Chakra: Sanscrit - "cakra" meaning wheel, disc or circle, and sometimes also referring to the "wheel of life". The pronunciation of this word can be approximated in English by 'chuhkruh', with ch as in chart (the commonly found pronunciation 'shockrah' is incorrect).
Chakra is a concept which originated from Hindu texts and used in Hindu practices. The earliest known mention of chakras is found in the later Upanishads, including specifically the Brahma Upanishad and the Yogatattva Upanishad. These vedic models were adapted in Tibetan Buddhism as Vajrayana theory, and in the Tantric Shakta theory of chakras.
It is the shakta theory of 7 main chakras that most people in the West adhere to, knowingly or unknowingly, due to a translation of two indian texts, the 'Sat-Cakra-Nirupana', and the 'Padaka-Pancaka', by Sir John Woodroffe, alias Arthur Avalon, from a book entitled 'The Serpent Power'.
There are various models of chakras in other traditions, most notably Chinese medicine, Tibetan Buddhism, but even within the Jewish kabbalah, the different Sephiroth are associated with parts of the body. In Islamic Sufism , 'Lataif-e-Sitta' (the Six Subtleties) are considered as psycho-spiritual "organs" or faculties of sensory and supra-sensory perception, the activation of which is considered to make humans complete .
Attempts have been made to try and reconcile these systems with each other, even with such diverged traditions as Shakta Tantra, Sufism and Kabbalism, where chakras, lataif and Sephiroth seemingly represent the same archetypal spiritual concepts, there has been a measure of success.
Although there are various interpretations as to what exactly a chakra is, the following features are common in all systems:
The Chakras are traditionally depicted as Lotuses, the sacred flower, which grow in mud - symbolising the development from the primative to the divine, this is shown in the progress of the Chakras from base chakra (rooted in earth) to the crown and universal chakras which connect us to the Divine and Cosmic Consciousness.
Chakras are energy vortexes situated in the subtle or ethric (energy) bodies.
Chakras regulate energy flow and interaction between the physical and subtle bodies. There are generally considered to be seven main and twenty one minor chakras, these are connected by seventy two thousand nadis, tiny energy centers, which when seen with the third eye, resemble a glowing spiders web woven throughout the subtle body.
Coiled three and a half times around the base chakra is the Serpent Goddess Kundalini (Kundali means 'spiral' or 'coil'), an aspect of Shakti the Great Goddess. This is significant as the DNA Double helix repeats every 3.5 A (astroms or 10 -10m), and the serpents on the cadeceus cross three and a half times.
Chakras can be opened and closed (often at will) and dis-ease, illness or fatigue may result if the chakras are out of balance. Balance needs to be achieved where the chakras are paritially open allowing awareness without exposing the body to excessive vunerability by being open too far.
During magickal workings an experienced practitioner may open the chakras to aid in altering and expanding awareness.
1. Muladhara - ("root")
2. Svaddisthana - ("sweetness")
3. Manipura - ("lustrous jewel")
4. Anahata - ("unstuck")
5. Vishuddha - ("purification")
6. Ajna - ("to percieve")
7. Sahasrara - ("Thousandfold")
In addition to the 7 major chakras, there are a number of other chakras which have importance within different systems.
Hrit chakra or Surya chakra
This chakra is a minor chakra located just below the heart at the solar plexus, and is known as the wish-fulfilling tree. Here, the ability to determine your destiny becomes a reality. It is also known as the Surya chakra. It supports the actions of Manipura chakra by providing it with the element of heat, and is responsible for absorbing energy from the sun.
In Tibetan buddhism, a similar chakra called the Fire Wheel is included in the scheme, but this is located above the heart and below the throat.
A chakra known as Lalana is situated in one of two places, either in the roof of the mouth, between Visuddhi and Ajna, or on the forehead, above Ajna. The Lalana chakra on the roof of the mouth is related to Bindu and Vishuddhi. When the nectar amrit trickles down from Bindu, it is stored in lalana. This nectar can fall down to Manipura and be burned up, causing gradual degeneration, or through certain practices it can be passed to Visuddhi and purified, becoming a nectar of immortality.
A chakra known as Manas (mind) is located either between the navel and the heart, close to Surya, or is located above Ajna on the forehead. The version on the forehead has 6 petals, connected to the 5 sense objects plus the mind. In Tibetan buddhism, the chakra located on the forehead is called the Wind wheel, and has 6 spokes.
Bindu visarga, is located either at the top back of the head, where some Brahmins leave a tuft of hair growing, or in the middle forehead. It is symbolised by a crescent moon. This chakra secretes an ambrosial fluid, amrit, and is the seat of the white bindu (compare with the white bodhicitta drop in the crown chakra in the Vajrayana system).
In some systems, Sahasrara is the chakra that is on the crown of the head. However, other systems, such as that expounded by Shri Aurobindo, state that the real Sahasrara is located some way above the top of the head, and that the crown chakra is in fact Brahmarandra, a sort of secondary Sahasrara with 100 white petals.
This is a minor chakra located slightly above the top of the head. It is an upward facing 12 petalled lotus, and it is associated with the Guru, that higher force that guides us through our spiritual journey.
There are said to be a series of seven chakras below muladhara going down the leg, corresponding the base animal instincts, and to the Hindu underworld patala.
This chakra is located in the hips, it governs fear and lust.
Located in the thighs, it governs anger and resentment.
Located in the knees, it governs jealousy.
Translated as 'under the bottom level', it is located in the calves, and it is a state of prolonged confusion and instinctive wilfulness.
Located in the ankles, it is the centre of selfishness and pure animal nature.
Located in the feet, this is the dark realm 'without conscience', and inner blindness.
Located in the soles of the feet, this is the realm of malice, murder, torture and hatred, and in Hindu mythology it borders on the realm of Naraka, or Hell.
Rainbird. A. & Rankine. D. (1997). Magick Without Peers. Berks: Capall Bann Publishing.