The 7 Chakras

What Are Chakras? 

Traditionally, the Chakras are subtle energy centers within the body used in a variety of ancient meditation practices, collectively denominated as Tantra, or the esoteric or inner traditions of Hinduism. The concept of the Chakras derives from ancient Sanskrit sources, originating in India between 1500 and 500 BC in the oldest text called the Vedas. The word "Chakra" is a Sanskrit word (Cakra) which literally translates to "wheel". 

In the Tantrik traditions, chakras are focal points for meditation within the human body, visualized as structures of energy resembling discs or flowers at those points where a number of nāḍīs (channels or meridians) converge.

In modern day yoga, meditation and the practice of Ayurvedic medicine, there are 7 Chakras, seven main wheels of energy throughout the body. This energy is called Prana, the vital life force, which is what keeps us vibrant, healthy, and alive. The seven main Chakras are conceptual structures that tend to be located where emotional and/or spiritual energy is experienced. They are like swirling wheels of energy where the physical and consciousness meet.

The Modern Seven Chakra System:

The theory of the subtle body and its Chakra energy centers comes from the tradition of Tantrik Yoga, which flourished from 600-1300 AD, and is still alive today.

Tantrik Yoga matured around 900 AD with many branches of the tradition articulating different chakra systems. Five-chakra systems, seven-chakra systems, twelve, twenty-one and more chakras have been taught, depending on which branch was followed. One is not "more right" than another, each is relative to a specific practice. The seven-chakra system is the Modern Chakra System that became dominant around the 15th century and the focus of our 7 Chakra Guide on Natural Living For You.

Starting from the base of the spine through to the top of the head, the main 7 chakras are:

  • The Root Chakra (Muladhara)
  • The Sacral Chakra (Svadhisthana)
  • The Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura)
  • The Heart Chakra (Anahata)
  • The Throat Chakra (Vishuddha)
  • The Third Eye Chakra (Ajna)
  • The Crown Chakra (Sahasrara)

    Chakra System Purpose: Nyāsa (Placing)

    The main purpose of a chakra system originally was to function as a template for nyāsa, the installation of mantras and deity-energies at specific points of the subtle body. In nyāsa, a specific chakra in a specific location in the energy body is visualized while silently intoning the sound of its mantric syllable.

    According to Sanskrit sources: 1) mystical sounds of the Sanskrit alphabet are distributed across "petals" of all chakras in the system; 2) each chakra is associated with one of the five Great Elements; and 3) each chakra is associated with a specific Hindu deity or deities.

    Bīja (Seed Mantras)

    “Mantra” is a Sanskrit word made up of two syllables: “man” (mind) and “tra” (liberate). Certain Sanskrit sounds which cannot be translated into a literal meaning, but have the power to create great transformative growth and expansion in humans at the physical, emotional and spiritual levels are known as “Bija” or Seed Mantras. These sound vibrations are intimately connected to our “prana” or “life energy”. 

    The fundamental bīja mantras are associated with the first five lower chakras and are unique and powerful vibrations. These bija actually go with the Five Great Elements installed in the chakras, and not the chakras themselves. Each element has a bija mantra associated with it, when this mantra is sounded it resonates in the chakra and purifies the nadis (subtle channels of energy). The nadis link the higher spiritual aspects of our being with our mind, emotions and our body. Additionally, each element is associated with a different symbol/shape. Visualizing this symbol/shape helps to deepen connection with the element.

    The seed-mantras (the bījas) rhyme with 'thumb' and are as follows:

    • LAM (pronounced as lum): seed-mantra of the Earth element (Prithivi), installed in the Root Chakra (Muladhara).
    • VAM (pronounced as vum): seed-mantra of the Water element (Apas/Jala), installed in the Sacral Chakra (Svadhisthana).
    • RAM (pronounced as rum): seed-mantra of the Fire element (Tejas/Agni), installed in the Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura).
    • YAM (pronounced as yum): seed-mantra of the Air/Wind element (Vayu), installed in the Heart Chakra (Anahata).
    • HAM (pronounced as hum): seed-mantra of the Ether/Space element (Akasha), installed in the Throat Chakra (Vishuddha).
    • AUM (pronounced as a-um): seed-mantra of the The Third Eye Chakra, which was created from ‘Mahattva’, the great or supreme element out of which all the other elements were formed. 
    • AUM (pronounced as a-um): The Crown Chakra is beyond all elements and contains all sounds. The mantra AUM is generally used for this chakra as it is the source of all sounds and is the primal cosmic sound Anahata Nada.

    Karana-Devatās (Hindu Deities)

    Nyāsa placement also traditionally invokes the image and energy of a specific Hindu deity (karana-devatā) into a specific chakra and weighs heavily in every chakra system. These deities form a fixed sequence: from the lowest chakra to the highest in the 7-Chakra System:

    • Ganesh - Root Chakra (Muladhara)
    • Brahmā - Sacral Chakra (Svadhisthana)
    • Vishnu - Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura)
    • Rudra - Heart Chakra (Anahata)
    • Īśvara - Throat Chakra (Vishuddha)
    • Sadāśiva - Third-Eye Chakra (Ajna)
    • Bhairava - Crown Chakra (Sahasrara)
      Note: The last deity is never the "ultimate deity" of the chakra system, for that deity is consecrated in the sahasrāra (thousand-petalled lotus) on the crown of the head. 

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