Sunday, November 23, 2014

Is Kundalini a Challenge?

Awakening Kundalini is sometimes linked to the word "initiation." Is this as it should be? Initiation involves a test, facing an ordeal and overcoming it. Some initiations involve a ritualized death. The hero descends into the underworld and returns with the Golden Bough.

Parzival, in the Medieval mystery romance by Wolfram von Eschenbach, beholds the Grail, and the wounded King who guards it. It's a test which Parzival at first fails. There is a question he must ask, which he fails to do. The story doesn't actually state what the question is, whether Parzival needs to ask the true nature of the Grail? And what it is for? Or whether it's the compassionate question: "What ails you?" that he must ask the suffering king. It may well be similar to Krishnamurti's "impossible question." Perhaps, the point is that the transcendent question cannot be put into words.

The awakening of Kundalini was certainly an ordeal for Gopi Krishna. He suffered years of acute pain, and was at the edge of insanity and physical death. There is a crucial moment in his account of the awakening, when he realizes that he must guide the energy from the fiery, male, outwards-directed pingala nadi into the cool, female, inwardly-directed ida nadi. He manages this and survives. It's like the passing of a test.

On a humbler level, in meditation, there are moments when the Kundalini energy clarifies into wordless realizations. Some of these realizations one "survives," in the sense of letting them arise, and accepting them with one's body and physical brain. Some of them one "fails," in the sense of blocking them out with a physical recoil. At the moment of Shaktic clarification, and "survival," the breathing is deep, unforced, spontaneously protracted. At the moment of "failure," there's a catch in the chest, a sort of shadow from the brain, a reflex of fear somewhere in the nervous system, and one is back with one's limited mind.

Perhaps a similar thing happens during love-making. Orgasm is pleasurable, but it can feel like a defeat. Lovers approach an awakening to the transcendent that becomes too powerful to handle, and throws them back into physical orgasm. What it is, inside us, that might pass such a test, is difficult to say. I don't think it's the willful struggle with oneself, which involve the various anti-ejaculatory methods. Perhaps, there are moments when love rapture is so intense, the heart simply stands up to the influx of energy.

If Kundalini is a test, it raises the question: who, or what, is being tested? It certainly can't be, or shouldn't be, the day-to-day self for whom earning a living and being polite to people is sometimes a struggle. On the other hand, if it's some central core of being, the "self-subsisting" state in the heart chakra, that's going through this process, is it right to even speak of a test? I think it is. Being tested, failing or succeeding, are part of evolution. The evolutionary challenge, which was once purely external, has now been internalized. It's a process that needs time to happen. And something else, too, seems to come about: the evolutionary test is no longer a matter of "survival of the fittest" — kill or be killed. Parzival failed his question test, but was given another go, asked the mysterious question at the second opportunity, he won the Grail. Failure is never absolute, nor is success. There's a sort of cosmic compassion in this. Time is a gift. Blake called time "the mercy of Eternity."

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