Gopi Krishna (yogi)

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Pandit Gopi Krishna

Gopi Krishna (30 May 1903 – 31 July 1984) was an Indian yogi, mystic, teacher, social reformer, and writer. He was one of the first[citation needed] to popularise the concept of Kundalini among Western readers. His autobiography Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man, which presented his personal account of the phenomenon of his awakening of Kundalini, (later renamed Living with Kundalini), was published in Great Britain and the United States and has since appeared in eleven major languages.[1] According to June McDaniel, his writings have influenced Western interest in kundalini yoga.[2]

Early life[edit]

He was born in a small village outside Srinagar, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. He spent his early years there, and later lived in Lahore, in the Punjab of British India.[citation needed]


At the age of twenty, he returned to Kashmir. During the succeeding years he secured a post in the state government, married and raised a family. Early in his career he became the leader of a social organisation that was devoted to helping the disadvantaged in his community, especially with regard to issues concerning the well-being and rights of women.[citation needed]

At the age of thirty-four, while meditating one morning, he reported to have experienced the sudden and forceful awakening of Kundalini.[citation needed]

Gopi Krishna's experience radically altered the path of his life. He came to believe that the human brain was evolving and that an individual's profound mystical experience was a foretaste of what would eventually become an all-pervasive transformation in human consciousness. By his own account, Gopi Krishna's initial experience triggered a transformative process that lasted for twelve years. During this time, the sensations of light, splendor and joy alternated with – and were often completely overshadowed by – sensations of fire, unbearable heat and bleak depression. In the introduction to Krishna's book, Frederic Spiegelberg writes:

{{Quotation|Being exposed to Gopi Krishna's experiences is like meeting a space traveller who seemingly for no purpose has landed on a strange and unknown star without the standard equipment of the professional astronaut, and who simply reports about the bewildering landscape around him, colorfully, truthfully, without really knowing exactly what he has found. We have here, in this wholly unintellectual personality, a classical example of a simple man, uneducated in Yoga, who yet through intense labour and persistent enthusiasm, succeeds in achieving, if not Samadhi, yet some very high state in Yoga perfection, based entirely on his inner feeling development and not at all on ideas and traditions. . . Lacking the guiding hand of a master, it is Gopi Krishna's fate to be thrown from one despair into another, hectic ups-and-downs, the daily bread of this sensational experience. Like Faust, Na Ro Pa and many others, he finds a solution several times in his life only at the point of death. Even commonplace events take on an enormous character and lead him into depressions and dangers almost to the point of ruination. His own analysis of that situation is that the awakened Kundalini went up into the Pingala nadi instead of into the Sushumna nadi where it rightfully belongs. Where does all this lead him? To constant light-awareness, shimmering halo-consciousness but interrupted repeatedly by years of relapse and illness.[3]

Before his death in 1984 at the age of eighty-one, Gopi Krishna would write seventeen books on Higher Consciousness – three of them entirely in verse. He credited this output not to his own efforts but to inspiration from a higher source.[citation needed]

One of the lesser-known facts about Gopi Krishna's life is that he was a crusader for women's rights. Putting this in historical and cultural context shows how very extraordinary his dedication to this cause was. In 1930 it had been less than ten years since women had won the vote and the vast majority of the women in the world were still considered chattel. In India conditions for women were even worse and a man campaigning publicly for women's rights would have been unheard of.[citation needed]

Gopi Krishna was reported to be a supporter for the equality of men and women. He acted, and at one point ended up imprisoned for his actions. One of his most far-reaching contributions involved bettering conditions for widows. At that time in India, the plight of a woman whose husband died was often horrific, especially if she had no grown children to help or protect her. The custom of sati (throwing oneself on the husband's funeral pyre) though outlawed was still practised, particularly in remote areas.[relevant?]

Along with his humanitarian efforts, Gopi Krishna produced poetry and books in prose and verse form. But his main thrust over the years was to write about mystical experience and the evolution of consciousness from a scientific point of view – that there is supposed to be a biological mechanism in the human body, known from ancient times in India as Kundalini, which is responsible for creativity, genius, psychic ability, religious, and mystical experience.[citation needed]

He chose the path of yoga due to his circumstances. His father renounced the world to lead a religious life leaving his twenty-eight-year-old mother with the responsibility of raising him and his two sisters. His mother now pinned all her hopes for success on her only son.[4] Pandit Gopi Krishna was also a good freestyle wrestler and it is well known that he beat many a good wrestler. People who knew him well mention that he had the capability to be a world class wrestler, however, he spent most of his energy on intellectual pursuits.[citation needed]

But he failed to pass the examination to enter college, and he now took a lowly job and established his family. He also started on a discipline of meditation to discover who he was. After having been engaged in this for many years, he had his first Kundalini experience at the age of 34, which he describes thus in his autobiography.[5]

According to June McDaniel, his writings have influenced Western interest in kundalini yoga.[2] He wrote many books and travelled all over the world giving lectures. He came to feel the kundalini experience underlies all (or most) religions that started with a personal revelation. He could see kundalini iconography in cultures worldwide, from ancient Egypt to Quetzalcoatl to the caduceus of Mercury, and believed there was a common basis, and that he had been granted entry to this vision. Gopi Krishna theorised that the brain was in a state of organic evolution, and that the rising of Kundalini into the brain would open a normally silent chamber called brahma-randra in the yogic tradition. Krishna worked tirelessly to promote the scientific investigation of kundalini in the human frame, hypothesizing that this energy was leading humankind towards the goal of Higher Consciousness.[6]


  • Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man. Boulder, Colorado: Shambhala Books. 1971. Autobiography with commentary by James Hillman.
  • The Biological Basis of Religion and Genius. New York: Harper and Row. 1971. Introduction by Carl Friedrich Freiherr von Weizsäcker.
  • The Secret of Yoga. New York: Harper and Row. 1972.
  • Higher Consciousness: The Evolutionary Thrust of Kundalini. New York: Julian Press. 1974.
  • The Awakening of Kundalini. New York: E P Dutton. 1975.
  • The Riddle of Consciousness. New York: Kundalini Research Foundation. 1976. ISBN 0-917776-00-3.
  • Secrets of Kundalini in Panchastivai. New Delhi: KRPT. 1976.
  • The Real Nature of Mystical Experience. New York: New Concepts Publishing. 1978.
  • Yoga: A Vision of its Future. New Delhi: KRPT. 1978.
  • The Shape of Events to Come. New York: KRPT. 1979.


Works cited[edit]

  • Kay, Tom (n.d.). "An interview with Gopi Krishna".
  • Krishna, Gopi (1971). Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man. Boulder, Colorado: Shambhala Books.
  • Krishna, Gopi (1975). The Dawn of a New Science. Institute for Consciousness Research. ISBN 0-917776-14-3.
  • Krishna, Gopi (1993). Living with Kundalini. Shambhala. ISBN 0-87773-947-1.
  • McDaniel, June (2006). Offering Flowers, Feeding Skulls Popular Goddess Worship in West Bengal. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-516791-0. Western interest at the popular level in kundalini yoga was probably most influenced by the writings of Gopi Krishna, in which kundalini was redefined as chaotic and spontaneous religious experience.

Further reading[edit]

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