By Ruth Angela

Copyright 2008

Chapter 5
Kundalini Shakti

For the original published Chapter 5 in 1996, see the following web site:

There was no doubt that, in spite of how it appeared to my friend and the other meditators, I had experienced something very rare and wonderful in Rob and Leah's house. In 1979 this phenomena of Kundalini awakening was hardly known outside of the sacred texts of India or the aboriginal peoples of the world. In the West, there are examples of this power of awakening with evangelists like Billy Graham who appear to awaken huge arenas of souls with the Holy Spirit.

I came to learn that Swami Muktananda was the being in the large photograph in Rob's house that I had seen on my first visit. He had recently come from India to create a "Meditation Revolution" in the West and spread Siddha Yoga as a divine practice for Westerners. In travelling around the countries of the West he had developed a network of centers and ashrams for people to learn to meditate in a sacred and protected environment. I had fortunately found one of these centers for Siddha Yoga in Lanikai, Hawaii.

An Indian guru, Swami Muktananda, carefully monitors, watches over and supervises the ascent of this divine awakening in every chela or student until the student reaches the goal of full god-realization and wholeness. How this is done with thousands of souls or students cannot be explained easily to a Western mind. Muktananda is a God-realized being so that the word omnipotent and omnipresent can truly be applied to him. Every student he awoke became a fully connected part of his heart. Each one of us still has full connection to Muktananda even as he has been physically deceased since 1982. In Light on the Path Muktananda explains:
Such aspirants, abiding by the proper rules of conduct, may carry out their daily routine or worldly dealings, may visit and stay in any part of the country and yet, due to their intense faith, see and feel the presence of the adorable Guru everywhere. Be assured this is no myth, no story from mythology, nor am I writing about magic. Rather it is an unmistakable fact that the supreme Spirit is truly and eternally all-pervasive and has penetrated each and every atom of the visible universe. This Self, as Consciousness, permeates the entire world of animate and inanimate, sentient and insentient beings, too. (21)

I did not find out until much later that this type of awakening was happening to hundreds of people all over the West wherever Muktananda appeared. My understandings came slowly and over many years of experiences, reading and research. I learned to see how throughout my life I had been prepared for this awakening, but that evening at Rob's house came as a profound surprise and awesome demonstration of the power of my teacher and the absolute power of Kundalini to sweep one up in her bliss.

So when Rob told me my Kundalini had been awakened, I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. The awakening of Kundalini is a spiritual awakening, a major step towards realization of the divine. It is, in fact, a great boon, a great blessing and a magical gift. As Darrel Irving says, "Every person who is psychic, a genius, or an enlightened sage, has an awakened kundalini to a greater or lesser extent."(179) According to Swami Prajananda, "The main purpose of its awakening in a seeker is to enable him to attain Godhood" (Muktananda, Kundalini 9). Just after my awakening that night, I certainly knew something divine had happened to me. This bliss was to become the beginning of a transformation process that was very dramatic for the two years which followed; it continues to this day in a much more subtle manner.

It is apparent now according to Lee Sannella, a psychiatrist who has written a seminal work on what he calls "a form of psychospiritual energy" (8) the Kundalini Shakti, that the phenomena in the process of psychospiritual transformation...are constant and universal, transcending personal and cultural differences" (23). I was participating in a universal human experience of transcendence. According to his research Kundalini is integral to the teachings of "Tibetan Buddhism, Chinese Taoism," some "American Indian tribes, and ...even of the Bushmen of Africa." It however, was "most carefully studied and conceptually elaborated" in Hindu India (8).

Although the word Kundalini may appear strange for many readers and the concept of it even incomprehensible to the Western mind, in fact it is closer to each person than his own heart. Kundalini is closer than the breath in the body for it is the breather and the breath. In its dormant form it is the very essence of all life. There is a familiar symbol of it in Western culture. The symbol for medicine and a common logo on ambulances is the caduceus, the rod with two snakes coiled around it in spirals. At the top are two wings. Images of Mercury or Hermes show him with this in his hand. That is the symbolic representation of Kundalini which is the alchemical process in the human being, like Mercurius turning the lead into silver, so the Kundalini turns the human being into divinity. The caduceus in our world is a symbol of healing, medicine, health, and transformation. It shows a central staff with two snakes ascending to a meeting point below two wings with a globe on top of the rod. I believe that this symbol is highly meaningful in the context of Kundalini awakening in the 20th and 21st Centuries.

Diagram 1. The Caduceus The Caduceus [See NOTES below for speculation about the nature of the Caduceus.]
The caduceus' central rod represents the central column akin to the spine in the physical body called sushumna (a Sanskrit word with no equivalent word in English). No surgeon will find this sushumna as it is part of the subtle body. Irving states the "kundalini process occurs in what is sometimes called the etheric, or subtle (nonphysical) body...comprised of nerve fibers not visible to the naked eye"(10). The sushumna, our caduceus' rod, parallels the spinal column from the base of the body to the base of the skull. Just as the spinal column is a hollow structure that protects the spinal cord of the central nervous system, so the sushumna is a hollow etheric structure that offers an ascending tube for the Kundalini or light force and within it are three channels. The sushumna is identified with the planet Mercury and the qualities of liquid mercury, quicksilver, and volatility perhaps because the Kundalini within the sushumna appears like liquid light and has characteristics of lightning. People who meditate, yogis, mystics and those who study the Oriental martial arts based upon Chi or Ki, are able to see this light. The great yoga masters were able to assist their chelas, disciples, with the ascent of the Kundalini because they could see where it was blocked or stuck, and send their own psychic power to aid in releasing it.

The two snake-like tubes which, in some depictions, spiral three and a half times each around the central rod meet and cross at the sushumna in their ascent. They represent two side channels of the flow of the awakened Kundalini energy, called ida and pingala (no EngIish equivalent). The channel, ida, is identified with the left side, negatively charged, feminine side of the body, ending above the right nostril and has characteristics of coolness related to the moon; whereas, pingala, is identified with the right side, positively charged, masculine side and ends above the left nostril and has characteristics of heat related to the sun (Avalon 110-112).

On page 48 of Arthur Avalon's (Sir John Woodroffe) classic translation of Indian Kundalini lore into Western language, he indicates that Kundalini is the static element and the body the active/dynamic element when humans are unawakened; this focuses the electrical polarity at the physical level; when Kundalini awakens, she becomes the active element and "unites with Shiva in the Sahasrara Lotus" (48). This means She becomes dynamic and the higher self becomes static, like a snake around a rod, until they merge in the topmost center of the cranium, the Sahasrara. It is as if the creative force after Kundalini awakens is spiraled up to a higher octave. In the unawakened state, the body is the active or dynamic element (devolution), but in the awakened state (evolution), the polarity of dynamic and static, spirals up beyond the physical level, so the psychic higher self becomes dynamic. At this stage the higher self is the active element and the static element is Shiva, the self, the Divine. This is why all the great yogis tell us that when the Kundalin awakens it is a great event, for it is an opportunity to be living within a body, yet to realize the highest awareness. This is the rare gift of being human.

The two channels are also seen as connected to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems which enervate the organs of the body (Beattie 27-29), and they also have a connection to the breath (Muktananda Kundalini 28). When the Kundalini rises through only one of these channels and not through both, madness can result. The story of Gopi Krishna in his autobiography Living with Kundalini is grim testimony to this painful experience. His awakening Kundalini traveled only through the pingala, the fire channel in its ascent, causing him to suffer interminably. It was only when he was able to open the ida channel, the cooling side, that he was restored physically and mentally. This is a key reason so many great gurus and teachers do not recommend practices to stimulate the Kundalini unless a person is closely supervised by an awakened teacher.

According to Muktananda, the Kundalini has two aspects: one manifests the world as we know it, the outer form or physical and is pervasive. In China they call this outer cosmic energy, Chi, in Japan ki, in India it is Prana (Muktandanda, Kundalini 13). We have a limited form of Kundalini energy running through our bodies the moment we are conceived or we should not be able to move our bodies or live -- it is indeed the "life force." It is this outer energy we see in the energetic meridians that are used in acupuncture. It is this energy that pervades and enervates the world as we see it. According to Ajit Mookerjee this Kundalini is "in every atom of the universe" (9) and is "the vast potential of psychic energy, the body's most powerful thermal current"(10).

The hidden, or inner form of Kundalini is usually asleep in a small "bulb" of energy that is stored at the base of the spine. According to Bonnie Greenwell,
...after Kundalini enters the fetus and activates the pranic system the residual energy coils 3 1/2 times at the base of the spine, and goes into a dormant state. The mind becomes engaged in the process of living, and we identify with our bodies, our genetic heritage and our mental, sensate and emotional processes, separating from any awareness of the Self, or the Soul or the source of our existence, however one wishes to identify it. (22)

So when the inner Kundalini is awake it turns us inward to our soul and to our source--the Divine. It offers an opportunity to uncover who we are, where we come from and where our home is. It is "the beginning of the spiritual journey" that enables us to "experience the inner, spiritual world" (Muktandanda, Kundalini 8). How this awakening takes place is mysterious and much sought after by yogis. According to Muktananda, the most frequent place of awakening is the base or root of the spine (Kundalini18). As the inner Kundalini is awakened, it uncoils and ascends like a snake, curving in the sinuous manner shown with the caduceus, so that is why often it is called "serpent power."

This bulb of Kundalini energy can be awakened through intense devotion to God, repetition of mantra and various yogic practices and, in my case, shaktipat, the Guru's touch (Muktananda, Kundalini 18). So as I sat in that meditation center a happy confluence of circumstances occurred to give me this awakening. I was karmically ready, as Mindell proposes, I had reached a state of "inner maturation," by chosing a moral high road that suppressed the wild spirit within, and I had to release Mercury, the "barbaric spirit" (Mindell,Working 59). I was chanting a mantra, a classic device for bringing the two sides of the brain and being into alignment. I was in a meditation center where Muktananda's teachings were put into practice and his spirit was invoked. According to Swami Vishnu Tirtha in Devatma Shakti (Kundalini): Divine Power,
The astral force can also be roused by the magnetic influence of other persons. Such great personalities have their prana and mind on a higher potentiality and when approached they tend to raise the prana of others from a lower potentiality to a higher one. The process may be compared with the flow of an electric current... [that] depends wholly on the will of the master mind. (77)

Thus, I was a ripe subject for the cork to come out and for Mercury to be released. I was bottled up with this life force that demanded release. I was knocking at the door, calling to the guide on the other side. I was ready for initiation by a realized being into the realms of my inner and higher self. Muktananda answered that call. Muktananda explains initiation thus:
The tradition of initiation exists in every path and in every sect. However, the true initiation is Shaktipat, the inner awakening by which the disciple can have a superconscious vision of the Absolute, and through which, in time, he comes to experience his identity with God. (Kundalini 19)

Swami Vishnu Tirtha says that Shaktipat is "the process of spiritualizing a man with the charge of psychic force...not to be confused with mesmerism or hypnotism" because it is "everlasting and elevating" (77). I was fortunate to be the recipient of shaktipat by Swami Muktananda a "Satguru" from India who toured the United States and the world in the 70's. This set me on a path of Siddha Yoga, the yoga that "can be acquired only through the favour of a perfect master (Siddha Guru) without any effort on the part of the initiated" (Tirtha 79).

The grace that descends from a Master such as Muktananda, has restored this opportunity for man to know himself as divine and immortal. The caduceus represents the ability to awaken the dead, and the Kundalini certainly did that for me as I was "dead" to the world of spirit and higher awareness before it entered my life.

NOTES to Chapter 5 The Awakened Goddess: Kundalini Shakti
The Caduceus
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