Kundalini, Kriyas and the Path of the Heart

Understanding the Phenomena of Kriyas

 

Q: Spontaneous yogic movements, called kriyas, are phenomena which are observed in participants of all of your retreats as a result of the stirring, awakening and rising of Kundalini Shakti. This is certainly something quite unique and rare. What exactly is Kundalini? What is necessary to activate this energy, and what is the place of kriyas in the process of awakening?

 

 

 

The term “Kundalini,” though very well-known now among practitioners of yoga in the West, is said to represent the soul in terms of its life force, as it animates all processes in the body. So in other words, seen from that slightly reductionistic point of view — and we will expound on other points of view in a moment — Kundalini is the power that is in charge and control of absolutely all functioning in what we understand as this psychophysiological organism, in what we understand to be this human being. We can go on translating the term Kundalini, or pairing this term with many other terms from various perspectives, in order to have a departure from this uniquely Hindu perspective, or from the perspective which is mainly associated with Vedic, tantric, or yogic culture. And even if we don’t find the term Kundalini mentioned in such traditions as Buddhism, Jainism, or other traditions born in the Indian subcontinent, it does not mean they do not operate with this concept.

 

So it is very important that we have a clear understanding of what Kundalini is, as opposed to the quite prevalent notion which somehow became commonplace as it has been transported from Indian culture, and then adopted in Western spiritual circles. In other words, Kundalini is not just some esoteric force that is present at the base of our physiology — of our mental faculties and all our reflective and automated responses — but it is who we are, in essence. Therefore, in my own way, whenever I try to dispel the air of mysticism, and deconstruct terms that exist and the perspective that Kundalini has gained in modern language, I often just say Kundalini is just that — soul. It is your soul. It is my and your soul.

 

However, when we say that, it poses certain dilemmas, because the perspective of the soul — if that term is understood from Judeo-Christian perspective, then everyone is embedded with a soul and everyone is just that — soul. Every human being is a living, breathing soul. But when we speak from the Hindu perspective, though everyone has Kundalini at the base of their individuality, it is, as it were, dormant. So to reconcile these two different perspectives, I would like to mention certain aspects of how to understand soul in relation to Kundalini, and what is dormant here, what needs to be activated. And this will allow us to enter a greater understanding of what this force is.

 

So from the Hindu perspective — again many practitioners of yoga know this very well — Kundalini is that life force which is coiled at the base of the spine in the Muladhara Chakra, which represents the potential present in human Consciousness in a dormant state, in a state of homeostasis. And that dormant energy needs to be awakened in order for necessary transformative processes to ensue. In other words, from the Hindu perspective, no practices bear any fruit unless the very force responsible for the transformation of Consciousness is being released.

 

How does this sit in relation to the concept of the soul? We can introduce a metaphor that our soul is also in a state of potentiality or dormancy, that in order for the soul to actualize itself, it needs to undergo the process of actualization. So we can actually attempt to create a parallel to the term “awakening,” with the term “actualization.” And if we do that, we will arrive quite naturally to the new understanding that in order to truly fully enjoy who we are, we need to actualize the potential of our soul. This is the loftiest aspiration behind all spiritual practices, regardless of where they were born, and where they were developed.

 

So with this introduction, we can begin answering the question of what Kundalini is. And to simplify it, Kundalini is our soul in its pure potentiality. In other words, it is the very potentiality present within every being, as the potentiality of who we are, as opposed to what we perceive ourselves to be. The latter is important, because who we perceive ourselves to be is in fact an error of the language, because we don’t perceive ourselves to be anything other than a set of ideas and ideations. Our perception of who we are is just that — a set of memories about what this or that concept has formed and instructed us along the way, from the moment when we begin to cognize our environment and surrounding, and as toddlers, begin to make sense out of all that. And with the progressive growth of the human organism, this set of ideas eventually crystallizes into what we then understand to be our individuality.

 

And when we speak of Kundalini, it is precisely what happens when that force is released from its contracted state of identification with this psychophysiological organism. Because the very notion of ourselves is a byproduct of progressive information of who we think of ourselves to be — this is what puts our consciousness into that state of homeostasis in the first place. In other words, it’s like we are undergoing a certain necessary programming… we are being programmed in order to grow and function as this evolved human, in order to be part of this culture we are born into. And awakening is what deprograms us from that programming that took place. This may be a simplified perspective, but it is a helpful one, if we are to introduce ourselves to what Kundalini is without getting drowned in its very rich esoteric language.

 

Now, as soon as we have attempted to answer this question, I’d like to add immediately that it’s practically impossible to fully articulate what Kundalini is. Why? Because as we’ve said that Kundalini is our soul, another very suitable term for Kundalini is Consciousness. In other words, Kundalini is our Consciousness — our soul, our Consciousness, just different terms for the same thing — the same reality. So why is it impossible to have a clear understanding of what Kundalini is? Because that would be to reduce Consciousness to an object. We can never understand Kundalini, because Kundalini is not an object — it’s our Consciousness. Consciousness is that what illumines objects of our perception. But there is no other agency that illumines Consciousness.

 

Yes, there are talks in modern spirituality that split hairs when it comes to the terms “Awareness” and “Consciousness,” that say, “Oh, wait a minute, Consciousness is not final — Consciousness is an extremely fine reality, but there is something finer still, and that is Awareness.” We can agree with that, however, the term “Consciousness” has been used even by some perennial figures of the past, with the absolute same punctuation as the term “Awareness” — namely the figures within the Indian tradition, Sri Aurobindo and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Whenever they spoke about Consciousness, they spoke of it in terms of Ultimate Reality.

 

We can introduce here another term which is quite well known among the practitioners of yoga, the term "Chit." Chit. Chit is that — Consciousness. And it is essentially that which knows everything. It is the Knower of reality, and it cannot be reduced to an object by virtue of which one can know Chit. Because Chit is that which knows. And Kundalini is Chit in the life force of a human body.

 

 

 

What is Kundalini?

 

What is necessary to activate the energy?

 

Again, responding to this risks having a reductionist understanding, if we speak of Kundalini as just some kind of energy residing in the body. As soon as we begin to think of Kundalini as some kind of energy — however profound, however marvelous and magnificent, yet it’s just some kind of energy residing in the body — we are running the risk of reducing our own Consciousness to an object of observation. And this is why I would like to respond to this question from a different perspective than it is commonly understood or commonly responded to in many, many books or articles that are out there in today’s world of spirituality.

 

When we come to this understanding, that this energy is nothing other than our own Awareness — our own Awareness in a state of identification with the body-mind conglomerate — then we understand that in order for that energy to awaken, something has to happen within Consciousness Itself. In order for awakening to truly take place, there has to be some movement which is inherent to the very quality of that Consciousness, which is — again speaking from that spoken language — is contracted to its own glory.

 

Many traditions have come up with some elaborate practices and techniques for how to activate this energy. Hatha Yoga comes to mind as one of the more known ones, where that is achieved through a forcible control of the life force itself. A whole system of Hatha Yoga can be essentially narrowed down to techniques of controlling life force via control of the breath. Yes, Hatha Yoga contains all different practices, but the core of Hatha Yoga practices is to be able to control the life force through breathing exercises. Everyone who has been initiated into the subtleties of pranayama knows that pranayama is the royal highway when it comes to Hatha Yoga practices.

 

Hatha yoga is not the only system. There are many different yogas, if we speak of the Indian tradition. There are practices that aim at intense concentration on certain aspects within the mental modalities. In other words, there are different techniques and very different methodologies implemented in something parallel to what has just been mentioned — in comparison to Hatha Yoga — known in Indian culture as Jnana Yoga, practices that emphasize the practice of self-inquiry, the analytical insight into the nature of experience itself. The introspective practices which aim at creating a possibility where through using the mental capacities, that the life force essentially is being agitated. In parallel, just as in Hatha Yoga the breath is the main thread, in Jnana Yoga it is the mind.

 

There are other techniques still, other methodologies to create very subtle and very powerful vibrations on the level of the emotional body, with the force of one’s own feeling. It’s what is known more as the path of emotion or feeling, devotional yoga. It’s the yoga of devotion — Bhakti Yoga. We can go on giving different examples of using certain main faculties present to human beings, but we could say that there are practices that utilize the combined effect of those mentioned above. And all these practices utilize meditation, because meditation — irrespective of one’s approach, be it Hatha Yoga or Jnana Yoga or Bhakti Yoga — is where that power is really being harnessed.

 

And when it comes to the spontaneous occurrence of these movements, known as kriyas, irrespective of what methodology is being used, when awakening is taking place, the life force is released, and when life force is released, the whole structure is going through phases known in the greater yogic tradition as “trembling.” And that is because when life force is being released from its seat, it begins to, as it were, send profound waves of energy throughout the entire subtle body. As we know now, many practitioners of yoga today know the subtle body is what constitutes this whole structure of chakras and subtle pathways of energy. So these waves of energy begin to resonate through the entire subtle body, and as they begin to resonate through the entire subtle body, the psychic centers are being affected. The psychic centers begin to tremble. This trembling of psychic centers occurs because the psychic centers are the seat of information; each psychic center, each chakra, contains a certain information necessary for survival, procreation, expression of will, feeling, communication and greater understanding of our place in this world. Altogether, that comprises that tree of life which lights the being within. And then of course it’s being taken for granted. And then we call it a human world, but yoga understood this as a science — yoga made it into a science.

 

So whenever the chakra experiences the greater resonance, it begins to release information stored in it. That is why before even a full ascent of Kundalini Shakti takes place, many of those who have been going through the process known as release of deeper-seated psychic tendencies, know this can be accompanied by very pleasant — or in contrast to that — very unpleasant experiences on the physical, emotional, or mental levels.

 

So these spontaneous movements of the body that we observe, what we call kriyas, are essentially that — a result of the entire subtle body undergoing the process of purification, release, exemplified by the release of deep-seated stresses, through the release of deep-seated information, and each time it is accompanied by some jolts — some movements. Therefore, kriyas are known for being physical, mental, emotional, and psychological. The body can shake and tremble and sway and jump and hop and contort. The body can perform various forms of known and unknown yoga asanas. The body can perform known or unknown mudras — gestures. The body can be engaged in various locks, known as bandhas. There can be spontaneous vocalization, known as glossolalia. Or the body can be completely immovable as a sphinx. All these belong to the myriad of kriyas. And kriyas here are not something that we do, but something that simply happens to us, when life force begins to release from its seat. So to summarize, kriyas are signposts of progressive freeing of the system from all that information-field which contracts our awareness to what we are — to who we are. It’s just that! In the process of releasing, kriyas are just this very spontaneous manifestation of that freeing of the system from that self-imposed superimposition.

 

When we speak of the release of information as a result of awakening and progressive expansion of Consciousness — what is also known as the ascent of Consciousness, the ascent of Kundalini Shakti — it would be good perhaps to distinguish kriyas which are purificatory in nature. These are the kriyas which are brought about by the release of unprocessed information from any given psychic center. This unprocessed information is simply that — what we call in the English language “stress.” Stress is something that puts our system under the pressure of processing, and our system failed to process it, and that has resulted in a stress. Unfortunately, unprocessed information doesn’t go anywhere; it lays as a sediment in our nervous system. And that’s what creates these blockages in an otherwise perfectly wired — in principle — human nervous system, designed to experience this wonder of being at once human and divine. And the very process of expansion of Consciousness is that — is to free the nervous system from these knots and nodules that are clogging the system with unprocessed information.

 

In other types of kriyas, spontaneous movements also occur when a tremendous amount of energy is going through the neurophysiology. It is also very well known that even great sages of the past — for example, beings as Ramana Maharshi and Anandamayi Ma — despite being examples of highly advanced beings from an early age, they have exhibited what could be summarized as kriyas throughout their lives. In other words, it would be inconsistent to speak of release of stresses when it comes to beings who essentially have been spoken of and considered as saints in a given culture. Yet, their bodies were dealing with tremendous amounts of energy, which will result in certain movements, certain spontaneously taken attitudes — here what we mean by attitudes is spontaneously taking mudras, certain positions the body takes — only because the human nervous system was undergoing a process of tremendous flow of that energy, which is making that body move in unexpected, spontaneous ways.

 

As a footnote, Ramana, as an example, he rarely exhibited this in public, almost as if he wanted to maintain composure. But his body would always take a certain shape or form, but in private, in his quarters, he was known for shaking and trembling. Once when he was asked why he moved like that, he said, “Elephant makes the hut shake.” “Elephant” was the metaphor that Ramana used for awakened Kundalini. This is just to disperse this notion that kriyas are only for the purification process… Another example, Yoga Vashishta speaks of beings who tremble when they reach higher states of Consciousness; their bodies tremble, but in this case, their bodies are trembling with bliss.

 

 

 

 

Why do we hear so little about Kriyas from other Spiritual Paths?

 

If kriyas are an essential aspect of awakening, why do we hear so little about them in other spiritual paths such as Buddhism, the Sufi path, Christianity, and even most yogic paths?

 

Well, it’s not that the kriyas are essential in the sense of a prerequisite. Perhaps this is why we don’t hear certain aforementioned traditions addressing kriyas, because it’s not that kriyas constitute a certain deliberately invoked part of the methodology — it’s rather a byproduct. So why speak of the byproduct which simply happens, and which is simply part of the parcel? The essence is on the essence of the teaching, in any given tradition one way or the other.

 

When we speak of Buddhism, the emphasis is on whatever that particular interpretation of Buddhism is, because we know there are many. When we speak of the Sufi path, it depends on what Sufi order we speak about, because there are many. Likewise with Christianity. And yoga is no exception. There are many different yogic paths.

 

So it’s not that because kriyas are not specifically mentioned that kriyas are somehow irrelevant to the process, but perhaps because it is the very sign of internal manifestation of something which is inseparable from the journey, inseparable from the process of transformation. But the scriptures do not emphasize the byproducts. The scriptures usually emphasize the main tenants of this or that teaching.

 

However, this is where the problem arises. If we see this through the specificity of the scholar, or the understanding of the scholar, we will try to find justified passages which will explicitly give us confidence in the knowledge that kriyas are indeed spoken of in the Lotus Sutra.  We would not find that. If we look into some of the Sufi expositions, let’s say from Al-Ghazali or al-Din Suhrawardi or Ibn Arabi — whatever prominent Sufi master — we may not find direct passages which will be equivalent to the Sanskrit term kriyas. Likewise with Christianity, and some of the yogic traditions. But that does not mean that kriyas are somehow an appendix to the process which we can do without. Kriyas are not something of our choosing. It’s not that, “Okay, I don’t like kriyas — I’m not gonna do them! I like this, but I’ll be better off without them.” It’s not that I choose kriyas — they’re spontaneous movements. That’s why they’re called spontaneous!

 

I receive letters from people and questions when they are given to spiritual doctrines, which perhaps don’t even mention kriyas, and at times in some cases dismiss the validity of kriyas. And these people who follow these paths follow these doctrines, and follow these methodologies, often posing the question, “How come — I am giving myself to the process of self-inquiry, and now I am experiencing these kriyas?” There is no problem whatsoever. Because Consciousness decides what is appropriate for the process. It doesn’t come from our mental setup. It doesn’t belong to our likes or dislikes. All this belongs to essentially that which we have spoken about as ideas and ideations we have about ourselves or the world. And kriyas overrun all that, and that’s the magic of this process. We may prefer to have the clean and crisp path of a Zen Buddhist, only to begin to experience all these movements of a whirling dervish. So what do we do then?

 

Another reason for why we don’t hear so much about this — and I would like to take this as a chance to mention — is that when we speak of any given tradition we have to be very careful, and we have to have the courage to distinguish between tradition per se — which perhaps calcified to itself and is totally barren to the very aliveness — and what makes this tradition alive and throbbing with the teaching. And it is only those examples within the tradition where these processes are alive, that make the tradition alive. If tradition is only a set of certain beliefs, understandings — no matter how profound the conceptual expositions — if there is not a real visceral process, and I’m sorry to say that, these traditions simply die to themselves. And these traditions will undermine, overlook, and essentially devalue what is a manifestation of the very aliveness of that process. So this is also why we don’t hear it so much in certain traditions mentioned here, because the custodians of these traditions — not all of them are awakened beings. Not all of them have gone through these processes. Many of them are just that — no different from a mere scholar.

 

I don’t know if this is too much, but I thought to throw it in... Just as awakening is a spontaneous process, so the kriyas that accompany that process are spontaneous. What may be worth mentioning here, is that a lack of understanding of this in those traditions where it is not enriched by continuous examples of real awakenings, creates situations where this is being suppressed, where these processes are simply being suppressed, where they’re being looked down upon, they’re being marginalized, and at times seen as anachronistic, unnecessary. Whereas, in fact the very wealth of every tradition — certainly when it comes to yoga — rests upon the liveliness of this process, experienced by its adepts. It is the adepts who enrich and keep the tradition alive — nothing else. No passing on sacred hymns in precise meter. No recitations. No elaborately performed rituals or sacrificial offerings are of any value, if these processes are not experienced firsthand internally in the adepts, who are adepts because they were made by this processes.

 

All the lexicon of yoga only makes sense because in the first place it came through these spontaneously unfolding yogic processes, that later were put in sacred lore as the very scriptures of any given sacred lore. But what we are touching upon here, is that uncomfortable territory which has always existed between the territory of talking about it and actually being it... talking about it and being in the midst of this process, conceptualizing, understanding, writing and reading about it, and actually going through these processes — being made by these processes.

Just as true lover is never made through reading manuals about love, nor even epics about love, a true lover is made through the flame of love which incinerates anything other than love itself — and this is one of the Sufi perspectives.

 

 

 

Glimpses into the Path of the Heart

 

Your teaching and work are evocatively expressed as “The Path of the Heart” or “The Path of Beauty.” Could you provide some glimpses into this path for us and what it is about?

 

When we speak of the Path of the Heart, we could say that this path exemplifies non-intellectual and direct cognition of the essence of one’s reality, intuited in the Heart of one’s being. The Path of the Heart is present in absolutely every tradition, any tradition that we look into — whether this is tradition of the Bushman of Kalahari Desert, or the shamans in Siberia, or yogis of any order, or the Sufis of any order, whether this is an early Christian tradition, any gnostic tradition — within these traditions, we find that alongside various expositions on the nature of ultimate reality, the most direct is the one which is not apprehended or arrived at through any intellectual means, but where we simply know ourselves as that which is the core of everything, that gives rise to any understanding thereafter.

 

For example, if I give you the name of one of the major doctrines for which Kashmir Shaivism is known, it is the one which has the name Pratyabhijnahrdayam, which could be loosely translated as “direct recognition of one’s essence in the heart.” In the same way, we can find parallels to in some of the Sufi teachings, where that recognition is spoken of as “engraving the essence in one’s own heart.” Sufis often speak of that term “engraving.” They say, “Let the love be engraved in your heart.” So the Path of the Heart — in a paradoxical way — is what transcends any tradition, because by definition it cannot be contained by a set of doctrines. And from the perspective of many other methodologies and pathways, there is this attempt to grasp and understand the nature of our essential reality, while the Path of the Heart discards that as the very limitation in its own term. Because grasping belongs to the sphere of the mind, it belongs to the dichotomized nature of thought. It rests on the dichotomy of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Whereas in the Path of the Heart, knowledge is not spoken of in terms of acquisition — the knowledge is not of mental or intellectual property. It is a simple and most direct knowingness itself. It is beyond concepts and precepts, beyond understanding, and beyond language. It’s prior to everything.

 

At the same time, we don’t want to confuse the Path of the Heart with overemphasized emotionality, nor do we want to begin to interpret the Path of the Heart through any romantic perspectives. And this is exactly what often happens in New Age spirituality. Yes, the Path of the Heart is directly connected and related to the path of devotion. Simply because here the Path of the Heart and the above-mentioned path of devotion, as Bhakti Yoga, share certain qualities, which both require refinement of perception. Refinement of perception is that where our feelings are more instructive to us than our mental processes, but feelings here need to be distinguished from emotionality, have to be distinguished from being taken on a ride of our hormonal ups and downs. The feeling here is a powerful wave of awareness, which gives us a direct connection to the finer reality of our being, as the depth of that experience, and that depth of the experience is more present through the feeling than any mental faculty can provide. Therefore, I often say that the Path of the Heart is not for the fainthearted. It is for the courageous and highly evolved beings, because it requires an evolved individuality to walk this path. It requires an individuality which is in touch on a very deep level with one’s feelings — with the sphere where these feelings essentially come from, and that can only come from the heart center.

 

Here we speak of the heart center as that domain which is the overlapping of the realm of the vital and the realm of the transcendent. This realm, exemplified by the Heart Chakra — if given an example of sacred geometry — is an overlapping produced by a superimposition of two spheres, the aforementioned vital (physical), and that of the higher faculties, which create that form known as Vesica Piscis, which resembles a fish. And as we know, that was the symbol of early Christianity. Without a doubt, we can say that the original teaching of Christ was the teaching of the heart, and it is within the Vesica Pices that the first geometrical form is being born. Equilateral. And that equilateral, when complemented with another equilateral — one downward facing, one upward facing — is what produces that which is very well known to students of yoga and Tantra, that symbol of Shiva and Shakti, which takes place nowhere but the heart, because the heart is the seat of prana.

 

So this first form, this first geometrical form, symbolizes and exemplifies the birth of Consciousness itself. It is the realm where Awareness is aware of Itself, and it is nowhere but at the heart. And the Anahata Chakra, or the Heart Chakra, when speaking from the perspective of spiritual anatomy, is only a reflection of a much subtler reality — that is, of the union of Shiva and Shakti.

 

And it is for that reason it was considered a prerequisite to take one’s awakened Consciousness, exemplified by rising Kundalini, into the heart, to reassure and steadfast the process of awakening itself, which otherwise would be deemed to be unstable. Because it is at the heart level, at the heart center that the first real glimpse of Unity — not the experience of unity, but the glimpse — because it is where the realms are being held in equilibrium. And because the structure of Anahata Chakra is that reflection of that Supreme Union, and unless it is given access to, we cannot even begin to speak of truly abiding in the heart, even as the process continues. So, therefore, in yogic literature, it was always explicitly spoken of, that to reassure the process at a certain stage, that particular fort has to be taken. That which is also known in Tantra as the Vishnu Granthi — the knot of Vishnu which is located in the Anahata Chakra, is actually located slightly below. It grants the access of Kundalini Shakti into the chakra itself, but it is primarily associated with the abode of the heart center. It is here where Kundalini is no longer bound to the lower processes, and becomes gaseous, as the chakra itself is an expression of the subtle element of air.

 

Since the Anahata Chakra holds all our emotions and feelings — because the domain of emotions and feelings is here — and once the information is released, we can truly speak of compassion as it is spoken of in various traditions. Because prior to that, all these are but concepts — no matter how dear, no matter how profound — they would be understood as just that — concepts. One’s heart chakra has to be rendered open, in order to truly experience the nature of compassion.

 

It is also worth mentioning that it is here where the real danger of being arrested takes place; arrested to that particular psychic center, because Anahata Chakra, once it is opened — once access to this center is granted, where the sweetness of connection to the world is experienced directly, beyond the physical — very often it is often accompanied by tremendous bliss and beatitude. And it is here where many yogis get arrested, many great beings have been arrested, because it is very, very tempting to remain at the level of that emotional connection to the world, even if the emotions here are spoken from a qualitatively higher register.

 

The structure of the Anahata Chakra is a reflection of the union of Shiva and Shakti — that’s what Self-awareness is: it’s the union of Shiva and Shakti. And also, it is precisely in Anahata Chakra that our individual awareness has intuitive insights or glimpses of that unified state. And I want you to understand now [beside the article] it’s nothing to do with still having to go higher and then meet Shiva. It’s already recognized, because the heart center is that proximity with the hrid. It’s that proximity, you see? This is where the yogi is born — in the heart. And that’s why, by hook or by crook, the Path of the Heart is to take the sadhaka to the heart as quickly as possible, because a tremendous amount of work can be done from here. In fact, it is preferable to come here, because the… on many, many occasions, the awakening and expansion of Kundalini into the seat of will power — individual will power, in the City of Jewels, in the Manipura, in the so-called third chakra — before the Heart Chakra opens. This is where you have the birth of these charismatic personalities, who can easily rule the world with their ideas, because that’s where they experience the power of their conviction of what they are. But it is also very much the egoic individuality. It literally resides there. It has to be sacrificed, and it is sacrificed in the heart, and then it will be further sacrificed in the piercing of the Rudra Granthi, because in the Rudra Granthi, individuality ceases to exist. It is as simple as that. It bursts. But this is in terms of the preference in the Path of the Heart, to work from that dimension and to take our awareness there. We will return to that.

 

And as a footnote for clarification, although kriyas are an inseparable part of these immersions, this is not a “kriya path” — this is the Path of the Heart.

 

 

 

 

Qualifications to embark on the Path of the Heart

 

What kind of students feel drawn to your path and work? Are there any special qualifications or requirements to embark on this journey?

 

All kind of students are drawn initially, but there are certain, we could say, characteristics that could loosely define the circles of those who are attracted to this work. In my experience, these are mostly people who have already had a brush with awakening, or what is also known as “collision with the infinite.” In other words, that tendency presented itself quite early on, that whether I liked it or not, those who were interested in this work — those who take note to what I was saying — already had some experiences. Some have a lot of experiences, and I was quite taken aback myself when quite senior sadhakas, senior seekers of truth, came to this work — even those who have been with very well-known teachers of the past in their own time.

 

Yet that being said, there are also what I call newcomers to this, but they are certainly a minority. Yet when it comes to sitting together, being together and sharing the space, it’s not always guaranteed, there’s not always reassurance about who is going to stay and how this work is going to unfold for each and every one. As it is, I’m far from drawing any conclusions — any systems of who essentially is cut out for this work, because it’s not set in stone in any way. I don’t work from a set of preconceived ideas and concepts, and the main premise of this work is that which is exemplified by the very term given to our birthing community: Flowing Wakefulness. That it is awake within its own Self as that flowing quality of our awareness. We could say that it is exemplified by the Upanishadic truth that Atman — the soul — is awake within itself, and that wakefulness essentially is not something that can be spoken of in terms of a fixed idea. Therefore, whenever I enter the space with people, it is always anew — always anew.

 

When speaking of prerequisites — of requirements or qualifications to embark on this journey — I can only say that the one and main prerequisite is relevant for very experienced and for newcomers, and that is sincerity of the intent. Everything else is acquisitional, everything else is secondary. As long as there is sincere intent, then I feel that requirement is already there.

 

With that said, of course this could also be a catch-22, because many people who think they have a very clear idea of what they want when they come to me or when they come to this work, very often have no clue of what this is about. And that is because they have no clue what it is that they really want. This is where the real learning curve begins — the first learning curve for anyone given to this work, is to first realize that they need to have a clear understanding of what they actually want from this process. What do they want from this journey they are giving themselves to? Other than that, as long as one has a human heart, they all qualify.

 

 

 

 

Why do we need a Guru on our Spiritual Path?

 

In yogic communities in the West, we often come across the opinion that it is not necessary to have an external Teacher or Guru on our spiritual journey, because the “inner Teacher” is considered to be the guiding Light, whereas the relationship between Teacher and student in India is considered very important or even the premise to be able to complete our journey of Self-realization. Could you shed some light on this unique relationship and its significance?

 

It’s a very delicate topic, mainly because in our day and age the notion of having a teacher is very often associated with certain undesirable consequences, which otherwise from the perspective of certain more traditional understandings are paramount to the process. And in the West today, the value is being placed on the individual. In our culture, the value is being placed on the current set of values in our culture, where the value is in the individual, and the individual therefore is that highest pinnacle. When we speak of democratic societies, we speak of the democratic world, we speak of that what essentially is the ideal climate for the expression of that individuality. So the question you are asking is not even spiritual per se — it’s a much larger question. It’s a cultural question. It’s a question of what we value in our civilization currently — what set of values we prefer to exalt above anything else. And that value is primarily understood or expressed as individual freedom. The whole longing of Western civilization is that longing for individual freedom. The very idea of the demos — the Greek term for people — is that it can give expression to the individuality as a sum total of the wish or the will of the people. But what it meant in ancient Greece, and what it meant today perhaps are very different notions altogether. We can argue that the term "demos," when it was born in ancient Greece exemplified something quite different from what we speak of democracy, when we speak about it in terms of the political correctness of our chosen ideologies.

 

As a footnote, the idea of the demos was evolved around the time of what is known as classical ancient Greece, somewhere around the 5th century BCE. This coincided with the unification of certain ideas in this particular part of the world in antiquity, under the leadership of Athens, where for the first time a sum total of certain rhetoric and philosophical aspirations of its great beings were put — or rather there were attempts to put it into practice, for creating a social structure which would correspond to these ideas. This roughly coincided with the time of Plato and Pericles, but the Golden Age of the classical age of ancient Greece didn’t last for too long. It was a very short window of time, a very short period. As we know, Pericles was locked in prison as he was still working on the building of the Acropolis. He was already in prison — he actually conducted the building instructions from being behind the bars! The very democracy that he spoke of ended there and then! Autocracy came then, and ever since that, democracy remained just that — a vague idea in the minds of those who were trying to implement that. And we know today, democracy is the word that we send our tanks and airplanes to bomb another country for. So this is how far we advanced in terms of our understanding of that term.

 

However, before democracy took ahold of the collective imagination, there were other perspectives in ancient Greece which were perhaps much closer to understandings of the ancient Indian rishis — mystics of various traditions, various parts of the world. Why are we speaking about all this now in relation to the concept of the teacher and the guru? Because the term guru, as it is known in Sanskrit, represents a multitude of functions, from instructions and initiations into the subtlety of certain crafts and arts — in other words one can have a guru who teaches sitar or violin. And from the cultural perspective, the guru who teaches you sitar in India is not necessarily the same as the guru who teaches you violin in Berkeley. Because, whereas in the understanding of the learning process it presupposes giving and acquiring of certain skills, but more importantly, a transmission of certain aspects which have little to do with the technique itself... which has little to do with the skills and “how to.” But rather with that, dare I say sacred attitude, the teacher embodies with respect to any given sphere, that which is then passed on from heart-to-heart.

 

These are the main differences — call them cultural or whatever you prefer. So in other words, before we even begin to speak about the role, necessity, or how to go without, I want to draw this landscape of understanding so that we have this additional perspective of why that is that in the West very often the opinion that there is no need for an external guru, external adept, external guide, is because in the West there are very different cultural sentiments, or a lack thereof. I’m afraid to suggest — and I am not insisting — that perhaps in the West, we are affected by that widely accepted notion that as long as I am paying for it, it is mine. In other words, anything can be acquired, anything can be consumed, because we live in a culture of fast food. Or rather, a culture that gives rise to fast food; likewise when it comes to spiritual nourishment.

 

In the culture where fast food is our regimen when it comes to spiritual nourishment, the last thing we want is the guru. Why? Because guru will complicate things. In McDonalds, you don’t need waiters. You get your burger as big and for as little money as money can buy. And it’s serve yourself, do it yourself. And it is filled with all the ingredients that our taste buds learned to be seduced by.

 

At the same time, we don’t want to be unfair, or too critical, because we know of many examples to the contrary, where in the West we have seen amazing relationships between teacher and student — just as we have seen all-too-easily-accepted, never-truly-questioned, and as a result very superficial connections between teacher and student in the orient. Enough to read Ram Dass’s autobiography of his relationship with Neem Karoli Baba, and we can see how easily Indians can touch the so-called mahatma’s feet, because it’s part of the culture. That doesn’t mean a great act of devotion took place. So let’s not fool ourselves that somehow someone is culturally in a more advantageous situation — it’s not true.

 

The West has its own limitations to overcome, just like the East has its own limitations to overcome when it comes to that sacred relationship between teacher and student. Also, because we live in a time of Kali Yuga — in a time when dharma is violated. At the time when dharma is violated, it is obvious that this relationship is violated, because it’s just part of interactions. Just as every relationship has a chance to be distorted, and during Kali Yuga more than at other times. And there were many times when this beautiful-in-its-essence connection has been subjected to abuses on both sides. So that is what we are dealing with here. That’s what I meant when I said it is a delicate topic.

 

As to the specifics in the question, it is absolutely true that there is an inner truth, or inner guru. In fact, there is no way to recognize the outer guru unless that inner truth is already being revealed within to a certain degree. So in other words, it is usually those who are already very advanced that are able to find this connection in the outer world. And likewise, it’s true that those who have not would simply dismiss and deny the need for that, because it is not there in the first place, because that need cannot arise on its own out of pragmatic necessity.

 

Ultimately speaking, anything that we experience on the outside is, it could be said, is our projection. And that would include the one who is being perceived in the role of the teacher. And it is precisely that which makes the role of the guru significant, because this projection is two-fold. While everything that we perceive belongs to the phenomenology of subject-object and the relationship between — exemplified in  the Vedic tradition as togetherness of seer, seeing, and seen, — also known as what gives the structural dynamics behind the illusory nature of all experiences. So it is precisely because of that, that the one who has been put in a position of the outer guide becomes the mirror where we can recognize with greater clarity our own process, and along with that our limitations — and of course that also includes advancement.

 

So the dynamics between teacher and student are not very often being afraid because that relationship — depending on how uncompromising this or that perspective — would sooner or later require annihilation of that non-self, of that which is understood as non-self. And there are various teachers and various traditions and various ways of how that is being done, but the inner mechanics of this, the inner dynamics, are in that. It is that the teacher here will reflect precisely what needs to be reflected, and providing the teacher is the real deal, then this process will be much more steadfast without unnecessary pitfalls and all that accompanies that. And this process is essentially unthinkable without — without pitfalls. So the teacher simply safeguards the process itself. And that’s why you can find so many poetic lines out there in so many cultures. One immediately comes to mind from Jalāl ad-Dīn Rūmī, that, "Whoever enters the Way without a guide will take a hundred years to travel a two-day journey."  

 

And it is in that structure of seer, seeing, and seen that the very relationship between the teacher and student also presents a visceral possibility for breakthroughs, which if one is only opting for the teacher within, it would be so much harder to achieve, because that aspect within is an abstract aspect. It’s that aspect which, yes, you can come and speak to yourself, with your reflection in a mirror, and let’s see what happens from that. Let’s see how much that mirror reflection is going to say back about what you don’t want to hear.

 

But these are not the only dynamics — of course, we speak here of what is most obvious. There are subtler dimensions to the relationship between teacher and student, subtler dimensions which belong to the realm of the transmission of power — transmission of grace. And I don’t know if this even belongs to this conversation. But it is in that — precisely in that — where the most profound changes take place. Because the teacher here literally acts as a conduit of that force, of that power which is capable of providing a required set of circumstances, or climate we could say, where the power of grace manifests within this or that being. Yes, we speak of the transmission of grace. Yes, we speak of that passing on and so forth. But this is very tricky, because we can misunderstand the nature of this process.

 

As a footnote, this takes us unto the dynamics of awakening itself. However, what could be of value to mention here is that just as the presence of the teacher provides a framework where the possibility of falling out of this process becomes less. It’s also true that it safeguards the process itself, because of what is known as transference. Consciousness as it were mimics here, especially when we speak of darshan or satsang  — “being in the presence of [a revered master].” Because it is where our awareness aligns through that which is being perceived as being in the presence of — with that which is essentially our own reality. We’re not taking part in someone’s reality — it’s always our reality. And maybe another note here, as concluding remarks:

 

It would be good to disperse the misconception that the teacher desires, or the teacher requires the unequivocal annihilation of someone’s will in order for this process to be successful. This is a misconception on two accounts. To begin with, in order for that to happen, one has to be in possession of one’s will. First we need to understand that the concept of our own free will is the greatest illusion — or rather delusion — that we hold onto. And that of course is rooted in the current culture we live in, especially in the secular culture where all we have is our will — and that goes hand in hand with what we have spoken of right from the beginning. The greatest value is being placed on that which is the expression of individuality, and it is that which we are afraid will be usurped. We are afraid that that freedom of expression is being taken away from us. And that’s the greatest area of difficulty, the greatest area of misunderstanding, because the difficulty simply arises from misunderstanding.

 

It’s not that we are asked to give up will — we cannot give up that which we do not own to begin with — but even if we are to imagine for a moment, or presuppose that there is indeed a will of our own, it’s not by giving it up; it is essentially understood in terms of taking greater responsibility in one’s own affairs. That’s what this really is. So in other words, it’s totally the opposite of what everyone thinks. Having a teacher is a responsible act, when one is not afraid to lose oneself, because one is evolved enough. It’s only the one who is not fully developed as an individual who is in danger of losing that which is in the formative stages. And when that happens, very often the one who is temporarily in the position of the disciple wants to, desires — even demands — that the teacher take responsibility for that person’s life. You see? “Yes I will surrender. Now you take care of me!” Because this is the bargain. And that’s why we’re all facing this predicament collectively, because our culture does not support this. There’s very little understanding, and it is ridden with a lot of examples where this undeniable power that this relationship holds has is being abused, and also lacks the nuances and subtleties involved.

 

So here we have a full picture of why this opinion is prevalent. It’s only indicative of what essentially the basis — that if all this was there, somehow brought clearer, and if we were more educated on this, then this would not create the suspicion and denial, and also less fear.

 

Although that being said, we could say that it is a legitimate fear as well. There is something unnerving about this process. And let us be also frank about it. Even those who go DIY style — do it yourself — without any guru, the terror of losing one’s control over this process is enormous. That terror of losing the framework of identity is not an easy one, because that’s what we consider ourselves to be before it is, as it were, readjusted. You know, before the optical illusion is adjusted into that which is not in a focal point of this and that and that... there is this fear of not knowing where we are going to land — not knowing who we are. And that is precisely what perhaps is the most noble role or part of the teacher comes in, because the teacher disperses that, and alleviates all this, by presenting the most direct and most immediate entrance from that which is so uncertain, to that which doesn’t require any confirmation because it’s obvious beyond belief. It’s obvious beyond ideation — it’s just a matter of fact, it’s just as it is. But before that takes place there is this vacillation, and this wobbling which goes on. This wobbling will go on.

 

We only hope that with being on the verge of yet another breakthrough into new paradigms, propped up by all these technological advances that somehow we won’t run into ready-made conclusions — which I do hear now being expressed aloud in the spiritual community — that the role of the master has somehow outlived itself. It’s an anachronism that this relationship is no longer required. “We can do it! Just by being on Facebook enough hours, we can do it! We can read enough, we can get enough exposure to what our essential nature is, without learning secret scriptures. It’s all out there, all this is presented — who needs the guru? Who needs the guide? Why? What for?”

 

Why are these kind of slogans flying around? Because there is simple misunderstanding that the guru is not so-and-so. Never was so and so — it’s an eternal principle. It cannot be renewed nor can it be worn out. Because it’s not a thing.

 

The true beauty of that relationship only opens when our heart is cultured enough. And that is why in certain cultures, in certain traditions, so much importance is given to this. Because that relationship is what truly completes even the most advanced process, even the most advanced stage and phase. More than anything, it is that which cultures the heart; it’s literally that connection with and to that principle — that what in the Indian tradition is spoken of as guru-chela, or in Sufism as silsila.

Kriyas are physical or subtle (i.e., emotional or mental) movements brought about by the awakened Kundalini performing purification of the body and nervous system, in order to increase the individual’s capacity to endure the energy of higher states of consciousness.

Kundalini Shakti refers to the primordial cosmic energy, or latent spiritual power coiled three times onto itself at the base of the spine, at the Muladhara Chakra of every human being. Kundalini Shakti literally means contracted Awareness — Shakti on the contracted level as the individual.

Muladhara Chakra is the spiritual center where the Kundalini lies dormant before spiritual awakening — coiled like a serpent — at the base of the spine. In Sanskrit, mula means “root or source” and adhara means “to support.” Thus, it describes this root chakra where Kundalini controls all of the activities of the physiology through the network of 72,000 nadis or subtle energy channels within the sushumna (the main nadi) in the subtle body. Chakras are the psychic centers or centers of Consciousness where the nadis converge, giving the appearance of a lotus, and these control the functions of all of the nerves of the body.

Sri Aurobindo Ghose was an Indian nationalist, philosopher, yogi, guru and poet. He was one of the influential leaders of the Indian movement for independence from British rule, until he received an inner command to give up politics and devote his life to spirituality, and the birth of a new spiritual consciousness. He became a prolific writer of extremely detailed, comprehensive discourses on spiritual evolution, and said that his inspiration arose from a higher source. A few of his prolific works include, Savitri, The Life Divine, Synthesis of Yoga, Essays on the Gita, and The Secret of the Veda.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was an internationally known spiritual leader of the modern era, a Vedic scholar and scientist of Consciousness who founded the Transcendental Meditation technique and movement.  He was a disciple of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, the Shankaracharya (spiritual leader) of Jyotimath in the Himalayas.  Maharishi, also known as “His Holiness,” dedicated many years to the restoration of the purity of the Vedic knowledge of health care, education, agriculture, administration and architecture.  He also designed the Global Peace Initiative and founded the Brahmananda Saraswati Trust to create, support, and maintain world peace.

Chit is Consciousness, that which knows. Chit Shakti is the dynamic aspect of divine Consciousness which becomes the power of Consciousness or subjectivity; it is that which is conscious of Itself.

Hatha Yoga is a classical system of physical postures (asanas) originating in ancient India; it is said that Lord Shiva himself is the founder of this branch of yoga.

Pranayama is a yogic science of the breath which aims to control and stabilize the prana (vital force), and thus still the mind in order for the seeker to experience the Self which is beyond the mind. In Hatha Yoga, specific breath exercises are practiced as a means; however, once the Kundalini has been awakened, spontaneous pranayama arises naturally as part of the inner purification process.

Jnana Yoga - Jnana is a Sanskrit term for knowledge or wisdom; thus Jnana Yoga, the path of jnana is a path of highest knowledge — knowledge of Brahman, the Absolute — which leads one to liberation.

Chakras are the psychic centers or centers of consciousness contained within the sushumna, the main nadi or subtle energy channel within the subtle body; the chakras are where the nadis converge, giving the appearance of a lotus; these control the functions of all of the nerves of the body.  There are six main chakras located within the sushumna: the muladhara at the base of the spinal column, Svadhisthana at the root of the reproductive organs, Manipura at the naval region, Anahata at the region of the heart, Vishuddhi at the base of the throat, and Ajna between the two eyebrows where the nadis, and the topmost spiritual center, the seventh chakra, the Sahasrara is located at the crown of the head.

Subtle body (or astral body) is composed of seventeen tattvas or limbs which include: jnanindiryas or five senses of knowledge (i.e., sight, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching), the subtle power operating through the physical sense organs, the karmindriyas or five organs of action (i.e., organs of speech, grasping, locomotion, excretion and procreation), the subtle power operating through these mechanisms of action, the  Pranas the five vital airs (i.e., prana, apana, samana, udana, and vyana), and the two instruments — the mind (including the subconscious mind) and intellect (including the ego).  According to the Bhagavad Gita, the subtle body is that which controls the gross physical body. The subtle body contains the chakra system and the vast network of 72,000 energy channels, called nadis. The subtle body is the vehicle of consciousness with which one passes from life to life.  It is experienced in the dream state.

Asanas are yogic postures or poses.

Mudras are symbolic poses, gestures or movements of the hands which express inner feelings and states, or convey various meanings. They may arise spontaneously as a type of graceful kriya, after receiving Shaktipat.

Bandhas are body locks in Hatha Yoga categorized under the heading of mudra, which help to seal the prana in the body, forcing it to flow into the main subtle channel, the sushumna. During pranayama (breath control science) bandhas assist in uniting the ingoing and outgoing breath.  These may be utilized in Hatha Yoga practices or may occur spontaneously and automatically after the Kundalini has been awakened. The three main bandhas are jalandhara bandha (the chin tucks close to the chest), uddiyana bandha (abdomen contracts into the rib cage), and mula bandha (the anus is pulled inward).

Ramana Maharshi is a well-known modern day sage who at age 16, spontaneously initiated a process of self-inquiry that culminated within a few minutes, in his own permanent awakening.  Shortly thereafter, he left home to travel to the holy mountain Arunachala, Tiruvannamalai, where he remained for the rest of his life.  

Anandamayi Ma (1896-1982) was a much-loved Indian saint from Bengal, who is considered to have been a very special embodiment of Divine Power.

Yoga Vashishta is an important Indian scripture of the discourse imparted to Lord Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, by his Guru, Sage Vasistha. It consists of the answers given by Sage Vasistha to Lord Rama’s questions, to pave his way to enlightenment; it ultimately explains the creation of the world, and that everything is Consciousness.

Sufi is one who practices Sufism, a mystical Muslim movement which arose from within Islam in the 8th-9th centuries.  A Sufi practices constant remembrance of God — the Beloved — loving and serving all beings as manifestations of God.

Al-Ghazali was one of the world’s greatest thinkers and spiritual teachers of medieval Islam (1058-1111) was known for writing the Islamic classic and autobiography, Al-Ghazali’s Path to Sufism: His Deliverance from Error, his narrative of how as a dedicated seeker of true knowledge and salvation, having probed various systems of thought and different spiritual paths, discovered the peace of the inner life and discipline of mystical spirituality (Sufism).

Al-Din Suhrawardi (1153 - 1191CE) was the founder of the famous Sufi order of mystics in Baghdad, noted for the severity of its spiritual discipline. The order’s ritual prayers (dhikr) are based upon thousands of repetitions of seven names of God. He is referred to by the honorific title Shaikh al-ʿIshraq "Master of Illumination" and Shaikh al-Maqtul "the Murdered Master", in reference to his having been executed for heresy.

Ibn Arabi was one of the world's greatest spiritual teachers (1165 -1240AD), a philosopher, poet, mystic, and sage. Known as Muhyiddin (the Revivifier of Religion) and the Shaykh al-Akbar (the Greatest Master), his spiritual attainments were evident from an early age. He wrote over 350 works, and he spoke of how those who truly know their essential self, know God.

Kashmir Shaivism is a branch of the tradition of Shaivism originating in the 8th or 9th century CE; it is a nondual philosophical system attributed to Lord Shiva himself, which recognizes the entire universe as a manifestation of Pure Consciousness.  This ancient tradition explains how the formless Universal Consciousness, called Shiva, manifests the universe. The foundational text of Kashmir Shaivism is the Shiva Sutras, attributed to Lord Shiva and is said to have been revealed to sage Vasugupta in a dream; other central texts of Kashmir Shaivism include Pratyabhijnahridayam, Spanda Karikas, and the Vijnana Bhairava. Kashmir Shaivism is an esoteric and contemplative householder path, where the role of the Guru and the transmission of spiritual energy called Shaktipat is the key to one’s spiritual evolution.  Kashmir Shaivism describes the spiritual practices which enable the aspirant to prepare himself or herself for liberation, which is sustained recognition — pratyabhijna — of one's true Self as nothing other than Shiva.

Pratyabhijnahrdayam is a classic text from Kashmir Shaivism written in the 11th century by the great sage Ksemaraja. In Sanskrit, pratyabhijna means “recognition or remembrance” and hrdaya refers to the “heart, the essence or core, the Self;” so the title means “the recognition of the heart.” In his 20 sutras (aphorisms) and commentaries contained in this text, Ksemaraja explains briefly this doctrine of recognition, that in fact “everything is Shiva,” and shows the path to liberation through recognition of what we have forgotten.

Prana in the context of Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine) and Vedic Science, is the subtle essence of air.  It is the life force that animates everything; it is in the air we breathe, the food we eat, it is in our bodies, and it is the master intelligence behind all psycho-physiologic functioning.

Anahata Chakra refers to the twelve-petaled lotus, the heart chakra or subtle energetic center in the region of the physical heart.

Vishnu Granthi is the second granthi or “knot,” located between the Manipura Chakra (third at the solar plexus) and the Anahata Chakras (fourth or heart chakra). Grantis are the energy knots which prevent the free flowing of prana in the sushumna nadi (the central channel) of the subtle body’s chakra system, and thus the rising of Kundalini; there are three granthis: first is Brahma Granthi at the Muladhara Chakra, second is the Vishnu Granthi between the Manipura and Anahata Chakras, and the third is the Rudra Granthi which covers the areas of the Ajna Chakra and the Sahasrara. Each granthi is named after one of the three Gods in the Hindu Trinity, and it is said that all three Gods test the sadhaka before allowing these “knots” to open, and the Kundalini to freely progress upwards.

Vishnu is a Hindu God also known as Narayana or Hari.  He is one of Hinduism’s three supreme deities (Trimurti) in which the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction are personified by the forms of Brahma as the creator, Vishnu the maintainer, preserver or protector and Shiva as the destroyer or transformer.  

Hrid means “heart” in Sanskrit.

Sadhaka is a spiritual aspirant, one who practices a particular spiritual discipline (sadhana) or way of life on the path toward Self-realization.

City of Jewels refers to the Manipura Chakra, the third chakra located just below the solar plexus, and translated from Sanskrit literally means “City of Jewels.”

Manipura Chakra is the third chakra or energetic wheel which is located above the navel, slightly below the solar plexus. Manipura means the "City of Jewels," is associated with fire and the power of transformation, is said to govern digestion and metabolism, and it the home of celiac plexus which innervates most of the digestive system.

Rudra Granthi is the third granthi or “knot,” located at the Ajna Chakra (“third eye”). Grantis are the energy knots which prevent the free flowing of prana in the sushumna nadi (the central channel) of the subtle body’s chakra system, and thus the rising of Kundalini; there are three granthis: first is Brahma Granthi at the Muladhara Chakra, second is the Vishnu Granthi between the Manipura and Anahata Chakras, and the third is the Rudra Granthi which covers the areas of the Ajna Chakra and the Sahasrara. Each granthi is named after one of the three Gods in the Hindu Trinity, and it is said that all three Gods test the sadhaka before allowing these “knots” to open, and the Kundalini to freely progress upwards.

Atman is the soul, the individualized unit of consciousness, which according to Advaita Vedanta is identical with the Absolute, Brahman.

Rishi is a seer, the one who perceives with an inner ear; he hears and recognizes all these myriad of vibrations deep within, and is able to see Reality as it is.

Neem Karoli Baba (also known to followers as Maharaj-ji) was a much-beloved Indian guru, mystic and devotee of the Hindu deity Hanuman. He was well known in the West, due to several of his American disciples — come spiritual teachers — Ram Dass (Richard Alpert) and Bhagavan Das, as well as musician-disciples Krishna Das and Jai Uttal.

Kali Yuga is the “Age of Darkness” that we currently live in according to Vedic cosmology.

Dharma is righteousness, one’s religious duty, natural law, and it is the basis of all social and ethical order — a “right way of living.”  Dharma is considered an essential value for attainment of Self-realization.

Vedic tradition, also known as Vedism, ancient Hinduism, Brahmanism and Vedic Brahmanism is the historic predecessor of modern Hinduism, stemming from the Vedic period which existed in northern India from approximately 1750 to 500 BCE.  The Vedic tradition is one of the most ancient surviving spiritual and mystical traditions known, and advocates realization of the Divine as the ultimate Truth, and living a pious and virtuous life in the world. Its name is derived from the collections of sacred texts known as the Vedas, a large body of revealed texts composed in Vedic Sanskrit, which constitute the oldest scriptures of Hinduism.  These sacred Hindu scriptures include the Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atarva Veda.

Darshan is seeing or being in the presence of a holy being or sacred idol or place.

Satsang is holy company of the good or God-minded persons. Sat means “good, truth” and/or holy” and sangha means “meeting” or “coming together.” Thus, it is the meeting of devotees to hear/read scriptures, chant, or sit in the presence of a holy being, or it is simply the company of saints and devotees.

Chela comes from the Sanskrit verb root, “to serve,” and refers to the disciple of a guru. Guru-chela describes the sacred relationship/bond between guru and disciple.

Silsila is an Arabic word meaning “chain, link, or connection,” where a Sufi Master transfers his spiritual power to his spiritual descendant.

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