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.