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Chakra

                   
  Coloured Chakras with Descriptions
Tamil A.svg Tamil is written in a non-Latin script. Tamil text used in this article is transliterated into the Latin script according to the ISO 15919 standard.
  Sapta Chakra, from a Yoga manuscript in Braj Bhasa language with 118 pages (1899).

The concept of chakra features in tantric and yogic traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Its name derives from the Sanskrit word for "wheel" or "turning" (cakraṃ चक्रं [ˈtʃəkrə̃], pronounced [ˈtʃəkrə] in Hindi; Pali: cakka चक्क, Malayalam മലയാളം: ചക്രം, Thai: จักระ, Telugu: చక్రo, Tamil: சக்கரம், Kannada: ಚಕ್ರ, Chinese: 轮, Tibetan: འཁོར་ལོ་; khorlo).[1]

While breath channels (nāḍis) of yogic practices had already been discussed in the classical Upanishads, it was not until Tantric works, such as the eighth-century Buddhist Hevajra Tantra and Caryāgiti, that hierarchies of chakras were introduced.[2] According to traditional Indian medicine, the chakras are a number of wheel-like vortices which exist in the surface of the subtle body of living beings.[3] The chakras are said to be "force centers" or whorls of energy permeating, from a point on the physical body, the layers of the subtle bodies in an ever-increasing fan-shaped formation. Rotating vortices of subtle matter, they are considered focal points for the reception and transmission of energies.[4] Different belief systems posit a varying number of chakras; the best-known system in the West has seven chakras.

It is typical for chakras to be depicted as either flower-like or wheel-like. In the former case, "petals" are shown around the perimeter of a circle. In the latter, spokes divide the circle into segments making the chakra resemble a wheel (or "chakra"). Each chakra possesses a specific number of segments or petals.

Texts describing the chakras go back as far as the later Upanishads ( Thai: อุปนิษัทฺส์), for example the Yoga Kundalini Upanishad.

Contents

  Definitions

Although there are various interpretations as to what exactly a chakra is, the following features are common to all systems:

  • They form part of a subtle energy body, along with the energy channels, or nadis (Thai: นาฑีส์), and the subtle winds, or pranas (Thai: ปราณส์).
  • They are located along a central nadi, Sushumna (Thai: สุษุมฺนา), which runs either alongside or inside the spine.
  • Two other nadis, Ida (Thai: อิทะ) and Pingala (Thai: ปิงฺคละ), also run through the chakras, and alongside Sushumna. They occasionally cross Sushumna at the location of the chakras.
  • They possess a number of 'petals' or 'spokes'. In some traditions, such as the Tibetan, these spokes branch off into the thousands of nadis that run throughout the human body.
  • They are generally associated with a mantra seed-syllable, and often with a variety of colours and deities.

Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda describes a chakra as:[5]

...[a] powerhouse in the way it generates and stores energy, with the energy from cosmos pulled in more strongly at these points. The main nadis, Ida, Pingala and Shushumna (sympathetic, parasympathetic, and central nervous system) run along the spinal column in a curved path and cross one another several times. At the points of intersection they form strong energy centers known as chakras. In the human body there are three types of energy centers. The lower or animal chakras are located in the region between the toes and the pelvic region indicating our evolutionary origins in the animal kingdom. The human chakras lie along the spinal column. Finally, the higher or divine Chakras are found between the top of the spine and the crown of the head.

Anodea Judith (1996: p. 5) provides a modern interpretation of the chakras:

A chakra is believed to be a center of activity that receives, assimilates, and expresses life force energy. The word chakra literally translates as wheel or disk and refers to a spinning sphere of bioenergetic activity emanating from the major nerve ganglia branching forward from the spinal column. Generally, six of these wheels are described, stacked in a column of energy that spans from the base of the spine to the middle of the forehead, the seventh lying beyond the physical world. It is the six major chakras that correlate with basic states of consciousness...

Susan Shumsky (2003, p. 24) states a similar idea:

Each chakra in your spinal column is believed to influence or even govern bodily functions near its region of the spine. Because autopsies do not reveal chakras, most people think they are a fancy of fertile imagination. Yet their existence is well documented in the traditions of the Far East...

Chakras are described as energy centers along the spine located at major branchings of the human nervous system, beginning at the base of the spinal column and moving upward to the top of the skull, through which, believers assert, pass 3 major energy channels, Sushumna, Ida and Pingala. Chakras are considered to be a point or nexus of biophysical energy or prana of the human body. Shumsky asserts that "prana is the basic component of your subtle body, your energy field, and the entire chakra system...the key to life and source of energy in the universe."[6]

The following seven primary chakras are commonly described:

  1. Muladhara (Sanskrit: मूलाधार, Mūlādhāra, Thai: มูลาธาระ) Base or Root Chakra (last bone in spinal cord, the coccyx)
  2. Swadhisthana (Sanskrit: स्वाधिष्ठान, Svādhiṣṭhāna, Thai: สฺวาธิษฺฐานะ) Sacral Chakra (ovaries/prostate)
  3. Manipura (Sanskrit: मणिपूर, Maṇipūra, Thai: มณีปูระ) Solar Plexus Chakra (navel area)
  4. Anahata (Sanskrit: अनाहत, Anāhata, Thai: อนาหะตะ) Heart Chakra (heart area)
  5. Vishuddha (Sanskrit: विशुद्ध, Viśuddha, Thai: วิศุทฺธะ) Throat Chakra (throat and neck area)
  6. Ajna (Sanskrit: आज्ञा, Ājñā, Thai: อาชฺญา) Brow or Third Eye Chakra (pineal gland or third eye)
  7. Sahasrara (Sanskrit: सहस्रार, Sahasrāra, Thai: สหัสฺราระ) Crown Chakra (top of the head; 'soft spot' of a newborn)

In addition, a number of other chakras are postulated. B.K.S Iyengar[7] asserts that between the navel and the heart are the Manas (mind) and Surya (sun) chakras, and that at the top of the forehead is the Lalata chakra. The Tibetan tantric tradition has the Fire Wheel between the heart and the throat, the Wind Wheel on the forehead, and below the navel, instead of Swadhisthana and Muladhara, they have three chakras; the Secret Place Wheel is located four fingers below the navel, the Jewel Wheel is located on the sexual organ, and the very tip of the sexual organ is the very last chakra, where the central channel ends. Other traditions, such as the Bihar school of yoga, add Bindu chakra, which exists at the back of the head, and is where the divine nectar or Amrit is stored, place Lalata chakra in the roof of the mouth, and place Hrit chakra below the heart.

Many traditions posit a number of higher chakras in the head, which from lowest to highest are: golata, talu/talana/lalana, ajna, talata/lalata, manas, soma, sahasrara (and sri inside it).

  Models

The study of the chakras is a part of many philosophical and spiritual traditions, as well as many therapies and disciplines. In eastern traditions, the theory of chakras is a central part of the Hindu and Buddhist tantra, and they play an important role in attaining deep levels of realisation. Yoga, Pranayama, Acupuncture, Shiatsu, T'ai chi and Qigong focus on balancing the energetic nadis or energy meridians which are an integral part of the chakra system.

In the West, the subtle energy of the chakras is explored through practices such as aromatherapy, mantras, Reiki, hands-on healing, flower essences, radionics, sound therapy, colour/light therapy, and crystal/gem therapy.

  Hindu Tantra

  Thousand Petalled Crown Chakra, Two Petalled Brow Chakra, Sixteen Petalled Throat Chakra (Nepal, 17th Century)

In Hinduism, the concept of chakras is part of a complex of ideas related to esoteric anatomy. These ideas occur most often in the class of texts that are called Āgamas or Tantras. This is a large body of scripture, most of which is rejected by the traditionalists. The chakras are described in the tantric texts the Sat-Cakra-Nirupana, and the Padaka-Pancaka,[8] in which they are described as emanations of consciousness from Brahman, an energy emanating from the spiritual which gradually turns concrete, creating these distinct levels of chakras, and which eventually finds its rest in the Muladhara chakra. They are therefore part of an emanationist theory, like that of the Kabbalah in the west, lataif-e-sitta in Sufism or Neo-Platonism. The energy that was unleashed in creation, called the Kundalini, lies coiled and sleeping at the base of the spine. It is the purpose of the tantric or kundalini forms of yoga to arouse this energy, and cause it to rise back up through the increasingly subtle chakras, until union with God is achieved in the Sahasrara chakra at the crown of the head.

There are many variations on these concepts in the Sanskrit source texts. In earlier texts there are various systems of chakras and nadis, with varying connections between them. Various traditional sources list 5, 6, 7, 8 or even 12 chakras. Over time, one system of 6 or 7 chakras along the body's axis became the dominant model, adopted by most schools of yoga. This particular system may have originated in about the 11th century AD, and rapidly became widely popular.[9]

The central role of the chakras in this model is the raising of Kundalini, where it pierces the various centers, causing various levels of realisation and resulting in the obtention of various siddhis or occult powers, until reaching the crown of the head, resulting in union with the Divine. The methods on how to raise kundalini are generally secret, but a number of methods have been published, for example the Bihar school of yoga begin with a number of preparatory practices such as asanas and pranayama to purify the nadis, and then a number of practices and meditations specific to each chakra, and finally the raising of the kundalini through special kriyas, which terminate in the vision of ones causal self[10]

  Vajrayana (Buddhist Tantra)

The Tibetan theory of chakras plays an important role in all the Highest Yoga Tantras. They play a pivotal role in all Completion stage practices (as opposed to Generation stage practices), where an attempt is made to bring all the subtle winds of the body into the central channel, to realise the clear light of bliss and emptiness, and to attain the 'illusory body' of a divinity .[10]

The Tibetan system states that the central channel begins at the point of the third eye, curves up to the crown of the head, and then goes straight down the body to the tip of the sexual organ. The two side channels run parallel to, and without any space in between, the central channel, but they begin at the two nostrils: the lunar channel ends in the sexual organ, and the solar channel in the anus. Along the central channel are positioned 10 chakras, of which usually four or five are expounded as being important. They are located in the following positions:

  1. The crown wheel on the top of the head
  2. The wind wheel on the forehead
  3. Third eye between the eyebrows
  4. The throat wheel
  5. The fire wheel between the throat and the heart
  6. The heart wheel
  7. The navel wheel
  8. The secret place, four fingers below the navel
  9. The jewel wheel on the sexual organ, near the end
  10. The tip of the sexual organ

The channels run parallel through them, but at the navel, heart, throat and crown the two side channels twist around the central channel. At the navel, throat and crown, there is a twofold knot caused by each side channel twisting once around the central channel. At the heart wheel there is a sixfold knot, where each side channel twists around three times. An important part of completion stage practice involves loosening and undoing these knots.

Within the chakras exist the 'subtle drops'. The white drop exists in the crown, the red drop exists in the navel, and at the heart exists the indestructible red and white drop, which leaves the body at the time of death. In addition, each chakra has a number of 'spokes' or 'petals', which branch off into thousands of subtle channels running to every part of the body, and each contains a Sanskrit syllable.

By visualising a specific chakra, the subtle winds (which follow the mind), enter the central channel. The chakra at which they enter is important in order to realise specific practices, for example, meditating on the syllable 'Ah' in the navel chakra is important for the practice of tummo, or inner fire, the basis of the six yogas of Naropa. Meditating on the 'Hum' in the heart chakra is important for realising the Clear Light of bliss and emptiness. Meditating on the throat chakra is important for lucid dreaming and the practices of dream yoga. And meditating on the crown chakra is important for consciousness projection, either to another world, or into another body.

In general, the higher tantras, starting with the Guhyasamaja tantra, are very uniform in their descriptions of the chakras, channels and drops. The Kalachakra tantra has a slightly different system, which relates the chakras with astrology.

A result of energetic imbalance among the chakras is an almost continuous feeling of dissatisfaction. When the heart chakra is agitated, people lose touch with feelings and sensations, and that breeds the sense of dissatisfaction. That leads to looking outside for fulfillment.

When people live in their heads, feelings are secondary; they are interpretations of mental images that are fed back to the individual. When awareness is focused on memories of past experiences and mental verbalisations, the energy flow to the head chakra increases and the energy flow to the heart chakra lessens. Without nurturing feelings of the heart a subtle form of anxiety arises which results in the self reaching out for experience.

When the throat chakra settles and energy is distributed evenly between the head and the heart chakras, one is able to truly contact one's senses and touch real feelings.[11]

  Bön

Chakras, as pranic centers of the body according to the Himalayan Bönpo tradition, influence the quality of experience, because movement of prana cannot be separated from experience. Each of the six major chakras are linked to experiential qualities of one of the six realms of existence.[10]

A modern teacher, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, uses a computer analogy: main chakras are like hard drives. Each hard drive has many files. One of the files is always open in each of the chakras, no matter how "closed" that particular chakra may be. What is displayed by the file shapes experience.

The tsa lung practices such as those embodied in Trul Khor lineages open channels so lung (Lung is a Tibetan term cognate with prana or qi) may move without obstruction. Yoga opens chakras and evokes positive qualities associated with a particular chakra. In the hard drive analogy, the screen is cleared and a file is called up that contains positive, supportive qualities. A seed syllable (Sanskrit bija) is used both as a password that evokes the positive quality and the armour that sustains the quality.[10]

Tantric practice is said to eventually transform all experience into bliss. The practice aims to liberate from negative conditioning and leads to control over perception and cognition.[10]

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche teaches a version of the Six Lokas sadhana which works with the chakra system.

  Western models and interpretations

  Recent Western traditions associate
ChakraDiag.jpg

In Western culture, a concept similar to that of prana can be traced back as far as the 18th century's Franz Anton Mesmer, who used "animal magnetism" to cure disease. However it was only in 1927 that the shakta theory of seven main chakras, that has become most popular in the West, was introduced, largely through the translation of two Indian texts: the Sat-Cakra-Nirupana, and the Padaka-Pancaka, by Sir John Woodroffe, alias Arthur Avalon, in a book titled The Serpent Power.[12] This book is extremely detailed and complex, and later the ideas were developed into the predominant Western view of the chakras by C. W. Leadbeater in his book The Chakras. Many of the views which directed Leadbeater's understanding of the chakras were influenced by previous theosophist authors, in particular Johann Georg Gichtel, a disciple of Jakob Böhme, and his book Theosophia Practica (1696), in which Gitchtel directly refers to inner force centers, a concept reminiscent of the chakras.[13]

Due to the similarities between the Chinese and Indian philosophies, the notion of chakras was quickly blended into Chinese practices such as acupuncture and belief in ki. The convergence of these two distinct healing traditions and their common practitioners' own inventiveness have led to an ever-changing and expanding array of concepts in the western world. According to medical intuitive and author, Caroline Myss, who described chakras in her work Anatomy of the Spirit (1996), "Every thought and experience you've ever had in your life gets filtered through these chakra databases. Each event is recorded into your cells...", in effect your biography becomes your biology.[14]

The chakras are described[by whom?] as being aligned in an ascending column from the base of the spine to the top of the head. New Age practices often associate each chakra with a certain colour. In various traditions chakras are associated with multiple physiological functions, an aspect of consciousness, a classical element, and other distinguishing characteristics. They are visualized as lotuses/flowers with a different number of petals in every chakra.

The chakras are thought to vitalise the physical body and to be associated with interactions of a physical, emotional and mental nature. They are considered loci of life energy or prana, also called shakti, qi (Chinese; ki in Japanese), koach-ha-guf[15] (Hebrew), bios (Greek) & aether (Greek, English), which is thought to flow among them along pathways called nadis. The function of the chakras is to spin and draw in this energy to keep the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health of the body in balance. They are said by some to reflect how the unified consciousness of humanity (the immortal human being or the soul), is divided to manage different aspects of earthly life (body/instinct/vital energy/deeper emotions/communication/having an overview of life/contact to God). The chakras are placed at differing levels of spiritual subtlety, with Sahasrara at the top being concerned with pure consciousness, and Muladhara at the bottom being concerned with matter, which is seen simply as condensed, or gross consciousness.

In his book on Japa Yoga, Himalaya Press 1978, Swami Sivananda states that a yogi that practices Japa with only the Om and is successful at Mahasamyama {oneness with the object...in this case a Word being meditated on} becomes a direct disciple of that, the OM, the most Holy of all words/syllables { the same as the word of creation as recognized by the Torah, although this is not professed or quite possibly not even recognized by those of secular authority in either Judaism or Christianity} thus the yogi achieving this feat needs no Guru or Sat-guru* to achieve any Spiritual goal {*Archetype / Ascended Master i.e. A Krishna, a Rama, a Jesus, a Nanak a Buddha..et al.} and Swami Sivananda mentions that this yogi has a path that is, in all recognizable ways and manners, reverse that of other Yogis or Spiritual aspirants and their paths and those include all Christian ascetics, in that this spiritual aspirant then works through the chakras, mastering them from the crown down.

Whereas every other well known path and all major religions[citation needed] start by trying to master the chakras starting with the 'Svadhisthana Chakra' {Sex}, these Yogis aren't expected to renounce sex or certain foods, and by virtue of this they do not need to remove themselves from the world of temptations and become monks or recluses. They can stay in the world of men and live what appears to be a normal life that observes whatever local custom{s} there may be. Trevor Ravenscroft also mentions this spiritual goal and achievement in his book, "The Cup Of Destiny", and says that these practices and achievements were known and the most highly regarded and desired by the Templar Knights of old.]

New Age writers, such as Anodea Judith in her book Wheels of Life, have written about the chakras in great detail, including the reasons for their appearance and functions.

Another interpretation of the seven chakras is presented by writer and artist Zachary Selig. In the book Kundalini Awakening, a Gentle Guide to Chakra Activation and Spiritual Growth, he presents a unique codex titled "Relaxatia", a solar Kundalini paradigm that is a codex of the human chakra system and the solar light spectrum, designed to activate Kundalini through his colour-coded chakra paintings.[16]

Some chakra system models describe one or more Transpersonal chakras above the crown chakra, and an Earth star chakra below the feet. There are also held to be many minor chakras, for example between the major chakras. Chakras are also used in neurolinguistic programming to connect NLP logical levels with spiritual goals on the crown, intellectual on the forehead and so on.[17]

Rudolf Steiner considered the chakra system to be dynamic and evolving. He suggested that this system has become different for modern people than it was in ancient times, and will in turn be radically different in future times.[clarification needed] Steiner describes a sequence of development that begins with the upper chakras and moves down, rather than moving in the opposite direction. He gave suggestions on how to develop the chakras through disciplining the thoughts, feelings, and will.[18]

  7 Chakras

According to Florin Lowndes[19], a 'spiritual student' can further develop and deepen or elevate thinking consciousness when taking the step from the 'ancient path' of schooling to the 'new path' represented by The Philosophy of Freedom.[20]

  Endocrine system

The primary importance and level of existence of chakras is posited to be in the psyche. However, there are those who believe that chakras have a physical manifestation as well.[21] The author Gary Osborn, for instance, has described the chakras as metaphysical counterparts to the endocrine glands,[22] while Anodea Judith noted a marked similarity between the positions of the two and the roles described for each.[23] Stephen Sturgess also links the lower six chakras to specific nerve plexuses along the spinal cord as well as glands.[24] C.W. Leadbeater associated the Anja chakra with the pineal gland,[25] which is a part of the endocrine system. Edgar Cayce said that the seven churches of the Book of Revelation are endocrine glands.[26] However, these associations have never been scientifically verified.

  Spectrum of light

A development in Western practices dating back to the 1940s is to associate each one of the seven chakras to a given colour and a corresponding crystal. For example, the chakra in the forehead is associated with the colour purple, so to try and cure a headache a person might apply a purple stone to the forehead. This idea has proven highly popular and has been integrated by all but a few practitioners.

Mercier introduces the relation of colour energy to the science of the light spectrum:

"As humans, we exist within the 49th Octave of Vibration of the electromagnetic light spectrum. Below this range are barely visible radiant heat, then invisible infrared, television and radiowaves, sound and brain waves; above it is barely visible ultraviolet, then the invisible frequencies of chemicals and perfumes, followed by x-rays, gamma rays, radium rays and unknown cosmic rays.[27]

Understanding existence and physical form as an interpretation of light energy through the physical eyes will open up greater potential to explore the energetic boundaries of color, form and light that are perceived as immediate reality. Indian Yogic teachings assign to the seven major chakras specific qualities, such as color of influence (from the 7 rays of spectrum light), elements (such as earth, air, water & ether), body sense (such as touch, taste, and smell), and relation to an endocrine gland.[28]

  Description

Tantric chakras

Sahasrara
Ajna
Vishuddha
Anahata
Manipura
Swadhisthana
Muladhara

Bindu

Seven chakras in particular are described in the Shakta Tantra tradition that was brought over to the West. Below is a description of each of them, with Eastern and Western associations.

  Sahasrara: The Crown Chakra

Chakra07.gif
Sahasrara, which means 1000 petalled lotus, is generally considered to be the chakra of pure consciousness, within which there is neither object nor subject. When the female kundalini Shakti energy rises to this point, it unites with the male Shiva energy, and a state of liberating samadhi is attained. Symbolized by a lotus with one thousand multi-coloured petals, it is located either at the crown of the head, or above the crown of the head. Sahasrara is represented by the colour white and it involves such issues as inner wisdom and the death of the body.

Its role may be envisioned somewhat similarly to that of the pituitary gland, which secretes hormones to communicate to the rest of the endocrine system and also connects to the central nervous system via the hypothalamus. According to author Gary Osborn, the thalamus is thought to have a key role in the physical basis of consciousness and is the 'Bridal Chamber' mentioned in the Gnostic scriptures. Sahasrara's inner aspect deals with the release of karma, physical action with meditation, mental action with universal consciousness and unity, and emotional action with "beingness".[29]

In Tibetan buddhism, the point at the crown of the head is represented by a white circle, with 32 downward pointing petals. It is of primary importance in the performance of phowa, or consciousness projection after death, in order to obtain rebirth in a Pure Land. Within this chakra is contained the White drop, or Bodhicitta, which is the essence of masculine energy.

  Ajna: The Brow Chakra

Chakra06.gif
Ajna is symbolized by a lotus with two petals, and corresponds to the colors violet, indigo or deep blue. It is at this point that the two side nadis Ida and Pingala are said to terminate and merge with the central channel Sushumna, signifying the end of duality. The seed syllable for this chakra is the syllable OM, and the presiding deity is Ardhanarishvara, who is a half male, half female Shiva/Shakti. The Shakti goddess of Ajna is called Hakini.

Ajna (along with Bindu), is known as the third eye chakra and is linked to the pineal gland which may inform a model of its envisioning. The pineal gland is a light sensitive gland that produces the hormone melatonin which regulates sleep and waking up. Ajna's key issues involve balancing the higher and lower selves and trusting inner guidance. Ajna's inner aspect relates to the access of intuition. Mentally, Ajna deals with visual consciousness. Emotionally, Ajna deals with clarity on an intuitive level.[30] (Note: some[who?] believe that the pineal and pituitary glands should be exchanged in their relationship to the Crown and Brow chakras, based on the description in Arthur Avalon's book on kundalini called Serpent Power or empirical research.)

In Tibetan Buddhism, this point is actually the end of the central channel, since the central channel rises up from the sexual organ to the crown of the head, and then curves over the head and down to the third eye. While the central channel finishes here, the two side channels continue down to the two nostrils.

  Vishuddha: The Throat Chakra

Chakra05.gif
Vishuddha (also Vishuddhi) is depicted as a silver crescent within a white circle, with 16 light or pale blue, or turquoise petals. The seed mantra is Ham, and the residing deity is Panchavaktra shiva, with 5 heads and 4 arms, and the Shakti is Shakini.

Vishuddha may be understood as relating to communication and growth through expression. This chakra is paralleled to the thyroid, a gland that is also in the throat and which produces thyroid hormone, responsible for growth and maturation. Physically, Vishuddha governs communication, emotionally it governs independence, mentally it governs fluent thought, and spiritually, it governs a sense of security.[31] In Tibetan buddhism, this chakra is red, with 16 upward pointing petals. It plays an important role in Dream Yoga, the art of lucid dreaming.

  Anahata: The Heart Chakra

Chakra04.gif
Anahata, or Anahata-puri, or padma-sundara is symbolised by a circular flower with twelve green petals. (See also heartmind.) Within it is a yantra of two intersecting triangles, forming a hexagram, symbolising a union of the male and female. The seed mantra is Yam, the presiding deity is Ishana Rudra Shiva, and the Shakti is Kakini.

Anahata is related to the thymus, located in the chest. The thymus is an element of the immune system as well as being part of the endocrine system. It is the site of maturation of the T cells responsible for fending off disease and may be adversely affected by stress. Anahata is related to the colours green or pink. Key issues involving Anahata involve complex emotions, compassion, tenderness, unconditional love, equilibrium, rejection and well-being. Physically Anahata governs circulation, emotionally it governs unconditional love for the self and others, mentally it governs passion, and spiritually it governs devotion.[32]

In Tibetan Buddhism, this centre is extremely important, as being the home of the indestructible red/white drop, which carries our consciousness to our next lives. It is described as being white, circular, with eight downward pointing petals, and the seed syllable Hum inside. During mantra recitation in the lower tantras, a flame is imagined inside of the heart, from which the mantra rings out. Within the higher tantras, this chakra is very important for realising the Clear Light.

  Manipura: The Solar Plexus Chakra

Chakra03.gif
Manipura or manipuraka is symbolized by a downward pointing triangle with ten petals, along with the color yellow. The seed syllable is Ram, and the presiding deity is Braddha Rudra, with Lakini as the Shakti.

Manipura is related to the metabolic and digestive systems. Manipura is believed to correspond to Islets of Langerhans,[33] which are groups of cells in the pancreas, as well as the outer adrenal glands and the adrenal cortex. These play a valuable role in digestion, the conversion of food matter into energy for the body. The colour that corresponds to Manipura is yellow. Key issues governed by Manipura are issues of personal power, fear, anxiety, opinion-formation, introversion, and transition from simple or base emotions to complex. Physically, Manipura governs digestion, mentally it governs personal power, emotionally it governs expansiveness, and spiritually, all matters of growth.[34]

In Tibetan buddhism, this wheel is represented as a triangle with 64 upward pointing petals. It is the home of the Red drop, or red bodhicitta, which is the essence of feminine energy (as opposed to the Shakta system, where the kundalini energy resides in Muladhara). It contains the seed syllable short-Ah, which is of primary importance in the Tummo inner fire meditation, which is the system by which the energy of the red drop is raised to the white drop in the crown.

  Swadhisthana: The Sacral Chakra

Chakra02.gif
Swadhisthana, Svadisthana or adhishthana is symbolized by a white lotus within which is a crescent moon, with six vermillion, or orange petals. The seed mantra is Vam, and the presiding deity is Brahma, with the Shakti being Rakini ( or Chakini ). The animal associated is the crocodile of Varuna.

The Sacral Chakra is located in the sacrum (hence the name) and is considered to correspond to the testes or the ovaries that produce the various sex hormones involved in the reproductive cycle. Swadisthana is also considered to be related to, more generally, the genitourinary system and the adrenals. The key issues involving Swadisthana are relationships, violence, addictions, basic emotional needs, and pleasure. Physically, Swadisthana governs reproduction, mentally it governs creativity, emotionally it governs joy, and spiritually it governs enthusiasm.[35]

In Tibetan buddhism, this is known as the Secret Place wheel. Below this point the Shakta tantra and Vajrayana systems diverge somewhat.

  Muladhara: The Root Chakra

Chakra01.gif
Muladhara or root chakra is symbolized by a lotus with four petals and the color red. This center is located at the base of the spine in the coccygeal region. It is said to relate to the gonads and the adrenal medulla, responsible for the fight-or-flight response when survival is under threat.

Muladhara is related to instinct, security, survival and also to basic human potentiality. Physically, Muladhara governs sexuality, mentally it governs stability, emotionally it governs sensuality, and spiritually it governs a sense of security.[36] Muladhara has a relation to the sense of smell.[37]

This chakra is where the three main nadis separate and begin their upward movement. Dormant Kundalini rests here, wrapped three and a half times around the black Svayambhu linga, the lowest of three obstructions to her full rising (also known as knots or granthis).[38] It is the seat of the red bindu, the female drop (which in Tibetan vajrayana is located at the navel chakra).[clarification needed]

The seed syllable is Lam (pronounced lum), the deity is Ganesh,[citation needed] and the Shakti is Dakini.[39] The associated animal is the elephant.[40]

There is no chakra that exists in this position within Tibetan buddhism. Instead, below the secret place wheel, there are two other wheels, the "jewel wheel", which is located in the middle of the sex organ, and the wheel located at the tip of the sex organ. These wheels are involved with tantric consort practices.[citation needed]

  Minor chakras

In addition to the 7 major chakras, there are a number of other chakras which have importance within different systems. For example, Woodroffe describes 7 head chakras (including Ajna and Sahasrara) in his other Indian text sources. Lowest to highest they are: Talu/Talana/Lalana, Ajna, Manas, Soma, Brahmarandra, Sri (inside Sahasrara), Sahasrara. In addition, the chakra Hrit known as the wish-fulfilling tree is often included below the heart, which may be the same as a chakra known as Surya located at the solar plexus. Some models also have a series of 7 lower chakras below muladhara that go down the legs.

  Hrit chakra or Surya chakra

This chakra is a minor chakra located just below the heart at the solar plexus, and is known as the wish-fulfilling tree. Here, the ability to determine your destiny becomes a reality. It is also known as the Surya chakra.[41] It supports the actions of Manipura chakra by providing it with the element of heat, and is responsible for absorbing energy from the sun.

In Tibetan Buddhism, a similar chakra called the Fire Wheel is included in the scheme, but this is located above the heart and below the throat.

  Lalana/Talumula

A chakra known as Lalana is situated in one of two places, either in the roof of the mouth, between Visuddhi and Ajna, or on the forehead, above Ajna. The Lalana chakra on the roof of the mouth is related to Bindu and Vishuddhi. When the nectar amrit trickles down from Bindu, it is stored in lalana. This nectar can fall down to Manipura and be burned up, causing gradual degeneration, or through certain practices it can be passed to Visuddhi and purified, becoming a nectar of immortality.

  Manas

A chakra known as Manas (mind) is located either between the navel and the heart, close to Surya, or is located above Ajna on the forehead. The version on the forehead has 6 petals, connected to the 5 sense objects plus the mind. In Tibetan buddhism, the chakra located on the forehead is called the Wind wheel, and has 6 spokes.

  Bindu Visarga/Indu/Chandra

Bindu visarga, is located either at the top back of the head, where some Brahmins leave a tuft of hair growing, or in the middle forehead. It is symbolised by a crescent moon. This chakra secretes an ambrosial fluid, amrit, and is the seat of the white bindu (compare with the white bodhicitta drop in the crown chakra in the Vajrayana system).

  Brahmarandra/Nirvana

In some systems, Sahasrara is the chakra that is on the crown of the head. However, other systems, such as that expounded by Shri Aurobindo, state that the real Sahasrara is located some way above the top of the head, and that the crown chakra is in fact Brahmarandra, a sort of secondary Sahasrara with 100 white petals.

  Shri/Guru

This is a minor chakra located slightly above the top of the head. It is an upward facing 12 petalled lotus, and it is associated with the Guru, that higher force that guides us through our spiritual journey.

  Lower chakras

There are said to be a series of seven chakras below muladhara going down the leg,[42] corresponding the base animal instincts, and to the Hindu underworld patala. They are called atala, vitala, sutala, talatala, rasatala, mahatala and patala.

  Atala

This chakra is located in the hips, it governs fear and lust.

  Vitala

Located in the thighs, it governs anger and resentment.

  Sutala

Located in the knees, it governs jealousy.

  Talatala

Translated as 'under the bottom level', it is located in the calves, and it is a state of prolonged confusion and instinctive wilfulness.

  Rasatala

Located in the ankles, it is the centre of selfishness and pure animal nature.

  Mahatala

Located in the feet, this is the dark realm 'without conscience', and inner blindness.

  Patala

Located in the soles of the feet, this is the realm of malice, murder, torture and hatred, and in Hindu mythology it borders on the realm of Naraka, or Hell.

  Others

There are said to be 21 minor chakras which are reflected points of the major chakras.[43] These 21 are further grouped into 10 bilateral minor chakras that correspond to the foot, hand, knee, elbow, groin, clavicular, navel, shoulder and ear. The spleen may also be classified as a minor chakra by some authorities despite not having an associated coupled minor chakra.

  Criticism of the chakra concept

The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience points out that there is no agreement about the number of chakras. Also, "The chakra system... has no proven relationship with the anatomy or physiology of the human body. Nothing resembling the energy of the chakras has ever been detected, despite the exquisite sensitivity of modern instruments."[44]

  Comparisons with other Esoteric traditions

A number of other mystical traditions talk about subtle energies that flow through the body, and identify specific parts of the body as being subtle centres. There are many similarities between systems, however, none of these traditions developed in isolation; the Indian mystical traditions had contact with the Chinese and Islamic mystical traditions, and they may have mutually influenced one another. Similarly, the Jewish and Islamic mystical traditions shared a great deal in common, especially during the Islamic occupation of Spain, and Jewish mysticism in particular had influence over Christian mysticism.

  Qigong, the Dantian

Qigong also relies on a similar model of the human body as an energy system, except that it involves the circulation of qi (ki, chi) energy.[45][46] The Qi energy, equivalent to the Hindu Prana, flows through the energy channels called meridians, equivalent to the nadis, but 2 other energies are also important, Jing, the sexual energy, and Shen, or spirit energy.

In the principle circuit of qi, called the Microcosmic orbit, energy rises up a main meridian along the spine, but also comes back down the front torso. Throughout its cycle it enters various dantians (elixir fields) which act as furnaces, where the types of energy in the body (jing, qi and shen) are progressively refined.[47] These dantians play a very similar role to that of chakras. The number of dantians varies depending on the system; the navel dantian is the most well-known (it is called the Hara in Japan), but there is usually a Dantian located at the heart and between the eyebrows.[48] The lower dantian at or below the navel transforms sexual essence, or jing, into qi energy. The middle dantian in the middle of the chest transforms qi energy into shen, or spirit, and the higher dantian at the level of the forehead (or at the top of the head), transforms Shen into wuji, infinite space of void.[49]

In Japan, the word qi is written ki, and is related to the practice of Reiki, and plays an important role in Japanese martial arts such as Aikido.

  Sufism: Lataif

Many Sufi orders make use of lata'if, subtle centres in the body which are between four or seven in number and relate to ever more subtle levels of intimacy with Allah. But although some lataif correspond in position to the chakras, there are also some big differences in position and meaning.

One six lata'if system positions the Nafs, or lower self, below the navel, the Qalb, or heart, in the left of the chest, the Ruh, or spirit, to the right of the chest, the Sirr, or secret, in the solar plexus, the Khafi, or latent subtlety, in the position of the third eye and the Akhfa, or most arcane, at the top of the head. They are frequently associated with a colour as well as a particular prophet.

Unlike the Indian and Chinese system, the emphasis is not upon these subtle centres performing a kind of inner alchemy upon the energies of the body, such as kundalini awakening, and they are not considered like organs for the subtle body; instead, they represent more abstract, philosophical concepts, representing ever greater degrees of closeness to Allah.[citation needed]

  Christianity, Hesychasm

A completely separate contemplative movement within the Eastern Orthodox church is Hesychasm, a form of Christian meditation. Comparisons have been made between the Hesychastic centres of prayer and the position of the chakras.[50] Particular emphasis is placed upon the heart area. However, there is no talk about these centres as having any sort of metaphysical existence. Far more than in any of the cases discussed above, the centres are simply places to focus the concentration during prayer.

Other mystical traditions exist within Christianity. The Renaissance saw the birth of 'Christian Kabbalah', which had its roots in Jewish kabbalah.

  Etymology

Bhattacharyya's review of Tantric history says that the word chakra is used to mean several different things in the Sanskrit sources:[51]

  1. "Circle," used in a variety of senses, symbolizing endless rotation of shakti.
  2. A circle of people. In rituals there are different cakra-sādhanā in which adherents assemble and perform rites. According to the Niruttaratantra, chakras in the sense of assemblies are of 5 types.
  3. The term chakra also is used to denote yantras or mystic diagrams, variously known as trikoṇa-cakra, aṣṭakoṇa-cakra, etc.
  4. Different "nerve plexus within the body."

In Buddhist literature the Sanskrit term cakra (Pali cakka) is used in a different sense of "circle," referring to a Buddhist conception of the Cycle of Rebirth consisting of six states in which beings may be reborn.[52]

The linguist Jorma Koivulehto wrote (2001) of the annual Finnish Kekri celebration having borrowed the word from early Indo-Aryan.[53] Indo-European cognates include Greek kuklos, Lithuanian kaklas, Tocharian B kokale and English "wheel."[54]

Cognates of "chakra" still exist in modern Asian languages as well. In Malay, "cakera" means "disc," e.g. "cakera padat" = "compact disc."

  Notes

  1. ^ Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda, The hidden power in humans, Ibera Verlag, page 54. ISBN 3-85052-197-4
  2. ^ White, David Gordon. Yoga in Practice. Princeton University Press 2012, page 14.
  3. ^ Charles Webster Leadbeater. The Chakras. p. 1. 
  4. ^ John Cross, Robert Charman. Healing with the Chakra Energy System. pp. 17–18. 
  5. ^ Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda, The hidden power in humans, Ibera Verlag, page 54, ISBN 3-85052-197-4
  6. ^ Exploring Chakras, Susan G. Shumsky, The Career Press Inc., 2003, p.37.
  7. ^ B.K.S Iyengar. Light on Yoga
  8. ^ Woodroffe, The Serpent Power, pp.317ff.
  9. ^ Flood, op. cit., p. 99.
  10. ^ a b c d e Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Kundalini Tantra.
  11. ^ Tarthang Tulku. Tibetan Relaxation. The illustrated guide to Kum Nye massage and movement - A yoga from the Tibetan tradition. Dunkan Baird Publishers, London, 2007, ISBN 978-1-84483-404-4, pp. 31, 33
  12. ^ Woodroffe, The Serpent Power, Dover Publications, pp.317ff
  13. ^ C. W. Leadbeater, Gichtel and Theosophia Practica, Chakra, Adyar, 1927
  14. ^ Chakras Caroline Myss website.
  15. ^ Helena Blavatsky (1892). Theosophical Glossary. Krotona.
  16. ^ Selby, Jon and Selig, Zachary. (1992) Kundalini Awakening, a Gentle Guide to Chakra Activation and Spiritual Growth, New York: Random House, ISBN 978-0-553-35330-3 (0-553-35330-6)
  17. ^ WEL-Systems: New Paradigm for NLP
  18. ^ Rudolf Steiner, How to Know Higher Worlds
  19. ^ Florin Lowndes, 'Enlivening the Chakra of the Heart: The Fundamental Spiritual Exercises of Rudolf Steiner' ISBN 1-85584-053-7, first English edition 1998 from the original German edition of 1996, comparing 'traditional' chakra teaching, and that of C.W.Leadbeater, with that of Rudolf Steiner
  20. ^ English translations include: There is a comparison tool to compare most of the above translations.
  21. ^ Saraswati, MD (1953 - 2001). Kundalini Yoga. Tehri-Garhwal, India: Divine Life Society, foldout chart. ISBN 81-7052-052-5
  22. ^ The Shining Ones, Philip Gardiner and Gary Osborn, Watkins Publishing, 2006 edition, p44-45, ISBN 1-84293-150-4
  23. ^ Wheels of Life, Anodea Judith
  24. ^ The Yoga Book, Stephen Sturgess, Element, 1997, p19-21, ISBN 1-85230-972-5
  25. ^ The Chakras, CW Leadbeater
  26. ^ Interpretating the Revelation, John Van Auken
  27. ^ The Chakra Bible, Patricia Mercier, Octopus Publishing Group Ltd., 2007, p. 12. ISBN 978-1-84181-320-2
  28. ^ The Chakra Bible, Patricia Mercier, Octopus Publishing Group Ltd., 2007, p. 28
  29. ^ The Chakra Bible, Patricia Mercier, Octopus Publishing Group Ltd., 2007, p. 302
  30. ^ The Chakra Bible, Patricia Mercier, Octopus Publishing Group Ltd., 2007, p. 267
  31. ^ The Chakra Bible, Patricia Mercier, Octopus Publishing Group Ltd., 2007, p. 233
  32. ^ The Chakra Bible, Patricia Mercier, Octopus Publishing Group Ltd., 2007, p. 199.
  33. ^ The Chakra Bible, Patricia Mercier, Octopus Publishing Group Ltd., 2007, p. 168
  34. ^ The Chakra Bible, Patricia Mercier, Octopus Publishing Group Ltd., 2007, p. 167
  35. ^ The Chakra Bible, Patricia Mercier, Octopus Publishing Group Ltd., 2007, p. 127
  36. ^ The Chakra Bible, Patricia Mercier, Octopus Publishing Group Ltd., 2007, p. 91
  37. ^ Mumford, John (1995). A Chakra & Kundalini Workbook (Second ed.). Llewellyn Worldwide. p. 79. ISBN 1-56718-473-1. 
  38. ^ The Devi Gita: The Song of the Goddess - A Translation, Annotation and Commentary, C. Mackenzie Brown, 1998, State University of New York Press, p195 ISBN 978-0-7914-3940-1
  39. ^ Mumford, John (1988). Ecstasy Through Tantra (Third ed.). Llewellyn Worldwide. p. 72. ISBN 0-87542-494-5. 
  40. ^ Mindell, Arnold; Sternback-Scott, Sisa; Goodman, Becky (1984). Dreambody: the body's rôle in revealing the self. Taylor & Francis. p. 38. ISBN 0-7102-0250-4. 
  41. ^ R.Venugopalam. The Hidden Mysteries of Kundalini
  42. ^ Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. Merging with Śiva: Hinduism's contemporary metaphysics, p.231
  43. ^ Acupressure and reflextherapy in the treatment of medical conditions, John R. Cross, Elsevier Health Sciences, 2001, p. 12
  44. ^ Shermer, Michael. The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience. 2. p. 538. 
  45. ^ Lu K'uan Yü, Taoist Yoga - Alchemy and Immortality, Rider and Company, London, 1970
  46. ^ Mantak and Maneewan Chia Awaken Healing Light of the Tao (Healing Tao Books, 1993), ch.5
  47. ^ Yang Erzeng, Philip Clart. The Story of Han Xiangzi: the alchemical adventures of a Taoist immortal
  48. ^ Mantak and Maneewan Chia Awaken Healing Light of the Tao (Healing Tao Books, 1993), ch.13
  49. ^ Andy James. The Spiritual Legacy of Shaolin Temple
  50. ^ Mircea Eliade. Yoga, Immortality and Freedom
  51. ^ Bhattacharyya, N. N. (1999). History of the Tantric Religion (Second Revised ed.). New Delhi: Manohar. pp. 385–86. ISBN 81-7304-025-7. 
  52. ^ Edgerton, Franklin. Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Grammar and Dictionary. Volume II. p. 221. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers: Delhi, 1953. Reprint edition, Delhi, 2004, ISBN 81-208-0999-8. E.g., catvāri devamanuṣyāṇāṃ cakrāṇi.
  53. ^ Koivulehto, Jorma 2001. The earliest contacts between Indo-European and Uralic speakers in the light of lexical loans. Pp. 235-263, no. 42 in: Carpelan et al. 2001.
  54. ^ Mallory, J.P. (1997). Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. p 640 London: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. ISBN 978-1-884964-98-5.

  See also

  References

  • BelindaGrace (2007). You are Clairvoyant - Developing the secret skill we all have. Rockpool Publishing. http://www.rockpoolpublishing.com.au/books.php?name=you-are-clairvoyant. 
  • Apte, Vaman Shivram (1965). The Practical Sanskrit Dictionary (fourth revised & enlarged ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. ISBN 81-208-0567-4. 
  • Bucknell, Roderick; Stuart-Fox, Martin (1986). The Twilight Language: Explorations in Buddhist Meditation and Symbolism. London: Curzon Press. ISBN 0-312-82540-4. 
  • Edgerton, Franklin (2004) [1953]. Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Grammar and Dictionary (Reprint ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. ISBN 81-208-0999-8.  (Two volumes)
  • Flood, Gavin (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-43878-0. 
  • Chia, Mantak; Chia, Maneewan (1993). Awaken Healing Light of the Tao. Healing Tao Books. 
  • Monier-Williams, Monier. A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. 
  • Prabhananda, S. (2000). Studies on the Tantras (Second reprint ed.). Calcutta: The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture. ISBN 81-85843-36-8. 
  • Rinpoche, Tenzin Wangyal (2002). Healing with Form, Energy, and Light. Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-176-6. 
  • Saraswati, MD, Swami Sivananda (1953 - 2001). Kundalini Yoga. Tehri-Garhwal, India: Divine Life Society. foldout chart. ISBN 81-7052-052-5. 
  • Tulku, Tarthang (2007). Tibetan Relaxation. The illustrated guide to Kum Nye massage and movement - A yoga from the Tibetan tradition. London: Dunkan Baird Publishers. ISBN 978-1-84483-404-4. 
  • Woodroffe, John (1919 - 1964). The Serpent Power. Madras, India: Ganesh & Co.. ISBN 0-486-23058-9. 

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