Pathways to Kundalini Awakening
Mantras (loosely translated into English as Chants) are a simple and powerful way to achieve awakening. But it's not easy to be simple, because simplicity can often be boring! It also requires tremendous patience. First, you need to get a suitable mantra and then practice the mantra incessantly. It develops in you the vision of a higher force and enables you to live amidst the sensualities of life with indifference to them. In the same way, when you repeat a mantra over and over again, the sound force gathers momentum and creates vibrations in the mind. When you repeat the mantra millions and billions of times, it permeates every part of your brain and puriﬁes your body. The mantra must be chanted loudly, softly, and mentally. Since mantras are similar to hymns or chants, you can combine them with breathing exercises.
Having said that, one can imagine how mind-numbingly boring and monotonous this can be. Trying to achieve a billion or multi-million count of mantra-chanting is perhaps the silliest - if not the stupidest - way of achieving awakening. Tantra doe not judge but merely mentions the technique. So here it is!
Penance here means performing duties that help other people with some amount of sacrifice from your side. For example, it's not enough to donate to charity - you need to donate so that it hurts. This form of penance that involves some personal pain is a means of puriﬁcation. You are setting on fire something within you that is not necessarily negative! It's similar to the act of parting with a precious and fond object! This form of "elimination" is created, not in the physical body, but in the mental and emotional bodies. Penance is puriﬁcation!
When you want to eliminate something it becomes more powerful. Penance ensures that the entire physical and mental faculties are involved in catabolism which in turn awakens will-power. When the senses are satisﬁed by the objective pleasures, by the comforts and luxuries, the brain and nervous system become weak and the consciousness and energy undergo a process of regression. It is in this situation that the method of austerity is one of the most powerful and sometimes explosive methods of awakening. In some people, sexual fantasies haunt the mind for days together, while others become lean and thin, or even sick. Penance can ensure in fighting this but it's obvious that not everyone can handle this!
People who lead normal lives, cannot be expected to perform penance, so this pathway -
though not stupid - is still not viable!
Intoxicants and Drugs
There are many herbs, substances, types of alcohol, and types of drugs that can assist in the awakening. (Let's put all of them in the category of drugs for easy reading.) This can be achieved immediately (depending on how powerful the drug is or how much of it you have consumed). In Tantra, these are called medicines but one must think of them as drugs: drugs that are at times therapeutic and at other times harmful.
Now there are many herbs (the Indian system of Ayurveda makes utmost use of them) that can facilitate partial or full awakening, but they should never be used without a guru or a qualiﬁed guide. This is because certain herbs selectively awaken ida or pingala and others can suppress both these nadis and quickly lead one to insanity. For this reason, this pathway is a very risky and unreliable method.
In 'Island' (1962), Aldous Huxley presents a utopian community in which the inhabitants aim to become "fully human beings" by realizing their "potentialities." Huxley's focus on human potentialities arose from a shift in his thinking from the other-worldly mysticism of The Perennial Philosophy (1945) to the life-affirming traditions of Tantra, Zen, and Mahayana Buddhism. In Island, the population attempt to realize their human potentialities and engage in an experiential spirituality that celebrates the body and nature as sacred through the use of the moksha-medicine (mind-altering drugs). Island is Huxley's utopian counterpart to his most famous work, the 1932 dystopian novel 'Brave New World' in which he speaks of Soma (a drug that is given to the citizens).
With the help of the correct herbs, puriﬁed aspirants were able to visualize divine beings, holy rivers, sacred mountains, Gods, and so on. When the effects of the herbs were more concentrated, they could separate the self from the body and travel astrally. People were able to enter a state of samadhi and awaken their kundalini. I know many people who have achieved Kundalini Awakening of the highest order through this methodology. Needless to say, all of them are in drug rehabs or between drug rehabs!
For the reader who didn't get my point: Beware! Any kind of mind-altering substance can lead you astray. You may not end up in rehab, but you will be no closer to any kind of spiritual awakening.
This is Patanjali's Eight Fold Path that provides a complete physical and moral system to achieve a merging of individual consciousness with the superconsciousness. All the practices of Ashtanga Yoga (also called Raja Yoga), preceded by Hatha Yoga, bring about very durable experiences. Time, patience, and discipline are required in any practice, but this pathway is not only sensible but also keeps you within the world. You can continue to whatever you are doing ad still practice Raja Yoga. This will enhance your emotional and work-life, providing you with sustainable fruits of awakening.
Breath Control or Pranayama
When a sufficiently prepared practitioner practices Pranayama in a calm, cool, and quiet environment (preferably in a cold climate) the awakening of Kundalini can take place suddenly. The awakening is so rapid that one can achieve the Shiva state of consciousness within a single meditative moment. When Pranayama is done correctly, the mind is automatically conquered, but the effects are not that simple to manage. It's in this context that the correct Yoga asanas need to be performed so that a continued state of superconsciousness is maintained. In other words, you have to learn to meditate in motion! If practiced in tandem with Ashtanga Yoga, this pathway can be quite effective.
Kriya (Sanskrit for "action, deed, effort") most commonly refers to a "completed action," technique, or practice within a Yoga discipline meant to achieve a specific result. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali defines three types of Kriya, namely asceticism, study, and devotion. Such yoga is called Kriya Yoga. Staid people with simple lives may be able to awaken Kundalini through Raja Yoga, but those who are extroverted and excitable will not succeed that way. When such people practice Kriya yoga, Kundalini doesn't wake up with force. Even the ill-effects of awakening are mild and temporary. This pathway talks about asceticism but that does not imply you become an ascetic.
However, this should not be confused with kriyas (cleansing rituals):
Kapalabhati (Stimulating the Brain Cells)
Neti (Upper Nasal Track)
Trataka (Eye Exercises)
Nauli (Abdominal Muscle and Viscera)
Dhouti (Cleansing the Intestine)
Vasti (Cleaning of the Rectum)
This eighth method of awakening Kundalini through tantric initiation is supposed to be a big secret. Apparently, with the guidance of a guru, this is the quickest possible way to awaken Kundalini. All the best with finding such a guru! Personally, this is a lazy way of achieving anything! If you believe that a Guru (if you're lucky enough to find one) can simply "grant" you awakening, then you will believe anything!
Any asana will help develop some flexibility in the physical body. Meditation will help you emotionally and intellectually. However, it is the connection with the subtle body (call it the autonomic nervous system) that we wish to achieve. In this context, there may be individuals who have achieved spiritual awakening without any tantric practice nor attending any yoga class. Their Kundalini experience is there entire daily life, and they live in bliss. Their spiritual practice is automatic: they do it without thinking.
This type of spiritual energy has nothing to do with the way you live, eat, behave or think, because generally, we do these things, not because of our evolvement, but according to the way we have been brought up and educated.
For those readers who consider this blissful, I don't disagree; but I don't agree either. Let me simply conclude this idea by stating: A cat does not know how lucky its existence is! (Those who love cats will know what I'm talking about.)
Get What You Don't Want!
There is a saying in Buddhism which states that we get what we don't want! Tantra Yoga uses this as a technique in the following manner: Don't want something, so that you get it! Get it?!
By convincing ourselves that we don't want something, we have won the battle before it is fought. If we get it, great! If we don't, wonderful! Either way, we win! This is a frivolous way to asceticism but and it works. In the Vama Marga, it is often said that we have to look at sex (tantric sex) beyond the physical level. However, few people know that getting an excess of something will also tire us and make us not want it so much. Too much sex can be boring, and that opens the door to spiritual sex and Kundalini's sexual energy.
Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga (Devotional Yoga) are considered comparatively safe and mild methods of awakening, but the tantric methods are more scientiﬁc than the non-tantric methods because in tantra there is no scope for suppression or dispersion of energy. In non-tantric methods there is antagonism - one mind wants it and the same mind is saying no.
Tantra Yoga establishes specific techniques through the Kundalini Chakras system that help you identify practices and symptoms at each chakra. You start at the mooladhara chakra, then the swadhisthana chakra all the way to the sahasrara chakra (crown chakra) knowing each and every milestone on the way.
There is no suppression of thoughts, pleasures, desires. There is no extreme penance and Kundalini awakening does not start suddenly or with ﬁts. You don't have to make any substantial changes in your way of life, but you must not confuse this to be an easy way. There is tremendous introspection: from thinking about the way you breathe to analyzing why you used a certain word in a sentence!
In this quest, it is absolutely necessary to have a guru: one who will guide you and also tell you what is Google garbage! The guru will help you connect with your internal self so that you don't have to depend on him forever. If you have a guru, he will help you to prepare for Kundalini awakening, guide you along the way, and warn you of any problems you may face. In this context, you have to think of your guru as a good friend and not as a religious idol!
The role of Karma Yoga is a very important part of spiritual life. Therefore, to understand how important Karma Yoga is in the life of a disciple, you ought to read the Bhagavad Gita. It is not a religious text! It is a book about the Right Way and how the path of righteousness becomes easy if you awaken the right motivation!
An awakened Kundalini is not to open your third eye (what will you do after opening it?!); it is not to lead a happy and easy life (how boring happiness can quickly become!).
But it is to lead an interesting, exhilarating life!
There are pathways to awaken Tantra Kundalini chakras. Tantric Yoga mentions the following as some ways in which Kundalini Energy expresses itself: