The Chakras

In the West, we use the term chakras to describe the seven vital psychic centres of man’s subtle or ethereal body. Chakra is a Sanskrit word which means wheel or circle. It is also used to describe the Sun’s disc, which is the symbol of the Hindu god Vishnu, nicknamed The Active One’. Legend tells how his power lies in the fact that, like the Sun which rises, reaches its height and sets, Vishnu also took ‘Three Steps’ to measure the universe.

In India, Sanskrit is the equivalent of Latin. It is spelt samskrta and can be translated as ‘complete, perfect, absolute, unchanging’. It is the mother-tongue of the Indian people and was used to write the oldest texts in their literature, the Vedas, which date from the middle of the 2nd century BC. To have a good understanding of the real meaning of the chakras, they must be put back into the context of Indian culture and civilisation and of Hinduism, the oldest religion of India.


The existence and usefulness of chakras is based on four fundamental principles: karma, maya, nirvana and yoga, which govern all the laws of life. Karma or action is the law of cause and effect which forces the soul to go on living and dying and being reborn forever, this of course is based on a belief in reincarnation. Maya, which means illusion or appearance, is the chain of never-ending cycles, events, circumstances, passions and desires which cast a veil over the eyes of men.

Nirvana, which is often translated as illumination or ecstasy, but which, literally, means extinction or disappearance, is a freeing from and a way out of the cycle of rebirths which shackle the soul. Finally, yoga is a series of physical and mental techniques which man can use to attain this release. These techniques are based on exercises aimed at activating and stimulating the chakras.


It is taught through yoga, that there are 72 chakras, or vital points. Even though most of them are set at points or areas of the human body which correspond to organs, they should not be confused with them. In fact, chakras are the vital centres situated between the subtle or ethereal body and the earthly body and they link up with each other. Seven main chakras can be singled out, each of which has a specific function.

These are connected to each other and superimposed along the sushumna, the most important internal channel from which man’s physical and psychic powers circulate. This is located along the shaft of the spinal column, from the base of the back to the top of the head. So the techniques used in yoga consist of exercises that stimulate these chakras, in order to develop one’s psychic powers, attain a certain state of bliss and to reach at last an awakening of consciousness.

1. The Mulddhdra-Chakra, situated between the genital organs and the anus, is seen as the centre of psychic and instinctive, driving energy. It is portrayed as a serpent, coiled around itself, or as a lotus flower. It corresponds with the sense of smell and its element is Earth, the force of inertia of matter. It is inside this that the Kundalini or ‘serpent force’, the primordial energy, lies. The yogi has to succeed in arousing and controlling this to overcome his attachment to earthly life and his instinctive fear of death. By doing this, he gains the power to levitate, control his breathing and thinking and to attain consciousness, which allows him to have knowledge of the past and present just as easily as the future.

2. The Svddishthdna-Chakra, situated beneath the genital organs, a little higher than the Mulddhdra-Chakra, is in contact with the waste and reproductive organs, as well as with the sense of touch. Its element is Water and it is represented by a setting half-moon. By stimulating this chakra, the yogi develops his psychic powers and his intuition, and achieves total control of his senses. From then on, he is no longer a victim of extreme or conflicting emotions.

3. The Manipura-Chakra, situated in the lumbar region, at the same height as the navel, is associated with the liver, spleen, stomach and kidneys and also with sight. Its element is Fire. It is represented by a triangle with its point facing downwards. It is by arousing this chakra that the yogis of India manage to walk on hot embers without feeling any burning. Indeed, it grants you freedom from pain and illness.

4. The Anahdta-Chakra, situated in the region of the heart, rules this organ, and also the sense of touch. Its element is Air. It is symbolised by a six-pointed star. The yogi who manages to master this chakra develops his capacity for loving and his sense of harmony and acquires the power to fly like a bird.

5. The Vishuddha-Chakra, situated on a level with the throat or at the base of the neck, is connected with the nerves and vessels of the larynx and pharynx and the skin. Its subtle element is ether and its symbol is a circle contained within an inverted triangle, pointing downwards. The yogi who concentrates on this chakra should be able to attain immortality, because from now on he is living outside time, beyond the past, present and future, which is under his control.

6. The Ajnd-Chakra, situated between the eyebrows, at the base of the forehead, which in the West has been nicknamed the ‘third eye’, corresponds just as much with the eyes and with sight as with inner vision, dreams and the psychic life. It is centred on consciousness. It is represented by a lotus with two petals containing an inverted triangle, pointing downwards, inside which is seen the OM symbol of truth and absolute consciousness. When he masters this chakra, the yogi acquires all the powers listed in the preceeding five chakras.

7. The Sahasrdra-Chakra, situated on top of the skull, corresponds with the superior powers of the spirit. Sahasra, which means one thousand in Sanskrit, is called the lotus of a thousand petals. That is how it is depicted, with the OM at its centre. The yogi who activates this chakra reaches a super-consciousness, an absolute understanding and a degree of supreme bliss which detaches him permanently from earthly life and material concerns.

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