(We bring to you this time a famous passage from Jñāneśvar's commentary on the Bhagavad Gīta chapter 6, verses 186-328, which contains one of the most vivid and poetic descriptions of Kuṇḍalinī's ascesion, bringing into its description as lived experience what is often only visualized - such as the burning of the elements and the body back into the light, a visualization performed in tantric bhūtaśuddhi. The procedure prescribed by the author, however, stands mostly within the Haṭhayogic method, which he ascribes to the Nāṭha yoga.)
With concentration of mind, the aspirant should recall the presence of his guru. Remaining thus, until the respectful calling to mind of his guru causes a sense of purity to pervade the heart, the hardness of egoism is melted away. senses stopped and the mind becomes quietened within the heart. This should be continued until a sense of union is reached and the yogi should remain seated with this awareness.
Now the body will maintain its poise, the breathing will keep its own rhythm, and perception will be heightened. The outgoing activities of the mind are withdrawn and a sense of repose will be felt within; at the moment of adopting this posture, the exercise begins.
Now listen, I will tell you how the yogic posture should be taken up. Lifting the calves of the legs up on to the thighs [seated on the ground], the soles of the feet should be placed firmly against the perineum so that they will remain in position. Let the right foot press against the base so that the left foot rests on it easily. Between the anus and the penis there are exactly four inches; leaving a space of one and a half inches on each side, in the remaining one inch span the back part of the right heel should be forced and the body balanced on it. The ankles should be held in such a way that the lower part of the body is raised so slightly that one is not aware of it.
O Pārtha, the form of the whole body will come to be resting on the top of one heel. O Arjuna, know that this is what is called the mūlabandha posture, otherwise known as vajrāsana. In this way the proper position is established and the lower passages [of the body] are closed, and the breath is restrained within the body.
The cupped palms of both hands will rest upon the left foot and the shoulders will appear to be raised. Between the upper arms the lotus-like head is held firm and the eyelids will begin to close. The upper eyelids will drop and the lower ones extend; thus the eyes remain half open. The vision remains within and does not wander outside; it continues to be focused on the tip of the nose. In this way the sight remains firmly inside and does not move outside again; its focus remains steadily downwards. Then any interest in looking in all directions or noticing [external] forms ceases completely.
The neck and throat are compressed, the chin pressed into the cavity between the collar-bones and forced down on to the breast, and the larynx is hidden [in this position]. O son of Pandu, this posture is called jālandhara. The navel rises upwards and the stomach is compressed and the heart cavity is expanded; O Kirīṭī, the yogic posture formed by drawing the navel and the penis towards each other is called uḍḍīyana.
Then the signs of the yogic experience appear outwardly on the body and inwardly the working of the mind ceases. The activity of thought subsides, mental energy dies down, and body and mind find rest. Hunger is forgotten, sleep disappears; even the memory of them is lost, no trace is to be found.
The downward life-breath being confined in the vase of the body, turns back and, becoming compressed, begins to expand. More and more it is agitated and in the freer space above it rumbles and struggles against the solar plexus. The struggle ceases and the whole body trembles to its very centre; thus the impurities of childhood are driven out. It does not then turn downwards but moves in the interior of the body. It expels the bodily secretions. It looses the ocean of the humours of the body, reduces the fat, and even draws out the marrow from the bones. It clears the arteries, loosens the limbs; but the seeker should not allow himself to be frightened by any of these. It reveals and removes diseases; it stirs up the soil and the water.
On the other hand, O Wielder of the bow, the heat induced by the practice of this posture awakens the force called Kuṇḍalinī. As the brood of a she-serpent bathed in turmeric lie curled up in sleep, so lies this Kuṇḍalinī, very small and curled in three and a half circles, like a female serpent with her head turned downwards. It is like a ring of lightning, or folds of flaming fire, or a bar of pure gold. Thus bound fast by threads it is confined between two folds, but being compressed by the vajra posture, it is awakened. Then, as a star shooting through space, as the sun falling from its place in the sky, or as a point of light bursting forth as a sprouting seed, it breaks its bonds, grips the body, and appears mounted upon the navel. For long years it has hungered for this awakening, and, the pretext having occurred, it extends its mouth upwards with great eagerness.
Then, O Kirīṭī, it holds firmly in its clasp the air which fills the cavity below the heart. The fire arising from it spreads upwards and downwards and begins to consume the flesh. Not only does it do this, however, but it consumes the fleshy tissue of the heart also. It attacks the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, penetrates the upper parts and passing through them it searches out the joints of the limbs. It does not leave its place in the lower body but draws the vitality from the nails, and cleansing the skin causes it to cleave to the bones. It cleanses the hollow of the bones, scours the inner recesses of the heart and withers the hair of the body. It drains the ocean of the seven bodily humours, parches the whole of the body and brings about a state of intense heat.
The air which passes twelve inches out of the two nostrils is perforce again inhaled. Then the exhaled breath is drawn upward and the inhaled breath downward, their meeting being prevented by the petals of the psychic centres. Otherwise the two would intermingle, but Kuṇḍalinī would be displeased at this and would say, 'Go back! What are you doing here?'
Arjuna, listen! All the earthly matter is entirely consumed and the watery element dried up. When these two elements have been consumed, Kuṇḍalinī is fully satisfied and being pacified remains close to the suṣumnā. The poison which in its satisfaction it sends forth from its mouth is the nectar by which vitality is sustained. This fire rises from within, but when it begins to cool down both internally and externally the limbs regain the strength which they had lost. The arteries are blocked, the nine types of vital air disappear and the functions of the body cease. The iḍa and piṅgalā arteries merge into one, the three knots are loosened, and the six petals of the psychic centre [at the spleen] open out. Then the two breaths, thought of as the sun and the moon, cannot even cause the flame of a lamp to flicker. The energy of mental activity dies down and the sense of smell which remains in the nose enters the suṣumnā and joins the Kuṇḍalinī.
Slowly from above the reservoir of the moon-nectar pours itself into the mouth of the Kuṇḍalinī, turning downwards on one side. This nectar fills the passages and circulates throughout the whole body and together with the life-force is absorbed in it. As in a heated mould the melted wax pours out [when molten metal is poured in], and only the metal shape remains, having taken on the form of the mould, so is beauty incarnated in the shape of the body, covered over by a veil of skin. As the sun remains concealed under a veil of clouds, but when they pass its light is beyond bounds, so the dried surface of the skin flakes off as the husks are shed from grain. The beauty of the limbs seems like natural marble or the sprouting of seed-jewels, as if the lovely hues of the evening sky were transferred to the body, or an image were fashioned from an inner radiance of the spirit, which, when it is seen, is like the richness of turmeric moulded from the essence of nectar; it seems to me to be the very incarnation of peace; as if it were made of the colours in a picture of joy, the very form of heavenly bliss or growing saplings of the tree of desire. [It may be likened to] a bud of the golden champak tree, or an image of nectar, or a ripe plantation of tenderness; the disc of the moon saturated with the moisture of the śāradā season or splendour itself incarnate seated in this yogic posture. So appears the body [of the yogi] when Kuṇḍalinī has drunk of the nectar, and even the god of death is afraid to look at it. Old age vanishes, the knot of youth is loosened, and the lost bloom of childhood reappears. Whatever his age, the word 'youth' should be interpreted as 'strength', such is his incomparable fortitude. Just as the ever new jewel-buds open on the boughs of a tree of gold, fine new finger-nails grow; new teeth appear, very small, set like rows of diamonds on each side. Over the whole body tiny new hairs spring forth like small splinters of rubies. The palms of hands and feet are as red lotus flowers and in the eyes there shines an indescribable lustre. As the shell of an oyster no longer holds the pearl when it is fully developed and it bursts open at the joint with the force of its growth, so the sight, which strives to pass outwards when it cannot be held within the eye lids, embraces the whole heavens, even with half-open eyes.
Listen, though the body has the appearance of gold, yet it has the lightness of air, for no earthly or watery particles remain in it. The yogi can then see beyond all oceans, hear the thoughts of the heavens and read the mind of the ant. He rides on the horses of the winds, walks on the surface of the water, though his feet do not touch it, and in such ways he acquires many super-human powers.
Hear this. Grasping prana by the hand, ascending the stairway of the ether, Kuṇḍalinī enters the heart by the steps of the middle artery. She is the Mother of the worlds, the glory of the empire of the soul, who gives shelter to tender sprouts of the seed of the universe, the phallic symbol of the formless Brahman, the containing vessel of Shiva, the supreme soul, and the true source of the life breath.
When the young Kuṇḍalinī enters the heart, the forcecentre there is awakened and sounds are heard. They are faintly heard by the consciousness of pure reason, which is attached to the power of Kuṇḍalinī. In the volume of that sound lie pictured in the form of the sacred syllable the four divisions of speech. This has to be experienced to be understood, but how can it be imagined? Therefore we cannot know what are the sources of this sound. O Arjuna, one thing I have forgotten to tell thee; so long as the air exists the sound arises in the etheric space and so vibrates. That etheric space reverberates with the thunder of this sound, and the windows of the crown centre burst suddenly open.
Listen; here exists still another great space in the form of a lotus bud, where consciousness seems to be appearing. In the innermost cavity of the heart the divine Kuṇḍalinī lays out before consciousness the feast of her own lustre. She offers a morsel of food, dressed with the green vegetable of reason, in which no trace of duality is visible. Her brilliance then vanishes and is transformed into the life-force. How can I describe its appearance? It is like an image formed out of air and the golden cloth in which it was wrapped has been withdrawn. Like a flame which, coming into contact with the air, flickers out, or like a streak of lightning which flashes across the sky and instantly disappears. It appears as a necklet of gold as far as the lotus-like heart centre, or a fountain of brilliant light. On entering the hollow of the heart, it loses its separateness and is merged into the power dwelling within it. Then though it is called power, yet it should be known as the life-force and nada, bindu and kalā and jyoti became imperceptible. Control of the mind, restraint of the breath and inclinations towards meditation are of little consequence. To think this thought or reject it, such an idea is now irrelevant. The subtle elements are clearly destroyed.
'One body devours another.' This is the secret of the teaching of Natha, but it has now been revealed by Shri Vishnu. Imagining my hearers to be customers, I have untied the bundle of that secret and opened out before them the folded sheet of the inner meaning of these wares.
Listen! When the Kuṇḍalinī loses its lustre, the gross form of the body disappears and its is no longer visible to physical sight. In reality it is the same body, and is seen to possess the same limbs, yet it looks as if it were moulded out of air. Like the inner stalk of a plantain tree standing erect divested of its sheath or as limbs fashioned from the ether. When such is the condition of the body the yogi seems to be a spirit; when this happens it seems like a miracle to those still in the body. See! As the adept walks he leaves psychic powers in the train of his footsteps. But we are not concerned with these; O Arjuna, bear in mind that the three grosser elements of the body have disappeared with the body itself. The water dissolves the soil, the light absorbs the water, and in the heart centre the vital air consumes the light. It alone is left, but it continues in the form of the body and after a time it even is merged into etheric space. Then the word Kuṇḍalinī loses its significance, and the appropriate name is Maruti, but the force remains until it is absorbed into Shiva.
Now it leaves the heart centre, breaks through the end of the suṣumnā artery and enters the space in the roof of the mouth. Forthwith, climbing upon the back of the sacred syllable, it passes beyond the form of speech called paśyantī. Thereupon, as rivers flow into the ocean, [the subtle elements] enter into the space of the brow centre symbolized by the ardhamātrā of the sacred syllable. After settling in the Brahman centre, it reaches out with the arms of its consciousness of unity with the Self and embraces the image of the Supreme. At that moment the veil of the five elements is rent asunder and the individual self and the supreme Self are united; then all, including etheric space, is absorbed in that union. As water from the ocean is drawn up into the clouds and pours down again into itself as rain, So the Self, having lived in bodily form, enters into the supreme Self. Such, O Pandava, is this union. There even remains no such thought as to whether it is separate or whether it is indeed one with the supreme Self. As it happens that space merges into space, so is this state of union realized by experience and the yogi remains in it.
It would be impossible for words to describe this state nor can even discuss it in conversation. O Arjuna, this being so, anyone who is ambitious enough to express an opinion on this, even vaikharī, is far from this state. The 'm' of the sacred syllable cannot enter the space behind the brow, for the life-force moving alone fails to reach that etheric space. As soon as it appears there the power of speech vanishes, whilst the etheric space is destroyed. How can speech plumb the depths of the great void of the Supreme, where there is no place even for the ether? Therefore it is a threefold truth that this could neither be expressed in words nor be heard by the ear. If by good fortune self-realization can be attained through experience, then one should strive to remain in it. Beyond this there is no more to know. So then, O Arjuna, let this be enough; there would be no purpose in saying more. In this state language withdraws, imagination dies away and not even the wind of thought can enter.
This is the highest principle, without beginning and beyond measure, the beauty of the supra-mental state and the dawning of the experience of the soul's oneness with Brahma, the end of all form, the goal of the search for liberation, that in which beginning and end merge into one. It is the root of the universe, the fruit of the tree of yoga, the very essence of bliss. It is the seed of the subtle elements, the light from which emanates the sun; O Pārtha, it is My own nature. This four-armed one has manifested itself in its splendour, seeing that the godless have persecuted the multitudes of My devotees.
Those who persevere unswervingly towards the goal enjoy the indescribable bliss of being one with the Self. They who follow the method prescribed by Me, even with their bodies, having purified themselves, reach a state comparable to Mine. It seems as though the liquid of the supreme Self had been poured into the mould of their bodies. If this realization were to shine from the inner Self, the whole universe would be overshadowed by it.