Yoga is essentially an Indian tradition that can be traced back to the third millennium BCE. Tantrism is a religious and philosophical movement that came about from the fourth century BCE. Tantrism differed from other Hindu and Buddhist teachings in that it represented an anti-ascetic countercurrent to the mainstream. It rejected the caste system and reassessed established values. Tantrism is a celebration of the body which is viewed as the microcosm of the universe. According to Eliade (Yoga, Immortality and Freedom) “for the first time in the spiritual history of Aryan India, the Great Goddess acquires a predominant position … We also recognize a sort of religious rediscovery of the mystery of woman.” Tantrism insists on the holiness and purity of all things, so the “five forbidden things” of Indian philosophy were integral to tantric rites: wine, meat, fish, parched grain and sexual intercourse. In so-called “right-handed” schools these are used symbolically in rituals; in the “left-handed” schools they are used literally. Naturally the West with its prurient attitude to sex has leapt astride this idea and imagines sexual acrobatics and pornographic orgies. In spite of Tantra gaining interest in the 1960s on the wave of sexual liberation, it is not used for the liberation of sexuality per se, but for liberation from the cycle of rebirth.
Tantric yoga, also know as Kundalini yoga, presented something new to the West: a technique for the development of higher consciousness. According to tantric philosophy, the body is made up of a series of chakras linked by channels. This is meant less as a literal description of the physical body, than as an idealisation of the subtle body to guide the yogin’s contemplation. In conformity with the tantric idea that the body is the microcosm of the universe, physical aspects such as the sun, moon, mountains were connected with the chakras, which then were to represent these subtle elements. Deities reside within the body and the spiritual student must connect with this deity within. The Kundalini power itself is represented in the form of a serpent coiled around the spine. Kundalini is the primordial energy or Shakti. The aim is to awaken Kundalini through ritual practices and enable her ascent through the chakra system. Blissful union follows the ascent and far-reaching transformation of the personality.
The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, Notes of the Seminar Given in 1932 by C.G. Jung, Edited by Sonu Shamdasani.
© starofseshat 2008