What Is Kula?

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Kula (community/kinship/lineage)

Kula Definition

Kula refers to a community, group, family, or lineage.

In Dharmashastra (Hindu code of conduct), kula refers to a ‘part of a village’. In a modern context, it’s often used to reference a group of yogis who come together to practice yoga in many settings & environments, not necessarily sharing a lineage.

a yoga kula, or community

Kula deep dive

Kula as Community

As Abhinavagupta describes the term, kula, which is derived from the root ‘kul’, means ‘coming together as a group‘.

This may be yogis who share a guru and a practice that has been passed down through a lineage, a group of yogis who have embarked on a teacher training together, those who attend a group class at a local studio, people who sit together in satsang, or anything else that fits!

In Anusara Yoga, a yoga that claims to be centered around this word, kula means a similar thing, defining it as ‘a community of the heart’.

Anusara yogis, like yogis of many traditions and schools, see themselves as part of a worldwide community or a ‘spiritual family’ who support one another and have a shared vision for themselves, their collective, and the world.

If you practice Buddhism, this word has a similar meaning to Sangha, which denotes a group of Buddhist practitioners living and/or practicing together in a community.

two women hugging and holding yoga mats in a field

The Kula Path

Sometimes called the ‘Kula path’, the Kulamarga, or the Kaulacara, the Kaula tradition is a Tantric system of Saiva Tantra that’s goal is to achieve the union of Shiva and Shakti. The path emerged from the goddess-oriented Vidyapitha traditions, worshipping Yoginis or Dakinis.

In the Tantraloka, Rajanaka Jayaratha explains that the word ‘kula’ refers to four groups: Mahākaula, Kaula, Akula, and Kulākula (these may have been distinct schools of Kula Tantra at some point).

Sometimes called a ‘left-handed’ path, it’s a path that focuses on rituals and practices, performing worship with the use of things like meat, fish, urine, semen, menstrual blood, feces, phlegm, and intoxicants.

Interestingly, it’s the path that Abhinava’s parents were on.

As advanced Tantrik practitioners, they conceived him in a Kaula ritual (please note these are not the same sort of practices that neo-tantric practitioners claim come from ancient classical Tantric texts).

Contrary to the Brahminical social order that existed at the time, for the Kaulas, the human body became the primary seat of worship as the divine was seen as everyone and everything.

The very substances which are said to be the cause of a man’s downfall in the Vedic religion (ārsam) become the means of accelerating his liberation in this System of the Left (vāmaśāsanam)”

The Ānandatantra (quoted in the Tantraloka 37-5)
a group holding hands

kula in your life

While practicing by yourself has many benefits and is often needed, having a kula helps to keep us on track and navigate the spiritual path. Not only this, but as humans we need connection and other people to help us thrive!

A kula is a sacred part of spiritual life, adding depth and meaning to our practices. Here are some ways you can find your own kula:

  1. Go to classes at local studios
  2. Find a local meditation group
  3. Commit to studying a teacher training course (even if you don’t want to teach afterward)
  4. Find an online community where you can practice asana or study philosophy
  5. Join an online course
  6. Attend local workshops
  7. Find a teacher that resonates with you and learn more about their lineage & gurus
  8. Find online satsangs with followers of teachers or traditions that speak to you or that you find fascinating
  9. Organize a group of friends, family members, colleagues, or strangers that you can start practicing with & build your own kula

By delighting in the practice of whatever you’re doing, appreciating everyone you meet, and setting a genuine intention to see yourself in others, you will naturally draw a community of other like-minded souls and be able to build a kula anywhere in the world!

Within the classical Tantric view especially, a kula is an essential part of the awakening process, guiding us to the power of awakened awareness.

Remember that a kula isn’t just about creating and growing connections with others, it’s also about deepening our intimacy with and experience of our own essence-nature.

Kulas play a huge role in helping us to decondition the identities that prevent us from seeing reality as it truly is. It’s just as much about self-discovery as it is about community; to know the Self through knowing others.

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To go deep and expand your yogic knowledge, access our free Yoga Terms Encyclopedia, where we host a profound wealth of ancient and timeless yogic wisdom in an accessible modern format.

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Liz is a Qigong and Yoga teacher based in Gloucestershire with a love for all things movement, nature & community. She strives to create a trauma-informed space in which everyone is empowered to be their authentic selves. www.elizabethburns.co.uk

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