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What really is “the kundalini”?

Echoing the sentiments of my peers, as a yoga teacher, I often referred to an inward ‘spark of divine nature’ that all human beings possess. My former guru, Yogi Bhajan, called this inner divine essence “the kundalini,” explaining it to be “the dormant power of infinity,” a coiled energy at the base of the spine that must be aroused.1

Many swamis, yogis, and gurus strangely refer to this dormant energy as the “serpent power.” They also claim this coiled energy is a manifestation of the goddess Sakti (also spelled Shakti). Theoretically, when this ‘awakening’ of the kundalini takes place, it travels up the spinal column through five chakras (spiritual energy centers), then through the sixth chakra (the third eye), finally reaching the seventh chakra at the top of the head (called the crown chakra). At that point, within a person’s inner being, the goddess Sakti comes into union with the god Shiva. This experience is supposed to bring enlightenment or God-consciousness. It is “the dissolution (laya)of the ordinary self into its eternal essence…This experience is also understood as the primordial union of the male and female cosmic principles…It is thus simultaneously a microcosmic, bodily occurrence and a universal one.”2

Rabi Maharaj recalls from his past experience as a guru, “When aroused without proper control, it [the kundalini] rages like a vicious serpent inside a person with a force that is impossible to resist. It is said that without proper control, the kundalini will produce supernatural psychic powers having their source in demonic beings and will lead ultimately to moral, spiritual, and physical destruction. Nevertheless, it is this kundalini power that meditation and yoga are designed to arouse.”3

The world-renowned Swami Muktananda recounted his experience with the ‘awakening of the kundalini.’ He encountered a naked ascetic blissfully meditating on top of a pile of human excreta. This Hindu ‘holy man’ invited him to come sit on his lap and lick his head. The ascetic then proceeded to initiate Muktananda into Kundalini Yoga. Later that day he explained, “My mind seemed deluded…I felt I would soon become insane…My entire body started aching and …the tongue began to move down the throat, and all attempts to pull it out failed…My fear grew…I felt severe pain in the knot (manipur chakra) below the navel. I tried to shout but could not even articulate…Next I saw ugly and dreadful demon-like figures. I thought them to be evil spirits…Suddenly I saw a large ball of light approaching me from the front…It merged into my head…I was terrified by that powerfully dazzling light.”4

Though not all stories dealing with the ‘awakening of the kundalini’ match the bizarre aspects of this account, still, my concerns are very grave when it comes to this subject. I spent many hours in meditation seeking to ‘arouse’ the kundalini—and I succeeded, when I was finally lifted out of my body into the experience of ‘white light.’ However, after becoming a Christian I had a very profound, spiritual encounter that proved to me the dark, negative source of this power. The following points need to be emphasized concerning “the kundalini”:

Serpent Symbol—Though many New Age groups relate to the serpent as a symbol of esoteric wisdom, biblically, it primarily represents that which is satanic and blatantly evil. A venomous serpent is an agent of death. How could this creature be symbolic of that which leads to goodness, life and the experience of God? (See Genesis 3:1–15, Revelation 12:9.)

Sexual Overtones—The experience of ‘enlightenment’ is compared to a supernatural ‘union’ between a god and goddess, so there are sexual overtones. Possibly because of this, some fringe sects, especially those involved in what has been termed the ‘left-handed’ form of Tantric Yoga, have made ritual sex (especially with socially forbidden partners) an aid to developing higher consciousness. Some gurus even include the handling of the genitals in the so-called ‘awakening’ process. Rajneesh even encouraged nudity and sex orgies among his followers to aid their spiritual ‘awakening.’ Yet the Bible clearly commands that we abstain from sexual immorality. Regardless of how it is wrapped spiritually, any doctrinal package containing this suggested approach is of darkness and deception. Of course, there are many Hindu ascetics, Buddhist monks and other Far Eastern mystics who seek to live pure lives. They would be appalled at the thought of these immoral practices going on in the name of achieving enlightenment.

Dangerous Side Effects—The majority of those who believe in the ‘kundalini power’ do not pursue its ‘awakening’ by indulging in illicit or occult sexual practices. Most are sincerely seeking an experience of Ultimate Reality. However, most do agree in the danger of its “unguided” or“premature arousal.” I was even cautioned as a yoga student to be extremely careful, because there were instances of some seekers becoming ‘locked’ in a catatonic-like, meditative state, even for years. In contrast, there is absolutely no account in the Bible of the Spirit of God moving on a person to their detriment. No prophet ever had an encounter with the Most High that caused him to be demonized, or to feel nearly insane (as Swami Muktananda admitted). Only good, healthy, enriching things result from contacting the real Creator. There is no lurking danger present when communing with the Lord of glory. No person filled with the Holy Spirit in the Bible lamented the experience because it resulted in a manifestation of evil, psychic powers. The true power of God saves, heals, delivers—but never destroys (mentally, emotionally, physically or in any way). Therefore, the source of this ‘serpent power’ could not be God. It must be the Prince of darkness and his subordinate demons. Those who yield to this dark influence are often granted false, supernatural encounters that seem beautiful, enlightening and ecstatic in order to successfully woo them away from the true Source of eternal life. I am very aware of this type of religious deception, having experienced it myself. Remember, Jesus warned that Satan comes to “steal, and to kill, and to destroy,” but he promised, “I am come that they may have life.” (John 10:10) Also, the Bible cautions that Satan often masquerades as “an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14)

Chakras—The whole idea of the “kundalini” is interwoven with a belief in chakras. These are believed to be “energy centers in the body”—“focal points where psychic forces and bodily functions merge and interact with each other.” Each chakra is “associated with a specific color, shape, sense organ, natural element, deity and mantra.”5 Though advocating this concept as being true, strangely, Yogi Bhajan insisted chakras are “imaginary and nothing else.”6For the following seven reasons, I no longer espouse the existence of these psychic centers called “chakras”:

(1) Many teachers who believe in chakras cannot agree on the correct number. Some yogic models include seven, eight, nine and twelve chakras. In Buddhism there are four chakras; in Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana) there are five. If there really are rotating, internal energy centers in man, those who ‘discover’ them should agree on how many actually exist.

(2) Each chakra (in Hinduism) is identified with a different Hindu god. I firmly believe these gods are nothing more than fantasies: mere man-made myths. So, meditating on the chakras only enables a person to engage in false spiritual experiences, based on imaginary deities, which are impersonated by evil spirits committed to the deception and destruction of those who host their indwelling.

(3) The concept of chakras is inextricably connected to the concept of the kundalini (the serpent power) rising up through these ‘energy centers’ to bring a seeker to new levels of consciousness. Because the kundalini power is not the true power of God, but a demonic counterfeit, then the whole idea of chakras is absolutely unnecessary. The experience of God-consciousness (conscious awareness of the reality of God) comes through the entrance of Jesus Christ into the heart of a person. It has nothing to do with the supposed ‘opening up’ of internal energy centers.

(4) The concept of chakras is based on the idea that God is an internal, impersonal, energy force that can be controlled by the right incantation, mantra, or ritualistic practice. Yet God communes with His people; he is not controlled by them. He is a personal God and he responds to prayer offered to him in a heartfelt, personal way. He is not impressed or motivated by repetitious utterances or magical rites.

(5) Certain gurus have made sweeping claims about the power of meditating on certain chakras. For instance, Sivananda taught that meditating on the first chakra causes all sins to be wiped away; meditating on the second chakra frees a person from desire, wrath, greed and deception; and meditating on the sixth chakra (the third eye) wipes out all karma from previous lives. If these things are true then we do not need the crucifixion of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, nor the Holy Spirit entering and regenerating our hearts for a character change (which are both absolute necessities). Furthermore, the consequences of our past sins are taken out of God’s hands and placed in ours.

(6) The concept of chakras cannot be found in the Bible or the teachings of Jesus. Biblical scriptures that New Agers refer to in trying to validate the existence of the chakras are misrepresentations or misinterpretations of those passages. One example is the “wheel in the middle of a wheel” in Ezekiel 10:10—yet that image had nothing to do with the spiritual makeup of human beings. It was a visionary depiction of an angelic class of heavenly beings called cherubim. Also, when Jesus said, “Let your eye be single,” he was not talking about the third eye (Matthew 6:22 KJV). He was referring to being focused on spiritual things instead of material things. Check out the context.

(7) The existence of the chakras cannot be proven scientifically.

1 Yogi Bhajan, The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan, The Power of the Spoken Word, p. 182, #733.
2 “Kundalini,” Miriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions (Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 1999) p. 651.
3. Rabi R. Maharaj, The Death of a Guru, p. 203.
4. Amma, Swami Muktananda Paramhamsa, (Ganeshpuri, 1971) p. 32ff.; quoted in Vishal Mangalwadi, Yoga: Five Ways of Salvation in Hinduism (unpublished manuscript, 2001) pp. 11-12.
5.“Chakra,” Miriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions, p. 193.
6. Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, Kundalini Yoga, The Flow of Eternal Power (New York: The Berkley Publishing Group, 1996) p. 61

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Written by Mike Shreve