Recovering the Sahaja-Endogenously Arising Yoga
In order to view Yoga and meditation as just as endogenous to our development (and as awesome) as gestation once was, as taking one’s first post-umbilical breath, as adolescent puberty, we must deconstruct the over-formalized pedagogical edifices that have grown around it. Both indigenously over the ages, and in their translation and importation into the West, the “innately- arising” (sahaja), panentheistic, “dionysian” (in the Nietzschean sense) origins of Yoga and meditation have been shaped and over-shaped into “apollonian” pedagogical constructs, cosmeticized or leveled for mass appeal, sterilized for upper-class gentilities, or otherwise tamed and over-tamed to avoid real or imagined dangers.
The moral sentiments (yama and niyama) and their mercies often became mere rules of the rigid-mandatory, or lip-service varieties. The grace of sequence and consequence of karma was typically mechanicalized into an arch-law, in contrast to more merciful teachings regarding a “grace” that is independent of “karmic laws.” The mysterious flow of lineage stiffened into the rigidities of caste, also in contrast to the dionysian rejection of caste prejudice and the “crazy wisdom” traditions that ridicule it.
The reverentially ecstatic “Dance of Siva, Lord of Yogis,” became stylized in public rituals, “classical” music and dance, and in the Yogic asanas themselves, or withered in the severe asceticisms of the fakir. By the second century A.D., Patanjali’s dualistic, “classical” Yoga-sutra had formalized an over- separation between Nature (prakriti) and Ultimate Subjectivity (purusha), thus “rejecting the idea that the world is an aspect of the Divine” (Feuerstein, 1982, p. 412).
Thus the shamanic or dionysian Yoga and its bond with mystical phenomenology maintained in the living moment through oral transmission in the hoary past (and still, with all manner of attendant difficulties), arose and then fell into evermore secularized, scriptural fundamentalisms and dilutions. The sequence of its fall from “only-happening-now” time and in-the-moment-utterances into formalized theories and “histories of events” might be as follows:
(1) the spirit-in-time revealed as a superlative, private bodily experience (ecstasy or enstasy),
(2) emergent publically as pre-semantic ecstatic-catalytic utterances and dancing-swaying movements, then
(3) languaged orally as sheer descriptions of the experience, then
(4) memorized and scriptured into an orthodox text or externalized liturgical commemoration (Yoga and meditation as teachings; the movements classicalized as ritual forms),
(5) its lessons fableized for charm (the ancient myths), then
(6) in search of a genteel purity, its sparkling and sensual phenomenology put into disembodied descriptions of “heaven- realms” or sheer “higher states of consciousnesses,” and
(7) as texts and practices exported into the West, formulized for mass pedagogical ease (the contemporary Yoga books and aerobics-like classes, stress-reduction courses, and other holistic applications or “new age” appropriations),
(8) made abstract or “symbolic” of something else, or “primitivized” by scholars for learned discourse (the transpersonalist’s synthesizing schemas), 4 and, at all junctures,
(9) suppressed or championed by religio-political forces; eroded by sectarian rivalries and scandals; desiccated as the legalistic, purely academic word, or scorned as mere superstition.
Thus the Yogic textual metaphors which paint accurate pictures of various phases of the inner experience of certain neuroendocrinal maturations–of, for example, “fluids raining down from the heavens” and “sacrifices made into further sacrifices,” referring to the transmutation of subtle melatonin-like pineal secretions as they appear (to the rishika, “the seer who sees the described referent actually happening”) with his eyes closed in ecstatic witness to their flickering precipitations in the ever-spiraling-higher [“sacrified and further sacrificed”] into the ever-spiraling higher center of the cathedral-domed cranium-were transposed to the externalized space of the firmament and, ironically, buried within the homologous brahmanic sacrificial rituals (or myths) which were meant to be subservient pointers to the inner hormonal developmental experiences. The “higher and higher heavens” became abstractions, instead of aesthetic descriptions of how it floatingly actually feels when the cerebral puberty unfolds meditative glimpses of the infinity of love-space-time. For, what are all pubescent hormones but the “sacrificial” materializations of the infinite? And what are these sacrifices, except givings-to-physical-humans of the sensual path to their own highest joys and matured clarities. (N.B., the above and the next run-on sentences are poetic, literary devices that attempt to induce some version of the experience described therein.)
Via further translations into the modern pragmatic- scientific vernacular, instead of an inner awe of wonder and delight, we now speak of “spiritual practices,” “visualization techniques,” Yogic “states of consciousness” and quasi-Newtonian “spiritual energies.” Instead of a well-mapped, but dynamic, esoteric phenomenology of marvelous fluttering, whorling, meditative experiences of cerebral-hormonal “flowing-juices” (soma) and “brilliant sunlight” (“savitri,” a Vedic term for Kundalini illuminating the mind and for which Elizarenkova counts more than fifteen verbs denoting its “brilliance” in the Rig Veda), we have the dry brahmanic (Indian or Western) abstractions or translations depicting only exoteric ritual libations, “transrational” evolutionary schemas, tantric visualization practices, and theonyms for sun-worship. The “Burning Bush,” whether Western or Eastern, as aptly describing the overwhelming, experienced glow of Kundalini in the cerebrum, is lost in its own metaphor. But sometimes not, as Allama Prabhu, the tenth century dionysian bhakti yogi sang:
Looking for your light [of hope],
I went out [into meditation]:
it was like a sudden dawn [a breakthrough of inner luminescence]
of a million million suns,
a ganglion of lightnings [the cerebral puberty]
for my wonder.
O Lord of Caves [Hearted Flesh-bodies],
if you are light,
there can be no metaphor [an experience beyond words].
(Ramanujan, 1973, p. 168)
And why Kundalini is called serpentine should not rest upon its coiled shape or as a “symbol” of the infinite, but to convey the charm of its mercurial irridescence when it is actually seen or felt: the inexplicable glimmer of human developmental detail, down to each glittering bone-cell or mitochrondrial fibril-thrill as the incessant resurgence of creation. To hear a life-long yogi choked up, unable to speak in daunted admiration for his predecessors while describing their inner maturations: perhaps this memory of one of my interviewees conveys my point.
For Kundalini names those degrees of our own potential that, like conception and birth, the shimmerings of the surf, or the unpredictiblity of Brownian movements, exceed the leveling grasp of too-formulaic developmental models, narratives, or measurings. Thus, the complexity of Indian classical music and the greater complexities beneath it: the dhun (chant) and din resolving to Aauummmm and returning to Maaaaaaa. What else could enrapture us to the point of climax for eternity but the marvel of the never- before, forever? What else could wean us of every selfishness, vengefulness, and even the fear of death? Such is the next puberties: the rebirth into soul-Time that all religions point to.
Yes, by imitating others’ endogenously originated movements, heartfelt utterances, righteous actions or rapt concentrations, we can go through the back door (literally via a ventral [“front door”] or “Eastern” bodily channel) into the same depths of wonder, wisdom, and delight. And, by motionless meditation, too, one can enter. Thus, we have numerous helpful Yogic texts, new and ancient, and a proliferation of Yoga and still-meditation classes. But when Kundalini is reintroduced (via the “Westernly” and more body-involving spinal channel) to our understanding of Yoga and meditation, something deep and primordial ripples through the viscera and Yoga or meditation “practices” can no more be considered mere “teachable techniques” than gestation or puberty can be. For Kundalini Yoga surfaces from the same bodily depths as gestation, the first breath, adolescent puberty, and now, beyond.
At a mundane level, the scientific verification of a Yogically attained, “theoretically impossible” interaction between the conscious will and the autonomic or primordial physiologies first occurred in 1926, as documented by V.G. Rele,
In the year 1926, under the auspices of the Bombay Medical Union, Deshbandhu demonstrated certain phenomena…with the chestpieces of our stethoscopes on his heart, we listened to the stopping [sustained fibrillation] of his heart. (Rele, 1927, p.xxii-xxiii)
and has been followed up by numerous successive laboratory experiments and measurements. In some mysterious way, egoic intentionality and the “involuntary” nervous system had formed a cooperative (perhaps ecstatic) union. The subsequent interest in “stress reduction,” visualization healing, biofeedback, and other psychosomatic or autogenic health practices proceeded, in part, from verified similar Yogic attainments.
Yet, as profound a depth of knowledge of the life-force and the body as this ability would seem to indicate, what remains to be revealed of Kundalini Yoga could have far more profound consequences. For where this bodily control or, rather, intelligence, comes from and where it can ultimately lead to has remained obscure, in spite of theories of hypnosis, auto-suggestion, or biofeedback or even of a “collective unconscious.”
For while “health” is a function of “normalcy,” both must be contexted developmentally, that is, both must be understood temporally as what quality of embodied life next becomes possible as a result of such “health” or “normalcy.” And, then, from that basis, what quality of life next becomes possible, and so on. As Sartre mused, the meaning of things is to be derived destinally or by where, finally, they tend toward. Thus, “the normal” could be attuned to “the Absolute,” if we but knew what the Absolute was, and then dedicated ourselves to it as the discovered, most matured possibility for homosapiens sapiens. In this case, let us consider that to be “homosapiens Kundaliniens.”
I am aware of the rhetorical impact of making such grand word choices–“postgenital puberties,” “the Absolute” “homsapiens Kundaliniens.” I know that, in this day and age, I risk provoking a dismissive skepticism by hoisting a claim for ultimate truth and a teleological evolutionism. Yet, even the highly sophisticated postmodern project of laying bare the hypothesis of metaphysical closure (that the constructs of reason might eventually exhaust their explanative effectiveness) and the insubstantiality of the authoritative subject does not guarantee its own finality. A consequence of noncynical, profound doubt regarding all received wisdom can be that within it something utterly new or “foreign” might be noticed and granted credibility by the community of experts (or by any individual.)
In a state of radical doubt or openness we must no longer dare to assume that answers to the timeless questions must easily fit in with established theory, nor that they must originate within traditional Western research institutions or discursive methods. The strange discipline in Western academic philosophy and psychology of seeking answers primarily, if not exclusively, within the established Western canon can seem like working with one hand tied behind the back, or worse.
The sectarian approach to spiritual truth is another unfortunate and at times tragic limitation. That the search is best done in chairs, with the eyes fastened to books and the ears to discourse, or in a lab where the researcher does not change, or even in motionless contemplations with no attention to the glands, interior vibrations, the spine, and the rest of the body, will seem from within the Yogic methodologies to be overly formalistic and distinctly restrictive.
However, only a scientifically verifiable new discovery concerning human possibility would be compelling enough to foment a “re-worlding” (after Heidegger’s verb, “to world” a world) breakthrough beyond the postmodern shifting play of words, time, and ideologies of difference; for example, repeatedly measurable alterations of endocrine secretions resulting from the serpentine intelligence of Kundalini Yoga.
Yet, in a theological, political, and then in a pre-potent semantic sense, Western science is prevented from exploring spiritual matters not so much by the grossness of its methods as by a lingering dualism which has long minimized the spirituality of the physical world. “If science can or has studied it, then it probably should not be deemed spiritual ” is the syllogism preempting the intermingling of these “two” domains, finally, of spirit and body. DNA may be profound, but it cannot be “spiritual” because it is (merely) molecular. For the limitations of dualism to be obviated, we must grant spiritual import to the body. But, to avoid a too-facile nondualism, we will have to look much more profoundly into the body.
More posts by this author:
- The River Yamuna –Issues and solutions
- Press Release-Successful Conference on Caste System
- Resolutions-Conference on Caste System
- Letters: Sri Nagendra to HAF
- Being Different-Book Reviews