Saints, Teachers, and Seekers in the Indian Tradition
Sage of the Kundalini Energy
Gopi Krishna was an office worker and spiritual seeker from Kashmir who was born in 1903, and wrote autobiographical accounts of his spiritual experiences. One famous one is Kundalini: Path to Higher Consciousness.
Two unlikely events led him to the practice of yoga. First, his father renounced the world to lead a religious life leaving his twenty-eight year old mother with the responsibility of raising him and his two sisters. His mother as a result pinned all her hopes for success on her only son.
Second, he disappointed his mother by failing a college house examination which prevented him from attending the university. He attributed this failure to his lack of mental discipline, as he had spent his time at college pursuing enjoyable subjects and ignoring those that would be required for the examination.
He felt great shame at this failure, and resolved from that point forward to live a life of simplicity and austerity. He would restrain his desires, reduce his needs, and gain mastery over himself. He rebelled against his father's choice of leaving the world, and instead chose to live as a householder and raise a family. He also adopted a routine of meditation as part of his mental discipline and practiced concentration exercises for a number of years. In spite of his religious orientation, he did not have a spiritual teacher and was not initiated into any spiritual lineage, which would have been a common practice for a religious Hindu.
Over a period of years, he developed the ability to sit for a period of hours in concentration without any discomfort. The following account which took place in 1937 describes his first Kundalini experience which occurred while he was visualizing "an imaginary Lotus in full bloom, radiating light" at the crown of his head.
Suddenly, with a roar like that of a waterfall, I felt a stream of liquid light entering my brain through the spinal cord.
Entirely unprepared for such a development, I was completely taken by surprise; but regaining my self-control, keeping my mind on the point of concentration. The illumination grew brighter and brighter, the roaring louder, I experienced a rocking sensation and then felt myself slipping out of my body, entirely enveloped in a halo of light. It is impossible to describe the experience accurately. I felt the point of consciousness that was myself growing wider surrounded by waves of light. It grew wider and wider, spreading outward while the body, normally the immediate object of its perception, appeared to have receded into the distance until I became entirely unconscious of it. I was now all consciousness without any outline, without any idea of corporeal appendage, without any feeling or sensation coming from the senses, immersed in a sea of light simultaneously conscious and aware at every point, spread out, as it were, in all directions without any barrier or material obstruction. I was no longer myself, or to be more accurate, no longer as I knew myself to be, a small point of awareness confined to a body, but instead was a vast circle of consciousness in which the body was but a point, bathed in light and in a state of exultation and happiness impossible to describe.
Shortly after the initial experience above, Gopi experienced a continuous "luminous glow" around his head and began having a variety of psychological and physiological problems. At times he thought he was going mad. He attempted to contact people reputed to know something about the Kundalini system of yoga, but could find no one who could help him through this difficult period. He adopted a very strict diet which helped him maintain his precarious mental balance, and for years refused to do any meditation (since he attributed all his troubles to the yogic concentration exercises he had been doing).
He was aware that a fundamental change had taken place in him after his experience of Kundalini. He believed that this experience began a process in which his entire nervous system would be slowly reorganized and transformed by the Kundalini energy that he awakened within himself. He conceived of this energy as an intelligent force over which he had little control once it was activated.
Gopi spends a great deal of time describing the fear and anxiety he had in dealing with day to day events after the above experience. The food he ate and the time he ate it became like a branch which a man grasps in rushing flood waters which saves him from drowning. He also acknowledges the importance of his wife's devotion and support in helping him maintain his sanity during the decade following his first encounter with the Kundalini. This portion of his account could be described as a heroic effort to deal with something bordering on a nervous breakdown. He was required to make a perilous journey into mysterious regions of the psyche, and he found it a very difficult and drawn out process.
The following experience occurred spontaneously about twelve years after his first experience, and only after he had been strengthened by the spiritually directed biological transformation he had undergone:
Without any effort on my part and while seated comfortably on a chair, I had gradually passed off, without becoming aware of it, into a condition of exaltation and self-expansion similar to that which I had experienced on the very first occasion, in December 1937, with the modification that in place of the roaring noise in my ears there was now a cadence like the humming of a swarm of bees, enchanting and melodious, and the encircling glow was replaced by a penetrating silvery radiance, already a feature of my being within and without. The marvelous aspect of the condition, lay in the sudden realization that although linked to the body and surroundings I had expanded in an indescribable manner into a titanic personality, conscious from within of an immediate and direct contact with an intensely conscious universe, a wonderful immanence all around me. My body, the chair I was sitting on, the table in front of me, the room enclosed by walls, the lawn outside and the space beyond including earth and sky appeared to be most amazingly mere phantoms in this real, inter-penetrating and all-pervasive ocean of existence which to explain the most incredible part of it as best I can, seemed to be simultaneously unbounded stretching out immeasurably in all directions, and yet no bigger than an infinitely small point. From this point, the entire existence of which my body and its surroundings were but a part, poured out like radiation, as if a reflection as vast as my conception of the cosmos were thrown out upon infinity by a projector no bigger than a pinpoint, the entire intensely active and gigantic world picture dependent on the beams issuing from it. The shoreless ocean of consciousness which I was now immersed in appeared infinitely large and infinitely small at the same time, large when considered in relation to the world picture floating in it and small when considered in itself, measureless, without form or size, nothing and yet everything. It was an amazing and staggering experience for which I can cite no parallel and no simile, an experience beyond all and everything belonging to this world, conceivable by the mind or perceptible to the senses. I was intensely aware internally of a marvelous being so concentratedly and massively conscious as to outluster and outstature infinitely the cosmic image present before me, not only in point of extent and brightness but in point of reality and substance as well. The phenomenal world, ceaselessly in motion characterized by creation, incessant change and dissolution, receded into the background and assumed the appearance of an extremely thin, rapidly melting layer of foam upon a substantial rolling ocean of life, a veil of exceeding fine vapor before an infinitely large conscious sun, constituting a complete reversal of the relationship between the world and the limited human consciousness. It showed the previous all-dominating cosmos reduced to a state of transitory appearance and the formerly care-ridden point of awareness, circumscribed by the body, grown to the spacious dimensions of a mighty universe and the exalted stature of a majestic immanence before which the material cosmos shrank to the subordinate position of an evacent and illusive appendage.
Gopi Krishna's account contains a wealth of clear descriptions of the variety of mental states he passed through in his encounters with the Kundalini energy. However, one area that stands out as particularly interesting was the change in his experience of dreams.
About a year after his first Kundalini experience, his dreams began to take on a "phosphorescent" quality and he experienced the transformation of his dream life:
Every night during sleep I was transported to a glittering fairyland, where garbed in luster I glided from place to place, light as a feather. Scene after scene of inexpressible glory unfolded before my vision. The incidents were of the usual character common to dreams. They lacked coherence and continuity, but although strange, fanciful and fantastic, they possessed a visionary character, surrounded by landscapes of vastness and magnificence seldom seen in real life. In my dreams, I usually experienced a feeling of security and contentment with the absence of anything the least disturbing or disharmonious...
Some would make the claim that Gopi Krishna's experiences of mental chaos and insecurity were caused by his medatative efforts, and would warn against such exploration. However many transpersonal psychologists would claim that "spiritual emergencies", "dark nights of the soul", "encounters with the shadow", shamanic sickness during tribal initiations, or descents into the unconscious are common among both indigenous and modern people. They can occur as a reaction to the use of mind altering drugs, a spiritual crisis or "call", past trauma, or any number of stressful experiences in life. Psychologists who are familiar with depth psychology see some such breakdowns as opportunites for growth and psychic integration of repressed or split off parts of the self, and a movement toward psychic or spiritual wholeness.
This opposes the more common psychaitric view that such experience is only a chemical breakdown of brain functioning to be treated with drugs which alter brain chemistry. The notion that meditation can or will make people insane is far too symplistic an approach and will likely only serve as an explanation for those who have an existing bias against meditation and inner exploration in general.
Gopi Krishna's graphic accounts of his experiences stand out as among the clearest journals documenting a spiritual transformation of any this author has encountered. He is honest in describing the difficulties and dangers of the spiritual path, and the intense pressure it can exert on the physical body. He is not a guru in the classical sense of one who has disciples. He is more of a seeker who later became a teacher documenting his experiences with the Kundalini energy in a number of books, in hopes of being helpful to others who encounter this extraordinary spiritual phenomena.
Gopi Krishna attended conferences in the West on Kundalini Yoga and died in 1984.
Krishna, Pandit Gopi, Kundalini: Path to Higher Consciousness. (New Delhi: Orient Paperbacks, 1992)
Krishna, Gopi, The Awakening of Kundalini. (E. P. Dutton, 1975)
Krishna, Gopi, Higher Consciousness. (Julian Press, 1974)
Krishna, Gopi, The Secret of Yoga. (Harper and Row, 1972)
Some of the above mentioned books available at the Institute for Consciousness Research:
Books by Gopi Krishna on Kundalini experience
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