Kundalini and Jnana
is a Sanskrit word for spiritual practice. On this page
I have reconciled the great sadhanas of Kundalini Yoga
and Jnana Yoga.
After I visited Swami Muktananda in 1981, I came back
to Australia with a peculiar sensitivity to music. I
obtained a job, and at lunchtime I would drive to a
quiet spot, eat my lunch, then turn on the radio, tuned
to a classical music station, and go into a light trance.
I would sit with a straight back and feel the music
"going into" the point between the eyebrows, or Ajna
chakra. By consciously suggesting that the consciousness
should ascend the spine, it did, and the boundary of
my body became inside the head only. I felt a delicious
Our consciousness flows into the body in the normal
waking state, and we feel our personal boundaries to
be the tips of the toes, fingers, and top of the head.
Beyond that we consider to be "outside" the body. I
discovered that the boundary is variable (in both directions).
Certain schools of Kundalini and Kriya yogas aim to
contract that boundary by consciously withdrawing the
flow of consciousness up the central column of the spine
When my consciouness-boundary was within the head, the
rest of my body felt "external." A phase beyond that
is that body-awareness is totally lost, yet the person
remains aware -- the practitioner is thus intensely
focussed within a boundary close to the "source" of
consciousness, or Self. This is samadhi as described
by the classical yoga books, in which bliss and boundlessness
are experienced but there is no physical awareness.
When the practitioner comes back to physical awareness,
the samadhi is gone. Yogis claim however that repeated
practice will gradually bring Self-awareness regardless
of where the consciousness flows or how many thoughts
occupy the mind.
I am very ordinary and had no spiritual or psychic abilities
beforehand. In fact I had an awful handicap of physical
tension and irregular breathing from my days with Self-Realization
Fellowship. I developed the above-described capability
after staying just five weeks at Swami Muktananda's
ashram -- and I lost it some weeks after leaving. I
gained the special sensitivity to music, in which a
note from a musical instrument would sound extremely
attractive and would penetrate through what I think
is my ajna chakra. I think that this came about
mostly from swadhaya, which is recitation of
scripture (it is sung to a classical tune, known as
a raga) and singing of ancient Hindu chants.
(I must emphasise the importance of these ragas. Many
new-age groups sing spiritual songs, including traditional
Indian ones, but use their own tunes or rhythms. They
don't know what they're missing, which is a great pity.)
As my focus was at the ajna chakra while reciting the
scripture, it seems that this centre got activated.
While chanting loud and fast I also experienced the
sound resounding in the pit of the stomach.
There are many yogas involving sound, sight, and chakras,
but classical Kundalini Yoga as I have described above
is to reverse the flow of consciousness and become focussed
on the Source, or Self. This flow is also referred to
as the shakti or prana.
The jnani (knower of the Truth) tells us that the only
thing that keeps us from experiencing our true nature
is that we are always "looking out" and differentiating
between perceived objects. In deep sleep we are no longer
looking out nor are we differentiating, but we are not
conscious either (or rather have no recollection of
consciousness). The raising of the Kundalini in the
classical sense I have outlined above, is like going
to sleep, except awareness is retained.
The practitioner is consciously aware of the centre
of one's being, without distraction of the five "outer"
senses. This essentially is what the practitioner of
Self-enquiry, or jnana yoga, also aspires to -- that
is, to have undistracted Self-awareness.
The problem for me is that my sadhana was very haphazard,
and I never was able to stabilise the ability to consciously
raise the Kundalini. I got it back a few times, then
it was gone again. I ended up feeling very frustrated.
I would dearly love to meet someone who can stabilise
me in this practice. I wish to take this sadhana to
I have seen Kundalini and Kriya Yoga practitioners after
30 years of practice fail to awaken the Kundalini. Many
have woken it in a fitful fashion, not permanent. Most
have some experiences that soon fade. Muktananda sometimes
referred to old devotees as "old shoes." A major question
then, is, having once stirred the Kundalini, how is
the flame fanned ever higher?
A person who decides to follow the sadhana of Self-enquiry,
also described as a "non-path" or a path without teaching
or teacher, or a practice in which there is nothing
to attain, listens to words of Truth as spoken by a
jnani, dwells on them, and becomes aware of the Self
The cunning teacher of Advaita (non-dualism) may tell
you that you are "already realised." The intention of
this is to stop your mind, but it is also a mental trap.
The teacher is actually playing with the meanings of
words, and the subtlety of this escapes most people.
The true jnani realises that there is no such thing
as non-realisation or ignorance, but there is
the experience or appearance of ignorance. We
say that we are ignorant; the Advaita teacher says that
we are not. But, you are being fooled by this play on
meaning -- you are ignorant in your day-to-day
You went into the satsang thinking yourself to be ignorant,
and you came out dazzled by the teacher's logic, convinced
now that you're realised! The "dazzle" of this non-dual
logic may amaze you, and satori (temporary) experiences
may happen. Maybe you too will get on the guru bandwagon!
But, maybe you're just spinning subtle ideas around
in your mind. Maybe you mistake an emotional high for
a genuine spiritual breakthrough. Maybe there's the
occasional satori experience, which is a momentary breakthrough.
In time though, the gloss will fade.
I recently listened to a teacher of Advaita say that
karma does not exist, and also that personal spiritual
experiences such as seeing lights are worthless. Again,
if the experience of the non-existence of karma is carried
to you by the power of the teacher, or you are ripe
enough to immediately recognise the Truth, then well
and good. However from the average person's standpoint
such a teaching may not be helpful.
Ramana Maharshi spoke of personal experiences such as
visions and lights as useful in that they provide encouragement.
Other than that they are mostly a distraction and should
not be given any inflated importance. Some experiences
may be a "marker." You have the experience of feeling
hungry when your body needs food -- this feeling is
a marker, or an experience that tells you that your
body has reached the stage of needing food. Similarly,
a blue light or a golden circle may manifest as a marker
to indicate a degree of inner awakening.
Papaji spoke about the listener "getting it," while
Ramana spoke about the "knack" or the "current" felt
within. The knack is when it suddenly clicks in your
mind that the only thing that exists in your whole universe
is your Self. The problem is though that the mind has
not been killed, and it comes back, and back, and back.
So, "getting it" is only the first (but very important)
step. Then it's practice, practice, practice -- no,
there is no instant enlightenment, unless you are already
(Note that when I use the word "killed," I don't
mean that the mind is gone. This is a very subtle point.
There is a phase of sadhana in which thoughts may be
gone, but ultimately it does not matter. The mind is
killed when it is relegated to an automatic process.
That is, it functions like your liver, automatically.
More to the point, you have separated from thoughts
and you are not bound to them. You could still create
thoughts, but for entertainment value only.)
I've seen people practice "Jnana Yoga" for years, but
they're not any different than Muktananda's "old shoes."
So, how does the jnana yogi, having recognised the "I,"
hold it and plunge into it without falling back into
the mind and its tired old mental patterns?
I would like to further clarify Kundalini versus Jnana
In Self-enquiry, the Self is the "Watcher." Although
the Watcher directs its attention, which is likened
to a flow of energy or shakti, to the five senses, the
Watcher never actually leaves the Source, which
is why the direct approach of the jnani works. If you
become aware of the Watcher, the "outward" flow is cut
off, resulting in the realisation that the Watcher is
all that exists and a possible loss of body awareness.
In Kundalini Yoga, the yogi treats the shakti as real
and behaves as though there is an energy or divine power
that has to be returned to the Source by some process.
The perceived outward-flowing energy flow is reversed,
removing the illumination of the five senses, and redirected
to the source, thus illuminating the Source. This backward
process is likely to exhibit a multitude of symptoms
of emotions/visions/sounds at the various levels of
the return process.
The end result is the same. Many people do not "get"
this idea of the Watcher, but they can get the idea
of the attention flowing to the five senses. Therefore,
for many people, the tackling of this energy is the
The Kundalini and Jnana yogis will both experience withdrawal
of the outward-flowing energy. Classical Kundalini Yoga
describes complete loss of outer awareness, though this
need not necessarily happen. Some yogis have experienced
a "distancing" of their awareness from the physical
world. Jnanis also have been through phases of complete
body unawareness or partial separation. There are also
similar reports of lights and sounds, and in particular
a changed perception of the world.
I would like to finish this section with a quotation
from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, article
The yogis attach the highest importance to going up
to sahasrara, i.e., the brain centre or the thousand-petalled-lotus...
They point out the scriptural statement that the life-current
enters the body through the fontanelle and argue that,
viyoga (separation) having come about that way,
yoga (union) must also be effected in the reverse way.
Therefore we must by yogic practice, gather up the pranas
and enter the fontanelle for the consummation of yoga.
The jnanis point out that the yogi assumes the
existence of the body, its separateness from the Self,
and therefore advises effort for reunion by the practice
In fact, the body is in the mind which has the brain
for its seat, which again functions by light borrowed
from another source as admitted by the yogis themselves
in their fontanelle theory. The jnani further
argues: if the light is borrowed it must come from
its native source. Go to the source direct and do
not depend on borrowed resources. Just as an iron
ball comes into being separate from the mass of iron,
gets fiery, in fire, later cools down giving up the
fire, but must again be made fiery to re-unite with
the original mass, so also the cause of separation
must also form the factor of re-union.
Again if there is an image reflected there must be
a source and also accessories like the sun and a pot
of water for reflection. To do away with the reflection
either the surface is covered up corresponding to
reaching the fontanelle according to the yogis or
the water is drained away which is called tapas...
That is to say, the thoughts or the brain activities
are made to cease. This is jnana-marga
All these are however on the assumption that the jiva
[individual soul] is separate from the Self or Brahman.
But are we separate? "No", says the jnani.
The ego is simply wrong identity of the Self with
the non-self, as in the case of a colourless crystal
and its coloured background. The crystal though colourless
appears red because of its background. If the background
is removed the crystal shines in its original purity.
So it is with the Self and the antahkaranas [mental
Still again, the illustration is not quite appropriate.
For the ego has its source from the Self and is not
separate like the background from the crystal. Having
its source from the Self, the ego must only be retraced
in order that it might merge in its source.
2000 Shunya Muni.
articles and a short autobiography by Shunya.
main page on Jnana Yoga with additional links on that
main page on Kundalini, including Kundalini Yoga, with
additional links on that subject.
main page on Ramana Maharshi with additional links on