By Yogi Baba Prem Yogacharya, Veda Visharada
The term ‘kundalini’ is becoming a familiar term amongst students of yoga, but few people are introduced to the depth and breadth of knowledge of this ancient system. Even fewer are familiar with the Vedic roots of kundalini yoga.
Within Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma-eternal teachings), all teachings defer to the spiritual authority of the Vedas. The Vedas are a series of ancient teachings of which the Rg Veda is considered the oldest. While the Vedas has become an obscure text to the general public, it is filled with powerful spiritual teachings, and continues to have much relevance to this day.
What the western scholar does not understand is that the Vedas can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and its meanings are multi-dimensional. From the Hindu viewpoint all truth must be founded or substantiated with the Vedas, or at minimum the Vedas is the final authority on spiritual matters and teachings are questionable if they contradict Vedic teachings. Within the Vedas is hidden a science and understanding of the kundalini energy. In reality, it is the oldest record of kundalini yoga. While it is not exactly the kundalini yoga currently known to mankind, all the foundational elements, pertaining to a kundalini awakening, are contained within the Vedas. The following will be a yogic (adhiyogic) interpretation of Vedic teachings, it is not the only understanding of the concepts, principles, and deities from the Vedas, and it is only one of the multi-dimensions of knowledge contained within the Vedas.
Within the Vedas we do find a variety of names and references to the kundalini, while these are two numerous to list; we do find a few such as kundal or Shaya to name a few. But the most important Vedic deity associated with the kundalini is Agni and Surya. Agni is literally the kundalini energy, while Surya is not the kundalini per se, it is the kundalini in its triumph or full awakening. Surya is the kundalini having moved to the crown chakra. The source of all shakti. This is often referenced as the sun being hidden and revealed in the Vedic journey.
While some systems place more importance on the heart chakra than the crown chakra, this is not in conflict. In reality, the heart and crown chakra are connected via a nadi known as chitta nadi. This explains the strong association with the sun (Surya) with the head (crown chakra) and the heart (anahata chakra). Within numerous later yoga texts we find references to the kundalini/Surya connection. Within the Hatha Yoga Pradipika the kundalini is often described as having the brilliance of a thousand suns. We find teachings of the sacred mount Meru within Hinduism. From a yogic perspective the sacred Meru is represented physically by the spinal column. In a variety of ancient texts meru is given a specific height, and located within an ocean, surrounded by seven islands. The seven islands reference the seven primary chakras, and Meru is the spinal column or the Sushumna of the astral body. Within the Shiva Samhita, the sun is referred to as being at the bottom of Meru (II.10) and is a reference to the kundalini.
The journey of awakening the kundalini begins with Ushas. Ushas represents the dawn or more correctly the spiritual dawn. She is our aspiration toward spiritual awakening. The spiritual journey begins with the grace of the spiritual dawn. Though she is called a variety of names in different cultures, in all systems of truth, Ushas is the aspiration for realization.
Once our aspiration is strong enough, we begin one of the great Vedic battles. The Vedic battle between Indra and Vrtra is our internal battle between our higher spiritual desires and the ego. Indra is the warrior (our higher consciousness) that defeats Vrtra (who is the brother or shadow of Indra—ego); the victory of Indra releases the waters. This is one of the main Vedic stories of slaying a dragon (avarana shakti) and releasing the rivers to flow into the sea.
The battle between Indra and Vrtra opens the way for several additional Vedic deities, which are namely Vayu and the Ashvins. Vayu is the deity of the air, which indicates that it is the ruler of prana, the life-force energy. Within the Rg Veda it is taught that the Ashvins are responsible for the movement of the sun (Surya). They are responsible for the movement of Agni to the state or transformation into the state of Surya. The awakening of the kundalini involves the prana, not just prana itself, but specific forms of prana, which are represented by the Ashvins. The Ashvins represent healing, which is one of the qualities of the two major forms of prana. It is the two major forms of prana (the Ashvins) that is responsible for the kundalini awakening; and their ruler is Vayu, the lord of prana. In other words the deities represent the higher forms of cosmic principles.
As mentioned earlier, Indra’s victory over Vrtra releases the waters, the Ashvins connection or pranic connection is indicated within the Rg Veda 1.116.22, which refers to the Ashvins as raising the water from the bottom of the well. This is a direct reference to the raising of the kundalini.
Another Vedic deity of great importance for the kundalini awakening: Soma. As was mentioned earlier, Agni is the kundalini, but Agni is also the first deity to be invoked to drink of Soma. From a yogic/astral perspective, Soma drips down the Sushumna (spinal column) and is consumed by the manipura chakra (3rd chakra). From a yogic standpoint this process is stopped and the Soma is retained in the higher chakras namely the Sahasrara and the Ajna (6th & 7th). The practice of yoga is the pressing of the soma, and the kundalini awakening is the drinking of soma from a subtle astral perspective.
While Vedic yoga does address kundalini yoga per se; it does so in a variety of different forms. Vedic yoga clearly uses pranayama, mantra, and mediation; there are three questions that come to mind: 1) Did the Vedic teachings contain yogic techniques that have become lost over the millennia? 2) Was the physical a part of the system, but preserved orally through other traditions? 3) Or was the Vedic form of yoga from the last world age, and did not require the initial preparatory techniques that would become critical in our current age? The current evidence points to probably all three, clearly there is evidence that techniques such as mantra, pranayama, and meditation where part of the Vedic culture. In fact, the entire Sanskrit alphabet can be practiced using various techniques to awaken the kundalini energy. We see postures such as sitting crossed legged (siddhasana posture, which is very important to present day yoga) present. It is not difficult to speculate that the other postures would have been persevered by other systems just as additional systems are preserved by the different Vedangas and Upavedas today. Though it is a samhita, it would not be expected to carry information on physical techniques, but yoga tradition has preserved this information and eventually evolved into what initially appears to be a separate system. But in reality, it is an extension of the Vedas as the Vedas is the spiritual authority as well. In addition, we know that several Vedic seer families have a yogic connection such as Kashyap, Vamadeva, Vashishta and others.
The most compelling evidence comes from the Baghavad Gita itself. Within the Gita (4.1) Krishna states “…Imam vivasvate yogam proktavan aham avyayam, vivasvaan manave praatha manur ikshvaakave `bavit.” Krisha states, loosely translated, “I have spoken this yoga to Vivasvat, Vivasvat passed [communicated] it to Manu, Manu related it to Ikshvaku.” Here we see a clear reference to yoga’s connection to the Vedic lineage, and yogic information being passed downward through the traditional Vedic lineage. This is a compelling statement that a form of yoga was present within the oldest Vedic traditions.
In reality, modern day kundalini yoga is just another form of the Vedic Yajna or ritual. It contains internal and external elements, though not the physical fire of the Vedic ritual, it relies on a more internal manifestation of fire and favors more internal approaches achieved through outward techniques such as asana. Kundalini yoga within modern society is an expression of the first words of the Rg Veda 1.1.1, AUM Agnim ile, which means, “I worship Agni.”
Sources, references, and recommended reading:
Beal, Yogi Baba Prem Tom “Understanding the Kundalini” Universal Yoga
Beal, Yogi Baba Prem Tom “Vrtra: The Spiritual Adversary” Vedic Friends Journal #1 http://www.vedicfriends.org/vfa_journal_and_newsletter.htm
Beal, Yogi Harinam Baba Prem Tom “Introduction to the roots of the kundalini” Universal Yoga 2003
Frawley, David “Gods, Sages and Kings” Passage Press: Salt Lake City 1991
Frawley, David “The Rig Veda and the History of India” Aditya:Nw Delhi 2001
Frawley, David “Wisdom of the Ancient Seers:mantras of the Rg Veda” Passage Press: Salt Lake City 1992
Frawley, David “Yoga and Ayurveda” Lotus Press: Twin Lakes: Wisconsin 1999
Kashyap, Dr. R.L “Rig Veda Samhita:First Ashtaka Vol. 1,2,3” Saksivc:Bangalore
Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Rg Veda Samhita
Copyright 2003, 2011. All rights reserved.
 Shayu is a reference to a snake, in particular a boa, and shaya is a reference to sleeping.
 Vedangas are limbs of the Vedas and Upavedas are secondary Vedas such as Ayurveda.