Kashmir Shaivism

Kundalini and the Energetic Mechanism

One of the important texts of Kashmir Shaivism, the Spanda Karikas, says that space, which is vast and infinite, is not empty at all. Rather, space is filled with vibrancy, with resonance. It is the resonance of space itself that is the foundation of all phenomena. According to the Spanda Karikas, space is aware, and the resonance within space is full of self-awareness.

This resonance interacts with itself, in much the same way the strings of a musical instrument interact with themselves and give rise to a variety of tones in one moment. This resonance, interacting with itself in space, is responsible for all of the diversity of physical and biological life forms, most of which are not accessible to the sensory mechanisms of human beings.

As it interacts with itself, this resonance condenses into curtains of sound. The Spanda Karikas say that we are curtains of sound. Those curtains manifest themselves as an energetic mechanism, which is the term I use to describe them. The energetic mechanism comes together with lines of force, like a magnetic field, that have a very complicated structure made up of lines and their intersections. The lines of force are called nadis or channels. Their intersection points are called chakras. This energetic mechanism of chakras and nadis is the core of all biological life and the core of human beings.

The vibrancy of this mechanism is the life of our life. It sustains our physical body. It manifests our cognitive capacity. It is always and forever, infinite and unbounded, in its basic nature. The universal resonance, as it condenses, interacts with itself to form letters, sounds. The letters that it forms are, in the traditional literature, the 52 sounds of the Sanskrit alphabet. All of those resonances are present within us, which means that universal consciousness and universal capacity are present within us.

The power that has made the whole universe and all of its extraordinary vibrancy and diversity is our own essence. When it becomes the essence of an individual, it is called kundalini. Kundalini is what we are. It is our essence, our cognitive ability, our capacity for thought and speech. It is also our physiology, our physiognomy and the field of our experience.

Our karma, which I think of as the disappointments of our ancestors, their struggles, their tensions, their heartbreaks, their illnesses, is something we bring with us into this life. We carry it, and we re-inherit it and it’s reinforced in our mother’s womb, further nurtured by the relationship between our father and our mother, that vibration. That experience has an impact on the energetic mechanism and its function.

Those inherited tensions suppress different aspects of our energetic mechanism and cause it to become dense. They also make us unique and create our experiential world. Because of these tensions and their suppressive effects on our mechanism, kundalini is said to be asleep within us. Well, that’s not exactly true, because if kundalini were ever asleep, then you would not even exist.

The tantric tradition elaborates a means for achieving the fullness of our own humanity, by becoming aware of the basic fluctuation of kundalini energy moving within us twelve times a minute. We become aware of that basic fluctuation and to begin to direct that breath of life through the chakras and the channels with our attention. With our attention, which is powerful, we dissolve tensions through the circulation of the energy. Releasing tensions, we allow our creative energy to flow.

That circulation of the energy completely transforms us, exposing the basic sweetness and the profound richness that is available to each of us from within ourselves. My teacher, Rudi, used to say that the most amazing thing about human beings is how they manage to sit on top of this astonishing richness and creative capacity and live their whole lives completely unaware of it.

Ultimately, no matter what religious tradition you embrace, all pathways come to this energetic mechanism, the fundamental reality of every human being.

Kundalini, the Breath of Life

Classically, in the scriptures of the Vedas, of Kashmir Shaivism, and of Vajrayana Buddhism, the fundamental issue that each of us faces is to confront our own desires and in that confrontation, to understand the nature of our mind. We then appreciate that our mind is a manifestation of our consciousness, and that, in fact, it is not OUR consciousness at all, but consciousness itself.

A simple way to relate to this is for you just to look around the room you’re in. You may notice objects and have thoughts and maybe even feelings about them. There is, however, one thing that you are seeing that 99.99% of people never notice–your own awareness. Everything that is in that room is manifest on the screen of your awareness.

This awareness is one, and it has the capacity for extension and absorption–it has vibrancy. It takes on a fundamental presence, and within that presence there is all potential: past, present and future. All knowledge, anything imaginable, and even that which is unimaginable is present within that vibrancy. That presence, which is one and self-aware, is sometimes referred to as Shiva. More often, however, that vibrancy is identified with the feminine and is called a goddess.

This goddess is the breath of life. Another classical scriptural name for the breath of life is kundalini. That breath of life is present in each of us equally without ever differentiating itself, in the same way that a symphony is an expression of a huge number of notes that only together make a suggestion of the richness and the abundance that is available within the music itself.

This breath of life, the vibrancy of ultimate consciousness, is the subject of our meditation. When we sit, we’re tuning into the energy that supports our physiology and our physiognomy–our bodies and our minds. In becoming aware of the circulation of energy that sustains our bodies and our minds, we will become aware of a deeper energetic movement happening within this mechanism, which is also kundalini. There is the energy that supports our body, the energy that supports our nervous system, and the energy that is awareness itself–all of which is one and all of which is ever-present within us.

There is no duality, there is no dichotomy, and it is so profoundly simple that there is nothing to be confused about.

Painting Our Own Canvas

One of the core texts of Kashmir Shaivism, the Pratyabhijnahrdayam, describes a sadhana for recognizing the ultimate reality. That sadhana is to absorb all of the objects that we encounter in our life into ourselves. By absorbing all of those objects, those energies, those processes into ourselves, we begin to appreciate that there is nothing outside our own consciousness, which is consciousness itself. By observing that we are connected with all of the objects that present themselves in our lives and having the experience of the feeling of the contact that each object in our life brings up within us, we begin to understand that there is total interconnectedness between objects and their energetic nature and ourselves. Slowly we assimilate all the objects into our own consciousness, and we begin to appreciate that our consciousness is unbounded and infinite, and has no beginning and no end.

Our attitudes, opinions and judgments deny us the opportunity to absorb our experiences and to resolve the residual resonances of those experiences within the circulation of our own creative energy because we are constantly building walls within ourselves. Until all experiences are assimilated and all the residual vibration of all the limited experiences resolves, we still have some karmic experience to pass through. So we should be taking down walls instead of building them.

Rather than spending any time getting engaged with all of your judgments and attitudes, take these kinds of tensions as a reflection of some circumstance within yourself that is appropriate for you to dissolve. Allow the experiences that you pass through in your day to be part of the learning process that we call life, so that you will be nourished and your understanding of the ultimate reality that you are will expand and expand.

This experience of the truth of your own individual consciousness is available to you, and it begins when you start to practice genuine love and respect for everybody in this world. You have to realize that each person is here to, and has the right and responsibility to paint their own canvas. Whether we appreciate their art or not is irrelevant. There is enough work for us in painting our own.