Gopi Krishna-A Biography: Kundalini, Consciousness, and Our Evolution to Enlightenment. Teri Degler. Institute for Consciousness Research. Pages 331. Rs 812.
Among all the Gurus who made it in the West during the 'Flower Power' of the 1960s and ‘70s, Pandit Gopi Krishna (1903-1984) remains the most non-Guru like Guru. With magnificent simplicity, this Kashmiri mystic continued the great tradition this land has preserved over millennia.
Despite never claiming to be an innovator, he adhered faithfully to the authentic traditional system, offering a biological and evolutionary perspective. What set him apart was his ability to speak from the depths of his own experiential authenticity, while also drawing wisdom from the abundant traditional texts on inner science found in Kashmir.
Pandit Gopi Krishna's approach harmoniously blended the traditional system with the emerging scientific worldview and the diverse accounts of religious experiences available in modern times.
His intention was not to create a cult or movement but to engage in research that could contribute to the betterment of humanity by seeking objective truths. Unfortunately, his remarkable legacy remains largely unrecognized, like a hidden gem.
Teri Degler's biography, published by the Institute for Conscious Research this year, offers a captivating and insightful portrayal of this scientific yogi's life.
The book delves into his personal journey, recounting a significant incident from his youth.
As a young and successful man, Gopi Krishna desired a beautiful wife. His mother took it upon herself to find a suitable match, exchanging photographs with potential brides. T
hey selected Roopwant Kuchroo. However, on the day of the wedding, Gopi Krishna's mother, dissatisfied with the photo, became furious and insisted on canceling the marriage—an immensely hurtful and humiliating experience for the bride and her family.
Gopi Krishna, who had not yet seen the bride himself, intervened and persuaded his mother to proceed with the marriage. He reassured the bride's family that the wedding would indeed take place, and it did.
Degler beautifully captures this episode, illustrating the intriguing aspects of Pandit Gopi Krishna's life and the complex dynamics he encountered along his spiritual path.
...it illustrates an aspect of the yamas and niyamas that he had been practicing and it is certainly mentioned as ‘kindness to all creatures’ in Krishna’s prescription for success in Yoga. Both his behaviour and attitude were also a perfect example of practice of the niyama ‘contentment’.
And later we learn that ‘Bhabhi’, as she was affectionately called, was a woman of strong will. Though she did not know how to read or write, she would be part of the struggles her uncommon husband underwent – both in the inner realm and the outer world.
That one sentence Degler writes: ‘from the night of his wedding in 1925 onward, Gopi Krishna would not be entirely alone in his struggle’ later spreads throughout the book like a gentle, silent stream.
The book explores Pandit Gopi Krishna's struggle to comprehend and integrate the profound unfolding of his Kundalini mystical experience, which began on Christmas day in 1937. It vividly portrays his yearning for the blissful expansion of non-duality flowing through his physical body, juxtaposed with the suffering his body and mind endured as a consequence.
One chapter in the book delves into Gopi Krishna's role as the leader of the Hindu resistance in Kashmir in 1967, triggered by the alarming intimidation faced by the minority Hindu community through the abduction of Hindu girls.
On 3 August, 1967, a Hindu girl, who had been mistreated by her Muslim employee, notorious for financial fraud, was abducted.
When the Kashmiri police sided with the abductor despite the complaints of the girl's widowed mother, agitation grew within the minority Hindu community by August 6.
Gopi Krishna became involved by August 8 and expressed his concerns in a letter to Dr. Hridya Nath Kunzru, stating that these "conversions and abductions" were orchestrated by "anti-national elements" to disrupt the secular atmosphere and communal harmony of the state. He emphasized that the government's failure to support the Hindu minority was, in turn, a failure of the government itself. He ended the letter stating that he was also participating in the movement.
He was 64 then. He had now an international reputation. His book, Kundalini the Evolutionary Energy in Man, had been published that year with an appreciative introduction by Dr. Frederic Spiegelberg, a reputed professor of comparative religion and Indology from Stanford University.
Renowned Jungian psychologist James Hillman had given an equally laudatory commentary.
And above all, his health was deteriorating. At this point, Gopi Krishna could have stayed out or made a passive contribution to the struggle. But when the ‘All Kashmir Hindu Action Committee’ was formed, Gopi Krishna was its chairman.
They started a Satyagraha on 11 August and Gopi Krishna was ‘pulled from his home at three o’clock in the morning’ and was at police station that night.
On August 15, 1967, Gopi Krishna found himself in Sri Nagar jail, where Hindu Satyagrahis were subjected to police brutality.
Meanwhile, mobs targeted and burned Hindu businesses, including a home in Karan Nagar, Gopi Krishna's neighbourhood.
From his prison cell, Gopi Krishna wrote letters to the administration, highlighting the numerous injuries sustained by men and women and the inhumane treatment they faced for a reasonable demand.
When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who held great respect for Gopi Krishna as a renowned yogi, ordered his immediate release, he refused unless all the Satyagrahis were freed. It was only on September 3 that all the prisoners were finally released. (pp.120-131)
The book emphasizes how Gopi Krishna, despite his delicate health and international reputation, devoted himself to a mission of bridging the gap between the Western sciences, particularly psychology and neuroscience, and the proper understanding of Kundalini.
His aim was to comprehend Kundalini as the foundational element of all religious experiences across humanity. Despite the division and conflicts resulting from organized religions, Gopi Krishna recognized that genuine religious experiences, which gave rise to these religions, were rooted in Kundalini awakening.
He envisioned the potential for the spiritual maturation of the human species through scientific understanding of the psycho-physiological process of Kundalini, facilitated by the global network of air travel and communication.
The book highlights how Gopi Krishna was assisted, seemingly by design, by individuals from diverse backgrounds who supported his mission.
Notably, it emphasizes the selfless contributions of Margaret Kobelt, his secretary, and the subsequent establishment of the Swiss Kundalini Research Foundation, which she continued to run until her death in 1997.
The biography lists and provides core-content of his interaction with various scholars, seers and scientists. Of particular interest are the interactions with Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, physicist turned philosopher, Julian Huxley the Darwinian evolutionist and Edgar Mitchell astronaut-aerospace technologist.
The biography documents Gopi Krishna's interactions with various scholars, seers, and scientists, including Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, a physicist turned philosopher, Julian Huxley, a Darwinian evolutionist, and Edgar Mitchell, an astronaut and aerospace technologist.
Von Weizsäcker, who had worked on the German nuclear programme during World War II and later became a philosopher, co-authored and signed the Göttingen Manifesto advocating for the ban on nuclear weapons in West Germany.
When an unpublished draft of Gopi Krishna's major work, The Biological Basis of Religion & Genius, with a detailed introduction by von Weizsäcker, was sent to Julian Huxley, the elderly scientist scorned the book and criticized von Weizsäcker's views. I
n response, Gopi Krishna wrote a remarkable 2000-line verse, which Huxley acknowledged as an impressive achievement.
Despite Huxley's skepticism of Kundalini as a force in evolution, he recognized their partnership in the great adventure, even if they disagreed on certain details and methods.
This exchange of letters may bring to mind a similar correspondence between Julian Huxley and Swami Ranganathananda, featured as an appendix in the latter's Message of the Upanishads.
The book also highlights Gopi Krishna's lack of enthusiasm for the widespread cult-like promotion of Transcendental Meditation by Mahesh Yogi.
Rather than seeking crowds to enrich himself and create an empire, Gopi Krishna preferred smaller workgroups dedicated to advancing research and establishing networks.
Gopi Krishna may not have been a scholar of comparative religions in the academic-theological sense of the West, but his experiential understanding of religion transcended superficial differences, allowing him to perceive the manifestation of Kundalini.
For instance, when he witnessed the decoration of a Christmas tree with small white candles in a house in Switzerland on Christmas day in 1970, it stirred something within him, which he later expressed in a letter.
From the little study I have made it is obvious that the cult of Kundalini was known all over the world in ancient days. ... One of the names of Kundalini is Shakambari i.e. one that has branches of a tree. You can clearly see the resemblance when you see a chart of the human nervous system. The spinal cord is the trunk of the tree. Illumination of the tree with the burning candles is symbolic of the inner illumination experienced on the awakening of Kundalini. Christ was an illumined prophet with an awakened Kundalini.
Irrespective of whether one accepts this or not, this is a new perspective and resonates with concepts of Analytical Psychology like archetypes.
The biography reveals that Gopi Krishna was invited to speak at the 100th birth anniversary of "Mother" Mira Alfasa of Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
Upon reading Gopi Krishna's verses, one cannot help but notice the striking similarity in imagery between his poetry and that of Sri Aurobindo, although Sri Aurobindo excels in mastery of the poetic domain. Both mystic-seers independently arrived at similar visions for the future of humanity.
In fact, Professor Spiegelberg noted in his introduction to Evolutionary Energy..., that Gopi Krishna's idea of the evolution of humanity beyond its present state strangely paralleled Sri Aurobindo's vision, as they both emerged from the realm of Tantra.
Towards the end of the biography, it becomes apparent how the expansionist violence of a sectarian religion ultimately led to the destruction of the Kundalini research center that Gopi Krishna had established in Kashmir.
The land fell victim to land-grabbers, and in the 1980s, Islamist armed attacks escalated. Kashmiri Hindus were coerced to leave, and their properties were occupied.
Even during Gopi Krishna's lifetime, the central institute in Kashmir faced attacks, and after his death, the two guards protecting the property were shot dead, resulting in complete takeover.
While there is indeed a common biological basis for religious experiences, which holds transformative powers for human evolution, this precious vision, both scientific and mystical, must be protected.
Pandit Gopi Krishna, a global child of Mother Kundalini, also represents a long tradition of mystic-scholars from Kashmir, including Abhinavagupta, to whom India owes a significant portion of its heritage.
His institute and research efforts, characterized by calmness, gentleness, scientific rigour, and spirituality, signify a resurgence of that spiritual tradition.
This timely, comprehensive, and lucid biography may awaken us to the importance of safeguarding what we hold dear and why. The Indian government should honour this great son of Kashmir and global citizen of India.
Perhaps in the future, the devastated Kundalini research centre will be reestablished in Kashmir once again. Perhaps this biography can serve as an instrument toward that end.
Aravindan is a contributing editor at Swarajya.
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