Meaning of the chakras

When we talk about chakras or chakras, most of us who move in the modern yoga world have a very clear picture in mind. Namely that of the seven main chakras along the spine, with the Muladhara Chakra at the lower end and the Sahasrara Chakra at the top, more precisely at the top and perhaps the most popular, the Anahata Chakra, i.e. the heart chakra right in the middle. Psychological life themes are assigned to them, as well as elements, senses, mantras, symbols, colors, gods, animals, petals, stones, asanas, and now probably also essential oils. The three main nadis, called Pingala, Ida, and Sushumna, also usually come into play, as well as the Kundalini, which is supposed to rise in the Sushumna, the central channel, which only works when the chakras are open or they are Chakras opens.

Often the chakra system and its effects are presented in a very simplified, almost crude way – just as modern, western yoga is very often reduced to the pure asana practice, which has funky names and often with a spirituality light is sold, which very often misses the mind-altering intent of the original. Which is not reprehensible at all. And also nobody should be blamed. After all, our western, enlightened, secularized, and monotheistic culture has been missing, at least since the Inquisition, the perhaps necessary spiritual and/or popular belief in order to simply dive deeper into this complex world of thoughts, ideas, and energy from Asia and especially India.

Background: old and new chakras

a) the modern view of chakras

The chakras as a spiritual concept, as we often get it almost dogmatically imposed as truth today, is only 100 years old in the West. It was introduced or made known in 1918 by Sir John Woodroffe with his book “The Serpent Power”, which dealt with Kundalini and the chakras. The British lawyer Woodroffe, who published under the pseudonym Arthur Avalon, had acquired his knowledge during his years in India, during which he worked, among other things, as a judge and professor of law in Calcutta. 

The publication of his book coincided with a time when in the West the interest in the occult, esoteric, spiritual, also in yoga and Indian philosophy, similar to now, had a high phase. In fact, Woodroffe’s snake book is not an original one,Sat Cakra Nirupana ”(a treatise on the six chakras), which was probably written around the year 1550 AD. have arisen. The “Sat Cakra” – (in the original Cakra, not Chakra) treatise is itself considered syncretism, that is, the merging of several ideas or philosophies into a new system or worldview. Woodroffe’s translation of the Sanskrit texts has the reputation of being in part incorrect and of being misunderstood by him in the original on some points.

The psychological meaning of the chakras

The chakras of modern teaching received their western psychological meaning mainly through the psychoanalyst CG Jung , who dealt with the chakras and their meaning and tried to find an access for the western mind so that their effect can be experienced for us. For Jung the chakras were a precisely worked through system of psychic layers. He warned against adopting their original meaning without having a deeper idea and understanding of them and their cultural and religious backgrounds, because a misunderstood assumption could even be harmful to personal development.

Because what do we really know about the Indian deities, the powers that have grown over thousands of years through the faith of their followers? What does the word yogini say to our western mainstream yoga mind (and that is in no way meant negatively) than that it is the name for a woman who practices yoga? Whereas it is with a yoginiin the tantric sense it is a woman who has god-like powers, is sometimes a witch, and in any case has magical powers. In my opinion, this example alone shows the difficulties that can arise in understanding the classical chakra teaching and that it may therefore be very good if the western world of yoga and healers has developed a system for itself that is understandable and tangible for us that works.

b) the original view of the chakras

While the development of the western chakra system is closely related to western occult currents, the New Age movement, Reiki and Jung’s psychoanalytic approach and understanding, the Sanskrit word chakra originally appeared in connection with Indian and Asian forms of yoga, especially tantric yoga. However, the idea of ​​chakras already exists in Patanjali in chapter three of the Yoga Sutra. As with the chakras, for a better understanding of the term “tantrism” one has to differentiate between old and new, between classic tantrism and so-called neotantrism.

What is neotantra?

So-called Neotantrism is only about 120 years old. 99 percent of the practices in Neotantra have a Western origin instead of going back to classic Tantra scriptures and texts. Neotantra is influenced by New Age thinking and places sexuality and sexual practices in a spiritual context, which is why many people like to ask: “Do I have to take off my clothes?” Exercises mostly not.

Classic tantrism

Classical Tantrism is a spiritual tradition and interreligious movement in Asia, which had its heyday between 600 and 1300 of our time, but is still effective today. The language of Tantra are less clear definitions than images, symbols and metaphors. The worship of female deities plays a major role. In this way of thinking, Sakti (pronounced Shakti) is the basic cosmic principle, the mother goddess, the force that created the entire universe, which can maintain it and destroy it again. The goddess Kali , who embodies Shakti in Tantra, but is at the same time one with Shiva in essence, is therefore of great importance in Tantrism.

Sex as such does not actually appear in the classical texts. There are also no techniques described that should delay orgasm or increase pleasure. Sexual energies, used correctly, served to awaken Kundalini, which by the way was also equated with Kali by tantrics. In verse 29 of the Tantraloka , which is about a meditative union ritual, the kula yoga or kula ritual, the practitioner should explicitly not please the partner so that desire or pleasure cannot arise in the first place. The aim was to recognize the divine in the partner and to achieve liberation, the goal of all practice, through meditative union.

Classical tantrism mainly produced the ideas and teachings of the chakras, or the energy centers that they represent. The chakras are first mentioned in writings from the years 800/850 of our time, not only in tantric but also in writings of the Advaita Vedanta and in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra , which was written between 200 before and 200 after Christ. Chakra teaching reached its peak around the year 1000 AD. After that, the idea of ​​chakras spread to other religions, countries and cultures.

What are chakras?

  1. a Sanskrit word that means circle, disc, wheel, assembly.
  2. a Sanskrit word that describes an experience made by meditators. That experience was the perception of an energy body as a flowing, moving reality.
  3. The Sanskrit word stands for a real perceived existence of an invisible phenomenon, namely a part of our energy body. (In addition to the chakras, other components are the energy channels called nadis. The three best-known nadis are the so-called pingala, ida and sushumna. The latter is the main channel that runs in front of the spine and from the top of the head to the pelvic floor.
  4. Chakra also stands as the symbolic word for an idea that we occupy with energy, a disk, flowers, colors, gods, mantras, symbols, numbers, meanings, power animals and effects, which ultimately created our consciousness. Unfortunately, the idea is often so fixed that we leave room for our own experiences.
  5. In any case, the word chakra is complex, subtle and, especially in the West, often heavily overloaded.

Definition chakra – or at least an attempt

In Tantrism (and also in Patanjali) chakras are points in the human body that are focused for meditation. They are energy structures that have been and are visualized as light discs or flowers. They are concepts for experiences that are made emotionally in meditation, but also in everyday life.

Where are the chakras – and why?

Chakras are located on the so-called central channel, i.e. the axis that runs vertically through our body. The central canal, or sushumna-nadi, runs in front of the spine. On it the most fundamental emotional and spiritual experiences are made, which we can perceive directly as an inner body experience. These experiences include: sexual arousal, anger, anger, love and love pain, the frog in the throat, grief, concentration, visions and other mind-expanding unity experiences.

What should chakras originally do?

At first it was less about unity experiences or, as in western chakra teaching, about the resolution of life issues, but about the acquisition of special powers and abilities. For this purpose, special mantras and the energies of deities in the form of vowels and syllables of the Sanskrit alphabet were placed or visualized in special points of the energy body. This exercise is called Nyasa. The sound of these mantras, or the Sanskrit alphabet in its entirety, generates powerful vibrations in the conviction of the practitioner, which can lead to spiritual liberation or knowledge – but also to worldly wealth. The power of the deities associated with the respective chakra also contributed to these goals. Main deities, which appear in almost all classic tantric chakra systems are: Ganesha, Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Isvara, Sadasiva and Bhairava – depending on the number of chakras. 

it no longer needs to be pierced. Working with chakras in the original sense always had a lot to do with magic. Later, however, these exercises were used to liberate yourself from conventional thinking through expanding consciousness and experiencing unity. because it rests in the Sahasrara – which is not counted as a real chakra in these texts, because it is the goal and home of the Kundalini and – unlike the other chakras, it no longer needs to be pierced. Working with chakras in the original sense always had a lot to do with magic. Later, however, these exercises were used to liberate yourself from conventional thinking through expanding consciousness and experiencing unity.

How many chakras are there?

Seven, eight or a few more or less? Each self-respecting tantric tradition or school had, it seems, its own chakra system to work with. There was meditation on five, seven, sometimes only three, nine, ten, twelve and 16 chakras – to gain special powers and insights. Tibetan Buddhists use five chakras, the Vijnana Bhairava, (Divine Consciousness), the most important script of Kashmiri Shaivism from the 10th and 11th. Century, names ten chakras. The seven-chakra system first appears in a text called Śāradā-tilaka from the 13th century, and then in a more elaborate form in the Shiva Samhita from the 14th or 15th century. The fact that in our Western understanding of yoga seven chakras are the norm (ality) has, as mentioned at the beginning,

What is the connection between chakras and mantras?

In western chakra teaching, each chakra is assigned a mantra. LAM for the root chakra (Manipura), VAM for the sacral chakra (Savdhisthana), RAM for the navel chakra (Manipura) and so on. In fact, these bijas, i.e. seed mantras, are not the seed mantras of the chakras, but of the elements that are assigned to them. So when we chant LAM, VAM, RAM, etc., we do not activate the root, sacral, or navel chakra, but the power of the element earth, water and fire, which on the one hand are assigned to the chakras, but are not mandatory these places must be. 

There are tantric scriptures in which the element earth is located in the heart chakra. And the element of space is often not associated with the neck region, but above the head, because that is where the experience of merging with infinite space takes place. The only mantra that really belongs to a chakra in this thinking is the OM. It is the mantra of the heart chakra.

What colors are chakras?

Red, white or colorful? In the old texts there is no rainbow color assignment, which is a modern “color scheme”. In Shiva Samhita , three colors appear, red and gold, which alternate and white for the Ajna chakra, the third eye.

Open a chakra – how now?

Asanas were not practiced to open the chakras so that Kundalini could rise in Sushumna. The opening took place through pranayama techniques, especially breathing, and mantras. The mantras act as a kind of stylus needle that pierces the chakras. Only in the newer forms of chakra yoga were asanas connected to chakras. This can be a very good introduction, especially for Westerners, because the individual body regions are activated and better noticeable. 

Which chakra system do we believe in now?

You can work wonderfully with both systems or traditions, the classic and the modern. Ultimately, what counts is the result, or what you want to achieve by working with chakras. Ultimately, it only becomes spiritually meaningful if the practice leads to a real and lasting transformation, whether it changes our life, our viewpoints and our consciousness in a lasting way in a way that makes us more relaxed, wiser, more content, more liberated. Colors, stones, oils can contribute to this, as can imagination, a mantra or belief in the power of wild yoginis.

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