What is the philosophy of Siddha Yoga?
Perhaps its best to say that contemporary forms of Siddha Yoga have a core of underlying tenets but not a philosophy. These tenets include: the central role of kundalini in the manifestion of the universe and the evolution of the individual and the culmination of the evolution of the individual in a state of complete unity.
Different teachers have exposited Siddha yoga in different ways. Swami Muktananda drew on a wide variety of Indian literature but principally relied upon the Shiva Sutras, the Spanda Karikas and other literature of the Trika school of Shaivism. Swami Shivom Tirth has also relied up on the Shiva Sutras to define the different stages of evolution. Both Swami Shivom Tirth and Swami Kriplavananda have used Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras for their elucidation of the states of samadhi. All of these teachers are quick to note that the use of these scriptures does not imply that Siddha Mahayoga is a form of Hinduism. Instead the emphasis is that each of us has the force of kundalini within us and having awakened the kundalini our life and religious practice will be enriched.
There are really only a few tenets of the practice of siddha yoga. The first is that the process begins with shaktipat initiation by the guru. This initiation may begin with a formal request from the disciple and culminate with a formal initiation ceremony or it may occur informally through a impromptu manifestation of the guru’s grace in intention, glance, word or touch. Through the initiation the kundalini shakti is awakened and begins to move in the disciple’s body. The practice then consists of deeply surrendering to the spontaneous manifestations of kundalini shakti, as described above.
What is the precise role of the guru in Siddha yoga?
The role of the guru is laid out in the text the Shiva Sutras where it says “gururupaya”; the guru is the means. Because it is the guru who awakens your kundalini the guru is given great reverence in this tradition. The awakening of kundalini that many people struggle, with effort and danger, to accomplish in a lifetime a true guru can accomplish in a few seconds. Nevertheless the role of a guru is to awaken the kundalini within you; then the practice takes place between you and your kundalini. The guru is a facilitator in the process of awakening kundalini not an ongoing intermediary between the disciple and kundalini.
With respect to the guru the classical Shaivist literature takes an especially pragmatic attitude. Classical literature of Shaivism, such as the Shiva Purana, states that if after one year the disciple has not arrived at some direct inner experience through the agency of the guru then there is no fault in seeking another guru. What I read from this is that this path is not one of years of wondering : “Is something happening?” but a practical approach in which one should, through the grace of the guru, be brought into direct experience of kundalini.
Is Transcendental Meditation a kind of Siddha Yoga?
In Transcendental Meditation practice individuals are given a mantra. If one believes that this mantra, through the preliminary puja, is “awakened” or infused with consciousness then this technique is precisely the same method that is used by some teachers to initiate their studentsinto the practice of kundalini yoga. The idea as exposited by these kundalini yoga teachers is that the consciousness of the mantra resonates with the the slumbering kundalini and awakens her. This is not the same as the exposition of the Transcendental Meditation practice nor is it straightforward to resolve these two models of mantra meditation.
In practice many TM practicioners experience kundalini awakening. Some experience it quite violently. Survey books on kundalini experience, such as Sannella’s ‘The Kundalini Experience’ contain many such case histories although these case histories are not comprehensive enough to indicate whatother factors might have led to the kundalini awakening. Through checking notes and Teacher Training Courses TM checkers and teachers are minimally prepared for the possibility of kundalini awakening. So while not entirely outside the range of TM practice one would assume that a strong kundalini awakening is not central to TM practice or a high probablity result.
In the use of the flying sutra in the TM Sidhis program it is much more the norm to have kundalini related experiences. Many, perhaps most, Sidhas will experience a wide range of activities, technically know as kriyas during the practice. The mechanism by which the flying sutra actually awakens the kundalini is unknown to me. I’d be interested to hear any explanations.
Authors Details: Kurt Keutzer Email: keutzer[at]eecs.berkeley.edu