Eros, Consciousness and Kundalini: Deepening Sensuality Through Tantric
Celibacy and Spiritual Intimacy(pgs. 82-89) by
To effect this balancing of all the (subtle) bodies,
tantra attends to the septenary system of chakras, or energy regulatory centers, located
approximately along the spinal axis. These include muladhara, svadhisthana and
manipura chakras (presiding primarily over the physical body); anahata and
vishuddha chakras (presiding primarily over the vital body), ajna chakra
(presiding primarily over the mental-emotional and reflective bodies); and sahasrara
chakra (presiding primarily over the causal body). Each chakra also generates a
specific locus of longings and pleasures associated with its particular properties.
Muladhara, the root chakra
at the base of the spine, holds the power of fundamental survival and
the primal erotic passion to live. Its element is earth. It is closely
related to the adrenal glands and is attuned to our basic survival needs.
In meditation it appears as an earthy, ruddy, red glow.
Concerned with elimination, muladhara has a gutsy feel
and a strength that is "not afraid to get its hands dirty." Dependable
and earthy, it might be considered the "Ernest Hemingway" or "Mae West"
of the chakras. Concerned also with the sense of smell, muladhara's
instinctive powers can, literally, "smell" trouble, truth, or deception;
it is the source of the proverbial nose for news. Pheromones, of course,
are biology's name for the way the shared-gender mystery affects muladhara.
At the more esoteric level, the wise "serpent power"
called kundalini rests coiled within muladhara, as a residue of the primeval
force responsible for the creation of the physical universe. It can be aroused
by yogic or other spiritual practices to enter a subtle channel in the spine
(sushumna), causing a blissful tumescence throughout all the bodies and
inspiring a deep sense of reverence and humility. The Holy Ghost and other
charismatic phenomena have been compared with kundalini activity. Gopi Krishna,
author of Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man, maintains that all
forms of genius involve some degree of awakening of this essence of revelatory
Svadhisthana chakra is located a few
inches above the root chakra in the general area of pelvic sexual arousal. Its
element is water. It is associated with the endless seeds within seeds for all
future incarnations and is the primary basis of conventional sexuality.
Svadhisthana also governs taste and the world of "good taste,"
which displays itself in fashions as the play of taste and sensuality. Raunchy,
sexy, alluring, classic, monastically robed-all are manifestations of svadhisthana,
via dress. "Juicy" people with a kind of "chemistry" also reveal something about
this chakra but only suggestively so, for that is the manner of svadhisthana. Sexual
fantasies and scenarios, as internal adult entertainments, are also stirred by this
center, and stir it as well. Thus we might say it is the "Elvis" and "Marilyn" of the
Manipura chakra, the solar plexus center,
is where the fire element presides. The whole gamut of heated emotions of jealousy,
anger, vanity, belly laughter, and willful assertiveness is based here. Manipura is
associated with the navel, and feelings of dependency and autonomy relate to it, as
well as the psychological ideal of "emotional honesty."
As the most elevated of the three physical body chakras, this is
the site of existential struggles to believe in "higher realities." The loss of one's
"groundedness" can also happen in manipura via the "flight to the light," or "flakiness"
phenomenon, whereby a thin veneer of spiritual development is mistaken for a more mature
attainment. Ken Wilber has referred to this foible as the "pre-transpersonal fallacy."
To achieve spiritual growth, one needs to have gutsiness, juice, and "stomach" as well
as heart and soul. Perhaps Amelia Earhart, Fritz Perls, and C. Everett Koop are manipura
In tantric sublimation, manipura holds critical importance, for it is
the actual site of transmutation where bindu, the seed force from svadhisthana, is sublimated
by the heat of this solar center into ojas, a nonphysical constituent in the radiance of
consciousness. The beauty of this radiance also allures kundalini to rise from muladhara.
Anahata chakra, the heart center, is related to
the air element. Here the language of emotional needs is replaced by that of devotional
needs, which is to say, "I need" has become "I love" or "I feel devotional yearnings."
The soul is reaching beyond the ego's hopes for self-directed autonomy and
emotional closeness and senses the fulfillments of a shared reality.
Indeed, the limited and fictive sense of the separate-self ego is coming to light.
In anahata, compassion opens toward "there but for the grace of God, go I."
Love shows us that the happiness of the other is our happiness and the mystery of
giving is like receiving, or better. Thus, we face various contradictions among value systems
in moving from the first three chakras, which oversee the physical body, to the heart, the
first chakra that governs supraphysical resources and realms of erotic meaning.
When we feel love for someone attractive to us, anahata and svadhisthana
can both be stirred, and we can feel pulled in two directions, one familiar and lush, the
other more airy and distant feeling. To continue in tantric sublimation at such times, we
must let go of the seeming certainty that the lushness of sex would be so right with
this person we love. Instead, we must take the leap of uncertainty. Through such faith, ojas
intensifies and the unexpected can occur, as we see with Lianne and Andy.
Lianne had been living in a yoga community, practicing brahmacharya, for
five years when she met Andy. He moved into the community mainly to be near Lianne but was
interested enough in yoga to take on the various practices. During the first year their
friendship grew and so did Andy's understanding of brahmacharya. They saw each other only
in larger group settings. Lianne was moved by Andy's dedication, and during the second year
of his residency she was falling more in love with him. On one of their morning walks Andy
reached out to Lianne.
The moment of awkwardness lasted about one second and they embraced. All
of a sudden it was as though she had never practiced celibacy; she felt like a
"teenager in love."
A rapid succession of sexual images raced through her mind as she hoped both that they
would surrender to this passion and that they wouldn't. Andy thought that after two years,
now they were together, but he, too, was of two minds, not knowing where his sexual feelings
would lead him.
As their embrace continued, first Lianne, then Andy, started to laugh. It
was so funny thinking about how impossible it was to know what to do with each other. Their
embrace took on the warmth of a shared, unexpected discovery. They were still laughing when
they kissed each other and fell down together.
As they looked up, the sky and the air everywhere seemed pink. The trees
seemed to be visibly breathing, in a kind of oceanic harmony with their breaths. It was as if
their love had carried them to some hidden space
where even the air was alive with love and magic. They were there together
and had preserved the essence of their celibacy.
Such sublimative discoveries on the brink of desire are not unlike the
feelings you get when you have approached a deeply inviting pool, seemingly too wide to jump
across, but you jump anyway. Through the tantric leap of meditation, conventional images of
a lush sexuality and a pejorative sense of an "airy" one no longer appear as unequivocally
accurate mappings of the ways of love and erotic freedom. Instead, the images of sex-desire
can seem to be metaphorical, instead of literal, suggestive of something yet unknown and quite
To get to this new place, we need faith and the light of ojas. But how can
we make subtle discernments between gradations of loving passion when frequent sexual activity
quickly raises, then dramatically lowers, ojas levels? Thus we have the many wily tantric
strategies of "half-orgasms" and occasional orgasms for both men and women or only for women.
Less wily is the heart's own way through the alchemical heightening of ojas to virya.
For it is in anahata that the soul abides with its finer sensitivities and
courage (from couer, "heart") that often exceed good sense and sensual familiarities.
Sustained by the gutsiness of muladhara, the daring of svadhisthana, and the willingness of
manipura, anahata can become inspired.
Virya, the further distillate of ojas, precipitates like sweet butter
from fine cream. Felt as a sublimely rectifying forgiveness that keeps stretching and
encompassing more and more, or as a courage that follows only its own star, virya sparkles
with virtue. Strategies and plans to "find love" become unimportant. Heart-felt faith prevails,
and one is able to take leaps of faith.
While ojas clarifies the more aesthetic subtleties of emotion with its
virya ignites the compassion of "heart-consciousness." With virya, one tastes of the
poignant and even anguished human hopefulness that lives in challenging or distressing
situations. With ample virya, virtue appears hidden (perhaps in convoluted or even deranged
forms) in human acts, everywhere. Beyond the din of despondent or unconvincingly optimistic
demystifying opinions, virya really understands.
While ojas heals the effects of injury, physical or emotional,
the empathic forgiveness of virya lives a deeper understanding of what is really needed.
Instead of healing the symptom or the painful effect, virya's self-less forgiving heals
the cause of the injury. It forgives other and oneself any commissions and omissions in unreasonable poignancy and mercy, as the ideal
of kabama-loving forgiveness-becomes real.
As a side effect, one's own pain mysteriously transforms; bitterness
and cynicism are obviated. The harshly tragic aspects of human life have met their
match-compassionate love-and the soul matures the ego-personality through these difficulties.
Thus, forbearance, sacrifice, anger without vengeance, courageous action, and, at times,
a distracting humor ennoble us and deepen our characters with the softened gnarl of experience.
Albert Schweitzer, Mother Teresa, and perhaps a certain person you know well embody the
of anahata chakra.
From sexual passion to compassion to spiritual
dispassion: such are the refinements from svadhisthana to anahata and now vishuddha, the
Words are, literally, "shaped currents of air" (the heart element); thus,
"the word become flesh" is found as the opened heart. The elemental ether that
vishuddha is even more subtle than air and is thus "more than words can say."
permeates words with their spirit, their near-ineffable meanings, nuances, and innuendoes
often lost in a too-literalness. In other instances, subtle meaning is lost to us because
we are in too much pain or fear or, worse, because we are blinded by greed or vengeance.
The waverings of the heart receive a whispered steadying from the dispassion
of vishuddha, quickening the words of the heart with the Summative Word, prema, unconditioned
love. Thus King Solomon discerned the foundling's true mother from the false. Thus marriage
vows and final vows ring ominously.
The legendary artist's, orator-statesperson's, teacher's, or poet's
heightened perception of a transcendent beauty or a cosmic order in the phenomena of life
involves the sensitivities of vishuddha. (Perhaps, therefore, the special license given to
artists regarding the erotic?) Sublimity has been refined yet further.
As Sri Jnaneshvar (1987) stated,
"The sentiment of tranquillity will be found to surpass that of love . . ."
(p.235). Such deft tranquillity, supported by
the other chakras, approaches all of life's possibilities with unperturbed skillfulness and
empathic wonder, from the most ecstatic to the most horrific and tragic. Shakespeare, the
"I have a dream" speech of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Sri Jnaneshvar speak from vishuddha.
Ajna, "the third eye," is where, as the Bible notes,
"thine eyes become single," where there is no longer a difference between male and
where "the peace that passeth all understanding" dwells. Erotic mystery persists as
continuous, inexplicable unfolding of the eternal moment. Tranquil dispassion has culminated
in vairagha, the wisdom of nonattachment. Now the unwavering light of true wisdom sends
whispers even to those so-knowing missives of vishuddha, for ama is of mahat-Tattwa,
utter refinement. From within these gates of heaven, Solomon and all prophets and saints
and the many unknown heroes of our daily lives receive their inspirations, beyond all
conjecturing. Here Siva, the lord of yogis, presides. He can only bless with dispassion,
and he blesses all alike.
Certain uncompromising devotees of the penultimate ajna prefer to bypass
the many substeps and complexities of tantric sublimation that I have described. Following
the precepts of traditional monasticism, they attempt, in one leap, to attune to ama, perhaps
including vishuddha (practice of constant, repetitive prayers) and anahata (selfless surrender
via service or ecstatic devotion). Couples' practices and even the concept of energetic
transformation are dismissed or left unexplored. For some of these devotees, celibacy is
either easy and spontaneous or a concerted discipline without recourse to any yogic techniques.
I find this stark approach to be ominous.
The seventh or crown chakra, sahasrara is of such
a spiritual nature that restrictions of time, space, and mortality are completely transcended.
Sahasrara is the thousand-petaled lotus of holy effulgence, experienced as the light of ten
"like mercury light kept in a vessel of silver. The thousands of convolutions of the brain appear like the luminous petals of a lotus,"
says the inwardly sighted yogi Vyas Dev.
Reverent awe, unremitting joy, and spiritual freedom are the
qualities of the mystery in sahasrara, beyond even the highest of elements. The
writings of the great mystics and saints describe and celebrate this realm of
the erotic expanse where orgasm-as-adjective reaches the superlative, as in
this passage by Allama Prabhu, in Ramanuj an, Speaking of Siva (1973):
Looking for your light, I went out:
it was like the sudden dawn of a million million suns, a ganglion of lightnings for my wonder.
O Lord of Caves, if you are light, there can be no metaphor.(p. 168)
When the nondual consciousness of ama is sustained
in sabija-samadhi and then nirbija-samadhi, the crowning birth of kaivalya dawns
in sahasrara. In the full liberation of kaivalya, the erotic mysteries of and
after death open, as immortality takes on an awesome, crystalline reality.