Gopi Krishna, Kundalini: the evolutionary energy in man
University of Tennessee-Knoxville
Winter 1979 (1/30/79)
Religious Studies 3011: Phenomenology of Religion
Dr. Jay Kim
The earliest experience of Gopi Krishna's, of those recounted in this book, which has relevance to mysticism or the mystical way occurred when he was 8 years old. He was simply walking along a road, he said, when he suddenly was gripped by a burning question, "What am I?" (30) – meaning, What is the nature of my true being? Quite a profound question for a child! A few days later, he had a dream that he thinks was a sort of response or answer to his precocious question. The dream was of a heavenly place where celestial beings lived – a completely divine and beautiful place. The question no longer seemed to mean much to him for many years.
At the age of 17, Krishna failed an examination in college, preventing him from continuing his education the following year, and this experience was a traumatic one for him, requiring, as it did, a sober evaluation of his position in the current of things. His mother had placed all her hopes in him as the eldest son of the fatherless family. Ashamed of his negligence, he devoted himself to the conquest of his own mind through meditation and concentration exercise, so as to prevent similar worldly failure in the future. However, in his new studies he became interested in Yoga and occultism, which so appealed to him that he began pursing mental mastery in order to attain the mystical goal of Yoga (union with God) rather than to attain worldly success – even at the cost of all worldly position and possession. He had showed an interest earlier in fantastic and religious literature, and was evidently very imaginative and was taken by glorious thoughts. Then, in college or thereabouts, he developed an interest in science and became skeptical, decrying the irrationality often present in religious belief, but also became aware of the fact that scientifically-minded men were not particularly (self-) aware and had a tendency to argue irrationally in order to defend points of view with which they identified. Through subjective experience of mystical reality, he thought, it might be possible to "bridge the gulf existing between ingenuous faith on one side and critical reason on the other" (22), given his own critical powers. He thought that the "spirit world" must be harmoniously ordered and therefore follow certain laws in the same way that physical reality is know to embody certain laws in its nature. Thus, from a very early age, Krishna conceives of a scientific, rigorous approach to religious, which is one of his remarkable peculiarities among mystics, according to Spiegelberg (writing in the introduction). Krishna sought, through meditation, a "pure cognition," a state of consciousness free from the limits of time and space, in which one experiences the spiritual or immortal part of oneself, that part which is untouched by decay and death (38).
After 18 years of meditation and an otherwise ordinary existence as family man and clerk, Krishna experiences, during meditation, in December of 1937, what he comes to understand as the awakening of the Kundalini "fire" (11). The subjective experience associated with this phenomenon is what is known as the mystical experience. This leaves him exhausted. The next day, the experience is repeated, with somewhat less intensity, with greater resulting exhaustion and the beginning of a depression (15-16) that, on the third day, develops into a "prolonged nightmare" (49) which continues for over two months. He is greatly weakened, cannot eat or sleep, and is so agitated that he almost looses his mind. But it occurs to him finally that perhaps what has gone amiss with his Kundalini awakening is that this mysterious and vastly powerful force has arisen up his spin through the wrong channel (along the Pingala nerve rather than the proper Ida nerve), almost burning him alive, and he finds relief only through stimulating the Ida nerve which in effect polarizes and balances the fire with cold (66).
Upon recovering, Krishna realizes the importance (for him) of dietary considerations (amount and nature of food and frequency of intake) in checking the Kundalini phenomenon. After the danger is over, appetite, sleep and other functions return to normal, but only over a period of time. However, there has been an irreversible change in his consciousness – an expansion whose nature is described more accurately later on, the most notable feature of which is an ever-present luminous vapor pouring in a stream up the spine and onto/into his brain, which stream is "visible" to him as a glow or halo encircling the head. Together with the glow or radiance is a sound as of the rushing of water. This remains with him, apparently, throughout the book and to this day. [He died in 1984.] Especially during the period of suffering, but also after, he is sensitive to the movement of nerve currents throughout his body, tending, as it were, to his vital organs, adjusting their metabolism as needed, consuming the food in his stomach like a licking flame, running over his brain, etc.
After recovery, strict self-discipline is required in diet and with regard to sleep in order to keep a delicate balance in his oversensitive nervous condition. He ceases to meditate so as to avoid another arousal of Kundalini, and psychologically he develops an aversion to religion and mysticism, disallowing his mind to rest on thoughts of this nature. He has doubts as to the divine nature of the energy he has encountered, fearing that evil spirits may have possessed him.
Curiously, Krishna refrains from describing many "almost uncanny happenings" within him in the months following the recovery, saying only that his strength returned despite continuing inner struggles (115).
In the fall or winter of 1938, after returning to work (as a government clerk), he experiences a heightened awareness, a heightening of the sense, seeing a luster in things (141+). He now mentions that, since the experience a year before, his dreams had become "extraordinarily vivid" and "wonderful" experiences not unlike the childhood dream at age 8 (147). It is also apparent to him that the Kundalini has continued all along to work in his body, especially during sleep, and there is also a process of purgation and rejuvenation that involves alterations in his digestive and excretory functions. His body is being rebuilt, and he can sense sometime painfully that his sperm is being forcefully drawn from his testicles and transformed into an energy that is used in the development of a new center of consciousness in his brain (150-1, 163). Ordinarily, this development does not require sublimation of the male seed, and in its advanced states utilizes a subtler and better fuel derived mysteriously from the very cellular material of the body. The seed is sublimated only in energies such as Krishna's, when the Kundalini, or evolutionary force, is activated prematurely, or without adequate preparation (164).
In the winter of 1943, he begins to meditate again and has "breathtaking" experiences, but he neglects sleep and soon has exhausted himself and enters a suffering that lasts over three months (184-7+). Again, diet is important in his recovery.
In November of 1949, he finds that he has discovered a new sort of meditation in which he sinks deeply into the light of his own consciousness without any agitation of Kundalini (199). Over the 12-year period following his initial waking, his consciousness has gradually developed and changed so that he now perceives a "void" or space immediately around him and "a world of life" stretching in all directions around him.. At this time, he suddenly develops an interest in writing verse (200) and has profound mystical experiences that leave in his memory whole stanzas of verse in Kashmiri, English, Urdu, Punjabi, Persian, German, French, Italian, Sanskrit and Arabic – some of which were languages of which he had no previous knowledge (208-213)! This new ability was welcomed as a power verifying and validating his spiritual achievement (201-2). After this point, he has regular experiences of mystical union with the superconscious light that would seem to be God, the unmanifest, the essence of all things, etc.
The only other point dealt with that is of notable importance with respect to the mystical way concerns detachment from the world. Following visits from crowds who have heard rumors about Krishna's achievements, he experiences strain that brings insomnia and irregularity of diet. Though these lead to another period of exhaustion, he at first interprets them as signs of liberation and becomes detached from the world and desires to free himself from all ties in order to become a sannyasi (one who renounces the world and lives by begging and receiving alms) (216). In his exhaustion, however, he rejoins his wife and relinquishes the idea of total withdrawal from the world – an idea he now sees as a desire for power (218). But he does retire from work.
In retirement, he has to deal with more crowds, many of who seek miraculous cures and displays of power, which he ignores. He comes down from "intoxication" with his now inviolate higher consciousness to a "sobriety" in which he realizes that he is not different from or superior to others despite his altered consciousness (225). The process of biological reconstruction continues after it has begun (233).
In closing, let me note that Krishna addresses the question, at the end of the book, of why man's world is in such turmoil. The answer he gives is that man, in effect, violates evolutionary law through imbalanced inner growth resulting in a disproportion among emotion, will and thought in the mind, and lacking a "concordant development of the morals and intellect" (245). He prescribes the recognition of Kundalini – primordial, totally intelligent evolutionary energy – and proposes an inquiry into the possibility of its mysteries and into its safe arousal.
Krishna, Gopi. Kundalini: the evolutionary energy in man. Boulder: Shambhala. 1971.
Professor's Comment: Grade B. The summation is weak but otherwise acceptable. [Dr. Kim.]
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