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                          Version 1.0,  August 1994
        Copyright Kurt Keutzer, 1994 (

  The author grants the right to copy and distribute this file, 
provided it remains unmodified and original authorship and 
copyright is retained.
  The author retains both the right and intention to modify 
and extend this document.


 1. What is kundalini?
 2. What does kundalini have to do with spiritual enlightenment?
 3. Does everyone agree that kundalini awakening is 
     necessary for enlightenment?
 4. Is there any scientific basis for kundalini and the cakras?  
       Do I really have to believe that all these cakras physically exist?
 5. Is kundalini the same as prana or qi? Is Chinese qi gong a 
      kind of kundalini yoga?
 6. What about Tibetan Buddhism - has kundalini been 
        known in Tibet?
 7. Are there any other traditions that show awareness of 
 8. So how do I awaken kundalini?
 9.  Are these methods of awakening kundalini dangerous? 
      What about Gopi Krishna's books?
 10.  Some approaches to kundalini yoga say there is no 
      danger in their approach - are they misrepresenting themselves?
 11.  But even if kundalini is dangerous,  isn't it a faster way to        
 12.  There have been many scandals among kundalini yoga 
teachers - particularly sexual scandals. Is there a 
correlation between sexual scandals and kundalini yoga  
 13. If my kundalini is awakened will I need to change my 
 14. Where can I learn more?


I bow to the vibrant source of my innermost bliss.


What is kundalini?

``Kundalini'' literally means coiling, like a snake.
In the classical literature of hatha yoga kundalini is 
described as a coiled 
serpent at the base of the spine. The image of coiling, like a 
spring, conveys the sense of untapped potential energy. 
Perhaps more meaningfully kundalini can be described as a 
great reservoir of creative energy at the base of the spine.

From a psychological perspective kundalini can be thought 
of as a rich source of psychic or libidinous energy in our 


What does kundalini have to do with spiritual 

First we need a few concepts:  In yogic anatomy the 
sushumna is the central channel and conduit for the 
kundalini energy that runs along our spine and up to the 
crown of our head. Along this channel are placed additional 
channel networks called cakras. These cakras are associated 
with major aspects of our anatomy - for example our 
throat, heart, solar plexus, and in turn these aspects of our 
anatomy are related to aspects of our human nature.  For 
example we have many everyday associations with the 
heart that do not make sense relative to our physical heart. 
We say: `` I don't have the heart to tell him.'' ;``Take heart.'' 
``She's so kind hearted.''  All of these allude to some sort of 
subtle functioning associated with the heart area.

In many systems of spiritual practice enlightenment is 
precisely correlated with the kundalini awakening from its 
slumber at the base of the spine rising through the 
sushumna and ultimately reaching our crown. When the 
kundalini is permanently fixed in the crown then 
enlightenment is achieved. 

It's not useful to sit with our consciousness fixed in our 
head and think of kundalini as a foreign force running up 
and down our spine.  Unfortunately the serpent image may 
serve to accentuate this alien nature of the image. It's more 
useful to think of kundalini energy as the very foundation 
of our consciousness so when kundalini moves through the 
sushumna and through our cakras our consciousness 
necessarily changes with it. 


So does everyone agree that kundalini awakening is 
necessary for enlightenment?

This view is held in the diverse literature of Kashmir 
Shaivism and in other Hindu Tantric literature. It is found 
in the literature of the Hatha Yogis and the Nath 
Sampradaya. You will find similar views in many  Buddhist 
Tantric works. In addition this view is held by recent 
spiritual figures such as Shri Ramakrishna, Swami 
Sivananda, Paramahamsa Yogananda and Swami 
Vivekananda and of course by contemporary kundalini 
yogins themselves.

Nevertheless there are some dissenters from this view. 
These include Sri Chinmoy, Da Free John and Gurdjieff.  
Then there are many other spiritual practices, such as Zen, 
Vipassana meditation that consider kundalini irrelevant.


Is there any scientific basis for kundalini and the cakras? Do 
I really have to believe that all these cakras physically 

Research on kundalini is especially spotty. There is no 
compelling work to show that the system represents 
insights into actual human anatomy. But it's important to 
understand that  kundalini and its network of channels and 
cakras is simply how  yogins have chosen to explain their 
experience and that yogins from many cultures have 
arrived at similar, though not identical, concepts. The true 
physical mechanisms underlying these experiences may be 
very different from those described. Izaak Benthov has 
proposed a model to explain kundalini in terms of micro-
motion in the brain. In this model experiences are 
associated with parts of the body, such as the heart, 
because the part of the brain associated with that part of 
the body is stimulated by micro-vibrations. His model is 
treated in ``The Kundalini Experience'' by Sannella 
referenced below.  From a practical perspective the key 
thing is our subjective experience and that the roadmap of 
these subjective experiences has been mapped out.


Is kundalini the same as prana or qi? Is Chinese qi gong a 
kind of kundalini yoga?

There is ongoing debate among scholars as to the precise 
relationship between prana and kundalini. Kundalini may 
be defined such that it subsumes the concept of prana. 
Alternatively  prana may be defined such that is subsumes 
the concept of kundalini.

What is probably more relevant is to distinguish two 
different experiences which are often confused. In one an 
individual experiences some pleasant energizing electric 
energy running along the spine. This experience brings 
vitality and sensitivity. This experience may be due to the 
activity of kundalini moving at the base of the spine but it is 
not the same as kundalini rising up the spine. It is often 
characterized as a movement of prana or qi. Another very 
distinct experience is the experience of kundalini entering 
the sushumna and rising up the spine.  As soon as kundalini 
enters the sushumna this experience will completely 
overwhelm ordinary waking consciousness.  This experience 
much more profoundly transfigures consciousness.


What about Tibetan Buddhism - has kundalini been known 
in Tibet?

Kundalini yoga in the Natha Sampradaya and Vajrayana in 
Tibetan Buddhism both take their origin from the 
Mahasiddhas who were active in India from the 8th century  
to the 12th century. Kundalini yoga practices formed the 
core of the teachings of a number of these Mahasiddhas and 
are strongly represented in Tibetan Buddhist practices.  
Kundalini yoga was spoken of as ``Candali yoga'' by these 
Mahasiddhas and became known as gTummo rnal 'byor in 
Tibet. Candali yoga was a key practice of the famous Tibetan 
yogin Milarepa.


Are there any other traditions that show awareness of 

If you believe that kundalini is at the basis of spiritual 
progress then every valid spiritual tradition must have 
some awareness of kundalini. 
Christianity, Sufism, Qabalistic mysticism, alchemy and 
magick all have literature which demonstrates an 
awareness of the kundalini process but these traditions are 
not, to this author's awareness, so open in their exposition 
of the techniques and so it is hard to judge the depth of 
understanding latent in these traditions. Nevertheless, the 
imagery is so unmistakable  in these traditions that each 
must have, at least at one time, been conversant with the 
movement of kundalini.


So how do I awaken kundalini?

Indirectly kundalini can be awakened by devotion, by 
selfless service,  or by intellectual enquiry. 

Broadly speaking there are two radically different direct 
approaches to awakening kundalini. One approach requires 
initiation by a guru and relies upon a technique called 
shaktipat, or ``descent of shakti.''  The other approach uses 
intentional yogic techniques . The yoga style using shaktipat 
is variously called: Siddha Yoga, Mahayoga, Sahaja Yoga (see 
Siddha Mahayoga FAQ - to be released). The styles using 
intentional techniques include Hatha Yoga, Laya Yoga and 
Kriya Yoga (see Kundalini Yogas FAQ - to be released).


Are these methods of awakening kundalini dangerous? 
What about Gopi Krishna's books?

If we take the psychological perspective and view kundalini 
as the power latent in our unconscious then it is easy to 
understand that awakening this force is going to bring a 
greater amount of unconscious material into our 
consciousness.  Even in the best of circumstances this is 
likely to be uncomfortable and if an individual is barely 
coping with his unconscious even under normal 
circumstances then awakening kundalini may push the 
individual over into psychosis. This phenomenon has been 
documented many times. 

Forceful methods of awakening kundalini pose additional 
dangers. Because quite forceful methods can be used to 
awaken kundalini these techniques themselves are 
potentially physically and mentally disruptive. An 
individual named Gopi Krishna awakened his kundalini by 
doing unguided meditation on his crown cakra. His life after 
awakening was  both blessed by ecstatic bliss and tormented 
by  physical and mental discomfort. Eventually his 
experience stabilized. He wrote down his experiences in a 
recently re-released autbiography entitled ``Living with 
Kundalini.''  Gopi Krishna's autobiography appears to be an 
honest representation of his experiences but it is only one 
extreme datapoint in the panorama of experience on 
kundalini yoga. It represents dangers in forceful unguided 
practice but it is not representative of a typical 
practicioner's experience.


Some approaches to kundalini yoga say there is no danger 
in their approach - are they misrepresenting themselves?

These approaches typically do not try to awaken the 
kundalini directly - at least not for some time. Instead they 
focus on purifying or ``magnetizing'' the  central channel 
without awakening kundalini. One sign of such approaches is 
that no breath retention is used. 


But even if kundalini is dangerous,  isn't it a faster way to 

First of all it may be useful to observe that there is no 
technique  currently known on earth that appears to be 
rapidly catapulting large number of individuals toward 
enlightenment.  Because kundalini yogas deal so directly 
with a powerful enlightening force it seems natural that 
they would be ``faster'', but there appears to be alot of 
tortoise and hare phenomena at work with newbie 
kundalini yogins. Many people begin kundalini yogas, have 
strong initial experiences and then become frightened. 
Many who perservere through this initial phase become 
distracted by the energy and focus on temporal and 
phenomenal applications of the energy.


There have been many scandals among kundalini yoga 
teachers - particularly sexual scandals. Is there a 
correlation between sexual scandals and kundalini yoga  

There have been scandals regarding the teachers of many 
paths, both spiritual and non-spiritual ; however, it is 
probably fair to say that kundalini yogins have had more 
than their share. An advanced kundalini yogin is typically a 
powerful charismatic individual who has the ability to 
directly influence the minds of others.  Westerners often 
mistake this power as a sign of enlightenment and allow 
such teachers liberties as a result. 

In addition it is quite common for kundalini yoga to 
temporarily accentuate the sex drive. This period requires 
extra discipline.  Finally, kundalini yoga is closely associated 
with tantrism and sex is often used in conjunction with 
tantric practice. Where sex is used there is of course the 
opportunity for misuse or abuse.


If my kundalini is awakened will I need to change my 

It's hard to have your cake and eat it too. If you awaken 
kundalini in order to change and enrich your life it's 
reasonable to expect you may need to change your lifestyle 
as a result. The recommendations of both  classical literature 
and experience is that sleep and diet will need to be 
moderated otherwise severe discomfort may arise. 
Furthermore without moderating sexual activity and 
physical work  it will be hard to experience much success 
with kundalini. The extent that these elements of your life 
need to be change depends on the nature of the individual. 
While genuine mental imbalances arising from kundalini are 
rare nearly every kundalini yogin will find periods when 
one needs to be especially  sensitive to needs for sleep, quiet 
and diet.


Where can I learn more?

Here are some references for further reading. They may 
not be the easiest books to find but they are currently in 
print and are very good in  their categories.  Note that by 
definition no reputable book on kundalini will tell you how to 
awaken your kundalini. Either by effort or by shaktipat 
initiation, practicing kundalini yoga requires the instruction 
of an experienced teacher. Some introductory practices for 
cleansing the channels can be learned from books.

Good introductory survey:

White, John (Editor)  (1990). Kundalini - Evolution and 
Enlightenment. New York: Paragon House.

Classical Works:

Svatmarama (1985). The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (Swami 
Muktibodhananda Saraswati, Trans.). (First ed.). Munger, 
Bihar: Bihar School of Yoga.  

Silburn, L. (1988). Kundalini - Energy of the Depths 
(Jacques Gontier, Trans.). Albany, NY: State University of 
New York.  

Contemporary Kundalini Yogins:

Chetanananda, S. (1991). Dynamic Stillness. Cambridge, 
Massachusetts: Rudra Press.  

Muktananda, Swami (1989b). From the Finite to the Infinite 
(First ed.). Volumes I &II, South Fallsburg, NY: Siddha Yoga 
Dham of America Foundation.  

Tirtha,  Swami Vishnu  (1980b). Devatma Shakti (Fifth ed.). 
Rishikesh: Yoga Shri Peeth Trust.  

From Tibetan Buddhism:

Gyatso,  Geshe Kalsang (1982). Clear Light of Bliss. London: 
Wisdom Publications.  

Psychology and Pathology of Kundalini:

Greenwell,  Bonnie (1990). Energies of Transformation . 
Shakti River Press: Cupertino, CA.

Sannella, Lee (1987). The Kundalini Experience. Integral 
Publishing: Lower Lake, CA.

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