- Series: Suny Series, Shaiva Traditions of Kashmir
- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: State University of New York Press; First Edition edition (October 18, 1988)
- Language: English, French
- ISBN-10: 0887068014
- ISBN-13: 978-0887068010
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #649,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Kundalini : The Energy of the Depths : A Comprehensive Study Based on the Scriptures of Nondualistic Kasmir Saivism (Suny Series in the Shaiva Traditions of Kashmir) First Edition Edition
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About the Author
Lilian Silburn is Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. For many years she has been respected worldwide as a leader in studies of the Shaivism of Kashmir. She has published many books and articles on the subject.
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According to Silburn, "the true Kundalini is an upward flow of energy passing through the centers--therefore she is called "raised Kundalini." Is Silburn right? No, she isn't. The true Kundalini is better defined as the Energy, or Force-flow, of the Self (awakened Consciousness) through one's "mortal coils" (or tangled, knotted nadis). Kundalini, the "Coiled One," is the Self as dynamic Energy, or Shakti, that "straightens," or untangles, one's "coils" (the etheric-body correlates of one's astral body). The true Kundalini is not just an "upward flow of energy," it is also a downward one--and my major criticism of Silburn is her failure to account for Kundalini as descending Energy: Shaktipat or Grace.
Another weakness of Silburn is her inability to clearly describe the fundamental "asana" of consciousness that awakens the "Serpent Power." According to Silburn, "The spontaneous awakening and rising of Kundalini becomes possible by maintaining an underlying state of recollection which has nothing to do with concentration: one should not concentrate but be naturally `centered' in the heart." A better description might read: By maintaining a state of direct and immediate presence, a yogi can generate enough conscious force to awaken the ascent and descent of Kundalini.
Despite my criticism of Silburn, I consider this book "must" reading for anyone interested in Kundalini or tantra yoga. It is teeming with esoteric information that I haven't encountered in any other text. For instance, the Trika school of Kashmir Shavism, unlike hatha yoga, acknowledges only five rather than seven major chakras, or centers. And it designates the Hridayam, rather than the anahata heart chakra, as one of these centers.
This text is not an easy read, and because it is loaded with hundreds of Sanskrit terms, you will find yourself constantly referring to the Index [Glossary] of Sanskrit Terms. But even though the text is challenging (particularly for those new to Hindu Tantrism), it is also enchanting because of the far-out, ultra-mystical nature of Kundalini and Kashmir Shaivism.
Ordinarily, I would give a flawed, but informative work like this four stars, but because the subject matter is unique, profound, and fascinating (at least to me), I give it five stars.
As the popularity of hatha yoga increases by quantum leaps, (thanks to popularizers such as Madonna, of all people), interest in Tantra has kept pace. Unfortunately, faddishness can breed mediocrity, as evidenced by hatha yoga's demotion to mock-spiritual aerobics, Tantra's characterization as "the yoga of sex" and the ancient Tantric spiritual practice (NOT theory) of Kundalini equated to a self-induced acid trip. All three views are as accurate as a vote re-count in Florida.
Now, Professor Lillian Silburn brings an academic's / scientist's eye and a novelist's style to her investigation of Kundalini and the result is a masterpiece of clarity, concision and, simple, honest-to-God truth. Without a hint of nastiness, she quickly disposes of popular misconceptions and presents three of the most important views of Kundalini practice - those of the Trika and Krama traditions within Kashmir Shaivism and the Kaula tradition ("Kulamarga"), the most concise presentation of which can be found in the ancient KULARNAVATANTRA. Her achievment ranks alongside the pioneering work in Tantra of Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroffe), although Professor Silburn doesn't let any puritanical inclinations cause her to censor the source material as Avalon did.
Madame Silburn builds her presentation systematically. The book's first part includes a preliminary exposition of yoga anatomy and clearly defines and explains terms such as "chakra" (wheel), "nadi" (energy current), "trikona" (mystical triangle), along with crucial Tantric tools and concepts such as "mantra" and the importance of understanding the outward and inward expressions of vibration and the still centers between the two in which the true yogi resides. Armed with this, even the newcomer to Tantric yoga will be able to follow the mystical and metaphorical rise of the Kundalini serpent through "sushumna" (the subtle middle spiritual channel of the spine), and the means by which it sets the energy centers ("chakras") whirling and vibrating as the yogin journeys ever onwards to final release from the mundane bonds of human life.
The book's second part explains the absolute necessity of the transmission of Kundalini knowledge from Guru to Disciple. The yogin's very safety depends upon this sacred initiation. Then, the processes themselves are described in detail, although Silburn has stated honestly in the Foreward that "Nevertheless, I have left enough points unclarified so as not to incur the wrath of the ancient masters". She means it. And, to underline the point, Silburn allows great Tantric masters such as Somananda, Goraksha and the magnificent Abhinavagupta do most of the explaining in well-chosen and faithfully translated excerpts from their most important works. This enviable practice reaches its apex in the book's final chapter.
The book's third and final part is entitled "The Deeper Meaning of the Esoteric Practice". This sums up pretty well the section's contents. It must be pointed out, however, that even if what preceded this section had been worthless and unreadable (which it definitely isn't), Silburn, in her final chapter presents an English translation of a small, yet powerful section, of that most supremely wide-ranging of all Tantric texts, Abhinavagupta's TANTRALOKA ("Light of the Tantras"). This towering work of sheer philosophical-mystical genius has yet to be translated into English. Silburn humbly turns to this great master, in his greatest work, to give shape, substance and meaning to her own modern masterpiece. Neither the Seeker nor the merely interested could ask for more.
After reading "Kundalini - Energy of the Depths", pick up "Vac" by Andre Padoux. In reading these, you can be satisfied that you are getting the real goods. Leave the trendiness for followers of Shiva Rea and Seane Corn. Let the academics have the terminally-footnoted tediousness of D.G. White's "The Alchemical Body". Lilian Silburn will take you where you want to go.