If you are able to catch the contents of this article it should be hugely revelatory if you don’t know this already. I credit my teacher, Dharmanidhi Sarasvati, for opening my eyes to the intertwining functions of the 2nd chakra and its practical application in life, as a sadhaka (yogic practitioner on the path of liberation) and as a counselor of yogic “psychology.”
Allow me to set a brief context:
1. The chakras are real. I apologize for the new-age decimation of this word and the faulty understandings conveyed by its now common associations. But, that doesn’t mean that we should throw the baby out with the bath water.
2. The chakras are responsible for mediating our entire reality. Everyone has chakra functioning to some degree. Without it, we would die. Chakra theory could easily be an entire PhD course. But, here’s a summary: Source is Energy (Shiva is Shakti). As Source comes into being as an individual (Nara), Energy is filtered through “step-up/step down” converters/transformers called chakras. This energy then expresses as the infinite combinations and permutations of the five elements, a.k.a. our lives. Thus chakras are kind of like portals between our experience of life and Source. The more open the portal, the more Source expresses as us, a.k.a. jivanamukti (living liberation/”enlightenment”). The more closed the portal, the more we express the Energy of Source in a cramped or tense fashion – i.e. ego and samsara (the flowing together of karmic suffering we call life).
This is a very basic overview of this incredibly sophisticated view of existence. For an accessible and absolutely authentic (which is rare) book on the chakras, their functions, malfunctions, and practices to enhance their capacities please see Paramahamsa Satyananda Saraswati’s, “Kundalini Tantra.”
The 2nd chakra.
The 2nd chakra, located in the spinal area behind the pubic symphysis, is responsible for a number of different functions – too many to list here. But, there is a connection between 4 of the main 2nd chakra functions that is imperative to understand if we wish to get free from our suffering. This very same chakra is responsible for:
a) Emotional reactivity – reactive facilitation based on projections/fantasies of the limited individual self as dictated by karma/conditioning.
b) Sexual pleasure, lust, conditioned desire.
c) The “water element”, which is responsible for our enjoyment, taste, nourishment, contentment, ease and sense of cohesiveness/connection.
d) Ego formation – in Sanskrit it is called the ahamkara (or the “ ‘I am’ maker”)
This probably speaks volumes to your sense of intuition even if you have never heard this… but we are actually getting off on our emotional reactions. Not only are we literally turned on by emoting but we are then using that sexual energy – every moment – to recreate/conceive/birth our self-image (ego), which is the source of human suffering. Oh shit!
The fact that this emotional reactivity is all tied up with our ego formation and our sexual pleasure is why it is so hard to “just drop it.” Sexual energy is the most potent force we know. It is Kundalini Shakti herself. We are literally using our free will to strangle our otherwise unlimited Energy and cramp it into this limited form of our ideas about who we think we are. Creative force is alive and well in each of us, all the time. Yet, we squander it on recreating our ego, moment-by-moment… and we love it!
It titillates us and it makes us feel alive. So much so, that we may have no experience of a life other than one of constant emotional facilitation. Our ego becomes so identified with our reactions to stimulus that we actually just assume that that is what life is.
When I first broke through this pattern for a moment and glimpsed something beyond it I was shocked! I really thought I was engaged in life, but it was actually a near constant reaction to the self-image formation dream world that I was creating with my own sexual force and free will. It was wonderful and terrifying to see, exhilarating and depressing all at once. I had a peek at freedom, but recognized how entrenched and even addicted I was to the pleasure I was getting in self-indulging my ego-stories. I realized that even in “negative” situations I was “getting off” on the drama.
From here, if this recognition really sets in, there is a lot we can do about it – the disciplines of tantra are practically infinite. Classical tantra (not of the new age ilk which is keen to justify their hedonism as “spirituality” – major 2nd chakra “issues”) was designed to not only understand this relationship between projections, emotions, sexual pleasure, ego-samsara, and unconditioned enjoyment, but to also utilize it as the fuel for our transformation. Stopping the emotional reactive flow of our creative juices from spilling down and out through anything that has to do with our ego and using that very same force to nourish the higher chakras of cosmic awareness, compassion, love, and bliss is called “turning the light.”
But this is not just an intellectual decision or a matter of will. And it is not just asana practice that will make this “turn.” There is a current trend in thinking that understanding this philosophy and leading a pretty healthy life with some consistent yoga classes and a fairly regular meditation practice is sufficient to transform ego energy (ahamkara) to enlightenment energy (Kundalini). Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. But, it is possible! And, that, my friends is a beautiful thing.
First we must recognize the huge pay-off we get by staying limited. We must admit that we love to suffer – otherwise we wouldn’t keep it up! Then, once we see the predicament we are in we can consciously decide: “Okay, I need to starve out the hungry ghost (the insatiable appetite of the ego’s desire is often depicted as a hungry ghost in classical dharma teachings) by no longer indulging in the stories of my limited self.” According to these dharma teachings the ghost realm (preta loka) fixation can not be given into because feeding the ego only creates more hunger and never results in lasting satisfaction. In refusing to feed the ego by legitimizing its interpretation of reality an entire universe of the most potent energy available, our sexual power, will be unleashed in the interest of our enlightenment as opposed to our suffering.
We can exercise all we want, eat as healthily as possible, refrain from alcohol and drugs – we can even be celibate yogis – but we will still be drained of energy as long we maintain our emotional masturbation. And without sufficient energy it is impossible to be consistently content and happy, let alone radically enlightened as the texts of the yoga traditions suggest we can be.
Post script: This is the “yogic” version of a recent article on a similar dynamic written in more scientific/layperson’s terms – Why Psychotherapy Alone Doesn’t Really work.