Serpent Power (Kundalini-shakti), Introduction

by Arthur Avalon | 1919 | 101,807 words | ISBN-10: 8178223783 | ISBN-13: 9788178223780

This book outlines the principles of Kundali or Kundalini Shakti (“Serpent power”) and the associated practice known as Kundalini Yoga. The seven chapters contained in this book details on concepts such as Cakra (spiritual centers), the nature of consciousness and Mantras. When explaining technical terms there will be found many references to authe...


We pray to the Paradevatā united with Śiva, whose substance is the pure nectar of bliss, red like unto vermilion, the young flower of the hibiscus, and the sunset sky; who, having cleft Her way through the mass of sound issuing from the clashing and the dashing of the two winds in the midst af Susuṃṇā, rises to that brilliant Energy which glitters with the lustre of ten million lightnings. May She, Kuṇḍalinī, who quickly goes to and returns from Śiva, grant us the fruit of Yoga! She being awakened is the Cow of Plenty to Kaulas and the Kalpa Creeper of all things desired for those who worship Her.”

  —Śāradā-Tilaka, xxxv, 70

In my work Śakti and Śākta I outlined for the first time the principles of “Kuṇḍali-Yoga” so much discussed in some quarters, but of which so little was known.

This work is a description and explanation in fuller detail of the Serpent Power (Kuṇḍali-Śakti), and the Yoga effected through it, a subject occupying a pre-eminent place in the Tantra-Śāstra. It consists of a translation of two Sanskrit works published some years ago in the second volume of my series of Tāntrik Texts, but hitherto untranslated. The first, entitled “Ṣaṭcakra-nirūpaṇa” (“Description of and Investigation into the Six Bodily Centres”), has as its author the celebrated Tāntrik Pūrṇānanda-Svāmī, a short note on whose life is given later. It forms the sixth chapter of his extensive and unpublished work on Tāntrik Ritual entitled “Śrī-tattva-cintāmaṇī”. This has been the subject of commentaries by among others Śaṃkara and Viśvanātha cited in Volume II of the Tāntrik Texts, and used in the making of the present translation. The commentary here translated from the Sanskrit is by Kālīcaraṇa.

The second text, called “Pādukā-Pañcaka” (“Five-fold Footstool of the Guru”) deals with one of the Lotuses described in the larger work. To it is appended a translation from the Sanskrit of a commentary by Kālīcaraṇa. To the translation of both works I have added some further explanatory notes of my own. As the works translated are of a highly recondite character, and by themselves unintelligible to the English reader, I have prefaced the translation by a general Introduction in which I have endeavoured to give (within the limits both of a work of this kind and my knowledge) a description and explanation of this form of Yoga. I have also included some plates of the Centres, which have been drawn and painted according to the description of them as given in the first of these Sanskrit Texts.

It has not been possible in the Introduction to do more than give a general and summary statement of the principles upon which Yoga, and this particular form of it, rests. Those who wish to pursue the subject in greater detail are referred to my other published books on the Tantra Śāstra. In Principles of Tantra will be found general Introductions to the Śāstra and (in connection with the present subject) valuable chapters on Śakti and Mantras. In my recent work, Śakti and Śākta (the second edition of which is as I write reprinting), I have shortly summarised the teaching of the Śākta Tantras and their rituals. In my Studies in the Mantra-Śāstra, the first three parts of which have been reprinted from the “Vedānta Kesarī,” in which they first appeared, will be found more detailed descriptions of such technical terms as Tattva, Causal Śaktis, Kalā, Nāda, Bindu, and so forth, which are referred to in the present book. Other works published by me on the Tantra, including the Wave of Bliss, will be found in the page of advertisements.

The following account of Pūrṇānanda, the celebrated Tāntrika Sādhaka of Bengal, and author of the “Ṣaṭ-cakra- nirūpaṇa,” has been collected from the descendants of his eldest son, two of whom are connected with the work of the Varendra Research Society, Rajshahi, to whose Director, Sj. Akṣaya-Kumāra-Maitra, and Secretary, Sj. Rādha-Govinda- Baisāk, I am indebted for the following details:

Pūrṇānanda was a Rahri Brāhmaṇa of the Kāśyapa Gotra, whose ancestors belonged to the village of Pakrashi, which has not as yet been identified. His seventh ancestor Anantācārya is said to have migrated from Baranagora, in the district of Murshidabad, to Kaitali, in the district of Mymensingh. In his family were born two celebrated Tāntrika- Sādhakas—namely, Sarvānanda and Pūrṇānanda. The descendants of Sarvānanda reside at Mehar, while those of Pūrṇānanda reside mostly in the district of Mymensingh. Little is known about the worldly life of Pūrṇānanda, except that he bore the name of Jagadānanda, and copied a manuscript of the Viṣṇupurāṇam [Viṣṇupurāṇa] in the Śāka year 1448 (a.d. 1526). This manuscript, now in the possession of one of his descendants named Paṇḍit Hari-Kishore-Bhattācārya, of Kaitali, is still in a fair state of preservation. It was brought for inspection by Paṇḍit Satis-Candra-Siddhāntabhūṣaṇa of the Varendra Research Society. The colophon states that Jagadānanda Śarma wrote the Purāṇa in the Śāka year 1448.

This Jagadānanda assumed the name of Pūrṇānanda when he obtained his Dīkṣā (Initiation) from Brahmānanda and went to Kāmarūpa (Assam), in which province he is believed to have obtained his “Siddhi” or state of spiritual perfection in the Āśrama, which still goes by the name of Vasiṣṭhāśrama, situated at a distance of about seven miles from the town of Gauhati (Assam). Pūrṇānanda never returned home, but led the life of a Paramahaṃsa and compiled several Tāntrik works, of which the Śrī-tattva-cintāmaṇi, composed in the Śāka year 1499 (a.d. 1577), Śyāmārahasya, Śāktakrama, Tattvānanda-taraṅgiṇī, and Yoga-sāra are known. His commentary on the Kālīkakārakūta hymn is well known. The Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpaṇa [Ṣaṭcakranirūpaṇa], here translated, is not, however an independent work, but a part of the sixth Paṭala of the Śrī-tattva-cintāmaṇi [Tattvacintāmaṇi]. According to a genealogical table of the family of this Tāntrika-Ācārya and Virācāra-Sādhaka, given by one of his descendants, Pūrṇānānda is removed from his present descendants by about ten generations.

This work has been on hand some five years, but both the difficulties of the subject and those created by the war have delayed its publication. I had hoped to include some other plates of original paintings and drawings in my possession bearing on the subject, but present conditions do not allow of this, and I have therefore thought it better to publish the book as it stands rather than risk further delay.

Arthur Avalon

September 20, 1918

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