Kundalini yoga by Swami Ramananda-Holistic approach (part-A)
An astonishing energy known as Kundalini is said to lay coiled at the base of the spine dormant like a sleeping snake.This serpent energy can be woken from its slumber by the practice of certain yoga postures,breathing exercises and mantras aroused by these practices when energy surges upwards through an invisible network of nerves and pierces six lotus-like chakras releasing waves of ecstasy when it reaches a magnificent thousand petaled Lotus at the crown of the head.his energy is said to merge into cure consciousness and endow the practitioner with enlightenment.
Swami Ramananda says –
What is this extraordinary yoga practice and it’s so-called serpent energy and where did these esoteric teachings come from[Music] . I’d like to invite you to join me for this unique exploration of Kundalini Yoga will seek out the roots of this tradition and explore the intricacies of its practice.We’ll examine certain controversies and misconceptions and I’ll share my own personal experience of practicing Kundalini Yoga for almost 30 years I’ve taught the profound spiritual truths of Vedanta the complexities of Sanskrit language and meditation because meditation helped me so much I developed a great love for leading others to discover its benefits over the years I learned that no single meditation technique is equally effective for all meditators.
Every person is unique,for this reason I teach a wide variety of meditation techniques but somehow I’ve never taught Kundalini Yoga.There are two main reasons first of all my guru strenuously warned us about a problem he called experience seeking he said that conventional life is driven by the never-ending pursuit of new and better experiences people love to watch new movies dine at trendy restaurants and travel to exotic places but experiences like these can never lead to perfect peace and contentment as a young man swami died.
Ananda observed the problem of experience seeking when he lived in Rishikesh a sacred town in the foothills of the Himalayas in the 1960s he was sought out by American and European hippies who had indulged in sex drugs and rock and roll and now they wanted to experience meditation but if meditation is just another experience to be enjoyed then it’s not so different from sex drugs or anything else in this way some practitioners of Kundalini Yoga might merely be seeking exciting
New experiences instead of seeking spiritual growth it’s easy to fall into the trapof experience seeking especially when does yogic practice seems to hold the promise of bliss and ecstasy the other reason I’ve avoided teaching Kundalini Yoga is that I’m completely turned off by the way it’s been distorted and misrepresented by contemporary Western Yogi’s I’m tired of seeing dazzling rainbow huge chakras and bodies emitting fountains of light from every pore images like these portray a practice that has virtually nothing in common with its ancient origins.Yet people seem drawn to Glitz illustrations and trendy New Age belief .
The other hand Kundalini Yoga is anauthentic spiritual tradition whose roots go back at least 2,000 years in ancient India the holy sages known as Rishi’s sought enlightenment by exploring within their bodies and minds to discover the supreme divinity hidden deep inside their remarkable insights and a special techniques they devised were recorded in Sanskrit scriptures called Upanishads,a total of 108 upanishads are included in the Vedas thema in scriptures for all Hindu religious and spiritual practices of those Upanishads are dedicated to the theory and practice of Kundalini Yoga.Those yoga who punished odds are the ultimate source for the entire body of teachings on Kundalini Yoga.
The separate traditionof a dwight of vedanta which I follow is based on 12 other Upanishads which are focused on gaining spiritual knowledge rather than yogic practice.All 108 upanishads contain the sacred revelations of the Rishi’s so it seems hypocritical for me to study only the twelve Vedanta Upanishads and to ignore the 20 yoga Upanishads as I have for decades.I had to admit the narrowness of my studies and this led me to begin a research project that has two parts first to thoroughly explore the teachings of Kundalini Yoga relying exclusively on the 20 yoga Upanishads and studying them in the original Sanskrit along with their sanskrit commentaries by setting aside all yogic teachings are evolved.later I can focus on what the Rishi’s themselves taught the second part of the project is to personally undertake the practice of Kundalini Yoga exactly as the Rishi’s conceived it when I began as ventureI wondered what will I discover will I hear celestial sounds and see inner visions like some practitioners .
More importantly I wondered if my inquiry would confirm or contradict the teachings of Advaita Vedanta I followed for so long.Right now I don’t know what the outcome of this experiment will be but that’s the whole idea of an experiment isn’t it this is the book I’ve been studying in preparation for this project it contains all twenty Yoga who punished Us and their commentaries it will serve as a travel guide for the path we’re about to explore. I haven’t started my formal practice of Kundalini Yoga yet but when I do I’ll share those experiences with you.
Kundalini Yoga became well known in the West largely as a result of a 1967 book in which Gopi Krishna described his amazing experiences of Kundalini. Gopi Krishna was a government employee from North India whose intense meditation had awakened his dormant Kundalini with astonishing and sometimes harrowing results his book reached the shores of America.Just at the time when the hippies had taken great interest both in Hindu mysticism and in psyche delic experiences from hallucinogenic drugs like LSDGopi Krishna’s mind-bending encounters with Kundalini seemed to resemble the LSD experiences of the hippies and this perhaps attracted them to Kundalini Yoga as a rebellious teenager I also experimented with LSD way back then but I didn’t read Gopi Krishna’s book until years later when spiritual teachings leave the lands of their origin and are retold in different cultures and in different languages they’re subject to being revised or altered in various ways some changes are necessary like the translation of Sanskrit scriptures into English but other changes can muddle or distort the meaning of the original texts and all too often spiritual teachings become totally corrupted
When they’re misinterpreted by people whose perspectives are utterly foreign to the originals for example a famous book on the seven chakras written by C W Leadbeater was filled with Western occultism and doctrines of the Theosophical Society of which Lead beater was a member.Carl Jung the famous psychoanalyst gave a seminar on Kundalini Yoga as a method for individuation which is a special therapeutic process he devised more recently.
Yogi bhajan brought his highly personalized version of Kundalini Yoga from India to the United States replacing its traditional Sanskrit mantras with others from his own Sikh religion Swami Muktananda also introduced Kundalini Yoga to Westerners teaching aversion extensively adapted by the Kashmiri Shiva tradition to which he belonged.Now I don’t mean to imply that all these derivative teachings are useless.Many spiritual seekers have benefited from them. I myself meditated with disciples of Swami Muktananda as ayoung man, but these modern spin-offs are not at all in alignment with what the ancient Rishi’s taught and as a result something of great value has been lost.
As Kundalini Yoga became more and more integrated into Western culture it began to lose its original identity and eventually it was totally reshaped through the process of cultural appropriation when a Native American war bonnet is donned by a famous model or when bindis which are sacred to Hindus are worn by a popular singer. These cultural forms are appropriated and adapted without due respect for their time-honored traditions.
The original meanings of these cultural forms are stripped away and replaced by current fashions. Kundalini Yoga has also fallen prey to cultural appropriation westernized versions of the chakras present them in hues of the rainbow instead of their traditional colors and associate them with emotions which there is never intended chakras even get mixed up with other cultures like this Greek symbol and his ancient Egyptian figure.The New Age movement has commodified the chakras using them to advertise crystal colorful stones scented oils and self-improvement seminars on a more serious note a very damaging adaptation of Kundalini Yoga has arisen due to the problem of experience seeking.
We discussed before there’s an interesting story about this years ago.My guru asked me to drive him to an ashram in New York State to meet an elderly Swami who taught Kundalini Yoga.We were invited into a large room where the Guru and his students sat in meditation after several minutes of perfect silence.One of the meditators suddenly shrieked and her body jerked violently. Swami died, Ananda was so startled,he almost fell out of his chair.Over the next half hour several other meditators had similar reactions. Swami Dai Ananda said, these students were taught that whenever a chakra is pierced Kundalini will produce spontaneous vocalizations and body movements.This isn’t taught in the Yoga Upanishads but when students are led to believe that occasional shrieks and jerks are sure signs of progress.
A suggestion is planted in their minds that can trigger reactions,later psychologists say that suggestions like these work in the same way as place bos a patient’s trust in a doctor enables a placebo to actually produce desirable effects.Similarly a students trust in a guru enables meditation to produce reactions like those we observed.Swami Dai Ananda washighly critical of the way KundaliniYoga is usually taught and he put the blame on the problem of experience seeking .He said many modern gurus put far too much emphasis on gaining spiritual experiences and not enough emphasis on gaining spiritual wisdom.
All experiences are temporary including experiences of Kundalini.After a powerful spiritual experience comes and goes you might remain utterly unchanged unless you actually learn something from that experience that’s exactly what happened to me when I experimented with LSD as a reckless teenager I had transcendent experiences and a sense of complete oneness with the cosmos but after the drug wore off I found myself no wiser than before I failed to learn anything from experiences.For this reason the ultimate goal of spiritual practice is not to produce short lived experiences but rather to reveal the true divine nature of the consciousness within us.
According to the ancient riches our true nature is divine.It is eternal limitless and untouched by worldly affliction.If that’s so why are we still subject to suffering, the problem is the inner divinity is covered by a veil of ignorance that obscures it and prevents us from recognizing its nature.The goal of spiritual practice then is to remove that ignorance and discover the innate ever-present divinity within.Look at this passage from the yoga tattwa who punishes suffering is due to ignorance.Spiritual knowledge frees you from suffering and that knowledge is to discover the true divine nature of your own consciousness.Enlightenment is the personal discovery of your innate divinity.This discovery takes place when the veil of ignorance is removed and removing that ignorance requires spiritual knowledge because knowledge alone destroys ignorance but then where does Kundalini Yoga come into the picture if enlightenment has gained through spiritual knowledge then what’s the point of raising your Kundalini and piercing your chakras to answer this.
We have to discern two distinct factors that are required to accomplish anything.Factors they’re issues called primary cause and secondary cause if you want to make rotis for lunch from flour and water the primary causes fire sense of fires heat can bake bread a stove and pan are also needed but they don’t produce heat so they’re considered secondary causes for any goal primary and secondary causes are both necessary without a fire stove or pan you won’t have any rotis to eat.
This demonstrates an important point.Spiritual knowledge is the primary cause for enlightenment because it can remove the veil of ignorance and reveal the divinity within but Yoga is the secondary cause so without yoga enlightenment is impossible.Both spiritual knowledge and yoga are required as the yoga tattwa.
Upanishad says without yogic practice how can spiritual knowledge free you from suffering. Without spiritual knowledge how can free you from suffering. Both are required for liberation. Many kinds of yogic practices can help you gain enlightenment including karma yoga,selfless service ,Raja yoga, meditation, bhakti yoga devotion ,hatha yoga postures and breathing exercises and of course Kundalini Yoga.
Another important yogic practice closely related to Kundalini Yoga is pilgrimage traveling to a sacred place.The goal of pilgrimage is to be blessed by the deity residing in a sacred place.Usually inside a special temple yet the Rishi’s taught that the divinity residing in each temple also resides in you, inside your own body and they envisioned sacred places within the body to be visited through an inner pilgrimage.This inner pilgrimage is a meditation practice in which you deliberately imagine particular deities and sacred places within your body. The Darsh nut will punish it says the Himalayas are at the top of your head.
Lord Shiva wells on your forehead the sacred cityof Varanasi is between your eyebrows,Kurukshetra where the Mahabharata war was fought is in your chest,prayaga where the sacred Ganga and Yamuna rivers meet is in your heart, thepractice of Kundalini Yoga is a kind of inner pilgrimage it begins at the mooladhara chakra at the base of your spine and concludes at the sahasrara chakra at the crown of your head.
During this pilgrimage you are to meditate on the deity residing in each chakra and receive the blessings needed for your onwards journey.Long before modern medical science the riches mapped out the life force and our bodies using their powers of intuition their pre scientific model called this life force prana and identified five kinds prana in the heart apana in the trunk of the body viana pervading the body udana in the throat and Samana in the stomach.These five prana circulate throughout the body following specific routes called Nadi’s .
Nadi is often translated as nerve but it’s not a physical tube or conduit the natis and prana’s are not material in nature,they’re subtle non tangible. Your brain is tangible it weighs about two pounds but your mind is not tangible it has no size or weight in the same way the Nadi’s and prana’s are non tangible subtle unlike the nerves and blood vessels in your body there are three main nadis the sushumna which rises inside your spine from its base to the crown of your head.The eda which terminates at your left nostril and the Pingala which terminates at your right nostril.
There are many other not ease in your body they’re said to number 72,000 altogether.The sushumna nadi links together all seven chakras.Chakra means w heel but they’re usually described as lotus flowers according to the yoga,mooladhara chakra at the base of the spine has four petals the swadisthana chakra above it has six petals ,the money para chakra at the Naval hasten petals the anahata chakra at theheart has twelve petals the vishuddhichakra at the throat has sixteen petalsthe, agnya chakra between the eyebrowshas two petals and the sahasrara chakra at the crown of the head has 1,000 petals.
Since the chakras are like flowers,they’re actually turned upwards not outwards.Lotus flowers symbolize purity even though they’re rooted in the slimy stinking muck at the bottom of a pond,their pristine beauty remains untainted even though chakras are located inside an impure human vessel their sanctity remains untainted.Before we examine the seven chakras in detail there’s an important question we have to consider two chakras and noddies actually exist inside our bodies or are they just concepts envisioned by the Rishi’s long ago.
When addressing this question many scholars and practitioners fall into the trap of treating nadi’s and chakras identically either both are real or both are imagined but this assumption turns out to be incorrect.First of all nadi’s belong to a pre scientific model of the human nervous system but the seven chakras are not part of that model. Chuckles are not involved and channeling prana throughout the body Nadi’s direct the flow of prana not chakras which serve a very different purpose to understand how chakras are different.
Consider this nadi’s are widely referred to in all 108 upanishads but chakras are mentioned mostly in the twenty yoga Upanishads.This shows that chakras have a more specialized role than not ease a role specific to the practice of Kundalini Yoga. What is that role chakras are richly symbolic forms that have been visioned by the Rishi’s and deliberately super imposed on the body for the sake of meditation like the deities and sacred places in the body.
Imagine during the practice of inner pilgrimage deliberate super imposition of this sort is widely used like when we super impose the God of the cosmos on statues standing barely three feet taller when we super impose monetary value on little bits of paper.Such symbolism is powerful and useful as it is in Kundalini Yoga when chakras and their associated deities are deliberately super imposed at locations along the spine to serve as focal points for meditation.Now we can see the difference between naadi’s and chakras.Naadi’s are part of a model for the human nervous system which obviously exists ,chakras onthe other hand are deliberately superimposed on the body and are to be visualized during meditation to explain this difference.