Kundalini Shakti is the Vedic name for the living spiritual power within every human being. Known by many names in many lands, this sacred inner presence is the divine within, the sacred light and love and life that illumines each of us and guides us to union with the One, the All, the Ultimate Reality beyond all phenomena. Kundalini Shakti is each individual’s own personal spiritual director, the Light of all Lights who strives to lead us to constant awareness of the Source. It is Kundalini Shakti who empowers our striving for spiritual attainment and then who would guide us to full spiritual realization. More subtle than energy, Kundalini Shakti is the core of our spiritual life and the very means for deepening our awareness of and cooperation with the spiritual endeavor, over which she presides.
“Kundalini” is a Sanskrit word meaning “coiled.” It is used to modify the noun “Shakti,” which means the spiritual power dwelling within every human being. Kundalini Shakti is the divine omnipotence surrounding the spark of Pure Consciousness at the core of our innermost selves. It is the subtlest manifestation of the One, the Ultimate Source, from which it is inseparable. This power aspect of Pure Consciousness has also been called Power Consciousness, the Divine Within, Holy Spirit, Divine Light, Inner Teacher, or Divine Mother and is known by many other titles, including the names of God in various spiritual traditions. All human beings, regardless of era, religion, or culture, are vessels of this Divine power within. Realization of this inner sacred presence enables us to develop to spiritual union, fulfillment, enlightenment, liberation, at-one-ment. This is the purpose of the spiritual endeavor, regardless of the terms used to describe it or the methods used to reach it. This inner Divine Guide is the very source of our manifest existence, and its constant striving is for our union with our true Self, the One. Because of the generative, motherly role Kundalini Shakti plays, she is often referred to in the feminine gender.
Kundalini Shakti is sheathed by her manifestation, the subtle body, which is our energy, mind, and discernment. She resides within the subtle body in either a contained or a released state. In her contained state, Kundalini Shakti is a tightly coiled static power that maintains the ordinary person’s life functions and consciousness. Upon her release, Kundalini Shakti rises through one of several pathways in the subtle body and reaches whatever level is possible, based on the conditions in the subtle body at the time of the rising. In her released state, Kundalini Shakti is dynamically active and strives to improve her status and complete her rising, despite whatever impediments may be there. Her ultimate goal is the spiritual fulfillment of the individual.
Kundalini Shakti works in and through her container, the subtle body. The subtle body includes the three central sheaths (koshas) of the five that comprise the human being (see diagram), according to the Vedic philosophy of India. These three are energy, mind, and discernment. The energy sheath has a subtle physiology of its own, which employs subtle energies (vayus), subtle elements (tattvas), subtle energy flow patterns (svaras), subtle energy currents (nadis), subtle energy centers (chakras), subtle energy points (marmas), and subtle brain centers (dalas). The mental sheath is made up of the sensory/motor function of mind (manas), the persona (ahamkara), and the storehouse of latent memories and patterns (chitta), which includes the impressions of all our past karmas, even from previous lives. The discernment sheath (buddhi) includes the refined ability to discern what is truly good and helpful for our inner development.
There are a variety of perspectives on Kundalini provided by current texts and experts, each with their own special contribution. From our perspective, Kundalini is not a path in itself but a universal process. It is the essential common factor that is the key to all spiritual experiences regardless of an individual’s religious or spiritual orientation. Kundalini Shakti is the means for deepening our connection to our spiritual endeavor and to the Divine Source itself. The sincere spiritual seeker supports Kundalini Shakti’s ascension agenda by purifying and strengthening their subtle and physical bodies with healthy spiritual lifestyle, accompanied by correct spiritual practice. With this skillful cooperation, Kundalini Shakti is eventually able to elevate herself to union with the One. Ultimately, a Kundalini process culminates in spiritual realization. Our traditional teachings include a comprehensive, practical theoretical frame that allows us to assess a spiritual process, to offer sincere qualified seekers with individualized recommendations to improve their process, to offer spiritual instruction to help them better understand and support their process, and to provide guidance to expedite their efforts to effectively cooperate with the divine in their ongoing spiritual development.
Together with the chakras, the nadis – variously translated as “conduits”, “nerves”, “veins”, “vessels” or “arteries” – constitute the composition of the subtle or yogic body in Tantra. Like the Chinese meridians, the nadis constitute channels of flow of subtle vital force (prana)
The idea of nadis first appears in the earliest Upanishads (7th-8th century b.c.e.). The heart for example was said to be the centre of the 72,000 nadis. The concept was developed in the later Upanishads – from 2nd century b.c.e. to the 2nd century c.e. and later – and the nascent Yoga and Tantric schools. The Kshurika-Upanishad and later the Hathayogapradikpa mention the 72,000 nadis, especially the Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna channels. [Arthur Avalon, The Serpent Power, p.261]. Other figures have been proposed – 80,000 (Trisikhibramanopanishad), 200,000, or 300,000 (e.g. Siva Samhita, Goraksha Sataka, Goraksha Paddhati)
Illustration showing the nadis and the major and minor chakras
from David V. Tansley, Subtle Body – Essence and Shadow, (1977, Art and Imagination Series, Thames and Hudson, London) In that book this illustration is labelled “The nadis, diagram, Tibet”, but the writing is sanskrit not Tibetan, and both the artistic style and also the arrangement of the chakras is Indian)
The symbolism regarding the Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna nadis is especially richly developed in tantric texts. The Ida on the left is generally associated with the moon, white in colour, and with the prana or rising vital breath, semen and Shiva (male) ; the Pingala on the right with the sun, the colour red, blood or ovum and Shakti (female) (Gorakshasiddhantasamgraha). The Ida is also sometimes associated with the prana or rising vital breath, and the Pingala with the apana or descending breath.
Clearly, the correspondences vary according to the school and the text. In the Laya Yoga tradition of the Sat-Cakra-Nirupana, the Padaka-Pancaka, and the commentary by Sir John Woodroffe (Arthur Avalon) (The Serpent Power), the Ida or lunar channel on the left is associated with Shakti-rupa or the female principle; the Pingala or solar channel on the right with the masculine principle (according to the Sammohana-tantra the purusha). The central channel or Sushumna is associated with fire and the union of the two.
Although it is generally agreed that the Ida terminates at the left nostril and the Pingala at the right nostril (so much so that the practitioner is advised to breathe alternately through each nostril to purify his or her nadis), there are two interpretations regarding the remaining position of these two primary nadis in the body. Perhaps the standard traditional interpretation is that they are strung like a double bow, the Ida wholly on the left, the Pingala completely on the right, and the Sushumna supporting the chakras in the center. A rival interpretation, and one that has become very popular in the West, is that the Ida and the Pingala alternate, crossing over the the Sushumna at various points, thus giving rise to the image of the Caudicus. (see the background grafic on these pages, and also the following image, showing the nadis and the chakras equated with the five elements)