There are six psychic centers in the spine and they are also known as chakras. They are known as chakras, because circular motions in the chakras can be felt when these chakras are hyper active. When kuṇḍalinī ascends through practice, it crosses these chakras to reach sahasrāra. Before the energy enters into certain chakras, there are blockades called granthi-s or knots. But during śaktipāta, kuṇḍalinī pierces these granthi-s on its own, which happens only in certain blessed individuals. Śaktipāta is the descent of Divine Grace. In order to effectively lift the kuṇḍalinī from the base chakra to top of the skull by practice, basic understanding of chakras is necessary, so that one can feel and experience these chakras when kuṇḍalinī sojourns in these chakras while making its upward journey. These chakras appear in the form of lotus flowers and different chakras have different number of lotus petals. Different Sanskrit alphabets are contemplated in different chakras. These details are being discussed in the series “navāvaraṇa pūjā” and hence not discussed here. More over such intricate details are not needed for practicing kuṇḍalinī meditation. Each of these chakras is connected to some of the endocrine glands situated in the body. Further these chakras have numerous nerves intertwining each other thereby causing the appearance of a wheel or a cobweb; the latter description fits these chakras perfectly, as they do not appear in perfect wheel shape. Major portions of these nerves are connected to the spinal nerve and endocrine glands. These nerves appear like spokes of a wheel.
Six chakras from the base of the spine to the top of the head are – mūlādhāra, svādhiṣṭhāna, maṇipūraka, anāhata, viśuddhi and ājñā and they can be translated as base chakra, sacral chakra, navel chakra, heart chakra, throat chakra and third eye. But, technically speaking only four chakras and sahasrāra are more powerful and important than the rest and they are mūlādhāra, maṇipūraka, anāhata, ājñā and sahasrāra (brahmarandra). These five energy centres are always sedentary in nature in an ordinary person. But, depending upon one’s spiritual elevation, these psychic centres become active and begin to vibrate and make one feel the rotary sensation due to energy circulation in these areas. The exact locations of these energy centres slightly differ from person to person and can be perfectly located only by the concerned person. Someone with clairvoyant eyes can, to a very great extent locate these centres in others and can also manipulate them. Many Gurus impart mantras by working on these chakras, which alone, can yield better results.
Mūlādhāra is the resting place of kuṇḍalinī. Mūlādhāra is located in the perineum. Location of perineum marginally differs according to gender. Irrespective of its location, kuṇḍalinī has to ascend only through the tip of the lower end of the spinal cord which is known as coccyx or tail bone. The brahma nāḍi within citriṇi nāḍi begins only from the tip of the spine and kuṇḍalinī ascends only through this brahma nāḍi. After entering into the brahma nāḍi, kuṇḍalinī goes up the spine to reach sahasrāra, but its journey is not always smooth, There are certain blockades called granthi-s (granthi means knot) and kuṇḍalinī finds it difficult to pierce these granthi-s to move up. If granthi-s are not properly and effectively pierced, it could lead to kuṇḍalinī syndrome. Any difficulty experienced during kuṇḍalinī ascension is known as kuṇḍalinī syndrome. As discussed earlier, it is difficult to predict the exact nature of these syndromes, as they vary from person to person. Hence it is always better to go slow while practicing kuṇḍalinī meditation. The ascension of kuṇḍalinī is generally taught, only after one masters his or her breath.
The ideal way to awaken kuṇḍalinī is to first meditate on mūlādhāra and in order to meditate on mūlādhāra, one has to know its exact location (location is discussed in the previous part). Due to the power of awareness generated during quality meditation, kuṇḍalinī begins to ascend. The ascension is possible due to the combined effect of consciousness and prāṇa, which produces intense heat at the perineum. This way is the safest way to awaken the kuṇḍalinī. When kuṇḍalinī is awakened this way, it begins to enter brahma nāḍi through brahmadvāra (dvāra means opening and brahmadvāra means opening of Brahman) without causing any syndrome. Kuṇḍalinī’s journey starts from brahmadvāra at the base of the spine and ends at brahmarandhra (Brahman’s crevice). Both dvāra and randhra mean an orifice. Kuṇḍalinī travels from brahmadvāra to brahmarandhra and back. At the time of death, a yogi’s soul escapes only through brahmarandhra. When brahmarandhra is connected to liberation, brahmadvāra is connected to creation. It is said that a child is connected through brahmadvāra to its mother during its sojourn at the womb. In other words, brahmadvāra of both mother and child is interconnected during child’s nourishment in mother’s womb. One’s sexual activity is controlled by mūlādhāra and there is a direct relation between one’s sexual activity and kuṇḍalinī. But activating kuṇḍalinī through certain means is against ethical practice and that too when better methods are available for perfect and flawless awakening. The symbolic union of Śiva and Śakti at mūlādhāra is often misinterpreted, due to the reading of sāmarasya-parāyaṇa (Lalitā Sahasranāma 792). Śiva is Cit (Consciousness) and Śakti is Ānanda (Bliss) and their union results in Cidānanda (Ultimate reality consisting of both Consciousness and Bliss or the union of Śiva and Śakti). Irrespective of these controversies, activation of kuṇḍalinī is also related to conjugation and orgasm, but it requires lot of knowledge and expertise. Therefore, it would be wise to ignore this for the reasons explained earlier. Apart from meditating on mūlādhāra and visualizing prāṇa at the base chakra, to awake the kuṇḍalinī firmly and steadily, certain mudra-s and bandha-s are to be practiced, which will be discussed later in this series.
Mūlādhāra is connected to testes or ovaries, both being part of endocrine glandular system and produce either testosterone or oestrogen and progesterone as the case may be. When kuṇḍalinī is awakened from mūlādhāra it begins to climb through brahma nāḍi, but faces its first resistance at Brahmā granthi (often written as Brahma granthi) or the knot of Brahmā, the creator who is different from Brahman. Brahmā granthi is also connected to procreative organs and many of the nerves emanating from procreative organs form Brahmā granthi. Granthi-s form as blockades in the path of kuṇḍalinī, as there are clusters of nerves and blood vessels applying pressure on Brahma nāḍi, which is a normal phenomenon in all human beings. More efforts are needed to make the kuṇḍalinī ascend to go past these granthi-s. Mudra-s and bandha-s are used to transcend these granthi-s. After awakening from mūlādhāra and after crossing Brahmā granthi, the next target is the navel chakra or maṇipūraka, though it traverses through svādhiṣṭhāna chakra, which is not discussed here. Maṇipūraka chakra is located exactly behind the navel. This chakra is connected to pancreas and adrenal glands. Pancreas is situated just above the navel and adrenal glands are situated at the top of the kidneys. Both these glands are situated in the abdominal cavity. When maṇipūraka is fully activated, rarely first signs of certain siddihis are realized. After crossing maṇipūraka, kuṇḍalinī faces another blockade in the form of Viṣṇu granthi, situated just below the heart chakra or anāhata. Without piercing this granthi, kuṇḍalinī cannot reach anāhata, one of the important psychic centres, as a fully activated heart chakra manifests into universal love. Viṣṇu granthi is loosely knit when compared to Brahmā granthi, as this granthi has more blood vessels than nerves. Once Viṣṇu granthi is pierced, kuṇḍalinī ascends to heart chakra. The signs of kuṇḍalinī energising heart chakra can be realized through the destruction of ego and manifestation of universal love and compassion towards every being.
Heart chakra is connected to the endocrine gland thymus, which is situated above the heart in the thoracic cavity. When heart chakra is activated, immunity system in the body gets fully developed. But, thymus is not fully active in adults and it is fully active only in children. Though it is not fully active, it does not become dysfunctional totally. Granthi-s though can be opened by certain mudra-s and bandha-s, purity of the mind is more important. For example, one cannot transcend Viṣṇu granthi, without annihilating non-essential ego (the “I” ness such as I am the doer, I am knowledgeable, etc). As kuṇḍalinī is the subtlest form of Parāśakti, it can effectively be handled by our subtle body, mind. From heart chakra, kuṇḍalinī moves towards ājñācakra, the point between the eyebrows, after transcending throat chakra. Before entering ājñācakra, it faces resistance at Rudra granthi, which is situated just below ājñācakra. Rudra granthi is the most complicated and toughest of the three granthi-s and is full of nerves intertwining. More than mudra-s and bandha-s, this granthi can be transcended only through pure consciousness and effectively directing prāṇa. One has to take enough pains in getting past Rudra granthi. Unless Rudra granthi is fully opened, ājñācakra cannot become fully functional. Out of the three granthi-s, the first granthi, Brahmā granthi is easier to cross due its lesser density. Viṣṇu granthi is denser than Brahmā granthi and is difficult to cross and if crossed, one can reach the heart chakra, which manifests as love and compassion for others.
Ājñācakra is connected to pineal and pituitary glands. Pineal gland is also known as the gland of divinity. When consciousness is fixed on the pineal gland which is just behind ājñācakra, this gland begins to illuminate. Guru-s initiate their disciples through ājñācakra focusing on their pineal glands, which receives the commands of one’s Guru. Pineal gland is also known as the seat of the soul. When ājñācakra is fully active, the whole body is illumined and radiates powerful energy. This is the point where all the three nāḍi-s iḍa, piṅgala and citriṇi (which is within suṣumna) unite, thereby dissolving all dyads (I and That) and triads (practitioner, the practice and the object of practice Parāśakti). A fully activated ājñācakra radiates energy on all the four sides – into lower chakras, emitting energy through forehead, emitting energy through back head chakra and also moves up in stages to reach brahmarandhra in sahasrāra. The movement of kuṇḍalinī from ājñācakra is possible only due to Her Grace.
There are minor chakras between ājñācakra and sahasrāra and out of these minor chakras, which are said to be twelve in number, manas chakra and soma chakra are the most important chakras. Manas chakra, also known as mind chakra becomes fully active when ājñācakra is fully activated. If mind chakra is fully activated, the remnants of ego are annihilated paving way for the purest form of Consciousness. Mind chakra cannot be activated through any mudra-s and bandha-s. All the chakras above ājñācakra get activated on their own, depending upon one’s spiritual elevation and the descent of Divine Grace. When kuṇḍalinī reaches soma chakra, also known as moon chakra, ambrosia is generated here which drips down the throat. Though in the initial stages ambrosia can be swallowed, over a period of time, the secreted ambrosia is to be pushed back into the skull, by blocking the hole in the upper palate with the help of the tongue. When the flow of ambrosia is blocked, it becomes solidified and attains immense potency and ultimately becomes another bindu, which cause many supernatural powers in the yogi. The other two bindus are situated one at ājñācakra and another at sahasrāra. These three bindus are known as nāda, bindu and kalā. Yoga CūḍāmaṇiUpaniṣad (IV.1) says, “namaḥ śivāya gurave nādabindukalātmane (नमः शिवाय गुरवे नादबिन्दुकलात्मने).
After crossing these twelve chakras beyond ājñācakra, kuṇḍalinī finally reaches sahasrāra to merge with Śiva. Sahasrāra is not connected to any gland and this is the place of Brahman (Śiva) and when the union between Śiva and Śakti takes place at sahasrāra, one is liberated. During the intense stage of Śiva and Śakti union, one automatically enters into the highest stage of samādhi, known as nirvikalpa samādhi (state of complete thoughtlessness). During this stage of nirvikalpa samādhi, there is decrease in the level of prāṇa and the mind is completely dissolved like salt getting dissolved in water. This is the end of Self-realization and there is nothing to be attained beyond this state. The yogi now exists as a jīvanmukta and as soon as all his karmic impressions are exhausted, he dies only to merge with Paramaśiva, the state, where not even Śakti exists. Liberation is the completion of the process of dissolution of both prāṇa and mind, says Haṭhayoga Pradīpaka (IV.17).
Vijñānabhairava tantra (dhāraṇa 110) says, “I am free both from bondage and liberation” says the liberated one. Bondage and liberation are dualities, hence limited by time and space. Only the ignorant are bound by dualities and consequent delusion. They consider the image of the sun in water as the real sun, not knowing that what they are seeing is only a reflection. Bondage and reflection arise due to the wild imagination of buddhi or intellect. In reality, Pure Consciousness is the Self, which alone is Self-illuminating and which alone is real. All that we see is only the Self, the all pervasive, which is wrongly perceived as the material world. But He alone exists everywhere in different shapes and forms.