what is the golden chain in kundalini yoga

The Golden Chain is the energetic wisdom of all our teachers – past, present and future.

In Kundalini yoga, the Golden Chain connects students and teachers across generations as far as the imagination can reach. Like the universe, it has no clear beginning or end. You can’t hold it, break it, or end it once and for all, because we’re always learning and teaching, even if we’re not teachers! 

The Golden Chain is the energetic wisdom of all our teachers – past, present and future.

This is the modern philosophy that Guru Singh and I teach in Kundalini University, but you don’t need to be a Kundalini yogi to appreciate the power of the Golden Chain 💫

The Golden Chain is a principle that all teachers – including, but not limited to, aspiring yoga teachers – can learn from.

Journaling prompt: Who are the teachers in your life? Who is in your golden chain? Include your ancestral wisdom, role models, and creative influences.

What Is The Golden Chain In Kundalini Yoga?

Ok, whaaat? What is the Golden Chain, like really? To put it simply, the golden chain is your connection to your teacher, your teacher’s teacher, and the infinite consciousness of your spiritual practice. Traditionally, the Golden Chain referred exclusively to your spiritual lineage as a yogi, but think about it as anything that has expanded your awareness and inspired your growth 🦋 

For me, that includes my dad, Alan Finger, Krishnamacharya, Yogananda, Stevie Nicks, Yosemite and big trees.

The Golden Chain represents an energetic bond that connects the wisdom and inspiration of these teachers within each of us. The Golden Chain is the sum of everyone who has influenced you! The most basic premise of the Golden Chain is that everything comes from something, and this concept isn’t unique to yoga philosophy: It’s foundational to academic research, every modern innovation and artistic work. 

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. – Isaac Newton

In yogic philosophy, however, the Golden Chain involves renouncing the ego by stepping into the humble shoes of the student – a receiver of knowledge. It involves acknowledging those who came before us and those who will come after us in this sacred exchange of wisdom.

⏰ Wake up call to any yogi who’s confused their number of Insta followers with their impact as teachers!! No shade on social divas, but these platforms can skew the focus *a bit* toward the individual, IMO. And LOL, I basically live on my social channels – take my word for it.

The Golden Chain tells us that teaching is really not at all about you (or me!!) at all. A teacher’s power doesn’t lie in their individual qualities, aesthetic, motivation, wisdom, etc. Instead, the act of teaching is about your ability to communicate on a higher plane of consciousness to your students. At the highest level of teaching, you become a vessel for all the teachings you’ve received along your journey. As your awareness expands, you release attachment to yourself and your ego, and begin to embody an eternal, divine, wise soul. 

Acknowledging the Golden Chain is a humbling practice, and one that makes you feel lucky to give to your students. You remember that the essence of a true teacher is to serve humanity, and to move deeper into your intuition and out of your head to share wisdom on the deepest level.

Adi Mantra 

Kundalini yogis will definitely know this simple and accessible practice to help you access the Golden Chain. The Adi Mantra chant is shared at the beginning of every Kundalini yoga class, and serves to connect us to our deeper understanding and higher consciousness. This is such an important mantra practice to the Kundalini tradition that it’s usually the first thing you’ll learn as a new student.

adi mantra

And the meaning of Adi Mantra reflects this: It translates roughly into “first creative action.” The Adi Mantra connects you to the natural flow, tradition, and wisdom that of your own Golden Chain. The beautiful thing about this mantra is that you can literally do it anywhere, humming if you’re on the train or whatever, and tune into the frequency of your wisdom guides 🙏

It’s short and sweet: 

Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo 

And it means:

I bow to the Creative Wisdom, I bow to the Divine Teacher within.

With this mantra, you honor all the teachers who have come before you. You align your energy and center upon your Highest Self. With practice, this mantra snaps you out of ego-obsessions, awakens your radiant body, and liberates your soul.

YouTube video

Honoring Student & Teacher

Practices like the Adi Mantra are designed to honor the deeply sacred connection between student and teacher in yoga. Though yoga can often feel like a solitary practice, it wouldn’t exist without the relationship between student and teacher (and often the kula or community too!). Even as advanced yogis, there’s only so much we can do on our own. We need an outside perspective to help us see things we may be missing, to check our ego, and to simply remind us that we’re not alone. 

When a yoga teacher begins their teaching journey, they must honor this connection of energy with their students. Traditionally, yoga used to be a completely oral tradition; it passed down solely through guru and student relationships. The internet has fortunately made mindfulness accessible to everyone around the world, but we sometimes forget that the basis of this sacred teaching tradition is the flow of wisdom through strong, personal relationships. I’m grateful to develop these through my Uplifted community.

The master / apprentice archetype isn’t as celebrated in the Western world. But if you’re aching to teach Kundalini yoga, tapping into the wisdom energy of the Golden Chain is absolutely THE way to connect with the soul of this tradition.

You Might Also Like: 9 Fierce Kundalini Yoga Poses to Light Your Inner Fire

Gurus & Modern Yoga Lineage 

But when we talk about high profile teachers in our modern age, we need to address the hazards of the guru / apprentice dynamic. It definitely isn’t all enlightenment! History shows us that teachers who become idols, no matter how powerful or apparently deserving they might be, can exploit the power imbalance with their students. Today, it’s widely accepted that Yogi Bhajan, the leader who brought Kundalini yoga to the West, sexually assaulted his disciples. So how do we acknowledge that unacceptable behavior in our lineage? 

guru singh and Brett Larkin

In truth, the guru isn’t a singular person. Whether we choose to denounce and ignore those who violate the student / teacher relationship, or denounce and acknowledge them, is up to every yogi to decide. Just remember that the Golden Chain is a spiritual energy that’s alive in each of us. Connecting to it should always feel safe, secure, and nurturing – like coming home ☺️

No one person is more worthy of enlightenment than another, and no guru can give you something that you don’t already possess. I believe that a caring and conscious leader should guide your search for mental clarity and higher consciousness. The purpose of seeking a spiritual teacher outside of yourself is so they can help awaken you to the guru inside of yourself.

As many yoga teachers learn over the years, a true leader learns to rid themselves of their own ego, so they can pass on their knowledge in its purest form to students. In the Age of Aquarius, a true guru is a vessel rather than an icon, and an endless energetic loop, rather than a single link in the Golden Chain. 

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