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Esoteric Encyclopedia: Kundalini

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Kundalini is a Sanskrit word meaning “coiled one”, which refers to a type of shakti, or primal cosmic energy, that is found coiled at the base of the spine within the human subtle body.  This coiled energy is normally in a dormant state until one experiences a “kundalini awakening“, in which the energy activates, unravels and travels up the spine, activating all seven chakras, or energy centers, until it completes its journey at the top of the head.  There are claims that this process can occur extremely fast or over a span of years, depending on the person and method of awakening.

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A kundalini awakening begins in the muladhara or root chakra at the base of the spine.  The energy makes its way up to the sacral (svadhishthana) chakra, eventually penetrating the solar plexus (manipura) chakra.  This momentum continues to rise into the heart (anahata), throat (vishuddha), and brow (ajna), finally reaching the crown (sahasrara) chakra.  Once the awakening begins, it cannot be stopped.  The activation of all chakras will have a profound effect on the personality, perception, and character of the one who encounters this profound experience.

Symptoms of a Kundalini Awakening

According to Wikipedia, there are several symptoms associated with a kundalini awakening.  These symptoms include:

  • Enlightenment
  • Bliss, feelings of infinite love and universal connectivity, transcendent awareness, seeing truth (third eye opening), euphoria
  • Awakened sense of smell, hearing, taste
  • No longer controlled by desire/cravings
  • Sound heard in the pineal gland (pleasurable/enjoyable)
  • Change in the thyroid, sudden ability to sing in perfect pitch, change in voice
  • Change in the sex organs
  • Change in breathing
  • Energy rushes or feelings of electricity circulating the body. This tingly feeling, at first, might be mistaken for a “shiver.”
  • Involuntary jerks, tremors, shaking, itching, tingling, and crawling sensations, especially in the arms and legs
  • Intense heat (sweating) or cold, especially as energy is experienced passing through the chakras
  • Spontaneous pranayama, asanas, mudras and bandhas
  • Visions or sounds at times associated with a particular chakra
  • Diminished or control over sexual desire
  • Emotional upheavals or surfacing of unwanted and repressed feelings or thoughts with certain repressed emotions becoming dominant in the conscious mind for short or long periods of time.
  • Headache, migraine, or pressure inside the skull.
  • Pains in different areas of the body, especially back and neck
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, and touch
  • Trance-like and altered states of consciousness
  • Disrupted sleep pattern (periods of insomnia or oversleeping)
  • Vegetarianism or veganism
  • Change in body odor (sweetness/natural/healthy)

The kundalini energy travels along the central sushumna nadi, an energy channel that is referred to as ‘the middle pillar’ because it runs along the vertical center of the body, connecting all the chakras in a vertical flow of energy.

While the other two major nadis, known as Ida & Pingala, also connect the chakras, they differ from Sushumna in the helix-like motion of their intertwining energy channels.  The two nadis represent polarized gender energies, Ida being feminine and Pingala being masculine.  The Sushumna Nadi is a balanced, gender neutral, or androgynous channel, creating the optimal environment for the transmission of cosmic energy.

The three major nadis are illustrated and symbolized as serpents, alluding to their primal, vital nature while hinting at the wave-like motion of vibrating energy.  The dynamic flow between these three channels is what creates the spinning vortex of energy within each chakra.

How to Initiate a Kundalini Awakening

In Hindu tradition, there are a few ways one can initiate a kundalini awakening.  The two primary branches are known as the active and passive approaches.

The active approach involves diligent preparation supplemented by the guidance of a guru or teacher.  The student is instructed to exercise and utilize techniques such as visualization, concentration, chanting, meditation and breathwork(pranayama), most of it before the awakening even begins.  These techniques come from diverse branches of yoga, including Kundalini Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Kriya Yoga, and Sahaja Yoga.  The intention of these practices is to prepare the body, mind, and spirit to properly integrate the kundalini energy, whereas a large majority of the energy would go underutilized or misused in a spontaneous, unprepared awakening, wasting an ocean of potential.

The passive approach focuses on letting go of everything obstructing the onset of a kundalini awakening.  This may involve working through inherent energy blockages, harmful perceptions and unhealthy habits that support inactivity of kundalini energy.   While utilizing many of the techniques of the active approach, the passive approach emphasizes surrender over seeking to awaken kundalini.  Another aspect of the passive approach is shaktipat, which is an attunement or activation by another individual who has already awakened their kundalini.  The transmission of spiritual energy can be initiated by a thought, a look, or a touch(usually to the third eye area) from the individual who has awakened the primal energy.  This kind of kundalini activation is temporary, but it gives the receiver a foundation for what is to come when it naturally occurs.  The combination of these two aspects of the passive approach work together to create a genuine kundalini awakening.

It is suggested that anyone working with either approach have an exemplary teacher to facilitate the ideal advancement.  An unsupervised kundalini awakening can result in self deception and misuse of the newly acquired perception, as well as limited potential for spiritual advancement.

Kundalini is described in the Upanishads, a central sacred text in Hindu tradition proposed to have originated in the 9th century BCE – 3rd century BCE.  The goddess Bhairavi is traditionally known as the goddess of Kundalini, because she dwells in a dormant form within the Root chakra, and is a form of Shakti, described by David Frawley as, “the fierce form of fire that consumes the entire universe at the end of the cosmic creation, dissolving it back into Pure Consciousness.”(164)  The corresponding parallel on the microcosm is that Kundalini energy does the same for us on a personal level, as it enlightens our entire being in order to realize its true, formless nature.







David Frawley, Inner Tantric Yoga, Lotus Press, 2008, page 163-164

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