Trace the nature of the material, looking for the emotional essence hidden within.
“Kundalini Yoga” has become a popular term in today’s yoga world. If you’re a yogi, it’s almost impossible that you never heard of this term. But what does it really mean? Is it really something mysterious? In this series of “Kundalini Yoga” articles, we’ll go back to its ancient origin to unveil what it really is.
The word “kundalini yoga” causes a little bit of confusion in today’s world. Most of the time, when we use the word “kundalini yoga”, many people understand it as something taught by people who are dressed in white clothes, wearing turbans, etc. That is more of a trade name that they use as “kundalini yoga”.
But if you look at it deeply, “Kundalini yoga” is very sacred branch of knowledge. This branch of knowledge comes to us from the most ancient spiritual texts known as Vedas, and it has nothing to do with people wearing white clothes, having turbans and growing bears, etc.
The real authentic kundalini yoga deals with the energy aspect of ourselves that goes back to the ancient Upanishads and the Vedas. This knowledge came to the west around 1960’s. But unfortunately a lot of human creativity was added to this little bit of authentic knowledge, and many misconceptions about kundalini and chakras were created.
A lot of things which are not mentioned in the authentic ancient texts have been added in this process to this whole branch of knowledge. What is mentioned in the ancient text is always based on experience. Someone has experienced those energy, energy related things and therefore has been codified as text.
Whereas a lot of the stuff that has been added since the 1960’s is kind of mythology, in the sense that it doesn’t have a lot of experiential bases. So a lot of inauthentic knowledge as well as practices just make you feel good but really don’t do anything for you spiritually.
So before trying to understand what “kundalini yoga” really is, let’s begin with understanding the concept known as “gunas”. These are three gunas. Vedic philosophy teaches us that the entire creation, living or nonliving beings, are made from the “three gunas”.
These three gunas are: sattva, rajas, and tamas. They are not physical things, but rather, they are energies. You can never perceive energy directly, but you can see the effect of energy, or the manifestation of energy. For example, you can see the light that electricity is powering, but you cannot see the electricity behind it. Similarly, you cannot understand or see sattva, rajas or tamas as it is, you can only understand the impact of sattva, rajas or tamas.
Tamas, basically gives rise to what are known as five elements in yogi philosophy. The five elements are ether, air, fire, water and earth. We will look at these five elements later.
From rajas, sense faculties are born. These sense faculties are broadly divided into two categories: organs of knowledge and organs of action. Organs of knowledge are: ear, skin, eye, tongue and nose. When we say ear, we don’t mean my ear or your ear or anybody’s ear, but the faculty of listening, the ability to sense vibrations through sound. Similarly when we say skin, what we mean is the faculty of touch, to know things by touching them. Similarly when we say eyes, the predominant sense that we use, we mean the faculty of seeing things.
These five things basically help you to know things, to understand things. Then we also have five organs of action. First one is feet. Feet means the faculty of motion, the ability to move. Next one is hands. Hands mean the faculty of giving, taking, holding, etc. The third is tongue. The fourth one is organs of reproduction. And the fifth one is organs of excretion. These sense faculties are all related to rajas. As you may notice, tongue is the only thing which belongs to both organs of knowledge and organs of action. In organs of knowledge, tongue is an instrument of taste; while in organs of action, tongue is an instrument of speech or self-expression.
From sattva, the last guna, what we call as “mind” is born. “Mind” means your faculty to learn, recognize things, understand things, think, etc.
Now the idea is - all non-living beings have only these five elements. They’re formed by the five elements. Whereas living beings have five elements，as well as organs of knowledge, organs of action and mind. So our body is essentially made of these five elements. And our organs of knowledge, they are always active, because they are born from rajas. Our mind is of the illuminating nature, because it’s born from sattva. All these three things are essential for us. Generally, many teachers say “Oh, tamas is a bad thing; sattva is a good things”. But the rule is that all these three things are required for us.
So what is essentially tamas, rajas and sattva? Tamas is things remaining where they are unless an external thing acts on it. For example, a computer is made of only five elements. It has a lot of tamasic energy, which means If you put a computer somewhere, it is going to stay unless someone comes and moves it. On its own, it doesn’t do anything.
On the other hand, rajas is something that makes you restless and causes movement. For example, your ears are related to rajas. They are always active. They are always listening to different sounds. So tamas is not active unless someone makes it active; whereas rajas are active on their own.
Next one is mind that is related to sattva. Mind is of the nature of knowledge. Knowledge means what understanding is. The five elements cannot understand anything on their own. For example, a computer doesn’t understand anything. It’s just there. That’s all. The sense falcuties that are born from rajas are active, they gather information but they cannot understand information.
Understanding is always from the mind. For example, your eyes are looking at a computer, but your eyes do not know that is a computer. It is the mind that says “oh, it’s a computer”. So it is the mind that is acting to all these things and learning about the universe, about the world around us.
The Three Gunas – Tamas, Rajas and Sattva
三种性情 - 惰性，激性和悦性
In summary, tamas is about things staying where they are; ragas is about activity, movement, etc.; whereas sattva is about understanding things, knowledge, illuminating things.
Our mind is also influenced by sattva, rajas and tamas. What we commonly call as “moods” is nothing but mind being influenced by tamas, rajas or sattva. Whenever the mind is influenced, obviously mind also influences the body. When the mind is influenced by tamas, that’s when generally you feel lazy. You feel tired. So the idea is that when our mind is influenced by tamas, we become lazy, lethargic. We don’t want to get up from the bed, we don’t feel like doing anything.
Sometimes our mind is very, very active. You’re on the phone, you’re also on computer, you’re also talking to someone. So many things you want to do at the same time. That is when your mind is influenced by rajas. But sometimes you feel calm, very quiet, very focused and very productive. You’re doing your best work at that time. That is when your mind is influenced by sattva. So different moods are nothing but mind being influenced by tamas, rajas and sattva.
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