|Kundalini is an ancient
Sanskrit word derived from the roots kund, which means to burn, and
kunda, which means coiling like a serpent.
coiled female serpent. (Sometimes:
serpent power.) The
dominant spiritual energy in all human beings, that is awakened by
the Guru, through shaktipat initiation. After awakening, this energy
is the dynamic force behind meditation. It
is an elemental, creative force of the astral body which, like a
serpent, rests coiled at the base of the spine. The male and female
forces are represented in the balanced Ida and Pingala subtle
channels. Everyone uses Kundalini power to think with and to
maintain consciousness, but it very seldom rises up the central
spinal channel of Sushumna beyond the first center. Various
disciplines areused to arouse the "sleeping serpent" to ascend
tothe higher centers.
The caduceus symbol of coiling snakes is thought to be an ancient symbolic representation of Kundalini physiology.
The concept of Kundalini comes from yogic philosophy of ancient India and refers to the mothering intelligence behind yogic awakening and spiritual maturation. It might be regarded by yogis as a sort of deity, hence the occasional capitalization of the term.
Within a western frame of understanding it is often associated with the practice of contemplative or religious practices that might induce an altered state of consciousness, either brought about spontaneously, through a type of yoga, through psychedelic drugs, or through a near-death experience.
According to the yogic tradition Kundalini is curled up in the back part of the root chakra in three and one-half turns around the sacrum. Yogic phenomenology states that kundalini awakening is associated with the appearance of bio-energetic phenomena that are said to be experienced in the body of the yogi.
This event is also referred to as "pranic awakening". Prana is interpreted as the vital, life-sustaining force in the body. Uplifted, or intensified life-energy is called pranotthana and is supposed to originate from an apparent reservoir of subtle bio-energy at the base of the spine. This energy is also interpreted as a vibrational phenomena that initiates a period, or a process of vibrational spiritual development.
The source text for the concept of kundalini is Hatha Yoga Pradipika written by Swami Svatmarama (English translation, 1992) somewhere between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. Any examination of the topic should include this work. The pradipika is one of the later developments in yoga sacred texts. Hatha Yoga is strictly speaking a forcing technique which has as its primary aim the forcing of the rise of the kundalini.
The main emphasis is a difficult regime of breathing techniques meant to increase the store of "prana" in the body. The well known physical postures are only meant to be an aid to maintain peak physical fitness, so as to support the real work of the breathing practices. All of this has, according to tradition, to be accompanied by prolonged and unbroken meditation practice (for which the main text is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali). The text adds that great good fortune is another requirement, i.e.luck, for the procedure to succeed. However, these techniques are not without dangers.
In the classical literature of Kashmir Shaivism kundalini is described in three different manifestions. The first of these is as the universal energy orpara-kundalini. The second of these is as the energizing function of the body-mind complex or prana-kundalini. The third of these is as consciousness or shakti-kundaliniwhich simultaneously subsumes and intermediates between these two. Ultimately these three forms are the same but understanding these three different forms will help to understand the differerent manifestations of kundalini.