Yoga tells us that upon conception of a human fetus, as the cosmic Shakti makes her creative descent through the subtle-body chakras as described in the preceding section, she deposits in each of these centers a vital energy or life-force called prana.
Prana, then, is a psychic substance which inhabits our subtle or astral body. Though it does not reside in the physical body, it is the energy which activates this body, vitalizing and coordinating all the countless functions we perform in life, such as walking, talking, eating, sleeping, working, playing, etc.
Prana also powers the mind. It activates our physical senses, conveys their impressions to the brain, and it even processes those impressions; moreover it provides the energy which runs our ego, intellect and will, and every thought we generate is made of it. In short, every function, process and event associated with the term “human life” is illuminated, instigated, sustained, directed and executed by this conscious vital essence of human existence.
Prana puts our body together before birth, holds it together and gives it life, then departs to let it decompose in death. As indicated, after Shakti creates the chakras and infuses them with prana, she then comes to rest just below the muladhara, which corresponds to the base of the spine in the physical body.
At this point, Yoga tells us, she becomes essentially dormant within us and will remain so for our entire life unless she is deliberately reactivated, in which case she will then proceed to make her way back up through the chakras by the same route employed in her descent, and when she reunites with her cosmic mate, Shiva, the effect upon us is known as Self-realization.
The evolution of each purusha is mirrored by this cycle of creative Shakti: her descent represents our swing away from Shiva into perception of duality and ignorance of our essential nature, while her reactivation and ascent symbolize the swing back to Shiva, toward perception of cosmic unity and Self-knowledge. According to Yoga, then, spiritual evolution is a journey of only about three feet, the ascent to Enlightenment corresponding to the awakened Kundalini’ s ascent from the base of the spine to the top of the head.
Though all this may sound like a fairy tale to most Westerners, the existence of Kundalini has been supported by Western science for many decades. As early as 1932, C.G. Jung, who ranks with Freud as one of the greatest psychologists in history, held a seminar on the subject of Kundalini, at which he and his distinguished colleagues estimated that it would take a thousand years of depth psychoanalysis to accomplish the awakening of Kundalini in the average human being. Later, Jung wrote, “When you succeed in awakening the Kundalini so that it starts to move out of its mere potentiality, you necessarily start a world which is totally different from our [usual] world. It is a world of eternity.”
Through the use of a modified ballistocardiograph, the late Itzhak Bentov produced fascinating research to support the fact that Kundalini awakening leads to many physiological changes in the meditator, among which is a change in the mode of functioning of the nervous system. Dr. Lee Sannella, who has studied Kundalini for years, has published his findings in a book entitled Kundalini-Psychosis or Transcendence, in which he sums up his research as follows:
A new clinical entity, the rebirth process, [has now] been defined and documented. It is a dynamic, self- directed, self-limited process of mental and physiological purification, leading to a healthier and more developed state than what we usually consider normal. It has many characteristic features which may be objectively demonstrated. A cross-cultural survey reveals that this process is essentially similar in a wide variety of spiritual traditions. Although it was rare in the West as recently as a few decades ago, it now appears with increasing frequency.
Here, the awakening of Kundalini is clinically described by Dr. Sannella as a “rebirth process” because it represents a 180- degree switch in the direction of our spiritual evolution. Human birth-the creation of the chakras in descending order from the most subtle to the densest represents the half of the evolutionary cycle leading away from Shiva and into entanglement in the illusion of the limited self; it represents the transformation of God into human being. Spiritual rebirth instigated by Kundalini awakening, on the other hand, represents the retransformation of human being back into God.
Spiritual scientists assert that our chakras are interconnected by a complex network of minute astral tubes called nadis, through which our prana flows. As we continue to remain ignorant of our true nature over many lifetimes, these nadis become increasingly clogged with impurities which prevent the flow of prana and cause us to lose almost all access to our higher chakras. The impurities which block these nadis consist of energy forms which we our self have created with our own will. Self-limiting thoughts and motives constitute the bulk of such energy forms, but there are others as well. For example, so close is the relationship between our subtle and physical bodies that virtually anything that affects one automatically affects the other; thus, physical impurities such as body toxins caused by unhealthful diet, drugs, tobacco, alcohol, nervous tension, etc., cause corresponding obstructions in the subtle body as well.
Since the Kundalini must move upward through these nadis after activation, it is essential that all impurities be removed in order to permit her unobstructed ascent. Should the Kundalini become fully awakened before these impurities are removed, the effect upon our organism could be cataclysmic-like trying to run a million watts of electricity through a one-hundred-watt light bulb. For this reason various precise disciplines have been devised in order to purify our instrument adequately and then to awaken Kundalini from its dormant state by degrees, thus preventing a possibly dangerous overload of our psychic circuitry.
The only way these subtle impurities can be removed from the nadis is through combustion; they must be burned away by what is called “the fire of Yoga.” Most spiritual sciences accomplish this combustion by taking advantage of the close relationship that exists between the subtle and physical bodies. By the use of certain difficult techniques designed to produce heat in the physical body, a corresponding heat occurs in the subtle body, thus burning away the impurities in the nadis. These techniques rely upon extensive individual effort, and include such practices as the increased oxygenation of the blood through rapid breathing, intensified digestive fire induced by special diet or fasting, generation of muscular heat through physical exercises, etc. In a few Yogas, however, a much easier course is elected. By far the hottest and most effective fire in the human body is the Kundalini-Shakti herself, and if she can be awakened very gently and kept active at a level perfectly suited to the capacity of our particular instrument, she herself will systematically consume the impurities which stand between her and her cosmic mate. In these special Yogas, all difficult techniques are bypassed in favor of giving the Shakti primary responsibility for the job of housecleaning inside us. Such a path is Siddha Yoga.
In Yogas which are powered mainly by self-effort, we must work on our self from the outside inward, while Yogas powered mainly by awakened Shakti work on us from the inside outward. Meditators practicing these latter Yogas often experience a wide range of events taking place inside them automatically, without any instigation on their part whatsoever. Any such spontaneous activity of the physical body, mind or emotions, resulting from a therapeutic movement of Shakti in the nadis is called a kriya. As the Shakti performs her daily work of inner cleansing and strengthening, a meditator may experience physical kriyas such as altered breathing, muscular spasm, change of body position, shaking limbs, head gyrations, vocal sounds, rushes of energy, chills or fever, etc.; occasionally a mild illness may manifest temporarily, as a latent infirmity is rooted out and eliminated from the system forever. As mental or emotional blockages are burned away, they often intensify briefly before becoming consumed in Shakti’s fire. If the obstacle is mental in nature, the mind may suddenly begin racing wildly or it may become perfectly still; memories, desires and other thoughts may suddenly grip the mind and prove impossible to banish willfully. If the impurities are emotional, their release may cause weeping for no apparent reason, uproarious laughter or perhaps an overwhelming feeling of joy, love or inexplicable sadness.
As the Shakti reaches a dormant chakra and pierces it, we may feel pain, and as she vitalizes that particular psychic center our meditation may become graced by such delights as fantastic visions, divine music, ambrosial scents, rapturous intoxication and enchanting physical dance-movements, called mudras. As our instrument becomes more and more pure through meditation, we will also find changes occurring spontaneously in our daily life. A hot temper may gradually come under control, for example, or we may find our diet changing without any effort on our part, as the Shakti gently gives us a taste for those foods which best suit our special needs and takes away our desire for dishes that do us harm. The closer the process of Yoga leads us to a realization of our inner perfection, the more we find our daily life becoming a reflection of this perfection.
The three-Foot Journey to Self-Realization
Of the more than 72,000 nadis in our subtle body, three are of paramount importance to our spiritual evolution. Their names are Ida, Pingala and Sushumna, and they are the nadis which link the main chakras to one another. Ida and pingala spiral around the spine, intersecting at each of the six main chakras but not extending all the way up to Shiva’s abode, the sahasrara. Sushumna is the only channel to the sahasrara, and it is like a superhighway running right up the center of our spinal cord from the lowest chakra all the way to the top. The Greek caduceus used as a symbol for modernmedicine is a perfect representation of the chakras and the three main nadis, as illustrated below:
THE PHYSICIAN’S CADUCEUS AS RELATED TO KUNDALINI
Ida is said to carry lunar prana and pingala, solar prana. These aspects of prana are roughly equivalent to the negative and positive poles of electricity, or the yin and yang of Chinese philosophy. Solar prana controls those inner processes which are warming, active and progressive, while lunar prana controls processes which are cooling, passive and retrogressive. Everything that goes on inside us is a product of the counteraction of these two forces. Only when the solar and lunar pranas become perfectly stabilized and united can the Shakti move into the sushumna. the actual pathway to Liberation, and eventually reach the sahasrara. Though there are many techniques designed to stabilize and merge the pranas, the safest course is the one which lets the Shakti do it for us.
In our illustration of a caduceus above we will notice that snakes are used to represent ida and pingala. The symbolic use of serpents in connection with Kundalini is common in many traditions, for two primary reasons: (1) When the Kundalini awakens, she often feels and sounds like a snake inside us, and dreams or visions of serpents are commonly experienced by meditators and are considered to be very auspicious. (2) In her dormant state, Kundalini is described by Yoga as lying coiled like a snake at the base of the spine, and her name is derived from the Sanskrit root Kundalini, meaning “coil.”
Kundalini is like a wound-up spring waiting to unleash its awesome energy. The process of Yoga begins when this sleeping power is activated and begins to move upward through the chakras, piercing and revitalizing each one along the way. As she enters a chakra, its circuitry becomes operational again and the plane of existence to which it is connected becomes known to the meditator. To say that the planes become “known” to us means that we actually begin to function in those realms and even control the elements of which they are made. One result of this is that we gradually develop a host of phenomenal psychic powers, called siddhis. By learning to operate on all levels of reality with much more ease and effectiveness than most people can manage in just the Earth Realm alone, we soon find it quite natural to perform feats which seem fantastic or superhuman to the average person. For an accomplished practitioner of Yoga, moving from one plane of existence to another is as simple as it is for us to move from one room to another in our own home.
Usually, the very first indication that our meditation practice is starting to bring us extraordinary powers of perception is when we become aware of and begin to experience our own prana. As soon as we can unmistakably feel the tingle or flow of our own life-force--even briefly, in any part of our body-we can be sure that our Yoga has begun to bear important fruit. Then, in due course, if the Kundalini has been awakened within us, as soon as she can squeeze through even a partially cleared course all the way to the sahasrara, the Shakti will suddenly ascend to the top of the head for a brief time. This temporary reunion with Shiva gives us an experience of the state called Samadhi - irnmersion in the Self. At this point it becomes absolutely clear to us that our own soul is an eternal, deathless entity. Once this state is reached even for an instant, we have attained the first level of Realization. Having touched the core of all Creation, we can never be the same again: we are permanently transformed.
At first, the Samadhi state cannot be sustained for prolonged periods, since the impurities which still partially clog our instrument make it unfit to handle unmodified cosmic power indefinitely. As the purification and strengthening process continues, however, we become able to experience more frequent and prolonged Samadhi states, each one reaching deeper and deeper into the Self until the center is finally reached, at which point we become fully and permanently Self-realized. Meanwhile, each time the Shakti separates from Shiva and returns to the muladhara chakra, she deposits increased vitality in all the chakras along the way, causing them to function with more and more efficiency. As our practice continues, we become increasingly aware of the various levels of our own being as well as those of the entire cosmos, and this super-consciousness functions in us all the time, both in meditation and amid all the activities of our daily life.
What Will We Be Like When We’re Self-Realized?
Because the same Self resides in everyone, many people wrongly conclude that each of us must lose our individuality the moment we attain complete Enlightenment. To understand why such a notion is erroneous, we need only look at what happens to our karma when we become Self-realized.
The yogic Rishis state that at the moment of complete spiritual Enlightenment, all the seeds of both our past (sanchita) and future (agami) karma become “roasted” in the fire of Yoga: and, as we all know, a cooked seed can never sprout. What this means is that Self-realization not only destroys our huge stockpile of past actions which are still waiting to bear fruit, but it also absolves us from incurring any new karmic debts as a result of our future actions. As an Enlightened being, we automatically become liberated from all culpability under the law of karma - with one important exception: we still remain responsible for working out our prarabdha karma- those karmas which were intended to be resolved during the course of our present lifetime.
The human body which we now inhabit is actually held together by this prarabdha karma, and it is this karma which keeps our prana or life-force contained within our physical instrument. When our prarabdha karma is exhausted, Yoga tells us, our current incarnation ends; thus, if Self-realization were to destroy this karma along with our sanchita and agami, we would immediately leave the earth plane the moment we attained complete Enlightenment. Were this the case, humanity would be in a real fix, for if no one ever remained in the physical body after reaching full perfection, then humankind would be forever deprived of having Realized beings on earth long enough for them to share their wisdom with us and instruct us as to how we, too, can attain the same state of Liberation. Of course, this also means that such beings may have to undergo what normal people would consider to be tragic experiences-serious illness, personal injury, persecution, etc.-but the fact that they have transcended all pain and suffering makes it possible for them to endure any hardship without faltering from their unshakable state of supreme tranquility and bliss.
If we bear in mind the notion of our prarabdha karma, then, we will easily avoid the common misconception that Self-realization necessitates the loss of individuality. This, of course, is impossible, since all our distinctive character traits are a product of our prarabdha karma; thus, after full Enlightenment we are certain to retain our unique personality, right on through to the end of our physical existence.
To illustrate this, we need only examine the behavior of those perfected beings who have lived before us. Trying to pin down and label such a being is like trying to lasso the wind. Some have lived like kings, while others have resided upon garbage dumps; some have dressed in royal robes, while others have gone naked or even smeared their bodies with filth. Some were constantly surrounded with material wealth and yet they begged for crumbs in the streets, while others who had no possessions at all would throw away anything offered to them in charity. Some were great rulers over vast domains, while others were humble tradesmen: some delivered profound philosophical discourses, while others behaved as if they were idiots or madmen. Some gave their blessings with a caress, while others did it by throwing stones. Some never stopped traveling all their lives, while others hardly ever moved at all, lying around on stone slabs like great pythons. The life-styles of such beings are often quite eccentric and bizarre; thus, the yogic scriptures advise us that it is extremely difficult to recognize a perfected being simply by the way he looks or acts.
Why would any such being ever choose to live in filth and squalor instead of in a palace eating from gold plates? The answer to this seeming paradox touches upon the very essence of Self- realization itself. An Enlightened being, we must remember, represents the highest evolutionary attainment in all Creation; a human has become one with Shiva himself. According to some ancient texts, between the state of non-Realized humans and the exalted state of perfect Enlightenment, there are no less than 330 million divine positions, each higher than that of a human being but inferior to Shivahood, for each is but a temporary manifestation of the supreme Shakti, lasting no longer than the duration of one cosmic cycle. All the gods and goddesses in the lexicon of every spiritual science and religion may be viewed as representations of certain power offices in this cosmic hierarchy, offices which are filled successively by various evolving souls, none of which has attained complete perfection. This is why ancient texts state that even the gods and goddesses honor fully Enlightened beings who have transcended every power office to become one with the very source of all power. Since perfected beings are living embodiments of the supreme cosmic principle, what could any of them possibly consider to be imperfect or profane? Perceiving the cosmos from the viewpoint of Shiva, they experience everything in Creation to be nothing less than their very own Self; thus, it makes little difference to them where they lay their heads or how their bodies are adorned. To such exalted beings, all things have become equally blissful and divine.
We all know exactly what life is like without the Self; we’ve been living it for ages. Even during the best of times we are operating with dismal inefficiency, like an auto with a weak battery, four flat tires, one good spark plug, dirty oil, watered gasoline and a leaky radiator.
Still, in many of us there is a stubborn resistance toward change, even when we know that a change is desperately needed. It’s hard to trade in a life that we are at least familiar with-even if it isn’t all that great-for one which seems mysterious and full of unknowns, even if its purported to be far better than what we now have. “What will happen to me,” we wonder anxiously, “as I begin to change from a mere human into what Yoga calls a superhuman? Will I suddenly turn my back on all my friends and loved ones because they’re no longer ‘good enough’ for me? Will I throw away my entire wardrobe, shave my head and don a saffron robe? Will people call me a weirdo? Will I get fired from my job, divorced by my mate, and chased down the street by the neighbor’s dog?”
Instead of reveling in the opportunity to realize more of our- self than ever before, we invent the absurd possibility that getting in touch with our very own Self will turn us into someone else! As long as we do not know the Self, Yoga advises us, we are suffering from the most miserable affliction ever visited upon humankind. The disease is called Ignorance-ignorance of the true nature of our own being and the true nature of everything around us.
Self-realization makes the perceiving consciousness within us become completely unveiled. The pure light of Consciousness projected by such a being is powerful enough to pierce all the veils in Creation, penetrating right to the essence of everything. If it’s really growth we’re looking for, spiritual science advises us to forget all our “self-improvement” courses and start meditating. The Self cannot be improved; it’s already perfect. All we have to do is go inside and find it.
1. Sanchita Karma: The storehouse of Karmic debts accumulated from previous births.
Prarabdha Karma: That part of one’s Sanchita Karma which must be worked out in the present life. Because the law of Karma implies determinism in human activities, Prarabdha is often translated as destiny.
Agami Karma: New Karma accumulated in the present lifetime which is carried forward into future lives.http://globalesoteric.tk