Shakti and Shakta
by John Woodroffe | 1929 | 243,591 words
A collection of papers and essays addressing the Śakti aspect of the Śākta school of Hindu philosophy by John Woodroffe, also known as Arthur Avalon....
Chapter XXIX - Kuṇḍalinī Śakti (Yoga)
THE word ‘Yoga’ comes from the root “Yuj” which means “to join” and, in its spiritual sense, it is that process by which the human spirit is brought into near and conscious communion with, or is merged in, the Divine Spirit, according as the nature of the human spirit is held to be separate from (Dvaita, Viśiṣṭādvaita) or one with (Advaita) the Divine Spirit. As, according to Śākta doctrine, with which alone we are concerned, the latter proposition is affirmed, Yoga is that process by which the identity of the two (Jīvātmāand Paramātmā)—which identity ever in fact exists—is realized by the Yogī or practitioner of Yoga. It is so realized because the Spirit has then pierced through the veil of Māyā which as mind and matter obscures this knowledge from itself. The means by which this is achieved is the Yoga process which liberates from Māyā. So the Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā, a Haṭhayoga treatise of the Tāntrik school, says (Chap. 5): “There is no bond equal in strength to Māyā, and no power greater to destroy that bond than Yoga.” From an Advaita or Monistic standpoint, Yoga in the sense of a final union is inapplicable, for union implies a dualism of the Divine and Human spirit. In such case, it denotes the progess rather than the result. When the two are regarded as distinct, Yoga may apply to both. A person who practices Yoga is called a “Yogī.” According to Indian notions all are not competent (Adhikārī) to attempt Yoga; only a very few are. One must, in this or in other lives, have first gone through Karma or ritual, and Upāsanā or devotional, worship and obtained the fruit thereof, namely a pure mind (Cittaśuddhi). This Sanskrit term does not merely mean a mind free from sexual impurity, as an English reader might suppose. The attainment of this and other good qualities is the A B C of Sādhanā. A person may have a pure mind in this sense and yet be wholly incapable of Yoga. Cittaśuddhi consists not merely in moral purity of every kind, but in knowledge, detatchment, capacity for pure intellectual functioning, attention, meditation and so forth. When, by Karma and Upāsanā, the mind is brought to this point and when, in the case of Vedāntik Yoga, there is dispassion and detatchment from the world and its desires, then the Yoga path is open for the realization of Tattvajñāna, that is ultimate Truth. Very few persons indeed are compenent for Yoga in its higher forms. The majority should seek their advancement along the path of ritual and devotion.
There are four main forms of Yoga, according to a common computation, namely Mantrayoga, Haṭhayoga, Layayoga, and Rājayoga, the general characteristics of which have been described in “The Serpent Power.” It is only necessary here to note that Kuṇḍalī-yoga is Laya-yoga. The Eighth Chapter of the Sammohana Tantra, however, speaks of five kinds, namely, Jñāna, Rāja, Laya, Hatha, and Mantra, and mentions as five aspects of the spiritual life, Dharma, Kriyā, Bhāva, Jñāna, and Yoga; Mantrayoga being said to be of two kinds, accordering is it is pursued upon the path of Kriyā or Bhāva. Many forms of Yoga are in fact mentioned in the Books. There are seven Sādhanās of Yoga, namely Ṣaṭkarma, Āsana, Mudrā, Pratyāhāra, Prāṇāyāma, Dhyāna, and Samādhi, which are cleansing of the body, seat, postures for gymnastic and Yoga purposes, the abstraction of the senses from their object, breath control (the celebrated Prāṇāyāma), meditation and ecstasy, which is of two kinds, imperfect (Savikalpa) in which dualism is not wholly overcome, and perfect (Nirvikalpa) which is complete Monistic experience—“Ahaṃ Brahmāsmi,” “I am the Brahman”—I knowledge in the sense of realization, which, it is to be observed, not not produce Liberation (Mokṣa) but is Liberation itself. The Samādhi of Laya-yoga is said to be Savikalpasamādhi, and that of complete Rāja-yoga is said to be Nirvikalpasamādhi. The first four processes are physical and the last three mental and supramental (see Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā Upadeśa, I). By these seven processes respectively certain qualities are gained, namely, purity (Śodhana), firmness and strength (Dridhatā), fortitude (Sthiratā), steadiness (Dhairya), lightness (Lāghava), realization (Pratyakṣa) and detatchment leading to Liberation (Nirliptattva).
What is known as the eight-limbed Yoga (Aṣṭāṅgayoga) contains five of the above Sādhanās (Āsana, Prāṇāyāma, Pratyāhāra, Dhyāna, and Samādhi) and three others, namely Yama or self-control by way of chastity, temperance, avoidance of harm (Ahiṃsā) and other virtues, Niyama or religious observances, charity and so forth, with Devotion to the Lord (Īśvara-pranidhāna), and Dhāranā, the fixing of the internal organ on its subject as directed in the Yoga practice. For further details, I refer the reader to my introduction to the work entitled “The Serpent Power” (2nd Ed., 1925). Here I will only deal shortly with Laya-yoga or the arousing of Kuṇḍalinī Śakti, a subject of the highest importance in the Tantra Śāstra, and without some knowledge of which much of its ritual will not be understood. I cannot here enter into all the details which demand a lengthy exposition, and which I have given in the Introduction to the two Sanskrit works called Ṣaṭcakranirūpaṇa, and Pādukāpañcaka translated in the volume, “The Serpent Power” which deals with Kuṇḍalinī Śakti and the piercing by Her of the six bodily centres or Cakras. The general principle and meaning of this Yoga has never yet been published, and the present Chapter is devoted to a short summary of these two points only.
All the world (I speak, of course, of those interested in such subjects) is beginning to speak of Kuṇḍalinī Śakti, “cette fameuse Kundalinī” as a French friend of mine calls Her. There is considerable talk about the Cakras and the Serpent Power but lack of understanding as to what they mean. This, as usual, is sought to be covered by an air of mystery, mystical mists, and sometime the attitude “I should much like to tell you if only I were allowed to give it out.” A silly Indian boast of which I lately read is, “I have the key and I keep it.” Those who really have the key to anything are superior men, above boasting. “Mysticism,” which is often confused thinking, is also a fertile soil of humbug. I do not, of course, speak of true Mysticism. Like all other matters in this Indian Śāstra the basis of this Yoga is essentially rational. Its thought, like that of the ancients generally, whether of East or West, has in general the form and brilliance of a cut gem. It is this quality which makes it so dear to some of those who have had to wade through the slush of much modern thought and literature. No attempt has hitherto been made to explain the general principles which underlie it. This form of Yoga is an application of the general principles relating to Śakti with which I have already dealt. The subject has both a theoretical and practical aspect. The latter is concerned with the teaching of the method in such a way that the aspirant may give effect to it. This cannot be learnt from books but only from the Guru who has himself successfully practised this Yoga. Apart from difficulties, inherent in written explanations, it cannot be practically learnt from books, because the carrying out of the method is affected by the nature and capacity of the Sādhaka and what takes place during his Sādhanā. Further, though some general features of the method have been explained to me, I have had no practical experience myself of this Power. I am not speaking as a Yogī in this method, which I am not; but as one who has read and studied the Śāstra on this matter, and has had the further advantage of some oral explanations which have enabled me to better understand it. I have dealt with this practical side, so far as it is possible to me, in my work on “The Serpent Power.” Even so far as the matter can be dealt with in writing, I cannot, within the limits of such a paper as this, deal with it in any way fully. A detailed description of the Cakras and their significence cannot be attempted here. I refer the reader to the work entitled “The Serpent Power” (second Edition). What I wish to do is to treat the subject on the broadest lines possible and to explain the fundamental principles which underlie this Yoga method. It is because these are not understood that there is much confused thinking and misty, if not mystical, talk upon the subject. How many persons, for instance, can correctly answer the question, “What is Kuṇḍalinī Śakti?” One may be told that it is a Power or Śakti; that it is coiled like a serpent in the Mūlādhāra; and that it is wakened and goes up though the C’’akras to the Sahasrāra. But what Śakti is it? Why, again, is it coiled like a serpent? What is the meaning of this? What is the nature of the Power? Why is it in the Mūlādhāra? What is the meaning of “awakening” the power? Why if awakened should it go up? What are the Cakras? It is easy to say that they are regions or lotuses. What are they in themselves? Why have each of the lotuses a different number of petals? What is a petal? What and why are the “Letters” on them? What ie the effect of going to the Sahasrāra: and how does that effect come about? These and other similar questions require an answer before this form of Yoga can be understood. I have said something as to the Letters in the chapters on Śakti as Mantra and Varṇamālā. With these and with other general questions, rather than with the details of the six Cakras, set forth in “The Serpent Power” I will here deal.
In the first place, it is necessary to remember the fundamental principle of the Tantra Śāstra to which I have already referred, viz., that man is a microcosm (Kṣundrabrahmānda). Whatever exists in the outer universe exists in him. All the Tattvas and the worlde are within him and so are the supreme Śiva-Śakti.
The body may be divided into two main parts, namely, the head and trunk on one hand, and the legs on the other. In man, the centre of the body is between these two, at the base of the spine where the legs begin. Supporting the trunk and throughout the whole body there is the spinal cord. This is the axis of the body, just as Mount Meru is the axis of the earth. Hence man’s spine is called Merudanda, the Meru or axis-staff. The legs and feet are gross matter which show less signs of consciousness than the trunk with its spinal white and grey matter; which trunk itself is greatly subordinate in this respect to the head containing the organ of mind, or physical brain, with its white and grey matter. The position of the white and grey matter in the head and spinal column respectively are reversed. The body and legs below the centre are the seven lower or nether worlds upheld by the sustaining Śaktis of the universe. From the centre upwards, consciousness more freely manifests through the spinal and cerebral centres. Here there are the seven upper regions or Lokas, a term which Satyānanda in his commentary on Īśa Upaniṣad says, means “what are seen” (Lokyante), that is, experienced and are hence the fruits of Karma in the form of particular re-birth. These regions, namely, Bhūh, Bhuvah, Svah, Tapah, Jana, Mahah, and Satya Lokas correspond with the six centres; five in the trunk, the sixth in the lower cerebral centre; and the seventh in the upper Brain or Satyaloka, the abode of the supreme ŚivaŚakti.
The six centres are the Mūlādhāra or root-support situated at the base of the spinal column in a position midway in the perhum between the root of the genitals and the anus. Above it, in the region of the genitals, abdomen, heart, chest or throat and in the forehead between the two eyes (Bhrūmadhye) are the Svādhiṣṭhāna, Maṇipūra, Anāhata, Viśuddha and Ājñā Cakras or lotuses (Padma) respectively. These are the chief centres, though the books speak of others such as the Lalanāand Manas and Soma Cakras. In fact, in the Advaita Mārtanda, a modern Sanskrit book by the late Guru of the Mahārājā of Kashmir, some fifty Cakras and Ādhāras are mentioned: though the six stated are the chief upon which all accounts agree. And so it is said, “How can there be any Siddhi for him who knows not the six Cakras, the sixteen Ādhāras, the five Ethers and the three Liṅgas in his own body?” The seventh region beyond the Cakras is the upper brain, the highest centre of manifestation of Consciousness in the body and therefore the abode of the supreme Śiva-Śakti. When “abode” is said, it is not meant, of course, that the Supreme is there placed in the sense of our “placing,” namely, it is there and not elsewhere. The Supreme is never localized whilst its manifestations are. It is everywhere both within and without the body, but it is said to be in the Sahasrāra, because it is there that the Supreme Śiva-Śakti is realized. And this must be so, because consciousness is realized by entering in and passing through the highest manifestation of mind, the Sattvamayī Buddhi, above and beyond which is Cit and Cidrūpiṇi Śakti themselves. From their ŚivaŚakti Tattva aspect are evolved Mind in its form as Buddhi, Ahaṃkāra, Manas and associated senses (Indriyas) the centre of which is in and above the Ājñā Cakra and below the Sahasrāra. From Ahaṃkāra proceed the Tanmātras or generals of the sense-particulars which evolve the five forms of sensible matter (Bhūta), namely, Ākāśa (“Ether”), Vāyu (“Air”), Agni (“Fire”), Apas (“Water”), and Pṛthivi (“Earth”). The English translation given of these terms do not imply that the Bhiitas are the same as the English elements of air, fire, water, earth. The terms indicate varying degrees of matter from the ethereal to the solid. Thus Pṛthivī or earth is any matter in the Pṛthivī state; that is, which may be sensed by the Indriya of smell. Mind and matter pervade the whole body. But there are centres therein in which they are predominant. Thus Ājñāis a centre of mind, and the five lower Cakras are centres of the five BhūtasViśuddha of Ākāśa, Anāhata of Vāyu, Maṇipūra of Agni, Svādhiṣṭhāna of Apas, and Mūlādhāra of Pṛthivī.
In short, man as a microcosm is the all-pervading. Spirit (which most purely manifests in the Sahasrāra) vehicled by Śakti in the form of Mind and Matter the centres of which are the sixth and following five Cakras respectively.
The six Cakras have been identified with the following plexuses commencing from the lowest, the Mūlādhāra:—The Sacrococcygeal plexus, the Sacral plexus, the Solar plexus (which forms the great junction of the right and left sympathetic chains Iḍa and Piṅgalā) with the cerebro-spinal axis. Connected with this is the Lumbar plexus. Then follows the Cardiac plexus (Anāhata), Laryngeal plexus, and lastly the Ājñā or cerebellum with its two lobes, and above this the Manas Cakra or sensorium with its six lobes, the Soma-cakra or middle Cerebrum, and lastly the Sahasrāra or upper Cerebrum. To some extent these localizations are yet tentative. This statement may involve an erroneous view of what the Cakras really are, and is likely to produce wrong notions concerning them in others. The six Cakras themselves are vital centres within the spinal column in the white and grey matter there. They may, however, and probably do, influence and govern the gross tract outside the spine in the bodily region lateral to, and co-extensive with, that section of the spinal column in which a particular centre is situated. The Cakras are centres of Śakti as vital force. In other words, they are centres of Prāṇaśakti manifested by Prāṇavāyu in the living body, the presiding Devatā of which are names for the Universal Consciousness as It manifests in the form of those centres. The Cakras are not perceptible to the gross senses, whatever may be a Yogi’s powers to observe what is beyond the senses (Atīndriya). Even if they were perceptible in the living body which they help to organize, they disappear with the disintegration of organism at death.
In an article on “The Physical Errors of Hinduism,” (Calcutta Review, XI, 436-440) it was said:—“It would indeed excite the surprise of our readers to hear that the Hindus, who would not even touch a dead body, much less dissect it (which is incorrect), should possess any anatomical knowledge at all. . . . . . It is the Tantras that furnish us with some extraordinary pieces of information concerning the human body. . . . But of all the Hindu Śāstras extant, the Tantras lie in the greatest obscurity. . . . The Tāntrik theory, on which the well-known Yoga called ‘Ṣaṭcakrabheda’ is founded, supposes the existence of six main internal organs, called Cakras or Padmas, all bearing a special resemblance to that famous flower, the lotus. These are placed one above the other, and connected by three imaginary chains, the emblems of the Ganges, the Yamunā, and the Sarasvatī. . . . . . .Such is the obstinacy with which the Hindus adhere to these erroneous notions, that, even when we show them by actual dissection the non-existence of the imaginary Cakras in the human body, they will rather have recourse to excuses revolting to common-sense than acknowledge the evidence of their own eyes. They say, with a shamelessness unparalleled, that these Padmas exist as long as a man lives, but disappear the moment he dies.” This alleged “Shamelessness” reminds me of the story of a doctor who told my father “that he had performed many postmortems and had never yet discovered a soul.”
The petals of the lotuses vary being 4, 6, 10, 12, 16, 2 respectively; commencing from the Mūlādhāra and ending with Ājñā. There are 50 in all, as are the letters of the alphabet which are in the petals; that is, the Mātṛkās are associated with the Tattvas since both are products of the same creative Cosmic Process manifesting either as physiological or psychological function. It is noteworthy that the number of the petals is that of the letters leaving, out either Kṣa or the Second La, and that these 50 multiplied by 20 are in the 1000 petals of the Sahasrāra, a number which is probably only indicative of multitude and magnitude.
But why, it may be asked, do the petals vary in number? Why, for instance, are there 4 in the Mūlādhāra and 6 in the Svādhiṣṭhāna? The answer given is that the number of petals in any Cakra is determined by the number and position of the Nāḍis or Yoga “nerves” around that Cakra. Thus, four Nāḍis surrounding and passing through the vital movements of the Mūlādhāra Cakra give it the appearance of a lotus of four petals. The petals are thus configurations made by the position of Nāḍis at any particular centre. These Nāḍis are not those which are known to the Vaidya of Medical Śāstras. The latter are gross physical nerves. But the former here spoken of are called Yoga-Nāḍis and are subtle channels (Vivara) along which the Prāṇik currents flow. The term Nāḍi comes from the root “Naḍ” which means motion. The body is filled with an uncountable number of Nāḍis. If they were reveded to the eye the body would present the appearance of a highly complicated chart of ocean currents. Superficially the water seems one and the same. But examination shows that it is moving with varying degrees of force in all directions. All these lotuses exist in the spinal column.
An Indian physician and Sanskritist has, in the Guy’s Hospital Gazette, expressed the opinion that better anatomy is given in the Tantras than in the purely medical works of the Hindus. I have attempted elsewhere to co-relate present and ancient anatomy and physiology. I can, however, only mention here some salient points, first pointing out that the Śivasvarodaya Śāstra gives prominence to nerve centres and nerve currents (Vāyu) and their control, such teaching being for the purpose of worship (Upāsanā) and Yoga. The aims and object of the two Śāstras are not the same.
The Merudanda is the vertebral column. Western Anatomy divides it into five regions; and it is to be noted in corroboration of the theory here exposed that these correspond with the regions in which the five Cakras are situate. The central spinal system comprises the brain or encephalon contained within the skull (in which are the Lalanā, Ājnā, Manas, Soma Cakras and the Sahasrāra); as also the spinal cord extending from the upper border of the Atlas below the cerebellum and descending to the second lumbar vertebra where it tapers to a point called the filum temimale. Within the spine is the cord, a compound of grey and white brain matter, in which are the five lower Cakras. It is noteworthy that the filum terminale was formerly thought to be mere fibrous cord, an unsuitable vehicle, one might think, for the Mūlādhāra Cakra and Kuṇḍalī Śakti. Recent microscopic investigations have, however, disclosed the existence of highly sensitive grey matter in the filum terminale which represents the position of the Mūlādhāra. According to Western science, the spinal cord is not merely a conductor between the periphery and the centres of sensation and volition, but is also an independent centre or group of centres. The Suṣumnāis a Nāḍi in the centre of the spinal column. Its base is called the Brahmadvīra or Gate of Brahman. As regards the physiological relations of the Cakras all that can be said with any degree of certainty is that the four above the Mūlādhāra have relation to the genito-excretory, digestive, cardiac and respiratory functions, and that the two upper centres, the Ājnā (with associated Cakras) and the Sahasrāra denote various forms of its cerebral activity ending in the repose of Pure Consciousness therein gained through Yoga. The Nāḍis on each side called Iḍā and Piṅgalā are the left and right sympathetic cords crossing the central column from one side to the other, making at the Ājñā with the Suṣumnā a three-fold knot called Trivenī; which is said to be the spot in the Medulla where the sympathetic cords join together and whence they take their origin—these Nāḍis together with the two-lobed Ājñā and the Suṣumnā forming the figure of the Caduceus of the God Mercury which is said by some to represent them.
How then does this Yoga compare with others ?
It will now be asked what are the general principles which underlie the Yoga practice above described. How is it that the rousing of Kuṇḍalinī Śakti and her Union with Śiva effect the state of ecstatic union (Samādhi) and spiritual experience which is alleged. The reader who has understood the generall principles recorded in the previous essays should, if he has not already divined it, readily appreciate the answer here given.
In the first place, there are two main lines of Yoga, namely, Dhyāna or Bhāvanā Yoga and Kuṇḍalī Yoga, the subject of this work; and there is a marked difference between the two. The first class of Yoga is that in which ecstasy (Samādhi) is attained by intellective processes (Kriyā-jñāna) of meditation and the like, with the aid, it may be, of auxiliary processes of Mantra or Haṭha Yoga (other than the rousing of Kuṇḍalinī Śakti) and by detachment from the world; the second stands apart as that portion of Haṭha Yoga in which, though intellective processes are not neglected, the creative and sustaining Śakti of the whole body is actually and truly united with the Lord Consciousness. The Yogī makes Her introduce him to Her Lord, and enjoys the bliss of union through Her. Though it is he who arouses Her, it is She who gives Jñāna, for She is Herself that. The Dhyānayogīgains what acquaintance with the supreme state his own meditative powers can give him and knows not the enjoyment of union with Śiva in and through his fundamental Body-Power. The two forms of Yoga differ both as to method and result. The Haṭha-yogī regards his Yoga and its fruit as the highest. The Jñānayogī may think similarly of his own. Kuṇḍalinī is so renowned that many seek to know Her. Having studied the theory of this Yoga, I have been often asked “Whether one can get on without it.” The answer is, “It depends upon what you are looking for.” If you want to rouse Kuṇḍalinī Śakti to enjoy the bliss of union of Śiva and Śakti through Her and to gain the accompanying Powers (Siddhi), it is obvious that this end can only, if at all, be achieved by the Yoga here described. But if Liberation is sought without desire for union through Kuṇḍalīthen such Yoga is not necessary; for Liberation may be obtained by pure Jñānayoga through detachment, the exercise, and then the stilling of the mind, without any reference to the central Bodily-Power at all. Instead of setting out in and from the world to unite with Śiva, the Jñānayogī, to attain this result, detaches himself from the world. The one is the path of enjoyment and the other of asceticism. Samādhi may also be obtained on the path of devotion (Bhakti) as on that of knowledge. Indeed, the highest devotion (Parabhakti) is not different from knowledge. Both are realization. But, whilst Liberation (Mukti) is attainable by either method, there are other marked differences between the two. A Dhyānayogī should not neglect his body knowing that as he is both mind and matter each reacts, the one upon the other. Neglect or mere mortification of the body is more apt to produce disordered imagination than a true spiritual experience. He is not concerned, however, with the body in the sense that the Haṭhayogī is. It is possible to be a successful Dhyānayogīand yet to be weak in body and health; sick, and short-lived. His body and not he himself determines when he shall die. He cannot die at will. When he is in Samādhi, Kuṇḍalī Śakti is still sleeping in the Mūlādhāra and none of the physical symptoms and psychical bliss, or powers (Siddhi) described as accompanying Her rousing are observed in his case. The Ecstasis which he calls “Liberation while yet living” (Jīvanmukti) is not a state like that of real Liberation. He may be still subject to a suffering body from which he escapes only at death, when, if at all, he is liberated. His ecstasy is in the nature of a meditation which pasees into the Void (Bhāvanāsamādhi) effected through negation of all thought-form (Citta-vṛtti) and detachment from the world; a comparatively negative process in which the positive act of raising the central power of the body takes no part. By his effort the mind, which is a product of Kuṇḍalinī as Prakṛti Shakti, together with its worldly desires is stilled so that the veil produced by mental functioning is removed from Consciousness. In Layayoga, Kuṇḍalinī Herself, when roused by the Yogī (for such rousing is his act and part), achieves for him this illumination.
But why, it may be asked, should one trouble over the body and its Central Power, the more particularly as there are unusual risks and difficulties involved? The answer has been already given—alleged completeness and certainty of realization through the agency of the Power which is knowledge itself (Jñānarūpā Śakti), an intermediate acquisition of Powers (Siddhi), and intermediate and final enjoyment. This answer may, however, be usefully developed as a fundamental principle of the Śākta Tantra.
The Śākta Tantra claims to give both Enjoyment (Bhukti) in the world and Liberation (Mukti) from all worlds. This claim is based on a profoundly true principle, given Advaitavāda as a basis. If the ultimate reality is the One which exists in two aspects of quiescent enjoyment of the Self, in liberation from all form and active enjoyment of objects, that is, as pure spirit and spirit in matter, then a complete union with Reality demands such unity in both of Its aspects. It must be known both “here” (Iha) and “there” (Amutra). When rightly apprehended and practised, there is truth in the doctrine which teaches that man should make the best of both worlds. There is no real incompatibility between the two, provided action is taken in conformity with the universal law of manifestation. It is held to be false teaching that happiness hereafter can only be had by absence of enjoyment now, or in deliberately sought-for suffering and mortification. It is the one Śiva who is the Supreme Blissful Experience and who appears in the form of man with a life of mingled pleasure and pain. Both happiness here and the bliss of Liberation here and hereafter may be attained, if the identity of these Śivas be realized in every human act. This will be achieved by making every human function, without exception, a religious act of sacrifice and worship (Yajña). In the ancient Vaidik ritual, enjoyment by way of food and drink was preceded and accompanied by ceremonial sacrifice and ritual. Such enjoyment was the fruit of the sacrifice and the gift of the Devas. At a higher stage in the life of a Sāhaka, it is offered to the One from whom all gifts come and of whom the Devatās are inferior limited forms. But this offering also involves a dualism from which the highest Monistic (Advaita) Sādhanā of the Śākta Tantra is free. Here the individual life a.ncl the world-life are known as one. And so the Tāntrik Sādhaka, when eating or drinking or fulfilling any other of the natural functions of the body does so, saying and believing, Śivo’ham, “I am Shiva,” Bhairavo’ham, “I am Bhairava,” “Sā’ham,” “I am She.” It is not merely the separate individual who thus acts and enjoys. It is Śiva who does so in, and through him. Such an one recognizes, as has been well said, that his life and the play of all its activities are not a thing apart, to be held and pursued egotistically for its and his own separate sake, as though enjoyment was something to be filched from life by his own unaided strength and with a sense of separatedness; but his life and all its activities are conceived as part of the Divine action in nature Śakti manifesting and operating in the form of man. He realizes in the pulsing beat of his heart the rhythm which throbs through and is the sign of the Universal Life. To neglect or to deny the needs of the body, to think of it as something not divine, is to neglect and deny the greater life of which it is a part; and to falsify the great doctrine of the unity of all and of the ultimate identity of Matter and Spirit. Governed by such a concept, even the lowliest physical needs take on a cosmic sigmficance. The body is Śakti. Its needs are Śakti’s needs; when man enjoys, it is Śakti who enjoys through him. In all he sees and does, it is the Mother who looks and acts. His eyes and hands are Hers. The whole body and all its functions are Her manifestation. To fully realize Her as such is to perfect this particular manifestation of Hers which is himself. Man when seeking to be the master of himself, seeks so on all the planes to be physical, mental and spiritual; nor can they be severed, for they are all related, being but differing aspects of the one all-pervading Consciousness. Who is the more divine; he who neglects and spurns the body or mind that he may attain some fancied spiritual superiority, or he who rightly cherishes both as forms of the one Spirit which they clothe? Realization is more speedily and truly attained by discerning Spirit in and as all being and its activities, than by fleeing from and casting these aside as being either unspiritual or illusory and impediments in the path. If not rightly conceived, they may be impediments and the cause of fall; otherwise they become instruments of attainment; and what others are there to hand? And so the Kulārṇava Tantra says, “By what men fall by that they rise.” When acts are done in the right feeling and frame of mind (Bhāva), those acts give enjoyment (Bhukti), and the repeated and prolonged Bhāva produces at length that divine experience (Tattvajñāna) which is Liberation. When the Mother is seen in all things, She is at length realised as She who is beyond them all.
These general principles have their more frequent application in the life of the world before entrance on the path of Yoga proper. The Yoga here described is, however, also an application of these same principles, in so far as it is claimed that thereby both Bhukti and Mukti are attained. Ordinarily, it is said, that where there is Yoga there is no Bhoga (enjoyment); but in Kaula teaching, Yoga is Bhoga, and Bhoga is Yoga, and the world itself becomes the seat of Liberation (Yogo bhogāyate, mokṣāyate saṃsārah).
By the lower processes of Haṭhayoga it is sought to attain a perfect physical body which will also be a wholly fit instrument by which' the mind may function. A perfect mind, again, approaches, and in Samādhi passes into, Pure Consciousness itself. The Haṭhayogi thus seeks a body which shall be as strong as steel, healthy, free from suffering and therefore long-lived. Master of the body he is, master of both life and death. His lustrous form enjoys the vitality of youth. He lives as long as he has the will to live and enjoy in the world of forms. His death is the “death at will” (Icchā-mṛtyu); when making the great and wonderfully expressive gesture of dissolution (Saṃhāramudrā) he grandly departs. But, it may be said, the Haṭhayogīs do get sick and die. In the first place, the full discipline is one of difficulty and risk, and can only be pursued under the guidance of a skilled Guru. As the Gorakṣa Saṃhitā says, unaided and unsuccessful practice may lead not only to disease but death. He who seeks to conquer the Lord of Death incurs the risk, on failure, of a more speedy conquest by Him. All who attempt this Yoga do not of course succeed or meet with the same measure of success. Those who fail not only incur the infirmities of ordinary men, but also others brought on by practices which have been ill pursued or for which they are not fit. Those again who do succeed, do so in varying degree. One may prolong hie life to the sacred age of 84, others to 100, others yet further. In theory at least those who are perfected (Siddha) go from this plane when they will. All have not the same capacity or opportunity, through want of will, bodily strength, or circumstance. All may not be willing or able to follow the strict rules necessary for success. Nor does modern life offer in general the opportunities for so complete a physical culture. All men may not desire such a life or may think the attainment of it not worth the trouble involved. 8ome may wish to be rid of their body and that as speedily as possible. It is therefore said that it is easier to gain Liberation than Deathlessness. The former may be had by unselfishness, detachment from the world, moral and mental discipline. But to conquer death is harder than this, for these qualities and acts will not alone avail. He who does so conquer holds life in the hollow of one hand, and if he be a successful (Siddha) Yogī, Liberation in the other. He has Enjoyment and Liberation. He is the Emperor who is Master of the World and the Possessor of the Bliss which is beyond all worlds. Therefore it is claimed by the Haṭhayogī that every Sādanhā is inferior to Haṭhayoga.
The Haṭhayogī who works for Liberation does so through the Yoga Sādhanāhere described which gives both Enjoyment and Liberation. At every centre to which he rouses Kuṇḍalinī he experiences a special form of bliss (Ānanda) and gains special powers (Siddhi). Carrying Her to the Śiva of his cerebral centre he enjoys the Supreme Bliss which in its nature is that of Liberation, and which when established in permanence is Liberation itself on the loosening of Spirit and Body. She who “shines like a chain of lights,” a lightning flash—in the centre of his body is the “Inner Woman” to whom reference was made when it was said, “What need have I of any outer woman? I have an Inner Woman within myself.” The Vīra (Heroic) Sādhaka, knowing himself as the embodiment of Śiva (Śivo’ham), unites with woman as the embodiment of Śakti on the physical plane. The Divya (Divine) Sādhaka or Yogī unites within himself his own Principles, female and male, which are the “Heart of the Lord” (Hṛdayam Parmeśituh) or Śakti and Her Lord Consciousness or Śiva. It is their union which is the mystic coition (Maithuna) of the Tantras. There are two forms of union (Sāmarasya), namely, the first which is the gross (Sthūla), or the union of the physical embodiments of the Supreme Consciousness; and the second which is the subtle (Sūkṣma), or the union of the quiescent and active principles in Consciousness itself. It is the latter which is Liberation.
Lastly, what, in a philosophical sense, is the nature of the process here described? Shortly stated, Energy (Śakti) polarises itself into two forms, namely, static or potential (Kuṇḍalinī) and dynamic (the working forces of the body as Prāṇa). Behind all activity there is a static background. This static centre in the human body is the central Serpent Power in the Mūlādhāra (Root-support). It is the Power which is the static support (Ādhāra) of the whole body and all its moving Prāṇik forces. This Centre (Kendra) of Power is a gross form of Cit or Consciousness; that is, in itself (Svarūpa), it is Consciousness; and by appearance it is a Power which, as the highest form of Force, is a manifestation of it. Just as there is a distinction (though identical at base) between the supreme quiescent Consciousness and Its active Power (Śakti): so when Consciousness manifests as Energy (Śakti), it possesses the twin aspects of potential and kinetic Energy. There can be no partition in fact of Reality. So the perfect eye of the Siddha the process of Becoming is an ascription (Adhyāsa). To the imperfect eye of the Sādhaka, that is, the aspirant for Siddhi (perfected accomplishment), to the spirit which is still toiling through the lower planes and variously identifying itself with them, Becoming is tending to appear and appearance is real. The Śākta Tantra is a rendering of Vedāntik Truth from this practical point of view, and represents the world-process as a polarization in Consciousness itself. This polarity as it exists in, and as, the body is destroyed by Yoga which disturbs the equilibrium of bodily consciousness, which consciousness is the result of the maintenance of these two poles. In the human body the potential pole of Energy which is the Supreme Power is stirred to action, on which the moving forces (dynamic Śakti) supported by it are drawn thereto, and the whole dynamism thus engendered moves upward to unite with the quiescent Consciousness in the Highest Lotus.
There is a polarization of Śakti into two forms— static and dynamic. In a correspondence I had with Professor Pramatha Nātha Mukhyopādhyāya, on this subject, he very well developed this point and brought forward some suitable illustrations of it, of which I am glad to avail myself of. He pointed out that, in the first place, in the mind or experience this polarization or polarity is patent to reflection: namely, the polarity between pure Cit and the Stress which is involved in it. This Stress or Śakti develops the mind through an infinity of forms and changes, themselves involved in the pure unbounded Ether of Consciousness, the Cidākāśa. This analysis exhibits the primordial Śakti in the same two polar forms as before, static and dynamic. Here the polarity is most fundamental and approaches absoluteness, though, of course, it is to be remembered that there is no absolute rest except in pure Cit. Cosmic energy is in an equilibrium which is relative and not absolute.
Passing from mind, let us take matter. The atom of modern science has, as I have already pointed out, ceased to be an atom in the sense of an indivisible unit of matter. According to the electron theory, the so-called atom is a miniature universe resembling our solar system. At the centre of this atomic system we have a charge of positive electricity round which a cloud of negative charges called Electrons revolve. The positive and negative charges hold each other in check so that the atom is in a condition of equilibrated energy and does not ordinarily break up, though it may do so on the dissociation which is the characteristic of all matter, but which is so clearly manifest in radio-activity of radium. We have thus here again a positive charge at rest at the centre, and negative charges in motion round about the centre. What is thus said about the atom applies to the whole cosmic system and universe. In the world-system, the planets revolve round the Sun, and that system itself is probably (taken as a whole) a moving mass around some other relatively static centre, until we arrive at the Brahma-bindu which is the point of Absolute Rest, round which all forms revolve and by which all are maintained. He has aptly suggested other illustrations of the same process. Thus, in the tissues of the living body, the operative energy is polarized into two forms of energy—anabolic and katabolic, the one tending to change and the other to conserve the tissues; the actual condition of the tissues being simply the resultant of these two co-existent or concurrent activities. In the case, again, of the impregnated ovum, Śakti is already presented in its two polar aspects, namely, the ovum (possibly the static) and the spermatazoon, the dynamic. The germ cell does not cease to be such. It splits into two, one half, the somatic cell gradually developing itself into the body of the animal, the other half remaining encased within the body practically unchanged and as the germ-plasm is transmitted in the process of reproduction to the offspring.
In short, Śakti, when manifesting, divides itself into two polar aspects—static and dynamic—which implies that you cannot have it in a dynamic form without at the same time having it in a static form, much like the poles of a magnet. In any given sphere of activity-of force, we must have, according to the cosmic principle, a static background —Śakti at rest or “'coiled” as the Tantras say. This scientific truth is illustrated in the figure of the Tāntrik Kālī. The Divine Mother moves as the Kinetic Śakti on the breaat of Sadāśiva who is the static background of pure Cit which is actionlees (Niṣkriya); the Guṇamayī Mother being all activity.
The Cosmic Śakti is the collectivity (Samaṣṭi) in relation to which the Kuṇḍalī in particular bodies is the Vyaṣṭi (individual) Śakti. The body is, as I have stated, a microcosm (Kṣudrabrahmānda). In the living body there is, therefore, the same polarization of which I have spoken. From the Mahākuṇḍalīthe universe has sprung. In Her supreme form She is at rest, coiled round and one (as Cidrūpiṇi) with the Śivabindu. She is then at rest. She next uncoils Herself to manifest. Here the three coils of which the Tantras speak are the three Guṇas, and the three and a half coils to which the Kubjikā Tantra alludes are Prakṛti and its three Guṇas together with the Vikṛtis. Her 50 coils are the letters of the alphabet. As She goes on uncoiling, the Tattvas and the Mātṛkās, the Mothers of the Varṇas, issue from Her. She is thus moving, and continues even after creation to move in the Tattvas so created. For as they are born of movement, they continue to move. The whole world (Jagat) as the Sanskrit term implies, is moving. She thus continues creatively active until She has evolved Pṛthivi, the last of the Tattvas. First She creates mind and then matter. This latter becomes more and more dense. It has been suggested that the Mahabhūtas are the Densities of modern science:—Air density associated with the maximum velocity of gravity; Fire density asaociated with the velocity of light; Water or fluid density associated with molecular velocity and the equatorial velocity of the Earth’s rotation; and Earth density, that of basalt associated with the Newtonian velocity of sound. However this be, it is plain that the Bhūtas represent an increasing density of matter until it reaches its three-dimensional solid form. When Śakti has created this last or Pṛthivī Tattva, what is there further for Her to do? Nothing. She therefore, then again rests. She is again coiled, which means that She is at rest. “At rest,” again, means that She asaumes a static form. Śakti, however, is never exhausted, that is, emptied into any of its forms. Therefore, Kuṇḍalī Śakti at this point is, as it were, the Śakti left over (though yet a plenum) after the Pṛthivī, the last of the Bhūtas has been created. We have thus Mahākuṇḍalī at rest as Cidrūpiṇi Śakti in the Sahasrāra, the point of absolute rest; and then the body in which the relative static centre is Kuṇḍalīat rest, and round this centre the whole of the bodily forces move. They are Śakti, and so is Kuṇḍalī Śakti. The difference between the two is that they are Śakti in specific differentiated forms in movement; and KuṇḍalīŚakti is undifferentiated, residual Śakti at rest, that is, coiled. She is coiled in the Mūlādhāra, which means furldnmeiital support, and which is at the same time the seat of the Pṛthivī or last solid Tattva and of the residual Śakti or Kuṇḍalinī. The body may, therefore, be compared to a magnet with two poles. The Mūlādhāra, in so far as it is the seat of Kuṇḍalī Śakti, a comparatively gross form of Cit (being Cit-Śakti and Māyā-Śakti) is the static pole in relation to the rest of the body which is dynamic. The “working” that is the body necessarily presupposes and finds such a static support; hence the name Mūlādhāra. In one sense the static Śakti at the Mūlādhāra is necessarily co-existent with the creating and evolving Śakti of the body; because the dynamic aspect or pole can never be without its static counterpart. In another sense, it is the residual Śakti left over after such operation.
What, then, happens in the accomplishment of this Yoga? This static Śakti is affected by Prāṇāyāma and other Yoga processes and becomes dynamic. Thus, when completely dynamic, that is, when Kuṇḍalī unites with Śiva in the Sahasrāra, the polarization of the body gives way. The two poles are united in one and there is the state of consciousness called Samādhi. The polarization, of course, takes place in consciousness. The body actually continues to exist as an object of observation to others. It continues its organic life. But man’s consciousaess of his body and all other objects is withdrawn because the mind has ceased, so far as his consciousness is concerned, the function, having been withdrawn into its ground which is consciousness.
How is the body sustained? In the first place, though Kuṇḍalī Śakti is the static centre of the whole body as a complete conscious organism, yet each of the parts of the body and their constituent cells have their own static centres which uphold such parts or cells. Next, the theory of the Tāntriks themselves is that Kuṇḍalīascends, and that the body, as a complete organism, is maintained by the “nectar” which flows from the union of Śiva and Śakti in the Sahasrāra. This nectar is an ejection of power generated by their union. My friend, however, whom I have cited, is of opinion (and for this grounds may be urged) that the potential KuṇḍalīŚakti becomes only partly and not wholly converted into kinetic Śaktiand yet since Śakti—even as given in the Mūla centre—is an infinitude, it is not depleted; the potential store always remaining unexhausted. In this case, the dynamic equivalent is a partial conversion of one mode of energy into another. If, however, the coiled power at the Mūla became absolutely uncoiled, there would result the dissolution of the three bodies, gross, subtle and causal, and consequently Videha-Mukti—because the static background in relation to a particular form of existence would, according to this hypothesis, have wholly given way. He would explain the fact that the body becomes cold as a corpse as the Śakti leaves it, as being due, not to the depletion or privation of the static power at the Mūlādhāra, but to the concentration or convergence of the dynamic power ordinarily diffused over the whole body, so that the dynamic equivalent which is set up against the static background of KuṇḍalīŚakti is only the diffused five-fold Prāṇa gathered home—withdrawn from the other tissues of the body and concentrated along the axis. Thus, ordinarily, the dynamic equivalent is the Praṇa diffused over all the tissues: in Yoga, it is converged along the axis, the static equivalent of Kuṇḍalī Śakti enduring in both cases. Some part of the already available dynamic Prāṇa is made to act at the base of the axis in a suitable manner, by which means the basal centre or Mūlādhāra becomes, as it were, over-saturated and re-acts on the whole diffused dynamic power (or Prāṇa) of the body by withdrawing it from the tissues and converging it along the line of the axis. In this way the diffused dynamic equivalent becomes the converged dynamic equivalent along the axis. What, according to this view, ascends, is not the whole Śakti but an eject like condensed lightning, which at length reaches the Parama-Śivasthāna. There the Central Power which upholds the individual worldconsciousness is merged in the Supreme Consciousness. The limited consciousness, transcending the passing concepts of worldly life, directly intuits the unchanging reality which underlies the whole phenomenal flow. When Kuṇḍalī Śakti sleeps in the Mūlādhāra, man is awake to the world; when she awakes to unite, and does unite, with the supreme static Consciousness which is Śiva, then consciousness is asleep to the world and is one with the Light of all things.
Putting aside detail, the main principle appears to be that, when “wakened,” Kuṇḍali Śakti either Herself (or as my friend suggests in Her eject) ceases to be a static Power which sustains the world-consciousness, the content of which is held only so long as She “sleeps”: and when once set in movement is drawn to that other static centre in the Thousand-petalled Lotus (Sahasrāra) which is Herself in union with the Śiva-consciousness or the consciousness of ecstasy beyond the world of forms. When Kuṇḍali “sleeps” man is awake to this world. When She “awakes” he sleeps, that is loses all consciousness of the world and enters his causal body. In Yoga he passes beyond to formless Consciousness.
I have only to add, without further discussion of the point, that practitioners of this Yoga claim that it is higher than any other and that the Samādhi (ecstasy) attained thereby is more perfect. The reason which they allege is this. In Dhyānayoga, eostasy takes place through detachment from the world, and mental concentration leading to vacuity of mental operation (Vṛtti) or the uprising of pure Consciousness unhindered by the limitations of the mind. The degree to which this unveiling of consciousness is effected depends upon the meditative powers (Jñānaśakti) of the Sādhaka and the extent of his detachment from the world. On the other hand, Kuṇḍalī who is all Śakti and who is therefore Jñānaśakti Herself produces, when awakened by the Yogī, full Jñāna for him. Secondly, in the Samādhi of Dhyānayoga there is no rousing and union of Kuṇḍalī Śakti with the accompanying bliss and acquisition of special Powers (Siddhi). Further, in Kuṇḍali Yoga there is not merely a Samādhi through meditation, but through the central power of the Jīva a power which carries with it the forces of both body and mind. The union in that sense is claimed to be more complete than that enacted through mental methods only. Though in both cases bodily consciousness is lost, in Kuṇḍalinī-yoga not only the mind, but the body, in so far as it is represented by its central power (or may be its eject) is actually united with Śiva. This union produces an enjoyment (Bhukti) which the Dhyānayogi does not possess. Whilst both the Divya Yogi and the Vīra Sādhaka have enjoyment (Bhukti), that of the former is said to be infinitely more intense, being an experience of Bliss Itself. The enjoyment of the Vīra Sādhaka is but a reflection of it on the physical plane, a welling up of the true Bliss through the deadening coverings and trammels of matter. Again, whilst it is said that both have Liberation (Mukti), this word is used in Vīra Sādhanāin a figurative senue only, indicating a bliss which is the nearest approach on the physical plane to that of Mukti, and a Bhāva or feeling of momentary union of Śiva and Śākti which ripens in the higher Yoga Sādhanāinto the literal liberation of the Yogī. He has both Enjoyment (Bhukti) and Liberation (Mukti) in the fullest and literal sense. Hence its claim to be the Emperor of all Yogas.
However this may be, I leave the subject at this point, with the hope that others will continue the enquiry I have here initiated. It and other matters in the Tantra Śāstra seem to me (whatever be their inherent value) worthy of an investigation which they have not yet received. [See “Mysterious Kundali,” by Dr. Rele (Taraporevala, Bombay), and “The Chakras,” by Dr. C. Leadbeater (Theosophical Publishing House, Madras).]