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Book: Krishnamacharya on Kundalini

Chapter: The Symbolism of Serpents

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.42726


Chapter 5 critically analyses and evaluates claims from two prominent teachers in the tradition, A.G. Mohan and Kausthub Desikachar (Krishnamacharya’s grandson), who both attempted to validate Krishnamacharya’s teachings about the serpent of kuṇḍalinī by putting it into a wider cultural context. Building upon the theoretical framework of Laurie Cozad (2004), this chapter will be the first published work showing how snakes are used in South Asian texts to represent something to be overcome: māyā (illusion / magic), avidyā (nescience / spiritual ignorance), ajñāna (nescience / spiritual ignorance), ahaṁkāra (ego), ahaṁmāna (egotism), abhimāna (erroneous self- conception), māna (pride), and moha (delusion) – the deadly poison of saṁsāra (rebirth).

The chapter shows that this stream of South Asian thought, in which snakes represent something to be overcome, is consistent with Krishnamacharya’s use of the term kuṇḍalinī to represent a blockage to prāṇa. However, even when writers use snakes to represent something to be overcome in some contexts, it does not necessarily follow that they use kuṇḍalinī in the same way.

Chapter Contributors

  • Simon Atkinson ( - satkinson) 'scholar-practitioner'