Kundalini as Potential Energy
By Sharon Bauer
Sharon Bauer, M.S.N., Author, Mimi Malfitano, Editor
In the Dzogchen tradition, the energy of the field of awarenss is described as manifest emerging from the un-manifest. In the Hindu tradition she is described as the Shakti emerging from Shiva. In the Chinese tradition she is the Chi, the power of the Tao. She is the active, dynamic energetic aspect of the primordial awareness… the mother of all. Her names are many: the kundalini, the devi, the shakti, the spanda, the chi, the ki. Each tradition describes her personally, for she inspires devotion in all her devotees. She is known as Mary, Kuan Yin, Lakshmi, Parvati, as Sophia, as Kali, the Maha Devi, as Durga, as Tara, as Mother Nature. In the Rig Veda she is described as the energetic force which brings forth the daily coming of the light into the world. She sets all things in motion. She sends people to their duties. She is said also to be “the eye of the Gods,” for she illuminates us all. She is described as “the root of the world,” as “pervading all,” as “the life force in all beings.” She is the mother, the Divine Prana, which courses through our bodies.
Today we will focus on the awakening and movement of energy through the body. In the Hindu Shavite system, kundalini is described as potential energy or prana. It is said to lie at the base of the spine in its dormant state. Once awakened, it enters the central channel (which corresponds to the spinal column) in the subtle body, and begins to rise up, piercing each of the major chakras in the body. Awakened kundalini is called shakti. As the shakti passes through the chakras, there is an intensification of energy. The centers may feel as if there is a throbbing, pulsing or spinning as the kundalini rises. As the energy opens a particular center, the qualities of that center may be experienced. The chakras are themselves knots of nadis, like overlapping freeway systems where there are entrances and exits into a central location. The energy moves through the nadis to purify the energy center.
Abhinavagupta, the 10th century Shavite master, recommends practicing with great love, affection and devotion in the first stage of practice. Initially, as we focus on the breath, the breath may become very fine and subtle, and then a kind of giddiness takes over. The meditator may feel he is entering another world. His or her body may not move. It may take great effort to open the eyes. It is as if the mind is very alert, but the body is asleep. Sometimes the meditator may even experience fear or see scary images. One might even see the archetypal image of a snake rising up the spine. The advice given by the yogis at this point is to simply witness whatever is happening and not get frightened. Simply hold a relaxed state of awareness. It is suggested to anchor one’s self in the breath or a mantra. If you like, you can use the mantra aham-ah…” I am becoming who I am”
It should be noted that these experiences vary according to the capacity of the meditator. The kundalini is aroused in the muladhara chakra at the base of the spine, the “root center.” As the energy is aroused, one may feel a pain or crawling sensation in this center. The energy is then sipped into the central channel. As this happens, a great bliss may arise. The breath may even stop. If you like you can focus on the mantra “aham-ah.” As the energy moves through the sexual center, one may feel intense desire. Let the desire be there in awareness. Do not go into fantasy. Just hold a steady state of awareness. Now the energy begins to rise up though the abdomen, sometimes call the “city of the jewel.” As this center is purified, fear and treachery drop away, digestion becomes strong and one becomes free of disease. As the energy continues to move, it may open the heart center, which is sometimes called the center of the pairs of opposites – “the place where heaven and earth meet” in the body. There are many opposites: love/hate, good/bad, success/failure, and the list goes on. As the shakti permeates this center, one becomes steadfast in the inner feeling, in the “awareness of awarenss.” One gains the ability to sustain compassion and receives the power to heal.
As the kundalini enters the 16 petalled lotus in the throat, eight of the petals give the power of speech and expression. For most of us these powers are naturally open. The other eight petals must be opened though right virtue and practice. When the throat is opened, intuition becomes very strong and information can be received directly from the primordial field. The power of direct perception increases and one can now bypass the cognitive mind and know past, present and future. When this center is pierced by the kundalini, the ears are opened. Sometimes one hears divine sound called nada. Muktananda describes this experience of nada in his autobiography, “The Play of Consciousness.” There are many kinds of nada resembling such things as the beating of the waves of the sea, the roll of thunder, the rippling of a stream, the rattle of a speeding train, the sound of an airplane in the distance, the crackle of a funeral pyre. Sometimes I would hear the chanting of the divine name, sometimes the sounds of the mridang and kettledrum, sometimes the solemn and sacred sound of the conch, sometimes the mighty peal of huge bells suggesting the chanting of OM., sometimes the sweet sing of the veena and other string instruments. I also heard the sounds of honey bees, bumble bees, and other insects, the calling of the peacock and cries of the peacock and other birds. I became immersed in a new ecstasy which came with these sounds.”
Then as the shakti moves through the eyes, the eyes are purified and one may be able to see the light of consciousness. The blue pearl or tigle is pierced. As the shakti moves through the nose, one may begin to experience divine fragrance. Muktananda describes “There is no fragrance in the world equal to these fragrances, I floated in ecstasy, they were so divine. A special breathing would take place spontaneously, and I would feel the most sweet and beautiful love.”
As this energy moves into the 3rd eye, the meditator enters a “special void.” The yogi enters the thought-free state. In this space, the meditator begins to pour his subjectivity into the universal consciousness, into oneness…
As energy moves into the crown center, a kind of mystical whirling takes place. This whirling does not belong to ordinary experience and is describes as “a vibration moving in all directions, so intense as to defy the imagination.” As each petal of the thousand-petalled lotus is opened, one may experience this awakening of kundalini at its highest level. This center is known as the seat of the primordial teacher. One may access archetypal beings in the crown center, as in, the Christ, the Buddha and the Divine Mother, angelic form.
And when the intensity of the vibration is one with the primordial awareness, one enters oneness permanently. All objective phenomena have been digested by the light. As this happens, one is lifted into universal consciousness and the yogi recognizes his identity with the whole world. “The bliss of samadhi is now the bliss of the world.” As this happens, the yogi is then able to be of real service to all of humanity for it is through the power of that yogi’s light that the kundalini may be awakened in many people.
For most meditators, the stages previously described may span many years of meditation practice.
In the Tantraloka, Abhinavagupta explains the phenomena of the seven stages of self. He says consciousness is made to double back on itself. It’s made to face itself directly. As we become aware of our own awareness, it’s as if a beam of light looks back at its own radiance. As this happens, there is a release of energy in the muladhara chakra. This vibratory current is generated by the “colliding of consciousness” itself. This intensified flow is called the Kundalini Shakti. This awakened Shakti then purifies each chakra leading us ultimately to the state of oneness with the self.
The Chandogya Upanishad describes the conclusion of this process in this way: “When the senses are purified, the heart is purified. When the heart is purified, there is a constant and unceasing remembrance of the self. When there is a constant and unceasing remembrance of the self, all bonds are loosened and freedom is attained.”