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THE AWAKENING OF THE TWICE-BORN
I experienced death and, paradoxically, in death, I awakened to a new life. I was living in Zimbabwe in 1987. At 5 A.M. on a balmy October morning, while praying to God, I asked him to help me on my path toward enlightenment. Feeling despair at my inability to access him, I felt tears flow from my eyes. My rosary beads had fallen from my hands and I no longer sensed the world outside. Suddenly, I saw my dead body being carried on the shoulders of four people as they repeated the words, "Ravindra Kumar is dead." Emerging from this all-engrossing and miserable situation, I felt relieved, peaceful, and happy; a new horizon had opened before me. I felt that something had shifted in me. I did not know it then, but this was my spiritual rebirth. My state of bliss and cheerfulness was overwhelming as I got up from my chair and left the room. The Zimbabwe sunrise was beginning to blossom as I went out for my usual long walk, bringing newfound happiness with me. Going to the mathematics department later that morning, my heart was no longer in my work. Telling others about my experience, I found they could not comprehend it. From that day on, I began losing interest in mathematics, my profession for more than twenty-seven years.
Continuing to chant mantras and meditate as I had in the past, I was about to take tea in the evening about two weeks later, when suddenly my body began to twist like a snake. My tongue felt as if it were coming out of my mouth, and there was immense heat coming from the crown of my head. Running out of the house, I took a brisk walk for half an hour, and then cycled on an indoor machine at home for another 20 minutes. I then had a cold drink and rested. The next day, the university doctor examined me and listened to every detail of my experience. He said clearly, if I had not been so healthy and physically fit I would be paralyzed today. In his experience, physically weak practitioners can undergo paralysis as a result of too much meditation. Because I had been regularly practicing hatha yoga exercises, chanting mantras, and reading tantric literature for several years, the awakening of the kundalini did not cause paralysis in me. However, the doctor advised me to discontinue all meditative practices and not to lecture at the university for two weeks.
On that day in October 1987, after discontinuing all types of chanting and meditation, a wonderful series of experiences began to unfold for me. I continued to pray each morning and, on three occasions in the period of two months, I witnessed the Mother Goddess clad in a red silk sari with shining silver bangles. She sat smiling at me. Oh, what a beautiful face and shining eyes! I saw myself dressed in white, bowing down to her as she blessed me with her right hand touching my head. Following these visions, I was very cheerful and content. My focus shifted from mathematics to religion and parapsychology. I started writing articles based on my experiences. They were published in The Journal of Religion and Psychical Research.
All faiths and traditions have talked about the primordial or unstruck sound one hears internally in successful states of meditation. It is this sound that takes the soul toward God. My experiences with the sound began in the middle of the night when I got up to answer the call of nature. At around 2 A.M., I heard a persistent sound, like the blowing of a conch shell or an airplane flying over the house. I asked everyone in the house if they heard anything unusual. The household denied hearing anything. In the morning, I went to the university hospital where the doctor examined me. He said there was nothing wrong with my ears. He had heard of cases where people hear internal sounds that either subside or continue, but that, in my case, there was nothing to worry about. I still live with that sound today. It has become more clear and pronounced over the years.
My experiences with outer light started in 1984 while practicing meditation. I was teaching at the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, at that time. Suddenly, on hearing a lightning sound, as if electricity had jumped between two poles, my eyes opened and I saw a six-inch-high and four-inch-wide column of white light standing four feet from my head. Amazed at seeing it, I looked around to find the source, but could find none. Shortly, the light began to flicker and move left as it diminished in size, vanishing completely after traversing about three feet. This light was cool and bright and did not hurt my eyes; rather it felt soothing. After that event, my faith in the divine increased. I became happier, less concerned with the external activities around me, and more interested in my thoughts and feelings about God.
An experience with inner light came two months after my awakening in 1987. In the early morning, as I was about to leave my bed, I saw blue light through my inner eyes. Unusually attracted to it, I kept my eyes closed and continued to concentrate on the light. After a while, I opened my eyes and found the light still there. Whether my eyes were open or closed, the blue light stood there, remained 10 to 15 minutes, and then disappeared. Now when I close my eyes, the first thing I see is the blue light.
I had experienced what, in the East, is known as kundalini, a spiritual awakening from within. Kundalini is the spiritual energy that lies dormant at the base of the spine. It is in the form of a snake, coiled three and a half times, with its mouth closing the opening of the central nerve along the spine, called sushumna. Most of us have only 15 to 20 percent of our brain active at any given time. When kundalini awakens, sleeping parts of the brain begin to open and the person begins to acquire unusual powers. This makes a person a genius in his or her field of work. Outstanding achievements in any worldly field, as well as spiritual awakening or enlightenment, are the natural consequences of the arousal of kundalini.
Life before Awakening
Looking back on my life before that eventful day in 1987, I see my spiritual path had been predestined. My mother once told me that, as a child, I had no interest in material things, that I didn't care for balloons, whistles, or other toys as other children did. Remaining quiet, undemanding, content, and happy, I would simply hold my mother's finger and walk quietly with her and my father. I wondered if this was a carryover from a previous life or a new behavior. While in college, I was honored by being named captain of the gymnastics team. Maybe I should have experienced some special pride at wearing the jacket proclaiming me captain, but I did not. Always an excellent student as well as a good athlete, I enjoyed extracurricular activities. Yet I never took the pleasure in my accomplishments that it seemed I should have. In any gathering, I found myself alone, even though my skills as humorist and singer should have given me recognition and companionship. Always preferring solitude, sitting alone, and thinking, I would coax and cajole myself into treading the unfrequented ways. Not that I did not like the company of people; I simply needed regular time for introspection and the search for meaning in my life. I used to feel a sort of constructive dissatisfaction with regard to material objects and worldly relations.
Nature favored me from early childhood, providing the perfect environment for my inner development. I was ten months old when my mother left me with my grandmother so she could study in a teachers' training school. My elementary school and college education occurred away from my parents. Living in dormitories, I cried because I missed my parents and felt so lonely. In my professional life, I taught in five places in India and eight countries around the world. Every two years, I transferred to a new country, each time to a new setting, new house, new people, new circumstances, or new car. Thus I was forced to forget old comforts and friends and to develop new relationships. This helped remove the fear of the unknown from my heart, and I became accustomed to accepting new adventures. This constant change developed an attitude of detachment that became habitual.
Teaching at various universities, I devoted my free time to exercise and yoga in the morning and long walks in the evening. In 1982, with no planning, I picked up a book on mantras from Delhi. It was as if something had taken me to the place where the book was on display. Bringing the book to Nigeria where I was teaching, I selected some mantras and began chanting for two to three hours every day. I was used to going to bed early, between 9:30 and 10 P.M., and waking between 2:30 and 2:45 A.M. I would wash myself and sit meditating and chanting mantras from 3 to 6 in the morning. I would also read various scriptures and case histories of God or Self-realized people from around the world for nearly three hours every day. My sex life was regular and I drank alcohol in moderation, living a life that combined hatha yoga (yogic postures), bhakti yoga (devotion through chanting and meditation), jnana yoga (reading scriptures and searching for my Self), and tantra yoga (recognition of sex drive) for several years.
A candle under a container of water cannot provide enough heat to boil the water. However, when a stronger heat is placed under the water, it will bring the water to a boil and convert it into steam. In the same way, if sufficient spiritual forces are applied, they will precipitate the sleeping energy within. And just as water converts into steam, man, who is God in the making, converts into God. Then, an energetic blast is experienced within and we have the kind of experiences I have described. The chemistry and physiology of the body begin to change. One specific phenomenon I noticed was a heightened activity taking place within my testicles and a fluid flowing upward toward my brain. Sometimes, I would feel nerves breaking in my brain. My interest in sexual activity changed dramatically while I lived as a near recluse. Prior to this period, I would have regular and prolonged sex; now I was more casual about it and at times would even withdraw in the middle of the act and go to sleep. I experienced inner happiness, cheerfulness, and contentment. I also stopped thinking about the past and speculating about the future, and became indifferent to the present.
Freedom from Fear of Death
Everyone has some experience of fear and anxiety in their life. Fear is a normal response that includes feelings of disquiet or alarm elicited by the realistic expectation of pain, danger, or disaster. For example, if a thief enters your house and asks at gunpoint that you give away all your valuables, your heart begins to beat faster, your body begins to shake and tremble, sweat appears on your forehead, you are embarrassed and scared to death. Anxiety is an irrational or overwhelming fear. It is one's subjective distorted view of the circumstance. It is often based on an irrational belief. Death anxiety is defined as an overwhelming fear of death and/or dying and usually involves an all-encompassing fear about whether one will continue to exist in some form or fashion after physical death. It includes unrelenting fear of dying and anxiety about the unknown. It is man's biggest fear and we deal with it daily, although most people repress it. In repressing it, they give rise to many other physical and psychological ailments. The message of this book is that we can overcome the constant fear of death through a spiritual awakening and live an unrepressed life.
Freedom from death anxiety, therefore, requires proof of three components of life after death: a surviving soul, a positive afterlife, and God. The uniqueness of this book is that it provides this proof through personal experiences and corroborates it through various faiths and traditions. It is likely that your death anxiety will be overcome by the time you have finished reading this book. The last chapter presents a proven practical method for awakening one's own spiritual energy within and finding freedom from death anxiety.
A large number of researchers in the field of past-life regression have convincingly shown the continuity of existence before birth and after death. This confirms the words Lord Krishna spoke in the Bhagavad Gita some five thousand years ago. Other great ones, such as Gautam Buddha, Jesus Christ, Pythagoras, Confucius, and Zoroaster, have further confirmed the continuity of existence. The reason for death anxiety is that people are so attached to the physical pleasures that they have no time to go into meditation themselves to find the proof. Those who have gone into meditation have found the proof and realized their own existence-knowledge-bliss. Meditation ultimately gives the experience of death while still living and liberates one from the fear of death once and for all. Modern people take temporary measures through drugs or distractions, which give only short-lived relief; the dragon of fear shows up again later in life. A permanent solution comes only through the awakening of one's dormant spiritual energy.
Not only is my fear of death gone, but I find dying to be a sweet game one can play anytime. Quoting St. Paul, "I die daily." The fear of the unknown is gone for me, since I now know the other side so well. For the past fifteen years, I have been going out of my body and exploring various realms. The kind of life to be found on the other side depends on your personal evolution on earth. Although God is indefinable, you can experience him, depending on the intensity of your desire. People have experienced him as a touch, as a vision, as sound and light, and as a physical manifestation of their most cherished formulation of him. My own experiences are briefly elaborated in the next section.
The Reality beyond, Seen Personally
Soon after experiencing my awakening of kundalini in 1987, I received firsthand knowledge of various astral subplanes. I traveled to these places of light and saw living conditions similar to those on earth. One difference was that the laws of physics did not apply there. People lived in their astral bodies, similar in appearance to their earthly physical bodies. At times, I found myself on planes higher than the astral without a physical body. My existence was either as a ball of light or simply without any dimension. There was no sun or moon, no duality of any kind. For example, there was only pleasant light and no shadow of any kind. Such planes are spiritual regions that constitute three-quarters of creation, while only one fourth of creation has life within a solar system like ours. I experienced myself as a formless point of awareness. During this process, you may see dreams that come in the four stages described by Jung and others. In the final stage, you may see the manifestation of an infinite God in a finite form of your liking.
With these experiences, I received the proof of myself as a permanent soul living a useful and happy afterlife and having a loving association with God. Needless to say, I have no place for death anxiety in my life, and I look forward to the day when I will translate to the other side. We can choose our own method to achieve higher consciousness. However, the recommended method is the Integral Path laid down in the last chapter of this book—a path that may eventually lead to spiritual enlightenment.
Kundalini rises through the seven central chakras (vortices of energy) on awakening. Out-of-body travel to higher realms while asleep occurs as a natural phenomenon when the third chakra, also known as the manipura chakra or solar plexus, awakens. Knowing unconditional love is a result of awakening the fourth, anahata, chakra or heart center. One requirement of the first commandment of Moses is, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor," which is not what we normally do in life. The moment we think we can, we remember the day our neighbor did something we judged as wrong, and we will or choose not to feel love for him. When the heart chakra opens, we transcend negative thoughts; understanding and compassion replace judgmental thoughts. You love your neighbor regardless of what he may have done. Inner happiness and cheerfulness are your emotions, and a pleasant smile is naturally on your face. You become indifferent to the temporary phenomenal happenings surrounding you.
Excerpted from THE KUNDALINI BOOK OF LIVING AND DYING by Ravindra Kumar, Jytte Larsen. Copyright © 2004 Ravindra Kumar and Jytte Larsen. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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