One cannot discuss Chakras without a little bit of background thus putting them into context. So before I give a description of what each Chakra stands for, I will talk about some of the history. Future posts will delve deeper into Chakras and what their importance is in Hindu and Buddhist tradition and why today their tradition is still going strong.
Chakras and Winds
According to Ancient philosophies and religions, the body is made up of psychic, energy centers or focal points called Chakras. Their energies flow through channels called Nadi. It is the Nadi that transmit these energies or winds. In Buddhism, they are known as prana. The winds or prana are favorable conditions such as prosperity, honor, praise and pleasure, and unfavorable conditions: decline, disgrace, censure and suffering.
The Eight Winds as they are called, influence our behavior. The tradition states that if they are of the positive type, one should not rely on them and behave as if these were permanent situations. The same is said about the negative types.
One can relish in praise and feel exhilarated by it. But, this is a fleeting condition, one that will not always exist. Poverty, a negative wind, should be treated in the same manner. In other words, our behavior should not decline due to the negative wind.
Our reactions to positive or negative winds should not hinder who we are. We should treat all of them, positive or negative, and act and react in the same manner. Herein lies our strength.
As Nichiren explains, “The heavenly gods will surely protect one who is unbending before the eight winds.”
Chakras in the Subtle Body
As I said before, these winds converge at Chakras. These are the centers in the body that contain psychic-energy. Depending on the Indian tradition, we have four Chakras in Buddhism, while the esoteric Hindu say there are seven.
The word Chakra derives from the Sanskrit word meaning “wheel,” as well as “circle” and “cycle”. In Medieval times, theories emerged that said we had two bodies; that we existed in parallel dimensions. We have the physical body as well as a non physical body. The physical is our mass; while our non physical is energy. This non physical body is known as the Subtle Body. This esoteric theory posits that the body and the mind mutually affect each other. It is this Subtle body that is made up of energy channels (Nadi) that are connected by focal points called Chakras.
According to Buddhist and Hindu traditions, the Chakras are aligned down the bodies’ spinal cord, from the base to the top of the head. In tantric systems they are always present and they are the means to psychic and emotional energy. They are important in the meditative discovery of our inner energies and their flows, and our mind-body connections.
These ideas are not exclusive to the East. Most cultures have similar concepts that connect the mind, body, and spirit. And, different traditions have their own descriptions. If you would like to see how some of them treat the Chakras, research the following: Hindu Tantra, Vajrayana Buddhist Tantra, Bön, Qigong, and Silat. Wikipedia has some information that is easy to read and pretty comprehensive if you’re willing to go down the rabbit hole.
John Woodroffe was a judge in British India during the late 1800s and early 1900s. He was very interested in the Hindu tantra and translated many sanskrit texts. Thanks to him we learned about the Hindu religion and their ways of worship. We also learned about the Chakras. It is from his work, especially The Serpent Power, that I will describe the ideas behind each of the seven Chakras. There is a video that tells a bit about him.
A Little on Chakras
This is just an appetizer to the main entree! There is much to discuss when it comes to the Chakras.
Sahasrara or crown chakra is the topmost chakra in the subtle body, located in the crown of the head. It is generally considered to be the highest spiritual center and the state of pure consciousness. When the feminine and masculine elements unite, the yogi or yogini achieves self-realization and liberation is reached. The chakra is symbolized by a lotus with one thousand multi-coloured petals.
Ajna or third-eye chakra is the subtle center of energy, located between the eyebrows, behind it, along the subtle spinal column. This is the spot where the tantra guru touches the seeker during the initiation ritual.
It is symbolized by a lotus with two petals. It signifies the end of duality, the characteristic of being dual (e.g. light and dark, or male and female). It corresponds to the colors violet, indigo, or deep blue.
Vishuddha or throat chakra is located at the base of the subtle body’s throat. It is symbolized as a sixteen-petaled lotus. The Vishuddha is represented as a silver crescent within a white circle, with 16 light or pale blue, or turquoise petals.
Anahata or the heart chakra is the subtle center of inner divine melody, believed to be located next to heart, located behind it along the subtle spinal column. It is believed to be the psychic energy center.
The symbol is a lotus with twelve petals. It is a circular flower with twelve green petals called the heartmind. Within it is a yantra of two intersecting triangles, forming a hexagram, symbolizing a union of the male and female.
It is symbolized as a ten-petaled lotus. The Chakra is represented as a downward pointing triangle with ten petals, along with the color yellow.
Svadhishthana or sacral chakra is located at the root of sexual organs, along the spine in the subtle body.
It is symbolized by a six-petaled lotus. Svadhisthana is represented with a white lotus within which is a crescent moon, with six orange petals.
Muladhara or root chakra is located at the base of the spine of the subtle body. This chakra is where the three main nadi separate and begin their upward movement. Dormant Kundalini, primal energy is believed to be resting here. Activating this Chakra will awaken this energy. It is symbolized as a four-petaled lotus. Muladhara is represented with the color red.