The Serpent Power
Kundalini Shakti—Primordial Energy
Kundalini shakti is primordial cosmic energy, known as the Serpent Power. It is the fundamental life force and, at the same time, the supreme spiritual energy usually lying dormant and coiled three-and-a-half times around muladhara chakra at the base of the subtle spine.
The word kundalini is derived from the Sanskrit word kundal, meaning “coiled up.” In Tantra Yoga, kundalini is an aspect of Shakti, divine female energy and the inseparable lover of Shiva. Kundalini is generally defined as an essential potentiality of our being which, upon awakening, opens us to a cosmic, non-personal dimension of energy. Spiritual realization results from the transformations that it produces.
There are many references to the power, grace, and importance of kundalini in the traditional texts of yoga. In the Gheranda Samhita (6:16), kundalini is likened to a serpent lying coiled in muladhara chakra: “In the muladhara is kundalini, having the form of serpent. The jivatman is there like the flame of a lamp. Contemplate on this flame as the Luminous Brahman.”
Shakti Is Power
Kundalini shakti is the Universal Sacred Power, even though it is connected with the finite body-mind. Kundalini is sometimes misinterpreted as meaning mere “force.” But, as Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroffe) noted long ago, shakti is “Power,” and as such, is ananda (Bliss), chit (Pure Awareness), and prema (Love). In some sense, therefore, the phrase “kundalini energy” is a misnomer—it suggests energy as a neutral physical force. The term shakti, by contrast, connotes something far more positive and creative. Kundalini shakti is the very energy of consciousness, which, when aroused, brings higher states of awareness, including samadhi.
Some yogis say that kundalini is a flow of prana along sushumna nadi. They consider that it is part of the flow of energy within the network of the pranic body and that there is no anatomical counterpart. Others try to relate their perceptions of kundalini to the flow of messages along the nerve fibers in the physical body. Most yogis agree that the experience of kundalini is a unique spiritual-psycho-physiological event that centers in sushumna nadi, in connection with the spinal cord. According to the Goraksha Samhita (49), once awakened, kundalini shakti is “carried through sushumna like thread through the needle,” activating the chakras in succession.
Raising the Level of Consciousness
Yogis who seek pleasure or paranormal powers will raise kundalini only as high as bhrumadhya (the space between the eyebrows). However, yogis who seek liberation will raise kundalini to the level of brahmarandhra (the fontanel), where she fuses with the Supreme Consciousness. The true purpose of kundalini practices is not to awaken and bring more power to an individual, but to raise their level of consciousness so that their “normal” state of consciousness is not marked by individual impulses but becomes universal and all-embracing.
Through Self-Enquiry and the practice of the kundalini techniques of Hatha Yoga, this divine creative power can be harnessed for spiritual evolution. By regulating the flow of prana, potential energy can be mobilized, bringing an openness to universal power that results in kundalini arousal. Thus, in both chit kundalini and prana kundalini, prana is used to stir the dormant kundalini energy into action. This situation is analogous to bombarding the nucleus of an atom with high-energy particles, which destabilizes it and leads to a tremendous release of energy.
A Leap in Awareness
Kundalini awakening and rising is not the expression of a gradual extension of individual capacities, but a quantum leap in pure Awareness and an intimate understanding of the universal quality of energy. Kundalini can be seen as a powerful foundation for the practice of yoga and for triggering the highest mystical experiences. At the same time, the awakened kundalini herself represents the highest mystical state. Therefore, kundalini can be seen as both the path and the goal. The fourteenth-century master Svatmarama states that kundalini “bestows liberation on yogis and bondage on the ignorant.”