Does Kundalini Exist?

Dr Swami Shankardevananda Saraswati MB, BS (Syd.)

According to kundalini yoga and tantra, man is a composite of two main forces, ida and pingala, mind and body. When these two forces are perfectly balanced a third, latent force, sushumna, comes into existence. Then kundalini shakti can awaken and ascend from mooladhara, piercing the chakras until it finally reaches sahasrara. Kundalini is cosmic energy, or mahaprana, and its awakening and ascension lead to cosmic consciousness or self-realization in which the individual consciousness merges with the highest consciousness.

When kundalini wakes up, it is as though we have ignited the booster of a rocket ship. We are propelled into higher consciousness and our whole being is electrified, exhilarated and intoxicated. This is the birth of our spiritual life, a rebirth which kindles in us an awareness which we cannot understand from our present standpoint in evolution. This is the basis and aim of yoga and all practices eventually lead to this goal, an immortal, omniscient, omni powerful and omnipresent state.

With our present consciousness, limited by the senses and our mundane experiences, we have lost access to higher states of awareness. For most of us, without experience of such states, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to understand and accept that they exist, let alone to practise and attain them. It is difficult to understand exactly what the terms themselves mean. Many people, especially doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, researchers and scientists, are demanding proof that such states and experiences exist and that they are desirable.

Of course, we can always take a chance, and follow on from the lead given by experienced yogis and the texts of their experiences. We can apply the prescribed methods in the hope that we too may reach the exalted states of bliss, knowledge and immortality of which we have heard so much, and thereby verify the truth of their statements for ourselves. Many have started on this road and ultimately, there may be no other way.

An increasing number of researchers are correlating the findings of science with the claims of yoga and tantra. Because kundalini is a transcendental phenomena, outside time and space, it is necessarily confined to reports of its supposed awakening, the phenomena surrounding it and to the verification of its components, nadis, chakras, prana shakti, the role of consciousness, and so on.

Though we have no solid proof that kundalini actually does exist (solid proof for some people means that we must present an actual, real, live kundalini to them, cut out of someone's mooladhara chakra and formalin-preserved in a jar), there is sufficient evidence to suggest that it not only exists but that its awakening has been the basis for the birth of new religions and for the major scientific and social breakthroughs which have totally revolutionised society.

Researchers who accept the possibility that kundalini exists and, impressed by its reported powers and potential, are investigating it, have found that there is a great deal of scientific evidence pointing in the direction of it being a reality. More than this, it appears that the theory of kundalini alone can help us to broaden, deepen and even redefine our understanding and concept of who we are, the world in which we live, and the purpose for our existence. The application of the theory and practise of kundalini yoga promises to create a better, happier and freer world, one in which we Can experience life from a more fulfilling, satisfying standpoint.

Kundalini - an impersonal force

Kundalini is universal energy and is, therefore, not something which lies within the domain of the personal, individual ego. It is the uniting, creative force out of which all individuality came into existence. Just as in the physical body there is one force which permeates all the cells and unites them into a cohesive, integrated whole called the body, so kundalini unites every planet, star and galaxy in the universe. It is an impersonal force, which is not conditioned or subject to the barriers or limits of society, culture, race, creed, religion or philosophy. It will continue when all philosophy has vanished and all intellectual speculation and writing has ceased.

Carl Jung, the well-known Swiss psychiatrist, referring to kundalini as an impersonal force, states that if we claim it as our own creation we do so at our own peril. The price is ego inflation, false superiority, obnoxiousness, or madness. Kundalini is an autonomous process which arises out of the unconscious and uses us as a vehicle. Kundalini has created us and awakens us; we do not awaken her.

Ramakrishna told his disciples: "There are five kinds of feels the sensation of the spiritual current (kundalini) to be like the movement of an ant, a fish, a monkey, a bird, or a serpent. Sometimes the spiritual current rises through the spine, crawling like an ant. Sometimes, in samadhi, the soul swirls joyfully in the ocean of divine ecstasy, like a fish. Sometimes, when I lie down on my side, I feel the spiritual current pushing me like a monkey and playing with me joyfully. I remain still. That current, like a monkey, suddenly with one jump reaches the sahasrara. That is why you see me jump up with a start. Sometimes, again, the spiritual current rises like a bird hopping from one branch to another. The place where it rests feels like fire......Sometimes the spiritual current moves up like a snake. Going in a zigzag way, at last it reaches the head and I go into samadhi. A man's spiritual consciousness is not awakened unless his kundalini is aroused."*1

The spiritual consciousness which Ramakrishna and all the great saints, mystics and sages from all traditions, times and countries have spoken about is also called samadhi, nirvana, God-consciousness, and so on. It is a vast consciousness which requires enormous amounts of energy to initiate or trigger and sustain. This energy is far beyond anything that we as individuals can handle, let alone understand.

The whole aim of spiritual experience is the absorption of the individual into the unitive life, higher awareness in which we identify with our true nature, Shiva, pure consciousness. It is as though this mortal body and limited mind is but an egg or seed from which we attain rebirth into a progressively higher and greater existence. Kundalini is the process of germination of this seed or cracking the shell of our individuality so that we merge, consciously, with the source of all existence. As such, kundalini does not belong to one person, one time, or one culture. It is a universal phenomenon.

Gross cultural research

Kundalini, as a transcendental phenomenon, is one which lies outside time and space, and, therefore, outside the scope of machinery, measurement, assessment or any other kind of intellectualisation. We cannot really understand how great the power of kundalini actually is. It is said to be the equivalent of setting off an atomic bomb at the base of the spinal cord.

Most of our knowledge of kundalini is second hand, from the reports of those adepts who have succeeded in awakening the serpent power and who have come back to testify to its existence and lead a few selected disciples to its awakening. These people have no need for research or any kind of search, as they have found the answers to the questions of existence; they know. With the awakening of kundalini one moves into a totally new level of evolution, as much beyond our understanding as our state of evolution is to the animal consciousness.

Carl Jung stated that, "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 world of eternity."*2 Jung observed that the rising of this force had rarely, if ever, been seen in the west.*3

Few people actually awaken kundalini, and of those who do, we know of none who have allowed themselves to be subjected to scientific research, dissection and analysis. Christ, Krishna, Mohammed, Buddha, Mahavir, Zoroaster and other great personalities of recorded history are said to be examples of an awakened kundalini.

We get a much clearer idea of the phenomena of kundalini and the awakening of Shakti when we examine its arousal in various cultural contexts. The fact that descriptions of kundalini-like experiences do occur in different cultures suggests that it is a universal psychophysical phenomena.

In Northwest Botswana, Africa, the !Kung people of the Kalahari desert dance for many hours to heat up the n/um so that the !kia state can be obtained. This state of transcendence resembles that described in many yogic texts on kundalini, in which one goes beyond the ordinary states of consciousness into participation in eternity. One tribesman reports that, "You dance, dance, dance, dance. Then n/um lifts you in your belly and lifts you in your back, and then you start to shiver... it's hot. Your eyes are open but you don't look around; you hold your eyes still and look straight ahead. But when you get into !kia you're looking around because you see everything..."*4

The Dogon are a tribe of people in Mali (formerly French Sudan), Africa, who have been shown to be in possession of information concerning the binary star system of Sirius, the Dog Star, for over five thousand years. Sirius, which is visible to the naked eye, is a star one hundred times brighter than our own sun and orbited by a smaller and much heavier white dwarf star called Sirius B, which is invisible to the eye. The dwarf companion was first seen by American astronomers in 1862 and its first photograph was taken in 1970. The astrophysical data of Sirius B's fifty year elliptical orbit around its larger companion and other data, have only been recently compiled, so it is one of the great mysteries as to how the Dogon knew about such sophisticated knowledge without the benefit of twentieth century technology.*5

One very interesting fact about the two stars in the Sirius system is that they rise from the horizon in a helical manner, one which can be compared to the DNA helix or the movement of ida and pingala around sushumna. Sirius has also played a major role in the ancient Egyptian religious system. The initiations, myths and legends of the Dogon revolve around Sirius and its companion Sirius B.

As part of their mythology the Dogon talk about the dwarf companion as being like a seed which contains the potential of the whole universe. When the time is ripe the seed germinates and explodes, bringing knowledge and enlightenment This sounds very much like bindu, the infinitesimally small point of kundalini yoga and tantra. Bindu contains the potential for the whole universe and is the doorway into the transcendental.

In the Chinese Taoist tradition it is said that when prana, the vital principle, has accumulated in the lower belly, it bursts out and begins to flow in the main psychic channels causing involuntary movements and sensations such as pain, itching, coldness, warmth, weightlessness, heaviness, roughness and smoothness. It may cause the body to brighten and even illuminate a dark room. Yin Shih Tsu reported that he felt heat travel from the base of the spine to the top of the head and then down over his face and throat to his stomach.*6

Kundalini - a universal occurrence

The very fact that similar phenomena, philosophies and concepts are reported in geographically and temporally isolated areas and cases implies the existence of kundalini, or some similar phenomenon, as the factor responsible for heightened consciousness, ecstasy, bliss and higher knowledge in all cultures and at all times throughout history.

Gopi Krishna comments, "This mechanism, known as kundalini, is the real cause of all genuine spiritual and psychic phenomena, the biological basis of evolution and development of personality, the secret origin of all esoteric and occult doctrines, the master key to the unsolved mystery of creation, the inexhaustible source of philosophy, art and science, and the fountainhead of all religions, past, present and future."

Kundalini is a universal phenomena locked into the genetic structure of the DNA helix (which greatly resembles the ida-pingala helix) and deep within the shared archetypes of the unconscious mind where the most primitive, powerful and awesome energies, forces, instincts, urges and drives of homo sapiens are found. These forces impel us and give our lives the necessary momentum.

All human beings are subject to the same basic life force that makes the cells of the body grow and reproduce, that ensures the breath and heartbeat continue unabated. We cannot stop acting and reacting while we are alive and the motivating, driving force which propels us, the mainspring hidden deep within the tissues of the body, whose impulse motivates the cellular mechanisms and animates and causes us to think, speak and act, is shakti, energy. But this energy is just a drop of kundalini shakti.

Imagine that we can peer deep into the nucleus of a cell, and deeper still into the genetic material of the nucleus, and then even deeper into the atoms and molecules which are linked by cohesive forces and inter-atomic tensions which have electric and magnetic properties, and then deeper still into the immense, stupendous forces inside the atom ( which when unleashed can destroy cities and are some of the most powerful forces we know of today). Then we would start to approach the abode of kundalini. Hence, the meaning of kundalini is, 'that which abides in a coiled or potential form in a deeper place'.

Actually, kundalini resides even deeper than the intra-atomic level, for she is the basis of all matter (which is merely a grosser vibration of energy), and energy (which is a subtler vibration of matter). She is Mahaprana Shakti, the creative force in the universe, the thermonuclear reaction within the sun, the awesome forces of the black hole which magnetises and traps light, and she is the limitless expanse and darkness of infinite space stretching out beyond the mind's capacity to grasp.

"With an infinitesimally small atom of the dust of Thy (kundalini) lotus feet, Brahma has created this universe, which with great effort and in multifarious ways Vishnu sustains; while Shiva bedaubs himself with it (dust) as holy ashes."

Ananda Lahari, verse 2*7


*1. Campell, J., A Mythic Image, 1974, p. 306.

*2. Jung, C, "Psychological Commentary on Kundalini Yoga", Spring, 1975.

*3. Ibid.

*4. Katz, R., "Education for Transcendence: Lessons from the !Kung Zhu Twasi", J. Transpersonal Psych., November 2, 1973.

*5. Temple, R., The Sirius Mystery, 1976.

*6. Luk, C, The Secrets of Chinese Meditation, Samuel Weiser Inc., New York, 1972.

*7. Shankaracharya, Sri, Saundarya Lahari, Ganesh & Co. Ltd., Madras, 1957.