Based on elements of the Trika Shaivism’s oldest scriptures, the “Tantraloka” and the authors own natural awakening, this article describes how the kundalini transforms the body’s sexual energetic system which can lead to higher states of consciousness.
The non-dualistic vision proposed by the Trika Shaivism tradition of Abhinavagupta (950-1016) is expressed in a variety of texts, poems, music, dance and dramas, and in spiritual practices that seek to transform and transcend ordinary self-identity and to realize the bliss of Shiva consciousness, which is characterized as a calm and non-dual absolute, a higher consciousness that fulfills one’s nature and manifests the divine energy and potential.
The tradition includes a wide range of practices that encompasses not only meditation, mantra and pranayama exercises, but also sexual rituals. The scriptures and practices are all tools for activating and raising the kundalini, which by itself creates the necessary changes in the subtle body and the possibility to achieve the state of universal oneness, the Shiva consciousness. (A,1)
From a physiological perspective the Trika tradition explains that along the spine there are five centers (in some way similar to the chakras) located one above the other, from the center at the bottom of the spine (muladhara) to the one on the crown of the head (brahmarandhra). The centers are connected by nadis, subtle streams of vital energy (pranasakti) which permeate the whole body. There are said to be 72000 nadis, of which three stand out as the most significant: sushumna at the spine, ida on the left side and pingala at the right side. Neither the centers nor the nadis are physical or static, they belong to the subtle body, but they can be located with as much accuracy as if they belonged to the rough body.
In non-awaken people, these centers are formed by an insoluble tangle of knots (granthis), which bind spirit and matter together, thus strengthening the sense of ego self. These energy knots are not easy to loosen and together they form the unconscious complexes (samskara), woven by illusion and the gravity of the past (karma) preventing the passage of spiritual power.
However, upon awakening, and in its ascent through the nadis, the kundalini pierces these centers, thereby loosening the knots so that the energy released in the centers can be absorbed by the kundalini and thus regain its universality. (2) ”(”Universality” can here be understood as the state of universal oneness, the Shiva consciousness).
Experiences show that the kundalini can be felt as a broad energy, almost like an animal moving up and down the spine from root to crown. When it stops and works in the karmic knots (granthis) and centers (chakras) it can be felt as heat and / or pulsation in / or around the specific spot or even the sensation that something is torn over or broken, such as steel wires that burst or glass that breaks. All these are consequences as well as signs, felt in the physical body, of the karmic dissolution process undergone by the subtle body.
At the same time as the kundalini is working to loosen the knots, open the centers and activate and balance the nadis, changes are taking place in the sexual energy.
These changes may be barely perceptible, such as underlying tickling sensations, or even deeper and longer orgasms. But they are just small parts of a major transformation of the sexual energetic system.
Lilian Silburn says, in “Kundalini: The Energy of the Depths” (B) that “Within her coils the sleeping Kundalini holds the poison (visa) which destroys the vitality of human beings, as they dissipate their energies in sexual agitation. But at the time of her arousing (…) this poison transforms itself into an all-pervading power (vis), thus opening access to universality”. (Silburn, 1988 p. 27)
The way in which one`s sexuality operated before the awakening gradually disappears, and feelings of loss or a longing might be felt, to some extent as a destruction of what was, without knowing the new that is coming. Silburn explains that this change is due to the fact that in the root center where the kundalini originates in the body is a triangle (tricona) with openings through which the sexual energy can flow. When the apex of the triangle faces downwards, the energy is transformed into sexual stimulus and when the apex of the triangle is turned upwards it is opening up to universality. (3) When the triangle is turned and the apex is facing upwards by the power of the kundalini, it allows the sexual energy to be shot up in the sushumna and merge with the universality.
In this transformation muscular activity can be felt in the root center between the genitals and anus. The sexual energy is by this means being affected, it expands and later begins to detach from the genitals and the commonly known erogenous zones and spreads via the nadis to the entire body. One may therefore begin to experience multi-orgasms, full body-orgasms and spontaneous-orgasms and in a male body it could imply ejaculation control.
Here it ought to be added that during the transformation or part of it, unpleasant symptoms such as body pain might occur, a diverse but pervasive pain which is due to the kundalini working to release karma, activate and balance the whole system, every cell in the body being affected. Experiences show that there is a turning point when the currents of pain begin to change into orgasmic currents. Pain and bliss are opposites, but by surrendering to the pain it will turn itself into bliss.
Silburn goes on describing that when the triangle is turned and the knots (granthis) along the spine are loosened as well as the centers (chakras) are open, vibrating, turning and interacting with each other, energy is free to raise up towards the cenit. She illustrates further that there is a corresponding triangle in the crown (brahmarandhra) and when the free flowing in the sushumna nadi allows the lower triangle to raise up, both triangles turn around and unite into a hexagon (satkona) of inseparable union, in universality, which is the unique place of Shiva and Shakti. (4) (Shakti: the primordial cosmic energy)
The orgasms are now being physically pushed upwards. One feels clearly how the energy arises in the sushumna, enters into the throat, where it activates the kechari mudra area and causes the rolling of the eyes, after which it expands to bindhu points along the back of the head to eventually explode like stars in the crown. However, this should not be mistaken for the absolute non-dual cosmic state, for although the orgasm briefly expands consciousness, eliminates the ego and glimpes of samadhi can occur, the explosive experience is still a dual one that must be overcome. Fused with the kundalini energy, the body’s sexual energetic system is transformed, so that orgasm and bliss are no longer limited to specific parts of the body, but can be felt in all cells of the body and an incipient energetic union with the absolute is ongoing. For the male this change will, from the authors own experience mean that ejaculation and orgasm can be separated and that an erection may be needed for ejaculation, but it is no longer needed to achieve orgasm.
At the same time the kundalini gradually dilutes our ego and prior body attached identity, generating that social and cultural structures or behaviours, things, and even people become less relevant. Personal interests and personality itself mutate in the process, which might result in a lesser attraction towards what was deemed regular intercourse, leading the subject to either periods of spontaneous celebacy or of new or renewed interest in experimental activities such as erotic tantric exercises, massage, polygamous relationships or maybe more extreme expressions of sexual activity.
In Trika tradition the body becomes a tool not only to experience great pleasure, but mainly to achieve higher spiritual and energetic states. The diluted ego and identity play here a central role. Ritual sex was practiced in the Trika tradition to manifest the inner bliss of absolute consciousness. The rituals included the consumption of meat and wine both to achieve an expansion of consciousness, but also to -through transgressive behavior-, detach the ego from suppressing and identity-creating structures, such as moral attitudes denying free sexual expression which was in direct opposition to Trika, where pleasure and sex played a central role in spiritual development. (5)
“If, when Kundalini becomes erect and the energies are purified, pleasure is used as a steppingstone, it converts into the bliss of pure Consciousness” (Silburn, 1988 p. 138)
Behind this Trika logic lies the realization that the desire for sensual pleasures generally arises from ego and ignorance, but if one can transcend the desire-ego, then sensual pleasure is liberated and intensified, thereby becoming the entrance to Shiva consciousness. The dissolution of ego and identity is therefore a central part of the Trika rituals. (6)
It must be added here that for many, these rituals may be a sublime way to have sex, an extraordinary intercourse. But even here the practioner could fall into the siddhi (magical ability) pitfall and start an endless repetition with the associated suffering. Consequently, there`s the risk of creating a new identity around the new abilities, which must then also be dissolved, for it is not the rituals, sex and orgasms as in themselves that are the real goal, they are just the tools, it is rather in the stable fusion with the absolute where one wants to be.
In relation to this, Silburn states that a distinction is to be made between two kinds of sexual associations, a secular one that leads to an inferior domain, and a mystical one that leads to the overall domain which awakens the kundalini and is not for ordinary people. (7)
“As the unfolding of consciousness is essential (…), not everyone is entitled to it. Ordinary man cannot reach fulfillment thereby; as his desires have not disappeared, for him union does not lead to Self-consciousnes” (Silburn, 1988 p. 186)
Therefore the initiates in the Trika sexual rituals also practiced a large number of other spiritual exercises to develop and prepare themselves. Abhinavagupta gives the direct advice that: “for one`s own benefit, one must be careful to avoid performing the kula sacrifice with those who do not know the supreme brahman” and further explains that if one practices the rituals without being prepared, one will end up in “hell”. (Silburn, 1988, p. 158) (“hell” can in this context be understood as the human suffering in duality).
Human beings naturally -and sometimes unknowingly- search for cohesion, oneness, the non-dual bliss. Through life, we may experience glimpes of oneness and cosmic bliss when we find a partner, have sex, use stimuli, achieve success, meditate, practice pranayama etc., but as long as our ego is intact, as long as we are attached to this world, it remains a flash in a dualistic reality where separetedness and suffering will necessarily come after the momentaneous bliss.
Trika explains that the supreme sexual union is thus granted only to those who have achieved a detachment from the worldly bonds, all forms of ego-identity and connection to the social structures of society, which only act as obstacles to the absolute, to the experience of Shiva. “While it is quite easy to seek refuge in oneself in times of sorrow and worry, it is more difficult to abide in perfect equality, without desire or shame during love enjoyment, the field of the strongest attachment and the most overwhelming emotions. If one succeeds therein, all is attained” (Silburn, 1888 p. 165)
Shiva is often described as the androgynous, hermaphrodite who contains both the feminine and the masculine. Sexual union is the attempt to recreate this whole. Only that who attains, as the hermaphrodite Shiva, the fusion of male and female polarities within, regains its oneness. The physical body, and sexual union -provided it evolves from mere desire to an esoteric sexual union-, thus shifts from cause of bondage to a means for attaining cosmic bliss. (8) Another approach of Trika for this is that it takes two extreme points -in this case a female and a male- to find the central and primary vibration (spanda) in which we can evolve. (9) Silburn explains this practice as the discovering of “the junction point between two extremes and in becoming firmly established there, at the very heart of the pulsation, a swift and subtle move from one side to the other of a poised position without which there can be no (final) vibration”. (Silburn, 1988 p. 10)
It is this oneness, this pulsation that it is the natural state of the self, which Trika seeks to achieve or to recreate through sexual rituals. The sexual ritual act (kulayaga) in Trika is explained as the spontaneous interaction and touch of the two extremes; the female body and the male body, which through this friction achieve individual excitation. This interplay of contractions and expansions, internal as well as external, the fully open and interacting chakras and nadis make the whole body completely receptive. Charged energy will accumulate from the whole body and flow into the sushumna with full force, thereby creating various states of samadhi. At the point where the frictions between the female body and the male body reach the junction point between the extremes (spanda) and the hexagon (satkona) spins, an intense mystical fervor emerges, liberated from ego, lost in wonder and in mediated immobility, they have reached the inner emergence of universal consciousness, this is energy at its highest, the indescribable. Shiva. (10)
“Beautiful by bliss owing to the perfect coincidence of seed and vomb, this linga, heart of the yogini, engenders an indescribable Consciousness” (Abhinavagupta, Tantraloka verse 121(C))
The difference between orgasmic states and the state described above is that, even though it is a bodily experience, one becomes close to -or maybe one with- the universal vibration (spanda). The polarities dissolve each other and the orgasm is no longer explosive, but grows softly from states of samadhi into the deep vibration and then expands from the heart out into all sensory as well as physical surroundings.
The actual and individual perception of what is happening, as experienced by the author, may for example, be that the floor, walls, ceiling and other physical objects as well as colors and sounds become part of the orgasm. Everything becomes an orgasm. In slow motion, all differences cease and the physical forms including one`s body melt together like hot rubber in one deep, blissful orgasmic vibration.
The transformation of sexual energy comes along with the kundalini awakening, and whether this is trained through methods, or it awakens by itself, and even though it begins to be only about sex, it transforms and when the urge is diluted, it reaches a higer state, beyond sex and any mere bodily pleasures.
The interaction between spontaneity and method is like Abhnavagupata’s explanation of spanda: we sometimes need to touch the extremes to find the center of vibration. The Kundalini works spontaneously and turns our lives so that events and actions, whether gentle or fierce, draw us further in evolution. A spontaneous development may mean that we must return to crucial points in order to understand what has happened. On the other hand, if we consciously use the scriptures, methods and rituals to reach our goal, then perhaps it is the free spontaneity that must be cultivated and maintained.
Peter Majumdar, Edited by Agua Uranga
Note A: Patton Burchett is an assistant professor of religious studies at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Among others he authored “Sex, Language & Art in Kashmiri Saiva Religious Practices (Department of Religious Studies, Indiana University, 2006) as referred to in this article.
Note B: Lillian Silburn (1908-1993) was associated professor at the French National Center for Scientific Research. She has among others translated a large number of core scriptures of Kashmir Shaivism. She was a student of Lakshman Joo and authored “Kundalini: The Energy of the Depths,” (State University of New York Press, 1988), which is referred to in this article.
Note C:Tantraloka was written mainly by Abhinavagupta in the 10th century and is the basic scriptures of Kashmir Shaivism. In this quote translated by Silburn (1988 p. 171).
Note: 1: Burchett, 2006 p. 105, 2: Silburn, 1988 p. 25, 3: Silburn, 1988 p. 27, 4: Silburn, 1988 p. 33, 5: Burchett, 2006 p. 17, 6: Burchett, 2006 p. 26, 7: Silburn, 1988 p. 186, 8: Silburn, 1988 p. 140, 9: Silburn, 1988 p. 137, 10: Silburn, 1988 p. 169.