Let us study the chakras. Many writers have talked of more than seven chakras, including my teacher, Mr. Tavaria. However, for our present study and understanding, we will assume there are seven chakras.
For information on the chakras, we will refer to three very powerful texts on Hatha Yoga: Gherunda Samhita, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Shiva Samhita. There are innumerable books and commentaries on the chakras and nearly all of them contain references to the magnum opus, Serpent Power, by Sir John Woodroffe. Serpent alludes to the coiled energy of Kundalini. Sir Woodroffe was the pioneer in writing about the Kundalini in English and most other authors who followed have copied from him.
The basic pattern in all of nature is the pattern of reaction. From plants to animals to man, we all respond to external stimuli. This is a mechanical reaction common to every species in organic life. Man’s whole effort in rising from mechanicalness to consciousness is to free himself from automatically reacting to external stimuli. In a reaction, the prana in the body moves from in to out. In the language of yoga, this movement of prana from in to out is called Apana. An—to breathe and Ap—to go in the opposite direction.
The center for Apana is in our pelvic plexus. As long as man is only a machine of reactions, he serves as the basis, adhar, of giving energy to nature or prakriti. Because reaction is the adhar of prakriti and its center is in the pelvic plexus, the first chakra is called Muladhar or Muladhara. The root support for organic life.
We will see that the chakras are dynamic energy centers which form a part of man’s electrical or etheric body. This etheric body is like a web between man’s physical body and his emotional or astral body.
The chakras are connected in many ways to different aspects of our being. From the grossest level, which is our physical health, to the more subtle levels of our thoughts, feelings and sensations. The body-brain system is structured in a balance of the five elements. Each of the chakras is a controlling center for an individual element. Further, they analyze the ratio of elements in the impressions we take in.
The etheric body is a kind of electrical curtain, on one side of which is our physical body and on the other our psychological structure. Thus, on one side of the wall, the chakras are the keys to our health. And on the other side, to our mental and emotional balance and stability.
Subtle energy is all around us and the chakras are energy centers that allow us to partake of the subtle energy field within and without. They control the energy network in our body-brain systems. That is, they are subtle organs working with energy, just as the heart works with our circulation of blood. There are major and minor chakras, that is, chakras with more work to do and chakras with less work to do.
The chakras can be visualized as rapidly spinning wheels of light, some clockwise and some anti-clockwise, on a horizontal plain to the back bone. If we slowed them down, they would look like a whirlpool or vortexes with spokes. The spokes resemble the petals of a flower. That is why many writers describe them as lotuses. Seven of these vortexes emanate from the front of the body and seven from the back. So actually, seven chakras look like fourteen tornados. In other words, every chakra has a front and back.
Later we will see that the chakras can be connected to different plexuses in the body. First the hips, second the abdomen, third the solar plexus, fourth the heart, fifth the throat, sixth the forehead, and top of the head is the seventh. The Sanskrit names are Muladhara, Svadhisthana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishudhi, Ajna and Sahasrara. To these, we add Kundali, Taluka and Bindu. They are anchored in the plexuses of the physical body but remain at a subtle level. They perform innumerable functions, right from controlling the energy in their area to managing the organs around. They are connected to the endocrine glands, control different elements in the body, circulate the vital breath or prana, carry and manipulate sound, have different impulses, and have a general impulse called kundalini.
The front sides of the chakras are connected to our current reality and the backs to our subconscious and unconscious minds. Every chakra has the possibility of spinning clockwise and anticlockwise, though in their natural position they have a fixed spin. Just as a chakra has a front and back, it also has an inner sphere and outer sphere. In the terms of Gurdjieff, the outer sphere is related to our personality and the inner to our essence. The soul programs the inner sphere at the seventh month. It holds many keys—our dharma, our path—it contains everything. The outer sphere is how we are going to enact our karma.
The study of the chakras involves examining their functions before they are charged with conscious energy. There are three main functions—physical, psychological and spiritual. The main chakras have a body location, that is, they are attached to certain organs and glands, to a nerve plexus. They are also connected to our physical senses and respond to certain colors or sounds. They have a certain density of vibration, the lower being denser than the higher. Next is the psychological processing. That is, the chakras are totally responsible for all our conditioning. Our beliefs, prejudices, patterns, attitudes, habits, all lie in the chakras. And finally, each chakra is a channel for a specific spiritual quality.
Next week, we will go deeper into the workings of the chakras and study a diagram of the Muladhara chakra to unravel the knowledge it gives us.