Understanding the 7 chakras (energy vortices)
The pranic body is an electromagnetic field which carries the imprint of health and vitality. It is powered by the 7 main chakras, or energy vortices (psychic centres). These vortices are highly energised and precise. They receive and store the vital life force (prana). They act as transformers which step down the level of energy.
Have you ever wondered why when a person is asleep, his heart does not stop beating? From where it gets the fuel to keep on functioning? It is the prana that allows the heart and other organs to keep on going round the clock.
Also, the energy vortices enlighten the upper cognitive faculties and dimensions of consciousness.
The 7 main chakras were discovered by ancient yogis and sages of various traditions in India and throughout the world. They, fortunately, did not dissect the body. But they had such psychic powers which allowed them to introspect the human body and make such discovery. The sages then developed the great science of kundalini yoga.
The chakras are usually represented as lotuses. When kundalini passes through each chakra, it opens the respective lotuses, lifting their flowers. As she moves to a higher chakra, the lotus closes its petals and hangs down. This causes the energies of the chakras to activate and their assimilation to kundalini.
The 7 primary chakras are located along the spinal column. They are as follows:
muladhara (at the anus) – root chakra
swadhisthana (at the root of the organ of generation) – sacral chakra
manipura (at the navel) – solar plexus
anahata (in the heart) – heart chakra
vishuddha (in the neck) – throat chakra
ajna (in the space between the two eyebrows) – third eye
sahasrara (at the crown of the head) – crown chakra
All these centres are situated in the subtle (astral) body. However, these psychic centres do correlate to the nerve plexuses in the gross body (the body that perishes at the end of each birth).
According to the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most sacred texts of Hinduism, the subtle body is composed of mind, intelligence and ego, which controls the gross physical body
Beyond the seven chakras, there is another centre which allows energy to flow through it. It is called bindu. This point is between the sahasrara chakra and the ajna chakra. It is represented by a crescent moon with a drop of white nectar. When bindu is awakened, you can hear the cosmic sound AUM (OM).
Each chakra has its own rate and velocity at which it vibrates. The chakras at the highest point of the energy vibrate at a higher frequency than those in the lower section. They are responsible for higher intelligence and subtler states of awareness. Whereas those chakras in the lower circuit are grosser and create grosser states of awareness.
The purpose of the different systems of yoga (raja, bhakti, kundalini, kriya) is to purify, adjust, rebalance and awaken the chakras individually and also as a whole. When the chakras are aroused by such yoga practices, the pranic level rises and stabilises. This, in turn, simplifies the awakening process, thus experiencing the flow of prana.
Symbolic representation of the 7 main chakras
The chakras are represented as lotuses with a different number of petals representing each chakra. Each chakra has its specific number of petals. There are different sanskrit letters inscribed on the petals. These letters indicate sound-vibrations. Also, they represent the fluctuating intensities of the energies working in the different chakras.
Colour also plays a vital role. Each chakra reflects a specific colour which is consonant with its vibration frequency.
muladhara is represented as a red lotus with four petals;
svadhisthana, a vermilion lotus with six petals;
manipura, a blue lotus of ten petals;
anahata, a deep red colour of twelve petals;
vishuddha, smoky purple of sixteen petals;
ajna, as a lotus of two white petals;
sahasrara, thousand-petalled lotus, reflecting the light of a thousand suns.
According to the tantras (Hindu or Budhist mystical or ritual text), the root chakra (mooladhara) where the kundalini (female energy) resides, is of earth. The sacral chakra (swadhisthana) is of water; the solar plexus (manipura) of fire; the heart chakra (anahata) of air; the throat chakra (vishuddhi) of ether; and finally the third eye (ajna) of mind.
Muladhara – Root chakra
The muladhara chakra is the root chakra at the base of the spinal chord. It is the resting seat of kundalini shakti, the primordial energy. This energy vortex is the place where the female energy is thought of as residing in an inactive and quiescence state.
In men, muladhara is located at the perineum, midway between the genital organ and the anus, and about two centimetres inside. Whereas in women, it is located at the posterior side of the cervix, midway between the vagina and the uterus.
Muladhara is the generating source for prana. This is where the awakening of prana starts. It then ascends the spinal cord through the pingala nadi (channel). Literally, muladhara is associated with the unconscious mind where the most primitive and deep-rooted instincts and fears lie. Perhaps this is why it is called the gateway to heaven and hell, or the pathway to the lower and higher life.
Muladhara chakra is symbolised by the red colour and it has four petals. Each petal has one of the following sanskrit letters inscribed:
vaṃ (greatest joy);
śaṃ (natural pleasure);
ṣaṃ (delight in controlling passion);
saṃ (blissfulness in concentration).
This chakra is associated with the earth element.
The bija mantra (seed mantra or sound vibration) to muladhara is Lam.
Svadhishthana – Sacral chakra
The svadhishthana chakra, or sacral chakra, literally means ‘one’s own abode’. It is situated at the coccyx, above the muladhara. It also is responsible for the awakening of prana shakti. This vortex is the storehouse of all the latent samskaras (mental impression, recollection, psychological imprint). These samskaras are the foundation of human existence. While awakened, the prana (vital life force) finds it difficult to pass through this chakra as it forms a karmic blockage.
According to pranic science, the sacral chakra is associated with the subconscious. It is therefore responsible for sleep and drowsiness, as well as to the sense of taste and our reproductive organs.
When this centre is aroused, prana flows through it. This causes the desire for food and sex to increase. However, these desires can be a hindrance to the awakening of the vital life force at this level. The only way to succeed in flowing through this vortex is by developing willpower.
Svadhishthana is represented by a lotus flower with six vermilion petals. Each petal has the following sanskrit syllables inscribed: bam, bhaṃ, maṃ, yaṃ, raṃ, laṃ.
It is associated with the water element.
The bija mantra for this centre is Vam.
Manipura – Solar plexus
The manipura chakra, or solar plexus, literally means ‘the city of jewels’. It is located behind the navel in the spine. It is considered to be the storehouse of primordial life force, thus its development is of vital importance in the pranic science. This energy vortex is associated with vitality, dynamism, preservation, heat and generation. It is usually compared to the amazing orb of the sun, without which life would be inexistent. As the sun emits light and energy, similarly, the solar plexus radiates and spreads vital energy throughout the body. Subsequently, this action controls and energises life’s processes.
The manipura chakra is associated with personal power. It is predominantly influenced by dynamism, will, strength and activity.
Manipura is symbolised by a bright yellow colour and it has ten petals. The sanskrit syllables inscribed in each petal are: dam, dham, nam, tam, tham, dam, ham, nam, pam, pham
This centre is associated with the fire element.
Its bija mantra is Ram.
Anahata – Heart chakra
Anahata literally means ‘unbeaten’. It is located behind the heart in the spine. It is the resting seat of the cosmic sound. This sound can only be experienced while being in the highest state of meditation. There is not any such external force which can create such a pure sound. Neither can it be heard by the ears, mind or psyche. This is the reason why we call it the transcendental sound. We can only perceive it by our pure consciousness.
The heart chakra has the responsibility of awakening our refined emotions. The person with a developed anahata is generally very sensitive to the feelings of others. This centre corresponds to the sense of touch. Thus, when aroused, it bestows the power to heal others either by emitting energy or just simply by touching. It also frees the person from selfishness, egoistic and emotional attachment. Thus, the person attains peace and has greater mental and emotional control.
It is represented by a blue lotus with twelve petals. Each petal has the following sanskrit syllables inscribed: kam, kham, gam, gham, nam, cam, cham, jam, jham, nam, tam, tham.
It is associated with the air element.
The bija mantra is Yam.
Vishuddha – Throat chakra
The Vishuddha chakra is the purification centre, hailed as the fountain of youth. It is located behind the throat pit in the spine and is associated with the thyroid gland.
When this centre arouses, it generates vitality, health and longevity. Its awakening can also reverse all diseased states. Even an old person can become young again. Also, it has the power to neutralise poison, both internally and externally. It has the power to absorb all the poisonous and negative experiences of life and transform it into a state of bliss.
It is symbolised by a violet lotus with sixteen petals. The inscribed syllables are: aṁ, āṁ, iṁ, īṁ, uṁ, ūṁ, ṛṁ, ṝṁ, ḷṁ, ḹṁ, eṁ, aiṁ, oṁ, auṁ, aṁ, aḥ
The element associated is ether. By meditating on vishuddha, the mind becomes free of thought, pure and empty, just like space.
The seed or bija mantra is Ham.
Ajna – Third eye
Ajna literally means ‘command’ and is often called the monitoring centre. It is located in between the eyebrows. It is the convergence point of the three main nadis (energy channels), namely ida, pingala and sushumna. These nadis or channels merge into one main stream of consciousness while flowing up to the sahasrara (seat of supreme consciousness).
Ajna is the centre of the mind and represents a higher level of consciousness. Our two eyes are for gazing outward, whereas ajna gazes inward. That is why we call it the third (divine) eye, or the eye of intuition (wisdom).
During deep meditation and reflection, all the senses are withdrawn. Thus, one enters into the dimension of void. There is a higher consciousness which guides the aspirant yogi from ajna to sahasrara by issuing commands through this centre.
When this energy centre is awakened, the spiritual aspirant acquires psychic powers. Several secrets of existence are revealed as the yogi enters the psychic or astral dimension. He can now communicate telepathically.
Ajna is symbolised by a silver lotus with two petals. The inscribed syllables are: Ha, Ksa
The element associated is mind. At this point, the mind changes from gross to subtle, or simply from outward to inward.
The seed mantra is Om.
Sahasrara – Crown chakra
Sahasrara is situated at the crown of the head. It the seat of supreme consciousness. Also, it is the highest point of human evolution, the absolute truth. It is a result of the convergence of cosmic consciousness which occurs when the latter merges with cosmic life force. When such a feat is achieved, energy transmits itself spontaneously with just a thought, gesture, word or look. The aspirant yogi then attains the superconscious state and the highest knowledge.
Sahasrara is the master key that controls the awakening of all the chakras from muladhara to ajna. The chakras are only switches. However, their potential power lies in the crown chakra. When the kundalini shakti (cosmic power) reaches sahasrara, self-realization begins. This is the point where individual consciousness dies and universal consciousness is born.
It is visualized as a thousand-petalled lotus of different colours. These petals have been arranged from right to left in 20 layers. Each layer contains 50 petals which unfold from the crown of the head in all directions into eternity.
Bindu – Falling of the drop
Bindu means ‘dot’ or ‘point’. It is at this point where creation begins. It is also considered as the ultimate point from which all things manifest and into which all things return. In other words, bindu is the model for creation, the gateway to void (shoonya).
Bindu is located at the top back of the head, above the ajna and below the sahasrara. It is at the same point where Hindu monks keep a tuft of hair.
The ‘dot’ or bindu is represented by a crescent moon with a white drop. The moon at bindu produces the life-giving nectar, while the sun at the solar plexus (manipura chakra) feeds on it. Thus, during the course of life, the fire element at the manipura consumes the drop of nectar produced at bindu. This is the main reason why one suffers from the three ailments of disease, old age and death.
However, we can reverse this process by yoga techniques. The latter cause the nectar to retain at the throat chakra (vishuddha). Also, by mastering the proper meditation techniques, we can change the flow of nectar, from manipura through vishuddha, and finally to bindu. This is how the ancient sages and yogis perfected their life and attained immortality.
When bindu is aroused, the cosmic sound of OM (AUM) is heard.