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Shakti, Kundalini, and
the River of Tantra Yoga

by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati 

There is one energy (Shakti) that keeps 
taking on new shapes and forms. 
Each time the energy takes on a new form, 
we give it a new name.

  Podcasts (Audio)
The Secret of Shiva and Shakti
Shakti, Kunalini and the River of Tantra

Contents of this page:
The River and Electricity
Kundalini Shakti 

See also these articles: 
Kundalini Awakening 
Secret of Shiva and Shakti
Chakra Meditation 

One energy with many names and forms: There is one energy that keeps taking on new shapes and forms. In Tantra the name of that energy is Shakti, which is the manifesting, or feminine force that is actually one and the same with its only apparent companion Shiva, the latent, or masculine. Each time the energy takes on a new form, we give it a new name. Shakti becomes Kundalini Shakti, or simply Kundalini. Kundalini becomes the energy of Prana, which flows in patterns or channels called Nadis, and concentrates itself by forming intersections known as Chakras. The subtle energies condense and become known as earth, water, fire, air, and space, forming our experience of the gross world. With Kundalini awakening, the primal energy of Shakti awakens in its true form. 

Seek to experience that one energy: To know, in direct experience, that unchanging truth, the one energy that is the substratum of all of the names and forms, is one of the ways of describing the universal goal of spiritual life. It is the experience of the union of Shakti and Shiva, creation and its ground, feminine and masculine, even though they were never actually divided in the first place. It is like wetness that is never separate from water, sweetness that is never separate from sugar, and warmth that is never separate from sunlight.


The River and Electricity 

We naturally use new names: To understand Shakti and the process of Kundalini awakening, it is very useful to have a good understanding of the process by which we naturally use language to give a new name to something whenever the form changes. 

A metaphor: One day, while sitting by the River Ganges in the Himalayas, the insight came that a river and electricity can be used as a metaphor of how this process of renaming happens:

  • Potential: Imagine a river that has a dam holding back the water. The river turns into a lake, which has potential energy that is held back from flowing. 

  • Kinetic: When the river flows through a channel towards a generating plant, it becomes an active energy of motion, which is called kinetic energy. 

  • Mechanical: When the flowing water moves through the blades of the generator, there is mechanical energy. 

  • Magnetic: In the generator the turning blades rotate a large mass of metal, creating magnetic energy. 

  • Electro-magnetic: There is a lot of wire wrapped around the turning metal cores, and this causes a transition into electro-magnetic energy. 

  • Electricity: As the energy leaves the generating plant, going down the wires, we call it electrical energy or simply electricity

  • Motion, light, sound, heat, cold: When the electricity comes into your house it transforms in many ways, and gets many new names, including motion, light, sound, heat, and cold. It forms music, television images, computer processes, and microwaves. 

It's all one energy: In all of these changes in name and form of energy, there remains the central energy that is in support of all of those many forms. It is the very energy that is in potential form in the river. You may be sitting quietly, watching the river, while under the breeze of a fan, listening to recorded music, under the light of a lamp. The energy behind the fan, the music, and the light is none other than the energy in the river, which is right in front of you. This is not a mere symbolism. The electricity flowing into these instruments is literally one and the same with the energy in the river in front of you.


The Kundalini Shakti 

We also rename the energy of consciousness: In a similar way, there is one energy (Shakti) in the universe that also keeps changing its form. Each time that that energy changes form, we give it a new name. Following is a description of how this works. In reflecting on this, it is important to keep in mind that some schools, teachers, or lineages use the various terminologies somewhat differently from one another, though the principles might be essentially the same. It is the process that we want to clearly understand, so that we may journey through these levels to their source.

  • Shakti: The universal energy of consciousness is called Shakti

  • Kundalini-Shakti: The word kunda means a bowl in which fire is burned. Thus, when Shakti resides in a bowl called kunda at the base of the spine, it is called Kundalini-Shakti. Going back to the river metaphor, imagine that you are holding a bowl called kunda in your hand. When you plunge the bowl into the river, you say, "I have put the bowl into the river." However, the moment you pull your hand and the bowl out of the river, you say, "I have water in the bowl." In that moment, the river was given a new name, changing it from river to water.

  • Kundalini: Then, in our common language, the word Shakti is dropped away, and the energy in the bowl is simply called Kundalini. In effect, Kundalini-Shakti has been given a new name, simply Kundalini. Even though it is now called simply Kundalini, it remains none other than pure Shakti. The only difference, if you can call it a difference, is that the Shakti is now in the bowl. 

  • Prana: A tiny amount of the energy called Kundalini radiates off of its subtle mass, like steam rising from a bowl of boiling water. That radiating energy is called Prana. Again, once it changes form slightly, it gets a new name. Just like the water turning to steam, while still remaining water, the Kundalini, which is still Shakti, "becomes" Prana

  • Nadis: That Prana tends to flow in certain patterns, or lines, like the steam rising in more or less predictable channels. These lines, patterns, or channels are called Nadis. Once again, a new name is introduced. 

  • Chakras, marmas: The thousands of Nadis, with their Prana (that is really both a small amount of Kundalini, and still Shakti), crisscross here and there like minor or major highway intersections. Those major highway intersections are called Chakras (minor intersections are Marmas or Marmashtanas). It is because of this crossing pattern, like highway intersections, or spokes on a wheel, that the word chakra is used, which literally translates as wheel

  • Vayus: From there the Chakras, with their different shapes and styles of intersection, cause five flows of energy called Vayus.

  • Bhutas, tattvas: These take on the qualities of earth, water, fire, air, and space, which are called Tanmatras and Bhutas at their subtle and gross levels

  • Indriyas: Also from the subtle energy emerge the five Jnanendriyas  or cognitive senses of smelling, tasting, seeing, touching, and hearing, as well as the Karmendriyas or instruments of action of eliminating, replicating, moving, holding, and communicating.

  • Brain, body, breath: Collectively these manifest as the various aspects of our physical brain, body, and breath. Still, they are none other than the Shakti, Kundalini-Shakti, Kundalini, and Prana flowing in Nadis, which they were all along.

There is only one energy: One of the major insights of Tantra and Yoga meditation, possibly the key to the whole science of Tantra, is that there is only one energy in the whole of the universe, and our task is to know that, in direct experience. 

Experiencing that one energy: With Kundalini awakening, the full force of the dormant Kundalini comes forth from its dormant state. To awaken the Kundalini and allow it to rise through the levels of manifestation, returning to its source, is the ultimate Realization of the Absolute, which is both mother and father aspects of reality, Shakti and Shiva. Through self effort in Tantra and Yoga meditation, and the bestowing of grace, or Shaktipat, the sincere aspirant experiences this Truth.


This site is devoted to presenting the ancient Self-Realization path of the Tradition of the Himalayan masters in simple, understandable and beneficial ways, while not compromising quality or depth. The goal of our sadhana or practices is the highest Joy that comes from the Realization in direct experience of the center of consciousness, the Self, the Atman or Purusha, which is one and the same with the Absolute Reality. This Self-Realization comes through Yoga meditation of the Yoga Sutras, the contemplative insight of Advaita Vedanta, and the intense devotion of Samaya Sri Vidya Tantra, the three of which complement one another like fingers on a hand. We employ the classical approaches of Raja, Jnana, Karma, and Bhakti Yoga, as well as Hatha, Kriya, Kundalini, Laya, Mantra, Nada, Siddha, and Tantra Yoga. Meditation, contemplation, mantra and prayer finally converge into a unified force directed towards the final stage, piercing the pearl of wisdom called bindu, leading to the Absolute.