Monday, 14 May 2012


A naked ascetic meanders towards you, with matted hair, strewn with ash, bearing the Trishul, the trident and the kamandalu, a shining copper water pot. Four dogs trot at his heels. A cow is not far behind. He seems crazy, a strange sadhu from a whole other time, a whole other place...and yet with a glance he can plunge you into samadhi.

That is the energy of Lord Dattatreya, the "hero" of one whole section of the Vaishnava text Shrimad Bhagavatam, and also of the Avadhut Gita, both of which are readily available in English. They detail the characteristics of a muni, of an enlightened sage or avadhut who has become intimately connected with the famous Nath sadhus of India and who lived not in this age, Kali Yuga, but the age before, Tretta Yuga. Somehow his presence and energy has transcended time.

Data  is no ordinary human, but the merged energies of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. The four dogs represent the four Vedas, and his appearance as an ascetic shows his perfect renunciation. the cow is the spirit of the earth, seeking His protection. So Lord Dattatreya is the perfect renunciate. And He is said to be alive to this day, alive and elusive.  

You do not find much, if any, mention of him in the West. He is not an easy poster-boy for the neat, tidy householder Yogis with their rubber mats, water bottles, and busy worldly lives. In fact, his legend is woven through many different strands and traditions, differing with each region in India. There are many temples, mostly little known outside India, where he is worshipped. He is the deity of sadhus of many different Nath and Naga  traditions, such as the Juno Akhara. But He is not easily found. For one thing, he does not stand still. He wanders, the perfect renunciate. Meditate on Him and see what happens...

Only when your heart, mind and body is turned towards Tyaga, towards renunciation, does He appear however distantly and He is not in any way tameable, able to be propiated, or corralled in the games of the Ego. He is the free, the liberated, the one truly not of this world yet living in the world. 

I have always found the legends surrounding Lord Dattatreya fascinating. The academic reasoning behind Him puts him as a relatively late attempt to synthesise the different strands of worship in the Sanatan Dharma. But really, He is Guru energy incarnated. He is the Silence. He is the One who wanders and blesses all without discrimination. He knows His own and they know him. He is not bound by space or time, and He is the perfected Siddha, the very essence of the primordial Guru. His is the energy of the avadhut like Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi or Bhagwan Nityananda.

And this perhaps brings us the heart of another question. What is the Guru? Does a Guru teach? Or is the Guru's presence merely the teaching? A Guru is one whose separate individuality has been merged by the expansion of consciousness, by enlightenment... and from a different angle, a guru is one who has perfectly bowed down, and is just a container for the awakened Divine, the union of Shiva and Shakti.

see the dogs and cow?

Does Lord Dattatreya teach, then? Yes. He points us, especially in the famous passage from Srimad Bhagavatam, from the lessons available to us by deep connections with actual lived reality, and his is the voice thatr details 24 gurus taken from the world around us. 

But, given, the sharp decline in the traditions of renunciation in the West, can we find his spirit at all? Yes, I think so. I believe so. Such great beings  are the embodiment of sattvic manifestation, and it only when your life becomes purer and your mind sharply concentrated that even the possibility of His existence becomes clear. He was born through the wishes of his devout mother, thus signals that a devotee will ALWAYS find the teacher, at the perfect time, in the perfect moment, through devotion and one-pointed reverence.

'Hari Om Tat Sat jai gurudatta!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012


Kundalini, the secret essence of spiritual practice, the basis of all religious and spiritual phenomena, is one of the oddest omissions of the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic faiths. Kundalini is also one of the most misunderstood parts of the world of Yoga and Hindu thought. 

The way westerners and many Indians view Kundalini in the 21st century is that "it" is a sort of vital force leading to explosive spiritual experiences, which by dint of practice and austerities you can awaken and somehow "tame", so that normal you becomes normal you version 2.0 with various spiritual powers... dazzling friends family and community in the process. And along the way you get to know all the various chakras, or spiritual centres, and somehow manipulate them as well into doing the Ego's bidding 

Accordingly much time can be spent by the impatient spiritual seeker in finding a shortcut, an instant buzz and a switching on of Kundalini as if this power were electricity and all you need is a good plug. Hence the rise in the 1970s of various Gurus promising what is termed shaktipat, the awakening of kundalini by a master's look, touch, voice or even simply will. One zap, and the kundalini rises to your every whim...

Of course most of this is ego nonsense and the seeker thinking this way can delude themselves merrily building castles in the air, but will always miss the real reality of Mata Kundalini. Shaktipat does exist, but shaktipat transmitters are very few and far between and not necessarily famous with immaculate silken robes. Shaktipat is given to the deserving, not indiscrminately doled out to everyone who asks. Why? This is not some snobbish elitism. The awakening of Kundalini overwhelms the mind in particular. If mental problems exist, they can get highlit. The tap once turned on is very difficult to turn off.  

The very first secret about to Kundalini is that "it" is not "it" but the Mother of the Universe, sporting as a lover eager to unite with her consort Lord Shiva. She is THE she! She is supremely intelligent, supremely playful, and would no more take notice of our little Egos than we would pay heed to an ant on the ground.

The second secret is that She takes Her own time, with Her own will. She cannot ever be commanded, trapped, tricked, appeased, flattered, or cheated. She only wakes when She wants, and then normally only when the palace in which She sleeps - our human frame - is swept, clean and ready. And even then, she will wake reluctantly, as She likes Her sleep. The final ascent of the Kundalini is made through the shushumna, but much purification is needed to make this happen (see guide to chakras in December 2013 blog post).

The third secret: She is eager to meet Lord Shiva from her home in the root muladhara chakra, but she is the eternal feminine. She will walk at Her own pace. This is her lila, her sport. Equally her sport is that She chooses whoever She wills, entirely out of Her choice, to awaken in. She may rush headlong into Her lover's arm, into the Great paramatma. But, again, her choice...

Experiences of Her wakening, in the form of expressions of shakti, Her power, are both uniquely different for each soul, and broadly similar. Perhaps the most obvious quality of Her movement in the body is associated in our brain with snakes, snakelike motion, visions of snakes of lustrous colours, dreams of snakes. Given the Judeo-Christian fear of snakes as the devil, this is a problem for many westerners. But the snake aspect is just part of Kundalini awakening. The other aspect of this snake-like aspect is she bites. And her "bite" can be difficult. She can be behind the unstoppable onrush of sexual fantasies and obsessive thoughts, tempting the energy to flow downwards and out rather than upwards. It is a test and the life of many novice monks and nuns are made exceptionally difficult because they fail to see the Kundalini manifestation behind such imagery. Ride it out, smile because She is playing with you.

In my nearly 40 years on the spiritual path, I've seen and heard so many things all too eagerly associated with Kundalini by eager and inexperienced practitioners, me included. Perhaps the most common problem is associating movements of prana (broadly, the life force) during meditation or chanting or such activity with a Kundalini awakening. Your body might for example spontaneously start to breathe very rapidly, you may start hopping like a frog when you sit for meditation. Kundalini? No, prana movements. 

Another point about Kundalini experiences is that you have little real control over them, but when they happen, they are unmistakeable. The chakras are a reality, but not in the pretty picture reality you may see in diagrams... energy whirls and collects in vortices, brilliantly coloured and vibrant, and not through any set order.

A third point: the experiences are NOT She Herself. 

Kundalini experiences also can tend to close off your mouth... they are secrets and the unfolding is part of an impossible, wonderful game that you, the witness get to see until you get swept away in the torrent of awakening and illumination. When She awakes, you will truly know it. But your ego will not like it at all.

Celibacy or brahmacharya is for men a vital need to help Kundalini stretch and yawn. Less so for women, as they imbibe a lot of energy through sexual congress.

Please do not make the mistake of treating the great Devi without reverence, without due understanding, orthe whole thing as a game, a joke, an opportunity to show off. The Gurus who came to the west with this knowledge are just a fraction to the saints in India who have awakened kundalini, and those who brag about shaktipat and charge fees to do so on courses and special intensives are ones to especially avoid. Shri Kundalini is wild, free and her own mistress.

Here's a poem on this very subject to ponder:

Shri Maha Kundalini
Shri Mata
Will wake
When she

Stretching and yawning
She moves
And the universe trembles.
But she likes
Her sleep.

And if the servants
Have not prepared the
Royal way
Why would she leave
Her bed-chamber?

But she is self-willed
And by her whims
The devotees
Make ready.

Then, eager to meet
Her beloved
She hurries from
the guards.

Be very careful!
Direct Her upstairs!

Foolish you
That you command

Are you mad?
Or is She?

And some very interesting quotes from Swami Kripalvananda from his commentary on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika:

"Below the navel and above the generative organ is a place shaped like a bird's egg. It is called the bulb. The sleeping Kundalini lies there. Only the yogi has a special relationship with her. Having awakened Her, he becomes free from the snare of being (the prison of worldly existence). Ordinary people also come into contact with her, but they don't recognise her. She attracts everyone towards pleasure. Fools also come into abundant contact with Her and continue to be trapped by the snare of being. Under Her influence they helplessly rush to masturbation . Therefore the yogi who has reached the end says "He who really knows Kundalini really knows yoga"."

"She (Kundalini) has been called a tapasvin because she continualluy awaits for a woman or man who has become one with the elevated seed. Such women and men only appear after centuries. Until then She must wait for them. This is Her burning austerity."

"Kundalini does indeed appear in the path of many aspirants. She is indeed particularly awake and their progress is made through Her. Yet they don't recognise Her because she assumes different forms in the different levels."

"In this war there is no room for any other kind of war. Seize the evolutionary force by the tail and awaken Her. This is the set order of battle."