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Chakra

From Academic Kids

See also chakram, a disc-like weapon wielded by the Hindu god Vishnu.

In Hinduism and its spiritual systems of yoga and in some related eastern cultures, as well as in some segments of the New Age movement, a chakra is thought to be an energy node in the human body.

The word comes from the Sanskrit cakra चक्र meaning "wheel, circle", and sometimes also referring to the "wheel of life". The pronunciation of this word can be approximated in English by chuhkruh, with ch as in chart and both instances of a as in yoga (the commonly found pronunciation shockrah is incorrect).

The seven main chakras are described as being aligned in an ascending column from the base of the spine to the top of the head. Each chakra is associated with a certain color, multiple specific functions, an aspect of consciousness, a classical element, and other distinguishing characteristics.

The chakras are thought to vitalise the physical body and to be associated with interactions of both a physical and mental nature. They are considered loci of life energy, or prana, which is thought to flow among them along pathways called nadis.

Traditional Chinese medicine also relies on a similar model of the human body as an energy system.

The New Age movement has led to an increased interest in the West regarding chakras. Many in this movement point to a correspondence between the position and role of the Chakras, and those of the glands in the endocrine system. Some people in New Age also claim that other chakras, besides the above, exist — for instance, ear chakras.

The Danish author and musician Peter Kjaerulff in his book, The Ringbearers Diary, describes the chakras in great detail, including the reasons for their appearance and their exact functions. Shortly put, the seven chakras are said to reflect how the unified consciousness of man (the immortal human being or the soul), is divided to manage different aspects of earthly life (body/instinct/vital energy/deeper emotions/communication/having an overview of life/contact to God). The chakras are placed on an intermediate layer which lies between the spirit and the earthly body.


Contents

Scientific basis

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The Western scientific and medical communities employ a system of empirical generalizations by which they explain the general functioning of human beings. This system does not include chakras or any similar concepts, since there is so far no scientifically acceptable evidence of their existence.

Supporters of the notion of chakras explain the lack of confirmation of their existence in Western medical science by noting that current technology is not capable of measuring life energy or chakras. Some point out that arguments offered so far against the possibility of the existence of chakras are arguments from ignorance. Skeptics rejoin that if chakras exist then there ought to be evidence of their existence that would be acceptable to the scientific community, i.e., they argue that they find no reason to accept claims about them since there is no empirical evidence to support their existence, which is exactly what the supporters of the notion of chakras have also affirmed.

There is, however, a marked similarity between the positions and roles described for chakras, and the positions and roles of the glands in the endocrine system, opening the possibility that two vastly different systems of conceptualization have been brought to bear to systemize insights about the same phenomenon. By some, chakras are thought of as having their physical manifestation in the body as these glands, and their subjective manifestation as the associated psychological and spiritual experiences. Different systems of conceptualization, Indian and Western scientific, make only a partial convergence in this case since Western science deals only with phenomena that are judged intersubjective.

Indeed, the various hormones secreted by these glands do have a dramatic effect on human psychology, and an imbalance in one can cause a psychological or physical imbalance in a person. Whether these changes in body state have a bearing on spiritual matters is a subject of dissent even among the Indian thought community.

Perhaps the most psychologically dramatic and potent secretion of these glands is the psychedelic drug DMT (which is synthesized by the pineal gland), corresponding to the brow chakra. At least in the West, some individuals have sought spiritual breakthroughs through the use of such chemical aids. (See for example: Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception, a classic of new-age spirituality.)

The 7 basic chakras

The following table sets forth some of the concepts associated with each chakra:

ChakraColorPrimary FunctionsAssociated Element
Root
mūlādhāra, मूलाधार
redinstinct, survivalearth
Sacrum (Hara)
svādhiṣṭhāna, स्वाधिष्ठान
orangeemotion, sexual energy, self-acceptancewater
Solar plexus
maṇipūra, मणिपूर
yellowmental functioning, power, control, freedom to be oneself, careerfire
Heart/Lung
anāhata, अनाहत
emerald green or pinkdevotion, love, compassion, healingair
Throat
viśuddha, विशुद्ध
bluespeech, self-expressionether
Third eye
ājā, आज्ञा
indigointuition, Extra-sensory perceptiontime
Crown
(just above the head)
sahasrāra, सहस्रार
violet; may assume color of dominant chakraconnection to the divinespace

For a discussion on chakra petals see Petal (chakra)

Origins and Development

The earliest known mention of chakras is found in the later Upanishads, including specifically the Brahma Upanishad and the Yogatattva Upanishad. These vedic models were adapted in Tibetan Buddhism as Vajrayana theory, and in the Tantric Shakta theory of chakras.

It is the shakta theory of 7 main chakras that most people in the West adhere to, either knowingly or unknowingly, largely thanks to a translation of two indian texts, the Sat-Cakra-Nirupana, and the Padaka-Pancaka, by Sir John Woodroffe, alias Arthur Avalon, in a book entitled The Serpent Power.

This book is extremely detailed and complex, and later the ideas were developed into what is predominant western view of the Chakras by the Theosophists, and largely the controversial (in theosophical circles) C. W. Leadbeater in his book The Chakras, which are in large part his own meditations and insights on the matter.

That said, many present-day Indian gurus that incorporate chakras within their systems of philosophy do not seem to radically disagree with the western view of chakras, at least on the key points, and both these eastern and western views have developed from the Shakta Tantra school.

There are various other models of chakras in other traditions, notably in Chinese medicine, and also in Tibetan Buddhism. Even in Jewish kabbalah, the different Sephiroth are sometimes associated with parts of the body. Attempts are made to try and reconcile the systems with each other, and notably there are some successes, even between such diverged traditions as Shakta Tantra and Kabbalism, where chakras and Sephiroth can seemingly represent the same archetypal spiritual concepts.

Chakras and the endocrine system

Parallels have often been drawn, by supporters of the existence of chakras, between the positions and functions of the chakras, and of the various organs of the endocrine system.

The highest crown chakra is said to be the chakra of consciousness, the master chakra that controls all the others. Its role would be very similar to that of the pituitary gland, which secretes hormones to control the rest of the endocrine system, and also connects to the central nervous system via the hypothalamus. The thalamus is thought to have a key role in the physical basis of consciousness.

The Ajna Chakra, or third eye, is linked to the pineal gland. Ajna is the chakra of time and awareness and of light. The pineal gland is a light sensitive gland, that produces the hormone melatonin, which regulates the instincts of going to sleep and awakening. It also produces trace amounts of the psychedelic chemical dimethyltryptamine.

(Note: some argue that the pineal and pituitary glands should be exchanged in their relationship to the Crown and Brow chakras, based on the description in Arthur Avalon's book on kundalini called Serpent Power)

The throat chakra, Vishuddha, is said to be related to communication and growth, growth being a form of expression. This chakra is paralleled to the thyroid, a gland that is also in the throat, and which produces thyroid hormone, responsible for growth and maturation.

The heart chakra, Anahata, is related to love, equilibrium, and well-being. It is related to the thymus, located in the chest. This organ is part of the immune system, as well as being part of the endocrine system. It produces T cells responsible for fighting off disease, and is adversely affected by stress.

The solar plexus chakra, Manipura, is related to energy, assimilation and digestion, and is said to correspond to the roles played by the pancreas and the outer adrenal glands, the adrenal cortex. These play a valuable role in digestion, the conversion of food matter into energy for the body.

The sacral chakra, Swadhisthanna, is located in the groin, and is related to sexuality and emotion. This chakra is said to correspond to the testes or the ovaries, that produce the various sex hormones involved in the reproductive cycle, which can cause dramatic mood swings.

The base chakra, Muludhara, is related to survival, excretion, and also to basic human potentiality. It is said the kundalini lies coiled here, ready to uncoil and bring man to his highest spiritual potential in the crown chakra. This centre is located in the region between the genitals and the anus. Although no endocrine organ is placed here, it is said to relate to the inner adrenal glands, the adrenal medulla, responsible for the fight and flight response when survival is under threat. In this region is located a muscle that controls ejaculation in the sexual act. A parallel is drawn between the sperm and the ovum, where the genetic code lies coiled, and the legendary kundalini, ready to express itself as a fully developed human being.

Various models

Chakrology is a neologism sometimes employed by Alternative Medicine practitioners or esoteric philosophers for the study of chakras. There are many different chakrologies, some of them based on ancient Indian Hindu Tantric esoteric traditions, New Age interpretations, or Western occult analyses, as well as ancient Greek and Christian references. Croatian esoteric philosopher and physicist Arvan Harvat notes that it would be very difficult to develop a unified coherent chakra science that would integrate all the elements of the various present chakrologies.

The Tantric Chakras

Tantra (Shakta or Shaktism) describes eight primary inner chakras:

  1. Muladhara (Sanskrit: मूलाधार)
  2. Swadhisthana (Sanskrit: स्वाधिष्ठान)
  3. Manipura (Sanskrit: मणिपूर)
  4. Anahata (Sanskrit: अनाहत)
  5. Vishuddha (Sanskrit: विशुद्ध)
  6. Ajna (Sanskrit: आज्ञा)
  7. Bindu (Sanskrit: बिन्दु)
  8. Sahasrara (Sanskrit: सहस्रार)

Hesychastic centres of prayer

Hesychasm specifies four centres:

  1. Cerebrofrontal centre: Positioned between the eyebrows (compare with Ajna).
  2. Buccolaryngeal centre.
  3. Pectoral centre: Positioned in the upper and median region of the chest.
  4. Cardiac centre: Positioned near the upper part of the heart (compare with Anahata).

This compares notably with Tibetan Buddhism, in which the sequence of centres is very similar, beginning with the eyebrows and going down to the heart, which symbolizes the highest consciousness.

It is alleged by modern mystics that in Hesychasm, the centres of prayer were points of concentration or meditation on the body to be used during the hesychastic prayer. This terminology, however, is not used in Orthodox Christianity and is not part of Hesychasm as practiced within the Orthodox Churches.

See also

External links

Articles on the The System of Chakras

de:Chakra es:Chakra fr:Chakra it:Chakra nl:Chakra pt:Chakra sv:Chakra uk:Чакра

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