Understanding the Behavior and Rising of Kundalini
Q: I hear and read various people claim that they have full Kundalini experiences, and have “raised it many times.” It seems to me — and I have heard you say a small bit on it — that the full awakening is a “one and out” so to speak. I am leery of these claims. Perhaps these are just some jolts and peaks, and I also find that these same folks then seem to come from a real dry and overly intellectual framework about, “You are not here, it is maya,” etc. There is a real nihilism about it to me in that, like a denial of the magic of existence. Just wondering if you have some thoughts on this.
I think the question actually has two different layers here. One, that requires clarification on the topic of how Kundalini actually behaves, and secondly, what do we mean by “rising of Kundalini?” Also, it is true that I spoke about the actual ascent of Kundalini as one event, absolutely one event. It would not be correct to say that we continuously experience this awakening and rising of Kundalini in the same degree. Yes, I did speak about that. So, let’s clarify a little bit more on this, what I mean by that, and this will be the first part.
So, you are asking, “To have full Kundalini experiences or have they raised it many times?” First, let us tackle it from a slightly different perspective. It is not actually correct to say that “Kundalini is asleep” — it is a metaphorical, allegorical way of saying that. Really, Kundalini is in a state of homeostasis. In other words, Kundalini — even in the one in whom Consciousness is in a dormant state — what we call “dormant” or “not awakened,” Kundalini is not asleep. Even if some of the yogic scriptures describe this snake coiled to itself, asleep and not only that, even with its mouth closed, and the entrance of the central channel — that median channel known as sushumna in the middle of the spine — is sealed, and it requires that serpent to awaken and all these metaphysical connotations in metaphorical language of the snake who uncoils…
If we speak of Kundalini in light of various traditions, and in the light of greater understanding, then that could not be the case, because if Kundalini indeed was asleep, there would be no possibility for any functioning in this body — because it is the Kundalini that takes care of all the processes — absolutely all. All processes in the body are empowered by the Kundalini, whether the person’s consciousness is completely dormant, whether it is fully awakened or whether it is in between — it’s all powered by Kundalini. This must be clearly understood.
Now, Kundalini also is the chief deity, because it is the Shakti Herself here, it is the Consciousness Itself here — Consciousness at the stage of extreme identification with the body-mind physiology, body-mind nervous system. In other words, that identification with the physiology — with “me,” with this body, with this story, with this name, with this character — is also due to the specific functioning of the Shakti. If it was not so, then we would presuppose that there are some other kind of agencies at work. So, Shakti as Chit-Shakti, as Consciousness Itself, is that aspect and that state of Consciousness when it simply dormant to its other more expansive, magnanimous and omnipotent state. This also has to be understood clearly.
With regard to the median channel and the rising of Kundalini; before we even go there, I want us to also understand that Kundalini, since it is the chief deity — we cannot call it a deity, although the scriptures call it a deity — because Kundalini is really that Consciousness, and that Consciousness is structured through this human physiology, through the agency of various other Shaktis, or various other energies, each responsible for various activities — various vital forces, various pranas.
Now, even when we act in the world, and our Consciousness is being quite dormant and sitting deep in the muladhara in that “sleepy state,” there are still times when it simply has to go into the sushumna, because that median channel in the center of our spinal column, is really that which connects the subtlest with the grossest. And Kundalini is known through the entire physiology, as this parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system, which is really being conducted through that movement of ida and pingala — traditionally speaking, what we know as the lunar and the solar channels.
The sympathetic versus parasympathetic nervous systems all are empowered and literally being directed by a particular flow, where the energy flows in either of the respective channels; if it flows through the solar channel, then obviously, it’s that which is associated with those activities. If it flows through the lunar channel, then we experience different states of emotive, psychological, and mental states. And that alternates throughout the whole day; you can just check whichever nostril is more open, and you will know in which channel your Kundalini is now flowing.
When I say “Kundalini” here, I am not talking about awakened Kundalini, rising Kundalini — I am talking about that which empowers all psychological, neurological and mental processes. And there are times, when the Kundalini has to flow in the sushumna, these are times in between — I spoke about this at the retreats. Some of you remember, I spoke about that precisely, that when the breath is about to change from the left nostril to the right nostril — which one of them is working predominantly at the time — there is literally a moment of repose, when the breath flows neither through the solar, neither through lunar — it then flows through sushumna. When that happens, we have meditative states, regardless of whatever we are involved in; we could be driving a car, cooking a dinner, playing a game, watching TV, having a conversation, when suddenly we have that very meditative state — naturally — because that is what it is. When prana flows through the sushumna, this is what happens — spontaneous meditation — no matter what activity is given.
So, this is a prelude to respond to that question, that Kundalini knows the sushumna so to speak; the prana knows where it flows, at what time, and how. What happens, rather, is that at the time of awakening of Kundalini, this is accompanied by tremendous realignment of the pranic flows. And when that realignment of pranic flows occurs, it is usually preceded by a very specific and unique movement of prana, when two opposite flows of prana, known as prana and apana.
Each prana has a name, and there are five of the principal ones. Again, a lot has been spoken about these five pranas: prana, apana, vyana, samana, and udana. Sometimes they are called vayus; vayu in Sanskrit means “air,” literally, but not the air like “vital air.” So, each one is named vayu. Within these vayus, there are two principal ones, prana vayu and apana vayu. Apana is the downward movement of prana, and prana is the upward, rising movement.
So, in normal cases, those of you who are familiar with the movement of prana, who are familiar with these activities of the prana, prana vayu is responsible for that functioning of literally everything in the body which is sustained on the level of connecting the individual with the cosmic prana, with the cosmic vital forces, and the apana vayu is that which is responsible for all the discharge of everything — of feces, urine, of even the fetus; everything that moves downward is impossible, unless it is guarded and conducted by apana vayu.
So, what happens in pre-awakening of Kundalini, is the reversal of these two pranic flows. So, in other words, the rising prana vayu and the descending, the downward moving apana vayu, reverse their flow and meet in the gut. They literally temporarily refuse to perform their “normal” functioning. When that happens, it is like imagining the confluence of the rivers, when they meet in the middle, like the flows suddenly meet in the gut. When that happens, there is a tremendous build-up of energy; obviously, because the prana and apana are suddenly not performing, bound by physiologically necessary functioning. But something else is happening, something which literally creates this possibility for the transmutative alchemical reaction to begin, for that process to literally ignite. This is what I have called in some of my interviews “combustion,” — combustion of prana.
It is literally when prana combusts, when prana and apana meet in the middle, they gather together and they combust, and that is what we experience as awakening. And it is so powerful, that it is accompanied by all these various phenomena that we can then compare from classical and from clinical perspectives, how it is accompanied by the experiences of inner lights, experiences of trembling, and what have you.
Enough has been spoken about it, there is enough out there, that is not the point. The point that I want to respond to in your question, is why did I speak about that on-off event? So, usually, if there is a full awakening — by full awakening, we mean that Kundalini is awakened and not just remaining in the respective center, but expands fully as Consciousness — and that it has no choice but to go upward. And if there is enough purity in the body, if there is enough purity in the nervous system, if the nervous system can support that process, it would immediately enter the sushumna — immediately — and it would be experienced as that rising molten gold in the middle of your spine, through that shaft.
This experience is known in the Tantric tradition as “the virgin’ — because you can only lose your virginity once — and here in the same way, this is known as the virgin. Kundalini now enters, awakened Consciousness now enters the sushumna and goes all the way up, up the spine, and culminates with that unusually extraordinary intensity of experience, which is very visceral, often quite charged with physicality. It could be a very sensuous experience, very sensuous, hence that term “virgin.” It is literally a sexual experience, because Kundalini primarily expresses Herself at that stage as heat and sexuality — literally that sexual energy.
So, that movement is experienced only once. What happens thereafter, when it subsides, it doesn’t mean that Kundalini suddenly took one to the stage of God realization, Unity Consciousness — no. Far from it. It is just awakening, and it took the whole physiology by storm. Then, what begins from thereon, is a gradual process of gaining new territory. And this is why those who say that they have had a “full experience of Kundalini,” this “full awakening,” and yet Kundalini would still have to go down, subside, and then the work begins. What do I mean by, “… and then the work begins?” Kundalini will return and revisit every chakra, every abode of elemental order — water, fire, air, ether and so forth, and beyond elemental order — to do Its work.
Because it does not mean that in that one initial rising that is viscerally experienced, that all the chakras have been opened and activated — no. We cannot apply this kind of linear perspective here, “… so if Kundalini has risen we experienced that molten gold shaft,” because we often experience our spinal column like that solid shaft of light, but it doesn’t mean that all our chakras have opened and released all the information needing to be released. This is not how it usually happens in our modern day and age; what will happen, is that Kundalini will subside, and then would begin Its work.
Usually it would begin its work with purification, which is why there is that initial expansion in the initial awakening, where we can stay in a state of felicity, in a state of extreme, extreme bliss for days sometimes — it could be for hours, days, maybe even weeks, very often the intensity is really, really powerful — every cell in our body would be literally permeated with the bliss of the impact of major awakening, would be soaked in that, and everyone would feel it — everyone around us would feel it. We walk around, literally, the boundaries of this physicality and this other dimensionality are now being blurred; but then another phase begins, and it is the phase when the actual work begins. So then, the pure Kundalini starts to throw all the illnesses out of body. She begins to clean, the spring cleaning, and then that up and down, the true rally begins — the true process of Kundalini doing Its work begins.
So, I would like to put a full stop here and go back to the “full Kundalini experiences.” These are not common. The degree of awakening — when Kundalini is awakened and immediately took possession of the entire house and entire system and then there is no doubt it is awakened — Consciousness is now released from its dormancy, and it will only expand from there on. It will try to gain new territory by hook or by crook, by force or by sneak, by whatever way — It will do what It needs to do. It doesn’t matter what that echo of still automated responses is, of the way our psyche works. Very often it is like, “Oh, how am I going to keep control of this? How am I going to cope with this whole awakening?”
Very often surrender and acceptance is the only tactic or the only strategy, because if we are to put up a fight, if we are to try to manipulate the process at that raw stage it is very hard to do anything, because there is a lot of force — raw force, very powerful force. But it is rare, you see? So, in my practice for instance, the literature that I read, the cases that I have been exposed to, what I witness more is that the stir — awakening without necessarily that expansion — awakening, which is Kundalini awakened, but not necessarily Its rise. And don’t be mistaken here by this phenomenon.
Kundalini can awaken in the muladhara and not move anywhere, but one would have all these sensations of light inside, all these kriyas, all these powerful, psychophysiological sensations — but that does not mean that Kundalini is necessarily rising. It does not necessarily move into that full — traditionally speaking, that cobra standing upright — virgin experience. Then it will just gain territory, gain stage by stage, until it is ready for the full experience. So, you can see that one-off experience could be very different scenarios; it could be that one-off experience and then the work begins, or it could be the other way around. The other way around — very gently, much more gentle states, which could take months and years, and then it would be experienced as that flow of that molten gold.
I want to move now to the second part of that question, that you have observed here: “I also find that these same folks then seem to come from a real dry and overly intellectual framework about, “You are not here, it is maya, etc. There is a real nihilism about it to me in that, like a denial of the magic of existence.” Well, you see that it is very normal and quite explainable. The awakening could take the individual perception — take the individual to that kind of deconstructed state. It can literally take one outside of this perceived temporal identity, dismantle that, and destroy it temporarily, but the process has not yet culminated in integration or in any integral phase, where it gives a much more coherent picture, a much more integral picture.
Therefore, the picture is still fragmented, and that fragmented picture could be a prolonged one. I will refer you to some of the talks where I have spoken on the states of consciousness, technically also known as the Cosmic State of Consciousness, as it was delineated by old Indian masters, including Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The Cosmic state of Consciousness is literally that awakened state of Consciousness, and it is brought about by awakened Kundalini, but it is a witnessing state. In the witnessing state, there is this subtle rupture, a separation between the Self that has been experienced in a visceral manner, and the world “out there.”
The world out there often feels as if it is standing in opposition to the Self, it very often feels dimmed, very often transparent and kind of unreal. I say “kind of,” because it has this feeling of lacking in substance. And that Cosmic State of Consciousness — which is very nice initially, very beautiful — could become an obstacle, if it becomes one’s reality, because it is very hard to function in the world in that state of Consciousness. The world does not have its substance, it does not have anything that is tangible anymore — everything has become so dissolved — translucent, like a mirage. That is the state of affairs in that state of consciousness.
~ Igor Kufayev, Online Darshan transcribed Q&A Costa Rica, August 9, 2014
 Kundalini or 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.
 Maya is held to be an illusion in Advaita Vedanta philosophy; the source that conceals our divinity, our true, unitary Self known as Brahman.
 Sushumna Nadi is the powerful vibrational channel for the flow of that life force energy, the prana, which runs along the center of the spinal cord through the seven chakras of the subtle body.
 Shakti is the divine cosmic power which projects, maintains, and dissolves the universe. She is that mother goddess, that feminine divine force that manifests to destroy evil forces and restore balance. In Hinduism, every God has his Shakti, without whose energy he has no power. For example, Lord Vishnu’s Shakti is Lakshmi and Lord Shiva’s power is Parvati.
 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.
 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.
 Parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems Parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems are part of the autonomic nervous system, also known as the “involuntary nervous system” which serves much as a “control center” to control functions such the heart and respiratory rates, breathing, digestion, salivation, perspiration, dilation of the pupils of the eye, sexual arousal, swallowing, etc. The parasympathetic nervous system is considered to be the "rest and digest" (i.e., promotes calming of the nerves with return to normal functioning with enhancement of digestion), while the sympathetic nervous system is considered to be the "fight or flight" system (i.e., arousal and energy generation, inhibition of digestion).
 Ida is the nadi (subtle energy or nerve channel) which originates at the base of the spine, and terminates at the left nostril. It is said to the lunar nadi or “moon nadi” because it gives a cooling effect, whereas the nadi which terminates at the right nostril is called pingala, and is the solar nadi or “sun nadi” because of its heating effect. The three principal nadis are the ida, pingala, and sushumna, the central and principal nerve channel which extends from the base of the spine to the top of the head, through which the Kundalini rises.
 Pingala is the nadi (subtle energy or nerve channel) which originates at the base of the spine, and terminates at the right nostril. It is said to the solar nadi or “sun nadi” because it gives a heating effect, whereas the nadi which terminates at the left nostril is called ida, and is the lunar nadi or “moon nadi” because of its cooling effect. The three principal nadis are the ida, pingala, and sushumna, the central and principal nerve channel which extends from the base of the spine to the top of the head, through which the Kundalini rises.
 Apana is one of the five pranas, also called vital airs or vayus. From the Sanskrit, it literally means “carrying-downwards breath,” and it is the downward moving energy which is responsible for all of the excretions moving down and out of the body (e.g., defecation, urination, menstruation, etc.).
 Five pranas or vayus in yoga refers to the subtle air, prana, the life-breath. Ayurveda describes vayu as relating to vata dosha, that body-mind constitution made up of air and space which governs all movement in the mind and body, and which is divided into five subdivisions (i.e., sub-doshas) or vayus: prana, apana, samana, vyana, and udana.
 Tantric pertains to Tantra, the yogic science of cosmic principles based upon divinely revealed scripture describing spiritual discipline which worships Shakti, the creative power of God in all its forms. The goal of Tantra is to attain Self-realization through esoteric practices, including meditation, devotion to the guru, worship of images, yantras (diagrams), mantra, etc.
 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.
 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 and conduct the energy of higher states of consciousness.
 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.