Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Experiences of Swami Satyananda Saraswati
from the book Kundalini Tantra
From Chapter 1
When I was six years old I had a spontaneous spiritual experience during which I became completely unaware of my body for quite a long time. Again, when I was ten, the same thing happened, but this time I was old enough to think and rationalize, and I told my father about it. At first he did not understand what had happened and he wanted to take me to a doctor, but fortunately there were no doctors in our area at that time. Had there been, perhaps I would have ended up in a mental hospital, but things being what they were, I did not have to undergo treatment and was left unattended.
My father had great regard for the Vedas and for his guru. One day this guru happened to visit my native town, so my father took me to him and asked his advice about me. The sage told him that I had had a spiritual experience and therefore should be instructed to lead a spiritual life. My father obeyed his guru and arranged for me to be trained accordingly. Thus at an early age I was dedicated to the spiritual quest.
My family was Hindu, and in Hinduism there are two traditions: one believes in the worship of idols, and the other that God is formless. My family belonged to the latter, but still I often looked at the pictures of all the different deities and wondered at them. Durga was mounted on a lion; Saraswati on a swan; Vishnu lay sleeping on a huge cobra; Kali was completely naked, standing on the body of Shiva; Таrа too was naked and Shiva was drinking milk from her breast. I could not understand what it all meant. Why did Shiva ride upon a bull and have so many snakes wrapped around him; how could the Ganga flow from his hair; why was Ganesha, with his enormous elephantine head and pot belly, riding on a small rat? I thought that there must be some symbolic meaning behind all this, but I only began to understand it through kundalini yoga, which I started practising at the age of fifteen, while still at school.
Around this time I had another experience. I was sitting quietly when suddenly, without any effort, my mind turned inwards. I immediately saw the whole earth with its oceans, continents, mountains and cities, crack into pieces. I did not understand this vision until a few days later when the second world war broke out. This really made me begin to wonder. How could I have seen this future event symbolically in meditation when living in a remote area? I had neither heard nor read about it previously, nor had I any way of knowing that it was coming.
A new life begins
By the time I was seventeen, I was asking questions which nobody could answer. I wondered about things like the difference between perception and experience. I talked a lot about such topics with my maternal uncle and my younger sister, but this did not quench my thirst and I knew I had to go out and discover the answers for myself. I postponed my departure from home until one day my father pushed me out with ninety rupees in my pocket. Thus my wandering life began.
During my travels I met a very old swami who invited me to stay in his ashram. He had a wonderful knowledge of tantra and taught me many things. Though I knew I would never forget him, he was not my guru and after nine months I left his ashram and continued wandering. Soon after this I reached Rishikesh, where I heard about Swami Sivananda. I went to him and asked how to experience the highest consciousness. He told me to stay in his ashram and he would guide me. So I followed monastic life, but still, for a long time I was puzzled about the purpose of my existence. I felt that man was a seeker, yet I really did not know what I was seeking and was often left with the terrifying question that man asks himself regarding death.
The awakening of my kundalini
Sometime later I had another experience while sitting on the banks of the Ganga. I was thinking of some mundane things when my mind spontaneously started going in and in. Suddenly I felt as if the earth was slipping from under me and the sky was expanding and receding. A moment later I experienced a terrible force springing from the base of my body like an atomic explosion. I felt that I was vibrating very fast, the light currents were terrific. I experienced the supreme bliss, like the climax of a man's desire, and it continued for a long time. My whole body was contracting until the feeling of pleasure became quite unbearable and I lost complete awareness of my body. This was the third time it had happened.
After returning to consciousness I was listless for many days. I could not eat, sleep or move, even to go to the toilet. I saw everything but nothing registered. The bliss was a living thing within me and I knew that if I moved, this wonderful feeling would cease; I would lose the intensity of it all. How could I move when bells were ringing inside? This was the awakening of my kundalini.
After a week or so I returned to normal and then I started to study tantra and yoga very seriously. At first I was still a bit weak and sick, so I practised hatha yoga to purify my whole system. Then I began to explore the fantastic science of kundalini yoga. What is this power which awakens in mooladhara chakra? My interest was aroused and I put much effort into trying to understand this marvellous force.
With the awakening of kundalini, the greater intelligence is aroused from its sleep and you can give birth to a new range of creativity. When kundalini awakens, not only are you blessed with visions and psychic experiences, you could become a prophet, saint, inspired artist or musician, a brilliant writer or poet, a clairvoyant or messiah. Or you could become an outstanding leader, prime minister, governor or president. The awakening of kundalini affects the whole area of the human mind and behavior.
Kundalini is not a myth or an illusion. It is not a hypothesis or a hypnotic suggestion. Kundalini is a biological substance that exists within the framework of the body. Its awakening generates electrical impulses throughout the whole body and these impulses can be detected by modern scientific instruments and machines. Therefore, each of us should consider the importance and the benefits of awakening kundalini, and we should make a resolve to awaken this great shakti.
From Chapter 12
The awakening of kundalini is like a great explosion which transports a person into another plane of being. No matter which spiritual path you follow, you must eventually reach this domain. Ordinary consciousness and transcendental consciousness cannot be maintained at the same time; it is necessary to pass through an intermediate zone of change, where perceptions, feelings and experiences undergo a transformation. The adventure is always the same; it is a journey through the border region between the known and the unknown. At this time it is very important to recognize that this explosion signals a profound alteration in consciousness. The complete process of awakening is comprised of several stages, as the kundalini rises and passes through the various chakras. It takes quite some time to become fully stabilized, but if one has a good understanding, the transition process can be managed without any serious difficulties.
The preliminary awakening of kundalini is followed by the experience of light in bhrumadhya, the eyebrow center. Usually this develops in a very mild way over an extended period of time, and therefore does not precipitate any sudden agitation or disturbance. After some time, the appetite for food and sleep gradually decreases and the mind becomes quieter.
There is another prior warning which heralds the awakening of kundalini. In yoga and tantra it is very clearly indicated that when ida and pingala flow simultaneously for a long period of time, and sushumna begins to flow, then it is time to prepare for a spiritual event.
Therefore, one should be conversant with swara yoga, the science of the breath cycle, and keep a close watch over the breathing process. The breathing pattern in the nostrils normally changes every fourth day, according to the cycles of the moon, but when both nostrils have been functioning equally well for at least fifteen days, that is an advance warning of an impending spiritual breakthrough.
An onslaught of experiences
When the actual awakening occurs there is an explosion in the realm of experience and there are symptoms which are sometimes very difficult to understand. The most unique and common experience is the release of energy like an electric shock from the bottom of the spinal cord, as if it were connected to an electrical power point. This may be accompanied by a burning sensation in mooladhara chakra and energy passing up and down through sushumna. Sometimes you hear drums, flutes, bells, birds, celestial music, or you may even think you can hear peacocks singing. You may have a very momentary sensation of sitting outside in the middle of a monsoon shower, and there can also be the sensation of dark clouds in continual movement overhead and the sound of thunder.
At times your body feels so light and you may even visualize your spinal cord as a fluorescent light. It is common to feel illumination within, as if hundreds of little lights were burning inside your body. This is one side.
The other side is that all the anger, passions and suppressions come out. Sometimes you are so filled with fear that you can't sleep, sometimes for days together you have nothing in your mind but sex, at other times you can't think of anything but food. However, all these symptoms pass within a few days or weeks.
Some people obtain psychic powers. They develop clairvoyance, telepathy, clairaudience, psychotelekinesis, the ability to heal, etc., and this brings a lot of temptations. However, this is a phase and it will pass away.
Sometimes you don't feel like eating for days together. You may not have any appetite for fifteen to twenty days, and even if people try to force you to eat, you just can't. There is sometimes a feeling of nervous depression, and you may just want to sit, or you may feel restricted and closed in. There is a detachment from the normal emotions of life; for days together you may live a life of utter dispassion. Nothing is interesting in life and everything and everybody seems as dry as a desert. But at the same time, the mind becomes very dynamic and appears to be formless. Various sensations, poetic emotions and artistic perceptions also occur, such as visions of angels and divinities. All kinds of things can emerge from the depths of the mind. However, these are just a few of the symptoms you may experience, but all of them pass away quickly.
The storm always settles and then the yogi lives a very normal life. Externally his life seems the same as anybody else's but his inner awareness is far greater and more vast.
Headaches and insomnia
Some aspirants experience terrible headaches when kundalini is awakening, however, this does not mean that all headaches are related to kundalini. And not everybody will have headaches. Generally, those who have had married life do not have this experience. It is usually only those who have not had any kind of sexual interactions who experience headaches with the advent of kundalini awakening.
There is also another explanation about headaches. One-tenth of the brain is active and nine-tenths are not. In some cases, when the silent areas of the brain begin to wake up, the first symptom is headache. People have equated this experience with labor pain. Just as a woman experiences labor pain when she is about to give birth to a child, when the silent areas of the brain are about to become active and you are giving birth to spiritual consciousness, there is also pain.
Therefore, one has to bear with this pain for some time, but it will inevitably settle down. Of course you can reduce the pain by adjusting your diet and lifestyle, but under no circumstances should you use sedatives, aspirins or pain relieving pills.
It is also likely that an aspirant will experience insomnia. However, yogis don't call it insomnia. They say, 'Why should I sleep?' If you love a person very much and he stays with you and does not allow you to sleep, will you call that insomnia? So, all the people who do not sleep are not yogis. Only those people are yogis who do not sleep and are happy about it, because yogis have an entirely different attitude. They say one-third of life is wasted in sleeping.
So, when kundalini awakens in a yogi and consciousness is constant and consistent, and there is no waking, sleeping and dreaming, they are very happy about it. Therefore, insomnia does not usually bother a person who has awakened kundalini. However, if you are disturbed by your inability to sleep, you should never resort to sleeping pills or tranquillizers. It is also not necessary that you practise yoga to induce sleep. Just accept your sleeplessness and enjoy it. You can do japa or meditation or just do some spiritual reflection. If this is not possible, just lie down and let it happen as it will.
Experiencing the threefold awakenings
Each of the three forms of awakening - nadis, chakras and sushurnna is accompanied by its own set of experiences. Many aspirants have psychic experiences and they think they indicate the awakening of kundalini, but this is not so.
When the chakras are awakening, the experiences one has are not so frightening and critical. They are usually of a fantastic nature, very pleasant, hallucinating and comfortable. Even if you have an experience of fear or terror, it does not shake your mind. When we have experiences of our ishta devata or guru, or we have some experience in meditation or during kirtan, and it feels very nice, that represents chakra awakening and not kundalini awakening. When you experience a chakra awakening it is rather beautiful and leaves a comfortable or blissful feeling. That is to encourage you to go further.
When awakening takes place in sushumna, you may feel or see a rod of light, or your spinal cord may seem to be fully illumined from within. Such experiences are described by the saints of different religions in their poems, songs and stories, which are unfortunately understood by very few people today.
The awakening of sushumna can also bring some mind exploding experiences which are sometimes very confusing. You can smell pleasant and unpleasant odors, you will hear shrieks and screams as if the ghosts are crying, and there is a feeling of heat, creeping sensations and pain in different parts of the body. You may get a high fever or manifest the symptoms of some common disease or some baffling illness which medical experts find difficult to analyze.
At the time of sushumna awakening, the quality and experience of the mind begin to change. One has the experience of depression, anorexia and loneliness. You begin to realize the inner essence. Matter appears to be nothing, and even your body feels as if it were only made up of air. Or you may feel that you are not part of this physical body, you are someone else. When you look at people, animals and the objects of nature - the flowers, trees, rivers and mountains, etc., you feel a communication with them.
At this time, you also experience prophetic vision, but your visions or forewarnings may not be clear and you only foresee the bad things - imminent perils, accidents, disasters and catastrophies. Throughout the awakening one generally has an aversion to work and can't really apply himself to anything.
It is actually best if an aspirant is near his guru at this time of awakening so he can explain what is happening. The sadhaka is not merely making a transition from one state of mind to another, he is actually jumping from one state to another. It is also very difficult for even an expert guru to handle these matters unless the disciple has totally accepted him as his guru.
Differentiating the experiences
You must remember that when you have certain visions and fantastic experiences, they do not necessarily represent the awakening of kundalini or even sushumna nadi. They may indicate chakra awakening or they may just be the expression of your archetypes or samskaras. Because of your sadhana, concentration or one-pointedness, you may be allowing an outlet for your deep-rooted samskaras to express themselves.
These experiences and those that accompany chakra awakening do not mean anything when you try to assess them.
I will give you an example. Many years ago, I was meditating on the bank of the Ganga in Rishikesh and suddenly I had a very vivid experience. I saw the whole earth split into two. It was a very clear vision, and I remember it even today, but this vision had nothing to do with reality; I just had it. This was an experience of chakra awakening.
When the actual awakening of kundalini takes place, it is a great event in man's life. Every experience has a tangible proof, whether it is awakening of extrasensory perceptions or the awakening of a particular kind of genius. It may be in the form of a philosophy you are able to deliver to the people, a transformation in the physical elements of the body that you are able to materialize, or a magnetic influence that you are able to cast on the masses of people as a politician, musician or saint.
The awakening of kundalini has tangible, positive and concrete proofs. You cannot believe your kundalini is awakened if you have no proof, because when the awakening of kundalini takes place, you completely transcend the normal categories of mental awareness and the scope of your knowledge becomes greater.
A scientist who jumped beyond the mind
There was a scientist named Eddington, and he was observing the determined laws of electrons and trying to formulate a system, a law. He succeeded, the result being the law of determinancy.
However, once when he was studying the electrons, his vision changed entirely. He found that the electrons were behaving in a very anarchical manner.There was no logic, system or hypothesis behind their behavior. That was his vision, and he called it the law of indeterminancy.
Once he was asked, 'What is this law which you have discovered behind the mathematical and logical behavior of electrons?' He replied, 'It cannot be explained.' Someone asked, 'How can you say that a movement in matter cannot be explained?' Eddington answered, 'It can be explained if you can jump over the mind.'
The process of transition
There is a natural process of transition in which a man's consciousness evolves over the course of millions of years. It takes place in the same way that a baby develops into a child, a child into a young man, a young man into a middle-aged man, a middle-aged man into an old man. Suppose a child of five suddenly transformed into an old man and he found he was tall, grey haired and speaking like an old person. It would be very difficult for him to handle the situation and to connect both the areas of his life. This is what generally happens with those who awaken kundalini.
Their experiences are often imbalanced and extremely difficult to understand. Just imagine how it would be if you felt your whole body burning as if it were in flames, or you kept feeling that a snake was crawling through your body. Imagine what it would be like to look at somebody's face and instead of seeing the person you see a ghost. You'd start to think you were crazy! These are just a few of the bizarre experiences you could be confronted with. However, with the awakening of kundalini, there is also an awakening of vairagya, detachment. And when vairagya develops the turbulence settles, the awakening becomes peaceful and the transition is smooth.