A Pinch Of Thoughts

Chakras – Ancient Knowledge and New Myths

My previous article about the chakras was more about introducing the 3 unknown chakras; the Golata, Lalata and Lalana that are said to be located on the uvula at the back of the throat, above the Ajna chakra and within the soft upper palate.

In today’s day and age, the chakras have become popular amongst people who are deeply involved in spiritual growth. It has become a huge part of New Age thinking and people consider it as alternative medicine. They are widely used for physical healing where it is believed that healing or opening a specific chakra could cure various imbalances in the body.

To add to that practitioners have associated various herbs and crystals with each chakra. Many yoga schools or teachers practice Kundalini kriya to awaken the Kundalini, which is considered as a latent feminine energy that is believed to lie coiled at the base of the spine, in the form of a serpent. And to awaken this force, one needs to activate all the chakras that are believed to exist in the “subtle” body.

Just like yoga, today the chakras (often mispronounced as ‘shakras’ in the West) are often defined or named in physical terms for convenience, such as:

  • Mooladhara– is called the root chakra
  • Svadishthana– is called the sacral chakra
  • Manipura– is called the Solar plexus (navel area)
  • Anahata– is called the heart chakra
  • Vishuddha– is called the throat chakra
  • Anja– is called the third eye chakra
  • Sahasrara-is called the crown chakra.

In this Morden age, many practitioners think that imbalances or blockages of chakras are the main root of a disease and there are several who claim that they can heal or energize our chakras. As mentioned before, most of these healing practices involves several crystals, gems, sound therapy (this is mostly where the beej (which means seed) mantras are used corresponding to each chakra) and at times colour therapy (if you notice the seven chakras are represented by the colours of the rainbow). They claim that these methods open the chakras and restore balance in the body.

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According to the ancient yogic theory, in an ordinary human, the chakras are mostly closed. This is not due to some disease but sheer ignorance. The chakras in one’s body can be closed, and one can still be physically and mentally healthy, emotionally balanced, creative and successful in various spheres of life. In simple words, the intention of opening the chakras is not to improve one’s range in the mundane domains of human life.

Today these chakras are described as the energy vortices that lie within the physical body and the life channel known as the “sushumna-nadi” is kind of related to the spine. It is important to realize and understand that these chakras play a significant role only when one reaches a state of heightened awareness or spiritual awakening which happens when the subtle body merges with the consciousness beyond it.

Thanks to the modern definitions given to these chakras like root, navel, heart etc, there is often the tendency to confuse these chakras with the “physical locations” of the body.

The ancient yogic knowledge gives us another insight to these mystic forces that lie within our subtle body. They associate these chakras by the elements they rule.

The Mooladhara chakra is ruled by the element of Earth. So, if the Kundalini leaves the Mooladhara chakra, she throws off all connections with the Earth element. If the Mooladhara is completely activated, it means that one finally lets go off avarice or greed and every emotion which are based here. It is only when you give up the need to hold onto anything that your Mooladhara is awakened and you can progress. The beej (which means seed) mantra LAM” is basically the seed mantra of the Earth element.

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After the Mooladhara, comes the Svadhishthana and this is the seat of the element of Water and procreation. Here, the one who practices sadhana, learns everything about the Water element. The opening of the Svadhishthana is not about having heightened sexual drive. On the contrary, this is where you conquer lust and the instinctual drive to procreate.The beej mantra for the Water element is “VAM”.

Next, comes the Manipura the seat of the Fire element where the metabolism takes place and the Manipura chakra is very crucial. The nature of this element is expansive and moves upwards. We realize that behind all the aspects of the universe is the workings of the cosmic fire energy in its power of illumination. The beej mantra is “RAM”.

The Anahata is the seat of the Air element, the first of the upper three chakras. Opening this chakra is not about being in a heightened emotional or vulnerable state. It is more about being open to the universal feelings of compassion and devotion. You also learn about the ethereal beings, just like the “spirits of air” which move about like the wind does. It is like meeting the universal life force. The beej mantra of the Air element is “YAM”.

From the Ananahata, one progresses to the Vishuddha which means “pure”. This is where you gain knowledge of the Ether element. This is known as the purest and the subtlest of the Great FiveElements. Here one’s breathing becomes slow; mind becomes calm and is able to perceive subtle sounds and recognize the spatial structure of the universe. The beej mantra for the element of Ether is “HAM”.

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Progressing from Vishuddha, one reaches the “Ajna Chakra”, where breathing is almost stopped because here is the state of “Shyunya” –nothingness or emptiness, and at the same time the state where mind is highly awakened. This is where one gains mastery over mind. All forms cease to exist and all you are aware is of your own individuality. Here there is no bondage of karmic debt. Even though it is called the state of void, it is not empty, but it is full. This is the seat where Shiva and Shakti exist as ONE. The beej mantra here is “OM”.

And finally, when one progresses to the Sahasrara, the final shreds of identity are lost, and one merges with the Universal Soul where all indecisions and fluctuations of the mind disappear, and the soul no longer remains in the mundane world and reaches a state that transcends death. A-U-M.

In this article, I haven’t mentioned the process of the awakening of the Kundalini in detail as that would be too much information to include in one article (even though I mentioned it once while describing the Mooladhara). That could be for another time.

But I would like to add a note that we must always keep in mind that the Human Body is an embodiment of the “Panch Bhoota” or the Five Elements as all these elements reside within us.