The Chakras

Dr Swami Satyamurti Saraswati, Ph.D. (Belfast)

The kundalini energy is the primordial energy in man, the dormant potential, the unharnessed energy, it is usually pictured as a small snake asleep in mooladhara chakra. Kundalini symbolises the millions of dormant brain cells, the nine tenths of the brain which we do not use. When the kundalini energy awakens, i.e. when the dormant ultrasonic and hifrequency nerve circuits of the brain are slowly activated by yoga practices such as meditation, japa and swara yoga, a great deal of heat, light and sound are generated, as one form of energy is transformed to another. The kundalini snake figuratively begins to uncoil and travel upwards from mooladhara to the other higher chakras.

The chakras are storehouses of ionoplasmic energy of the same nature as prana. They are also called psychic centres. 'Chakra' literally means wheel or circle. The chakras are located along the main stream of bioelectric energy, the sushumna nadi.

Each of the chakras is likened to a lotus flower with a specific number of petals. In meditation these petals can be seen, shining brightly and rotating about the horizontal and vertical axes. They are emissions of light particles which represent the ionic intensity at that area of the body. It is due to this regular, petal like formation of the light discharge that the chakras have been poetically referred to as lotus flowers.

Each chakra corresponds to a particular gland of the endocrinal system, and each one has what is called a 'trigger point' in the front of the body which if concentrated upon helps to awaken the appropriate chakra. Remember that the chakras are situated in the spinal cord, and represent different energy levels at well defined areas along a specifically defined flow. The trigger points are given in the front of the body because it is easier to concentrate on them than the corresponding places in the spine. There is a direct connection via various minor nadis between the trigger points and the chakras.

Each chakra is associated with an element. As we ascend the sushumna towards the brain the elements become more and more subtle.

Mooladhara is known as the root centre and is related to the element earth, as it is in the most gross part of the body. The trigger point for mooladhara in the male body is the area between the anus and the genitals, the perineum, and in the female body the junction of the uterus and vagina. It has four petals and its colour is deep red. Its form is circular and it is aligned at right angles to sushumna nadi. It is said to be the seat of the sleeping kundalini.

Swadhisthana is traditionally associated with the unconscious mind. Its colour is vermilion and it has six petals arranged symmetrically around a central pericarp. The element of the chakra is water. Its trigger point is located in the front of the body at the level of the pubic bone.

Manipura is the centre of heat in the body, and according to many it is the main reservoir of prana. It is associated with the vital heat, the fire of digestion, energy. Its element is fire. Its colour is bright yellow and it has ten petals. The trigger point is the navel.

Anahata is the seat of unstruck sound. Its colour is blue and it has twelve petals. It is known as the centre of spiritual love. Its element is air. The trigger point is at the level of the heart behind the breast bone.

Vishuddhi is regarded as the centre of purification of various secretions in the body. It is visualised, as a violet coloured lotus with sixteen petals. Its element is ether-space, more subtle than air. The trigger point is at the base of the throat where there is a small depression.

Ajna is known as the third eye, the centre of intuition, the guru chakra or the command chakra. It is said that when awakened, the practitioner can view events on different planes of consciousness with complete awareness. Its colour is silver blue and it has two petals. It is situated at the top of the spinal cord, the point where ida, pingala and sushumna merge. From ajna these three nadis travel as one up to the next chakra. The trigger point of ajna is called bhrumadhya. It is situated at the eyebrow centre, where Indian ladies as well as many Brahmins make a red mark. The element of ajna is ether, sometimes called 'subtle mind'.

Bindu is considered one of the most important chakras in kundalini and kriya yoga. Inner sounds manifest in this chakra due to the movement of pranic energy. It has no petals but is symbolised by a tiny crescent moon on a clear night. The trigger point is the small depression at the back of the head, where Hindu Brahmins traditionally wear a tuft of hair. Its element is also ether.

Sahasrara is the most subtle of the chakras. It is visualised in meditation as a shining red lotus with an infinite number of petals, or 1,000 as its name suggests (sahasrara means a thousand). In the physical body its location is at the crown of the head. The element of sahasrara is ether.

Sahasrara symbolises the threshold between the physical realm of space and time, and the transcendental realm beyond. This realm of space is beyond normal physical laws, and the practitioner who awakens this chakra experiences a slate of mind which is indescribable in terms of the emotions, thoughts or feelings.

We recommend that you try to discover for yourself these different chakras, by exercising the power of your concentration. After a few weeks you will be able to notice some sensations from the areas in which the chakras are located; you may also feel more mentally and physically relaxed and controlled as a result. Many other aspects of your personality will gradually unfold.

Bija mantras

At this point it is necessary to mention what are known as 'seed' or bija mantras. 'Man' means profound meditation, or as some authorities say, mind, and 'tra' means to liberate, so mantra means a sound revealed during meditation or a higher state of consciousness. Mantra has two qualities known in Sanskrit as 'vama' and 'akshara'. Varna means colour and form, and akshara means that which does not perish and is beyond the dimensions of time and space. This means that mantra is imperishable within the deeper levels of an individual's consciousness.

Bija mantras were the first syllables that appeared in deep meditation. Due to the ionic emissions forming the petals of the chakras, different inner sounds were heard by the sages while meditating upon them. The sounds of the petals became the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet which explains why Sanskrit has been called a meditational or a realised language.

Each bija mantra represents the essence of its associated mantras. Some examples of bija mantras are 'hraum', the symbolic sound of Lord Shiva; 'dum', the mantra of Durga, 'kreem', the mantra of Kali. These mantras are not only sounds but also thought forms, permanently existing within the subtle regions of space. They have no grammatical meaning and cannot be understood intellectually. To gain knowledge of a mantra there is a definite system whereby the practitioner repeated the mantra until it revealed itself in all dimensions of his consciousness and he became one with it. Mantra may be repeated in one of three ways: aloud, in a whisper or mentally. Mantra repetition is similar to but more refined than the Zen system of koans.

Bija mantras are symbols of the unconscious mind, the causal dimension, Sushupti.

In all the great occult teachings of the world, every letter and word is invested with power and energy which becomes manifest when the word or letter is intoned correctly. Enormous amounts of physical, mental and psychic energy are thereby released within the person. The Kabbalistic system, for example, has twenty two letters, each of which represents a different aspect of the individual's consciousness as he tries to reach the crown, kether, supreme awareness, samadhi, satori or nirvana.

Every mantra, and especially each bija mantra, has an energy, a musical note, a colour, a gem and an astrological significance.

The bija mantras which we are interested in particularly, are those connected with the chakras. These bija mantras represent the master key which unlocks the door to a full understanding and realisation of the true significance of these centres. The following are frequently referred to in swara yoga techniques.

Chakra Bija mantra (& pronunciation) No. of petals
Mooladhara Lam (lum) 4
Swadhisthana Vam (vum) 6
Manipura Ram (rum) 10
Anahata Yam (yum) 12
Vishuddhi Ham (hum) 16
Ajna Om (aum) 2
Bindu Om (aum) none; it is like a crescent moon
Sahasrara Om (aum) 1,000

Meditation on and repetition of the bija mantras while concentrating on the respective chakras has a profound psycho-physiological effect on the mind, body, metabolism and the senses. These effects have all been thoroughly documented by such researchers as Dr Hiroshi Motoyama in Japan, who ties much of the research on prana with the science of acupuncture where prana is known as chi.