From The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi
Edited by David Godman
Edited by David Godman
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Fixing their minds on psychic centres such as the Sahasrara (the thousand petalled lotus Chakra), yogis remain any lengths of time without awareness of their bodies. As long as this state continues, they appear to be immersed in some kind of joy. But when the mind, which has become tranquil emerges and becomes active again it resumes its worldly thoughts. It is therefore necessary to train it with the help of practices like Dhyana (meditation) whenever it becomes externalised. It will then attain a state in which there is neither subsistence nor emergence.
Question: It is said that the Sakti manifests itself in five phases, ten phases, a hundred phases and a thousand phases. Which is true?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Sakti has only one phase. If it is said to manifest itself in several phases, it is only a way of speaking. The Sakti is only one.
Question: How to churn up the Nadis (psychic nerves) so that the Kundalini may go up the Sushumna?
Sri Ramana Maharshi: Though the Yogi may have his methods of breath control for his object, the Jnani’s method is only that of enquiry. When by this method the mind is merged in the Self, the Sakti or Kundalini, which is not apart from the Self, rises automatically.
The Yogis attach the highest importance to sending the Kundalini up to the Sahasrara, the brain centre or the thousand petalled lotus. They point out the scriptural statement that the life current enters the body through the fontanelle and argue that, Viyoga (separation) having come about that way, yoga (union) must also be effected in the reverse way. Therefore, they say, we must, by yoga practice, gather up the Pranas (vital force) and enter the fontanelle for the consummation of yoga. The Jnanis on the other hand point out that the yogi assumes the existence of the body and its separateness from the Self. Only if this standpoint of separateness is adopted can the yogi advise effort for reunion by the practice of yoga.
In fact the body is in the mind which has the brain for its seat. That the brain functions by light borrowed from another source is admitted by the yogis themselves in their fontanelle theory. The Jnani further argues: if the light is borrowed it must come from its native source. Go to the source direct and do not depend on borrowed sources. That source is the Heart, the Self.
The Self does not come from anywhere else and enter the body through the crown of the head. It is as it is, ever sparkling, ever steady, unmoving and unchanging. The individual confines himself to the limits of the changeful body or of the mind which derives its existence from the unchanging Self. All that is necessary is to give up this mistaken identity, and that done, the ever shining Self will be seen to be the single non-dual reality.
If one concentrates on the Sahasrara there is no doubt that the ecstasy of Samadhi ensues. The Vasanas, that is the latent mental tendencies, are not however destroyed. The yogi is therefore bound to wake up from the Samadhi because release from bondage has not yet been accomplished. He must still try to eradicate the Vasanas inherent in him so that they cease to disturb the peace of his Samadhi. So he passes down from the Sahasrara to the Heart through what is called the Jivanadi, which is only a continuation of the Sushumna. The Sushumna is thus a curve. It starts from the lowest Chakra, rises through the spinal cord to the brain and from there bends down and ends in the Heart. When the yogi has reached the Heart, the Samadhi becomes permanent. Thus we see that the Heart is the final centre.
[Note: Commentary by David Godman: Sri Ramana Maharshi never advised his devotees to parctise Kundalini Yoga since he regarded it as being both potentially dangerous and unnecessary. He accepted the existence of the Kundalini power and the Chakras but he said that even if the Kundalini reached the Sahsrara it would not result in realisation. For final realisation, he said, the Kundalini must go beyond the Sahasrara, down another Nadi (psychic nerve) he called Amritanadi (also called the Paranadi or Jivanadi) and into the Heart-centre on the right hand side of the chest. Since he maintained that self-enquiry would automatically send the Kundalini to the Heart-centre, he taught that separate yoga exercises were unnecessary.
The practitioners of Kundalini Yoga concentrate on psychic centres (Chakras) in the body in order to generate a spiritual power they call Kundalini. The aim of this practice is to force the Kundalini up the psychic channel (the Sushumna) which runs from the base of the spine to the brain. The Kundalini Yogi believes that when this power reaches the Sahasrara (the highest Chakra located in the brain), Self-realisation will result.
Sri Ramana Maharshi taught that the Self is reached by the search for the origin of the ego and by diving into the Heart. This is the direct method of Self-realisation. One who adopts it need not worry about Nadis, the brain centre (Sahasrara), the Sushumna, the Paranadi, the Kundalini, Pranayama or the six centres (Chakras).
Explanations drawn from the writings of
Sri Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, New York
Let us try to understand the Kundalini with the help of an illustration from classical physics. There are two kinds of energy associated with a piece of matter; potential and kinetic, the sum total of which is a constant. The kinetic energy, which may be only a fraction of the total energy, is involved in the movement or action of a body. According to Tantra, the Kundalini, in the form of cosmic energy, is present in everything, even in a particle of matter. Only a fraction of it, like the kinetic energy, is operative, while an unmeasured residuum is left, like the potential energy, ‘coiled up’ and untapped at the ‘base root’. It is a vast magazine of power, of which the operative energy, like the kinetic energy of the particle, is only a fraction. In the jiva-centre, also, are both this potential energy of the Kundalini, which is the storehouse of the energy of the body (physical, subtle, and causal), and also the active energy of the jiva.
The coiled up Kundalini is the central pivot upon which the whole complex apparatus of the body and mind moves and turns. A specific ratio between the active and total energies of the Kundalini determines the present condition and behaviour of the bodily apparatus. A change in the ratio is necessary to effect a change in its present working efficiency by transforming the grosser bodily elements into finer. A transformation, dynamisation, and sublimation of the physical, mental and vital apparatus is only possible through what is called the rousing of the Kundalini and its reorientation from 'downward facing' ’to 'upward facing'. By the former the physical body has been made a ‘coiled curve’, limited in character, restricted in functions and possibilities. By the force of the latter it breaks its fetters and transcends its limitations. This is the general principle.
But there are various forms of spiritual discipline by which this magazine of latent power can be acted upon. Faith and love act as a most powerful lever to raise the coiled up Kundalini; also the disciplines of Raja-yoga and jnana-yoga (yoga of knowledge). The repetition of the Lord’s name or a holy mantra, and even music, help in this process. Tantra recognises all this. The student of Tantra should bear in mind the psychological aspect of the process of the ascent of the Kundalini, which is more of an unfoldment, expansion, and elevation of consciousness than a mechanical accession to an increased and higher power. The aim of waking the Kundalini is not the acquisition of greater power for the purpose of performing miraculous feats or the enjoyment of material pleasures; it is the realisation of Satchidananda (existence-knowledge-bliss absolute).
Modern research demonstrates the close affinity of the Tantra system of religious philosophy to the Vedas; Tantra itself speaks of its Vedic origin…… The Tantric method of sublimation consists of three steps: purification, elevation, and reaffirmation of identity on the plane of pure consciousness. First the aspirant must rid himself of the dross of grossness by reversing the outgoing current into the return current. (Outgoing current operates as a bond for the embodied soul and the return current as ‘releaser’ or ‘liberator’).
According to Tantra, in the process of evolution, the pure cosmic principles at a certain stage cross the line and pass into impure principles, the latter constituting the realm of nature, which is like a ‘coiled’ curve, in which the jiva (embodied soul) is held a prisoner and where it wanders caught in a net of natural determinism from which there is no escape unless the coiled curve can be made to uncoil itself and open a channel for its release and ascent into the realm of the pure cosmic principles. Until this is done the jiva (embodied soul) remains afloat on the outgoing current, moves with it, and cherishes desires which are gross or carnal. Whether yielding pleasure or pain, these desires fasten the chain upon the jiva with additional links. Its hope lies in uncoiling the coil of nature that has closed upon it. This is called in the technical language of Tantra the ‘awakening’ of the Kundalini, or coiled-up serpent power, by which one moves from the plane of impure principles to that of pure principles.
The head of this coiled serpent is turned downward; it must be turned upward. This change of the direction of the serpent power, which after evolving the jiva remains involved in it, is called purification. The next step is called elevation; the order in which the cosmic principles move along the outgoing current must be reversed with the starting of the return current. Ascent is to be made in the reverse order to that in which the descent was made. The aspirant must raise himself from the grosser and more limited elements to the subtler and more general ones until he attains to the realisation of Siva-Shakti (Spirit-Matter). The last step is the reaffirmation in consciousness of his identity with Siva-Shakti
The passage of the awakened Kundalini lies through the Sushumna, which is described as the central nerve in the nervous system. A kind of hollow canal, the Sushumna passes through the spinal column connecting the base centre (chakra) at the bottom of the spine with the centre at the cerebrum. Tantra speaks of six centres through which Sushumna passes; these centres are so many spheres or planes, described in Tantra as different-coloured lotuses with varying numbers of petals. In the ordinary worldly person these centres are closed, and the lotuses droop down like buds.
As the Kundalini rises through the Sushumna canal and touches the centres, these buds turn upwards as fully opened flowers and the aspirant obtains spiritual experiences. The goal in spiritual practice is to make the Kundalini ascend from the centres which are lower and more veiled to those which are higher and more conscious. During this upward journey of the Kundalini, the jiva is not quite released from the relative state till it reaches the sixth centre or plane, which is the ‘opening’ for pure and perfect experience. At the sixth centre (the two-petalled white lotus located at the junction of the eyebrows) the jiva sheds its ego and burns the seed of duality, and its higher self rises from the ashes of its lower self. It now dies physically as it were, in order to be able to live in pure consciousness.
The sixth centre is the key by which the power in the thousand-petalled lotus in the cerebrum, which is like the limitless ocean, is switched on to the little reservoir which is the individual self, filling the latter and making it overflow and cease to be the little reservoir. Finally the Kundalini rises to the lotus at the cerebrum and becomes united with Siva, or the Absolute, and the aspirant realises, in a transcendental experience, his union with Siva-Shakti. The opening of the petals of the thousand-petalled lotus, which endows the illumined person with omniscience, is equivalent to the functioning of all the brain cells of a yogi in samadhi (deep meditation).
Om Tat Sat