Awareness of the chakras depends on one’s spiritual evolution. When the consciousness has been purified by spiritual efforts, awareness of the chakras is greatly enhanced. Sushumna nadi must be purified and brought into activity before kundalini can awaken.
Mooladhara chakra is the subtle root or framework of human existence. Moola means ‘the root’, adhara means ‘support’. In the masculine body this chakra is situated between the anus and the sexual organs. In the feminine body it is found at the cervix, where the vagina and uterus join. Next is swadhisthana, situated at the base of the spine or coccyx bone. Swadhisthana means ‘ones own abode’; it is the basis from which most people express themselves in the world.
Manipura chakra is located within the spine directly behind the navel. The word mani means ‘jewel’, pura means ‘city’, therefore manipura is known as ‘city of jewels’. It is the centre where the vital energy of the body is stored. Then there is anahata, situated in the spinal column behind the heart. Anahata means ‘unstruck or unbroken’; it is the centre of unbroken sound.
Vishuddhi chakra is known as the purification centre as it purifies and harmonizes all opposites and all poisons. In vishuddhi, the poison and nectar are separated and refined. It is found in the spinal cord behind the region of the throat. Ajna chakra is the centre of command where you receive instructions from the inner or outer guru. The word ajna actually means ‘command’. This chakra is situated behind the mid-eyebrow centre at the top of the spinal cord.
Bindu is the exact point where Hindu brahmins keep a tuft of hair. The word bindu comes from the Sanskrit root ‘bind’, meaning ‘to split’ or ‘to divide’. It is the point where oneness first divides itself into many. Bindu is the cranial point which feeds the whole optic system. Sahasrara is the divine multi-petalled lotus. Its nature is infinite. The physical correlation of this centre is the pituitary gland which controls each and every gland and system of the body.
These are the major chakras and they each have a corresponding point of awakening found along the front side of the body. For mooladhara, it is the chakra itself; for swadhisthana it is at the pubic bone; for manipura at the navel; for anahata the heart; for vishuddhi the throat; and for ajna the mid-eyebrow centre. Bindu has a direct line to sahasrara.
Below mooladhara there are other chakras which belong to the animal kingdom. They are only related to sense consciousness and not to mental awareness. When your consciousness was evolving through these chakras, your mind was associated with sense consciousness. There was no individual awareness, no ego; it began from mooladhara. These lower centres are not functioning anymore because you have transcended them and they don’t hold any meaning for you now. In actual fact there are seven higher and seven lower chakras, representing fourteen planes of consciousness.
Sahasrara is supreme; it is the final culmination of kundalini shakti. The original seat of kundalini is in mooladhara while the abode of Shiva, purusha or higher consciousness, is in sahasrara. Shiva and Shakti are two eternal entities. Sahasrara is the seat of higher awareness, and it is just pure awareness. It has no mobility, activity, movement, vibration; it is absolutely still. Shakti, on the other hand, is dynamic, creative, mobile and full of vibration. When Shakti ascends to sahasrara and unites with Shiva, a great awakening is experienced and a new dimension of consciousness is realized.
There are some key techniques to help locate the chakras. For mooladhara chakra you can practice nose tip gazing or nasikagra mudra and then your consciousness will fix itself at the exact point of mooladhara. This is one master key. Ajna chakra you cannot localize, you can only imagine it. Firstly, concentrate on the mid-eyebrow centre and try to reduce this area of concentration to a point. If you have difficulty, place some balm containing mercury at the eyebrow centre, close your eyes and the skin will contract slightly. Without making any effort, you will feel the sensation and develop awareness of that point so much so that it can be seen like a small radiant sun. Once you experience this, your mind will move backward and fix itself at the most difficult point to locate it, ajna chakra. There are various methods like this which enable you to discover the exact point without imagining and without effort and strain.
To develop awareness of all the chakras sequentially you can sit down quietly and concentrate either on the actual chakras or on their connecting centres in the front of the body. With a musical instrument play the scales: sa re ga ma pa dha ni sa or do re me fa so la ti do. Equate those notes with the chakras and as you ascend and descend the scale take the awareness from chakra to chakra, from mooladhara to sahasrara.
Another method involves the use of mantras. Each chakra has a bija mantra: lam, vam, ram, yam, ham and om, from mooladhara to ajna respectively. Practice japa, repeating the particular bija mantra while maintaining your consciousness in the corresponding area. For example, keep your mind on mooladhara and repeat lam over and over again. Then concentrate on swadhisthana and repeat vam for some time. Continue repeating the appropriate mantra for each chakra.
You can also use the yantras and mandalas which are related to the particular chakras, or the tattwas or elements of the chakras. There are many different techniques.
When you concentrate on one chakra, the awakening relating to that chakra takes place. Every chakra is the seat of certain experiences. When you concentrate on manipura chakra, you have a great awakening of energy. When you concentrate on anahata, you have feelings of peace. If you concentrate on ajna, you have the experience of luminosity, and if you concentrate on swadhisthana, you have the experience of bliss which can be compared with orgasmic bliss.
These are some experiences you may have when concentrating on the different chakras. As your concentration develops, related faculties of the mind are also influenced. The chakras correspond to extrasensory perceptions like telepathy, clairvoyance, clairaudience, premonitions, etc.
First you must purify the body through hatha yoga and pranayama. The nervous system, the brain, blood, respiratory system, the glands, and in fact the whole body must be completely free of toxins for awakening to take place.
—First published in YOGA Vol. 18 No 10 (October 1980)