Kundalini

In Hinduism and yoga kundalini [koon-dl-ee-nee] (literally ‘coiled’) is a ‘corporeal energy,’ an unconscious, instinctive or libidinal force or Shakti, which lies coiled at the base of the spine. It is envisioned either as a goddess or else as a sleeping serpent, hence a number of English renderings of the term such as ‘serpent power.’ The kundalini resides in the sacrum bone in three and a half coils and has been described as a residual power of pure desire.

Kundalini is described as a sleeping, dormant potential force in the human organism. It is one of the components of an esoteric description of man’s ‘subtle body,’ which consists of nadis (energy channels), chakras (psychic centers), prana (subtle energy), and bindu (drops of essence).

Through meditation, and various esoteric practices, such as kundalini yoga, the kundalini is awakened, and can rise up through the central nadi, called sushumna, that rises up inside or alongside the spine. The progress of kundalini through the different chakras leads to different levels of awakening and mystical experience, until the kundalini finally reaches the top of the head, Sahasrara chakra, producing an extremely profound mystical experience.

Kundalini energy is nothing but the natural energy of the Self, where Self is the universal consciousness (Paramatma) present in every being, and that the individual mind of thoughts cloaks this natural energy from unadulterated expression. Advaita teaches that Self-realization, enlightenment, God-consciousness, nirvana and kundalini awakening are all the same thing, and self-inquiry meditation is considered a very natural and simple means of reaching this goal.

Kundalini is considered an interaction of the subtle body along with chakra energy centers and nadis channels. Each chakra is said to contain special characteristics and with proper training, moving kundalini energy ‘through’ these chakras can help express or open these characteristics. Sir John Woodroffe (pen name Arthur Avalon) was one of the first to bring the notion of kundalini to the West. As High Court Judge in Calcutta, he became interested in Shaktism and Hindu Tantra. His translation of and commentary on two key texts was published as ‘The Serpent Power.’

Western awareness of the idea of kundalini was strengthened by the Theosophical Society and the interest of the psychoanalyst Carl Jung. ‘Jung’s seminar on kundalini yoga, presented to the Psychological Club in Zurich in 1932, has been widely regarded as a milestone in the psychological understanding of Eastern thought. Kundalini yoga presented Jung with a model for the development of higher consciousness, and he interpreted its symbols in terms of the process of individuation.’

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