In Hinduism and Tantra, any of 88,000 focal points in the human body where psychic forces and bodily functions can merge and interact. In Hinduism there are seven and in Tantra four major chakras, each associated with a colour, shape, sense organ, natural element, deity, and mantra. The most important are the heart chakra, the chakra at the base of the spine, and the chakra at the top of the head.
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A chakra is 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. There are six of these wheels stacked in a column of energy that spans from the base of the spine to the middle of the forehead. And the seventh which is beyond the physical region. It is the six major chakras that correlate with basic states of consciousness...
Chakra are commonly described, as above, as energy centers in 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 metaphysical and/or biophysical energy of the human body.
The following primary chakras are commonly described:
Chakras in the head from lowest to highest are: golata, talu/talana/lalana, ajna, talata/lalata, manas, soma, sahasrara (and sri inside it.)
The concept of chakra are often treated in different ways, depending on the cultural context. In Chinese medicine, traditional chakra locations correspond to acupuncture points. In some Eastern thought, chakras are considered to be gradations of consciousness and reflect states of the soul--these systems rely less on proof than on experience (under the assumption that 'proving' the existence of chakras is asking to 'prove' the existence of the thought process). A mystic may deal with chakra as a model for their internal and external experience, and when talking about 'energy centers', may be talking about subtle forces which connect to the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of a person.
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.
Chakrology is a neologism sometimes employed by Alternative Medicine practitioners or esoteric philosophers for the study of chakras. There are many different chakrologies, some of them based on ancient Indian Hindu Tantric esoteric traditions or Western occult analyses, as well as ancient Greek and Christian references.
There are numerous traditional and modern models of the chakra system of the human subtle energetic body. As the system is subtle, these differences may co-exist and be perceived as foregrounding and backgrounding different qualities or attributes for specific reasons or purposes rather than perceived as vying for ascendancy. That said, the bodymind is a system, refer systems theory and no chakra is supreme. Chakra work in dialogue and in relationship to each other. This dialogic model is how Ayurvedic Medicine view the energetic interplay of the Chakra. This dialogic model of the Chakra is directly comparable to the human endocrine system and how different glands chemically signal and communicate to each other.
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, or 8 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.
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 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 verbalizations, 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.
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 armor that sustains the quality.
Tantric practice eventually transforms all experience into bliss. The practice liberates from negative conditioning and leads to control over perception and cognition.
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 tan tiens: when it returns to the heart (and cycles down and reascends to the head) further meditation/contemplation or union with deity develops . In Macrocosmic orbit the qi is also guided through the main channels in the limbs.
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 color. 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 vitalize 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), kuch-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. Many in this movement point to a correspondence between the position and role of the chakras and those of the glands in the endocrine system. These ideas first appear in the writings of theosophical authors like C. W. Leadbeater, who wrote a book on the Chakras.
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.
The first western reference on chakra commonly accepted by modern scholars is from a disciple of Jakob Böhme namely Johann Georg Gichtel. Gichtel, in his book Theosophia Practica (1696), directly refer to inner force centres which are strictly related with eastern chakra doctrines. Anyway it is the shakta theory of 7 main chakras that many people in the West adhere to, largely thanks to a 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 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 Petaled at the crown of the head and mentions cryptically an Eight Petaled chakra located between the Ten Petaled and the Six Petaled. 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.
Many New Age writers, such as the Danish author and musician Peter Kjærulff in his book, The Ringbearer's Diary or Anodea Judith in her book Wheels of Life, have written their opinions 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 color-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. Some authors say that there is a relationship between the positions and functions of the chakras and of the various organs of the endocrine system. It is noted by many that there is a marked similarity between the positions and roles described for chakras, and the positions and roles of the glands in the endocrine system, and also by the positions of the nerve ganglia (also known as "plexuses") along the spinal cord (branching to plexuses by endocrine glands or organs), opening the possibility that two vastly different systems of conceptualization have been brought to bear to systemize insights about the same phenomenon. By some, chakras are thought of as having their physical manifestation in the body as these glands and their subjective manifestation as the associated emotional, mental, and spiritual experiences. .
(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.)
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.