Kundalini

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"Serpent power" is an expression referring to Kundalini (Skt. for coiled one,) a type of energy that is traditionally thought of as lying coiled at the base of the spine.  In diagrams of the subtle body, it is depicted as a serpent or snake.  

J. F. shares [Kagyu email list, Jan. 2001] the experience of a kundalini awakening while training with a Hindu guru in the early 1980's: 

1.  Definite opening/awakening occurred . . . how "asleep" we all are . . . that level of experience was like literally waking up from a dream.
2.  I experienced and understood how our minds and our attachments to its projections rule our lives.  Samsara and Nirvana are one: for several hours I lived that experience and will never forget it.  I don't know what Dewachen is like, but the New Jersey turnpike was Dewachen for several hours ... every blade of grass, every gas pump (!!??!!)
3.  I saw directly how the basis for all emotions and even obscurations is a profound bliss. I stood in a line waiting for a milkshake at a rest stop.  Behind me were four old ladies just revelling in some exquisite negativity and I could see the bliss just propelling them along that path.

All of the above are just words, though. Every time I have tried to put into words the understandings that arose, words fail me, but the understanding is there and fuels my fire!

More pragmatically:
4.  The ability to give this experience and other siddhi s (clairvoyance, etc) is a result of some pretty powerful practices and is a great gift, but it does not guarantee realization. They are the product of the path, not an end result. A quite common mistake is to get that wrong.
5.  The guru could be incredibly powerful, loving and compassionate, yet still incredibly flawed. All the talk of the siddhis of this or that lama/guru as some sort of "proof" of their authenticity is quite beside the point and really does distract from the awesome reality of what they have to offer. I experienced first hand what proximity to the physical body of a gifted master (for despite his shortcomings he was incredibly gifted) can do. 

Key word is "awaken". . . nothing was really added, blocks were removed and the inherent wisdom was exposed for a time. This happened to quite a few people around him, but the episode would end, the obscurations would take over . . .  I could literally see them "cloud over" the radiance towards the end . . . and the homework would begin, daily practices, lots of "mind training" and a "gradual path" start, something few had the patience or dedication for.

 So . . . it was a wonderful experience, truly pivotal in my life, but would have come to naught without the homework . . . one of the aspect of Tibetan Buddhism that attracted me was the willingness of the students to get down into the nitty-gritty hard work. That and the incredible inner science passed guru to disciple for hundreds of years.

Since then I have read about a lot of similar incidences in many traditions, mostly eastern . . . the Tibetans obviously have access to such siddhis, I've read numerous descriptions of such.  [For example, in] The Life of Milarepa by Rechungpa, after such an episode near the end of his life Milarepa admonishes his followers:

Strive unceasingly for purification,
Dispel ignorance and accumulate merit.
If you do so, you will not only see
the Dharma loving gods who come to listen,
But you will even perceive within yourself
The Dharmakaya, the holiest and highest of all gods.
If you see that, you will also see
The whole truth of samsara and nirvana
And you will free yourself from karma.

[Milarepa] seemed from the stories to certainly have the ability to "light up" his disciples on occasion . . . give them a "taste," so to speak.

Unfortunately the Hindu adepts at this seem to be content to engender a sort of addiction to the experience, in that tradition there was certainly a tendency to "go for the bliss."  Still, for me it is nice to know without a doubt that we are, indeed "pure light masquerading as flesh and bone." 

Lama Yeshe, who was among the first to introduce Westerners to Tibetan Buddhism, did not shy away from the use of the term kundalini in The Bliss of Inner Fire (Wisdom Publications, 1998.)   NB.  The book is about the commentary by Je Tsongkapa on the Six Yogas of Naropa.

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