Kriya yoga: the same purpose as daoism – or different?

Kundalini, we all know, rises up the spine and emerges from the top of the head (crown chakra) in an awakened being.

Recently a friend told me that her yoga teacher tells the class to touch the tongue to the palate – a practice used in Daoist practice for closing the microcosmic orbit.

At first I thought this was something the teacher had borrowed from Daosim. I still think this, but there is a related practice in Kriya Yoga, Khechari mudra. Strictly speaking, the practice of this mudra involves cutting the frenulum (the ligament that ties the tongue to the base of the mouth) to lengthen the tongue, and then pushing the tip of the tongue so far back that it closes the breath ways at the back of the jaw.

Then turn the tongue upwards and backwards by sitting in Siddhasana so as to touch the palate and close the posterior nasal openings with the reversed tongue and fix the gaze on the space between the two eye-brows. Now leaving the Ida and Pingala, Prana will move in the Sushumna Nadi. The respiration will stop. The tongue is on the mouth of the well of nectar. This is Khechari Mudra.

By the practice of this Mudra the Yogi is free from fainting, hunger, thirst and laziness. He is free from diseases, decay, old age and death. This Mudra makes one an Oordhvaretas. As the body of the Yogi is filled with nectar, he will not die even by virulent poison. This Mudra gives Siddhis to Yogins. Khechari is the best of all Mudras.
– Sri Swami Sivanada: Kundalini Yoga, Divine Life Society, India . Fourth Edition: 1998. ISBN: 81-7052-052-5 pp70-71. This quote from the online edition, viewable on the web at Yoga-age.com

The circulation of energy in Kriya Yoga (e.g. here) is similar to the Daoist microcosmic orbit – but different. The energy is taken up the front of the body to the throat, from there to bindu (numinous terrace?), from there to ajna chakra (at the centre of the brain, the thalamus and the third ventricle), and then down the spine to the perinieum (muladhara = Hui Yin (Gathering of Yin – CV1)

Lalana chakra

Kriya Yoga knows of a chakra at the back of the palate, lalana chakra. This is (was) a secret chakra, descriptions of it’s exact location vary. It may be the point on the energy circuit above. This chakra is discussed in Secret power of Tantrik breathing by Swami Sivapriyananda, p22.

It is said that when the disciple reaches lalana chakra a sweet nectar starts dripping on the tongue.

This is exactly the description of the nectar which drips into the Heavenly Pool in Daoism.

Where is Lalana chakra, exactly? Sivananda seems to identify it with the origin of the 12 cranial nerves in the brain stem:

Lalana Chakra is situated at the space just above Ajna and below Sahasrara Chakra. Twelve Yoga Nadis emanate from this centre… This has control over the 12 pairs of nerves that proceed from the brain to the different sense-organs.
– [Sivananda, ibid p22]

It appears then that khechari mudra attempts to connect to the brain stem (and thus influence subconscious processes), and not to connect the Conception Vessel (Ren Mai) to the Governing Vessel (Du Mai).

Sivapriyananda’s book has a diagram of the chakras which includes Lalana chakra. This makes me think that it may be one of the additional chakras shown in this picture
The chakras of the subtle body
from the exhibition Garden and Cosmos running at the British Museum at present (July 2009).

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~ by scalambra on July 30, 2009.

2 Responses to “Kriya yoga: the same purpose as daoism – or different?”

  1. Hey you seem to know a lot about chakras and Daoism. From what I’ve read, western adepts encoded the chakras in world trees, the caduceus/rod of Asclepius, barbershop poles, ect…. Does Daoism have any equivalent?

    • No, Daoism, in fact Chinese thought in general, is not really interested in the world axis! Or rather, not as one of its main symbols. A very early Chinese saying is, man lives between heaven and earth. This is depicted by the character wáng which means king. The clear implication of this character is that one who aligns himself in his fashion becomes in some sense royal. Having made this point, the Chinese take it for granted and move on.

      The closest related symbol for the Chinese would be Mount Meru. This is a borrowing from Buddhism. Mount Meru is a typically Chinese shaped mountain with a domed top. It is not a widely used symbol, and appears relatively unimportant in Chinese cosmology.

      In Qi gong the standing practice is referred to as 站 樁, zhàn zhuāng – literally, standing like a stake. This conveys the vertical and unmoving aspect of the vertical alignment, but a stake is a dead thing. Why not a tree? Chinese depictions of trees don’t show the upright larches or conifers we are used to – even many of their pines are curved and flowing trees. Someone with more knowledge than myself could perhaps tell you about the Chinese feeling for – an untranslatable word, but meaning something like form (It refers to the inner structure or logic which gives rise to patterning). Also, the Chinese have a very long perspective on life. Even the longest lived tree eventually dies.

      For the Chinese, the spine is a river and not a tree. Unlike trees, rivers do not grow old. In the west we are slowly beginning to appreciate the importance of the cerebro-spinal fluid. This is a milky fluid, and for Daoists this is the esoteric meaning of our galaxy which they also name the milky way. I find it noteworthy that this is the same in many different cultures, and would be very interested to know how this came about.

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