Explaining Chakras from an East to West perspective
Explaining Chakras from an East to West perspective
Nowadays the 7 chakra system is widely popular across cultures and spiritual disciplines. In ancient times the system was kept secret and passed down into strict tantric disciplines.
If you ever wondered what are chakras? then you are very likely to find a various kinds of definitions. Does this mean one is right and the other wrong?
In this blog we explore the evolution of the chakra system and their usage as per East and West perspective, moreover, we’ll explore what other systems could be comparable to this system.
The Eastern representation of Chakras
Sat Chakra Nirupana is one of the text relied upon for chakras, translated by Sir Arthur Avalon for the Western audience.
The author doesn’t only go in-depth with the meaning of the chakras from an Eastern perspective but he also gives the link of the system in relation to tantric studies.
Tantras and Upanishads define the chakras as centers in the subtle body.
A lotus symbolises each chakra and the lotus has different amount of petals for each individual chakra.
On each petal there is a sanskrit syllable which should be meditated on in a clockwise direction.
Inside of each chakra we also find different shapes. Those shape symbolises different elements linked to those chakras.
Into those shapes we find different sanskrit seed syllable or bija mantra.
Those seed syllable activate the element into the chakras. Further within each chakra is a God and Shakti which symbolises the force of the chakra.
The Shaktis are the gatekeepers of those chakras, meditating on them gives the seeker insights about the elements.
Cosmology and Elements linked to Chakras
The chakras are also linked to the Lokas, the Lokas are regions or planes each of them holding a different frequency.
Bhurv Loka is the earthly plane, it is the 7th loka and below Bhurv Loka there are 7 others which are the Netherworld or Patalas. Bhurv Loka then links to root chakra.
Satya Loka is the highest Loka and on this frequency, there is liberation from the cycle of rebirth and this directly links to Crown chakra.
The system of elements is also a part of cosmology in a tantric point of view. Those are also called tattvas.
In the first five chakras we find the five elements also know as the mahabutas: Root Chakra/Earth, Sacral Chakra/Water, Solar Plexus/Fire, Heart Chakra/Air, and Throat Chakra/Ether.
Kundalini in the Chakra system
The chakra system also involves Kundalini energy which symbolises the goddess Shakti dormant at the base of the spine or root chakra.
Once activated this force blends etheric plane with the physical plane. When the Kundalini energy rises, it passes through the Sushumna nadi(middle nadi) and pierces through each chakra.
This creates a portal between both the physical and astral body.
We can then define the chakras as subtle energy centers and their activation also happens on this level(energy level).
However, those centers also have a link to the physical or gross body that is the organs and nerve bundles.
The migration of Chakras from East to West
The first mention of chakras from a western perspective is from the essay written by Charles Leadbeater of the Theosophical society.
The essay describes the chakras the same manner as the East does. However, the difference seems to be in the assocation of the petals which he describes as moral qualities.
Additionaly, Anodea Lee in her book Eastern Body Western Minds seems to completely forgo the cultural aspect of the chakras in favor of a more psycho-spiritual approach.
The psycho-Spiritual aspect of Chakras
Like the theosophist, most of Anodea’s understanding is also based on the Eastern perspective of the chakras.
However, where it completely differs but at the same time gives further emphasis on, is on the petals and the quality linked to those petals.
She explains chakras in a way accessible to anyone who can understand basic psychology.
When it comes to the link of elements in the chakra she seems to share the same point of view as the traditional associations.
She also associates the element of light to the 3rd eye or Ajna chakra and thought and beliefs to the crown chakra which differs from the Eastern version.
However, where they differ from the traditional description is that they do not go in-depth with describing the Lokas.
The link between the physical body and chakras creates a psychological analysis. The psychological analysis is then translated into consciousness, archetypes, and abstraction linked to philosophical terms.
For example, if we take the elements of the chakras, the root chakra becomes the center of practicality and thus earthly affairs like routine, health, etc.
Similarly, we can translate crown chakra as the center of thoughts and belief system.
Each chakra individually represents a major psychological aspect of an individual.
The centers are relatable to a force of energy and when they are not working properly a counterforce hinders a balanced flow of energy. This is also what we commonly know as a blocked chakra.
Systems comparable to Chakras
One system that is highly comparable to the Chakra System is the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. The system contains 10 nodes where each of them is an aspect of Ein Sof.
From a pranic healing perspective, the Crown and Root do not have a back and front however, the five middle chakras all have a back and front.
In addition to the similarities of the nodes or sephirots, the tree of life also has three pillars which is corresponding to the three main nadis of the chakra system i.e The Ida, Pingala and Sushumna nadis.
Another system comparable to the chakras is from the Mayan culture is the Scripture Popul Vuh.
From this system the air-tube is the equivalent of the Sushumna nadi. While the twofold air tubes represent the Ida and Pingala nadi.
The chakra system has evolved since its introduction to the west, the usage of chakras in a tantric manner is no longer applicable today.
The psychological aspect of chakras seem to have peaked and settled as its new method for dealing with chakras.
Numerous ancient cultures had systems comparable to the chakras. Those systems were either comparable through energy flow or centers, some even both.
This blog will continue into seven sub-blogs to define each chakra individually:
- Muladhara or Root Chakra
- Svadhistana or Sacral Chakra
- Manipura or Solar Plexus
- Anahata or Heart Chakra
- Vishudha or Throat Chakra
- Ajna or Third Eye
- Sasara or Crown Chakra