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In some Indian religions, a chakra (Sanskrit chakras, “wheel”) is thought to be an energy point or node in the subtle body. Chakras are believed to be part of the subtle body,not the physical body, and as such, are the meeting points of the subtle (non-physical) energy channels called nadi. Nadi are believed to be channels in the subtle body throughwhich the life force (prana) (non-physical) or vital energy (non-physical) moves. Various scriptural texts and teachings present a different number of chakras. It’s believed thatthere are many chakras in the subtle human body, according to the tantric texts, but there are seven chakras that are considered to be the most important ones.

In Western culture, a concept similar to that of prana can be traced back as far as the 18th century’s Franz Anton Mesmer, who used “animal magnetism” to treat disease. However it was only in 1927 that the shakta theory of seven main chakras, that has become most popular in the West, was introduced, largely through the 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 the predominant Western view of the chakras by C. W. Leadbeater in his book The Chakras.

Many of the views which directed Lead beater’s understanding of the chakras were influenced by previous theosophist authors, in particular Johann Georg Gichtel, a disciple of Jakob Böhme, and his book Theosophia Practica (1696), in which Gichtel directly refers to inner force centres, a concept reminiscent of the chakras.

New AgeIn Anatomy of the Spirit (1996), Caroline Myss describes the function of chakras as follows: “Every thought and experience you’ve ever had in your life gets filtered through these chakra databases. Each event is recorded into your cells…”. The chakras are described as being aligned in an ascending column from the base of the spine to the top of the head..New Age practices often associate each chakra with a certain colour. 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 or 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 (which New Age belief equates with shakti, qi in Chinese, ki in Japanese, koach-ha-guf in Hebrew, bios in Greek, and aether in both Greek and English), which is thought to flow among them along pathways called nadi. 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.

In his book on Japa Yoga (Himalaya Press, 1978), Swami Sivananda states that a yogi that practices Japa only with the Om and is successful at Mahasamyama (oneness with the object, in this case,a word being meditated on) becomes a direct disciple of the Om, the most holy of all words and syllables (the same as the word of creation as recognised by the Torah, although this is not professed or quite possibly not even recognized by those of secular authority in either Judaism or Christianity). Thus, the yogi who achieves this feat needs no guru or Sat-guru to achieve any spiritual goal (an archetype or an Ascended Master, a Krishna, a Rama, a Jesus, a Nanak, a Buddha). Swami Sivananda mentions that this yogi has a path that is, in all recognisable ways and manners, reverse of thatof other yogis or spiritual aspirants and their paths, in that this spiritual aspirant then works through the chakras, mastering them from the crown down. Satprem explains, in page 67 of his bookSri Aurobindo, or the Adventure of Consciousness (ISBN 81-85137-60-9), that, in Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s Integral Yoga, the practitioner experiences a “descent” where the Grace and Lightworks through and enlightens the chakras from the crown chakra downwards.

Another interpretation of the seven chakras is presented by writer and artist Zachary Selig. In his book Kundalini Awakening, a Gentle Guide to Chakra Activation and Spiritual Growth, he presents aunique 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 colour-coded chakrapaintings.

Some system models describe one or more transpersonal chakras above the crown chakra, as well as an Earth star chakra below the feet. There are also held to be many minor chakras (for example, between the major chakras).

Rudolf Steiner considered the chakra system to be dynamic and evolving. He suggested that this system has become different for modern people than it was in ancient times and that it will, in turn,be radically different in future times. Steiner described a sequence of development that begins with the upper chakras and moves down, rather than moving in the opposite direction. He gave suggestions on how to develop the chakras through disciplining thoughts, feelings, and will.

The seven chakras.

According to Florin Lowndes, a “spiritual student” can further develop and deepen or elevate thinking consciousness when taking the step from the “ancient path” of schooling to the “new path” represented by Steiner’s The Philosophy of Freedom.

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