Swami Santaram Saraswati
Director Satyananda Ashram, Spain
Recently a large number of books and magazines have been published concerning investigations into the reality of kundalini. Unfortunately, much of what has been written shows only a very preliminary and partial knowledge of the actual awakening process. In many texts, the pranotthana or release of pranic force within the body has been confused with the actual awakening of kundalini. Pranotthana is the first thing that happens as the individual evolves, and it is this release of energy which triggers off the actual awakening of kundalini. Without pranotthana the kundalini is not awakened.
There are two ways in which pranotthana can take place. The first is by regular practice of asanas, pranayama, concentration and meditation techniques. Through these practices, the prana is gradually released in the body, starting the preliminary process of purification of organs, glands, nervous system, brain and nadis. The complete purification comes only with the kundalini awakening and rising to the brain.
The second way in which pranotthana occurs is by shaktipat, the awakening of energy effected by a guru. Shaktipat does not directly awaken kundalini, it only releases the prana of the disciple. However, it is this prana in movement that awakens the kundalini. The time it takes to do so depends on the mental and physical impurities of the disciple as well as on his attitude towards the guru who gave him shaktipat and towards this new process working in him.
Whether pranotthana occurs by individual efforts or by the activation of one's prana by a guru, the fact is that this is not kundalini awakening as many people are saying. The confusion perhaps came about because the process which pranotthana affects on the body and mind of the individual is somewhat similar in the beginning to that of kundalini awakening. Some books state that this energy - kundalini - awoke and rose up to the brain, either straight away or after a few times, in many individuals. Nevertheless, these people carried on with their normal lives, apart from an improvement in health and mental clarity. This shows that it was not the kundalini energy that rose to the brain, but the pranic force released by pranotthana. This force follows the same pathways as does kundalini energy. It starts in mooladhara and ascends the spine, purifying the chakras, partially but not completely, until it reaches the brain. This pranic force thus makes it easier for the kundalini purificatory process which will come about at a later time.
As the pranic force purifies, it creates automatic body movements, spontaneous asanas, pranayamas, visions of lights, etc. as it encounters inner physiological and psychological blockages. Once pranotthana has finished its initial work of purification, it normally stabilises itself for a time, before it starts dealing with the kundalini energy,. After a time, kundalini awakens. With the kundalini awakening, spontaneous movements, mudras, bandhas, pranayamas, generation of a lot of heat, psychic visions, etc. start occurring. But these are of a more intense and deeper nature than those caused by pranotthana. It is now that spontaneous natural meditation occurs and not before. It is now that real purification takes place, and the state of consciousness of the individual radically changes. A higher state of awareness automatically dawns on the individual, and his behaviour, relations with his environment, understanding of things, etc. changes completely. He definitely seems to be a different personality. Powerful changes occur in every field of his physiology and psychology. Automatically, the man starts becoming more subtle and spiritual, or on the other hand, starts behaving like a neurotic. If he still has many blockages - not having purified himself by the practice of asanas, pranayamas, mudras, bandhas, concentration, karma yoga, etc. - the awakening can cause temporary insanity. Such people may spend some time in the mental hospital. These extreme cases occur when inexperienced individuals try to awaken their kundalini energy through unscientific methods, without any preparation. However, when properly initiated and guided by an experienced guru, kundalini awakening is a spiritual rebirth for the aspirant.
However, everything does not end here. Awakening of kundalini in itself is not a difficult thing, what is important is the ascending of the energy through the sushumna passage, and this is not easy, truly it isn't. The awakening can be effected by any guru or by your own efforts in yoga, but what then? The ascent through sushumna is clogged with samskaras, physical and psychic impurities. These great barriers are the obstacles which the kundalini energy itself will have to pull down and burn. This process will affect the aspirant in many ways causing great physical transformation, psychic visions, e.s.p. experiences, strange illnesses, unconsciousness, etc. all this depending on the impurities he has on the different levels of his being. But these are only transitory things, which go away as they came, leaving a purified awareness.
Truly this is the energy of evolution, without which a man will remain ordinary, his latent faculties dormant. Once you have put your foot on this path, you will never want to go back.