Kundalini represents the direct aim of Yoga. It is an awakening of energy combined with expansion of consciousness which marks the beginning of Kundalini Yoga. The whole process of Yoga is directed towards awakening the dormant potential within the human personality by obtaining discipline and mastery over oneself. This mastery represents the aspect of control which the mind can have over matter, and which the spirit can have over the mind. Therefore, even the most authoritative text, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, begins with a description of Yoga as being a form of discipline:
Atha : Now, therefore; Yoga: regarding Yoga; anushaasanam : complete instructions, discipline.
Now, therefore, complete instructions regarding Yoga.
Anushaasanam has been loosely translated as discipline but in Sanskrit it has a double meaning. Anu means the subtle structure or atomic principle of our personality; and shaasanam means to rule or govern.
So, from this point on, Yoga becomes a process which helps the individual to gain mastery over the most subtle aspects of human expression, like personality and creativity and the most subtle aspects of our personality lie in the dimension of energy and consciousness.
The five senses of action and the five senses of perception, the karmendriyas and the gyanendriyas, represent external manifestations of our nature; the faculties of mind: manas, buddhi, chitta and ahamkara represent the mental manifestation of our nature, and more subtle still is another dimension of experience which is composed of a combination of energy and consciousness. Beyond this is the state of pure wisdom, experiential knowledge, and beyond this again there is one more final state of super-consciousness, beatitude, samadhi or nirvana.
These five different states of the human personality have been given different names: annamaya kosha, manomaya kosha, pranamaya kosha, vigyanamaya kosha and, finally, anandamaya kosha. The world of the karmendriyas and gyanendriyas represents the world of annamaya kosha.
The mental dimension, made up of manas, buddhi, chitta, and ahamkara, represents the world of manomaya kosha. The third dimension which is a combination of prana and consciousness, and which represents the aspect of energy in our personality, is known as pranamaya kosha. The realm of experiential knowledge, when the mind has been able to experience something and knows it to be true, is known as vigyanamaya kosha. Finally, the state of beatitude and harmony is the state of anandamaya kosha.
According to the first sutra of Patanjali the process of yogic discipline applies to all levels. When this discipline is applied in these various dimensions we gain control over the fluctuations and modifications of the mind which is explained in the next sutra of Patanjali:
"Yogaschitta vritti nirodhah"
Yogah: Yoga; chitta: consciousness; vritti: patterns or circular patterns; nirodhah: blocking, stopping.
To block the patterns of consciousness is Yoga.
This greater control over the modifications of the mind and the experiences of our inner dimensions leads to the awakening of a third state which is known as drastha, the seer or the identity of the spirit as the observer. When this awareness has been established then the evolution of the human personality takes place. Kundalini is the outcome of this harmony and the awakening of the complete human personality.
We will try to understand kundalini starting from the beginning. Universal energy and universal consciousness exist in universal space. This energy which is pure and unaltered by the tattwas, yet which is in the process of manifestation, goes through different changes and attains potency. Just as we tap hydroelectric power and convert it into electrical energy by bringing it from one point to the next, stepping down through transformers, in the same way the energy goes through the different transformers of Nature. These transformers are known as chakras in the human body, patalas in the animal body and lokas in the spiritual body.
Universal energy, in the process of change, has gone through these different levels and is now manifest in the form of matter. Solid matter is formed by compressed energy and pure energy is the raw form of manifest matter. So, in reality there is very little gap between matter which is manifesting as our physical body and universal energy which pervades the cosmos.
The chakras which are connected with the human body are seven in number and the energy in its manifest form is in mooladhara chakra. As the energy passed from its pure state, through a transformation it gave birth to a particular element or tattwa having its own property, guna or nature, and it was given a name according to its function.
The first change happened in the form of mind which is represented by ajna chakra. The second alteration gave birth to the element of space or akash tattwa in vishuddhi chakra. After that, the function of these different centres was defined as the energy continued its downward journey. In the process of this downward journey, energy went through changes at anahata chakra which represents the air element or vayu tattwa. It went through changes in manipura chakra which represents the fire element or agni tattwa. Then it continued further down and created the water element or Jala tattwa, and went further down still and created prithvi tattwa, solid matter, in swadhisthana and mooladhara chakras respectively. So, this is the downward movement of energy with the creation of six different centres of change that is part of the human structure.
Yoga, as well as Tantra, believes that the human body is the best form of construction or temple ever created in this universe, because in the edifice of the body we find a beautiful combination of the elements with its own rivers in the form of nadis, and its own mountains in the form of chakras. It is a microcosmic representation of the macrocosm, and the worship of the spirit within the body is considered to be the highest sadhana or realisation in both Yoga and Tantra.
Kundalini represents the energy which is contained within the quality or guna of mooladhara chakra. It is visualised by the practitioners in the form of a dormant serpent having three and a half coils. The symbology of the three coils represents the three gunas and the half coil represents its generation point in eternity. This experience of energy which yogis have called kundalini symbolises Maha prana or Maha Shakti -'The Great Power' or 'The Serpent Power'.
The awakening of Kundalini represents the reversal of manifestation of energy back to its transcendental form. The process of manifestation was from top to bottom, from ajna chakra to mooladhara chakra, from sublime to gross matter. What is known as evolution is when we again become aware of the subtle changes within our personality in order to have complete harmony over the material, mental, emotional, psychic and spiritual aspects of being.
The process of awakening kundalini is done in three different stages; first by purifying the nadis, second by awakening the pranas, and third by awakening the chakras. Nadi is a channel or flow of prana. The word 'nadi' comes from the Sanskrit root nad which means channel or current. They are the flows of different forms of prana which emanate from each transformer, from each chakra. Out of these nadis three are important ida, pingala and shushumna - the lunar force, the solar force and the integrated force. The lunar channel or ida nadi vitalises the mental dimension, the solar force or pingala nadi vitalises the physical dimension, and the shushumna nadi or integrated flow is the link between the individual and the cosmos.