Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Meaning and Significance of Advanced Hathayoga with Special Reference to the Natha Yoga Tradition

I. Significance of Gorakhanatha
The picture of the medieval period of India is dark and of degeneration in one sense, but bright and fertile in another sense. It is dark in the sense that the great ancient Indian culture which was very rational, liberal and dynamic, degenerated into individualism, obscurantism and bigoted social inequality caused by casteism and untouchability, with the result that the Indian culture, was turning to become fossilized in this period. But the picture of this period is also bright in the sense that many enlightened yogins, Bhaktas, seers and inspired writers were born in this period, who tried to regenerate and reform the Indian society and revive the beauties of the ancient culture. They also tried to re-establish the scientific temper of the Indian culture and propagated knowledge and wisdom based on their actual yogic-spiritual experience. Gorakshanatha, popularly known as Guru Gorakhanatha, was one of them, perhaps the best of them.
Seers and yogins of all periods of Indian history have verified, confirmed and lived the profound wisdom of the Indian culture in their own lives and taught the same to their followers and to the society in general. This is how the Indian culture has survived through ages in spite of the adverse onslaughts from many sides. Guru Gorakhanatha belonged to this enlightened class. He was a great yogin, seer and spiritual leader and also a social reformer. His impact was felt all over India. He was a true Guru, "Guru" is the most appropriate epithet applied to his name.
The special importance of Guru Gorakhanatha lies in the following: (a) Gorakhanatha rejected mechanical and elaborate Karmakanda rituals on the one hand, and external and negativistic Sannyasa (formal renunciation) on the other hand. The aim of life, as envisaged in the Indian tradition as also re-iterated by Gorakhanatha, is to become happy and make others happy as well, by attaining Self-realization through the yogic sadhana. Gorakha pointed out that Self-realization cannot be attained through meaningless Karmakanda rituals.
Similarly on the other hand, Self-realization cannot either be attained by external Sannyasa without inner renunciation. What is required is the purity of heart by bringing the state of egolessness and "Sarvatma-bhava" (the feeling of one's unity with all persons, that is, universal love); it does not matter whether one is "grhastha" (householder) or one has taken formal Sannyasa. Moreover, the way of life he taught, is the universal way, the way of Yoga, which is applicable to all persons irrespective of caste, creed or religion. He has clearly said that the way of yoga is neither Hindu nor Muslim, it transcends both.
(b) Although Gorakhanatha (as also his Natha-pantha) is specially famous for Hathayoga practices and the followers of Natha-yoga are known as Hathayogis, it is no ordinary Hathayoga. It is actually advanced Hathayoga that includes Rajayoga and specially Adhyatma-yoga. Gorakhanatha modified the ordinary Hathayoga and elevated it to the spiritual level. Hathayoga is the base that holds every other form of Yoga. Hathayoga is the body of yoga and Adhyatma-yoga (spiritual yoga) is the soul of yoga; and body and soul cannot be separated. So, the picture of yoga presented by Gorakhanatha is holistic or integral that incorporates within itself all the levels or dimensions of yoga –physical, mental and spiritual.(c) One of the reasons of the great influence of Gorakhanatha on the society and the easy acceptance of his yoga by the people (even by the uneducated common person), is that Gorakha was a great synthesizer and simplifier. Jnanayoga, Bhaktiyoga and Karmayoga were the three most popular forms of the spiritual yoga, and they were held to be separate and different from one another. But Gorakhanatha presented the synthesized form of all the three, and made it much simpler for even the ordinary person to understand. This made his yoga quite attractive and easily intelligible. Actually, Gorakha belongs to the line of saints and mystics who present the truth in a synthetic and simple way. Perhaps this is the reason why Gorakhanatha, alongwith writing in Sanskrit which was the official language of scholars at his time, very often spoke and wrote in the language of the people. He used the same folk language (generally used by saints) known as "Sadhukkadi-bhasa" which is a mixture of different dialects.
(d) The most significant factor with Natha-yoga, initiated by Gorakhanatha, is that it came as a social-spiritual movement. Gorakhanatha explained that yoga is not just an individual sadhana in isolation but is necessarily related with the attitude and behaviour of the sadhaka (yoga-practitioner) towards the people around and towards the society in general. In order to attain Self-realization, the sadhaka is required to practise the feeling of one's unity with the so-called others. Naturally therefore he/she is required to love and serve all people. For the good of the society, if needs be, the sadhaka would try to bring reformation in the society, trying to eradicate social inequality, casteism and untouchability. By loving and serving the society, the sadhaka attains "sarvatma-bhava" which is the ingredient factor of the state of Self-realization. Gorakhanatha freed yogic practice from individualism and showed its necessary relation with universal love and social service. This is a great contribution of the Natha-yoga.
(e) Since the line of Matsyendranatha-Gorakhanatha belongs to the Tantric tradition and Natha-pantha is clearly an offshort of Tantra, it inherits all the characteristics of the Tantric philosophy and sadhana. The world is the manifestation the Divine Power (Siva-Sakti), the attitude of the sadhaka should be that the world too is holy and divine and therefore there should be attitude of worship towards the objects of the world. Kundalini is the same divine Sakti lying dormant in us. It has to be awakened and made to flow and meet Siva, leading to the state of the unity of Siva-Sakti (Siva-Sakti-Samarasya) which is the goal of the yoga practitioner.
Moreover, Gorakhanatha, following the line of Tantra, maintains that desires (specially the sex-desire) has to be controlled not by rejection and repression but by sublimation. Brahmacarya (retention of sexual energy) is necessary for the preservation of the vital energy, but it has to be achieved not by suppressing sex but by sublimating it and making it flow through the sublime channels of love, Bhakti, aesthetic creativity, etc. Woman is to be looked not as an object of Bhoga (enjoyment) but as the object of respect and reverence; she has to be taken as the earthly incarnation of the divine mother.

II. The Meaning of Yoga

In order to understand the significance of Natha-yoga, it would be necessary and also pertinent to first become clear about the meaning of yoga in general. Yoga can be defined from two point of views- (i) from the point of view of the aim or goal of yoga, and (ii) from the point of view of the technique or sadhana which is employed for achieving that goal.
From the point of view of the goal, Yoga is defined as joining or coming in line with one's Higher Self which is one's real self. In other words, Self-realization is the goal of yoga. In the Indian Yogic tradition, God is conceived as one's own Higher Self which is the cosmic or universal Self the Self of all the selves like the ocean to its waves. Hence the two terms "Self-realization" and "God-realization" can be used synonymously. Actually, Self or God is the higher or transcendental or divine Consciousness which is achieved or realized through Yoga. So, the aim or goal of Yoga is the same – call it Self-realization or call it God – realization or call it attainment of the divine Consciousness.
All the systems or traditions of Yoga are generally in agreement about the goal of yoga as Self-realization although they differ regarding the real nature of the Self. Therefore, while agreeing to the point that Self-realization is the goal of yoga, they present different pictures of the state of Self-realization.
The remarkable difference among the yogic systems is that of technique. Yoga is principally the technique or practical way of life or sadhana for achieving Self-realization which is the goal. In India, there are two principal traditions of Yoga; one is the Samkhya tradition and the other one is the Tantric tradition. The Samkhya tradition is represented by the Yoga-sutra of Patanjali, and is accepted with minor variations, by Jainism, Buddhism and Classical Advaita – vedanta. The Tantric yoga is represented by the Saiva – Sakta tradition (specially by Kashmir Saivism), Vaisnava Tantrism and the Buddhist Tantrism known as Vajra-yana.
As is well known, in the Samkhya tradition (represented by the Yoga of Patanjali), yoga is defined as secession of the modifications or thought-currents of the mind ("yogas cittavrtti-nirodhah"). Clearly, this definition is given from the point of view of technique. The goal which is achieved by this technique is mentioned in the next aphorism of Patanjali, and that is attainment of the real nature of the self which is pure "drasta" (seer) and not the doer ("tada trastuh svarupe avasthanam"). "Cittavrtti-nirodha" is actually the technique of stilling or completely relaxing the mind. Since according to the Samkhya tradition, the real nature of the self is pure 'drasta' (seer) and not 'Karta' (doer), the highest state of 'samadhi' is what is called 'Nirvikalpa-samadhi' which the thoughless or contentless state of consciousness.
But according to the Tantric tradition, the real nature of Consciousness or the Self is dynamic. The Self is full of natural and spontaneous activity which is technically called "Spanda" or "Kriya" and which is basically different from the effortful and voluntary action called "Karma". Naturally therefore the highest state of Samadhi according to the Tantric tradition, is what is called "Sahaja-samadhi" which is the unity or synthesis of both stillness and activity, the two in one. It can be paradoxically called "actionless activity" which means completely relaxed and effortless activity. In the state of Sahaja-Samadhi, one is seated in the Self, doing nothing, and yet at the same time spontaneous activity naturally and automatically flowing or emanating in-and-through one. When the mind is completely stilled through the practice of "Cittavrtti-nirodha", then consciousness does not remain inactive, but spontaneous activity (Spanda or Kriya) is then automatically released from within. This happens because spontaneous activity ('Kriya and not 'Karma') is the very nature of the inner Consciousness or the Self. Thus the state of Sahaja-Samadhi naturally incorporates within itself the merits of Nirvikalpa Samadhi.
In the light of the above discussion, it would also become easier to understand why Tantra defines Yoga, from the point of view of technique, as the awakening of Kundalini. According to Tantra (as we have already pointed out), Consciousness is force or energy or power (Sakti), it is of course sentient energy, 'citi-sakti'. In the language of the Tantric Yoga, consciousness is symbolically called Kundalini. The flow of Kundalini is really the flow of Consciousness at the different levels of personality – physical, mental and spiritual. When Consciousness is freed from obstructions or impurities, the flow of Kundalini is released. Cittavrtti-nirodha is one of the many potent methods of purifying the consciousness and thus activating the release of Kundalini. Thus the Tantric yoga of Kundalini complements or completes the yoga of citta-vrtti-nirodha. Tantra complements Samkhya. In this paper our proposition is that Tantra is complete yoga which synthesizes within itself all the different forms of yoga. The adepts of the Nathayoga followed the holistic line of the Tantric tradition and also expressed the same in their teachings.

III. Significance of the body and the body-yoga:
Although consciousness is the main concern of the sadhaka (yogic practitioner), body too becomes equally important because body is the co-relate of consciousness. Body plays a very important role, in fact necessary role, in the emergence of consciousness. Hence the yoga related to body is indispensable. Following are the points of the significance of the body in yoga:
(a) Body is the conductor of consciousness. The analogy of electrical energy is quite befitting in this context. The electrical current needs a medium, a conductor wire for example, to flow and express itself. Moreover, the conductor wire should be in a fit condition in order to facilitate the flow of electricity. But normally the conductor is opaque and therefore it also obstructs the flow, resulting into the loss of the electrical current and drop of voltage. So, the conductor plays a dual role – it serves as the medium for the flow of electricity, as well as it presents obstruction and obstacle in the flow. Scientific researches are carried on for finding out super-conductor which has no obstruction and which therefore does not cause the loss of electricity. Scientists have succeeded in finding out such super-conductor (One scientist has got Nobel Prize in the field of super-conductivity).
Consciousness is like the electrical current and body is like the conductor wire, which serves as the medium for the flow of consciousness. But since body has inner obstructions too, it also obstructs the flow of consciousness. However, the yoga-scientists have found out the way to purify the body and free it from the obstructive elements. They have discovered the yogic techniques which help remove obstructions in the body. This process is called 'Suddhi' (purification). 'Suddhi' is described through various yogic terms like "Nadi-suddhi" (purification of nerves), "Tattva-suddhi" (purification of elements), "cakra-suddhi" (purification of the cakras), etc. The more the body is purified, the easier and more is the flow of consciousness. In the yogic language, the flow of consciousness is symbolically called the flow of Kundalini. So, for the flow of Kundalini, "Suddhi" (purification) of the body-cells is necessary.
(b) It is an obvious fact that consciousness is co-related and tied up with brain. Change in the brain condition causes change in the condition of consciousness. It is also true that consciousness develops and matures with the development of the brain. For example, the consciousness of a child develops only when its brain develops and matures. Defect in the brain causes defect in the consciousness of the child.
Consciousness is captivated within the brain, so to say, and therefore opening of consciousness depends upon the opening of the plexuses in the brain. The yogins succeed in freeing their consciousness from the brain, and therefore they become able to operate their consciousness without the help of the brain. But this becomes possible by bringing the required change in the brain. However, change in the brain and in its nervous centre is brought not by the physical yoga alone; it (the physical yoga) requires to be saturated with the added spiritual yoga of self-purification. The point is that the physical yoga is necessary, although not sufficient in itself.
(c) According to the Tantric metaphysics (accepted by Gorakhanatha), there is unity of substance between body and consciousness (spirit). Body is the solidified or co-augulated form of the spirit (consciousness), so to say. This is something like vapour (which is in the gas form) becoming liquid in the form of water and becoming solid in the form of the ice. Body is transformed consciousness. This implies that body can be brought nearer to its consciousness form, just as ice can be transformed into water and water into vapour. In other words, body can be spiritualized. Advanced yogis succeed in transforming their body.
(d) Hathayoga is the yoga of the body, but the goal of Hathayoga too is, of course, Self-realization. Health and physical fitness are the side benefits of Hathayoga. We have already pointed out that cleansing or purification of the body facilitates the flow of kundalini or consciousness. Consciousness is the Self, and the Self expresses itself through purified body and purified mind. Hence purification of the body and the mind helps bring Self-realization. However, health and physical fitness naturally and automatically result in this process. What is important to note is that negligence of the body-yoga may hamper the process of Self-realization because the unprepared body which has impurity and obstruction may resist the flow or dawn of the Self or Consciousness or Kundalini.

IV- Components of Advanced Hathayoga:
(i) Conception of Obstruction and Suddhi:
Before knowing the components or ingredients of advanced Hathayoga, it is necessary to understand the concept of impurity in the body, which obstructs the flow of consciousness and the flow of the vital energy. The bodily obstruction can be described by various terms like "tension", "rigidity", "congestion", "opaqueness", "inflexibility", "hardness", "stress", etc. We can understand this point with the help of examples. For example, a child's body or a teenager's body is more flexible and less rigid than an older body. Similar is the case of the female body in comparison to the male body. That is why juvenile bodies have less impurity than the older bodies, and the female bodies have less impurity than the male bodies.
When the body is "tense" or "rigid" or "stressful", the flow of consciousness, as well as of the vital energy, is obstructed. What obstructs is called impurity. In order that the required flow is facilitated, it is necessary to free the body of its impurity. The practice of Hathayoga breaks the tension (or rigidity or stress) and brings "Suddhi" in the body. This facilitates the flow of consciousness (or call it the flow of Kundalini or call it the flow of the Self.).

The 'Suddhi' (purification) also triggers regeneration of the body cells resulting in longevity and health of the body.
However, it should be made clear in this context that the real purification of the body, or the desired amount of purification, does not come by the body-yoga (Hathayoga) alone; it is necessary to practise the yoga or meditation of self-purification while practising Hathayoga. the point is that the practice or sadhana of spiritual purification is needed even for the bodily purification. Doing the meditation of self-purification while doing Hathayoga, distinguishes advanced Hathayoga from ordinary Hathayoga. So, advanced Hathayoga consists not of adding new and extra practices to Hathayoga, but it consists of doing Hathayoga is a different way.
(ii) The immediate purpose of yogasana is to free the body from tension or rigidity and make it flexible and light. For this, we bend and stretch the body, specially the spinal column, in different ways. The secret of yogasana is to bend or stretch the body while consciously and deliberately relaxing or loosening the body. The more we loosen the body, the more the purpose of yogasana is achieved. When we deliberately loosen or relax, the body naturally and automatically tends towards bending and stretching, and this breaks the tension or rigidity of the body. This yoga is required much more when the body gets older, because the body goes on becoming more and more rigid along with the advance of age. The old persons cannot successfully do yogasana unless they do it by deliberately loosening the body. This breaks the tension of the body, and when we go to rest, the result is deep rest of the body (what happens in the case of Yoga-nidra). The body cannot take deep rest untill the tension of the body is broken.
Bandha (consisting of Mulabandha, Uddiyana Bandha and Jalandhara Bandha) is part of Yogasana. It produces the effect of what may be called strong "acu-pressure". Bandha should be done by strongly contracting the part concerned. Bandha too breaks the tension. Bandha can be called "self-acupressure", and it should be done that very way.
(iii) The same technique (loosening or relaxing) is to be adopted while doing Pranayama. The yogic practitioner deliberately loosens or relaxes the whole body, specially the respiratory system and makes the body like a bellow (Bhathi), and inflates and deflates the 'bellow'. Inflating results in automatically drowing the breath in and deflating draws the breath out. The attention of the practitioner is not on inhaling and he/she does not make the effort of inhaling, but his/her attention is on inflating the body-bellow, which he deliberately does, and inhalation follows automatically. The wider is the inflating (of the body-bellow), the deeper is inhalation. The clue for this can be taken from the phenomenon where we do heavy exercise (like running, swiftly climbing stairs, etc.) and the chest automatically inflates wider and inhalation naturally goes deeper, and we automatically breathe heavier and deeper. But here we have to make a bellow of the chest (or of the whole body which the dogs naturally do after running) and artificially and deliberately do the inflating and deflating of the 'bellow', resulting is deep and heavy breathing. So, this pranayama is more of the type of deep-breathing and breathing with the whole body, which, highly oxygenates the body and draws the carbon di-oxide out, and thus the body is purified.
In this context it should be pointed out that while doing this kind of pranayama, Kumbhaka (retention of breath) is not done deliberately, but Kumbhaka automatically comes as a result of deep-breathing. Breathing is the natural process of oxygenation of the body and also of releasing the tension of the body. But when the body becomes full of oxygen and also gets fully relaxed, then there remains no need of breathing, and the breathing automatically stops or remains suspended (untill the body needs fresh oxygen). This is the true meaning of pranayama, and that is why the yoga-sutra of Patanjali defines pranayama as "the cessation or suspension of the process of inhalaltion and exhalation" (svasaprasvasayoh gativicchedah pranayamah). Many species of animals hibernate in this way and remain in the state of suspended animation. Many yogis also succeed in doing this, what is called "Jada-samadhi".
So, neither yogasana nor pranayama should be done in a forced way. The body naturally demands both, and we have to follow and facilitate the natural process. The practice of yoga facilitates the process of nature.
(iv) The most important component of advanced Hathayoga is the deliberate act of saturating the practice of Hathayoga with the yoga of spiritual purification. We generally bring self-purification indirectly through the practice of spiritual sadhanas like Bhaktiyoga, Jnanayoga, Karmayoga, Layayoga, etc; but we can also directly bring self-purification by practising the will (samkalpa) to become pure and good. That is, we can directly make ourselves pure if we like. This means willing or wishing or deciding to become pure. 'Becoming pure' may be synonymously described by the terms like 'becoming good', 'becoming egoless', 'becoming loving', 'surrendering to God and following the way of God', 'becoming noble at heart', and so on. Purification is the process of inner change, the change of heart. It can be wilfully and directly done. However one cannot become pure in one stroke. One has to practise purification daily.
If Hathayoga is practised without practising self-purification simultaneously, it is mechanical and spiritually dry, and this is ordinary Hathayoga. But in the advanced Hathayoga we saturate every practice of Hathayoga (asana or pranayama) with the will and idea of becoming pure. That is, in the very practice of Hathayoga we mix the meditative practice of becoming good and pure; and we do both simultaneously together.
However, we can, and should, practise spiritual purity independently also (apart from doing Hathayoga). Gorakhanatha has said that just as one takes food daily, one should practise to cleanse one's heart daily. Ego is the foundational column around which all the other impurities hang. So, ego is the main impurity. Philosophically speaking, ego is the principle of separation and limitation. When I separate myself, or cut myself off, from others (or so-called others) and limit myself to my own particular individuality which I call "I" or "me", then this is called ego. When ego falls, all other impurities and obstructions fall automatically. Ego is the main block or obstruction on the flow of consciousness (Kundalini), and so it is the main hurdle in the attainment of Self-realization.
There are two principal ways of melting or annihilating the ego. These two are complementary to each other, or are the two aspects of one and the same spiritual sadhana. One way is 'Meditation' which means surrendening or merging the ego (or the individual consciousness) into the transcendental cosmic consciousness (which is divine and is called God or Brahman or Siva or Sunya or Tao). This is called "Laya-yoga" which means the yoga of "dissolution" (of the ego), the yogins also call it the yoga of "dying" while living. When the individual self (ego) surrenders to the cosmic or divine Self (or God), then it loses its obstructiveness and begins to serve just as an instrument or medium through which the divine consciousness works and expresses itself.
The other way is what is called "Advaita-bhava" or "Sarvatma-bhava" which means feeling one's unity with all beings and wishing the good of all. In other words, it is the sadhana of universal love. Buddha called it "Maitri-bhavana" ("Maitri" in Sanskrit and "Metta" in Pali literally means 'friendship', but Buddha used it for love which means wishing the good of all beings.). Buddha codified Maitri-bhava (or Advaita-bhava) into the form of meditative yoga and taught it for cultivating love and compression through this yogic practice. Gorakhanatha appreciates and accepts this line of Sadhana.
Melting of ego and emerging of love are mutually complementary. The more the ego melts, the more is the release of the flow of love, as love is the very nature of the inner self. And the more the love flows (or is made to flow through the practice of Maitri-bhavana), the more the ego dissolves.
These two mutually complementary ways are in themselves means as well as the end. In the spiritual sphere, the means and the end become one. What is to be achieved (as the end), the same is to be practised (as means).
In the Tantric tradition, these two ways are described by the two terms "Atma-visanti" and "Atma-prasara". "Atma-visranti" means "resting in Onself" or "being in the Self". If actually means dissolving the ego or the individual consciousness into the cosmic consciousness (cosmic Self). "Atma-prasara" means 'extension' or 'expansion' of one self into all things and all beings. This actually means feeling of one's unity with all, what is called universal love. "Atma-visranti" and "Atma-prasara" are the two broad classes under the rubrics of which all the yogic (spiritual) sadhanas can be classified. Each and every sadhana will come under the one or the other class. And, as we have already stated, the two are complementary to each other. Rather, they are the two simultaneous aspects of one and the same sadhana, or two simultaneous characteristics of one and the same state of yogic consciousness. An individual wave, when dissolves or merges itself into the ocean (which is its true nature), it becomes one with the ocean and naturally realizes its unity with all the waves of the ocean. Similarly, the state of egolessness is also the state of unity (love) with everything and every being. The 'Siddha' (the accomplished one) lives in the egoless state of consciousness and remains seated in the Self (Atma-visranti). But this Self is not limited to one particular individual self, it is ubiquitous in all the selves. So, the Siddha feels unity with all the selves (Atma-prasara), and universal love spontaneously emanates or flows from this egoless state of consciousness. Thus "Atma-visranti" and "Atma-prasara" are the two simultaneous aspects of one and the same Siddha- consciousness.
(v) Kundalini-yoga: Another important component of advanced Hathayoga is what may be called the Kundalini-yoga. Let us first become clear about what Kundalini really means. Kundalini is generally understood as a mysterious power lying dormant at the Muladhara Cakra. But really there is no mystery about Kundalini. Kundalini is the symbolic name given to consciousness in the language of the Tantric yoga. As we have already explained, according to Tantra, cosciousness is a dynamic reality – energy or power (Sakti). Since it is energy, it acts or moves or flows. so, call it the flow of consciousness or call it the flow of Kundalini.
Consciousness or Kundalini has two levels – the cosmic level and the individual level. At the cosmic level it is the creatrex of the world, and is called the Mother Kundalini. In the Tantric tradition, God is conceived as the Mother. God is actually consciousness (Citi or Samvit), and this divine consciousness creates or self-manifests the world out of Her womb, so to say and so She is called the Mother consciousness or Mother Kundalini or Mother God.
At the individual level, consciousness or Kundalini is limited to the individual personality. The cosmic transcendental Mother Kundalini, while fully remaining at the cosmic level, also becomes the human individual and lives in the human person in the limited individualized and dormant or latent form. But it is not fully dormant; it is half asleep and half awake, so to say; an the half-awakened Kundalini already works in the human person. All the workings of the person – vital, mental and spiritual– are the workings of Kundalini. If the Kundalini stops working, the human person will be reduced to dead matter.
The individual Kundalinis (individual selves) are linked up with the cosmic Kundalini. The cosmic Kundalini is like the universal electric power house, and the individual Kundalinis are like the different consumption points of electricity, which are all connected with the power-house from where all the power comes. The cosmic Kundalini enters the human body through Muladhara and moves upward towards the Sahasrara.
In the individual person, Kundalini works not fully but partially, at three levels – (i) physical or biological, (ii) Mental or intellectual, and (iii) spiritual. The same consciousness or Kundalini becomes less subtle and takes the form of "Prana" (vital energy), and flows and works in the body as vital activity. This is technically called "Prana-Kundalini". The full awakening of the "Prana-Kundalini" leads to the rejuvenation of the body. (ii) At the mental level, Kundalini works as ideation or thinking in all forms of knowing, willing, feeling, etc. This is technically called "Nada-Kundalini". The awakening of "Nada-Kundalini" results in the emergence of what is called "Pratibha" (talent or genius). Emergence of pratibha both in cognitive and creative forms proportionately depends upon the amount of the awakening of Nada-Kundalini. (iii) At the spiritual level, Kundalini works as spiritual realization of the divine consciousness. It is technically called "Bodha-Kundalini". Awakening of Bodha-Kundalini leads to spiritual enlightenment or what is called Self-realization which is the cognate of what is called "Advaita-bhava" or "Sarvatma-bhava" (universal love).
By Kundalini most people understand only the Prana-Kundalini which is the biological expression of Kundalini. But, as already stated, there are also mental and spiritual levels of Kundalini, respectively called Nada-Kundalini and Bodha-kundalini. The literal meaning of Kundalini is the "coiled female serpent". Why consciousness is symbolized as serpent, is a different subject for which there is no space here to discuss. However, very briefly it can be pointed out that the most potent expression of the Kundalini-energy is in the form of sex-energy which subtly and very powerfully works in every sphere of personality. Serpent is the symbol of sex. (Why snake is the symbol of sex, is yet another subject). Since consciousness is Sakti (power or energy),its symbol,Kundalini, is called Kundalini-sakti or serpent-power. Furthermore, In Sanskrit Language the term 'Sakti' is grammatically of feminine gender. Moreover, in the Indian tradition the female is taken to be the incarnation of Sakti. Hence, Kundalini-Sakti is symbolised as the female serpent. "Naga" means cobra and "Nagin" means female cobra; Nagin (the female cobra) is believed to be more ferocious more active and more powerful than Naga.
Now, let us come to the technique of awakening Kundalini and making it flow in the body. (a) Visualisation: We are required to visualise the flow of consciousness (Kundalini) from the base of the spine to the upper portion (from Muladhara to Sahasrara and above). We can visualise the flow in the form of stream of light or in the form of current of water (river). We have also to visualise the ocean of light or the ocean of water above the Sahasrara, and visualise the flow of the stream or river of Kundalini merging in that ocean. (b) Forming the negative end by practising the meditation of purification in the area above the head: The law of the flow of electrical current is that it flows from the positive point to the negative point or "earthing" in which it ends; if electricity does not get the "earthing" or the negative point, then it cannot flow. This applies to the flow of Kundalini also. The place below the Muladhara is the positive point, and the place above the Sahasrara is the 'earthing' or the negative point. The "earthing" can also be called Sunya (void or vacuum). But the 'earthing' point lies dormant; we have to create or activate the earthing or the void (negative point). And the technique of creating earthing is to practise the meditation of self-purification in that area. We are required to concentrate on the area above the head and meditate to become pure and good, and surrender our selves. We have to do this along with the visualisation of the flow. We have not to 'push' the flow of Kundalini from the Muladhara but we have to 'pull' the flow from the Sahasrara. But unless we practise the meditation of purification, the earthing or void (vacuum) will not be created and the Kundalini would not flow (towards the head area). So, purification meditation is a must.
(c) Practice of Laya-yoga: A cognate method of self-purification which facilitates the flow of Kundalini, is to practice the yoga of dissolution or merger (Laya-yoga). We are required to meditate on the transcendental cosmic divine consciousness, and practise to merge our individual consciousness (ego. consciousness) into it. This is actually the yoga of self surrender – surrender of ego and will – to the Divine consciousness, and the consequent merger into the Divine. The Divine consciousness lies all around our body (and also inside the body), but from the point of view of yogic practice, it is easier and more fruitful to meditate on the divine transcendental consciousness, visualising it is the vast area above the Sahasrara. The yogis meditate on the transcendental divine consciousness above the head and also around the body, and merge their individual consciousness into it. The body is like an iceberg floating in the ocean of consciousness, and the yogis by purifying the body, merge it into the ocean (of consciousness).

(vi) Yoga-nidra :
A very useful and efficacious sub-technique within Atma-visranti, practised within advanced Hathayoga, is what is called "Yoga-nidra" (Yogic sleep). In the yogic sleep (yoga-nidra), the body lies in deep rest or deep relaxation while consciousness remains awake. It is a technique of giving profound rest to the body and the mind as well. Yoga-nidra, accompanied by Laya-meditation (merger of ego or the individual consciousness into the transcendental consciousness) may also lead to Self-realization.
Following are the four steps in the practice of Yoga-nidra:
(a) Lie down in the state of relaxation and give rest to the body and the mind. If the body is tired, you will feel the pleasant sensation of the resting of the limbs of the body. Enjoy the sensation of resting until the body recovers the tiredness. So, the first step of Yoga-nidra is enjoying the resting sensation of the body. (b) The second step is deliberately loosening or relaxing the whole body as we do in Savasana. Loosen and relax the parts of the body one by one and also the whole body together. Let both the body and the mind rest. (c) The third step is visualisation of the flow of consciousness (flow of Kundalini) in the form of stream of light or river (current of water) from Muladhara to Sahasrara. This is the same as mentioned earlier in the context of Kundalini-yoga. (d) The fourth step is merging the individual consciousness into the transcendental consciousness as is done in the practice of Laya-yoga. This is again the same as mentioned earlier in the context of Kundalini-yoga.
There is twofold benefit of yoga-nidra. It provides profound rest to the body and the mind on the one hand, and helps attain Self-realization by the merger of ego into the cosmic consciousness, on the other hand.
To wind up, all the components of advanced Hathayoga - Yogasana and Pranayama (both practised in a special way, mentioned earlier), the meditative practice of self-purification, Kundalini-yoga and Yoga-nidra --- all of them, by removing the impurities and obstructions from the body and the mind, make the human person fit for the full expression or flow of consciousness (or call it the flow of Kundalini). This finally leads to the state of Self—realization where the whole world is incorporated within the Self, and spontaneous benign activity naturally emanates from the Self in Sahaja-samadhi.

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