Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Birth And Rebirth

Most of us believe we understand "birth," by virtue of being born, giving birth, witnessing a birth, or viewing, reading materials on the subject of birth. "Rebirth" is a more problematic subject.

Almost a platitude, the term has religious as well as social and psychological connotations. And yet, most people believe in some sort of rebirth although they'd be hard pressed to describe how it actually works.

If a person is Christian, resurrection is a ready-made paradigm for rebirth. But, it too, has its problems, as explained in Elizabeth Clare Prophet's book, Reincarnation: The Missing Link in Christianity.
"The New Testament presents conflicting views of the resurrection. It in turn reflects the variety of Jewish resurrection concepts. Some Jews believed that only righteous Israelites would resurrect. Some thought the resurrection would be on earth, other in paradise. Some thought the resurrected would have physical bodies, others that their bodies would be transformed into spiritual bodies.

"Which of these views did Jesus espouse? Or did he have a different vision?

"The conventional Christian view of the resurrection as a single event at the end of time derives in part from Revelation, which tells us that the dead will 'stand before God' and be judged.

"If the resurrection is a single event at the end of time, why were saints and martyrs raised ahead of time? And were they in physical or spiritual bodies? Clearly, the Bible reflects several ideas about resurrection that were current in the authors' day."
Reincarnation is as different from resurrection as Buddhism is from Christianity. Instead of the resurrection concept of the physical body being raised up to heaven, reincarnation proposes a transmigration of the soul into a new body, whose conception and incarnation takes place in the womb of new mother and is followed by physical birth.
Rebirth is neither reincarnation nor resurrection. Nor is it physical rebirth. It is, however, a spiritual birth process that resembles physical birth in many ways. How can this be?

Very simply they resemble one another because the same ontological agent, kundalini, "manages" both birth and rebirth. There are differences, as we shall see later on. First, however, let's delve deeper into the true nature of kundalini. 

Kundalini is the biological life force energy in your body; it functions in two quite different states. In its creative state, it’s known as Kundalini Shakti — creative in the sense that it shapes your very substance in the womb. After birth, it works in the background as Prana Shakti, the maintenance state of kundalini. And unless it reactivates involuntarily or you reactivate it intentionally through the practice of a reliable method like Golden Flower Meditation (GFM), it remains in the background throughout your life. Think of it as a racing car that’s idling; the motor’s turning, but it's not going anywhere. It manages your body’s autonomic functions: cell division, breathing, blood flow, digestion — without you’re being aware of it or appreciating it. Like a computer routine that works in the background, it’s there. If it stopped working altogether, you’d be dead.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, kundalini is never dormant, never completely inactive. It’s either in a maintenance state (Prana Shakti) or a creative state (Kundalini Shakti) during your lifetime:

  • During gestation, it's Kundalini Shakti, the creative force, responsible for your incarnation, 
  • During so-called “normal" life, it's Prana Shakti, maintaining your autonomic functions, until, 
  • Upon reactivating, it takes over once again as Kundalini Shakti, the super-conscious creative life force.

Most people don’t realize that kundalini resides within them in one state or the other. They are simply unaware of its actuality and its potential. Which means, of course, that they may never “re-activate” it either spontaneously or otherwise, not unless they learn how to induce a Kundalini awakening through meditation practice. Even then, the outcome is never certain. There's a quantum or karmic aspect to the process.

At birth, Kundalini sort of hibernates. Why? Because the wonders of the material world ignite our senses and we start to process and explore its delights. We let the thrall of the material world take over our thoughts and emotions. We become Ego driven, seeking mastery over all. Only the spiritually motivated become curious about the metaphysical aspects of Creation. Only a few seek to discover their hibernating birthright — Kundalini Shakti. And it’s a shame, because...

We are all perfect at the split-second moment before conception, a magic, quantum moment when consciousness becomes flesh, a process the Bible expresses thusly: And the Word became flesh. Of course at that moment, like a building before the foundation is laid, our beings are only blueprints, i.e., the Word. These blueprints — the numinous plans for our incarnation — are perfect. At the moment of conception — the moment the egg is fertilized by the sperm — the body begins to take shape, i.e., becomes flesh.

It’s the moment when, were you able to stand over your perfectly drawn blueprint, you'd wonder if it will be executed faithfully. That’s the job of Kundalini Shakti, the creative agent responsible for not only providing the raw energy for your incarnation — not a simple task when you think about it — but also for creating the blueprint, the master plan for your embodiment and your ultimate Being.

Until the moment of birth, Kundalini Shakti controls your growth. The moment you are born, you become "materialistically" conscious and kundalini — your natural life force — hibernates. Heredity, environment, and those aspects unique to your DNA take over the direction of your life and the formation of your physical body while in the background, Prana Shakti manages your body’s day-to-day, minute-by-minute maintenance functions.

Nevertheless, even though Prana Shakti toils away in the background, Kundalini Shakti waits for you to activate it. A popular explanation, really a misconception, says that if kundalini is not awakened, it is dormant, completely inactive. If that were true, we’d have stopped evolving. Kundalini's maintenance state, Prana Shakti, is always functioning. It’s actively at work on you now, maintaining your autonomic functions.

Once reawakened in a later life, Kundalini Shakti starts to effect changes to your nervous system, somatic structure, your metabolism, your genetic profile, and sometimes to your anatomy. It doesn’t stop there. Some changes occur gradually — deep psychological, cognitive, emotional changes, for example, take years to assimilate. Abilities and talents surface on their own; suddenly you’re speaking a foreign language, playing an instrument, or manipulating large numbers in your head.

So how do birth and rebirth vary? Gestation takes place in the protected environment of the mother's womb. Barring harmful influences — medical, organic, environmental, or other — affecting the mother's well-being, the baby is born as perfect as possible.

In the case of a Kundalini Shakti rebirth, the process takes place in the open air instead of surrounded by the amniotic fluid in the uterus. What a difference! The perfect environment of the amniotic fluid as opposed to the New York Subway or some aleatory location. Which is safer and more conducive to growth? A leave-taking from your mother's womb or your exposure to elements you suddenly realize are toxic?

And that's why when Kundalini Shakti rises in the mature individual, he or she becomes sensitive to loud noise, bright light, noxious smells, etc. — just as a baby might. Blast loud music, bright lights, foul smells into a nursery and any baby immediately starts to cry.  What's more, the nine months of gestation that a baby experiences are transmogrified into many years of adjustment for the fully-grown kundalini initiate.

It's important for anyone contemplating kundalini to know this. Most don't. It's no wonder many complain of sensory overload.

There's one other important similarity between the two, whether:

  1. The formation of the being — embryo to fetus, to fully formed infant — takes place in a controlled environment, or,
  2. In the second instance, after many years of life.

In both cases, Kundalini Shakti uses the original blueprint for your perfect being to conform your flesh and blood to said blueprint. 

In the case of a baby immersed in amniotic fluid this is no great challenge; the fetus' physical constituents are as malleable as the mature individual's are rigid and resistant to modification.

Nevertheless, when Kundalini Shakti rises in later life, it starts conveying life force energy to parts of the mature body that do not conform to the blueprint. The conforming process can cause discomfort and, in some cases, pain. One more reason to explore the consequences of activating kundalini and doing thorough diligence before you begin to arouse it.

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Serpent Power As Consciousness

The Serpent Power by Sir John Woodroffe (pen name Arthur Avalon) published in Madras in 1918 is one of the earliest authoritative texts on Kundalini in English. It consists of translations of the Sat-Chakra-Nirupana Tantra and the "Fivefold Footstool," the Paduka-Pancala Tantra, plus a long and complex attempt to explain Kundalini in terms of the scientific knowledge of the early twentieth century (pre-quantum mechanics) in terms of latent energy and its setting in motion. 

Sir John Woodroffe, Arthur AvalonThere are many interesting references which are helpful, and sometimes baffling, in regard to more modern accounts of Kundalini. For instance, there are descriptions (and black and white photos) of yogins demonstrating the various asanas. One thing that puzzles me is that in these, more traditional, Indian Kundalini awakenings the body is said to become extremely cold, that investigators touching the practitioner will feel a physical chill similar to that of a corpse, with only a small area of heat (life force) remaining at the very crown of the head. This is, of course, a literal embodiment of Kundalini as being a death, or near-death state. The practitioner is in the "turiya" state of coma that is beyond deep sleep. This contrasts with modern accounts, and my own experience, of extreme heat throughout the body. There’s another interesting footnote, about sex in a Kundalini awakening, which is worth quoting in full (p. 189 Dover edition): “…the yogin must resist women… there is a connection between semen, mind and life. In the early stages of Hatha yoga the heat goes upwards, the penis shrinks, and sexual power is largely lost. Coition with emission of semen at this stage is likely to prove fatal. But a Siddha regains his sexual prowess and can exercise it if there is control of ejaculation…” This is more in line with modern practitioners’ experience, though perhaps the threat of death is poetic overstatement.

What impresses me about this quotation, and The Serpent Power in general, is its insistence on Kundalini as mind, and not just as a physical phenomenon. I think it’s important, in these extreme "turiya" states, when the world drops away, that consciousness is maintained, and that one has some sort of inner resilience that keeps consciousness going, even when consciousness has no object. Otherwise, the experience could be dangerous. This, I know, precludes an ultimate scientific and empirical examination of Kundalini, simply because consciousness comes before analysis and therefore can never be fully analyzed and explained.

Nevertheless, it's important to insist (as Sir John Woodroffe does in The Serpent Power) that Kundalini is essential consciousness. This insistence protects the precious value of Kundalini from criticisms like the following: I was recently reading a Christian Pentecostal writer attacking the practices of an extreme Pentecostal minister, Rodney Howard-Browne, at whose meetings worshipers "filled with the Holy Spirit" laugh hysterically, roll around on the floor, become physically overheated, speak in "tongues" and generally behave as if intoxicated. This so-called "Toronto Blessing" is a clear case of mass hysteria stirred up by a manipulative orator. The rational, and clear-headed critic of these excesses whom I was reading, (arguing the proper Christian doctrine that faith does not demand "signs" and "wonders"), witheringly compared them to Kundalini arousal, the New Age antics of overexcited heathens. This is, of course, absurd, but one needs to keep in mind that Kundalini is the awakening of a higher consciousness, not a lower, purely physical one, in order to rebut such charges.