The Physiology of Yoga

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Before proceeding to describe the mode of operation of the divine Energy, kundalini, and the methods devised from ancient times to arouse it to activity, it is necessary to enter into a brief discussion about one point. If kundalini is the only natural device in human beings, implanted by nature to lead to transcendent states of consciousness, how has it been possible for the followers of other schools of Yoga and the adherents of other religions to attain the mystical state without awakening this power, and even without having the knowledge that such a force exists designed to stimulate it? Furthermore, if there exists a power centre of this kind at all in the human frame, how has it escaped the notice of modern anatomists who have probed into every nook and corner of the body, and why when special methods are available to activate it, is the knowledge of the mechanism so rare, even in India, and the number of successful initiates so extremely small as to be almost negligible? There is another important point also: since kundalini is the ultimate source of all the phenomena proceeding from any type of Yoga or any kind of spiritual discipline, how is it that even accomplished Yogis, who achieved transcendence by means of Raja-Yoga, Bakhti-Yoga or Karma-Yoga, or mystics have not been able to detect and locate this hidden power centre as Hatha-Yogis and Tantrics have done. These points are very relevant to the issue and they indirectly support our hypothesis. We have already arrived at the conclusion that religion, in order to be an inherent attribute of the human mind, and not merely an artificial creation of prophets and sages, must have an independent base in the psychic makeup of man, necessitating a complementary biological apparatus as well. The only way by which this psychosomatic contrivance could make its presence felt is to create an awareness in the surface consciousness of the purpose it has to accomplish. This awareness in the initial stages can only take the form of an unaccountable impulse or desire tending, often erratically, in the direction which it is designed to take, like the indefinable sexual propensities of children before they begin to understand the significance of the urge. We have seen how the impulse started in primitive man with the ideas of totem, taboo, death and birth ritual, animism, supernaturalism, and the like, and developed to the point of the worship of spirits, ghosts, living creatures, or natural objects of various kinds and thence rose to the adoration of supernatural entities, celestial beings, gods and goddesses, or one All-pervading God.

During this process of evolution that took man aeons to accomplish there must have been born, at one time or another, peculiarly constituted men and women of the same category, whom we now consider to be mystics, mediums, and sensitive, possessed of unaccountable psychic gifts, but in other respects conforming to the same level of mental development as others. Those of them who were a little more intelligent and tact than the rest, counting on the awe and wonder they created, must have occupied commanding positions as did the prophets of antiquity, and from that state of authority prescribed, to satisfy the curious crowd, some methods and ways to attain the same powers as they themselves possessed. The appearance of these uncommonly gifted men from the earliest epochs of man's existence should not be in the least surprising. On the contrary it can be taken to be perfectly in accord with the natural order of things. Just as there existed variations in the mental level, physical development and the emotional content of the various people, as is the case even today, there must have also cropped up now and then some odd individuals possessed of uncanny powers, like the medicine-man we even now see among the so-called underdeveloped people, still adhering to religious customs and rituals in vogue thousands of years ago. Their later prototypes still survive in the form of Shamans, voodooists, witchdoctors, and others among the existing primitive societies of the earth.

The inexplicable appearance of mediumistic properties in some persons—telepathy, clairvoyance, divination, and other psychic gifts—cannot be attributed to mere accident, since the attributes are so well defined and the phenomenon has occurred so persistently from earliest time that it would be entirely irrational to ascribe it to the freakish sport of chance. Eliminating chance, the only other rational way to account for it is to accept the possibility of such talent in the psychic endowment of man, about which we are still in the dark, and which is naturally manifest only in an extremely small percentage of people even in this age. This logical conclusion again points to a still obscure activity of the human brain, and the existence of a special region or a centre of psychic energy that gives rise to it, in other words, to kundalini. These born psychics, part and parcel of the human society from the beginning, are in all probability the instruments designed by nature not only to create interest in the occult and the supernatural, but also to revive interest with their amazing performances whenever it threatens to diminish. It is probably this class of men to which Patanjali refers in his Yoga-Sutras as possessing siddhis from birth. By acting on the already present religious impulse in the people of the time, they must have been responsible for the creation of that burning enthusiasm and even frenzy that usually marked the religious zeal of primitive man. In the later epochs this enthusiasm, milder and more refined, was kindled by the oracle and the seer, the more evolved proto types of the primitive awkward, but still incomprehensible, psychics, known under the names of medicine-men, witchdoctors Shamans, and the like. Even in this age of reason they are the objects of deep interest for countless millions of people in both the East and the West who are irresistibly drawn to them to assuage their own thirst for the unseen and the supernatural.

The positions of power commanded by these primitive knowers of the occult, as well as their own inherent curiosity and interest, must have acted as a powerful incentive to enterprising individuals, as they do even now, to learn the secrets of the art in order to reach the same position as well as to appease their own thirst for knowledge of supernatural forces with the added motive to harness them to their own service. This must have led to a search for methods and practices to induce the same conditions of mind naturally present in the psychics, and in this search the latter must have played the role of teachers, not always honest ones, to maintain their own position and prestige, which ultimately resulted in the strange practices, orgiastic rituals, hard penances, bloody sacrifices, and bizarre ways of worship that characterized the religious observances of primitive man. Their brutal aspect was in accord with the pattern of his behaviour and the level of his mental development. It could not be otherwise, since it would have been entirely unnatural had primitive man been an angel in one respect and a devil in another.

This accumulated store of rites, practices, and exercises, pruned and refined from time to time through the ages, altered and changed by contact with other people and tribes, or revised later by specially gifted magi, oracles or priests, continued to be in the possession of mankind in different parts of the world until, with the further advance of civilization, the practices were again modified and refined by the prophets, sages, and seers, who began to replace the magi, the oracle, the Shaman, the medicine-man and the witchdoctor of primitive peoples. Among the people segregated by sea, deserts, or other natural barriers, the old methods and practices continued to survive until recent times.

As all these methods and practices came into existence as a result of the operation of a naturally active kundalini through the ages, and as they were improved and revised from time to time by those in whom the power was naturally awake or was developed in rudimentary forms, it is in keeping with our concept that even without any knowledge of kundalini, or any inkling of the practices of Hatha-Yoga, the adherents of other faiths and the followers of other schools of Yoga achieved success with these methods in a limited number of cases. The parent of all systems of religious discipline and ritual from the very beginning of the religions impulse has been kundalini alone, and no other agency, human or divine has evoked this impulse.

As regards the other point it is enough to say that there is no separate organ in the body that acts as an evolutionary mechanism for the manifestations associated with kundalini. The function is performed by the cerebro-spinal system as a whole through the direct agency of the reproduction mechanism at the base and a still unidentified, silent centre in the brain, designated by Indian Savants as Brahma-rendra or the Cavity of Brahma, which becomes active on the awakening of kundalini, resulting in an altered activity of the nervous system. This activity can be verified and measured with proper methods devised for the purpose when the nature of the alteration is understood. It is sufficient to say that the location of this extremely sensitive zone, and the extraordinary sensations to which it gives rise, have been described in precise terms by some of the great mystics and Yoga saints of India. In fact, the paramount importance of this region in every kind of Yoga and every form of meditative technique is universally recognized among all the schools of religious discipline and esoteric practice in India, and finds repeated mention not only in the ancient scriptures and Yoga texts, but in the folklore to such an extent that the close association of this region with success in any form of religious effort is almost as well known as other common concepts of religion.

Like the first whitening of the sky at dawn to herald the ap proach of the sun, the first sign of success in any form of religious striving comes from this region. It is the place of conjunction of the canal coming from the spinal cord and the ventricles of the brain. This cavity and those adjoining it are filled with the cerebro-spinal fluid, said to be a derivative from the blood and fairly akin to plasma. The whole vast structure of Kundalini.. Yoga revolves round this cavity and the spinal canal. For those unacquainted with human anatomy it is only possible to indicate the approximate location of the area on the basis of an inner perception of the region or the sensations experienced there. This, to the best of our knowledge, has also been the means of observation of the ancient masters of this Yoga, which accounts for the variation found in the number of the nadis and the cakras, and also in their location. It is for this reason that accurate observation and study by experts is necessary in order to place the subject on the footing of an exact science. The effects produced by an awakened kundalini are so multilateral from the very beginning to the final stage that once a thorough investigation is started a host of possibilities will come into view, one after the other, by which the biological nature of the phenomenon, from radical changes in the behaviour of genital organs to alterations in the activity of the nervous system and the brain can be indisputably established. There is no method so adequate to demonstrate the objective reality of religious phenomena as an investigation carried out on kundalini.

The view expressed by Arthur Avalon in his fine book, The Serpent Power that the ascent of kundalini is always attended by a coldness of the body is applicable only to a very limited number of cases and is not a general characteristic of the awakening. He says: "Kundalini when aroused is felt as intense heat. As Kundalini ascends, the lower limbs become as inert and cold as a corpse; so also does every part of the body when She has passed through and leaves it. This is due to the fact that She as the Power which supports the body as an organic whole is leaving Her centre. On the contrary, the upper part of the head becomes

'lustrous,' by which is not meant any external lustre (Prabha), but brightness, warmth and animation. When the Yoga is complete the Yogi sits rigid in the posture selected, and the only trace of warmth to be found in the whole body is at the crown of the head, where the Shakti is united with Shiva. Those, therefore, who are sceptical can easily verify some of the facts should they be fortunate enough to find a successful Yogi who will let them see him at work. They may observe his ecstasy and the coldness of the body, which is not present in the case of what is called the Dhyana-Yogi, or a Yogi operating by meditating only, and not rousing Kundalini. This cold is an external and easily perceptible sign."

A normal awakening does not arouse intense heat. There is only a pleasant sensation of warmth, beginning from the muladhara and spreading to the whole of the body, in the first stages of the Awakening. It is universally accepted by the ancient writers that "heat" resides in the umblical centre to carry out the function of digestion. It is, therefore, in accord with this idea to say that kundalini burns in the navel. There is also nothing unusual in the expression that the awakening of the serpent power in the umbilical region is revealed by the sensation of a great fire. In fact the ascent of kundalini is like the pouring of liquid flame into the various cakras and finally into the cranium. It may also resemble the brilliant lustre shed by a prolonged flash of lightning, accompanied by noises like thunder. But whether compared to a blazing fire, or flame, or lightning, the idea of intense or burning heat is not included in the expressions for that would introduce an ominous feature into the phenomenon. The repeated mention of the moon in the sahasrara and her cool, refreshing lustre, made in the ancient works on Kundalini-Yoga, provides ample evidence for our position.

There is no doubt that moderate heat, causing the body to sweat, is caused by pranayama, but it is of the same type as is generated by any violent exercise. The word tapas used from the Vedic times connotes religious fervour associated with devout worship, self-discipline, and penance, and not to any so-called "mystical heat." Siddhis and divine manifestations proceed from tapas, as mentioned often in the scriptures. For this reason the only sense in which tapas can be understood is intense spiritual effort and austerity and not in the sense of heat, mystical or otherwise. It is often the tendency to find hidden or cryptic meanings in plain words and expressions used by the old authors which cause confusion in the understanding of the phenomena associated with religion and the occult. The expressions "mystic psychic fire-force" and "the Secret Psychic-Heat is born" used in the subjoined passage from the book, Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines by W. Y. Evans-Wentz, do not refer to any burning heat, as is also clear from the other passages in the book, but rather to the simple phenomenon of the Awakening, which is here attributed to the transmutation of the seminal fluid. This is explained by Evans-Wentz himself when he says: "Bodhisattvic mind is an honorific term for the male generative fluid or 'moon-fluid.' In the present context it is symbolical of the transmuted sex-vitality, whereby the psychic-heat is produced as are all occult psychophysical powers." It is in this sense that the aforementioned passage, quoted below, is to be understood:

"This is the Tibetan letter-symbol for the personal pronoun 'I' written, transliterated as HAM and pronounced as HUM. It is white in correspondence with the sexual fluid, which its visualization sets into psychic activity. The brain psychic-centre is conceived as the place whence sexual functions are directed; and, therefore, the HAM is to be visualized as in the chakra called the Sahasrara-Padma, or Thousand-Petalled Lotus. The HAM symbolizes the masculine aspect of the mystic psychic fire-force; and, as a result of its union with that of the feminine aspect, symbolized by the short A, the Secret Psychic-Heat is born. The Goddess Kundalini is roused from her age-long slumber to ascend to her Lord in the pericarp of the Thousand-Petalled Lotus. She first ascends, like a flame, to the Manipura-Chakra, of which the navel is the hub; and the lower half of the body is filled with the mystic fire. Thence she continues her ascent; and in union with her Lord, the Divine One, the whole body is filled, even to the tips of the fingers and toes, with the Secret Psychic-Heat."

The glowing radiance in the head and the light circulating through the nerves gives to the Sadhaka the vivid impression of an inner conflagration, not attended by heat, or of an internal effulgence which fills his whole mental horizon and seems to surround him in and out like a vast circle of flame. Gunjari-pada, quoted by Eliade, also says: "Neither scorching heat nor smoke is found." In the light of this fact it is easy to understand why the ancient savants, in the internal phenomenology, refer to it as the play of fire and compare it to intensely bright objects or heavenly orbs. There is, however, no doubt that in all cases of a healthy Awakening the digestive power is highly augmented. The ancient authors refer to it as increase in the digestive heat: "(with proficiency gained in Pranayama) The digestive-fire (Jathar-Agni) of the Sadhaka is highly increased" "All his limbs become graceful," says Shiv-Samhita (3. 34), "and he partakes of delectable, wholesome foods with great enjoyment. Overflowing with strength and energy his heart is always brimful of joy. (All) these qualities necessarily manifest themselves in the body of the Yogi." Burning heat is created in the body when theprana energy, released by kundalini, instead of rising through susumna, its natural channel, streams partly or wholly through pingala or the solar nadi on the right side of the spinal cord. It is by arousing the serpent power through the solar nerve that the extraordinary feats of staying naked under ice for prolonged periods or drying wet sheets of linen, wrapped round one's bare body, in Arctic cold can become possible.

The phenomenon of kundalini is fraught with so many possibilities that volumes will be required for a detailed treatment of all of them. For our purpose here it is enough to state that the awakening can occur through ida or pingala, instead of through susumna, or partly through one of the former and su-

sumna. Where this occurs spontaneously in a forceful manner gravest danger threatens the life and sanity of the unfortunate man or woman. This, so far little understood, morbid awakening of kundalini is the root cause of several forms of insanity about which psychiatrists are still groping in the dark. In those in whom the cerebro-spinal system has attained the required degree of maturity the powerful psychic energy set free by kundalini invariably makes its abode in the head, raising the consciousness to transcendent planes. Any attempt made by such practitioners to divert the divine energy to this or that nerve channel or this or that cakra is fraught with grave danger. In the case of less developed Sadhakas, the force can be raised through ida or pingala for the performance of a few amazing feats at the cost of the performer's own spiritual welfare and happiness. As kun-dalini is the base of all Yoga practices, the extreme need for caution on the part of those who take to these practices haphazardly, without thoroughly informing themselves about the subject, cannot be overemphasized.

Coming now to our point: the spinal cord, which plays a most, important role in the attainment of higher states of consciousness, is a longish white cylinder, oval in cross-section, with an inner grey and outer white matter. Unlike it, the cerebellum and the cerebral hemispheres of the brain have an internal bulk of white and an outer thin layer of grey matter on their surfaces. The cord is encased by the vertebrae, which form a strong bony covering around it. The vertebral column in man consists of thirty-three vertebrae, which fit into one another giving flexibility to the backbone. The direction to sit erect during the course of meditation in Yoga practices is designed to avoid curvature of the cord and the central duct, in which new processes occur and new forces are generated as a result of the pressure exerted on the brain and the nerves by fixity of attention and pranayama. In human beings the spinal cord does not extend the whole length of the spinal column, but ends at about the second lumber vertebra, that is, the second vertebra below the thoracic region. In animals with tails (cow, horse, etc.), the spinal cord extends virtually the whole length of the vertebral column. The spinal canal in man does not, therefore, extend to the base of the spine but ends at a point higher up. At the terminus of the spinal cord a cluster of nerves descends below, resembling a horse's tail in appearances to which the name cauda equina has been given.

Thirty-one pairs of spinal nerves arise from the spinal cord, each pair arising in one spinal segment. These segments are not distinguishable internally. Each spinal nerve arises from the cord in two bundles: the dorsal and ventral roots. It is held that the dorsal roots contain afferent, or sensory, nerve fibres, and the ventral roots efferent, or motor, fibres. Along either side of the spinal cord is a chain of ganglia, called the sympathetic chain. These ganglia are connected to another chain of ganglia in front of the vertebral column, which gives rise to the sympathetic plexuses, known as prevertebral ganglia. The third set of sympathetic ganglia situated in the organs is called terminal ganglia. These three sets of ganglia are interconnected among themselves and also with the spinal nerves. Alongside the sympathetic plexuses there is another system of nerves known as the parasympathetic system. Both the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nerves constitute the autonomic nervous system. The most important of the parasympathetic nerves is the vagus, or wandering, nerve, arising from the brain, and passing on the left and right of the spinal column. Most of the visceral organs receive a double innervation, that is both the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems send their nerves to them. In general the fibres from each of these two systems have antagonistic actions on the various organs, which they innervate.

The sympathetic impulses accelerate the heart action and the parasympathetic slow it down. The motility and secretion of the digestive tract are increased by impulses from the parasympathetic nerves, and reduced by sympathetic ones. The same is true of other organs. This augmentative and inhibitory or excitatory and depressive action of the autonomic nervous system has been indicated by the ancient exponents of Hatha-Yoga by the terms hot and cold. Thus pingala, or the solar nadi, on the right side of the spinal cord, which rising from the muladhara cakra after criss-crossing with the ida at the sites of the various cakra is said to be hot, and ida, the lunar nadi, on the left side of spinal canal, which rising from the same place and criss-crossing in the same manner, is said to be cold. The two nadis are designated as sun and moon to signify their hot and cold effects. The descriptions of the ancient masters about anatomical and physiological details need not to be taken too literally for the reason first, that their knowledge was drawn from subjective experience and not from actual anatomical study and, second, because it was the tendency of the times to clothe physiological knowledge and for that matter knowledge of other natural sciences in metaphoric language, since empirical methods of observation were still in an incipient stage. This holds true not only of Yoga but also sciences like therapeutics, astronomy, and chemistry, as is obvious from the treatises on these subjects written at that time.

Our task will become easier if for a moment we divest ourselves of the illusion that the ancient writers on the subject were infallible, and deal with Yoga, occult literature, and mystical experience in the same manner, as the first empiricists dealt with vast store of amorphous theoretical material, dating from ancient times. Alchemy, astronomy, geography, medicine, biology and other natural sciences that came to them as a legacy from the past were treated in this way. A reluctance to study empirically religious phenomena can only tend to discredit religion in the eyes of those with a scientific bent of mind, and to create doubt and antagonism against a basic reality and a basic hunger of the human mind. If religious truths are not demonstrable and must always be accepted on faith it means perpetuation of existing conflicts between the men of faith and the men of science, between religion and religion, creed and creed, and a perpetuation of doubts and uncertainties. But if they are demonstrable in order to be lasting, that demonstration should be as possible now as at any time in the future.

Instead of entering into hair-splitting discussions, the wiser course at the present stage of our knowledge is to concentrate on the essentials and to find a way out of the labyrinth by treating only those facts that possess some probability and are not difficult to fit into the modern concepts of anatomy and psychology. In order to conform to this mode of presentation it would be necessary to avoid many of the time-honoured technical terms and expressions employed by writers on this form of Yoga, reducing it to the position of a sectarian cult, and to clothe it in a language more suited to the rationalistic tendencies of our age and in keeping with the universal nature of the subject itself. Unless we take the untenable position that for the expression of higher states of consciousness the human body and the brain need not come into the picture at all, and that superconsciousness can be achieved by a sudden plunge into the Unknown, it becomes necessary to leave no possibility unexplored in order to find some sort of agreement between the assertions of the ancient authors, writing under great handicaps on account of the general ignorance about the human body, and the modern highly developed knowledge of physiology. In this enterprise the most difficult task is to establish the first slender connecting link, after which with present-day methods of research it would not be difficult to locate the whole chain responsible for the phenomenon.

Resuming our description of the nadis we can safely identify susumna with the spinal cord and its central canal, and ida and Pingala with the sympathetic and parasympathetic chains on the left and right of it. Pingala, it is said, rises from the right testicle and ida from the left one. This point needs clarification, since the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems innervate the Visceral organs and are also distributed in other parts of the body. The preganglion neurons of the sympathetic chain rise from the thoracic and lumber segments of the spinal cord, and those of the parasympathetic from the brain and the sacral sections of the cord. In the light of this fact the scrotum or the testicles cannot be treated as the place of origin of these two nadis. The actual position is that the whole area from the perineum to the navel is thickly supplied with nerves from the central as well as the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. A large proportion of these nerves line the reproductive organs of both men and women. These chains of nerves are also joined by other nerves distributed over the right and left thigh, leg and foot. In an extended state of consciousness the nerve current moving through the chain of nerves designated as pingala distinctly appears to be hot and that moving through the ida cold. The perception of these two currents by introversion is one of the first developments that occurs on the awakening of kundalini.

The first centre, or muladhara cakra, which plays a decisive part in the awakening, can be safely identified with the nerve junction between the anus and the root of the male organ. This is the most sensitive and the most important part in all the operations conducted by kundalini on awakening. We have purposely refrained from identifying the nadis and the cakras with this or that nerve or plexus, and will leave this task to the efforts of more competent investigators, who possess a thorough knowledge of the nervous system and the brain. The information we are recording is based on experience and inner observation. Thus it is impossible to be precise as to the exact nerve among the thousands or the exact spot which is involved in the operation. The specification of the nerves and their locations referred to here are tentative and should, therefore, be considered as mere approximations, subject to verification and study by other observers. This will avoid controversies and conflicts of the type that have occurred in the past. For the aim of this work is not to establish a new creed or to denigrate the existing ones, but to find a common basis and a common formula for them all. An error would be gratefully rectified, for it is by gradual expansion of his knowledge and correction of his mistakes that man has arrived at his present height.

In brief, it is a divine mechanism, which, with the awakening of the serpent power, springs to action to effect the liberation of the soul. The exponents of kundalini believe that the human body as a microcosm of the universe can duplicate the process of creation, maintenance, and dissolution of the Cosmos. They hold that so long as She lies coiled up above the muladhara cakra, closing the aperture to Brahman-rendra, the embodied soul remains awake to the world, but when, with proper efforts, She is aroused and drawn upward to unite with Her spouse, Lord Shiva, in the sahasrara, the Yogi, now asleep in relation to the sensory world, awakens to the realization of his own divine nature. Her upward movement to the Sahasrara is, therefore, called laya-karma, or the process of dissolution, and Her descent back to muladhara is Srsti-karma, or the process of creation. For this reason Kundalini-Yoga is also called Laya-Yoga. One accomplished in this form of Yoga is thus said to be in possession of the power to create and destroy the world at will.

The idea that the serpent power is a limitless source of energy capable of investing the initiate, who has succeeded in arousing it, with entire command over the forces of nature, has no basis in reality, and is a product of the exaggerated accounts, contained in the ancient manuals, about the marvellous attributes of kundalini. These attributes aptly apply to the cosmic aspect of the creative energy, or shakti, but when applied to the individual the limitations that mark off the puny human creature from the almighty Cosmic Being must be applied to the individual aspect of kundalini as well. If it were not so, the very notion of "rousing Her from sleep" or "conducting Her to the Sahasrara" or that "She should be led upward as a rider guides a mare with the reins", or that "She, the young widow, is to be despoiled by force" or that "With practice a Yogi becomes skilled in manipulating her" and other similar expressions used by ancient authors would be unthinkable. It is therefore obvious that the power alluded to is a potent life energy, normally in a dormant state, but capable of being activated with proper efforts directed to that end.

Considering the nature of the phenomenon to which it gives rise this energy can be compared with a powerful organic electric current of which, on the awakening of kundalini, the body be-

comes the generator. About this marvellous organic force the world of learning has no knowledge except that provided by Tantras and books on Hatha-Yoga. One part of this amazing energy, soaring high above the cloud of sensory knowledge, remains in perennial rapport with the pure, eternally bright sky of Universal Consciousness, while the other, rooted deep in the body, is governed by the laws of biology, depending for its activity on the nourishment provided by flesh and blood.

The fact that ida and pingala are said to arise from the left and right sides of the scrotum and the susumna from a place corresponding to the root of the generative organ, or that many of the practices of Hatha-Yoga, such as the position of the heels in the siddhasana and padmasana where they press upon the genital region or the repeated expansion and contraction of the anus by the manipulation of the anal sphincter muscle, advocated as a measure to facilitate the awakening, should not be understood to mean, as is sometimes supposed, that these practices are merely aimed to cause a stimulation of the sexual region and that the awakening of kundalini is no more than the reabsorption of the seminal fluid into the blood or its sublimation to cause ecstatic conditions of the mind. The actual fact is that the cerebro-spinal system, with the centre of consciousness at the top and the reproductive region at the base, actuates in man the twofold purpose of the evolutionary as well as the reproductive mechanism. The three nerve channels, ida, pingala, and susumna, are the arteries of communication between the two extremities or poles. The confluence of ida, pingala and susumna at the level of the Ajna Cakra is known as Triveni. How deeply the concepts connected with kundalini have entered into the fundamentals of Hinduism is clear from the high degree of sanctity attached to the confluence of two or three sacred rivers, where millions bathe on certain auspicious occasions to wash away their sins or to gain liberation in symbolic imitation of the purgatorial office performed by Shakti (kundalini) on awakening. The solar and lunar nadis intersect with susumna at the various

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