The ongoing exploration and discussion of ways of modelling the diverse experiences of awakening had a new round recently, based on the article Kundalini: Up, Down, or ? by Peter Holleran. It’s a fascinating overview of various descriptions of awakening and kundalini, noting the variations in interpretation. The long and rather heady article lacks an interpretive model so comes off a little disjointed, as the author notes. But it’s well referenced.
I’m adapting my comments on the article as you may find them useful. Plus they touch on some of what I’ve been exploring recently that is not yet written up here. This is still a work in progress.
The author doesn’t note that a lot of the variation is driven by the specific subjective experiences of the quoted sources – which sometimes becomes entrenched in a teaching. So this is not philosophical arguments alone but based on direct experience. But a direct experience may not be the whole picture.
An opening comment was one of the more insightful: “the retraction of the soul or its emanant, the attention, up to the crown and then down into the heart, is not the same as saying the kundalini energy itself must do the same. The two are different processes.”
He also mentions “in any one case the opening of chakras and their purification may or may not happen, and in any order, depending on various factors.” It’s worth noting that the opening and flow of the kundalini is not the same process as the larger purification and embodiment, although they are related.
In other words – 3 distinct but related processes. The opening of consciousness to itself, the subtle purification, and the awakening energy. Very much interrelated but distinct processes that may or may not align in specific ways. One or other also tends to be more prominent at different points on the journey.
There’s a few ways of looking at this. For one, aligning the 3 with the observer, observing and observed. The awakening knower, awakening knowing, and awakening known.
Another way is broadly related to the koshas or levels of expression. The awakening of Atman, the awakening of the form/ body, and the awakening of the koshas between.
This relates to the Shiva-Shakti and Atman-Sattva distinction I talked about prior but adds a third layer.
It’s also worth noting that different techniques will tend to amplify one or another process and thus can give it subjective emphasis. But a persons unfolding may shift that significantly. It’s not unusual for a person to experience it differently than their tradition describes.
A number of traditions focus on just one of the three. Awakening consciousness. We’ve discussed the 3 main ways kundalini traditions describe that process. Recently, I’ve run into a teaching that measures progress by the degree (%) of purity/dross in each chakra. It’s more a measure of embodiment, framed as Ascension.
They also note that chakras can be deflected – out of vertical alignment. Usually that pulls another out to restore balance. I once met someone who teaches “Human Design” – it has a couple of lower chakras skewed built into the teaching. I wonder if this is what Ramana was experiencing.
His talk of the divine heart being in the right chest suggests either this or what Kundalini Vidya calls the manas point, a sub-chakra. It makes sense the mind would descend to the manas chakra but his description sounds more like the heart. My experience is that the divine heart is larger and overlays the heart chakra. I’ve noted 4 hearts now – the physical, the anahata chakra, Hridaya* – the divine heart overlay, and the “high heart”, a sub-chakra between the heart and throat. The last has a lot to do with sense of purpose. Kundalini Vidya also mentions the Hrit centre in the upper left chest, matching the right Manas centre. This one is more relevant to someone on a devotional path and indeed you sometimes see devotees putting their hand on their “heart” rather high up and over.
*“The hridaya or spiritual heart is not the heart chakra (Anahata) but the core of our being, the seat of Atman or Purusha, in which all chakras, all worlds, and all beings are comprehended.” — Dr. David Frawley
There is also the experience of a Fleur-de-Lis across the chest that suggests all of the above. The triple flame. While used by the French, the symbol has ancient roots. Good reason it was worn on the chest.
I’ve mentioned before that awakening seems more about where Shiva and Shakti meet. Shakti may rise to the crown or Shiva may descend to meet her part way. The heart is certainly a primary place for that.
Two other things the article didn’t mention I’ve been reminded of by Shadbhava in Ayurveda. The bloodline influence – the impact this physiology and its antecedents will have on the journey. And past life development. As Ayurveda observes, the degree of Sattva and Atman we develop in prior lives carries forward. What this leaves out of the three is kundalini. It occurred to me some may have an incomplete rise in a prior life. Perhaps after some jigging to adapt it to this physiology, we pick up where we left off here as well. This may explain why some have no apparent rise. KV mentions mantra meditators may not notice a rise. If they don’t have the background, they may also not attribute experiences to kundalini. But I’m not sure I’d accept the idea that some awaken with no rise. There has to be some development to support Atman awakening through this vehicle, it seems to me, even if the processes don’t fully align.
The heart as the focus of awakening may be due to that being where Shiva and Shakti meet. But other combinations may yield the same emphasis. For example, someone for whom Self is already aware who then has a gentle shift at the crown and lots of sattva may place greater emphasis on the heart due to its greater subjective significance. Someone with less sattva may find the heart a minor point, emphasizing consciousness.
Another great comment in the article was the note about reaching Ajna (3rd eye) being confused with awakening. He mixes that in with related but distinct things around ajna. Another would be Makara, where the kundalini would become stably risen. That would also make the witness ongoing. TMers view witnessing deep sleep as the key symptom of Cosmic Consciousness. It isn’t always as I can attest.
Similarly, I’ve noted the “knot of self” they mention being in the heart is actually three-fold. There is the concept of a me that dies with initial awakening. There is the energetic/emotional drivers of that. And then there is the core grip in the gut that divides the sense of self and other. The last goes just before Unity. Adyashanti referred to this as head, heart, gut.
There’s also a few points that emphasize a renunciate approach, like staying in the crown. For this to be embodied and lived, it has to descend into the world.