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Marvin: Dear James, a note of thanks for How to Attain Enlightenment and for all the articles and videos you make available for free. And a special note of thanks for being that rarest of creatures – an enlightened guy who’s still a regular guy. Now I’m afraid you must pay the price for having made yourself accessible. I have a question or two.
I am 63, and recently returned to meditation two years ago after about a 24-year hiatus. I began with Arica in 1974, went on to Silva Mind Control, moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and sampled the smorgasbord of exotic spirituality served up there in the mid to late 1970s. In 1979, I got shaktipat while reading Muktananda’s book, then hitchhiked across country to see him. For seven years I was deeply involved in Siddha Yoga, traveled to Ganeshpuri, joined the tour in Santa Monica. In 1984, I joined the staff at SYDA headquarters in South Fallsburg. I left in 1986 amid the scandals that exposed the organization for the thoroughly corrupt institution it was (is). But I left full of perplexity about this thing called kundalini.
I read your interview about kundalini several times. It certainly seems sensible, especially bearing in mind the crucial distinction you always make between experience and knowledge. But I can’t seem to shake the damn kriyas. I got the “awakening” spontaneously and it developed in dramatic fashion, with all the physical phenomena – asanas, pranayama, strange mantras, lights, etc. – and when I left SYDA and its gurus I noticed that the kriyas kept hanging on. I tried to understand this, for I believed that Muktananda was the conduit, yet I had never felt any strong personal connection to him, and despite attempts could not manage any devotion to the “lineage,” though we were told guru bhava was essential to progress. After rejecting the ashram and the whole show, the kriyas seemed to be occurring outside any context that could make them intelligible. I had studied the works of St. John of the Cross and decided that they must be some sort of demonic manifestation, i.e. preternatural occurences. This made sense in light of the accusations against Baba and the behavior of Gurumayi and her brother. These were not good or holy people, yet there was a manifestation of power there. I suppressed the kriyas as best I could, even occasionally saying a prayer of self-exorcism, Lord help me. I became a traditional Catholic, a kind of rear guard of the old faith hanging onto the Latin Mass and rigid doctrine, but lost the faith in 2010.
I am very much to drawn to Advaita and find Vivekachudamini and Aparokshanubhuti very conducive to meditation. I envy you your guru, Swami Chinmayananda. What a magnificent man, what a voice! I have read some of his books, along with those of Swami Dayananda, and spent a lot of time listening to lectures by the two of them. But when I am meditating, say on one of the mahavakyas, my fingers start forming mudras, my body sways, my head shakes, pranayama starts up and, if I don’t check it, I lose my focus and my mind wanders while my body does all the crazy stuff. But is it crazy stuff? It’s spontaneous. The tantric literature and Laksman Joo’s commentaries suggest one should honor the kundalini and let it do its work. Stand aside, you know. I suppose my question comes to this: Are the kriyas my designated way for loosening the hold of the vasanas or am I just “bouncing around in the chakras,” as you describe it? What’s going on? I am still perplexed about Muktananda too. Some of his devotees still revere him, one with whom I recently communicated, who has become a celebrity in her own right on the spirituality circuit, told me that his liaisons were a form of tantric shaktipat, or a way of playing with the divine feminine. Amazing. How did this strange man produce such dramatic effects, even at long distance, on people who had yet to meet him, as in my case? Is kundalini a force that can be commanded by people of dubious character and intent who undergo the proper training?
I apologize for taking up so much of your time, that is, if you’re still reading this. I would love to do one of your immersion courses.
~ Thanks again, Marvin
James: Hi, Marvin. Sorry for the delay replying, but fame has struck with a vengeance owing the efficacy of Vedanta, and I am more or less overwhelmed with emails, etc.
In any case I enjoyed your email very much. I love people’s spiritual stories and yours is indeed interesting. There is nothing sinister about kriyas. They are the rajasic reaction of a certain kind of sattvic mind to kundalini, which is a big word for prana shakti, the life force. Laxman Joo and the tantric literature are correct. One should not worry about it. Since you have no control over the nature of the gunas and you have no control of the shakti – that is Isvara’s business – the worry about it is gratuitous. It is best to take it as prasad in the karma yoga spirit. Is it doing any good? Probably not. Is it harmful? Probably not. It seems to me that in your case it is just a strange psycho-spiritual artifact left over from being irradiated by a rajasic shakti sadhana, Siddha Yoga. It seems that you have avoided the seductive kundalini trap, i.e. imagining that it is evidence of some sort of spiritual attainment and making a big story about it. It is just the body wiggling in strange ways, more or less, a spiritual version of restless leg syndrome.
The kriyas are not loosening any vasanas. They are vasanas themselves, and one day will disappear. Vasanas come up on their own very nicely.
The woman you mentioned that said that Baba was “playing with the divine energy” is full of BS. Baba could easily awaken the kundalini without even being in the proximity of a person. He was a horny old man blessed with some strange and extraordinary powers. That is all. I suppose all those young women who had the honor of enjoying his semen are great spiritual giants today, striding across the earth enlightening the masses. What is amusing to me, and an irony lost on the principals, is the sad fact that those who perpetuate such myths are basically women. I never heard a man say this about Baba or any other “crazy wisdom” guru. But then it is very often the case that wives of men who abuse their daughters are often staunch defenders of their husbands. You are right about Siddha Yoga. It is totally corrupt.
Those attracted to Siddha Yoga tend to be uptight, middle- and upper-middle-class types with a plethora of silly ideas about spirituality. As you know, Nityananda had a very big belly. It embarrassed them, so they cooked up the story that it was kumbaka, a yoga of retention of breath that is favored by pranayamis who are chasing samadhi. He was a great mahatma, no doubt, but he was not body-conscious. In fact he was lazy, lay on his bed most of the time and ate sweets that the devotees brought as prasad. No exercise plus ladoos equals a fat guru.
Marvin: Is kundalini a force that can be commanded by people of dubious character and intent who undergo the proper training?
James: That’s the myth. It is something that happens to certain people for reasons known only to Isvara, and depending on their character they claim credit for it or they let people imagine that it is coming from them – which amounts to the same thing. Or they make it clear that it is Bhagavan working through them and keep themselves out of it.
All you have to do to get famous and powerful is claim credit for something that belongs to Bhagavan and get a handful of fools to believe it belongs to you, and you are set for life. Sai Baba is another example. It is not the person that “does” this. The person, for some reason, sits at the center of a vortex of attention and becomes a vehicle for the energy, which causes positive and negative disturbances in the subtle body of those with whom there is some connection. It is all the shakti, not the person.
People are gullible. They want to believe. They want to be thought highly of. So they invest in myths that make them and others think highly of them. It is all Bhagavan. We are nothing. Making a story of spiritual experiences is useless spiritually. A butterfly, a hummingbird or a Venus fly trap demands more attention.
Marvin: Many thanks for responding in such detail. It is immensely helpful and puts the lid on the whole kundalini perplexity that has been troubling me. I love your comment that kriyas are the spiritual equivalent of “restless leg syndrome.” It had me laughing. What a pretentious crock Siddha Yoga was. I will, deo volente, be meeting you soon, as I decided to take the plunge and come to Trout Lake for your Panchadasi course. I’ll be staying at the grocery store, made arrangements with Bev already. Can’t wait. I’m prepping by listening to your Portland 2011 lectures on Panchadasi. Great stuff. Again, many thanks. So glad you are among us. See you soon.