The practices of kundalini yoga are intended to create the awareness, not necessarily to awaken kundalini. First of all we have to decide whether kundalini is already awakened. It may already be on the way and you are opening the garage and there is no car because it is already on the highway.
When you go to satsang, do some kirtan or lead a yogic lifestyle, you begin to have experiences and you realize something is happening to you. Then, when you discuss kundalini and the chakras with a guru you start to understand. The practices that you do develop your awareness and help you to remember your connection with your past evolution. They remove the veil which separates this current incarnation from the previous one. I'll give you a very gross example.
There was a boy who was the only son of a very rich man. The boy went crazy and was sent to a mental hospital. He ran away and used to go from house to house begging for food. He did not know that his parents had died and he had inherited a large estate, cars and shops and a lot of money in fixed deposits. One day his uncle found him and had him treated properly. The boy recovered from his mental illness and remembered everything about his heritage. Similarly, there is a process of remembering, and when it takes place, you know exactly where you stand.
So, practices are necessary to remove the veil in front of the consciousness which separates the two lives. Once you know that your kundalini is already in the process of transition, then practices are of no real use. If you are practising, it is because you are forced to, and if you are not practising, it is because you are forced not to. During the period of transition of kundalini the practices are not useless, but your efforts to practise them are of no use. However, if there is no awakening, if kundalini is in mooladhara or swadhisthana or in between the two, then that's the time for the practices which are enjoined in the books.
It is very important that you awaken sushumna before kundalini. This essential point has not been stressed clearly in any books, but Swami Sivananda hinted at it in his writings. If sushumna is not opened, where will the shakti go ? It will pass through either ida or pingala and complications will arise.You must also undergo purification of the tattwas or elements and purification of the chakras and nadis. Otherwise, when kundalini awakens there will be a traffic jam. Asanas, pranayama and the hatha yoga shatkarmas provide the best means of purification. Surya namaskara and surya bheda pranayama purify pindala nadi and the shatkarmas and pranayama will purify and awaken sushumna. There are specific asanas that are very important for purifying the nadis and inducing a mild awakening in the chakras. So, start with purification of the tattwas by the hatha yoga cleansing techniques. Take up asanas next and then pranayama. Later you can practice mudras and bandhas and then begin kriya yoga.
Awakening before preparation
If experience commence before you are properly prepared, you should immediately start to prepare yourself. The first thing to do is start fasting or switch to a light diet. You should also live quietly and avoid social interactions, reading books and magazines. Of course, during this period you must not take any drugs or medicines and you must guard against introducing any chemicals into the body. If you minimize your interactions with the world outside, the experiences will subside after five or six days and you can resume your normal life. You should then start searching for someone who can give you further guidance. Proceed to an ashram When you know that kundalini is arousing, as soon as you can, you should retire to a congenial place. As far as I know, the only congenial place is an ashram, where you can be with a guru and like-minded people. An ashram is a community where the inmates have plenty of work, no attachments, no hatred or prejudices, a simple life, little to eat, no comforts nor luxuries, only the bare essentials. There are no social expectations and pressures in an ashram, there's no fashion, no show and no useless conversations and gossip. People don't interfere with each other.
If you live in an ashram the awakening of kundalini can be streamlined and if a mental crisis occurs, you are free to experience whatever happens. If you don't want to eat, it's o'key; if you can't sleep and you just want to sit, it's alright; if you have emotional problems or no emotions at all, people will understand and leave you alone. If you stay with your family during the crisis period, they may send you off to a mental hospital. If you don't feel like eating they'll say, 'Not eating today?' And when they see you haven't eaten for a few days, they'll say, 'Something is wrong with him', and they'll try to get you to see a doctor. Or of you are married, when your behaviour seems a little strange, your partner might be ready to divorce you. So it is much better to get out of these places. That is why there are so many monasteries and ashrams all over the world.
What to practise in the ashram In the ashram you should practise purification of the physical body through the shatkarmas, to balance the acid, wind and mucus in the body. Physical and mental purification will also take place on account of the pure and simple ashram diet. The physical body must be kept very, very light and made sattvic and entirely free of toxins.
If you are a bhakta by temperament, spend your time in prayer, kirtan or bhajan. If you are an intellectual, then read books, talk minimum, practise hatha yoga and fast from time to time. If you are a very active person, work hard and dedicate yourself to karma yoga. It is also necessary to perfect the sitting posture, as you must be able to sit comfortably in one of the three postures: siddhasana/siddha yoni asana,
padmasana or vajrasana. The best and most powerful of these is siddhasana/siddha yoni asana.
Some people think they should practise a lot of meditation or pranayama when kundalini is ascending so it will go straight to sushumna. However, I don't think meditation is necessary anymore, because when kundalini is in the process of transition, you can do nothing with your mind. If it is quiet, it is quiet,
nothing can disturb it. If your mind is agitated, you can do nothing about it because that is the effect of the awakening of kundalini. It is not the effect of your practice. The movement of consciousness during the transition of kundalini is spontaneous, whether it is depression, a state of trance, an experience or visions a feeling or sensation in the body; you can't alter any of them. They will continue because they are forced on you, they are evolving in you because you are passing through that stage. But if you live in the non-agitating ashram environment and partake of ashram food and share in the karma yoga, there will not be disturbances in your experiences.
Regarding pranayama or kriyas, when the experience is moving onwards, pranayama happens by itself, you don't have to think what to do. Sometimes kevala kumbhaka takes place, or you automatically begin to practise bhastrika or ujjayi. Moola bandha or vajroli happen by themselves, or you begin to do asanas spontaneously. So you don't have to worry, just follow the flow of experience and take care of your environment and food, and make sure nobody disturbs you. The role of karma yoga
Karma yoga is a very important part of spiritual life. Even if you practise austerity or mantra, use herbs, practise pranayama, undergo tantric initiation or get shaktipat, or are born with awakened kundalini, if you do not follow the path of karma yoga, your evolution will definitely be retarded at some point.
If you have a good, strong automobile but the road is bumpy and covered in rocks, pebbles and marsh, try to accelerate and see what happens. It is very important that the mind is prepared and the personality is rendered ready. Samskaras, positive and negative, must be exhausted, awareness must be extended to every level, dedication or consecration must be perfected, your attachments, illusions and infatuations must be spotted, scrutinized and analyzed. All that is not possible without doing karma yoga. Karma yoga is not directly responsible for the awakening of kundalini, but without its practice, kundalini cannot budge even one centimeter. Therefore,you can understand how important karma yoga is in the life of a disciple. You must read a lot about karma yoga in the Bhagavad Gita. Perhaps that is the only philosophical and yogic explanation of karma yoga.
The need of discipline
Some people who have awakened kundalini look quite abnormal, and they behave in a peculiar way. They are very disorganized, unsystematic and totally confused, and you can't understand what they are doing. Therefore, in yoga you are advised to discipline yourself right from the beginning, so that when kundalini wakes up you remain disciplined. Otherwise you might go out to the street and just lie down there in a heap.
Sometimes I used to feel like this. When I was living in Rishikesh with my guru, I decided to visit the Ganga each morning and cross it five times, swimming through the icy cold water. One day Swami Sivananda called me and said: "Are you going to continue your swimming or am I going to put you out of this ashram?" This brought me back to my senses. Life has to be disciplined, so that when kundalini awakens you can remain unconfused. You have to go to the office, bank, shops, and drive a car as well. Everybody cannot become a swami or stay in an ashram.
If the awakening of kundalini takes place through birth, pranayama, tantric initiation or shaktipat, you don't have to know anything. In these situations everything is beyond control; whether things go right or wrong; you are helpless. But when awakening takes place through the other methods, there are certain steps to take. Except in tantric initiation, the sexual obligations have to be kept at bay. Food should be minimum, light and pure. One must have a guru and seek his guidance. Isolation from people is also very important.
Often when kundalini awakens in a person, he develops some sort of power. Some aspirants can materialize things, see clairvoyantly, hear clairaudiently Or read the minds of others. And when you are amongst many people, it becomes a great temptation to exercise these powers. This can be dangerous. Whereas some people will not care if you can read their mind, others will feel it is a great impingement on their privacy and they may even want to shoot you. You see, people get scared at the exhibition of siddhis, so if you are facing any psychic manifestations, you will have to control them by force. You know the great Tibeten yogi, Milarepa? He learned certain forms of magic and when he developed powers, he took revenge on his uncle and relatives. He created hailstorms that destroyed crops, huts and even lives, because he was then an ordinary man with love and hatred, friends and enemies. As long as you have likes and dislikes, you must not know what psychic powers you have. Milarepa had to perform penance for his misdeeds and suffer a lot at the hands of his guru. Awakening by mantra and the need for seclusion
When awakening takes place by mantra, you will have to adjust your diet and retire from sexual obligations, not permanently, just for a while. From time to time it is also beneficial if you enter total seclusion. Twice a year is sufficient. In the beginning, start with one complete day. Then increase to three days, and when you are used to it, extend to a maximum period of nine days. It is preferable if you practise seclusion when it is neither too hot nor too cold.
During your first day of seclusion, observe silence and take only very light food and very little. Do not meditate or try to concentrate. From morning until evening, with a few breaks here and there, only practise your mantra on a mala. Don't do it with exertion or strain, and if you become introverted, stop it. Maintain your mental concept with the external experiences; do not aspire for an introverted meditative state. If introversion forces itself, keep your eyes open. Practise this for twelve hours, but not in one stretch. And for the last hour you must sit in meditation. Next time you enter seclusion, go for three to nine days. During this period, devote as much time as possible to the repetition, resolution and reflection of the mantra. On the last day, at the end of the process, sit quietly for one hour of meditation. Seclusion is actually recommended for all who are undergoing awakening of kundalini. At that time it is best to retire from active life and family environments for at least 45 days. Unless you are in semi-seclusion from the world at the time of awakening, as well as having strange experiences and hallucinations, you may have peculiar doubts, fears, anger and strong passions. Sadhus live in seclusion because when there are interactions with people, so many thought currents move in the mind. Mixing with people, talking and gossiping create crosscurrents of love, hatred, infatuation, likes and dislikes, restlessness, worry and anxiety, desires and passions. Therefore, if you are practising a lot of sadhana or you are facing the awakening of kundalini, do not have very much interaction with people. Then you will be spared a lot of mental turmoil.
By: Swami Shankardevananda Saraswati
Posted by : Jaideep Ojha