulates the essence of the Yoga of The Aetherus Society—the marriage of Karma and Raja Yoga, of service and mysticism, twin poles of a perfectly balanced path, which feed each other and lead the aspirant to the heights of spiritual and karmic attainment.Service places a demand on our internal resources and enhances our powers—which in turn enable us to give greater service, until, this virtuous circle brings us, in the words of Mars Sector Six, to “the verge of the initiation into Adeptship”.
| Control is the key
There is one all-important word, largely overlooked by spiritual students, and that word is ‘control’. It is vitally important in the case of Kundalini. Dr. King’s Kundalini breathing exercises help you develop such control.They are about as close as you can get to Kundalini Yoga without actually being the full thing: they are classic Kundalini Yoga exercises, without some of the manipulations designed to force the power to rise. By practising them we develop the ability to consciously bring energy, and ultimately Kundalini, up the spine, and—even more important in some ways—to bring Her down again.They are, of course, more than just breathing exercises. The real objective is mental control over powerful streams of prana, which we use to bombard Kundalini into activation. A crucial factor in success will be the strength of visualisation.Not all feelings of powers rising up the spine are necessarily Kundalini, though they will be a preliminary to it and a preparation. Through these exercises we begin to enter a new world. Kundalini brings transformation. Increased spiritual and psychic perception and greater enlightenment are results of Kundalini movement. Movement in the lower centres dredges up thoughts, emotions and karmic seeds that may have lain in the pit of forgetfulness for a long, long time. It is not unusual to be shocked and disturbed by things thrown up when consciousness starts to rise, as karmic residues are disturbed, like sediment from the bottom of a pool.
These are signs of activation of Kundalini in the base of the spine centre. When She starts to penetrate the sex centre, difficulties connected with it manifest. These basic difficulties do, however—so it is said—fade into insignificance at the side of those presented by the great powers.
| The siddhis
The Master Jesus could walk on water and raise the dead. Great powers, known as siddhis, come from Kundalini. There are said to be 40 of them, eight major and 32 minor. Dr. King commented that the temptation of the Master Jesus in the wilderness, after fasting forty days and forty nights, was to gain worldly power through misuse of the abilities he had developed.‘Again the devil took him to a very high mountain,’ says the Bible ‘and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”’In the words of the King James Version, Jesus answered “Get thee behind me satan!” In other words, the powers should rise through their only pure and safe channel, the susumna, within the spine.Dr. King described the siddhis as ‘flowers on the path’. They bloom and die, are interesting but unimportant. They are distractions from the serious business of climbing. ‘The siddhis’, says Swami Sivananda, ‘are obstacles to Realisation…He who runs after siddhis will become…a worldly-minded man.’ Development of powers is an impure motive for attempting to raise Kundalini.
| Last thoughts
Like the sea, Kundalini is a force of nature. She is a very holy power—and a sacred subject—and should be approached as such. Her journey up susumna to the Crown Chakra is our journey through evolution to Union with God. What could be more holy than that?Kundalini must be approached with respect—or rather with reverence. Just coming into the ‘presence’ of this Goddess, never mind being ‘touched’ by Her, will inevitably bring us into contact with karmic difficulties and psychological obstacles. We make ourselves worthy of the activation of Kundalini. All the preparations, all the effort, all the service that leads us to the ‘verge of the Initiation into Adeptship’ are just that—ways of becoming karmically worthy of making this journey with Her. She is a powerful force, spiritually and karmically, which we should approach with care.We should aim to be not mere passengers in the journey of Kundalini: control is the critical word. When we can take her all the way up the spine to the Crown Chakra, and all the way back down again at will, we will be a Master.All spiritual practices tend to awaken Her, but we should not use techniques that stimulate this power prematurely or carelessly, or the results can be dire. Practised in the context of a well-balanced, spiritual life, in which baser thoughts and desires are being transmuted, Dr. King’s Kundalini Breathing Exercises are quite safe. Service is the great key. It purifies the psychic channels and gradually stimulates Kundalini to rise. Service and meditation are the great positive and negative polarities of spiritual development. Combined they produce the balanced karmic conditions to guarantee that Kundalini, when She moves, will do so in a way which is all-positive for us, yet is still absolutely transmuting and life-changing.
Let the last words go to Swami Sivananda:
‘Mother, who is Existence, Knowledge, Bliss Absolute.
Wake up, Mother Kundalini! Wake up.’
Steve is a Director of the Inner Potential Centre and the Editor of the Newsletter, in which this article first appeared.
| For more information
The Realise system of Kundalini Breathing Exercises