Saturday, October 29, 2005

Glossary: The Inner Volcano

In yoga and tantra tradition, the kundalini represents a form of energy often likened to a fiery serpent that resides in the sacrum region of the body. The kundalini is mentioned as early as the Upanishadic period in ancient India. The goal of the practitioner is to arouse or awaken the kundalini sparking what is often described as a volcano-like eruption of fiery bodily energy.

The kundalini fire is said to quickly rise up the spinal cord flooding all the intermediate channels before reaching the Sahasranacakra, an energy center at the crown of the head.

Chinese Taoists describe a spiritual alchemy in which the human breath and reproductive seed form the base elements for internal transmutation of an energy likened to liquid or molten gold. The molten, purified gold also moves upward through the body toward the crown of the head.

As with the Indian kundalini, the furnace for the Taoist alchemical process is located in the region around the groin and base of the spine, the "lower" parts of the body. Yogic tradition describes the first cakra, one of seven spiraling energy centers in the body, as the root or earth cakra. It is located right at the base of the spine.

The kundalini has been described as residing in the earth chakra with the brilliance of "ten million suns." The idea of the Sun within the Earth is one we have discussed here before with reference to volcanic imagery. The kundalini has also been linked with the Vedic Agni, the divine personification of fire, who is often described in the early hymns as "deeply hidden," or as a "thief lurking in a dark cave" or as "seated in a secret place."

Vedic hymns also say that Agni lives in the midst of the sea or within the waters. This may be a reference to the submarine fire of Indian belief, later called the Vadavamukha, and visualized as an undersea volcano shaped like a mare's head. The Vadavamukha was located in the far south, at times placed right at the South Pole, and was said to consume the waters of the ocean.

In Rgveda 2.35.3, we read that the rivers collect water for the propitiation of the ocean-fire.

According to Hindu eschatology, at the twilight of the ages, the Vadavamukha explodes or erupts in a cataclysm that destroys the world.

A good paper studying the relationship of Agni with the kundalini can be found at the following URL:

In the Yogakundalini Upanishad and Hathayogapradipika, the method of arousing the kundali is referred to as manthana or "churning." In a similar sense the Vedic hymns use the phrase "churning up" in reference to kindling a fire.

You may recall the churning of the Milky Ocean motif in which giant Mt. Mandara sitting on the back of a great turtle is used to churn the sea. The great heat created by the churning action eventually sets the top of the mountain ablaze. From the resulting storm, rivers of ash created from the incinerated forest and mountaintop flow down into the sea. This milky-looking ash flow is described as "amrita" or "elixir."

In a similar sense, the Taoists also used the term "elixir of immortality" to describe the "molten gold" of internal alchemy. The meditation cycle consists of inhaling and mixing the breath with the vital (sexual) seed. The heat created removes the "dross" from the reaction which is expelled from the body during exhalation. The energy elixir created flows up through the body's central channel and out of the crown of the head. In the same, way the kundalini fire erupts out of the Sahasranacakra.

In Southeast Asia and into the farthest reaches of the Pacific, there exists numerous beliefs in the existence of three selfs or bodies -- the lower body, the middle body and the upper body. The upper body is often said to be detached from the physical body and to exist in heaven.

All three bodies are connected via a "cord," the spinal cord with reference to the physical self, and an invisible cord for the heavenly body that extends toward heaven through the anterior fontanelle. The latter is basically the equivalent of the Crown Cakra.

Again, this reminds us of the holy mountain as the axis that links the three worlds -- lower, middle and upper. This mountain most often has a hole or opening, usually placed at the top in the same sense as a volcano.

Paul Kekai Manansala