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Is strength of kundalini proportional to size of karmic debt?

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A few weeks ago I seemed to reach a more stable place, with a much clearer and more persistent awareness of no individual person really being here. Kundalini had subsided and equanimity was settling. I had taken the decision to work less and look after my family more, which seemed to help. But it seems the ego decided to fight back, offended by the encroachment on its territory. Kundalini symptoms  again flared up in the forehead/face, with much greater intensity and strong downward pressure. It was hard to focus on much else, however eventually I figured out that the pressure would drop if I let go more deeply and this started to bring the lower chakras into play.  My personality is an ungrounded intellectual type, so this downward progression seems to make sense. Although I recognize that this is all just ultimately meaningless personal narrative, there is a tendency to identify with the kundalini process and think I must be a special person or having special experiences.  And I know this is counterproductive because all “progress” thus far has been letting go of specialness or personhood. Since I believed I was a very special person, clearly there is a lot of room for letting go which is probably why the kundalini process is strong and protracted.

I’ve noticed a tendency in people with strong kundalini to “give thanks” for their “special gift” and “inner teacher”. In one sense that’s helpful, because kundalini/chakra issues symptoms seem to arise from blocked/repressed emotions and other hindrances. But, as noted above, that can also be unhelpful because if you didn’t have so many personal issues then you wouldn’t have such strong kundalini, so making a thing out of kundalini is just like making an issue out of your issues to add to the top of the list. In the suttas there is no mention of kundalini except for piti, which seems to be a very watered down version of such an apparently powerful experience. And piti  is usually translated and discussed in positive/blissful ways, whereas strong kundalini involves a lot of apparent pain as well (I suspect it’s just the right balance of pain/pleasure to provide the optimal stick/carrot incentives to keep awakening). But presumably Gautama’s karmic debt was already quite small at birth from previous past lives, so one wouldn’t expect him to have experienced strong kundalini  (or maybe he just decided it wasn’t helpful to talk about it).

That leads me to my question really: is strength of kundalini proportional to the size of karmic debt? That is, strong kundalini just means you have a lot of karmic debt/vasanas/issues to work through and is nothing to get excited about, just recognize the size of the job at hand. Maybe there’s a secondary explanation related to the apparent speed of releasing vasanas – given two people with a similar karmic load, should one expect that the one who is burning vasanas the fastest would experience the stronger kundalini?

Re-reading my words, it’s funny how I go from talking about attenuating personhood right back to making personal comparisons. I suspect the right answer is just ignore it as much as possible and keep letting go. But still it’s oh so tempting to engage in comparisons and mapping …

RE: Is strength of kundalini proportional to size of karmic debt?
Answer
9/13/19 11:04 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Hi agnostic,

To the extent karma is cause and effect, there is of course some cause of kundalini but I don't think it is in any way related to the metaphysical view of karmic debt as accumulated over lifetimes. The Sanskirt word "prana" applies to all kinds of so-called "energy phenomena", including piti and kundalini. Prana is basically a kind of flowing sensation with various other sensations accompanying, sometimes extermely pleasurable and sometimes extremely painful. In the MTCB terminology that most people use on DhO, a kundalini experience is associated with an A&P event. The problem of course is that often, as was the case with me and I guess you as well, the "event" lasts several years, with kundalini recurring periodically in certain circumstances (like when on meditation retreat or meditating in daily life).

This suggests to me that kundalini comes from a physical cause, namely a rearrangement of the connections between the cortical homunculus and the pleasure/pain centers of the brain around the amygdala as a result of strong concentration/jhana practice. Furthermore, it's possible that people who respond well to and have a history of moderate use of stimulants such as caffine, amphetameme, or cocaine, and to psychedelics have more of a tendency to get strong kundalini experences. Would be interesting to do a study to see whether this is the case.

As you note, thinking one is "special", focusing on the feelings of prana flow, trying to figure out what the feeling is "good for" all tend to prolong and intensify kundalini. Eating heavy, meat laden meals, pumping iron in the gym, running on the treadmill, and going out and having a good time with friends all tend to cause kundalini to dissipate. But the prana never really goes away, in my experience. It still arises in particular situations.

Hope that helps.

RE: Is strength of kundalini proportional to size of karmic debt?
Answer
9/13/19 11:37 PM as a reply to svmonk.
Would you also recommend giving up caffeine? (I haven’t done the other stuff).

RE: Is strength of kundalini proportional to size of karmic debt?
Answer
9/14/19 4:30 AM as a reply to agnostic.
Hi Agnostic,

I've been taking a long time to work through kundalini/A&P too.  I see it as unblocking energy flows which relate to past injuries and physical (and related mental and emotional) traumas.  I expect this has some relationship to karmic debt, if you buy into that spiritual model.  I suppose if you have a large karmic debt that makes you less able to deal with such traumas as they come up and it means your body stores the imprints (sankaras or engrams) to a greater extent.  I think that age and the amount of phsical trauma that you have been exposed to are also factors.

So yes, I tend to agree that the duration, intensity and extent of the kundalini process is a reflection of the amount of "stuff" you need to work through and is nothing to be proud of.  Modern medicine has done a lot to extend people's length and quality of life but it does mean that people have a lot more physical traumas to work through.  Anaesthetics are great for performing operations and mean that people survive injuries and conditions that would have killed them in previous centuries.  The downside is that they bury the physical traumas very deeply.  This wouldn't have been such an issue in the time of the Buddha, so that may be another reason why he doesn't talk much about it.

Conal

RE: Is strength of kundalini proportional to size of karmic debt?
Answer
9/14/19 8:45 PM as a reply to Laurel Carrington.
Based on my experience, yes, especially if the prana is heavy and painful. I had to give it up during the time I was getting heavy kundalini in the late 90's. Eventually, it settled down, and then I could start again (mainly drinking coffee).

RE: Is strength of kundalini proportional to size of karmic debt?
Answer
9/15/19 12:05 AM as a reply to Conal.
I'm mostly a lurker her but I came at this from a very different direction and you might find a different perspective useful. My introduction to Kundalini (Candali) was through Tummo or the Heat Yoga from the Six Yogas of Naropa which has come down to us from the Tibetan Buddhists. In that system you learn the chakras, nadis and such, do some visualisations and exercises to keep from doing yourself injury and then you *arouse and direct* that energy using special breathing, more visualizations and intention. In my case I learned to do it from a book which I wouldn't recommend. A Tibetan lama would probably say that what I do isn't Tummo because I didn't get the transmission and empowerments for the practice, but I think that isn't relevant to the question of obstacles and karma.

Anyway, one of the results of doing that practice or the microcosmic orbit of Taoism long term is an unobstructed circular flow of energy that never really stops unless its shut it off and I didn't learn that was possible until about a year ago. I'd never heard of the jhanas before I saw Kenneth Folk's videos with Nick. I learned to do the (soft) jhanas by following along with the video. I would guess I was able to do that because Tummo and Jhana are not far apart. When people talk about Kundalini and imply that it isn't the energy behind jhana I'm inclined to think they're wrong. Once you learn to do jhana if you learn it then you can do it from that point on.

I see that Daniel saying that Kundalini experiences are tied to A&P and I *think* what he means is that spontaneous exeprience of energy is associated with A&P and he isn't talking about piti and sukkha associated with jhana. Karma is cause and effect. Everything arises and passes away as a result of Karma. Karmic debt makes sense to me, but don't ignore the possibility that your posture or blockages in "the nadis" are causing pain or discomfort. If you get Glenn Mullin's translation of Tshongkapa's Six Yogas of Naropa or other similar books you'll find the special preliminary exercises and visualisations for Tummo. Those are good. Hatha Yoga is also likely to be helpful. Meditation rouses Kundalini. All meditators should use good straight posture and avoid energy blockages. Failure to do that will result in pain and other problems.

RE: Is strength of kundalini proportional to size of karmic debt?
Answer
9/15/19 11:20 AM as a reply to agnostic.
Hey Agnostic,

I went through kundalini awakening a few months back after different kind of practices and here are a few resources which have helped me in my jeourney so far. Understanding the chakra systems is kind of necessary when dealing with this energy and it is best surrendered to. Make a friend out of it instead of trying to fight it or supress the symptoms. Doing hatha yoga asanas also helps with grounding as well as unblocking energy flows in body.

Here are a few resources which have helped me so far

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVEQB3gy9x8

http://kundalinicare.com/kinds-of-kundalini-risings-2/

www.lawofone.info

Kundalini Tantra by swami satyananda saraswati 

Play of consiousness by swami muktananda 

RE: Is strength of kundalini proportional to size of karmic debt?
Answer
9/16/19 11:41 AM as a reply to svmonk.
Thanks svmonk, that is helpful. I suspect that prana/kundalini, piti, tummo, chi etc. are all really the same bioenergetic phenomenon. It’s easy to get distracted by the differences between traditions, but if we were watching monkeys behaving this way in a zoo and using different denotations for it we would have no problem seeing the similarities in their behavior.

I like your description of “rearrangement of connections” in the brain. This fits with my experience. It started off with what I used to call “psychological chunking” or “techtonics”. I would be meditating and thoughts about various personal issues would come up. They seemed too strong to drop so I would find myself just letting the movie run and eventually it would come to some point of resolution and I would have a definite almost physical feeling of a shift between “chunks” or “plates” in my brain. After a few weeks/months of this the psychological content seemed to be exhausted and the process descended to the level of pure energy, pressure, headaches and sensations in my brain, face and scalp. There seemed to be less need for formal meditation practice, the psychophysical process just seemed to continue on its own and wake me up in the middle of the night if it required “attention”. My 9/13 post was at a point of peak facial pressure. After posting I read this great post on Freddie Yam’s blog and I realized that my “mask” of facial pain was the physical representation of the psychological mask I have worn all my life to present myself to other people as I feel they need or expect me to be. The next morning I was woken up at 4am by internal energy (for the fourth night running) and as I lay on my back the energy slowly started to move down again and connect with the lower chakras. Eventually the piti/sukha subsided and equanimity started to settle in. I felt so peaceful that I realized I was tired and turned on my side to sleep. As I was feeling asleep the visual field started to brighten (I can only glimpse a nimitta when I fall asleep, not during dedicated jhana practice where I still labor under the illusion of control). Suddenly there was a little “pop” just behind the top of my head and it felt like cool air was flowing through. This was the first time I ever felt anything physical near the crown chakra or in the back of my head. There was a bit of panic, feeling like my brains might fall out or an evil demon might enter, but I rode that wave and felt a gentler feeling of openness in the head. Since then there is still some facial pain, but less pressure because the energy has more space to move around at the back of the head.

The thought occurred to me that this pop might have been a fruition, in which case that would be my third path fruition, but I’m not around any teachers or community who could verify that. I’m aware of the risks of self-diagnosis and in general the residual ego’s desire to lay claim to any “attainments”. In terms of fetters, I’m still a bit of an angry narcissistic asshole, maybe like a 3/10 when I was a 9/10 before, but certainly not the 0/10 one would presumably expect from an anagami. I probably shouldn’t say this here but I’m a bit skeptical of the four path model (either in fetters or fruitions). It smells to me like an after-the-fact monastic progress/status structure that developed in the years following Gautama’s death to keep the donations/aspirants coming. I’m more inclined towards advaita where any sense of spiritual progress is actually pulling us away from the ground state of self/awareness. This shift from theravada progress model to advaita model really happened between "paths" 2-3. I was reading vedanta and Ramakrishna and Ramana Maharshi, as well as modern nondualists like Tony Parsons and Robert Adams. It was really like wow, that is what anatta would really look like if it was walking around (understanding the self vs not-self joke).

That having been said, in the apparently real world these energetic shifts continue (and MCTB has been a huge help in navigating this apparent path). The focus continues to move from the head to the heart and I suspect that the lower chakras should start to ground the process. It’s still interesting to reflect on the apparent “problem” or discontinuity between the perception of a massive energetic kundalini process setting off internal fireworks versus the anodyne use of the word piti in the suttas. Humans haven’t evolved much in that time and it seems very likely people were having these experiences 2,500 years ago. I guess on balance it was considered more helpful not to publicize them in the suttas for fear of making them an object of desire/attainment and hence further barrier to awakening. I suppose that guidance for those in need was given in person by more experienced fellow practitioners. Conal talks about the effects of modern medicine and longer lifespans. There is also the fact to consider that we just have more information these days about what most seekers are going through, e.g. therapy, blogs, videos etc. This stuff isn’t in the historical record once you go back more than a hundred years or so (except for reading between the lines in the accounts of various mystics). Thanks also for the helpful references and comments John H and Abhisek.

Oh and svmonk, I do have a history of moderate use of the substances you mention but I never responded well to them. They might have opened up certain pathways or perspectives, but they also shut down other possibilities for long periods. If I had my time again I would avoid them, knowing that all the experiences they appear to generate are freely available through meditation in much stronger doses and with less side effects (well apart from the biggie, ego death that is ;-)).

Anyway, thanks everyone for all the feedback. Apologies for the delay in responding, due to family commitments. I guess I have one last question for anyone who has been through a significant kundalini awakening and then seen it subside. Do you ever miss it? I mean these experiences can be so powerful and blissful it’s hard to imagine that the equanimity on the other side is even better. Or is it really a case of been there, done that, no further interest in repeating, just like any of the other apparently pleasant things in life we outgrow? Is it something you can still call up if you wanted to? Gautama was still going through the jhanas on his deathbed, so I suppose the piti is still accessible, I just wonder if it’s still as strong or whether it takes on a different more subtle dimension …