When a person first learns his true self, something else rises from the depths of his being and takes possession of him. It is something beyond the mind, it is infinite, divine and eternal.

In 1937, at the age of 34, the gangster Gopi Krishna experienced a spontaneous spiritual awakening. For the past seventeen years, Krishna has made it a habit to get up before dawn every day and spend a few hours quietly thinking about the “imaginary lotus at the top of his head.”

After awakening, Krishna suffered from a number of psychological problems and at times thought he was going crazy – until finally, about 12 years after awakening, he entered a state of exaltation and happiness that cannot be described.

In 1977, at the age of 29, Eckhart Tolle, who had been suffering from depression and anxiety for many years, woke up in a state of horror and extreme fear.” The deep emotional trauma that accompanied this event proved to be the catalyst for Tolle’s spiritual rebirth. For the next five months, Eckhart “lived in a state of undisturbed deep peace and bliss, after which his intensity somewhat decreased.” He spent the next two years “sitting on park benches in a state of unusually intense joy.”

These two experiences seem unrelated to each other. Krishna’s spiritual awakening seems to have relied on disciplined meditation, while Tolle’s transformation seems to have been triggered by depression and anxiety; however, they do have one thing in common. To paraphrase the Maharshi, “something rose from the depths of their being and possessed them.” This “something” is called kundalini.

If we could ask Gopi Krishna how best to awaken kundalini, he would probably tell us to sit in padmasana and meditate on the sahasrara chakra for seventeen years. Undoubtedly, many have tried to imitate him, but as far as I know, no one has succeeded.

Spiritual awakening always involves factors of receptivity that are difficult to count on. How did Gopi Krishna awaken kundalini and why did it take him so long to do it? He tells us almost nothing about the events or circumstances that immediately preceded his transformation. Seventeen years of disciplined meditation-in his case-could have played a role; but why did it happen on this particular day?

In his book The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle recommends that we focus on the now, thus creating a gap in the flow of thoughts. Being acutely aware of the current moment, we presumably enter a state of inner connection in which we become more alert and awake than in a state identified with the mind. This, according to Tolle, is the essence of meditation.

Krishna and Tolle recommend techniques designed to create a gap in the flow of thoughts. These methods were derived from established spiritual practices dating back thousands of years. Unfortunately, however, meditation as such, or meditation by itself, will not lead to spiritual awakening. There are sophisticated meditation practices in the world that can drown out thoughts for long periods of time – or, like the philosopher Ken Wilber, even cause a neurological condition that simulates hibernation (hibernation), without experiencing spiritual rebirth.

All traditional spiritual cosmologies justify their shortcomings, either by giving a special status to those who, thanks to luck or chance, somehow manage to awaken kundalini, or by inventing contrived hierarchies based on concepts such as karma, grace, spiritual evolution or personal growth.

Curiously, Tolle does not seem to have engaged in any kind of sadhana before his spiritual rebirth. In other words, Tolle did not follow the instructions he gives in his book “The Power ofNow”, and the question naturally arises: could Tolle have caused a spiritual transformation by following his own instructions?

The answer is probably no: Tolle was a depressed person and believed that depression led to his spiritual rebirth. If he had followed the recommendations of “The Power of Now”, it would have nullified all the benefits that depression gave him. It was Eckhart’s depression, not “The Power of Now” that led to the spontaneous emotional crisis that preceded his transformation.

Only Krsna can point to the history of spiritual discipline, which – it seems, even at a superficial glance – led him to awakening; but even Krsna failed to see its true cause. Krishna’s yoga was not the most significant factor in his awakening, and the fact that he was a self-controlled and disciplined person capable of such complete self-control turned out to be a source of problems, because it deprived him of the ability to give up and aggravated the fear of losing control over himself.

The true test of any experience is its repeatability. The value of any instruction is determined by whether it leads to enlightenment. Millions of people suffer from mental distress, depression and intense self-hatred, even more practicing meditation in the world, but such experiences or practices rarely lead to self-realization – or rather, almost never.

Great personal benefits can be derived from the practice of meditation; but spiritual rebirth does not happen unless the bliss of the “I” increases enough to fill the gap between our thoughts. Disciplined meditation for many hours is not only optional, but can also be counterproductive. It’s not about the amount of effort we expend, but when it’s expended.