As most of you are on a spiritual path, very frequently people keep asking about Kundalini Awakening. You must have heard about it or read some articles, books, or may have watched a video while being on your journey.
My sole purpose to write this article is to list down some truths as well as some misconceptions about the roots of Kundalini Yoga. The term has become too common and casual, but Kundalini Yoga is an ancient Indian meditation tradition. I myself have been reading a lot of spiritual material in modern books as well as traditional religious books on various topics and this topic was there for a long on my mind. As I come from India, I took the chance to dig deeper into Kundalini Yoga and I have something important and significant to share. This particular information I am sharing is from Swami Tadatmananda.
What is this extraordinary yoga practice and its so-called serpent energy? And where did these esoteric teachings come from?
Astonishing energy, known as kundalini, is said to lay coiled at the base of the spine, dormant like a sleeping snake. This serpent energy can be woken from its slumber by the practice of certain yoga postures, breathing exercises, and mantras. Aroused by these practices kundalini surges upwards to an invisible network of nerves and pierces six lotus-like chakras, releasing waves of ecstasy. When it reaches a magnificent, thousand-petalled lotus at the crown of the head, kundalini is said to merge into pure consciousness and endow the practitioner with enlightenment.
Swami Dayananda Saraswati strenuously warned the seekers of Kundalini Yoga about a problem he called “experience seeking.”
He said that conventional life is driven by the never-ending pursuit of new and better experiences. People love to watch new movies, dine at trendy restaurants, and travel to exotic places. But experiences like these can never lead to perfect peace and contentment.
Sri Swami Dayananda Saraswati (1930-2015): Swami Dayananda Saraswati, was a distinguished, traditional teacher of Advaita Vedanta. With profound spiritual wisdom and deep appreciation of contemporary culture, he conveyed the vision of non-duality to modern listeners with great clarity.
If meditation is just another experience to be enjoyed, then its not so different from sex, drugs or anything else. In this way, some practitioners of Kundalini Yoga might merely be seeking exciting new experiences instead of seeking spiritual growth. It’s easy to fall into the trap of experience seeking. Especially when the yogic practice seems to hold the promise of bliss and ecstasy.
As I went deeper, in Kundalini Yoga, and the truths related to it, I came across the phenomenal research of Swami Tadatmananda, the disciple of Swami Dayananda.
He says, “I am completely turned off by the way it is distorted and misrepresented by contemporary western yogis. I am tired of seeing dazzling rainbow hue chakras, and bodies emanating fountains of lights from every pore. Images like these portray a practice that had virtually nothing in common with ancient origins. Yet, people seem drawn to glitzy illustrations and trendy new age beliefs.”
Sri Swami Tadatmananda Saraswati: Swami Tadatmananda is the founder and resident teacher of Arsha Bodha Center. He was born and brought up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He pursued a successful career as a software engineer in a reputed company in California. He decided to give up his job and go to India to be with his Guru, Swami Dayananda Saraswati.
Roots of Kundalini Yoga:
On the other hand, Kundalini Yoga is an authentic spiritual tradition, whose roots go back atleast two thousand years. In ancient India, the holy sages, known as Rishis sought enlightenment by exploring within their bodies and minds to discover the supreme divinity hidden deep inside.
Their remarkable insights and special techniques they devised were recorded in Sanskrit scriptures called Upanishads. A total of 108 Upanishads are included in Vedas, the main scriptures for all Hindu religious and spiritual practices.
Twenty of those Upanishads are dedicated to the theory and practice of Kundalini Yoga. Those Yoga Upanishads are the ultimate source for the entire body of teachings on Kundalini Yoga.
The separate tradition of Advaita Vedanta is based on 12 other Upanishads which are focused on gaining spiritual knowledge, rather than yogic practice. All 108 Upanishads contain the sacred revelations of the Rishis.
It does not seem to be a wholesome approach to look only at the Yogic practice and ignore the part which talks about gaining spiritual knowledge. Hence this series of articles will talk about both – the yogic practice and why backing it up with spiritual knowledge is required.
New Age and The Teachings of Kundalini Yoga:
Those who want to experience Kundalini Yoga, would probably be wondering, ‘what will I discover? Would I hear celestial sounds, see inner visions like other practitioners claim to see?’
I am not surprised, because when spiritual teachings leave the lands of its origin and are retold in different cultures snd in different languages, they are subject to being revised or altered in various ways.
Some changes are necessary, as the translation of Sanskrit into English. But other changes can muddle or distort the meaning of the original texts. And all too often spiritual teachings become totally corrupted when they’re misinterpreted by people whose perspectives are utterly foreign to the originals.
I don’t mean to imply that all those derivative teachings are useless. Many spiritual seekers have benefitted from them. But these modern sign-offs are not at all in alignment with that the ancient Rishis taught and as a result, something of great value has been lost.
As Kundalini Yoga became more and more integrated into other cultures, it began to lose its original identity, and eventually, it was totally reshaped through the process of cultural appropriation.
Modern versions of the chakras present them in hues of the rainbow, instead of their traditional color, and associate them with emotions, which Rishis never intended.
Chakras even get mixed up with other cultures, like this greek symbol and this ancient Egyptian Metatron. The new age movement has commodified the chakras, using them to advertise crystals, colorful stones, scented oils, and self-improvement seminars.
“A very damaging adaptation of Kundalini Yoga has arisen due to the problem of ‘experience seeking’”, says Swami Tadatmananda. He adds, “Swami Dayananda was highly critical of the way Kundalini Yoga is usually taught, and he put the blame on the problem of experience seeking. Many modern Gurus put far too much emphasis on gaining spiritual experiences, and not enough emphasis on gaining spiritual wisdom.”
All experiences are temporary, including kundalini. After a powerful spiritual experience comes and goes, you might remain utterly unchanged, unless you actually learn something from that experience.
For this reason, the ultimate goal of spiritual practice is not to produce short-lived experiences, but rather to reveal the true divine nature of the consciousness with us.
Ref: *The Yoga Upanishads Edited by Pandit A. Mahadeva Sastri. / * Swami Tdatmananda Saraswati, Arsha Bodha Center.
What have been your ways and experience when connecting with Kundalini Awakening and Kundalini Yoga? I would love to hear from you about your experiences. Please leave a comment about your experience in the comments section below at the bottom of the page. (click on ‘view comments’)
In Part 2: Why Spiritual Knowledge is required? – The true teachings of Kundalini Yoga (next week)