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Kundalini (kuṇḍalinī कुण्डलिनी) Sanskrit, literally "coiled". In Indian yoga, a "corporeal energy"[1] - an unconscious, instinctive or libidinal force or Shakti, envisioned either as a goddess or else as a sleeping serpent coiled at the base of the spine,[2][3][4] hence a number of English renderings of the term such as 'serpent power'.

Yoga and Tantra propose that this energy can be "awakened" by Guru, but body and spirit must be prepared by yogic austerities such as pranayama, or breath control, physical exercises, visualization, and chanting. It rises from muladhara chakra up a subtle channel at the base of the spine (called Sushumna), and from there to top of the head merging with the sahasrara, or crown chakra. The awakening is not a physical occurrence. It consists exclusively of development in consciousness. With awakening of the Kundalini our consciousness expands and we become more aware of the truth.[5] When Kundalini Shakti is conceived as a goddess, then, when it rises to the head, it unites itself with the Supreme Being (Lord Shiva). Then aspirant becomes engrossed in deep meditation and infinite bliss.[6][7] The arousing of kundalini is said to be the one and only way of attaining Divine Wisdom. Self-Realization is said to be equivalent to Divine Wisdom or Gnosis or what amounts to the same thing: Self-Knowledge.[8] The awakening of the Kundalini shows itself as "awakening of inner knowledge" and brings with itself pure joy, pure knowledge and pure love.[5]

However, like every form of energy one must also learn to understand spiritual energy. In order to be able to integrate this spiritual energy, careful purification and strengthening of the body and nervous system are required beforehand. By trying to force results, considerable psychic disturbances and at times even permanent mental damage can occur. A spiritual master who walked this path before is required to guide the aspirant. Often will be found that negative experiences occurred only when acting without appropriate guidance or ignoring advice.[5]

Kundalini can only be awakened through the grace of a Siddha-Guru who awakens the kundalini shakti of his discipline through shaktipat, or blessing [9]. A Siddha Guru is a spiritual teacher, a master, whose identification with the supreme Self is uninterrupted.[10]

The most famous of the Yoga Upanishads, the Yogatattva Upanishad, mentions four kinds of yoga, one of which, laya-yoga, involves Kundalini.[11]

Kundalini as described by Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda described briefly about kundalini in London during his lectures on Raj Yoga as follows:[12]

"According to the Yogis, there are two nerve currents in the spinal column, called Pingala and Ida, and a hollow canal called Sushumna running through the spinal cord. At the lower end of the hollow canal is what the Yogis call the "Lotus of the Kundalini". They describe it as triangular in form in which, in the symbolical language of the Yogis, there is a power called the Kundalini, coiled up. When that Kundalini awakes, it tries to force a passage through this hollow canal, and as it rises step by step, as it were, layer after layer of the mind becomes open and all the different visions and wonderful powers come to the Yogi. When it reaches the brain, the Yogi is perfectly detached from the body and mind; the soul finds itself free. We know that the spinal cord is composed in a peculiar manner. If we take the figure eight horizontally (∞) there are two parts which are connected in the middle. Suppose you add eight after eight, piled one on top of the other, that will represent the spinal cord. The left is the Ida, the right Pingala, and that hollow canal which runs through the centre of the spinal cord is the Sushumna. Where the spinal cord ends in some of the lumbar vertebrae, a fine fibre issues downwards, and the canal runs up even within that fibre, only much finer. The canal is closed at the lower end, which is situated near what is called the sacral plexus, which, according to modern physiology, is triangular in form. The different plexuses that have their centres in the spinal canal can very well stand for the different "lotuses" of the Yogi."

Western interpretation

Kundalini is considered a part of the subtle body along with chakras (energy centres) and nadis (channels). Each chakra is said to contain special characteristics [13].

Sir John Woodroffe (pen name Arthur Avalon) was one of the first to bring the notion of Kundalini to the West. A High Court Judge in Calcutta, he became interested in Shaktism and Hindu Tantra. His translation of and commentary on two key texts was published as The Serpent Power. Woodroffe rendered Kundalini as "Serpent Power" for lack of a better term in the English language but "kundala" in Sanskrit means "coiled".[14]

Western awareness of the idea of Kundalini was strengthened by the Theosophical Society and the interest of the psychoanalyst Carl Jung (1875-1961)[1]. "Jung's seminar on Kundalini yoga, presented to the Psychological Club in Zurich in 1932, has been widely regarded as a milestone in the psychological understanding of Eastern thought. Kundalini yoga presented Jung with a model for the development of higher consciousness, and he interpreted its symbols in terms of the process of individuation".[15]

In the early 1930s two Italian scholars, Tommaso Palamidessi and Julius Evola, published several books with the intent of re-interpreting alchemy with reference to yoga.[16] Those works had an impact on modern interpretations of Alchemy as a mystical science. In those works, Kundalini is called an Igneous Power or Serpentine Fire.

Another popularizer of the concept of Kundalini among Western readers was Gopi Krishna. His autobiography is entitled Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man.[17] According to June McDaniel, his writings have influenced Western interest in kundalini yoga.[18] Swami Sivananda produced an English language manual of Kundalini Yoga methods. Other well-known spiritual teachers who have made use of the idea of kundalini include Osho, George Gurdjieff, Paramahansa Yogananda, Swami Sivananda Radha, Swami Muktananda, Bhagawan Nityananda, Yogi Bhajan, Nirmala Srivastava (Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi), Samael Aun Weor and Lord Sri Akshunna.


Kundabuffer is a word first coined by G. I. Gurdjieff in his Russian version of All and Everything: Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson and rendered into the English language by his friend and disciple A. R. Orage. "Kunda" is short for the Sanskrit term "kundali" which means "coiled" so that "Kundalini" literally means "no longer coiled". Gurdjieff explained to P. D. Ouspensky that "...buffers are appliances by means of which a man can always be in the right." Kundabuffer is then an implant put into man in order to keep man asleep and unable to do anything but serve the dictates of his lower nature. However, for Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, there is no difference between "kundabuffer" and "kundalini". On this particular point, Samael Aun Weor considers that both Gurdjieff and Ouspensky are in error. Unlike Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, Samael Aun Weor interprets kundabuffer to be Satan's tail and kundalini as what helps man achieve Self-Realization. The Hindus know kundabuffer simply as "kundali" and "kundalini" as "kundalini".[19]

New Age

Kundalini references may commonly be found in a wide variety of derivative "New Age" presentations, such as Shirley MacLaine's, and is a catchword that has been adopted by many new religious movements. However, some commentators, such as transpersonal psychologist Stuart Sovatsky,[20] thinks that the association of Yogic Sanskrit terminology (chakras, kundalini, mantras, etc.) with the superficiality of new-age rhetoric, has been unfortunate.[21]

Psychiatry (Brain waves)

Recently, there has been a growing interest within the medical community to study the physiological effects of meditation, and some of these studies have applied the discipline of Kundalini Yoga to their clinical settings.[22][23] Their findings are not all positive. Some modern experimental research[24] seeks to establish links between Kundalini practice and the ideas of Wilhelm Reich and his followers.

However, the intensive spiritual practices associated with some Asian traditions are not without their problems. Psychiatric literature[25] notes that "since the influx of eastern spiritual practices and the rising popularity of meditation starting in the 1960s, many people have experienced a variety of psychological difficulties, either while engaged in intensive spiritual practice or spontaneously". Among the psychological difficulties associated with intensive spiritual practice we find "kundalini awakening","a complex physio-psychospiritual transformative process described in the yogic tradition".[25] Also, researchers in the fields of Transpersonal psychology,[26] and Near-death studies[27][28] describe a complex pattern of sensory, motor, mental and affective symptoms associated with the concept of Kundalini, sometimes called the Kundalini Syndrome.

According to the psychiatrist Carl Jung, "...the concept of Kundalini has for us only one use, that is, to describe our own experiences with the unconscious..."[29]


  1. For kundalini as "corporeal energy" see: Flood (1996), p. 96.
  2. Flood (1996), p. 99.
  3. Harper et al. (2002), p. 94
  4. McDaniel (2004), p. 103
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda, The hidden power in humans, Ibera Verlag, pages 47, 48, 49. ISBN 3-85052-197-4
  6. Kundalini Yoga:
  7. Kundalini Yoga from Swami Sivanandha:
  8. Vivekananda, Swami (1915). The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. p. 185. "...kundalini is the one and only way..." 
  9. Translating shaktipat directly as "the descent of spiritual energy" is not accurate.
  10. "The Guru". Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  11. Flood (1996), p. 96.
  12. [Complete works of swami vivekananda,]
  13. Scotton (1996), p. 261-262.
  14. Avalon, Arthur (1974). The Serpent Power. Dover Publications Inc.. p. 1. ISBN 0486230589. "Kundala means coiled." 
  15. Princeton University Press, Book description to C. G Jung - "The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga", 1999
  16. Palamidessi Tommaso, Alchimia come via allo Spirito, ed. EGO, 1948 Turin
  17. Krishna, Gopi (1971) Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man. Boulder, Colorado: Shambhala
  18. For quotation "Western interest at the popular level in kundalini yoga was probably most influenced by the writings of Gopi Krishna, in which kundalini was redefined as a chaotic and spontaneous religious experience." see: McDaniel, p. 280.
  19. P. D. Ouspensky In Search of the Miraculous, p. 220, Harcourt Brace & Co., 1977 ISBN 0-15-644508-5
  20. Yoga Journal. Jul-Aug 1985. p. 42. "I just wanted to talk to someone who would understand about kundalini and wouldn't think I was crazy..." 
  21. Sovatsky, pg. 160
  22. Lazar et al. (2000).
  23. Cromie (2002)
  24. Rudra, Kundalini (1993 in German)
  25. 25.0 25.1 Turner et al.,pg. 440
  26. Scotton (1996)
  27. Kason (2000)
  28. Greyson (2000)
  29. Hayman, Ronald (2002). A Life of Jung. W. W. Norton & Co.. p. 304. ISBN 0393323221. "...the concept of Kundalini has for us only one use..." 


  • Cromie, William J. Research: Meditation changes temperatures: Mind controls body in extreme experiments. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Gazette, 18 April 2002
  • Flood, Gavin. An Introduction to Hinduism. (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1996). ISBN 0-521-43878-0
  • Greyson, Bruce (2000) Some Neuropsychological Correlates Of The Physio-Kundalini Syndrome. The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Vol.32, No. 2
  • Harper, Katherine Anne; Brown, Robert L. (2002). The Roots of Tantra. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-5306-5. 
  • Kason, Yvonne (2000) Farther Shores: Exploring How Near-Death, Kundalini and Mystical Experiences Can Transform Ordinary Lives. Toronto: Harper Collins Publishers, Revised edition, ISBN 0-00-638624-5
  • Krishna, Gopi (1971) Kundalini: the evolutionary energy in man. Boulder, Colorado: Shambhala
  • Lazar, Sara W.; Bush, George; Gollub, Randy L.; Fricchione, Gregory L.; Khalsa, Gurucharan; Benson, Herbert (2000) Functional brain mapping of the relaxation response and meditation [Autonomic Nervous System]. NeuroReport: Volume 11(7) 15 May 2000 p 1581–1585 PubMed Abstract PMID 10841380
  • McDaniel, June (2004). Offering Flowers, Feeding Skulls Popular Goddess Worship in West Bengal. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195167902. 
  • Palamidessi, Tommaso (1948) Alchimia come via allo spirito, ed. EGO, Turin
  • Rudra (1993), Kundalini die Energie der Natur die Natur der Energie im Menschen, Wild Dragon Connections, Worpswede, Germany, ISBN 3-9802560-1-4
  • Scotton, Bruce (1996) The phenomenology and treatment of kundalini, in Chinen, Scotton and Battista (Editors) (1996) Textbook of transpersonal psychiatry and psychology. (pp. 261–270). New York, NY, US: Basic Books, Inc.
  • Sovatsky, Stuart (1998). Words from the Soul: Time, East/West Spirituality, and Psychotherapeutic Narrative. New York: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-3950-X.  Suny Series in Transpersonal and Humanistic Psychology
  • Svatmarama, Swami (1992) Hatha Yoga Pradipika. London: The Aquarian Press, An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers. Translated by Elsy Becherer, foreword by B K S Iyengar, commentary by Hans Ulrich Rieker
  • Turner, Robert P.; Lukoff, David; Barnhouse, Ruth Tiffany & Lu Francis G. (1995) Religious or Spiritual Problem. A Culturally Sensitive Diagnostic Category in the DSM-IV. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease,Vol.183, No. 7 435-444

Further reading

Template:Further Reading

  • Bentov, Itzhak: Stalking the Wild Pendulum: On the Mechanics of Consciousness, Destiny Books (1988), United States, (ISBN 0-8928-1202-8)
  • Kieffer, Gene (1988): Kundalini for the New Age - Selected Writings of Gopi Krishna, (ISBN 0-533-34433-1)
  • Laue, Thorsten: Kundalini Yoga, Yogi Tee und das Wassermannzeitalter. Religionswissenschaftliche Einblicke in die Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization (3HO) des Yogi Bhajan, Münster: LIT, 2007, ISBN 3825801403 [in German]
  • Muktananda, Swami (1978): Play Of Consciousness, Siddha Yoga Publications. ISBN 0-911307-81-8
  • Morgen, Robert. Kundalini Awakening for Personal Mastery (Robert Morgen, 2005).
  • Narayanananda, Swami (1979): The Primal Power in Man or the Kundalini Shakti, N.U. Yoga Trust, Denmark, (ISBN 87-87571-60-9) (6th rev. ed., (1st ed. 1950))
  • Sannella, Lee (1987): The Kundalini Experience, Integral Publishing, California, United States, (ISBN 0-9412-5529-9)
  • Thomas, Kate. The Kundalini Phenomenon - the need for insight and spiritual authenticity (New Media Books, 2000).
  • Tweedie, I., Daughter of Fire: A Diary of a Spiritual Training with a Sufi Master, 1995, The Golden Sufi Center, ISBN 0-9634574-5-4
  • White, J, edt. (1990) Kundalini. Evolution and enlightenment. New York: Paragon House

External links

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