Kundalini and Cosmic Self

The following is an excerpt of the commentary on the Bhagavad Gita by Radhikaji from her forthcoming book to be published in 2017. This article summarizes verses 1-46 from Chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita. 

Chapter 11 is known as Vishvarupa Darshan Yoga. Vishva means the cosmic or universal, and rupa means form. Vishvarupa is essentially the Cosmic Self. Darshan means “to see”, in the sense of a direct insight. In this chapter, we begin to understand, that the universal form of the divine is attained through direct experience. It is not something intellectual. 

This chapter is an attempt to describe that, which is indescribable. The Bhagavad-Gita is not merely a Bhakti text about the deity Krishna. It is in fact a complete yogic manual explaining the theory behind yoga, the practice of yoga, the different paths of Yoga: karma, bhakti, raja and Kundalini as well.

In the last verse of chapter 10, parallels were drawn between consciousness and electricity. We use laptops, television sets, kitchen and household gadgets and all of these function because of the power behind them, which is invisible. The power behind these gadgets is electricity. Similarly kundalini is the energy behind all the manifestations in the world. In this chapter Arjuna experiences the energy that makes all these manifestations, that which they are.

Verses 1-4: Overview of teachings imparted

Arjuna says:

1. I have understood Samkhya philosophy, the basic theory explaining the mystery of life, death and rebirth. 

2. I know that there are different paths leading to the same summit of Yoga. 

3. I have understood the need for meditation, dhyana. 

4. I have understood the techniques of dhyana. 

5. My incorrect understanding of the nature of the world has been corrected. 

6. I have full faith in existence of Pure Consciousness or divinity.

In these four verses Arjuna summarises all that he has learned from Sri Krishna, expressing his gratitude for what he has learned so far but reminding his teacher that he still has had no direct experience of divinity. Theory and philosophy can comfort us to a certain extent, but a good student is not satisfied with mere theories. A good student wants to have the direct experience of divinity.

Learning generally strengthens ahamkara. Therefore, it is important to note that in spite of intellectual knowledge Arjuna has retained his humility. It is this quality that makes Arjuna the ideal student. Finally he approaches his teacher with humility and says, “I have been a good student, I have paid attention, I have understood all these things, but I do not have a direct experience.”

Only a student like Arjuna who has gone through all the 6 steps mentioned above can aspire to attain a glimpse of the universal Self or the non-dualistic reality.

Verses 5-8: Lifting the veil of ignorance

You cannot see the universal Self with your own eyes. To see the universal Self you need divine eyes, known as Divya chakshu. This is another way of saying that all the blockages that prevent you from seeing normally, are removed. The way we see the world normally is through the filter of our own colourings. Each of us perceives the world differently and in doing so, we miss the reality of this world.

Through a touch or a glance a teacher can temporarily remove obstacles, so that the student can have a glimpse of the highest stage of consciousness. This is known as Shaktipata and it is meant to encourage the student, to remove doubts and strengthen the sankalpa or determination of the student.

Shaktipata is reserved only for the best of students, known as adhikaris. It is not possible to give shaktipata to masses. There are teachers, who claim to give shaktipata to crowds, or teachers, who claim to work on the granthis or blockages of the students and to remove their obstacles. If it were possible to liberate all at mass level, why would a compassionate teacher withhold this from all of humanity? Those who have received Shaktipata in mass events have observed no significant change in their lives. 

The law of karma is brutal and it cannot be disregarded or superseded. A teacher may use his own good karma to expand the consciousness of a qualified student, so that he can momentarily see the true nature of the world and divinity. This would have the effect of strengthening the student’s sankalpa shakti, of removing his doubts and of providing him with greater energy, which would have to be then integrated. Integration of such subtle and fine energies is only possible for a student, who is prepared and gone through the 6 steps elaborated above. Arjuna is such a qualified student and therefore Sri Krishna agrees to give him these divine eyes through shaktipata.

Shaktipata is not an end by itself. If it were an end by itself, it would be very easy. The teacher would give shaktipata and the student need not do anything. Not only would that destabilise the law of karma, it would cause absolutely dependency on a teacher. This would not be liberation; it would be absolute bondage. The purpose of a shaktipata is to pave the way for a student, who is already on a very intense path and he requires just a little glimpse to give him more confidence. It is a temporary lifting of the veil of ignorance to “see” the true nature of the different layers of consciousness or lokas, including celestial beings. The yogic vision or the cosmic form of Sri Krishna is in fact the raising of the kundalini or the lifting of the veil of ignorance. Shaktipata is the process in which the veil lifts temporarily and the seeker sees the good as well as evil in himself. Then the battle of dharma begins. Interesting the word “apocalypse” means lifting of the veil, uncover or reveal. Jihad too can be understood in this context; an internal battle to overcome obstacles and attain the Highest.

Verses 9-14: False kundalini teachers 

The direct experience of the Self has been described as the brilliance of a thousand suns. The Self chooses the Self in a moment of grace or kripa. Doing your 50%, regular systematic practice, it is possible to get grace. Sincere seekers who have not experienced this grace have often asked, what is the experience of kundalini raising like? The union of Shakti and Shiva is experienced as the amazing brilliance of a thousand suns. 

There are many teachers throughout the world, who claim to be teaching kundalini yoga. What they basically do is a few pranayama practices or ask you to meditate on a certain chakra. This is not kundalini yoga. These are just a few techniques. 

You do not start with kundalini yoga. You begin exactly like Arjuna began by understanding samkhya philosophy, the different paths leading to Yoga. You practice dhyana, attain deeper insights and allow these to be integrated, until you finally experience one pointed devotion or bhava. Only then can you have the direct experience of kundalini. 

Skipping over basics cannot lead to kundalini awakening.

Verses 15-31: Terrible power of Kundalini

The initial kundalini experience is not pleasant. It has been described as fearsome, fires of destruction, terrible lights, burning on all sides, death. This is the fearsome aspect of God.

You experience electricity as you sit in the comfort of your homes, using modern lights, heating, air conditioning, laptops and other household and kitchen gadgets. Our modern life would not function without electricity, yet few of us have been anywhere close to the source of power, such as a nuclear reactor. Imagine being in a nuclear reactor. This kind of power is frightening. Nuclear energy is as close as it can get to a source of infinite power. Such power in uncontrolled form can lead to terrible destruction. Being in communion with the Self, our very own sanctum sanctorum, the holy of holies is like being at the very core of a nuclear reactor. Pure Consciousness is the source of all infinite power. The first experiences of this power can be awe inspiring, even frightening.

While we have seen the benign side of electricity in our lives, we know of the terrible side of electricity in lightning, which is completely uncontrollable. It is a very powerful, and concentrated form of energy and it can strike anywhere, anytime. Depending on the intensity and duration of the kundalini experience can completely overload the system. If you try to put a 12 voltage bulb into a 120 Voltage fixture, the bulb is going to be destroyed. Your mind and body is like a 12 voltage bulb that is put in to a 120 voltage fixture.  You need to prepare your body and mind for such kind of high voltage power. Arjuna has just got a glimpse, because he cannot take more than that, it is simply too much energy and experienced like this in this raw form, a bit like lightening, powerful, unpredictable and uncontrollable, it is fearsome.

Arjun has attained an insight or a glimpse of the advaitic state of non-dualism through this experience of kundalini, but he is not established in it. The entire apparatus, the body as well as the mind has to be purified, obstacles have to be removed. Arjuna, a qualified student has got a glimpse of Advaita, that state of non-dualism, but could not remain established in it.

Verses 32-34: Balancing dualities

The march of time is relentless and the law of nature is merciless. You are facing death all the time, so do not become weak, explore your inner Self. This is the battle the Bhagavad Gita is talking about. This scripture is not about an external battlefield, it is about the inner war of dharma or righteousness. It teaches you to go through all this ignorance and seek out that Light of the thousand suns, which is inside of you.

Arjuna is an archer. Most archers, like most people, can shoot with either right or left hand, but Arjuna is ambidextrous, he can shoot with both, with right as well as left hand. A person with command over left as well as the right sides is well balanced. This is a very important clue. Kundalini can be raised only when both ida and pingala are balanced.

Verses 35-46: Blowing a fuse

The veil lifts and Arjuna sees all the layers of consciousness. He is completely overwhelmed and is unable to integrate the energy. To use the electricity metaphor, Arjuna just blew a fuse!  To forcefully induce expansion of consciousness is equivalent to a massive power surge in the electric current that destroys the electric gadgets. Such an expansion of consciousness when pushed beyond a certain limit can cause irreparable damage. The energy needs to be integrated slowly at first, and only when the body and the mind has been purified over a period of time can the higher levels of consciousness be stable. Thus, you can only receive brief glimpses  of an expanded state of consciousness until you are able to remain established in it.

These glimpses are grace. They are wonderful gifts and if you should get such a gift, cherish it. These little glimpses will help you to continue on this path until you are established. The inner journey without these glimpses is like groping in a dark room. If a lightening flashes for just a split second, in that moment you are able to create a mental picture of the room and so that you do not trip over the furniture. You continue to grope around in the dark until you get that next little glimpse of light. This continues until you learn to tame and harness the immense energy known as Kundalini.

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