There isn’t a lot of reliable information in the world of English literature regarding the chakra system; most authors have tended to cull the source texts to present the chakra system as a physical, objective, verifiable reality, using pictorial descriptors like anahata chakra is located in the heart and it is green and so on. But according to Shaiva Tantra, the system which originated the concept and construct of chakras, the original Sanskrit doesn’t teach about the structure of a reality, but rather gives us a prescription and a practice particular to the path of Yoga. We are taught to visualize specific models for specific purpose, in this case, ‘a subtle object made of colored light, shaped like a lotus or a spinning wheel, at a specific point in the body, and then activate mantric syllables in it, in order to achieve a specific goal by mystical means. For instance, when the literal Sanskrit reads, ‘twelve-petaled green lotus at the heart center’, the yogī is being told to visualize a twelve-petaled lotus, not that a twelve-petaled lotus exists in the heart as an objective fact. It is a glaring distinction and one that has been overlooked far too often to the detriment of the spiritual communities and aspirants to higher wisdom.
The main purpose of the chakra system, according to the Tantric mystics, was to function as an approach or guide to nyāsa, which is the art of assigning or locating of divinity inside one’s own body. We intentionally install mantras and deity-energies at specific points of the subtle body, and this foundational teaching is at the root of most mystic systems, not just yoga/tantra. The primary teaching at the beginning of the spiritual journey is that we are already that which we are seeking, the fundamental premise being that the God, or Original Source, is the Prime Originator of our being in the first place and it is the purpose of the practices to overcome the challenge of Samskara, the impressions which veil themselves over our minds to hide this original knowledge of our Divinity. Hence the conscious or intentional re-placement of Divinity, the awakening of original innocence and ignition of our true freedom.
When we investigate the source texts of the chakra systems we should understand two things: 1) the mystical sounds of the Sanskrit alphabet located on the ‘petals’ of all the chakras are of primary significance and 2) that each chakra is associated with a specific Hindu deity, like Ganesh or Ma Durga, the Goddess, etc. Again, remember, the chakra system is a prescriptive template for nyāsa. In nyāsa, you visualize a specific mantric syllable in a specific location, in a specific chakra in your energy body while silently intoning its sound. This process of intoning is called Uccara and the practice can be approached vocally until the practice is established well enough to go silent with it. I speak a bit about this in this video.
While we’re on the topic of the original prescription of chakra-visualizing practices as opposed to the assumption of the ‘objective reality of the chakras’, it might be beneficial to consider further that the classical tradition which has handed down this wisdom is a tradition which actually denies the existence of objective reality altogether! This part is huge. It’s the entire foundation of the non-dual philosophy. Shaivite Tantra not only denies an observer-based, concrete or enduring reality, but even questions that reality which we, the masses, are in agreement over, that consensus reality that we all call objective fact, itself the source of the mass-distribution of the widely-accepted fallacies of the chakra system.
The chakras don’t exist. Period. And how could anyone, anywhere, ever emphatically declare otherwise? If you cut up the body you will not find a chakra, but the yogic tradition offers a practice and perspective that tells us that anything visualized consistently over a period of time eventually manifests into direct experience. And isn’t this one teaching found at the foundations of so many new age formulas for reality manifestation today? Think Reiki, Law of Attraction, Pranic Healing, etc. This is one of the overarching perspectives of the Tantric philosophy, this idea that one creates their reality based on the power of their imagination. Yet, at the same time, distinctions must absolutely be made between imagination, visualization and experience. A profound practice will necessarily be multi-sensory. It will be kinesthetic. Consider for a moment the raw power of imagination in a child or in personal and social development. It’s foundational, verily a pillar of reality, and when it’s intentionally harnessed, it becomes a lightning rod of reality creation.
For a really good exposé on the Chakra system and the western propensity for distortion of classical tradition, check out this piece by Christopher Wallis, Sanskrit scholar and Trika Tantra authority.
…is a Saiva Tantrika, Gyana Yogi and founder of Uma Maheshwara Yoga & Ayurveda. David has an MA in Semiotics, lives in Japan with his family and works as a coach in L & D, devoting his time to developing science-based tools and programs that help people reach the fullest potential of the human condition.