Article: The three states of Kundalini?

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by Tao Semko

Many people who have done a little reading on kundalini may have heard two primary descriptions of Kundalini in the human body – “Asleep” and “Awake”. But there are actually three primary states, with quite a bit of varied expression of each of them…

When we speak of states of kundalini we are of course using  metaphoric/symbolic language of internal perception to attempt to describe a complex of experiences which is readily, distinctively, and empirically experience-able by any human being, but which, like many unusual states of biology, does not yet have the complex biometric data needed to describe it in more analytical language.

Kundalini is best known as a very kinetic internal energetic experience mentioned in the mystical traditions of every major religion, and sometimes experienced spontaneously outside of those traditions.

The Sanskrit name kundalini has stuck because this universal mystical experience was historically described in the most detail by those traditions using Sanskrit as a root language.

However, its common features are found in the liturgical descriptions of the experiences of revered mystics of all three Abrahamic monotheistic traditions as well – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Even those who have done just a little reading of Vedic and Tantric descriptions of kundalini, will have also heard the common metaphor of the “sleeping kundalini” vs the “awakened” (kinetic, energetic, or dynamic) kundalini.

Kundalini’s awakened, energetic aspect is revered among traditions that emphasize radical spiritual transformation and mystical initiation (Pentacostalism and other charismatic Protestant traditions, some lines of tantrism and shamanism, and some lines of Catholic and Orthodox Christianity, Sufi Islam and Cabbalistic Judaism…)

Wherever there are a lot of fire metaphors or thunder/lightning metaphors in a tradition, there is likely to be an emphasis on the activation of this dynamic principle of kundalini, and all the potentialities it awakens as it traverses the body.

Meditators and Contemplatives from traditions that emphasize stillness, silence, equipoise, and quiescence, may be condescending or even reactive towards those who intentionally cultivate such a kinetic state… and yet only among masters who have experienced the principles, practices, and fruit of both kinds of systems – the dynamic/transformative and the contemplative/self-liberating – understand that the self-illuminated field of conscious awareness (Pure Presence, Beingness/Awareness/Bliss, Rigpa, tigle, bindu, etc) that is so treasured by contemplatives is in fact the self-same kundalini in her quiescent, but luminously awake state – the third state of kundalini.

Various more esoteric Vedic, Tantric, and Abrahamic texts assert this very thing.

Expressing Kundalini in terms of the three gunas (states of matter and consciousness) in Ayurvedic terminology, the asleep kundalini is the tamasic (inertial) aspect, the surging, streaming kundalini is the rajasic (kinetic, frictional) aspect, and the field of radiant presence / self-reflexive awareness is the sattwic (harmoniously, dynamically equipoised) aspect.

Moreover, the kundalini of an individual usually occupies all three states in varying degrees at any given moment, and each can shift spontaneously into any other of the expressions.

Meaning that over time and skillful practice, a contemplative will, metaphorically speaking, release some of the crystallized, concreted energy-consciousness of their habitual personality patterns and bodily structures, which will stabilize as contemplative self-reflexive Awareness, inner light — Pure Presence. In that process, which is intentionally slow and balanced, typically only a small amount of Kundalini will turn kinetic, experienced as shimmering or electric energy sensations in the body.

For the radical, transformative mystic, who uses dramatic breath techniques, intensely focused awareness, amplified emotion, devotion, music, or perhaps even channeled sexual arousal to created rapid shifts in the energy state of the body, that same crystallized, concreted energy-consciousness of habitual personality patterns and bodily structures, may release very rapidly as large volumes of kinetic sensation traversing the body. If this mystic then adapts contemplative practices, some or most of that kinetic energy may diffuse and stabilize in a similar experience of self-illuminated presence to that which the contemplative cultivated from the start.

Should a contemplative suddenly experience or subject herself/himself to heightened emotional or sensory experience, or more intense focus, breathing, sexuality, devotion, or fight or flight response, that contemplative may find that both remnants of crystallized ego-consciousness and their steadily cultivated Presence suddenly convert to very kinetic, moving electrically alive energy traversing the body.

And should either the quietly aware contemplative, or the passionately fervent mystic, begin again to engage in more and more habituated or subconscious behaviors, emotional contraction, making of assumptions, and strong clinging to or aversion to particular experiences, either individual may find that both Presence and kinetic kundalini have begun to convert back into crystallized, concreted form as static personality structures and limiting patterns and beliefs.

Most commonly, this may happen if an developed adept begins to self-identify as “teacher”, “master”, “guru”, “sat guru”, “minister”, “rabbi”, or any other conceptual label, and ceases to perpetually experience the material and energetic world with fresh senses and wonder.

All three states of consciousness – as crystallized patterns, as a current of electrically alive energy, or as a field of illuminated awareness – are kundalini, differently expressed as inertia, dynamism, and equipoise, respectively.

In the next issue, we’ll look more specifically at the metaphysics of the kinetic state of kundalini.

If you wish to contextualize your own energetic/consciousness experiences within the continuum of human spiritual experiences, please feel free to email one of the certified KAP instructors on this page, or talk to KAP Instructor Tao Semko directly, for free, via scheduled Skype appointment at