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.
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.
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:
dharma, or psycho-spiritual longing
artha, or psychic longing
káma, or physical longing
mokÅa, or spiritual longing
In other words, the first chakra is not the “lowest” chakra, it is actually the seat of our spiritual longing, our thirst for both physical and spiritual love comes from this inner labyrinthine cave. We are indeed hardwired for spirituality, for dharma, for bliss. Hardwired for lust, as well, but even more so for liberation, for spiritual union, for yoga.
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 selfborn consciousness erected in all things.
As you can see, Tantric yoga was not created by puritans, but also not by hedonists. 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, arrogance-are located in clusters of six, ten, twelve, sixteen and two, around the other six 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 apara vritti located in the ajina, or eyebrow chakra.
The science of kundalini, chakras, and vrittis – and how these esoteric, inner expressions are awakened, balanced and alchemically controlled by hatha yoga and meditation – is complex and beyond the scope of this short blog. But the heart of this science is reflected in the labyrinth of the earth and 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, uncoils and liberates the kundalini labyrinth and thereby frees us from containment in the earth chamber of the first chakra.