What are Chakras and How Do They Work?
Thanks to the New Age Movement, chakras, among other things, have become the rage. You can buy creams, oils, perfumes, incense, stones, and even have tattoos done to awaken, activate, balance, boost, and/or enervate your chakras. But what exactly are they? And why would you want to do any or all of that to them?
To answer these questions, it’s important to go back to the original sources. In the Rig Veda (Hinduism’s oldest scripture), verse 10: 136 describes what historians believe is the first written record of a yogi.
Keshin (which means “long haired”) was a bearded guy with (you guessed it) long hair who walked around naked. Despite this, everyone, including animals and gods, adored him.
Keshin apparently spent a lot of time sitting alone in meditation till a woman approached him, one day. She gave him a special drink that made him equal to the gods because it was a poison that even they couldn’t take.
The woman’s name was Kunamnamā, which means “She who’s bent/coiled.” It’s therefore believed that she may have been an early reference to the kundalini – the serpent fire that resides within us waiting to transform us into super-humans.
But how is this possible? According to tantric literature:
Final liberation is attained by the knowledge that the Self is the witness, is the truth, is omnipresent, is one. It is free from all deluding distractions of Self and not-Self; the Supreme. And though abiding in the body, is not the body.
(Mahānirvāṇa Tantra XIV, 116)
So there’s a subtle, energy body – one that affects the physical body and
vice-versa. But what’s it like?
Energy channels called nadis (which literally mean tube/pipe) crisscross the body like veins. These nadis allow the subtle body to anchor itself within the physical body and keep it alive. It also means that people exist in two dimensions simultaneously – the physical one and a non-physical plane.
There are hundreds of thousands of nadis that course through the human body, but three of these are the most important:
1) Sushumna: which occupies the same space as our spinal columns.
2) Ida: which starts in the left testicle of men or the left ovaries of women and loops back and forth across the sushumna on its way up. It then pierces the right side of the brain to end in the middle of the eyebrows.
3) Pingala: which mirrors the ida on the right side to pierce the left side of the brain before ending in the mid-brow.
These nadis are connected to each other through energy points called chakras (which means wheel). There are between 88,000 or more of these chakras throughout the body (depending on the literature cited), but seven are the most important.
1) Mulādhāra: means “root support” so it resides in the base of the spine and is the source of the ida, the pingala, and the sushumna. It is here that the kundalini (“the coiled one”) resides. Once it rises, the little “self” dies in the splendor of the Self. In its place stands a god that dwells in a human body.
Whoever thus knows: ‘I am Brahman,’ (the supreme being) becomes this all. Even the gods have no power to prevent him from becoming thus, for he becomes their Self.
(Bṛihadāranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10)
2) Svādhishthāna: means “one’s own base/abode.” Located in the space between the sacral region of the spine and about an inch above the groin, it governs emotions, the unconscious, the sex drive, and the will to live.
3) Manipūra: means “jewel city.” It occupies the space between the navel and the spine directly opposite. Besides digestion and metabolism, it also governs energy, will power, and helps regulate prana (the life force) throughout the body.
4) Anāhata: means the “sound produced without touching two parts” – in reference to musical resonance. It’s in the space between the solar plexus and the point between the lower shoulder blades, and governs the skin, sense of touch, and emotions.
5) Vishuddha: means “especially pure.” It lies at the base of the throat and governs self-control, self-expression, and hearing.
6) Ājñā: means “command/perceive.” Also called the Third Eye, it’s located inside the head – between the middle of the eyebrows and the back of the head directly opposite the mid-brow. Responsible for insight and knowledge, it’s here that the ida and the pingala meet. And when they do, duality ends – allowing one to achieve the state that’s free from all deluding distractions of Self and not-Self.
7) Sahasrāra: means “thousand petaled.” It lies at the very top of the head and is the source of all the chakras – major and minor. But one must awaken the kundalini first. When it does, it travels up the sushumna, passes through each of the five chakras and transforms them before ending up here.
Chakras are also believed to correspond to the physical body’s endocrine system, nerve plexuses, and glands. As such, the body’s health has an impact on the chakras, while mental and emotional health has an impact on the body.
In Buddhism, the word “dukkha” is used to mean both suffering and dissatisfaction, as well as pain and sadness. The origin of this word, however, goes back much further.
“Du” was pre-classical Sanskrit for bad or difficult, while “kha” meant hole.
Dukkha originally meant a badly made wheel or one whose hub was off-center.
If one were to attach that to an oxen cart, they were in for a bumpy ride or worse.
It was therefore necessary to rebalance that wheel or to replace it. And this is what’s meant by balancing the chakras. An imbalance to the body and/or mind will affect the chakras, making them dukkha – off-center or off-balance.
Assuming this is all correct, then the ancient texts which described these chakras have bad news for many in the New Age industry. You can’t rebalance chakras with creams, oils, tattoos, or whatever new fad they’ve come up with.
Chakras can only be rebalanced through proper diet, lifestyle, and meditation.
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This content was originally published here.