In our pelvis, at the level of the sacrum, lies a power source of divine origin that allows us to take the next step in evolution. In spiritual traditions the knowledge of this amazing growth potential was shared only with a small group of initiates. The masses have received only veiled clues, through the symbolism in myths, fairy tales, legends and other folklore. Also in the sacred writings of religions this subject is spoken about with great caution and usually only in metaphors.
Only in the yoga world explicitly is spoken about this mysterious divine energy: the kundalini-shakti. Western practitioners are usually unaware of it, but the entire eightfold path of Yoga aims to awaken this latent source of power.
However, special exercises are not necessary and direct stimulation is not wise. The kundalini-energy awakens when the spiritual aspirant is ready. When there is a genuine interest in growing towards God, and a willingness to give up the personal self. And if some degree of purity has already been achieved at the level of body, thinking and doing.
The Yoga philosophy, with all its precepts and emphasis on meditation, is focused on this preparatory phase. Patanjali, the first one in the 2nd century BC. to put the ideas of the Yoga tradition in writing in 196 sutras, does not mention the kundalini. Undoubtedly from the standpoint that this knowledge can have disastrous consequences in the wrong hands.
Once active, the kundalini initiates an intensive purification process. Those who are not prepared may have to deal with various physical and / or psychological problems. However, the kundalini energy is not the cause of any inconveniences, it only magnifies an existing imbalance. The kundalini process is fundamentally a healing process.
Psychologically, the ego is stripped of all its “impurities,” injuries and unnecessary ballast, built up from childhood. While some traditions promote destruction of the ego to realize the divine, it would be better to speak of pursuing a transparent ego. A personal self that has been purified to the extent that, like a clean window, it allows all (divine) light to pass through unhindered.
This is a process of years that results in a state of detachment, accompanied by great inner peace and joy. This process of purification and emptying out is a necessary condition for the next step: reunification with God.
A lot can be said about the Kundalini. And many things to put right, because the intangible, transcendent nature of the phenomenon has also caused many misunderstandings. In this article I would like to show you that kundalini is not just something for yogis, monks and ascetics, but that we are all called to pursue this path, sooner or later, and that almost all world religions are founded on a kundalini awakening of their prophets.
The energetic process
The ida nadi and pingala nadi are two important energy channels, at the left and right side of our spine. They are, as it were, the energetic blueprint of the duality in our body. They represent the polarities, similar to yin and yang from Taoism.
Where ida nadi is connected to the feminine, dark, cold, passivity, the moon, and feeling, pingala nadi is connected to the masculine, light, heat, activity, the sun, and thinking. Note: these are archetypal contrasts that are not related to the sex of an individual! Every person has an ida and pingala nadi, and therefore a masculine and feminine side.
When the kundalini awakens and ascends through the sushumna – the energy channel that runs through the spine – to the crown chakra, all other chakras along the spine are purified and activated.
At the sixth chakra, the ida and pingala nadi merge, and the so-called “third eye” on the forehead of the spiritual aspirant, is opened. This union of the inner masculine and feminine also leads to the opening of the crown chakra: the mystical marriage of man and his Creator takes place.
A schematic representation of the kundalini process
The serpent is a universal metaphor for this divine energy. The Sanskrit word kundalini comes from the Yoga tradition and means ‘curled up’, referring to a serpent lying curled up when sleeping. The image of a serpent, with its ability to renew itself by shedding its skin, also reflects the transformative and healing aspect of the kundalini.
The symbol of healthcare organizations and medical practice is derived from the caduceus, the staff of the Greek god Hermes. The caduceus is also the universal symbol of a kundalini awakening. The staff itself represents the spine, the two serpents are the polar energy channels that merge during an awakening, and the wings symbolise an expanded consiousness. Few doctors will realize that their logo expresses the healing effect of the kundalini energy.
Other symbols for the kundalini include fire, a river, a fountain and a white dove.
Symbols used for the spine through which the awakened energy flows include a tree, a bush, a stick, a scepter, a wand and a ladder.
The official teachings of the Buddha do not refer to the kundalini. But also not to chakras, nadis or any other energetic principle. The original Buddhism is mainly a philosophy with doctrines about a correct mindset.
The Buddha lived in the religious environment of Hinduism and its worship of gods. He saw that man was not happy and has formulated a doctrine with which to overcome suffering. The core of its message is that the ego is an illusion that must be seen through to be delivered from suffering and to realize nirvana.
He thereby placed nirvana as a possibility in the here and now and not after death somewhere in another dimension. To achieve this it is necessary that man let go of his attachment to all kinds of rituals, (energy) systems and gods, which tend to maintain the ego.
The Buddha has neither confirmed nor denied the existence of a God or gods. He brought learning principles that were necessary for man at that time and in that culture to transcend the personal, and experience the underlying oneness of creation. However, we may assume that he himself experienced a kundalini awakening. Indications for this can be found in buddhist myth and iconography.
The legend about the serpent Mucalinda for example. After his enlightenment, meditating under the Bodhi tree, the Buddha is said to have been protected from a violent storm by the cobra Mucalinda, who rose from the roots of the tree behind him and spread his hood above him.
It is not difficult to filter out kundalini symbolism from this story. The tree represents the spine of the Buddha himself, and the cobra is the “serpent energy” that flows up through the sushumna channel.
On some images we see a seven-headed cobra rising behind the Buddha. These seven serpent heads represent the seven main chakras that are located along the spine. In the Yoga tradition, the number of serpent heads refers to the spiritual level of a yogi: the number of purified and opened chakras. Seven represents a completed process.
This story also makes clear what the result is of a kundalini purification process. The violent storm that arises is a metaphor for overwhelming emotions. According to this legend the Buddha still has emotions, but he is no longer affected by them. While the storm rages around him, he sits dry and out of the wind under the hood of the cobra. From an inner place of silence and detachment he perceives these emotions and leaves them for what they are.
This stability and imperturbability can partly be achieved through meditation, but the kundalini process also contributes to this. Sadness, anger and fears that were still present in the subconscious have been “cleared up”. There is no old pain left that can be touched by events in the present. Worn thought patterns and beliefs have been “erased”. Shadow aspects have been brought to light and integrated; there is no material to project onto others. The tendency to judge has disappeared.
The ego has become feather light and transparent. It is therefore easy to step out of the ego and perceive the emotions that remain from a witness position. Letting them rise and ebb, just like the thoughts. So enlightenment does not mean that one no longer has emotions. The above story is clear on this: Mucalinda does not temper the storm, he protects the Buddha from the storm!
The proverbial stability and imperturbability of the Buddha can therefore be seen as partly the result of diligent spiritual work, but also partly God-given.
In addition to the classic metaphor of the serpent, we also see kundalini fire on the head of the Buddha in the iconography.
So far as we can now ascertain, the Buddha has not explicitly taught about the kundalini, but he has – most likely drawing from his own experience – left behind a doctrine that provides the basic purity and mindset necessary to awaken the divine cobra in our pelvis from her sleep.
The Eightfold Path of Buddhism contains clear and effective guidelines to dismantle and transcend the ego. Whoever follows this path sincerely and steadily will one day also receive this divine gift.
The heart of Judaism is the Torah. In the broadest sense it encompasses all of Jewish laws and teachings. In a more limited sense, it refers to the first five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. In Christianity, these books are included in the Old Testament, a name that the Jews – of course – do not use.
In the books of Moses the term kundalini is not explicitly mentioned, but many stories are metaphors for aspects of the process of kundalini awakening. Skeptics point out that you can project anything you want on symbolism. In a way, this is true. It is above all the repetition of certain themes, the recurring metaphors, and the correspondence with sacred writings of other religions that convince.
There are several passages in the book of Exodus that indicate that Moses, the most important prophet of Judaism, experienced a kundalini awakening. For example, the moment when Moses receives the command from God to take the Hebrews (Jews) out of Egypt and to bring them to the promised land:
The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” (Exodus 3:2-4)
This burning bush from which the voice of God echoes is not outside Moses, but in him. Mentioning the word in the middle of this short text twice is one of the hints that there is a deeper meaning in it. This is the center of Moses: his spine “on fire” with the non-digesting kundalini fire. His awareness that has been expanded through this allows him to receive messages from God.
The interpretation that the bush is really the spine and the sushumna channel of Moses is confirmed by what follows in Exodus 4. Moses first contradicts. He does not feel suitable for the assignment he is given by God. And the Egyptians will never let the Hebrews go, he objects:
Then Moses said, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’” The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” And he said, “A staff.” Then He said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. But the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand and grasp it by its tail”—so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— “that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”
The LORD furthermore said to him, “Now put your hand into your bosom.” So he put his hand into his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then He said, “Put your hand into your bosom again.” So he put his hand into his bosom again, and when he took it out of his bosom, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. “If they will not believe you or heed the witness of the first sign, they may believe the witness of the last sign.
The rod of Moses turning into a serpent is an obvious reference to an kundalini awakening. The hand in the bosom also. It sees snow-white with leprosy when it is taken out. The bosom is the heart area. The color white refers to purification. This quote wants to communicate the the heart of Moses is purified. The fact that the – incurable – leprosy disappears again, refers to the healing effect of kundalini.
Legend has it that Muhammad’s father, Abdulah, had a dream about his then unborn son. He saw how a tree grew out of the child’s back toward the sky. This tree spread a light all over the world. Most Muslims interpret this tree as Islam, the religion founded by the Prophet Mohammed. The light is his teaching and his wisdom that have spread all over the world.
However, the argument for interpreting the tree as kundalini symbolism is reinforced by the description of the heavenly journey (Isra and Meraj) that Mohammed made in adulthood. Several stories of this famous ascension can be found in the Hadith and Sirah (biographies of the prophet Mohammed), the details of which may differ. The main points boil down to this:
In a vision, while he is sleeping, Mohammed is taken by the archangel Gabriel. Seated on Buraq, a white horse-like creature with wings, Muhammad flies through the seven heavens into paradise where he comes face to face with Allah Most High. He gets his revelations and here also sees the beautiful sidratil-muntaha: the lotus tree of the final destination.
The winged white horse on which Mohammed makes his heavenly journey is more often repeated in myths as mounts of gods and prophets. The underlying symbolism is that the rider has purified (white) and sublimated (the wings) his animal powers (the horse). These forces are now at his service and enable him to realize the divine (in himself).
If God wants to communicate with Mohammed, He does not require such a long-winded vision. These images also have to make something clear to us. They contain a message for the serious spiritual seeker, who is able to understand the symbolism.
Translated to Eastern terminology, the story tells us that with the help of the awakened kundalini energy Mohammed travels through the seven chakras (the seven heavens) to the crown chakra (paradise). The completed kundalini process (the lotus tree) allows him to communicate with God.
Islam forbids depicting the prophet. In the sparse paintings that exist, he is often depicted with fire flames around his head or body.
The New Testament contains numerous veiled references to aspects of the kundalini process. You could even say that almost all the stories in the Gospels are related to it, sideways or directly. The central message of Jesus of Nazareth was how we can realize the Kingdom of God. According to him, it is not outside us (‘here or there’, Luke 17: 20,21) but in us.
In one of his more famous statements, he compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed that becomes a tree:
He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”
The alchemists knew that Jesus had gone through a process of kundalini awakening. They translated this into alchemical metaphors. (Ars Magna lucis et umbrae, Athanasius Kircher, 1646)
A mustard seed grows into a plant, not a tree. It is a large plant, but certainly not with branches in which birds can make nests. However, Jesus is not mistaken here, he uses the word tree on purpose. The hidden symbolism is that of a little divine seed (the dormant kundalini energy) that contains a tremendous vital force; it can become the Tree of Life (symbol of a completed kundalini process) if it is sown in the field (in man).
In this context, the birds symbolize our thoughts. Birds that nest, calm down. Jesus thus creates an image of the inner silence and peace that man experiences after a kundalini awakening.
The parable of the sourdough, that follows immediately afterwards, also refers to the activity of the kundalini. In order to enter the Kingdom of God, the whole person must be purified. The sourdough is the kundalini. The three measures of flour represent the body, the heart (emotions) and the head (thoughts), which are completely imbued with the divine powers. This initiates a transformation process from dough to bread; a rebirth of man in God.
The sacred fire of the kundalini burned in Jesus in its full intensity and he had the mastery to initiate others in it. John the Baptist says of him:
“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. “His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
In the Gospel of John, the following statement is found of Jesus:
Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)
A promise that has been interpreted in many ways by exegetes. Where we usually have to take statements of Jesus figuratively, we may now take it literally, if we replace living water with kundalini energy. The Greek word koilias, here translated as innermost being, means belly.
The evangelist himself makes a connection with the Holy Spirit. Although the Holy Spirit is invariably described in the Bible as the divine descending upon man, there are many arguments for interpreting it as the ascending kundalini.
There are many more references in the Gospels to the divine in us, “for those who have ears and want to hear.” One last beautiful and telling quote from the Gospel of John in which Jesus says to a Samaritan woman sitting by a well:
“Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
An alchemical illustration with Mary as Sophia (personification of the divine kundalini energy), under the cross of her son. A reference to the kundalini process of Jesus. (Buch der saints Dreifaltigkeit, 15th century)
We all have the potential to realise the divine, with the help of a very powerful energy source in our pelvis. The Buddha, Moses, Mohammed and Jesus of Nazareth experienced a kundalini awakening, but have chosen not to speak directly about it. Their doctrine of purity, love and mercy does lay the foundation to awaken the holy serpent.
This article was published in Mantra magazine (March ’15)
Copyright Anne-Marie Wegh 2015