I had a series of kundalini experiences 10 years ago, possibly triggered by a recent practice of meditation. I wasn't expecting this and it came as a surprise. That notwithstanding, this was a very transformative experience for me, since I had taken up meditation (in a very amateurish way) specifically with the intention to study dhArmic contemplative traditions.
I was not merely driven by spiritual reasons. There was an element of intellectual curiosity, as well as a feeling of duty towards our society (India) to make sense of its traditions in an attempt to bridge the gap that I saw between India's classical worldviews and the modern scientific worldviews. (I can go more into details if anyone is interested).
I worked for some more time in the industry to save up some money, and returned back to India to study these topics more fully. Currently I am following a long term project that has the following limbs:
* Gain an stabilized and experiential understanding of non-ordinary states of consciousness from within the framework of a bonafide spiritual tradition. The tradition I have chosen is Shri Vidya.
* Study classical languages, and the relevant scriptures written in them. So far I have studied Sanskrit, have a basic understanding of Tamil, and soon I hope to study Pali as well, and sometime later, classical Tibetan. This is to navigate the classical literature on these topics.
* Study several areas of modern rational and scientific tradition authentically. I am not looking at a mere "pop" understanding, but hope to actually engage with the subject technically. So far I have completed a senior year series on quantum mechanics from MIT @ edX, and also the relevant mathematical areas from my independent study.
My aim is to see what modern rational and scientific traditions have to say about classical dhArmic views of reality, but also, vice-versa: can classical dhArmic worldviews shed light on topics of interest in modern science?
As I see it, dhArmic contemplative traditions lie at the intersection of several perspectives. I will outline these below.
There is obviously a subjective experience or transformations that happen in tantra or advaita vedAnta. In these traditions, the aim is to fundamentally transform your conventional understanding of the self and its relation to reality. For e.g., in advaita vedAnta we seek to attain nirvikalpa samAdhi, where you realize that the world of names and forms that you experience is a mere superimposition on an eternal Absolute. (And so on in other traditions such as tantra).
There is a dhArmic psychological understanding of what happens. This is not the objective psychology that we're familiar with, but a subjective description of what happens within. This understanding is captured in sAmkhya and advaita vedAnta, that theorize how your phenomenal experience of names and forms comes about from an undifferentiated and simple basis.
There is a dhArmic physiological perspective. This is the kundalini system that we're familiar with. But this physiology once again is analysis of the experience from a very subjective, first-person perspective. I.e., you look "inward" and describe phenomena as they are felt, not as they are observed in an objective, third-person perspective, which is what modern physiology is.
There is the religious perspective, where the contemplative experiences are seen as a religious quest, and informs the praxis of Hinduism and Buddhism. For e.g., the aim in nondualist shaiva traditions is to realize that you are shiva. Similarly, in shAkta traditions, the aim is to realize that you are shakti. Even in dualist traditions (such as shaiva siddhAnta), the aim is still to elevate yourself to a state of being divine, and recognize that you are qualitatively "resonant" but ontologically distinct from a certain deity.
There is a gnostic perspective, of which I am most interested in nondualism in its Hindu and Buddhist forms. Among these, I am more familiar with the Hindu traditions of nondualistic shaivism and vedAnta. This is the ontological component of the theory. Apparently, in such elevated states of awareness, you realize that reality is of a certain form, and the world of names and forms that we live in are mostly a construction overlaid on a more fundamental Absolute. The view in Buddhism is different, but has overtones of the same idea (particularly in yogAchAra).
Of course, then there is the scientific view of all this. There is the view from psychiatry where your normal sense of self is disturbed spontaneously in psychosis, and the views in cognitive science. There is also the view from modern physics that has its own understanding of what reality is like.
My quest is to simultaneously achieve an authentic understanding of the scientific perspective, an experiential understanding of the contemplative traditions, and a study of the classical scriptures, to see how they all resolve into a coherent view.
So far I have achieved the following:
* A modicum of financial independence. The returns from my savings are enough to sustain a modest lifestyle in Kerala, India. I can tutor students a few hours a day to supplement this income.
* A basic understanding of Sanskrit. I have completed coursework from Samskrta Bharati and Madras Sanskrit College. I also taught myself to read and write Tamil to navigate the rich classical literature in that language. I also hope to learn pAli and classical Tibetan some day.
* Some coursework in modern mathematical physics to the level of graduate quantum mechanics. In addition to my independent study, I have completed courses on QM from MIT on edX.
* Religious practices and study. I can now chant major vedic sUktas and stotras, and am currently progressing through a study of both tantra (shrI vidyA) and vedAnta (advaita). In particular, I am initiated into shrI vidyA - a tantric tradition prevalent in my part of the country that combines the tantric, yogic, and vedAntic worldviews.
* Miscellaneous readings on how all this "hang" together. These are too disparate to outline here. But I have done a bit of thinking of how these various elements fit in with each other.
I am painfully aware that I am only really getting started. But I have a solid roadmap for the next 10 - 15 years of study. In fact, arriving at an understanding of this roadmap itself took me a long time and has been my most significant achievement thus far.
What I lack is a "sangha" or "kula" of people who think like me: i.e., those who simultaneously and seriously seek to study dhArmic contemplative traditions and also modern scientific traditions to see where they intersect. I am a member of several spiritual groups, but they usually tend not to be open to a critical and even skeptical study of spiritual phenomena.
Ideally I would like to work with Hindus who are motivated by a love for Indic traditions, are intellectually humble, have a deep respect for reason and science, and feel the need to authentically address the dissonance between India's classical traditions and the modern rational-empirical traditions. In my opinion this dissonance lies at the heart of many of the issues facing the country today.