The Kundalini The Power Of The Serpent
The kundalini is an invisible serpent which lies dormant in each one of us. With its sources of sexual energy, it has the power to awaken consciousness. According to Hinduism, the kundalini is primordial energy or, more precisely, a concentration of primordial and divine energy. It is an essential part of the human being, in the same way as the heart, brain and vital organs are.
It is commonly called ‘strength (or power) of the serpent’, and it lies asleep, coiled up at the base of the spinal column.
When the fire serpent of the kundalini is awakened it climbs upward and coils itself all along the spinal column, opening up the chakras or energy centres on its way. These free the waves of primordial, divine energy which are within each of us, lighting the way to consciousness and so encouraging man to play a wholly full part in the cosmic life.
This belief in a primordial energy, said to be at the origin of man’s creation and contained within him forever, is not exclusive to Indian religious culture. Nor is it the only culture where it is represented by a serpent. There are universal symbols and myths relating to the serpent or dragon – which is itself only a glorified snake of the sea, air, earth or sky – and, of course, the serpent figures prominently in our Judaeo-Christian culture.
In fact, in the biblical story of Genesis, the serpent is the central character in the scene of the temptation of Eve (Genesis 3. 1-5), who brought the curse of Yahweh upon herself (Genesis 3.14-15). In the Bible, the serpent was given the key role of being the one who brought about original sin, but in the minds of ancient man, the serpent was already an animal which embodied the essential, primeval, dark forces which could be either creative or destructive.
According to the Enouma Elish, the great Babylonian poem of the creation of the world, Tiamat, was the Mother who gave birth to the world and the gods. The symbol of the primordial waters from which all life sprang – in Babylon the sea was called tamtou or tiamtou – was portrayed as a great serpent who was both male and female, in other words androgynous. Tiamat personified both the forces of creation and destruction, and could beget divine beings just as easily as monsters.
More recently, in the 1880s, the founders of sexology used the word ‘libido’ to describe the energy associated with sexual desire. This was taken up again by Sigmund Freud in 1905 in his book ‘Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality’. It points out the appearance of the sexual drive in the psychic life, which could be simultaneously an urge to live – symbolised by Eros, the Greek god of love – and an urge to die -represented by Thanatos, the winged Greek spirit who personified death. So, whether we are talking about the oldest cosmogonic legends or the most recent theories of psychoanalysis, the belief in a primordial energy with creative or destructive results lying within man remains and, even today, this is often shown as a snake.
The beliefs and techniques found in yoga, relating to the chakras – the seven centres of subtle energy – come exclusively from the Indian culture and civilisation. The kundalini in the centre of the Mulddhdra-Chakra is one of the basic principles of this belief. In fact, although the Hindu symbols of the serpent have many features in common with those found in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, only Hinduism sets out these two essential underlying principles which are: faith in the law of karma and the awakening and ascent of the kundalini along the chakras, which in turn produces samddhi, a state of ecstasy or higher consciousness.
According to this belief, the kundalini can be activated by the dynamic energy of the vital breath, orprdna, which enters the body through breathing. Prdnaydma is, therefore, a very elaborate technique in yoga, which allows you to control and direct your breath to the vital points of the body. In India, this technique is sometimes used for therapeutic purposes to revive or stimulate an organ which is diseased or weakened.
So the prand goes round all parts of the body, inside the subtle channels – the nadis – which are rather like the vessels or veins of the subtle body. The three principal nadis are the sushumnd, the idd and thepingalad. The sushumnd corresponds to the path of the spinal cord in the spinal column. Around this are the idd, which correspond to the parasympathetic system known as the lunar channel, and the pingalad which corresponds to the sympathetic system, known as the solar channel.
As it follows the path of the nadis, the positive solar and negative lunar energies are stimulated. They intertwine with each other and cross over the seven chakras which open out like the petals of a lotus. This is how the Hindus use the power of the serpent or kundalini to rid man of his worries, desires, hopes and fears, which plunge and trap him in the law of karma.
According to this law, each psychic or physical action creates causes and effects which go on endlessly recurring. In India, the age-old techniques of yoga which encourage the awakening of the kundalini are still in use. They are practised in the ashrams, which are the equivalent of our monasteries, under the guidance of a guru, or spiritual teacher.
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