The word is derived from the Sanskrit kundala, a coil; so kundalin is “that which is coiled,” hence also its meaning of “serpent.” It is said to be the mighty Cosmic Energy, the primal power and feminine principle at work throughout the universe and resting in a potential state in the very body of human beings. Geoffrey Hodson describes it as:
- A sevenfold, superphysical occult power in universe and man, functioning in the latter by means of a spiraling or coiling action, mainly in the spinal cord but also throughout the nervous system. It is represented in Greek by the Caduceus. (The Concealed Wisdom in World Mythology, T.P.H. Madras, 1983)
Kuudalni is pictured as a sleeping serpent coiled three and a half times (some say five or eight times), closing off the lower entrance to the inner central channel, or suumŠ€-n€…. The three coils are taken to represent the three GUïAs or qualities of matter, or the three states of consciousness (waking, dreaming, deep sleep), the three types of experience (objective, subjective, or absence of either), or the three times (past, present, future). The half coil represents the state of transcendence.
In the Hindu system, Kuudalini Yoga evolved out of the Tantric tradition and it is the Tantras which, perhaps, first systematized the study of this dynamic yet dormant fiery energy hidden deep within the human body, capable of yielding psychic vision, illuminating insights and cosmic consciousness. To this effect they developed specific exercises and techniques for its arousal.
This force has ever been known to the esotericists of all ages, but the knowledge was kept secret because of its dangerous potential if tampered with by the unprepared. It is alluded to in all the scriptures and myths of the world and finds its most potent image in the “Serpent of Wisdom” and the Egyptian uraeus (head and neck of the sacred asp). Nowadays, kundalini has become better known in the West because more and more people are experiencing certain aspects of its awakening and the Eastern scriptures are now freely available. The whole process of the experience and its attendant symptoms and effects, whether disruptive or beneficial, is being scientifically studied in the United States. Lee Sannella, in his The Kundalini Experience; Psychosis or Transcendence? collected a series of case histories which came his way and which show the occurrence of the kundali awakening on a much wider scale than could have happened previously, perhaps due to the greater involvement of people in meditation and the greater availability of help and advice from authentic kundalini masters, such as Swami Muktananda and Swami Satyananda Sarasvati.
In the late 19th century the kundalin experience was still hardly known in the West. Helena P. Blavatsky strongly warned against the practice of Haµha-Yoga because of the dangers attendant upon the accidental arousal of the kundalini force. She mentions it in a discussion at the Blavatsky Lodge, “This Light (NfH) is Atma-Buddhi, of which Kundalini, or the sacred fire, is a Siddhi or power, it is the serpentine or spiral force, which if misused can kill” (CW XI:488). In The Voice of the Silence (Fragment 1.38) further insights are given: “. . . let the fiery power retire into the inmost chamber, the chamber of the Heart and the abode of the World’s Mother.” In a note to this verse Blavatsky writes, “The ‘fiery power’ is Kundalini. The ‘Power’ and the ‘World-mother’ are names given to Kundalini — one of the mystic ‘Yogi powers.’ It is Buddhi considered as an active instead of a passive principle. . . . It is an electro-spiritual force, a creative power which when aroused into action can as easily kill as it can create.”
KuŠalin… akti is one of the six aktis or forces (synthesized by the seventh) enumerated and described by T. Subba Row in Five Years of Theosophy, 1885, pp. 100-1 and quoted in The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, pp. 292-3. In Vol. XII, of the CW, Blavatsky admits that, “The seven aktis respectively called Parāakti, Jñānaakti, etc., Icchakti, Kriyāakti, KuŠalin…akti, and M€ntraakti are synonymous with the “Sons of Fohat,” for they are their female aspects” (p. 620). Furthermore, “The forty-nine fires [of the mind] are all states of kuŠalin…, to be produced in ourselves by the friction of the Triad [i.e., štma, Buddhi, Manas].” (SD, Adyar Edition, vol. V, p. 517; reprinted in The Esoteric Writings of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, 1980, p. 427) She also states that “the vibrating light of KuŠalin… . . . proceeds from Buddhi, when it becomes Buddhi-Manas’ (op. cit., pp. 521 and 430)ā
As kuŠalin… is aroused it raises the vibratory action of the CHAKRAS and of every atom of the bodies (subtle and the physical). This activity causes the elimination of all coarser matter and sweeps into the bodies atoms of a much higher rate of frequency. The Etheric body is thereby purified and the “webs” that normally act as a protective barrier between the chakras are burnt out, allowing free passage of the “fire of kuŠalin… and continuity of consciousness.” This, of course, should not occur prematurely as it entails grievous danger to the unpurified human being. Purity of life and motives, discipline of the emotions, unselfishness, are the requirements for safely dissipating the webs and preparing the human being for the kuŠalin… experience. The sensations experienced when kuŠalin… is awakened or rises vary greatly according to the physical, emotional, mental and psychological condition of the subject. A yogi who has carried out the relevant exercises and disciplines correctly and lived an appropriate lifestyle may only experience minor discomfort, or perhaps none at all. He or she may only experience the positive results such as enhanced spirituality. Persons who are not well prepared may experience extreme discomfort and all or some of the following symptoms: The skin or interior of the body may itch or tingle, in some cases even vibrate. The sensations often begin at the feet and progress up the body; the body may exhibit extremes of heat or cold, either objectively or subjectively, often in the region of the spine; the subject often experiences the occurrence of lights and many authorities maintain that the experience of certain kinds of lights is proof of a kuŠalin… experience; sounds are sometimes heard that are entirely subjective, such as whistling or flute notes; pain is very frequently experienced and may be intensified if an attempt is made to stem the flow of kuŠalin… extremes of emotion may occur ranging from bliss to abject fear.
“Once the great shakti awakens, man is no longer a gross physical body operating with a lower mind and low voltage pr€Ša. Instead, every cell of his body is charged with high voltage pr€Ša of kuŠalin…” (Swami Satyananda Sarasvati, KuŠalin… Tantra, 1984, p. 13). Quite so, and high voltages have to be handled with knowledge and great care. Fohat, KUïALINŸ, and PRšïA are three aspects of the one primal Force.
A comprehensive text dealing with kuŠalin… is The Serpent Power by John Woodroffe (Madras: Ganesh & Co., 1931).
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