Monday, 25 August 2014

Kundalini and the Chakras

Continuing his series on Shaktism, Rajarshi Nandy moves beyond the philosophy of Shaktism to understanding the process of kundalini rising through the chakras. There are many accounts of this online (not always accurate!) and in books; but every sadhaka has his/her own experience which comes through in their writing. While this blog post is beneficial even to the casual reader, Rajarshi is sharing practical ideas with the discerning sadhaka - which he has learned the hard way from his own sadhana. If you have a query, you can leave a comment, and/or follow Rajarshi via Twitter @TheRajarshi 

Now we have seen in the previous article a brief and psychological idea of what Kundalini Shakti practically stands for. The next important aspect of the journey related to the traditional concept of Kundalini passing through the various chakras inside the body. There are many Tantric diagrams depicting the movement of Kundalini through these various chakras as well as the shape and nature of each of them.

But before all that, what exactly are the Chakras? A reasonable misconception to be avoided is the idea that these chakras are present inside the physical human body. They are not. Their relevance is with respect to the astral body – or sukshma sharira, though they may have some correspondence with some areas in the physical body. In Yogic terminology every human being has three bodies overlapping. The physical body – sthula sharira, astral body – sukshma sharira, and causal body – karana sharira. It in the second of these bodies that there is a complex system of nadis or channels of energy flow. By some accounts there are 72,000 such nadis in this astral body, of which some of the most crucial nadis pertain to the area – again not physically but astrally – inside the length of the spinal column.  And of these the most important is known as susumna nadi, the central channel through which the Kundalini Shakti must flow, once it is awakened inside the sadhaka. [It may noted in passing that even within susumna there are also subdivision of nadis, but for all practical purposes we need not explore those depths currently.]

When a set of these 72,000 nadis converge at different points along the axis of the susumna, they result in centers of psychological functioning which the texts refer to as the chakras. Each chakra has its own unique iconographic representation and its own domain.  According to most popular accounts there are six main chakras :-

Muladhara – this is the chakra at the very base of the spine while holds the physical frame together.  This chakra is related to a sense of structure and ability of possession of the structure. On the negative side, this also often manifests in individuals as the sense of greedy possessiveness of material things. It must be remembered that while the actual point of muladhara is merely the focus of the psychological feeling, the effect of this chakras extends throughout the body, from head to toe. Basically, when awareness is concentrated in the muladhara, one is acutely aware of his physical existence. This is one end of the spectrum whose other end is the Sahashrar, or thousand-petalled lotus overhead, where the connection to, or sense of, the physical body becomes extremely weak. In most accounts the Devata of this chakra is Ganapati. 

It is therefore of great importance that Ganapati has to be worshiped in some way before a “safe” awakening of Kundalini is possible. In Yoga  the ganas are also both metaphorically and practically representations of the various kinds of sense inputs that are processed by the organism. So Ganapati is the Devata who has supreme control over these inputs, and as needed, can increase or decrease the sensory experiences or balance them to an optimum state which is most conducive for awakening the sleeping Kundalini shakti in the adhara – mind-body complex.  Also, equally, being at the very root of the system of nadis, worship of Ganapati can ensure a balance between the material and the spiritual realms. That is why there is no ritual worship in Hinduism which does not start with an invocation of the Lord of Ganas, without whose favor it becomes difficult if not impossible, initiate this process. There are other and more detailed areas which pertain to sadhana of Ganapati, but that is not related to the idea of Kundalini, and so will avoid those for the present.

Diagrammatically it is represented as a square with 4 petals containing 4 Sanskrit bijas. The corresponding tanmantra is of gandha (smell), the Shakti is known as Dakini. The tattwa is Prithiwi tattwa. To make Kundalini move beyond this chakra one has to outgrow the need to accumulate things, possessions, acquisitions etc. The beeja of this chakra is “lam”.

Swadhisthana – this is above the muladhara and corresponds to the area of sexual organs.  This chakras functions as the repository of desires of all kinds. But the most powerful of these is the force of lust, kama. Diagrammatically this chakra is represented by a crescent moon,  with 6 associated Sanskrit alphabets. This corresponds to the tanmatra of rasa (taste), the presiding Shakti is known as Rakini, and the tattwa is jala (water).  The devata of this chakra varies according of different texts. Some mention Brahma, others Narayana.  The beeja of this chakra is “vam”.

The practical importance of the swadhisthana chakra is immense, for without some control of conversion of the force of lust and desire, it is quite impossible to awaken the Kundalini Shakti beyond this chakra. When Kundalini goes beyond a chakra permanently, then there is perfect understanding and realization of the elements involved with that chakra.  So when it goes beyond Swadhisthana, it knows how, understands and surpasses the actions and repercussions of desires and lust. Unfortunately this is rarely an easy job. Therefore in most ancient traditions the sadhakas were advised strict celibacy, refraining from any contact with the world around that may provoke desires. In most paramparas these sadhana were done in seclusion. This is one of the good reasons for the same. There are other uses of it, but that comes later on in the path.

There is another vital thing to be remembered when dealing with a Kundalini process. Kundalini as I had mentioned in the previous blog is a furious force, it can blow up and accentuate any unrectified propensities already present in the inner makeup of the sadhaka, unless one has worked on them. So therefore there is a massive danger that if Kundalini gets stuck in this chakra, the individual may actually end up becoming a sexual manic or develop a serious and damaging aversion/fear towards sex.  This can also open up the individual to various influences of beings of the astral plane who feed on such energies, and then bring about a massive downfall for the seeker. While the upward journey of the Kundalini can be sublime, the downfall can be debilitating and actually brings the sadhaka to state worst than when he had started off. That when it becomes very, very important to personify the Shakti to a form of a great Devata, or a form of the Mother, or be guided and protected by a competent Guru who knows the dangers of the path.

OTOH, if Shakti really moves beyond these two chakras, the sadhaka may gain some unique abilities pertaining to the prithiwi tattwa and the jala tattwa. And in normal understanding these can appear as supernatural powers or siddhis.

Manipura – this chakra related to the area around the naval. Diagrammatically it is represented by a triangle with 10 Sanskrit alphabets. The tanmatra of rupa (form/sight) corresponds to this chakra and the tattwa of Agni (fire) relates to it. The devata of this chakra is sometimes mentioned as Vishnu and sometimes as a three-eyed form of Shiva. The Shakti of this chakra is known as Lakini.  The beeja of this chakra is “ram”.
Manipura is the center of the average human sense of I-ness. Being related to the Agni tattwa, it rules the idea of power and control, as well as assimilation. When Kundalini passes beyond this chakra, one may get an realization of the nature of power and control, or controlling anything, outgrow the need for such. The Fire in this chakra is of two kinds – Bhuta Agni and Jathra Agni. Bhuta agni is the fire of spiritual digestion, while jathara agni is the fire of physical digestion. If one increases, the other automatically decreases. Often when Kundalini is in this chakra, one of the symptoms it may manifest in the sadhaka is a complete lack of hunger, or a disproportionate increase in hunger. One can eat three to four times his normal food and yet may feel intensely hungry.  There is another dangerous effect this chakra can have in a seeker, if it starts working in a disturbed manner. Doubts. Intense doubt about everything including the whole process. It good to awaken Shakti and have various experiences, but it is more important to be able to digest and assimilate the same in the adhara.  

Among the five mukhya vayus of Yoga, samana vayu moves around the navel and is responsible for proper assimilation of the yogic experiences.  There are hatha-yogic ways in which samana vayu maybe controlled and brought into balance like the Nabhi Kriyas of traditional Kriya Yoga. But the simplest method to smoothen this difficulty is non-reactiveness, and non-judgement. Eventually as the sadhana progresses, the bhuta agni increases in the adhara and removes all blockages that may impede the sadhaka in these respects.

Anahata Chakra – this chakra is around the heart. Diagrammatically represented by a hexagon, with 12 Sanskrit alphabets associated with it. The tanmatra corresponding to this chakra is sparsha or touch, the tattwa is vayu, devata is Shankara, the Shakti is Kakini. The beeja of this chakra is “yam.”

This is the first of the higher chakras. It deals with the sense of happiness and sadness. When Kundalini Shakti enters deep within this chakra, one can hear the sound of the nada. Depending of the sadhana and the devata being worship, the exact nada may vary. Sometimes it can appear as the sound of the drumbeat of Shiva’s damaru, or the buzzing of bees, or even a drone of the Omkara, as Sri Ramakrishna had heard.  Inside this chakra lies a knot, a tangle of nadis, without opening which a full and complete experience, and therefore clear movement of Shakti above is difficult. This is known in Yogic terminology as the Vishnu Granthi and once this is opened, one can get a glimpse or a full experience of the indwelling antaraatmah, that which is beyond the mind and body and life and emotions. Often it can manifest as a small thumb sized being, or it can take the shape and form of the Devata being worshiped. A clear intuition arises in the seeker which is the birth of the inner Guru.  This is the stage where the bond between the sadhaka and the istha devata is firmly forged.

Vishuddha – This chakra lies around the throat. Diagrammatically it is represented by  a circle, with 16 petals which contain all the vowels of Sanskrit. The devata is Maheshwara, the Shakti is Shakini, the

tanmatra is shabda (hearing), the tattwa is Akasha. The beeja of this chakra is “ham”. In the normal condition this chakra represents the externalized mind and the ability to speak, therefore the importance of placing all the vowels in this chakra. But when Kundalini passes through this completely and purifies the chakra, one enters a state where any mundane speech becomes impossible. Nothing other than spiritual discussions attracts the sadhaka.  Lying becomes an impossibility. A authority over words and language, poesy etc can come to the seeker if he so desires. Also and more importantly, as the Akasha Tattwa predominates in the sadhaka he will gain a capacity for harmonizing contrary ideas easily. Of the panchamahabhutas, or five great elements, Akasha is the subtlest, every present and always in perfect harmony. And also the most difficult to be realize permanently.

Agya – This chakra lies at the center of the forehead. It is represented by two petals with two Sanskrit alphabets, the devata is Ardhanarishwara. Being beyond the 5 lower chakras, it is also beyond any tanmatra or tattwa.

From Agya starts the first of the really spiritual centers of consciousness. The word Agya means command. When this chakra is energized with the Kundalini Shakti in full force, the sadhaka gains an ability to give a command which will actualize for sure, as well as receive a command from something/someone higher. It is the beginning of Shunya, just the beginning, not the end by any means. Also, in the Agya one starts developing the purusha tattwa inside the mind, learn to disassociate with the ceaseless flow of thoughts in the head. This is the best chakra to understand practically the difference between Purusha and Prakriti inside a sadhaka - the silent witness nature of Purusha and the constant movement of Prakriti. It can also provide the sadhaka with an ability of a particular type of clairvoyant vision which can be quite helpful in sadhana.

To move beyond the Agya chakra and near to the Sahashrar,  the seeker has to untie the a Gordian knot known as the Rudra Granthi, in order to experience reality or Brahman. There are more nuances in this as well, but that is the subject matter of a different  essay, and not very helpful at the beginning stages of sadhana.
               *    *    *

The reasons for associating diagrams, yantras and devatas with each chakra were so that the                     process of the sadhana pertaining to each chakra can become streamlined.  Using the bija mantras of the chakras,  the tattwas, and tanmantra, a competent sadhaka can explore the full range of possibilities of each chakra. However, that main body of knowledge remains specifically hidden within paramparas, or in some cases has been lost over time through disuse. The focus today is, and maybe rightly so, about awakening the Kundalini and making is pass beyond the chakras one at a time, instead of deliberating within the astral space of the chakra.   Infact the most common idea in any Tantric worship starts with the offering of a panchopachara puja, where five things are offered to the Devata, pertaining to five tattwa which of course are symbolic way of offering the energies pertaining to the lower five chakras.        
Though this six system of chakras has become popular today, there are other Tantric texts which speak of various different systems of chakras, mostly more than six. Beyond Agya and upto Sahashrar is the most complex and subtle zone of spirituality, as well as the least understood area. Self effort is not sufficient but grace – Kripa – becomes extremely important in that bit of the journey. The texts of Gorakshanatha, as translated by the late Pt. Gopinath Kaviraj who was a disciple of Sri Visuddhananda Maharaj, speak of a very different system of chakras from the prevalent notion.  And then there are also a set of “secret” chakras around the head which pertain to some obscure realms of consciousness. So which one is correct? In my opinion, all of them are correct, for all of them are using a model to define a reality. Some models are more details some lesser, but that does not mean one model becomes incorrect. Infact the experience of the chakras beyond Agya is so tremendously powerful and rare, that normal human daily vocabulary may find it very difficult to describe them accurately. A great master used to mention that these chakras beyond Agya are non-existent until one creates them by forcing the Kundalini Shakti into those areas!

However, for most of us, our life invariably revolves around the trappings of these six broad chakras, of which the lowest three are the most important for almost 90% of sadhaka as well as non-sadhakas. In my humble opinion most people who awaken Kundalini generally keep toggling Shakti between the lowest three chakras – stability/acquisitiveness, sex, power and food – trying to gain some sort of foothold and balance between the purely spiritual and the grossly mundane. That’s about it. The impediments posed by these things are often sufficient to stop one from pushing the Shakti higher and experiencing the real spiritual zones. The entire journey is not the work of one day or even one lifetime, unless the individual has prepared himself well over many lives.  Moreover once Shakti truly enters the zone of Agya or beyond, it is extremely difficult to engage normally with the world around.  On one side is the pull of the Spirit, and on the other side is the gravity of the ordinary world.  It is only the rarest of rare Yogis who can enter firmly into the Spiritual world, go right upto the experience of the sahashrar and then, instead of dropping away from the cycle of existence, come back again in order to serve some universal Dharma.

One question that often comes is whether all these chakras are opened or closed in a normal human beings. It depends. There is some function of the chakras – specially the five lower chakras - in almost everyone, unless one is a vegetable, but there is a MASSIVE difference between the average functioning of the chakras and when Kundalini passes through them and purifies them.  The first is normal life, the second is Yoga!



Anonymous said...

Could I please have Mr. Nandy's e-mail id?


Anonymous said...

What are the three curses on alcohol? How to remove them before consumption so that it aids spiritual progress?

ross18miller said...

Amazing blog posted.

Chakra Yog

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

thanks for sharing this very helpful article! Much love for you!

Andrean Forguson said...

Very useful information on kundalini and chakras.

Deep tissue massage