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Kundalini Yoga

Our true nature is divine — it is eternal, limitless, and untouched by worldly affliction. If that is so, why are we still subject to suffering? The problem is that the inner divinity is covered by a veil of ignorance that obscures it and prevents us from recognizing its nature.

The goal of spiritual practice, then, is to remove that ignorance and discover the innate, ever-present divinity within.

Suffering is due to ignorance. Spiritual knowledge frees you from suffering. And that knowledge is to discover the true, divine nature of our own consciousness. Enlightenment is the personal discovery of your innate divinity. This discovery takes place when the veil of ignorance is removed. And removing that ignorance requires spiritual knowledge, because knowledge alone destroys ignorance.

This inner pilgrimage is a meditation practice in which you deliberately imagine particular deities and sacred places within your body. The Darshana Upanishad says, The Himalayas are the top of our head, Lord Shiva dwells on your forehead. The sacred city of Varanasi is between your eyebrows. Prayaga, where sacred Ganga and Yamuna rivers meet, is in your heart.

Kundalini is a kind of inner pilgrimage. It begins at the muladhara chakra at the base of your spine, and concludes at the sahaswrara chakra at the crown of your head. During this pilgrimage, you are to meditate on the deity residing in each chakra and receive the blessing needed for your onward journey.

Prana: life force

There are five kinds of prana:

prana: in the heart
apana: in the trunk of the body
vyana: pervading the body
adana: in the throat
samana: in the stomach

These five pranas circulate throughout the body following specific routes called nadis. Nadis are often translated as nerves, but they are actually not nerves or tubes. The nadis and pranks are not material in nature. They are subtle, non-tangible. Your brain is tangible. It weights about two pounds, but your mind is not tangible. It has no size or weight. In the same way, the nadis and pranas are non-tangible, subtile, unlike the nerves and blood vessels in your body.

There are 3 main nadis, the sushumna which rises inside your spine from its base to the crown of our head, the ida, which terminates at your left nostril, and the pingala, which terminates at your right nostril.

There are many other nadis in your body. They're said to number 72,000 altogether. The sushumna nadi links together all 7 chakras. Chakra means wheels, but they are usually described as lotus flowers.

According to the Yoga Cudamani Upanishad, the muladhara chakra at the base of the spine has four petals. The svadhishtana chakra above it has six petals. The manipura chakra (naval) has ten petals. The anahata chakra (heart) has 12 petals. The Vishuddha chakra (throat) has 16 petals. The Ajna chakra (between the eyes) has two petals. The Sahasrara chakra (crown of the head) has 1000 petals.

Since the chakras are like flowers, they're actually turned upward, not outward.

Lotus flowers symbolize purity, even though they're rooted in the slimy, stinking muck at the bottom of a pond, their pristine beauty remains untained. And even though chakras are located inside an impure human vessel, their sanctity remains untainted.

Chakras are not involved in channeling prana throughout the body. Nadis direct the flow of prana, not chakras, which serve a very different purpose.

The word kundalini means coiled and shakti means power or energy.

If the power is dormant, sleeping at the base of the spine, then how is it to be awaken? The Yoga Kundali Upanishad says: The sleeping kundalini is awakened by agitating it, like hitting a snake with a stick. It then stands erect and enters the sushumna nadi, like a snake entering its burrow. To awaken kundalini shakti, the yoga upanishads prescribe a variety of asanas, pranayamas, and muscle contractions known as bandhas.

It's interesting that a method known as shaktipaat is not discussed anywhere in the upanishads. Shaktipaat is a special blessing from a guru like a mantra, or even a mere touch or glance that is said to immediately awaken your kundalini. The uses of shaktipaat is widely accepted by modern teachers, even though the rishis never mentioned it. Once kundalini shakti has been awakened and starts its ascent, some practioners, like Gopi Krishna, report having amazing experiences, mystical visions, celestial sounds, ecstasy.

All forms of yoga, including kundalini yoga, are secondary causes for enlightenment. To get enlightened through kundalini yoga alone is like making rotis with a pan and stove, but no fire. The primary cause for enlightenment is spiritual knowledge, which removes the veil of ignorance and reveals your true nature. Kundalini yoga helps you gain that knowledge by leading you to a state of meditative absorption known as samadhi. Samadhi is the goal of many meditation techniques, and for good reason. In that state of absorption, all distracting mental activities are removed, and all that remains is you, your true nature, stripped of everything that's not you. After emerging from samadhi, you have an opportunity to grasp a life-changing lesson from that unique experience, that your true nature is pure consciousness, utterly independent of your body, mind, and the world around you. In this way, the state of samadhi produced by kundalini yoga can be a gateway to enlightenment.

I usually start with prayer and devotional meditation, which help balance the lofty vedantic meditations I practice next. Starting tomorrow, I'm going to set aside this routine and focus exclusively on the the practice of kundalini yoga.

Our inner pilgrimage begins with the muladhara chakra at the base of the spine. Mulad mean root. Each of the lowest five chakras represent one of the five elements known in ancient time (earth, water, fire, air, and space) from the most gross, earth, to the most subtle, space. Inside the muladhara chakra, the element earth is represented by a yellow square. The yoga upanishads do specify mantras, not for the chakras, but for the five elements.

Lam is the mantra for the element earth.

Each chakra is the abode of a particular deity to be meditated upon during one's inner pilgrimage. For the muladhara chakra, the deity is Brahma, God in its aspect as creator of the universe. So, the muladhara or root chakra is associated both with the element earth, the root of all matter and with Brahma, the root of existence itself. In meditation, Brahma is to be visualized as seated on a lotus.

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