Kriyas: are they a bug or a feature?

The words “bug” and “feature” are used in a popular computer programming joke. The website Wired.com explains:

A standard joke is that a bug can be turned into a feature simply by documenting it (then theoretically no one can complain about it because it’s in the manual), or even by simply declaring it to be good. “That’s not a bug, that’s a feature!” is a common catchphrase.

In this website and in my book (link), I have developed a theory that people who think they are enlightened have a mental disorder (possibly de-personalization, mania, and/or other) to which they have adapted. “Enlightened gurus” seem to be trying to help others attain their own mental disorder.

I am biased. I have compared kriyas to hypnic jerks and tics (link). Of course, I think kriyas are a “bug” that gurus have incorrectly declared to be a good feature. Gurus have incorrectly stated that kriyas are an indication of being on the path to enlightenment and that kundalini energy is opening up energy channels.

Deep meditation can produce experiences of profound silence (link) and/or immense energy that erupts in a kriya of bodily jerks, contortions, or screaming.

Kriyas are weird. I think kriyas might be related to physical and mental disorders. I submit the following excerpts as evidence that kriyas are “bugs” not “features”.

Excerpt #1 from my book: Besides the hopping, many participants had kriyas, the physical movements that other spiritual movements have interpreted to be manifestations of kundalini energy. Some participants had rather violent head movements, the torsos of some shook like dogs throwing off water from a bath, others had their backs locked in an arch, and others had spontaneous vocalizations of screams, barks, and nonsense syllables. One TM teacher who was a lawyer became known as “The Bee” because he often sat swaying back and forth while making a loud buzzing sound.

Excerpt #2 from my book: During the rest period to adapt, I saw kriyas where participants flopped around on the foam like energetic fish. Proximity to a person who was having kriyas was a significant factor during our laying down period. Perhaps the wildest thing I observed was the sudden wild flopping around of one guy, and then immediately the guys lying close to him also started flopping around like fish. When I write “flopping around like fish”, I mean that they actually looked like energetic fish flopping around.

Kriya craziness at Muktananda’s ashram at South Fallsburg, NY described by John Chambers (link https://www.theosophical.org/publications/quest-magazine/3601-riding-the-waves-of-karma-memories-of-muktananda-s-ashram)

It was like living in a cross between Dante’s Purgatory and a Walt Disney animated feature film. A thousand faces filled the semidarkness. The air resounded with titters, groans, and guffaws. People rocked back and forth, assumed strange postures, thrust their arms up in the air. A steady buzzing like a swarm of bees came from the back of the auditorium. Over to one side a high-pitched cackle broke out. It was followed by a loud gurgling noise, and then the words, “Yum! Yum!”

A sock with a foot inside it brushed against my ear. The young man beside me was coming out of his headstand.

A small, dusky-colored man, about seventy years of age, wearing an orange ski cap, dark glasses, and a saffron robe, was advancing calmly through the cacophony. He moved quickly from person to person, stopping briefly to bop each one with a peacock-feather wand. Sometimes he lingered for a moment to pat someone’s head as if he were testing the strength of the skull. Then he went on.

This man’s name was Paramahansa Muktananda. Everybody called him Baba. He was one of the best-known of the numerous spiritual teachers who spent time in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. This was the summer of 1979. I was in the meditation hall in Muktananda’s ashram in South Fallsburg, high up in the Catskills sixty miles north of New York City. This big, sprawling collection of buildings, lined with fresh gardens and honeycombed with rooms large and small, was the headquarters of Muktananda’s Siddha Yoga Dham (or “Home of Siddha Yoga”) of America Foundation (SYDA).

Interestingly, the Transcendental Meditation movement purchased the South Fallsburg ashram from Muktananda. The TM movement provided more “kriya entertainment” to the “flies on the wall” in South Fallsburg.

Excerpt from a letter to Swami Muktananda from Bubba Free John (also known as Franklin Jones and Adi Da Samra) (link https://beezone.com/adida/muktananda/spiritualinstructions.html):

On the third day, in the morning, as soon as I sat down before you for the morning recitation, I began to work inside at surrender, and all day that day my head and back moved violently. All during the day you encouraged these movements in me and called me “Kriyananda”all that day because of them. Twice you placed your hand on me. The first time I responded by closing my eyes, twisting about, and raising my hands into mudras. The second time, in the meditation, I fell backwards away from you. At the end of that day, I was exhausted from so much kriya.

Both Muktananda and Bubba Free John had scandals and controversies during their lives. I don’t think they add any credibility to the notion that kriyas lead to an admirable state of enlightenment.

Kriyas are a bug, not a feature. I believed in the beneficial nature of kriyas for about 15 years, but not any more.

Updated internet links

I updated internet links in my book and on this blog today. In the last 4 years, some websites that I used for reference disappeared or moved. The current book is now Version 2.01.

My opinions on enlightenment and meditation have not changed. I don’t bother thinking about spiritual growth. I like it that way.

Feeling good is all I shoot for. My life is not going after “pie in the sky”.

My symptoms of mania

This is an excerpt from Chapter 12 of my book, My Enlightenment Delusion.

I am positing that there seem to be two kinds of mania:

1. Psychotic mania caused by some mental/physical state that is unrelated to spiritual practices.
2. The mania of a kundalini crisis that is caused by spiritual practices: I use the phrase “kundalini crisis” to discuss a bumpy spiritual journey even though I do not believe the standard yogic theory of a kundalini energy center. “Kundalini crisis” is a prevalent term which usually evokes the idea that spiritual practices caused the crisis. Therefore, when I use the phrase, “kundalini crisis”, I am referencing an overwhelming experience caused by spiritual practices.

Psychotic mania

Mania is defined as mental illness marked by periods of great excitement, euphoria, delusions, and over-activity. Manic patients are frequently grandiose, obsessive, impulsive, irritable, and belligerent. They frequently deny anything is wrong with them.

No one knows exactly what physiological state underlies mania. Scientists are studying the complicated changes in neurotransmitters that have been observed. Some other clues to understanding mania may come from particular people who are predisposed to mania; some have manic episodes triggered by antidepressants; sleep deprivation triggers mania in some people; and light therapy for seasonal depression has been reported to trigger some cases of mania.

Grandiose delusions occur in as many as two-thirds of patients in the manic state of Bipolar Disorder and occur at lesser rates with other types of psychiatric patients.

Grandiose delusions are characterized by fantastical beliefs that one is famous, omnipotent, wealthy, knowledgeable, or has an exceptional relationship to a divinity or famous person. Often having a religious theme, some patients have delusions that they are God or, famously, that they are Jesus.

Symptoms during manic episodes of Bipolar Disorder are:

1. A feeling of being on top of the world, exhilaration, or euphoria.
2. Over-self-confidence, an inflated sense of self-esteem.
3. Delusions of grandiosity (or sometimes delusions of persecution, illness, or romance).
4. The patient’s judgment may be impaired.
5. The patient talks a lot, and very rapidly.
6. Thoughts come and go quickly (racing thoughts). Sometimes, bizarre ideas come to the patient’s mind, and they are acted upon.
7. The individual may be extremely forthcoming, sometimes aggressively so.
8. The individual is more likely to engage in risky behavior, including promiscuity (higher libido), abuse illegal drugs and/or alcohol, and take part in dangerous activities.
9. The patient may squander money.
10. Easily distracted.
11. Missing work or school and/or underperforming.

The mania of a kundalini crisis

I definitely had the first 5 manic symptoms listed above during my kundalini crisis in 1990. I expect that many others having kundalini crises will have similar symptoms.

The most scientific description of kundalini crises that I have found is in the 1992 book, The Kundalini Experience by Lee Sannella, M.D. Sannella interviewed people who had come through kundalini crises. The book is available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/0941255298.

He came up with 4 categories of experience: motor, sensory, non-physiological, and interpretive. As motor phenomena, Sannella listed kriyas and unusual breathing patterns. Under sensory phenomena, he listed tickling sensations, heat and cold sensations, inner light, inner sounds, and pain in the eyes, head, spine, or elsewhere. Under non-physiological phenomena, Sannella listed out-of-body experiences and psychic perceptions.

As interpretive phenomena, Sannella listed both positive and negative feelings that could be experienced with much greater intensity than usual such as ecstasy, love, cosmic harmony, fear and confusion. He stated that the thinking process could be speeded up or inhibited. The mental experience could be detachment, hysteria, a state akin to schizophrenia, or the delusion of having been divinely chosen.

Here are my symptoms which match Sannella’s descriptions:

●  When my kundalini crisis began, I had tingling all over my body. It felt like a continuous, small electric shock sensation which was pleasant and exciting.
●  I had extreme feelings of joy and thankfulness that seemed to be related to my thoughts that I was enlightened. When I had delusions about achieving even higher states of consciousness, I would subsequently be so ecstatic and so thankful that I would start to cry.
●  All of my feelings were experienced with greater intensity than usual. When I spoke, I spoke like a fire-brand preacher. My voice almost became raspy as if I had been yelling at a sporting event.
●  I thought I had earned a special relationship with God and nature.

“Modern Love” and mania

Season 1 Episode 3 of Amazon Prime’s entitled “Modern Love” offers an entertaining portrayal of the mania of Bipolar Disorder. Anne Hathaway stars in the episode which uses an ample artistic license to give a sense of the exuberance and false sense of reality that is experienced during mania. Other reviewers claim that this 34-minute episode is one of the best of the series.

I appreciated the depiction of the positive aspects of mania. Creativity, stamina, and boldness are some benefits of mania. Manic thoughts have a very powerful force impelling them to fruition, and therefore it is not surprising that some well-known artists, comedians, and politicians were thought to be manic.

The mania of my kundalini crisis had grandiose delusions, but Hathaway’s role did not. Hathaway depicted severe depression which I have never experienced. Despite the different causes of mania and the different nuances of mania, mania is never healthy.

I suspect that the people who think they are enlightened actually have mania, and over time they can learn to speak and act in a way that hides their innermost thoughts and delusions. I don’t doubt that they think they are enlightened. I doubt that a state of enlightenment exists.

Tribute to Buffy Mooney 1942-2019

Buffy Mooney long hair photo v2Both the obituary of Buffy Mooney (a.k.a. Frank James Mooney III) and the guestbook condolences from speak to the gentle greatness of Buffy Mooney.

His obituary states: Buffy had a strong love of teaching. He was an artist in many fields. His love of color, nature, and people show throughout his artwork and collages. His poetry showed his spiritual side. He was a free spirit in many ways. He loved music, especially the blues. He often played his saxophone and flute with some of the local bands. In 1993 Buffy wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, striving the need for a soup kitchen in Eau Claire. As a result of that letter, we now have The Community Table in Eau Claire.

I never met Buffy Mooney, but as a new Transcendental Meditation (TM) teacher in Illinois in the early 1970’s, I heard of him. Buffy was a well-respected TM teacher in Wisconsin. He was given the honor of being a “TM regional lecturer”, and he initiated many hundreds of people into TM. It could be said that he was the cream of the crop of TM teachers. He was very likable, intelligent, and organized.

Buffy attended the TM teacher training course held at Estes Park, Colorado in 1970. He was known as a funny guy and one who tended to get up to the microphone a lot to ask questions.

Below is an advertisement for one of his TM lectures that appeared in the Eau Claire newspaper in 1974.
Buffy Mooney TM newspaper ad 1974

Unfortunately, Buffy was one of the TM teachers who flipped out while doing long meditations on a course for TM teachers in Switzerland in the winter of 1974-1975. He thought he had become enlightened, and he did things that could be described as crazy. Maharishi referred to him as “Puffy Mooney” at that point because of Buffy’s much-inflated ego.

Returning to Wisconsin, Buffy’s actions created some trouble for the TM organization. My shocked reaction to the news that Buffy had flipped out was the same as others I knew: How could this happen to an outstanding TM teacher like Buffy?!

His “flipping out” out is mentioned in the following excerpt from one of the obituary condolence messages: I met Buffy in about summer of 1970. Along with some buddies from Chicago. We met him in Eau Claire where he lived in a quaint old house on Otter Creek with a crystal clear swimming hole. He was bright and had knowledge unknown to us. People were drawn to his presence. Maybe ten years later something happened. He came back from a meditation course not the same. He drifted and he talked of things that were not of what is normal.

When I was a young TM teacher hanging around other TM teachers, there was hearsay that touched on the rough times newly enlightened people might have and also that some people confined to mental hospitals might be close to being enlightened. Now in present time, I suppose that hearsay referred to kundalini crises and mania.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the TM organization did not offer much help to Buffy and other TM meditators who flipped out. Instead the TM organization tried to keep “flipped out” meditators away from the TM movement so that the movement’s reputation would not be hurt.

As Gopi Krishna wrote, so-called spiritual masters aren’t much help to one who is in the throes of a kundalini crisis. From Buffy’s story, the long Joe Kellett story,  and other stories, Maharishi didn’t seem to be of any help. (The TM organization has a rebuttal to Kellett’s story.)

I was fortunate during my own kundalini crisis in 1990 to have the guidance over the phone with Gabriel Cousens, M.D. Dr. Cousens had previous experience in Muktananda’s ashram with helping people who were in the midst of a kundalini crisis. Although I don’t currently agree with the spiritual teachings of Dr. Cousens, I am grateful that with his help, I only made a “small fool of myself” around a few people and no one tried to put me in a mental hospital.

Over many years, I recovered slowly from the delusions of my kundalini crisis. It takes time to adjust one’s self-image from the high point of being enlightened to the low point of being a survivor of manic illness. The intensity of thought during a kundalini crisis has a long-lasting effect that is difficult to overcome.

Buffy recovered without having the fortunate circumstances which I had to recover. His gentle greatness powered through a very difficult situation.

I have a soft spot for all former and current TM teachers for their enthusiasm, idealism, and vitality. I also have a super soft spot for Buffy who had an enlightenment delusion similar to mine.

Do I want shaktipat?

I say, “I definitely do not want shaktipat from any Eastern or Western gurus.” Not because it an undeserved boost to spiritual growth as some think, but because I think receiving shaktipat is unhealthy.

I think it is probable that people who consider themselves to be enlightened have a type of mania to which they have adapted and therefore, they can hide their mental illness from others.

Guru maniacs are people who have some charisma, eloquence, and high motivation that is fueled by thinking that they are more special than everyone else. (One possible symptom of mania is a feeling that one has a special relationship with God or that one is God.)

I think it is possible to pass different kinds of energy from one person to another person.

  • If you are around someone who is crying or deeply depressed, your energetic make-up could be affected.
  • You may feel uncomfortable being in the same room with someone who is in an angry rage.
  • You could be affected by being close to people in a hospital psyche ward.

You may feel something when in the presence of a guru maniac. You may have a so-called spiritual experience from receiving shaktipat from a guru maniac, but feeling something is not necessarily a good sign. When you feel something around a guru maniac, you are probably ungrounded and more susceptible to a kundalini crisis.

Feeling something from receiving shaktipat and feeling something during group meditation may not be good. The spiritual theories of pure consciousness, enlightenment, and shaktipat could be wrong. Seeking enlightenment may be worse than a wild goose chase; it could lead to the mental illness of a kundalini crisis.

Look at the list of my blog post titles for more information on why going for enlightenment is unhealthy and for more evidence that so-called enlightened people are not healthy.

Clear transcendence

The following is an excerpt from my book, “Chapter 5 TM Teacher Training”:

I never had any heavy unstressing in meditation or outside meditation. My experiences in meditation continued to be pretty much the same on my Teacher Training Course (TTC) as they were at the Science of Creative Intelligence (SCI) course.

I would take deep dives in meditation, perhaps reaching or getting close to Pure Consciousness and then my mental activity and breathing activity would increase.

There was a great contrast between the stillness at the door of Pure Consciousness and the mental activity of becoming aware of breathing, but in actuality I was in a very deep meditative state for the entire time.

I and other TM meditators were unsure if we ever really reached Pure Awareness because of the extreme vagueness in deep meditation and because the mind is necessarily not trying to keep track of experiences while practicing TM.

Sometimes I would sense a great power in the silence in deep meditation, but as I became aware of that great silence, I would be kicked out. Being kicked out of that deep silence was seemingly due to becoming aware that I was just about to totally transcend and also probably due to the natural urge to increase breathing.

Wanting to be aware of clear transcendence is seemingly a Catch 22 situation because wanting to watch what is going on is mental activity and transcendence requires a complete letting go.

*1973*: In my first year of TM, I don’t recall being concerned with whether or not I was experiencing Pure Consciousness which is also called transcendence, Pure Awareness, or samadhi. My concern would increase at TTC and in subsequent years after dwelling on the significance of transcendence.

*2017*: Concern for transcendence is not only an impediment to transcendence, but would also lead to being displeased with meditation in general. An analogous example: if you were taught that lots of burping was a sign of excellent health, you would be disappointed if you didn’t burp.

Thus, although the TM technique could be a healthy thing to do, the intellectual knowledge of transcendence could be counter-productive. For this and for other reasons, I now think that discussion of transcendence is intellectual blather in which very smart people fool themselves.

I think TM would be even more relaxing and beneficial if meditators didn’t have any intellectual understanding or expectation of Pure Awareness.  Aside#13

There were 6 people in my small group. We memorized together and practiced lecturing together. We also developed a close relationship by discussing our experiences in meditation.

Some common worries of TTC participants were that they didn’t know for sure if they reached Pure Awareness in meditation, and if they did have very deep experiences, they didn’t know whether to describe their experience as being clear transcendence or cloudy transcendence. Our small group bonded over commiserating for each other’s lack of clear transcendence and for each other’s human frailties.

Doubling down for spirituality

“Doubling down” has meaning in gambling. In Blackjack, “doubling down” doubles the original bid in exchange for only one more card. In everyday usage, “doubling down” refers to becoming more tenacious, zealous, or resolute in a position or undertaking that may be risky.

It is my opinion that doubling down for spirituality is potentially harmful to health and well-being. And even if it doesn’t lead to a kundalini crisis, doubling down results in impractical decisions in life.

When someone finds that their religion, meditation, and prayer aren’t resulting in the type of life that they want, there is a tendency to double down by becoming more pious in a last-chance effort. Many people double down because they assume that failure is their own fault and is unrelated to the limitations or falsity of the spiritual teaching. Consequently, spiritual people often continue to double down week after week, month after month, year after year.

In the 1980’s I was not satisfied with not being enlightened, so I doubled down in my meditation, spiritual study, diet, and other so-called health-promoting activities. I accepted the yogic advice that fanning the flames of spiritual desire would lead to enlightenment; in retrospect, I think it led to the mania of my kundalini crisis.

When faced with disappointment at one’s progress to enlightenment, here are 3 options:

  • Double down in enlightenment attempts (that many consider to be dodgy)
  • Continue on the spiritual path in a non-extreme way while living a balanced life
  • Stop seeking; start questioning basic premises of spiritual knowledge and experience

Suggestions for those in a kundalini crisis

This blog post is from the last chapter of my book.

I am not rendering medical advice of any kind, nor are these suggestions intended to replace medical advice, nor to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any disease, condition, illness, or injury.  

Suggestions for those in a kundalini crisis

  1. Immediately stop all meditation, prayer, pranayama, and other spiritual practices. Consider never restarting these practices again in order to maximize your ability to successfully partake in the activities of daily life, but, in any case, wait at least a month before restarting them.
  2. Stop thinking about religious, spiritual, and philosophical principles. Instead involve yourself in practical everyday living. Do not go to religious services, satsangs, or group meditations.
  3. Recognize that you may be having grandiose thoughts or other delusions. Don’t dwell on grandiose thoughts; find something else to do that will hold your attention. Don’t freak out acquaintances by telling them your grandiose thoughts. Only tell trusted people about your grandiose thoughts so they can help you to do grounding activities and give you advice on your decision-making. Realize that grandiose thoughts are a primary symptom of mania. Grandiose thoughts are very intense visions and thoughts so it is extremely difficult to not give credence to them and to not act on them, but do not act on grandiose thoughts.
  4. Eat substantial food regularly, not small portions and not only raw foods. Eat foods that agree with you. This is not a time to try exotic foods, rather eat foods that you know you can tolerate. Be careful to avoid foods that you may be allergic to or that you may be intolerant of. Preparing food will give you something to do and will distract you from manic thoughts. Most people can probably tolerate a combination of raw and cooked foods. Cooked foods could include things such as fish, chicken, or beef; cooked vegetables and greens; cooked potatoes; and sweet potatoes. Dairy and grains are okay if you can tolerate them. Lettuce salads, fruit, and nuts are some raw foods. If you are an extreme vegan or vegetarian, consider eating fish, eggs, dairy, and chicken.
  5. Take part in some physical activity according to what is appropriate for your physical conditioning. Long walks, long bike rides, or other long physical activities will help distract you from manic ideas and will help to ground you.
  6. If you have a friend or family member that you can trust, confide in them. Use them as a screener for your actions. Ask them if your proposed actions are dangerous, unwise, or crazy. You can’t trust your own thinking because manic thoughts can be super-intense, delusional, and euphoric.
  7. Your trusted friends and family members can help you decide if you need to see a medical practitioner, or you can go to a trusted health practitioner to get advice on what to do. However, very few people have knowledge of kundalini crises, and even fewer people will have opinions similar to this book. Your friends, advisors, and health practitioners may be more helpful to you if they read this book.

From spiritual mindset to terrestrial mindset

After realizing that euphoria and other peak experiences do not indicate that one is growing to higher states of consciousness, it will take time to come to terms and to change one’s mindset.

It is not a small thing to question a spiritual teaching, the guru, or the nature of one’s previous experiences. How can you extract yourself from a way of living that you have been immersed in for a long time? How can you have any self-esteem left when a major part of your prior self-esteem came from being on a spiritual path?

It will take courage to change the status quo, persistence to trudge through uncomfortable territory, and optimism that your future can be better.

Here are some of my ideas on how to change your mindset:

  1. I suggest distracting yourself in the simple activities of daily living. This will get you away from the grim, heavy thought processes of coming to terms with why you are changing your approach to living.
  2. Don’t dwell on the shenanigans of the guru and the spiritual movement from which you came.
  3. Get practical everyday experience under your belt so you will know that you can live successfully having a new mindset. You can experience triumph every time you do something without thinking about spirituality whether it be just doing the dishes or just taking a walk. You can experience triumph when you realize you have gone for longer and longer periods of time without thinking about spirituality.
  4. Gravitate towards friends who are grounded and/or not in the spiritual movement. Give an honest excuse to former friends that you are taking a mental health break or that you are going to get more balance into your life.
  5. Instead of getting your self-esteem from being on a spiritual path, raise your self-esteem by realizing that you are going to persist in a very difficult transition to a practical, terrestrial life.
  6. If you need help, seek help from family, friends, and/or professionals.

Evolution of cognition came with setbacks

Here is a rather new evolutionary theory about cognition that can be found at this website.

RG: How could a feature that causes psychiatric disease be an evolutionary advantage?

Kingsley: Several studies suggest that the same genes that have led to rapid increase in cognitive abilities in humans may have also increased our susceptibility to psychiatric disease. This may seem paradoxical, but it clearly applies to other systems in the body. For example, humans are one of the few mammals that have evolved the ability to walk regularly on two legs. This new mode of locomotion frees up our hands for manipulating objects and using tools. However, our recent evolutionary transition to walking upright has also brought with it a high incidence of lower back and knee problems in humans. Similarly, rapid expansion of brain size and cognitive abilities in humans has been a key feature of our evolutionary success. But, the very genomic changes that underlie recent brain changes also may increase our susceptibility to some psychiatric diseases.

Our study provides a specific example of how this could happen by expanding a particular regulatory DNA sequence inside a key gene controlling neural activity. The same structural change that produces this genomic feature also generates a tandem array that is prone to further variation and may increase the risk of some common psychiatric diseases.

The theory of Kingsley and his co-authors is that the evolutionary advantage that came with improvements in cognition also came with the significant costs of susceptibility to psychiatric diseases such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

My (controversial) extrapolation from Kingsley’s quote would be that evolution of human cognition may not only have come with a propensity for psychiatric diseases, but also with a propensity for an unjustified certainty in religious thinking. In other words, certainty and rigidity of religious thinking may be a side effect (or weakness) of the evolution of cognition. Similarly, kundalini and grandiose delusions may be a side effect (or weakness) of the evolution of cognition.

Other controversial statements about the association between religion and psychiatric disease can be found at Wikipedia and at a Scientific American blog site.

In a previous blog post, I suggested that evolution did not prepare humans for spending prolonged time in meditation and/or spiritual-type thinking. However, it might be more accurate to say that human’s maladaptation to spiritual pursuits is a result of the great evolutionary advances of cognition.