How the Chakras Are Explained in Various Esoteric Traditions
The chakras, or sacred spinning vortexes of energy, translated from the Sanskrit language as simply, wheels, are an energetic phenomenon with different intellectual notions dependant upon the wisdom tradition you reference. While their power to shape your world-view is fascinating, it is the cross-realization from China to Tibet to India and the world over, which gives rise to this article. In a phrase, whether you are referring to the lower dantian or the lower three chakras, we all must use tools from the wisdom traditions at our personal disposal in order to purify energy and help it to rise.
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In Qigong, Taijiquan, yoga and other shamanic practices the chakras were realized. In ancient Christian Gnostic teachings, the power of kundalini and the presence of chakras is understood. Some may even argue that Christ’s teachings were more ‘Eastern’ than many modern churches would like to admit. Furthermore, even Jung and Freud understood chakras and kundalini energy. Jung seamlessly explained the correlations between the I-ching, Zen and Chinese Buddhism, and Indian conceptualizations of energy in his book, Western Consciousness and Eastern Insight. In fact, ‘yoga’ is a term that incorporates all eastern teachings, according to Jung. He even gave lectures in 1939 in Zurich on Patanjali’s yoga sutras. In almost every school of Eastern thought, the terms moksha, samadhi and nirvana are used. These are the overarching terms, which also join the understandings of chakras and meridians in both Japanes and Chinese medicine as well as Indian yoga.
Moksha: release from the cycle of birth and death as the result of karma.
Samadhi: A state of intense concentration gained through meditation. Interestingly, in the Indian concept of Samadhi, the word also means a funerary moment, as in the death of the ego in order to attain liberation.
Nirvana: the transcendent state wherein one is liberated form karma.
The chakras, then, are the centers of spiritual power in the body that can be awakened through meditation, Qigong, aromatherapy, reiki, acupuncture, yoga (in its various forms), mantra, or the use of sound, and several different types of martial arts and other alternative healing modalities. The entire point of this collection of practices is to purify the energy that runs through these spinning wheels in the body. In Eastern traditions, we experience reality as a conceptualized realization and not a direct experience dependant upon the energy flow through the chakra system. Depending on our level of realization, we have different experiences.
As one purifies each of the seven centers, they can look forward to the following realizations:
A balanced and purified Mooladhara chakra: translates as a connection to the earth, with complete trust that all our needs will be provided. We can laugh and play with joy and without shame. We have no prejudice or conditioning which inhibits our full expression of joy (like a child). Ironically, it is the innocence of a child that allows us to have direction and purpose in life, and to reach toward goals with full expression and utter abandon. The legs and feet, which are governed by mooladhars chakra, are in full health when this center is balanced.
A balanced and purified Swadhistana Chakra: translates to being like water. We are sexually and creatively alive. We give full rise to our creative gifts when this center is open and balanced. We can connect to each other and be flexible with ease. Our tongue and hands are in full health. We enjoy a great sex life and fertility when this chakra is balanced.
The third spiritual center, Manipura, offers balance in our egos and intellects. It controls the cerebellum and frontal lobes, which are important brain centers for music and speech. The pancreas, liver, and gallbladder are also governed by Manipura. When this center, also called the solar plexus, is balanced, you know yourself well. You can also enjoy healthy teeth, bones, cerebral health and digestive health when this chakra is in balance.
These are the lower three chakras, also known in Chinese, Japanese and various martial arts as the lower dantien. Before we can start to concern ourselves with higher spiritual pursuits, these lower chakras must be purified and balanced. The following chakras, forming the middle dantien, are responsible for governing the emotional energy of the body, called Shen in China, and Japan, Thuk in Tibetan traditions, and Anahata in the Indian tradition.
The fourth spiritual center, Anahata, is our gateway to completely realized compassion. In a poetic interpretation of the Sanskrit word, Anahata means unstruck, unhurt or unbeaten – like a drum or musical instrument, but as far as spiritual realization it means that you can love without ever worrying that you will be hurt. You love with abandon and without fear. When the energy of the lower three chakras is balanced and you start to ‘come into your heart,’ you no longer have to crawl through karma and you can start to live through grace. You vibrate joy and therefore draw experiences of love, prosperity and sharing into your reality. You can also enjoy heart health, a regulated thymus, great circulation and respiratory health as well as rib, esophagus, and hand and arm health.
The fifth spiritual center, Vishuddha, is the center of expression. Often called the purification center, the throat chakra is associated with giving voice to our hearts desires. It is the center of our eloquence and will, ideally joined with heart-felt compassion gained through an opening of the Anahata chakra. When this center is unbalanced it is said that we experience decay and death. When it is open, our full creative force is given expression. A properly open and balanced Vissuddha chakra gives us vibrant youth and freedom from diseases of many varieties. All organs associated with speech and hearing are positively affected by the balancing of this chakra as well: throat, ears, nose, and the endocrine system glands including thyroid and parathyroid.
Ajna chakra is our gateway to higher wisdom – it actually translates from the Sanskrit language to mean summoning, or command. When energy rises to the third eye, we are able to summons our higher intelligence at will. This is the awakening of our intuition. The ajna chakra is associated with the pineal gland – a small pine-cone shaped gland in the brain which is said to allow access to alternate spheres of consciousness, like a wormhole that opens doors to other worlds. In Qigong, this is the highest energy center (dantien) and is responsible for converting shen into wuji – or the infinite void.
Sahasrara, the crown chakra, is the meeting of Shakti and Shiva, or male and female dominant energies. It is here that we have cleansed the entire energetic system enough to finally become aware of all thing(s) and nothing. Our emotions, feelings, interpretations and impressions are said to dissolve into perfect blissful union with the Infinite. Here there is not longer an individual self, only a complete awareness of the Whole. If one chooses to stay incarnate in a physical vessel while energy is open and balanced in this chakra, they can play at the game of life without being bothered by pain or pleasure, and pulled by monkey mind in a million directions. There is complete peace, and complete awareness. Often, in the Indian tradition, it is said that one experiences Sat Chit Ananda, or all present, all conscious, everywhere knowing. You are everything so you can experience no lack. The pranic energy of the body reaches its highest point and rests there in order for a practitioner to experience this blissful state of awareness.
Like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, one must take care of mundane needs before self-actualization and then transcendence can occur. All eastern methods, from yoga to Qigong to Kung Fu to Taoist meditation to the Tibetan rites or the Christian Gnostic practices were meant to gently guide the pranic energy along the path of the chakras until it reaches its final apex.
Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao Tzu, Paramahansa Yogananda, Rob Brezny, Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World.