Kundalini (And Chakras..)
|Part of a series on
Kundalini (kuṇḍalinī, Sanskrit: कुण्डलिनी) literally means coiled. In yoga, a “corporeal energy” – an unconscious, instinctive or libidinal force or Shakti, lies coiled at the base of the spine. It is envisioned either as a goddess or else as a sleeping serpent hence a number of English renderings of the term such as ‘serpent power’. The kundalini resides in the sacrum bone in three and a half coils and has been described as a residual power of pure desire.
The Yogatattva Upanishad mentions four kinds of yoga, of which laya-yoga involves kundalini.
maintained that the kundalini energy is nothing but the natural energy of the Self, where Self is the universal consciousness (Paramatma) present in every being, and that the individual mind of thoughts cloaks this natural energy from unadulterated expression. Advaita teaches that Self-realization, enlightenment, -consciousness, nirvana and kundalini awakening are all the same thing, and self-inquiry meditation is considered a very natural and simple means of reaching this goal.
Yoga and Tantra propose that this energy can be “awakened” by a guru (), but body and spirit must be prepared by yogic austerities such as , or breath control, physical exercises, visualization, and chanting. The kundalini can also awaken as a result of doing hatha yoga or other forms of spiritual practice, and sometimes it can awaken spontaneously, for no obvious reason.
According to well-known teacher and translator Eknath Easwaran, kundalini means “the coiled power,” a force which ordinarily rests at the base of the spine, described as being coiled there like a serpent.
According to Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda, the term “kundalini” is based on several words and has several meanings. The word ending with “i” indicates that it relates to the feminine principle and deals with a form of Shakti (energy) and Prakriti (nature). “Kunda” is a hole or well into which all debris and rubbish is thrown. In time the rubbish loses its original form and disintegrates into a formless mesh in which the individual components are no longer recognizable. In a similar way, our impressions from earlier lives lie like an amorphous substance deep in the unconscious (Muladhara Chakra) . “Kundala” means the ring and is generally used to refer to an earring in Sanskrit. The other roots of kundalini are “kundala” the serpent, and “kala” the time or death. In Indian mythology Lord Vishnu rests on a thousand-headed snake and sends out the first vibration (Sphurna), from which the entire Universe evolves.
Awakening of the kundalini
Kundalini can be awakened through the grace of a Siddha-Guru who awakens the kundalini shakti of his discipline through shaktipat, or blessing. A Siddha Guru is a spiritual teacher, a master, whose identification with the supreme Self is uninterrupted. Like every form of energy one must also learn to understand spiritual energy. According to Hindu tradition, in order to be able to integrate this spiritual energy, a period of careful purification and strengthening of the body and nervous system is usually required beforehand.
Some schools of yoga also teach that the kundalini can be awakened through spiritual practices such as hatha yoga and meditation, rather than via shaktipat. Additionally, spontaneous awakenings can occur, often triggered by intense personal experiences such as accidents, near death experiences, childbirth, emotional trauma and so on. Sometimes awakenings seem to occur for no obvious reason at all. Some sources attribute spontaneous awakenings to the “grace of God”, or possibly to spiritual practice in past lives.
The kundalini rises from muladhara chakra up a subtle channel at the base of the spine (called Sushumna), and from there to top of the head merging with the sahasrara, or crown chakra. When kundalini Shakti is conceived as a goddess, then, when it rises to the head, it unites itself with the Supreme Being (Lord Shiva). Then the aspirant becomes engrossed in deep meditation and infinite bliss.
The arousing of kundalini is said by some to be the one and only way of attaining Divine Wisdom. Self-Realization is said to be equivalent to Divine Wisdom or Gnosis or what amounts to the same thing: self-knowledge. The awakening of the kundalini shows itself as “awakening of inner knowledge” and brings with itself “pure joy, pure knowledge and pure love.”
Physical effects are believed to be a sign of kundalini awakening by some, but described as unwanted side effects pointing to a problem rather than progress by others. According to a 1985 article by David T. Eastman in Yoga Journal, some of the more common signs and symptoms of an awakened kundalini include:
- Involuntary jerks, tremors or shaking
- Intense heat, especially as energy is experienced passing through the chakras
- Spontaneous pranayama, asanas, mudras and bandhas
- Visions or sounds at times associated with a particular chakra
- Intense feelings of pleasure
- Emotional purgings in which particular emotions become dominant for short periods of time.
Reports about the Sahaja Yoga technique of kundalini awakening suggest the practice can result in a cool breeze felt on the fingertips as well as on the fontanel bone area. One study has measured a drop in temperature on the palms of the hands resulting from this technique.
American spiritual teacher Ram Dass describes his guru’s instruction and his own subsequent experience of kundalini: “When I asked Maharaj-ji “How do you raise kundalini?” he said “Serve people.” which is like a real schlock answer. And I’ve worked with that, and I see, as I orient myself to see this whole thing as a process with everyone I meet, I keep getting into these spaces of incredible love and connectedness and that’s kundalini… It’s like don’t just sit there doing breathing exercises – serve people.”
Swami Muktananda in his book Guru, offered another kind of experience: “I sometimes danced, sometimes swayed, and sometimes became lost in the love-inspiring nada (cosmic melody). The nada is indeed the Absolute reality… It is the vibrating current, set in motion by Kundalini. About the nada, the Scriptures say, adau bhagavan sabdarasih, “God originally manifested Himself as sound.” They represented the last phase of my dynamic Kundalini. Thus while hearing nada, my mind would converge on its source. I witness the center which, activated by nada, emits divine sparks. All my senses were drawn toward it. Even my tongue rushed in that very direction. My body responded to whatever variety of nada I heard with a corresponding quiver that was mildly painful. Sweating profusely, I felt that I would collapse. My head trembled violently. I felt as if a gentle fire was burning in my body. Sometimes a tiny drop of nectar dripped from the upper akasha (sky). At other times, different sensations of taste were released from there – salty, sour, bitter and astringent. Sometimes, ambrosial milk trickled through my palate from Nadaloka (the universe of sound). It entered my gastric fire and then flowed to my 72,000 nerves. Consequently, many subtle ailments of the body vanished. However hard I might work, I did not feel tired. While enjoying these unearthly melodies and knowing they are Sabda-Brahman (the Creator as sound), I directly experienced It in them. My dynamic Kundalini felt delighted on meeting Her husband in the form of nada. The currents of Her joy flowed through my entire body. And Muktananda began to dance. As the waves of nada played within me, my mind also became sharp and agile.”
Kundalini as described by Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda described kundalini briefly in London during his lectures on Raja Yoga as follows:
“According to the Yogis, there are two nerve currents in the spinal column, called Pingala and Ida, and a hollow canal called Sushumna running through the spinal cord. At the lower end of the hollow canal is what the Yogis call the “Lotus of the kundalini”. They describe it as triangular in form in which, in the symbolical language of the Yogis, there is a power called the kundalini, coiled up. When that kundalini awakes, it tries to force a passage through this hollow canal, and as it rises step by step, as it were, layer after layer of the mind becomes open and all the different visions and wonderful powers come to the Yogi. When it reaches the brain, the Yogi is perfectly detached from the body and mind; the soul finds itself free. We know that the spinal cord is composed in a peculiar manner. If we take the figure eight horizontally (∞) there are two parts which are connected in the middle. Suppose you add eight after eight, piled one on top of the other, that will represent the spinal cord. The left is the Ida, the right Pingala, and that hollow canal which runs through the centre of the spinal cord is the Sushumna. Where the spinal cord ends in some of the lumbar vertebrae, a fine fibre issues downwards, and the canal runs up even within that fibre, only much finer. The canal is closed at the lower end, which is situated near what is called the sacral plexus, which, according to modern physiology, is triangular in form. The different plexuses that have their centres in the spinal canal can very well stand for the different “lotuses” of the Yogi.”
Vedanta view on kundalini, Tantra and Sex
Tantra is the worship of Shakti, the divine mother. Shakti is also referred to as Prakriti, or primordial nature. To ensure that nature (Prakriti) would always maintain the connection to the divine original consciousness (Purusha), the force of attraction developed as an aspect of Prakriti. The desire for union and the striving for expansion are “natural”; they are intrinsic impulses of nature. Other terms for Purusha and Prakriti are Shiva and Shakti. Shiva is the symbol for consciousness and the masculine principle, Shakti symbolizes energy and the feminine principle. The meaning of Shiva and Shakti is sometimes misunderstood when they are looked upon as man and woman and their relation is regarded as sexual.
Kundalini is considered an interaction of the subtle body along with chakra energy centers and nadis channels. Each chakra is said to contain special characteristics and with proper training, moving kundalini energy ‘through’ these chakras can help express or open these characteristics.
Sir John Woodroffe (pen name Arthur Avalon) was one of the first to bring the notion of kundalini to the West. As High Court Judge in Calcutta, he became interested in Shaktism and Hindu Tantra. His translation of and commentary on two key texts was published as The Serpent Power. Woodroffe rendered kundalini as “Serpent Power” for lack of a better term in the English language but “kundala” in Sanskrit means “coiled”.
Western awareness of the idea of kundalini was strengthened by the Theosophical Society and the interest of the psychoanalyst Carl Jung (1875–1961). “Jung’s seminar on kundalini yoga, presented to the Psychological Club in Zurich in 1932, has been widely regarded as a milestone in the psychological understanding of Eastern thought. Kundalini yoga presented Jung with a model for the development of higher consciousness, and he interpreted its symbols in terms of the process of individuation”.
Another populariser of the concept of kundalini among Western readers was Gopi Krishna. His autobiography is entitled Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man. According to one writer his writings influenced Western interest in kundalini yoga.
In the early 1930s two Italian scholars, Tommaso Palamidessi and Julius Evola, published several books with the intent of re-interpreting alchemy with reference to yoga. Those works had an impact on modern interpretations of Alchemy as a mystical science. In those works, kundalini is called an Igneous Power or Serpentine Fire.
Other well-known spiritual teachers who have made use of the idea of kundalini include Swami Rudrananda (Rudi), Yogi Bhajan, Osho, George Gurdjieff, Paramahansa Yogananda, Swami Sivananda Radha who produced an English language guide of Kundalini Yoga methods, Swami Muktananda, Bhagawan Nityananda, Nirmala Srivastava (Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi), Samael Aun Weor and Lord Sri Akshunna.
Kundalini references may commonly be found in a wide variety of derivative “New Age” presentations, such as Shirley MacLaine’s, and is a catchword that has been adopted by many new religious movements. However, some commentators, such as transpersonal psychologist Stuart Sovatsky, think that the association of Yogic Sanskrit terminology (chakras, kundalini, mantras, etc.) with the superficiality of new-age rhetoric is unfortunate.
Psychiatry (Brain waves)
Recently, there has been a growing interest within the medical community to study the physiological effects of meditation, and some of these studies have applied the discipline of Kundalini Yoga to their clinical settings. Their findings are not all positive. Some modern experimental research
seeks to establish links between kundalini practice and the ideas of Wilhelm Reich and his followers.
However, the intensive spiritual practices associated with some Asian traditions are not without their problems. Psychiatric literature notes that “since the influx of eastern spiritual practices and the rising popularity of meditation starting in the 1960s, many people have experienced a variety of psychological difficulties, either while engaged in intensive spiritual practice or spontaneously”. Among the psychological difficulties associated with intensive spiritual practice we find “kundalini awakening”,”a complex physio-psychospiritual transformative process described in the yogic tradition”.Also, researchers in the fields of Transpersonal psychology, and Near-death studies describe a complex pattern of sensory, motor, mental and affective symptoms associated with the concept of kundalini, sometimes called the Kundalini Syndrome.
According to the psychiatrist Carl Jung, “…the concept of Kundalini has for us only one use, that is, to describe our own experiences with the unconscious…”
Chakras in the human body depicted with their residing deities.
Chakra (derived from the Sanskrit cakraṃ चक्रं ([ˈtʃəkrə̃]), pronounced [ˈtʃəkrə] in Hindi; Pali: chakka ॰हक्क, Tamil: Sakkeram, Chinese: , Tibetan: ; khorlo) is a Sanskrit word that translates as “wheel” or “turning”.
Chakra is a concept referring to wheel-like vortices which, according to traditional Indian medicine, are believed to exist in the surface of the etheric double of man. 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 the focal points for the reception and transmission of energies. Seven major chakras or energy centers (also understood as wheels of light) are generally believed to exist, located within the subtle body.
It is typical for chakras to be depicted as either flower-like or wheel-like. In the former, a specific number of “petals” are shown around the perimeter of a circle. In the latter, a certain number of spokes divide the circle into segments that make the chakra resemble a wheel (or “chakra”). Each chakra possesses a specific number of segments or petals.
Texts documenting the chakras go back as far as the later Upanishads, for example the Yoga Kundalini Upanishad.
Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda describes a chakra as:
…[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, as described above, are 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. Chakras are considered to be a point or nexus of biophysical energy or prana of the human body. Shumsky states 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.”
The following seven primary chakras are commonly described:
- Muladhara (Sanskrit: मूलाधार, Mūlādhāra) Base or Root Chakra (ovaries/prostate)
- Swadhisthana (Sanskrit: स्वाधिष्ठान, Svādhiṣṭhāna) Sacral Chakra (last bone in spinal cord *coccyx*)
- Manipura (Sanskrit: मणिपूर, Maṇipūra) Solar Plexus Chakra (navel area)
- Anahata (Sanskrit: अनाहत, Anāhata) Heart Chakra (heart area)
- Vishuddha (Sanskrit: विशुद्ध, Viśuddha) Throat Chakra (throat and neck area)
- Ajna (Sanskrit: आज्ञा, Ājñā) Brow or Third Eye Chakra (pineal gland or third eye)
- Sahasrara (Sanskrit: सहस्रार, Sahasrāra) Crown Chakra (Top of the head; ‘Soft spot’ of a newborn)
Chakras in the head from lowest to highest are: golata, talu/talana/lalana, ajna, talata/lalata, manas, soma, sahasrara (and sri inside it.)
Bhattacharyya’s review of Tantric history says that the word chakra is used to mean several different things in the Sanskrit sources:
- “Circle”, used in a variety of senses, symbolizing endless rotation of shakti.
- 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.
- The term chakra also is used to denote yantras or mystic diagrams, variously known as trikoṇa-cakra, aṣṭakoṇa-cakra, etc.
- 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 4 circles or states of existence in which gods or men may find themselves.
The linguist Jorma Koivulehto wrote (2001) of the annual Finnish Kekri celebration having loaned the word from early Indo-Aryan. Indo-European cognates include Greek kuklos, Lithuanian kaklas, Tocharian B kokale and English “wheel”.
The study of the Chakras is central to many different therapies and disciplines. Subtle energy is explored through practices such as aromatherapy, mantras, Reiki, hands-on healing, flower essences, radionics, sound therapy, colour/light therapy, and crystal/gem therapy, to name a few. Acupuncture, shiatsu, tai chi and chi kung focus on balancing the energetic meridians that are an integral part of the chakra system, according to Vajrayana and Tantric Shakta theories. Several models will be explored in the following sub-headings.
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.
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. It is in this model where Kundalini is said to “rise” upward, piercing the various centers until reaching the crown of the head, resulting in union with the Divine.
The chakras are described in the tantric texts the Sat-Cakra-Nirupana, and the Padaka-Pancaka, 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.
Vajrayana and Tantric Buddhist
According to contemporary Buddhist teacher Tarthang Tulku, the heart chakra is very important for the feeling of existential fulfilment.
A result of energetic imbalance between 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 fulfilment.
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.
Chögyal Namkai Norbu Rinpoche teaches a version of the Six Lokas sadhana which works with the chakra system.
The kye-rim (Tibetan) and dzog-rim (Tibetan) stages work with the ‘chakra’ (Tibetan: khorlo).
Chakras, as pranic centers of the body, according to the Himalayan Bönpo tradition, influence the quality of experience, because movement of prana can not be separated from experience. Each of the six major chakras are linked to experiential qualities of one of the six realms of existence.
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.
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.
Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche teaches a version of the Six Lokas sadhana which works with the chakra system.
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.
In the circuit of qi, called the Microcosmic orbit, energy also comes back down the front torso channel (equivalent to the nadis of Hatha yoga), and enters the dan tian: when it returns to the heart (and cycles down and reascends to the head) further meditation/contemplation or union with Dao is developed. In Macrocosmic orbit the qi is also guided through the main channels in the limbs.
The concept of meridians and qi are superficially reminiscent of that of the chakras and the prana respectively, and it was sometimes suggested that they were inspired by the Indian concepts. However, the Chinese model includes 12 meridians and at least 365 acupuncture points distributed on various organs rather than just 6 chakras all located alongside the spine.
In Japan, the word qi is written ki, and is related to the practice of Reiki.
Western complementary and alternative medicine
In the Western hemisphere, a concept similar to that of prana can be traced back as far as the 18th century’s Franz Anton Mesmer that used ‘animal magnetism’ to cure disease. However, the concept of chakras was only introduced in 1927 by the clergyman and theosophical author Charles Webster Leadbeater in his book ‘The Chakras’. Due to the similarities between the Chinese and Indian philosophies, the notion of chakras was quickly amalgamated to Chinese practices such as acupuncture and belief in ki. The confluence of these two divergent healing traditions and the common practitioners’ own inventiveness have lead 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.
The chakras are described as being aligned in an ascending column from the base of the spine to the top of the head. In New Age practices, each chakra is often associated 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 (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.
The New Age movement has led to an increased interest in the West regarding chakras. These ideas first appear in the writings of theosophical authors like C. W. Leadbeater, who wrote a book on the Chakras. Many of Leadbeater’s views that directed his understanding of chakras were influenced by previous theosophist authors and in particular Johann Georg Gichtel, a disciple of Jakob Böhme, and his book Theosophia Practica (1696)force centers, a concept reminiscent of that of chakras. in which Gitchtel directly refer to inner
The seven principal chakras 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 crudified consciousness.
Western derivative models and interpretations
It is the shakta theory of 7 main chakras that has become most popular in the Western hemisphere, 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. This book is extremely detailed and complex, and later the ideas were developed into what is the predominant Western view of the Chakras by the Theosophists, and largely the controversial (in theosophical circles) C. W. Leadbeater in his book The Chakras, which are in large part his own meditations and insights on the matter.
Rudolf Steiner (one-time Theosophist, and founder of Anthroposophy) says much about the Chakras that is unusual, especially that the chakra system is dynamic and evolving and is very different for modern people than it was in ancient times, and will in turn be radically different in future times. In contrast to the traditional eastern teachings, Steiner describes a sequence of development from the top down rather than the bottom up. This is the so called ‘Christos Path’ which has not always been available to humanity. He also seems to ignore the Thousand Petalled chakra at the crown of the head and instead cryptically mentions an Eight Petalled chakra located between the Ten Petalled and the Six Petalled ones. In his book How to Know Higher Worlds Steiner gives clear instructions on how to develop the chakras safely into maturity. These are more like life disciplines than exercises and can take considerable time. He warns that while quicker methods exist, they can be dangerous to one’s health, character, or sanity.
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 unique 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.
Additionally, 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.
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. The author Gary Osborn, for instance, has described the chakras as metaphysical counterparts to the endocrine glands, while Anodea Judith noted a marked similarity between the positions of the two and the roles described for each. Stephen Sturgess also links the lower six chakras to specific nerve plexuses along the spinal cord as well as glands.] which is a part of the endocrine system. Edgar Cayce said that the 7 churches of the Book of Revelation are endocrine glands. C.W. Leadbeater associated the Anja chakra with the pineal gland,
The Spectrum of Light
A recent 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 cure a headache you would 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.
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.
The seven major chakras
Sahasrara: The Crown Chakra
||Sahasrara is generally considered to be the chakra of pure consciousness. 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. Symbolized by a lotus with one thousand petals, it is located at 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. 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”.|
Ajna: The Brow Chakra
||Ajna (along with Bindu, is also known as the third eye chakra) 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 is symbolised by a lotus with two petals, and corresponds to the colors violet, indigo or deep blue. Ajna’s key issues involve balancing the higher & 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.]
(Note: some opine 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.)
Vishuddha: The Throat Chakra
||Vishuddha (also Vishuddhi) 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. Symbolised by a lotus with sixteen petals. Vishudda is characterized by the colour light or pale blue, or turquoise. It governs such issues as self-expression and communication, as discussed above. Physically, Vishuddha governs communication, emotionally it governs independence, mentally it governs fluent thought, and spiritually, it governs a sense of security.|
Anahata: The Heart Chakra
||Anahata, or Anahata-puri, or padma-sundara 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 symbolised by a lotus flower with twelve petals. (See also heartmind). 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.|
Manipura: The Solar Plexus Chakra
||Manipura or manipuraka is related to the metabolic and digestive systems. Manipura is believed to correspond to Islets of Langerhans,] 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. Symbolised by a lotus with ten petals. 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.]|
Svadhisthana: The Sacral Chakra
||Swadhisthana, Svadisthana or adhishthana 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. Svadisthana is also considered to be related to, more generally, the genitourinary system and the adrenals. The Sacral Chakra is symbolized by a lotus with six petals, and corresponds to the colour orange. The key issues involving Svadisthana are relationships, violence, addictions, basic emotional needs, and pleasure. Physically, Svadisthana governs reproduction, mentally it governs creativity, emotionally it governs joy, and spiritually it governs enthusiasm.|
Muladhara: The Base Chakra
||Muladhara or root chakra is related to instinct, security, survival and also to basic human potentiality. This center is located in the perineum, which is the region between the genital and the anus. Although no endocrine organ is placed here, it is said to relate to the gonads and the adrenal medulla, responsible for the fight-or-flight response when survival is under threat. There is a muscle located in this region that controls ejaculation in the sexual act of the human male. A parallel is charted between the sperm cell and the ovum where the genetic code lies coiled and the kundalini. Muladhara is symbolized by a lotus with four petals and the colour red. Key issues involve sexuality, lust and obsession. Physically, Muladhara governs sexuality, mentally it governs stability, emotionally it governs sensuality, and spiritually it governs a sense of security.
Woodroffe also 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.
The Minor Chakras
There are said to be 21 minor chakras which are reflected points of the major chakras. These 21 are further grouped into 10 bilateral minor chakras that correspond to the foot, hand, knee, elbow, groin, clavicular, groin, 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.