Yogis and Siddhas who are not disturbed in their practice of yoga by hunger or thirst have recourse to a peculiar method for the secretion of a nectar from the cerebral region through the opening behind the uvula. This is called Amuridharanai in Tamil. Several stanzas in Thirum
|Kriya and Kundalini Yoga|
controlled consciously by the mind or it can be allowed to function automatically like other physiological processes, such as digestion, under the control of the body. Breathing is thus an important bridge between the mind and the body and can influence them both.
Our breathing patterns reflect our emotional and mental states. The breath is jerky during anger, momentarily ceases during periods of fear, gasps during amazement, chokes during sadness, sighs in relief, is slow and steady during periods of concentration, and changes during periods in which the mind is subject to passing thoughts and emotions of a random nature. While it is difficult to control the mind and emotions directly, they can be mastered indirectly by using the breath. Various meditation traditions have long taught their students to concentrate on breathing smoothly in order to eliminate distracting thoughts. In modern times, many scientific studies have confirmed the effect of breathing exercises in the treatment of hypertension and anxiety disorders.
The process of respiration in which oxygen is inhaled into the living cells and carbon-dioxide is exhaled from them is a fundamental phenomenon of life which is universally present in every type of living organism. The respiratory center that regulates rhythmic muscular contractions involved with breathing is known as the "medulla oblongata". Respiration is a continuous requirement for obtaining an adequate supply of oxygen, and life is not possible without a sufficient quantity of oxygen. By deep breathing, we draw energy from the universal reservoir of life. Accordingly, each individual cell maintains its repiratory rate for its individual needs. Finally all the living cells depend upon the satisfactory working of the respiratory system for their entire needs of energy. The Siddhas referred to the basic energy underlying all activities, both physical and mental, as prana, or subtle life force. Prana is found in the air that we breathe, in the Earth we live on, in the water we drink and in sunlight.
Some of the channels through which the more physical pranas flow have been mapped out by both the Siddhas of India and China. The more physical channels have been identified as meridians in acupuncture, originally developed in India, and known as Varma in the Siddha system of medicine. It is practiced by Siddha Vaidya physicians to this day, particularly in the Nagercoil area of Tamil Nadu. It is also used even to this day by the elephant trainers in India and in Sri Lanka. Being of a grosser level, such channels are subject to physical manipulation, as with needles and finger pressure. They are a small subset of a much wider spectrum of pranic energy channels, or nadis of yoga, as described below.
Modern scientific study confirms the teachings of the Siddhas with respect to the loss of energy in breathing. Modern science has found that a man breathes in and out 12,000 liters of air per day. This is according to the respiratory rate of 18 per minute and respiratory depth at 500 cc. As the inspired air contains only 20 percent oxygen, the expired air contains only about 16 percent oxygen. It indicates that the oxygen retained by the body is only 4% (480 liters per day). Similarly, the blood does not distribute more than 20 % of its oxygen to the tissues. (Volan, 1963, p. 65)
Here it refers to prana or life energy. Roma Rishi is saying in this verse that the span of life will be reduced if one loses ones pranic energy or life force, but that if it does not go, one's life will continue indefinitely. He states that one need not die if the pranic life force is not lost but increased, and drawn from the Cosmic source, conquering death and fate. This has been referred to as the Law of Inverse Proportions by Yogi S.A. A. Ramaiah, who noted that the span of life is inversely related to the rate of breathing. During Roma Rishi's time the normal span of life was 120 years and the normal person breathed 21,600 times per day, that is 15 respirations per minute. If the rate of breathing is however 18 per minute the span of life will be about 96 years. If because of poor living habits and needless expenditure of energy the average rate of breathing is 30 per minute, the life span will be only 60 years. However, if the rate is slowed through yogic practices and self control to an average of only 5 respirations per minute the life span will be 360 years. If it is one per minute, the life span will increase to 1,800 years. And if the rate of breathing is reduced to zero, the life span becomes infinity. Yogi Ramaiah has pointed to examples from the study of modern zoology which confirm the "law of inverse proportions": the sea turtle lives to an age of more than 300 years and breathes at a rate of four to five respirations per minute. Other animals such as frogs, mice, bears, go into hibernation during the winter and their breathing is drastically reduced during that time. (Ramaiah, 1968, pg. 12-14)
Supplying oxygen to the cells of the body and ridding them of the excess carbon-dioxide resulting from oxidation are the main purposes of respiration. It also aids in the neutralization of the temperature of the body and the elimination of excess water. Respiration occurs internally and externally. Respiration that takes place in the lungs, with the passage of oxygen from the alveoli to the blood, is known as external respiration and the respiration that takes place in the cells of the body's tissues is known as internal respiration. The Siddha's science of longevity is mainly concerned with internal respiration. The secret of longevity lies in the technique of diverting the breathing to the subtle channels and centers.
Yogis and Siddhas who are not disturbed in their practice of yoga by hunger or thirst have recourse to a peculiar method for the secretion of a nectar from the cerebral region through the opening behind the uvula. This is called Amuridharanai in Tamil. Several stanzas in Thirumandiram refer to this. The adept concentrates on the psychic centers and the mystic gland in the hypothalamus regions for obtaining the amirdha (ambrosial fluid). This Elixir of life will strengthen the human system and make it invulnerable to decay, degeneration, diseases, and death. Thirumoolar says that it is a futile effort to go in search of sacred bathing places when there are several such centers within our own human system.
The Siddhas have referred to the center of the eyebrows in their works in different symbolical names in Tamil such as the place of cosmic dance (Chitsabhai), Supreme seed (Laladam Vindu), Wisdom (Arivu), Bridge (Palam), Tri-light(Muchudar), State of void (Muppazh), Third eye (Nettrikan), Mount Meru, Primaeval cause (Mulam), River of fire (Nerupparu), etc.
There are three more names which are considered important in relation to the immortality of man. The attributes of immortality are Saka-kal, Vekathalai, and Poka punal, which means the undying air (Vayu), the unburnable Ether (Akasa) and fire (Agni), each operating in the cervical, hypothalamus and cardiac plexuses respectively. Out of the five elements of nature, the function of the fire in the heart, air in the respiratory system and ether in the cerebrum goes on unceasingly until such time that the normal functions of these are interrupted due to malnutrition, undesirable activities against natural laws, and accumulation of waste in the body. (Velan, 1963, p. 69-71)
Kriya Yoga offers a safe method of gradually developing awareness and awakening the dormant faculties.
the body. It also refers to a corresponding psychic attitude. A bandha is a psycho-muscular energy lock which redirects the flow of pranic energy in the human body and to awaken the chakras. The asana kriyas, mudras and bandhas were developed by the Siddhas and practiced to strengthen the psycho-physical centers and channels (nadis), to eliminate energy blockages, to permit the transmission of gradually increasing amounts of pranic energy, as well as to keep the body free from impurities, functional disorders and diseases. They also help to secure mental concentration and to integrate the two major aspects of our personality, the assertive, rational, masculine aspect, and the receptive, intuitive, feminine aspect. Thirumoolar lists 108 different postures, of which eight are more important. Thirumandiram, verses 558 to 563, gives these: Padmasanam, Svastikasanam, Bhadrasanam, Simhasanam, Gomukasanam, Sothirasanam, Veerasanam and Sukhasanam.
Hatha is derived from two root words, ha meaning "sun", and tha, meaning "moon". Hatha yoga today is mostly associated with physical postures or asanas. In the traditional teachings of the Siddhas, it was taught as an adjunct to breathing exercises. A lack of flexibility on one side of the body or the other, is often noted by the beginning student of yoga. By practicing the hatha yoga postures, this imbalance is eliminated. The lack of flexibility is associated with energy blockages in the nadis. After some practice, the student of yogic breathing can actually feel the flow of energy throughout the network of nadis during each breath.
The practice of Kriya Kundalini Pranayama has a direct effect upon the physiological processes of the body which are responsible for our mental states. The mind during meditation is often subject to distractions such as physical disturbances of the body, mental restlessness, and boredom. These are often not due to problems with the mind itself, but are a consequence of physiological factors, such as indigestion, poor circulation, muscular cramps, lack of energy, and disequilibrium in hormonal secretions. Unlike other traditions which seek to control the mind's reactions to such distractions directly, pitting one's will power against them, with the risk of creating an explosion of frustration, guilt and mental divisiveness, Kriya Kundalini Pranayama acts upon the physiological processes themselves. If physically uncomfortable, one can shift position; if the mind wanders, one just continues with the practice. Through its practice one gradually harnesses the energies of the mind. Mind is energy, and the various passions and distractions create waves in that energy. By practicing this technique in a relaxed state one affects the physiological processes which are responsible for the state of the mind. Gradually, an inner awareness and concentration will develop naturally, without struggle. It is most appropriate for those persons whose minds are primarily tamasic, that is, subject to inertia and inactivity, or rajasic, highly active and dispersed, or fluctuating between these two states. Once it becomes primarily sattwic, that is, generally calm and equal, one can easily practice techniques involving concentration and meditation.
One of the most fundamental physiological processes found in the human being is the alternation in the flow of breath between the two nostrils. We breathe predominantly through either one nostril or the other, and about every three hours this trend changes sides. In so doing, the body is able to maintain its normal body temperature at about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Medical scientists in this century have discovered that the left hemisphere of the brain controls the right side of the body. It is involved mostly with rational thinking, analysis and verbal communication. It Processes information in a linear, sequential manner, looking at cause and effect. The right hemisphere controls the left side of the body and is involved in intuitive processes, space orientation, recognition of things, creation and processes which involve integrating many pieces of data simultaneously. When the right nostril is clear and the breathing is done through that side predominantly, the left hemisphere of the brain, to which the right side of the body is connected, is the most active. When this occurs, one feels like doing more rational, assertive, aggressive activities. When the left nostril is clear, and the right hemisphere of the brain is more active, one is inclined towards more passive, receptive, intuitive activities. One can change the trend in breathing from one nostril to the other by practicing various techniques, such as lying on the right side for several minutes to open the left nostril, and eventually by mental concentration alone. This may be done to regulate the trend through the side which is most appropriate for the activity at hand.
One may also learn to breathe through both nostrils equally, bringing about an integration and synthesis of the two major aspects of our personality. When this is done, it said that the energy of the breath flows through the central shushumna nadi, producing a feeling of well being, serenity and profound understanding. This is an ideal state for the practice of meditation. The equilibrium produced in the breathing between the right side and the left side, as well as between the inner and the outer air pressure leads to the breathless state of communion with God, known as samadhi in yoga, in which mental activity subsides to stillness, and the individual's consciousness expands and dissolves into a Universal Consciousness. These states have been referred to in the Psalms of David: "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalms 46, 11), and by St. Paid: "I protest in rejoicing in Christ (Consciousness), I die daily." (I Corinthians 15, 31)
The potential of Pranayama does not end with such states of samadhi. Its effect on our physiology is profound, as modern science is beginning to discover. Breathing is the first physical act of all human beings born in this world - and the last. But the 18 Siddhas have found that mankind need not die. They found that one can attain perfection in life (Kaya Siddhi) and by attaining an intelligent control over the breathing will prolong life by increasing one's stamina, and surcharging and transforming one's very cells. The correct practice of breathing is known in the 18 Siddhas' science of longevity as Vashi yoga. In Tamil, vashi means breathing. If one repeats the word vashi several times, it will resound as "Shiva Shiva" the great mantra and name of God. If its correct repetition can be realized and acquired during breathing, one will soon find new health, energy and consciousness.
The chakras correspond to the points of junction of certain masses of nerve ganglia on the interior walls of the spinal column. While not physical, they are detectable with sensitive electronic sensory equipment, and by those persons with well developed extrasensory perception who can sense the vibrations with their hands or subtle vision.
There are seven principal chakras according to the Yoga Siddhas. The fifty letters of the alphabet in the Tamil language are distributed amongst these seven centers, and correspond to the sound vibrations associated with these chakras. The fifty first is that of the primal sound Om, the Pranava Mantra. These plexuses are the centers of life-energy, or prana, and are charged and awakened by yogic practices involving mantras, breathing, asanas (postures), and meditation. When stimulated, they generate latent forces which awaken the power to conquer disease, decay, and ultimately death itself.
2. Swadhistanam is the next higher center, very near to the muladhara. It is located at the coccyx or tailbone. This point can be felt as a round protrusion just above the anus. It is connected physiologically to the nerve plexus associated with the prostate gland in men and the uterus and vagina in females. On the anterior side of the body, it is at the level of the pubic bone. The word swa means "ones own", and the word adhistana means "home" in Sanskrit. It is depicted as an orange lotus with six petals, and the letter va is associated with it. It is the seat of the subconscious, the storehouse of all experiences and tendencies. All experiences are recorded here. The subconscious forces to which one is subjected have their root hero. Its awakening will be associated with the activation of much long forgotten and suppressed material. According to the Siddhas a profound detachment and sincere aspiration to go beyond these disturbances are needed.
3. Manipuragam is made up of two words: mani, meaning "jewel", and puragam meaning "city". This "city of jewels" is situated directly opposite the navel inside the spinal column. It is connected with the solar nerve plexus which controls the functions of digestion and temperature regulation. It represents dynamic will, energy and action. It is depicted as a ten petalled yellow lotus, with a downward pointing triangle. The letter ra is associated with it. Its awakening creates a now permanent basis for kundalini, and conveys a spiritual perspective and a now orientation, untroubled by the disturbances associated with the lower chakras.
4. Anahatam means literally "unstruck or unbeaten" like the transcendental sound which is constant, just as the heart beats constantly. It is located in the spinal column, directly behind the center of the chest, at the heart level. It is connected physiologically with the heart plexus of nerves. It is depicted as a twelve petalled lotus, green in color with a six pointed star and inscribed with the letter ya. It is associated with creative power, unconditional love and compassion, and the ability to overcome fate. In the writings of the Siddhas, anahata is said to be where one's thoughts and desires are fulfilled. With its awakening, one becomes a master over the situations in life. One no longer depends upon fate to determine one's life; rather, desires are realized through the exercise of one's conscious will.
5. Vishuddi means "center of purification". It is located in the region of the throat (cervical plexus) and it is connected physiologically with the pharyngeal and laryngeal nerve plexus. It is depicted as a sixteen petalled lotus, blue in color, containing a downward pointing triangle and inscribed with the letter ahm. It is the center of discrimination and acceptance of the dualities of life. When it is awakened and the ambrosial secretion from the higher bindu chakra at the upper- back of the head is stimulated by kechari mudra with the tongue, its retention at this chakra causes a regeneration of the body. Many spiritual traditions refer to the immortalizing effects of this secretion. It is also the center of visualization and of receiving thought vibrations from the minds of others.
6. Ajna comes from Sanskrit root word meaning "to know, obey or command". It is located in the brain directly behind the eyebrow center and corresponds to the pineal gland. It is depicted as a two petalled lotus, indigo in color, inscribed with the letter Om or Maa. It is involved in all activities involving mental awareness. When it is developed one can sense things without the use of the physical senses. A higher intuitive perception and intelligence, known as buddhi manifests itself and one's willpower becomes powerful. It is the center of extrasensory perception. Attachment to these must be overcome if one is to awaken the highest chakra, the sahasrara.
7. Sahasrara means literally "one thousand", and figuratively, unlimited". It is traditionally referred to as being located just above the top of the head, and is depicted as a "thousand petalled lotus", light violet in color, with forty-three downward pointing and upward pointing intersecting triangles. It is everything and nothing, beyond the beyond. It is the crown of ascending consciousness, beyond definition.
The word kundalini Sanskrit means "coil", and so kundalini has been referred to as that which is coiled. However, the word kunda also refers to a cavity or pit. In this sense, kunda refers to the skull cavity in which the brain ties. The dissection of the human brain reveals that it resembles a snake coiled upon itself.
The purpose of Kriya Kundalini Yoga, is to awaken this kundalini energy which requires much preparation and exercises, involving postures, mudras (psycho-physical gestures), bandhas (muscular locks), pranayama (breathing), meditation and mantras. When the aspirant is able to purify and balance certain subtle channels of energy, known as the idakalai and pingala nadis, in the spinal column, and gradually ignite this kundalini energy at the base of the spine, it begins to rise up through a central channeling the spinal cord, known as the sushumna nadi. As it rises, it passes through various psycho-energetic centers known as chakras. Those chakras are inter-connected with different dormant areas of the brain. As the kundalini passes through the chakras these dormant areas and all of our latent faculties and divine potentialities are awakened.
The 18 Siddhas have referred to kundalini, just awakened and difficult to control, as the goddess "Kali Devi". In modern psychological terms this primal energy manifests at the level of the human subconscious. When this kundalini power can be controlled and when it brings peace and beatitude this has been referred to by the Siddhas as Durga, the beautiful goddess riding on a tiger. Kundalini when awakened, manifests itself as creative energy, at different levels of refinement. She is then worshipped in various forms of goddesses: Lakshmi, Parvati, Saraswati and other forms of the Divine Mother. Leaders with great personal magnetism, geniuses and those with great creative ability are the ones in whom kundalini has awakened particular dormant areas of the brain. It has manifested itself through them at varying levels of refinement depending upon their psychic inclinations and tendencies. When kundalini is fully awakened, all dormant areas of the brain are awakened and Divinity is manifested through the individual. When kundalini awakens and reaches the sahasrara chakra, nirvikalpa (unfluctuating) samadhi, the highest level of consciousness, unfolds. The Siddhas referred to this as the union of Shiva and Parvati Shakti, in which the seer, the seeing and the seen merge as one.
When the kundalini awakens, the physical body begins to undergo changes as well. Its cells become charged and rejuvenated with a high voltage energy. Hormonal secretions may also change. A process of complete transformation is set in motion.
According to the 18 Siddhas' science, the Kundalini Shakti is raised by the aspirant from the muladhara by means of various yogic practices to the sahasrara where it unites with Shiva, the supreme static consciousness. The body's two poles are united and cosmic consciousness emerges. The aspirant enjoys heavenly bliss and an ambrosial nectar begins to secrete into the blood stream, rejuvenating cells and prolonging life.
The Siddhas worshipped this Kundalini Shakti as the Universal Mother and in the form of a triangle. This has been further multiplied into Forty Three Triangles, Sri Chakra. By immense devotion to the Supreme Mother and meditation on the sacred mantras and hymns relating to the Forty three Triangles, the Siddhas gained mastery over the elements.
The first stage of the practice of kundalini yoga therefore is the purification of the nadis by practicing asanas, bandhas, mudras and later pranayama. The student should also adopt a vegetarian diet, avoid stimulants of all kinds, as well as over consumption, irregular eating and negative behavior which cause disequilibrium in the alternate flow of prana through idakalai and pingalai nadis.
The practice of meditation will assist the student during this stage to eliminate negative behavior tendencies and to develop calm awareness. Babaji's first Dhyana Kriya, or meditation technique, in particular purifies the chittam, or subconscious mind, which is the source of habitual tendencies and negative behavior. Involvement in activities which include selfless service to others, study of the lives of saints and spiritual and metaphysical books, and devotional activities should also be done to sublimate the flow of pranic energy to the higher chakras. Most students are prone to inertia or dispersion of their energies. A calm equilibrium must be developed and maintained in all events, so that when kundalini does awaken, it may be controlled without disturbing effects. The practice of pranayama should also be limited in the beginning, otherwise it will food negative tendencies, like anger, greed and lust. Under the guidance of an experienced teacher, the amount of practice can gradually be increased, as one's capacity and purification progresses. Individuals will vary in their degree of preparedness, depending upon the kinds of lives they have lived before and their actual mental, emotional and physical habits. A competent teacher will be able to prescribe various kriyas and activities during this preparatory stage.
The second preparatory stage involves the awakening of the chakras. Depending upon the individual, some of the chakras may already be awakened, particularly if during a previous life one has practiced yoga or similar disciplines. In most individuals the muladhara chakra is already active. This is why sexual awareness is one of the dominant features in the lives of most persons. It is important, however, not to allow one's energies to become stuck in one of the lower chakras. There are numerous ways of awakening the chakras. The best methods are those which bring about a gradual awakening. These include the asanas, mudras and bandhas, and especially the bija (seed) mantras. Certain meditation dhyana kriyas focusing on the chakras are also very effective. The importance of bija mantras and how they should be learned is discussed in a subsequent chapter.
The third preparatory stage is the awakening of the shushumna nadi. Once the energies in the idakalai and pingalai nadis have been balanced, an awakening of the third nadi, the shushumna, occurs spontaneously. It is usually very volatile and sporadic, however, and so, to stabilize this awakening, certain practices involving pranayama and meditation to keep these two energies in balance are important. While the awakenings unstable, the kundalini may rise briefly to the swadhistanam or manipura chakras, but will then return to the muladhara. Only when the balance between idakalai and pingalai is continuous will the kundalini awaken in an explosive manner going all the way up through the sushumna to the sahasrara chakra.
With the awakening of the chakras come many pleasant and sometimes fantastic experiences. They are usually very beautiful and blissful. They may occur at any time. Feelings of heat and cold may then also be noted in their physical counterparts: the genitals, anus, navel, heart, and forehead.
This signals the need for a prolonged, concentrated effort, involving tapas, or intensive, single minded yogic practice. The place chosen for this should be one that has been purified by the yogic practice of yogis, saints, sages and siddhas. The support of dedicated friends and provision for one's material needs will be necessary during this period, which may last many months, so that the practice can go on without a break. The guidance of an expert teacher or guru will also be useful. Many different yogic kriyas, or techniques will have to be used systematically.
With the awakening of the shushumna one may see a great light within, or fool that the spinal cord is full of light. Some unpleasant experiences such as heat along the spinal cord, fever, various odors,