Once awakened through meditative exercises such as pranamaya (i.e. controlled breathing), the kundalini serpent apparently rises through seven chakras.
Both the kundali and the chakras are often described as actual realities instead of symbolic interpretations of psychosomatic and numinous experiences.
Indeed, the kundalini and chakras are variously constructed and interpreted among different schools of thought, a fact sometimes overlooked by zealous New Age fundamentalists who adhere to and advocate just one interpretation.
Also rarely taken seriously among New Age fundamentalists is the valid question as to whether or not awakening the highest chakra in a given system really represents the highest, purest and holiest possible spiritual experience one may encounter. Along these lines, the Lutheran scholar Rudolf Otto, the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, and several others talk about various forms of the numinous, ranging from the healthy, heavenly and holy to the demonic, dreadful and destructive.
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The Sanskrit word yoga derives from the root yuj, which means ‘yoke,’ ‘bind together’ or ‘union.’
Hatha yoga is a set of bodily postures as well as breathing and mental exercises designed by Patanjali that ultimately aim to connect the ego and soul with God.
Although this yoga is popular in the West, there are other important Hindu yogas and the entire concept of yoga runs far deeper than fashionable stretch suits and inflatable balls.
Generally speaking, yoga for the Hindu means any technique or practice that links individual volition to the Divine Will.
The Bhagavad-Gita outlines four different but related types of yoga.
- Jnana yoga is the yoga of divine knowledge.
- Raja yoga is the yoga of right rule.
- Karma yoga is the yoga of sacred duty or action.
- Bhakti yoga is the yoga of pure devotion to God.
Depending on where the aspirant ‘is at,’ so to speak, in their spiritual journey, these four different yogas intermingle in various degrees and combinations.
For example, a hard working businesswoman (karma yoga) does puja in the morning (bhakti yoga). On returning home after work she meditates on spiritual lessons learned from the day’s activities (jnana yoga). At night she participates in a women rights group that works to eradicate sutee (raja yoga). In addition, she may also practice the bodily and contemplative postures of hatha yoga.
Another aspect of yoga relates to Tantricism and, depending on the particular path, is variously championed or denounced among the Hindu faithful. This type of yoga is generally called kundalini yoga.
Kundalini yoga involves awakening the spiritual ‘serpent power’ said to reside at the base chakra. Usually through intense and prolonged training with a spiritual master (guru), one eventually learns how to channel this power up the spinal column so it resonates within each of the seven chakras, in a balanced way among them.
The most noble chakra is believed to be located at the top of the head (crown chakra). When this chakra activates and is properly balanced with all the other chakras, one is said to be in a state of samadhi–i.e. complete and perfect union with God.
» Aurobindo (Sri), Ahimsa, Bhakti yoga, Caste, Chakras, Eliade (Mircea), Faith and Action, Jnana yoga, Karma yoga, Raja yoga, Rama, Shakti, Tantra, Yogi, Yogini
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