Academic journal article Journal of Transpersonal Psychology

Energy and Awakening: A Psycho-Sexual Interpretation of Kundalini Awakening

Academic journal article Journal of Transpersonal Psychology

Energy and Awakening: A Psycho-Sexual Interpretation of Kundalini Awakening

Article excerpt

In the chakra system of the Yoga and Tantra traditions, kundalini-derived from the Sanskrit word kunda, meaning to coil or spiral-lies dormant in the first and lowest of the seven chakras, the muladhara. According to these traditions, once kundalini is aroused, it travels up through the sushumna energy-channel, located roughly in parallel with the spine (hence the slightly inaccurate but common belief that kundalini travels "up the spine" itself). It travels all the way up to the seventh chakra, the sahasrara, in the crown of the head. Here it manifests itself as spiritual awakening. If the energy can be permanently settled or established at the seventh chakra, the individual will be in a permanent state of nirvikalpa samadhi, in union with Brahman, becoming a Brahma-vidya, with knowledge of Creator Brahman.

Many traditional sources describe the awakening and liberating effects of kundalini. The Hatha Yoga Pradipaka-one of the classic texts on hatha yoga, written during the 13th century CE-describes how, when kundalini rises through the sushumna towards the sahasrara, "all the lotuses and all the knots [that is, all of the chakras and all of the 'energy-knots' in the nadis] are pierced through." At this point, "the mind then becomes free from all connections (with its objects of enjoyments) and death is then evaded" (Hatha Yoga Pradipika, 2015).

The Yoga Kundalini Upanishad describes how, with the rising of kundalini, the yogi "attains peace and becomes devoted to atma" (Aiyar, 2015/1914, p. 265). In the Tantric text, the Paratrisika Vivarana, the state is described in terms of "the universal emission-vibrating within the heart of the sushumna in the great bliss of union" (cited in Silburn, 1988, p.10).

Such sources also discuss processes by which kundalini can be "raised," including asanas, mudras (gestures), breath (prana) control and forms of meditation. The Yoga Kundalini Upanishad (Aiyar, 2015/1914) states that two things are necessary to raise kundalini: the restraint of prana and the technique of saraswati-chalana (which involves sitting in the padmasana posture, manipulating the breath and holding the ribs, so that the saraswati nadi can be opened and kundalini can flow through). The Khecarividya, a hatha yoga text, states that kundalini can be raised by the kechari mudra (where the tongue is placed above the soft palate towards the nasal cavity) (Mallinson, 2007). Another hatha yoga text, the Goraksasataka, recommends hatha yoga postures such as the mula bandha, the jalandhara bandha and kumbhaka (Mallinson, 2011).

The practice of brahmacarya (usually translated as chastity or celibacy) is also seen as a process by which kundalini may be raised. In kundalini yoga, brahmacarya is characterised as erotic celibacy and also as an inner marriage (Sovatsky, 2014). In other words, it is not a technique of suppression of sexuality, based on a world-denying attitude of duality between the body and spirit (as tends to be the case with celibacy in Christian traditions); brahmacarya is an expressive and dynamic process of transformation, which can be compared to alchemy. This is clearly seen in the practice of urdhva-retas, the grand maturational process of all yoga (Sovatsky, 2014), by which the instinctive energies associated with the lower chakras move upwards and are transformed into the "higher" spiritual energy of ojas. Using an alchemical metaphor, Sovatsky (2014) refers to urdhva-retas in an experiential sense as "the distillation of the secretion-radiance of ojas...into ever more unconditional love" (p. 154).

Traditional Yogic and Tantric texts do not address the potential difficulties of kundalini in great detail, presumably because the phenomenon occurred in the context of spiritual or monastic traditions, under the close supervision of gurus. As a result, such difficulties may have been less likely to occur (Greyson, 1993). Nevertheless, traditional texts do hint at the potential volatility of kundalini. …

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