Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kundalini Yoga, Fact and Fiction

"The general idea prevailing about Kundalini, both in the East and in the West, is of a fabulous power... lying dormant, waiting to be roused..." --The Secret of Yoga by Gopi Krishna

When the subject turns from more commonly known Western ideas present in Judeo-Christian mysticism such as Incarnation,  to ideas prevalent in the East then brought West, such as Kundalini Yoga or other Hatha practices, quickly it becomes apparent that there is little credible information about this aspect of Hatha Yoga translated into English or available for use in the West. Why so? To Westerners accustomed to an intellectual system of Scholasticism, books and works of the mind alone are an immediate draw. Yet like many elements of Eastern philosophy, person to person transmission of many types of knowledge is critical, and cannot be obtained from any text. It is like the "Golden Rosary." These texts are said to be "secret" yet for aspirants and postulants they are available with direction and guidance through oral transmission.

So the secret is that they are secret, not secret-- like a good Buddhist Koan. Within the question is the answer. One of a handful of texts written on the subject for English audiences is written by Gopi Krishna. Writing in The Secret of Yoga, Krishna delves into some of the facts and fictions of Kundalini practice. He states that one of the popular conceptions of this practice is that a person who attains the highest Chakra, "attains unlimited dominance over the forces of nature..." There is no end to the natural powers attained by "those who succeed in awakening Kundalini (Adya-Kali)... many modern seekers expect from Yoga in the wildest flights of their fancy."

But what does Krishna say Kundalini is then, beyond Adya-Kali? Well, first of all he notes that the ancient texts are undoubtedly containing great wisdom, yet knowledge of the human body through much of the time periods that the ancient texts were written was woefully inadequate. For example, until the 1920s it was not well understood how a woman became pregnant; what the hormonal processes that developed into a monthly cycle were comprised of. Most of the most basic hormones relating to reproduction were not known until further into the 20th century.

Krishna argues then for a modern Kundalini, one that is informed by this age for this modern world. Kundalini he argues is a potent energy force, one that "has not been elucidated in any rational way in any text, ancient or modern." Kundalini, the Divine energy is often described by many writers both ancient and modern as "cosmic, astral, or psychic force without any biologic connection to the human body." And yet Hatha Yoga in all its forms is intimately concerned with the body as much as the spiritual nature of such body.

Krishna also calls into consideration the notion of a Chakra. Chakras are thought to be pathways for energy flow, increasing consciousness and leading to the emergence of the Kundalini in an aspirant. Yet Krishna notes that in Buddhist Tantric practice there are only four such pathways, rather than the much discussed seven-- as though seven were the usual number. In fact he argues that the notion of "seven lotuses (chakras) on the cerebro-spinal axis is of comparatively recent origin... under the cloak of weird formulations, fantastic formulations and mythical beings... of ignorance from the past, it is not surprising that... a whole host of divinities, and strange formulations in the body account for the bewildering effect of Kundalini. But now a rational explanation is called for."

And yet Gopi Krishna does not for a minute deny that a mysterious power of energy flowing throughout a body is Kundalini. And so he writes, " it is no secret that we live in two worlds [simultaneously], one spiritual and one physical... this is the reason why real success in yoga is so very rare.' overhauling of the human body is necessary to effect the transformation most often sought.... And super-normal gifts such as prophesy and clairvoyance... become available to the successful initiates within limits." This, he says, in a nutshell, is the message of all the Tantras and all the ancient treatises dealing with Kundalini-Yoga. "For the aim of every religious practice is to bring the mind into Cosmic Consciousness or the Infinite Universe of Life, hidden from the ordinary mind.


sfauthor said...

Nice posting. Do you know about these kundalini books?

Simple Mind Zen said...

Thanks for your post, and for the info you provide for all:)