I am getting a fair amount of enquiries relating to strange, very intense body symptoms, sometimes involving loss of consciousness, incredible surges of energy, burning sensations accompanied by emotional highs and discharges in some cases uncontrolled catharting. Some of these experiences are described as ecstatic, epiphanies, others as scary and threatening, but usually ‘out of control’.
Sometimes these experiences seem to be related to experimenting with Mula Bandha and breathing but more often than not they seem to be completely spontaneous. Those who had these experiences usually after initial euphoria struggle to make sense out of them and struggle to integrate them meaningfully into their lives.
Well, first we have to out rule any underlying medical condition. If you have repeated episodes involving loss of consciousness, uncontrolled catharting and spasms, etc. it might be wise to consult a medical practitioner as you can’t afford to experience anything like that while operating machinery such as driving a car.
Having ruled out a medical condition let’s look where the idea comes from that such intense physical condition are linked to Kundalini? The father of this notion is the late Indian yogi, writer and civil servant Gopi Krishna, who in his 1967 book “Kundalini, The Evolutionary Energy in Man”, described how a relatively innocent meditation technique plunged him into a 12 year long abyss of madness, pain, burning and hanging between life and death. After that time the experience more or less stabilized and morphed into genuine spiritual awakening and ecstatic, mystical experience.
I recently read about 12 of Gopi Krishna’s books and for a while he was my prime study object, with the objective of avoiding his mistakes. By looking at Gopi Krishna’s life and work we can in fact shed light on all of these strange physical and energetic experiences related to Kundalini. Let’s look at them one-by-one.
- Gopi Krishna’s awakening was not spontaneous but caused by 17 years of daily (at least for 1 hour) meditation on the crown chakra (Sahasrara), while sitting in Padmasana (lotus posture). As many critics have pointed out G Krishna had no instruction on yoga coming from within the yoga tradition and did not prepare himself in any meaningful way apart from reading lots. Yogic adepts would neither consider meditating on the crown chakra for any significant length of time nor sitting in Padmasana for extended periods suitable for beginners.
- Judging from the outcome, i.e. the many books in which G. Krishna describes his mystical states and researches and evaluates those of others there is no doubt that his attainment is genuine. He himself ascribes this success to a. the fact that he became expert in concentration and b. heredity that is the fact that both of his parents were more or less Hindu saints.
- If you add to the 17 years of Padmasana/crown chakra practice the subsequent 12 years that Gopi Krishna spent fighting against death and madness, attaining the mystical state and stabilizing therein still took him around 30 years. In other words he does not claim to have used a shortcut (truth be said there are none). If we are investing that many decades of our life into such a pursuit we should use technology that makes progress smooth, traceable and reliable.
- At some point during his 12-year ordeal G. Krishna realizes that the physical symptoms of his state arise because in his case Kundalini rose through the solar nadi (Pingala) and not through the central nadi (Sushumna). He briefly rectifies that by meditation on the silver, lunar nadi but does not revisit the issue again. Truth is, here is the totality of his problem! Had he balanced the two nadis from the outset he would not have experienced any physical symptoms at all! And what’s the morale of that? Practice pranayama, precisely Nadi Shodana, preferably using mantra and chakra visualization and still better even including internal and external kumbhaka. However, don’t do this all at once but simply start with plain alternate nostril breathing. Yogis harped about this point for thousands of years and only as recent as a few decades ago T. Krishnamacharya said, ‘Pranayama is instrumental for attaining samadhi’. I have described the whole subject in my book “Pranayama The Breath of Yoga”.
- To go straight to meditating on the crown chakra without having some form of the lower chakras is a bit like stepping with a machine gun in front of a dragon to make him do circus tricks like a poodle. One of you will bite the bullet here, either you or the dragon. Chakra and Kundalini meditation is a fine art. It needs to be learned step-by-step, similarly as we would learn pranayama or even asana for that matter. Again I have described the whole discipline of Kundalini meditation in my book “Yoga Meditation: Through Chakras, Mantra and Kundalini to Spiritual Freedom”.
- Through his first book G. Krishna introduced into the public sphere the notion that Kundalini rousing (in his case) was spontaneous and chaotic. However, if approached through a systematic long-term practice of a compound of asana, kriya, pranayama, Kundalini meditation and samadhi based on the yogic shastras (ancient texts) Kundalini-rousing has lawful, predictable, and repeatable outcomes.
- In his later publications Gopi Krishna vehemently argued about the perception that Kundalini was a physical force, but that it actually was the divine creative force, even identically with the Divine. This view is of course entirely correct and cannot be stressed enough. It must be admitted though that it was G. Krishna himself, who introduced the believe Kundalini to be a physical force through his description in the first place. He did so because he was under the sway of the solar nadi (Pingala).
- G Krishna argued that Kundalini is the evolutionary force and phenomenon behind such diverse effects as spiritual liberation, genius, evil genius and mental disease, points on which he was absolutely correct. You will find more on that in my book “Yoga Meditation”.
- The remainder of this life G. Krishna spent with a. objectively enquiring into experiences of other mystics (for which we owe him a lot) and b. making futile attempts to get scientist to verify the mechanism of Kundalini. Here he is again barking up the wrong tree, that is the solar nadi. The solar nadi tends us to place too much stark on empirical date (i.e. date derived through sensory perception). It was Jesus Christ who said, “The kingdom of heaven cannot be gained through observation (i.e. through empiricism). It cannot be said ‘Lo, here. Lo, there. For the kingdom of heaven is within.”
Of course in hindsight it is easy for me to pick out G. Krishna’s misconceptions. Let me not leave out that he was a pioneer of yoga, an authentic mystic, the first person to enquire rationally into Kundalini and last not least one of the first Indians to fight for women’s rights. He was by all means a great, even heroic man, who like all of us still had his blunders.
Now, what does all of this have to do with the above mentioned inquires about weird physical symptoms? Weird physical symptoms accompanying spiritual experiences indicate that the solar nadi is overcharged in which case pranayama needs to be practiced. Since nowadays almost everybody has an overcharged solar nadi, Kundalini-raising should not be attempted without a serious daily Nadi Shodana practice (a particular pranayama technique).
After one has gained a foothold in pranayama, Kundalini and chakra meditation needs to be practiced in a daily, consistent form to bring about repeatable effects. Both meditation and pranayama need to be supported by a daily asana and kriya practice. If all of these are practiced as an integrated whole, progress will be steady and no adverse symptoms will be encountered.
There are of course aspects to Kundalini that I cannot discuss in a short post such as this. Some of those would be the importance of diet and abstaining from stimulants. Others would be to not indulge in any mental and emotional toxins whatsoever, such as holding grudges against anybody. Forgiveness in any situation is the high road to success for the Kundalini practitioner. Finally, the importance of placing yourself into the service of the Divine: the term Kundalini has been written upper case throughout to convey that it is nothing but the Divine Creative Force, in India often called Shakti.
If you had an energetic experience that showed you that there is more to you than you thought, great! Look at it as one in a long line of experiences awakening to your own spiritual essence. Use it to commit yourself to a long-term systematic, sophisticated practice of all the limbs of yoga.