BOOKSTORES TODAY are filled with paperbacks that describe the chakras, the energy centers through which Tantric yogis guide the Kundalini to attain realization.
The book you are about to read is one of the earliest in that genre. It was written more than five hundred years ago in Sanskrit by a Bengali yogi named Purnananda. We know this book was highly esteemed through the centuries because it was the subject of numerous commentaries.
In the early 1900s, a manuscript of this text was obtained by Sir John Woodroffe, a British judge living in India who wrote under the pseudonym Arthur Avalon. He translated it into English and included it as part of his famous book The Serpent Power which was first published in 1919.
Avalon’s translation is reproduced here exactly as it appeared in The Serpent Power. However, in an effort to make his extremely dense text easier to read, we have omitted most of his commentary and notes and added a few notes of our own. If you want to see all his commentary and notes exactly as they were published in the sixth edition of the book, you can download this PDF for free.
We have retained Avalon’s IAST spellings including cakra except in headings and subheadings where our fonts don’t support it.
The copyright on this translation has expired.
Photo of Sir John George Woodroffe from National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG-x42937, taken 25 October 1928.
Arthur Avalon, pseudonym of Sir John George Woodroffe (1865‒1936), was a British judge who lived and worked in India.
Articles about Kundalini and shaktipat on this site.
Classic texts on this site.
By Arthur Avalon. PDF. Complete text of 6th edition.
The Serpent Power: The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga
By Arthur Avalon
This book contains meticulous, scholarly translations of two Tantric classics, Sat-Cakra-Nirupana and Paduka-Pancaka, along with copious notes and extremely lengthy explanations by Avalon.
Arthur Avalon was a pseudonym of Sir John Woodroffe, a British judge who lived in India.
This book is very dense and it contains an almost unbelievable amount of information. Although it’s old — it was first published in 1919 — nothing like it has been written before or since. It’s possible that this book contains more information about chakras and Kundalini than all other English books put together. But be warned: this is heavy book — heavy in every way — and not for casual reading.
Crystal, an Amazon reviewer, writes:
“What I appreciated most about this book first published in 1919 is Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroffe) takes great pains to stay true to the Sanskrit texts instead of reinventing them or overlaying them with his personal experiences, interpretations and thoughts. This book is a follow up/expansion on his previous book Shakti and Shakta and in retrospect I wish I had read it first, although it is not necessary as this book stands on its own. In the beginning of the book Avalon/Woodroffe takes to task some of the Westerners, most notably the Theosophical Society and Charles Leadbeater, which popularized their version/ideas about the 7 chakras in Western society. Avalon/Woodroffe felt they also popularized misconceptions or inaccuracies along with their ideas about the cakras/chakras. As the author prefers to let the texts speak for themselves most of the book is devoted to his translation of the texts and their description of the 6 cakras (chakras), their associations and powers. He also discusses kundalini and the rising of kundalini. Having said all this, the book is not an easy read. Avalon/Woodroffe uses many sanskrit terms and verses to keep to the actual text/meaning and while he does explain each and there are copius footnotes this will not be reading you can breeze through. I particularly enjoyed some of the verses.”
This page was published on May 26, 2000 and last revised on January 11, 2018.