Are we humans hardwired for sex, sadness and liberation? According to Tantric yoga, yes we are!
In the book Gods of Love and Ecstasy, Alain Danielou links the spiritual hearts of the Indian God Shiva with the Greek God Dionysus. In these two Divine characters of magic and transcendence, East and West meet, both literally and symbolically.
When mystical labyrinths appeared in the earth of Crete some four thousand years ago, Shivaism (Tantric Yoga) had already existed in India for thousands of years. “Since its remotest origins, Shivaism has been inseparable from Yoga,” writes Danielou. He also claims that Shivaism as a sacred, yogic culture stretched over a vast area—from India way into Greek and Celtic Europe.
Perhaps that is why we see sculptures of naked women in lotus pose in ancient France and a Viking yogi on the so-called Buddha Bucket from an 800 AD Viking ship in Norway.
In other words, the inner labyrinth of Yoga, the kundalini, which is a coiled up snake of creativity, sex and spiritual liberation at the bottom of our spines, also manifests as exterior labyrinths of the earth, as symbolic representations of the inner journey of yoga. And Danielou believes these shamanic and yogic snakes crawled to the West from India and can be found in caves and earth circles from the Ganges to England.
When you walk a labyrinth counterclockwise, you symbolically unwind the cosmic coil of kundalini, you liberate yourself from the earth cave of the Muladhara chakra. And this spiritual uncoiling from the inside is the awakening of Shakti, the kundalini, so that she can unite with Shiva in the Sahasrara, the crown chakra.
This whole inner enterprise of uncoiling the inner labyrinth is what we call yoga. And its an enterprise that’s been going on for a few thousand years longer than the world’s oldest yoga mat, since when people did their asanas on dirt, sand and rock, since when people did their meditation naked in rain and frigid weather in the Himalayas.
All energy is lodged in this first chakra, the abode of the Shakti. Indeed, there are four fundamental vrittis, or human longings, associated with this chakra:
In other words, the first chakra is not the “lowest” chakra, it is actually the seat of our spiritual longing for both liberation and Dharmic action. Indeed, our thirst for both physical and spiritual love comes from this inner labyrinthine cave. Thus, according to Tantra, we are hardwired for spirituality, for dharma, for bliss. We are hardwired for lust, as well, but even as much for liberation, for spiritual union, for yoga.
“There is no fulfillment without the body. Hence obtaining the wealth of the body, engage thyself in works of merit.” –Kularnava Tantra
That’s why in India, you will see people worshiping vaginas and penises made of stones. The vagina, the yoni, or Shakti, is the earth labyrinth, the energy from where everything is created. This coiled female energy surrounds the male phallus, the linga, or Shiva, the self-born consciousness erect and alive in all things.
That is why in India, you will see people worshiping snakes as they represent the coiled inner serpentine, the kundalini Shakti, in nature, in the body, and in the cosmos.
As you can see, Tantric yoga was not created by puritans, nor by the faint-hearted, but also not by the purely hedonistic. For these yogis of old, they knew that above the first chakra, there were numerous challenges ahead. These challenging vrittis, including hatred, deceit, possessiveness, cruelty, fear, and arrogance, and many more, are located in clusters of six, ten, twelve, sixteen and two, around the other chakras.
As you can see, most of these vrittis are more psychologically challenging than the four primary ones located in the Muladhara chakra. But there are also positive ones, including hope, effort, discernment, and perhaps the most important of all, the love vritti located in the heart chakra.
Furthermore, there is the human capacity for awakening spiritual knowledge, the famous para vritti located in the ajina, or eyebrow chakra.
The Tantric science of kundalini, chakras, and vrittis—and how these esoteric, inner expressions are awakened, balanced and alchemically tuned by hatha yoga and meditation—is complex and beyond the scope of this short blog. But the heart of this science is reflected in both the coiled labyrinth of the earth and the coiled kundalini of the body.
In other words, the spiritual energy labyrinth inside us, the kundalini, is reflected in the sacred revelation of the earth labyrinth. As inside, so outside.
Our spiritual practice, our yoga, helps us uncoil and liberate the kundalini labyrinth and thereby free us from its containment in the earth chamber of the first chakra.
“The rush of bliss that ensues upon the meeting of the Pair, the Supreme Shakti and the Self (Shiva) above, is the real Congress. All else is mere copulation.” –Kularnava Tantra