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This article is an overview of Tantra cosmology:
the emanation, creation and structure of the divine, the universe and man.
Tantras are the ancient scriptures, which
were meant to spread the light of knowledge of our True Self and bring humanity
out of ignorance. They trace their origin from the Vedas and the Upanishads,
and in fact do not deviate from the teachings contained in them. Like Vedanta, Tantra has its own followers in the true spirit of inquiry and realization
of the cosmic unity and power of the Self. Unfortunately, Tantras were tainted
with such practices as 'erotic mysticism' and 'black magic'. Be that as
it may, it is to be understood that the Tantras in their original and pure
forms are as sacred and life invigorating as Vedanta teachings derived from
the ancient Indian philosophical thought. The authorship of the Tantras
is credited to Lord Shiva who is believed to have granted this knowledge
to his Power -the Shakti- Parvati. She, in turn, made them available to
mankind. Original Tantras are divided into three main groups according to
the deity chosen for worship (Vishnu, Shiva, and Shakti). Thus came into
existence Vaishnava, Shaiva, and Shakta Tantra respectively.
Chapters in this article:Introduction
First I should explain the key concepts of Shiva and Shakti. Shiva and Shakti are the basics of the entire Tantra philosophy. In essence Shiva and Shakti are undifferentiated unity. They can never be separated; one cannot exist without the other. We look at them as being two separated concepts, but that is due to the limitations of our understanding, and our language. We have to invent names and concepts in order to have some understanding of what lies beyond our understanding.
Everything that exists can be reduced to two concepts: consciousness and manifestations. Manifestations are dependent on consciousness. In Tantra, consciousness is called Shiva, and manifestation, which is also seen as power, is called Shakti.
Another key concept is Tat, what literally means "that". Tat is unconditioned consciousness, eternal, unchangeable "to be". It is omnipresent. It is an ultimate state of consciousness in which there is no power (Shakti). It is also called Brahman which is in a state of rest. In Brahman, Shakti only exists as a potential.
Like in many other philosophies or religions this ultimate, divine state is often described in negative terms, such as without form, without mind, without movement, or as complete, full, pure.
Another concept is Bindu, what means 'point'. It is equal to Tat, but is seen as an abstract point, an all-encompassing point that in its unmanifested state is called Maha Bindu or Para Bindu. Para Bindu or Maha Bindu contains the unified Shiva and Shakti. It is also called Para Brahman or Param Atma. The term Bindu is often used when one talks about all of creation flowing forth from it.
Shakti is always the appearance, form, manifestation, or power of pure consciousness (Shiva) in its unlimited states of existence. Each change in consciousness is another manifestation of Shakti. What we perceive is always forms, powers or manifestations of Shakti. If Shakti is in total rest, than there is no manifestation, not perceptible, not knowable. It is in rest and it is called Sat Cit Ananda (Being Consciousness Bliss).
Thus, in the Beginning we have:
Shiva and Shakti
First we have 'Tat' (=that), a term equal with Brahman, Atman or the ultimate Samadhi. This is unconditioned consciousness, eternal and unchangeable, all-being, all penetrating, in rest, for as far as we can describe this in human language. It is Para Bindu, the Ultimate Point. It is the absolute, ultimate reality. It is pure consciousness. No power (=shakti) is manifest here although it is existent but totally one and inseparable from consciousness (=shiva). In this state we can speak of ShivaShakti (I have joined the two words to reflect their union) as a union of two inseparable qualities. All living beings, which will follow later, are parts or sparks from this ShivaShakti. This state of Tat, or ShivaShakti is without any sound, and thus 'before' the AUM, that will follow later.
It is important to know that this state is not something that happened in the past. This state is always there, or should I say, always here, as it is present in each and every one of us. We just do not realize it at this moment.
Then in the process of manifestation, which we can see as something in the past, but which is also happening at every point in time, Shiva and Shakti start to 'separate'. When we talk here about Shiva and Shakti in the third person tense, it is because our present day consciousness perceives this as such. So actually we are talking about our consciousness that started to perceive itself as two separate qualities. In what follows, it is actually our consciousness which starts to see itself in multiples, although, for convenience sake we will continue to talk as if these qualities are outside ourselves.
So at one point, Shiva becomes pure consciousness and stays 'behind' in its divine realm, while its counterpart Shakti becomes the 'form of consciousness'. Shakti is also called a vritti (=a thought wave) of Shiva that by itself does not have any characteristic. Shakti in this state is a form of bliss. Again this is a description limited by human language and does not adequately reflect their true state.
So Shiva, or Consciousness perceives its dynamic aspect (=Shakti) and recognizes itself as an observer that observes the observed. Shiva as an observer is called Para Shiva and the observed is called Para Shakti.
At this point we also speak of the trinity of Sat-Cit-Ananda what translates as Being-Consciousness-Bliss.
The dynamic, moving consciousness (Para Shakti) starts to take on form and becomes Maya Shakti. Form clouds or veils true essence, and this where the term maya comes in.
We can see this process in two directions. The downwards direction is called Maya, when pure Consciousness (Shiva) causes movement and action and creates Moving Consciousness (Shakti). The upwards direction is called Enlightenment (Prakasha) when Moving Consciousness (Shakti) reflects its movement towards the resting principle of pure Consciousness (Shiva).
So, we are calling this state of 'separation' Shiva-Shakti, with a dash in between to reflect a sort of separation, although both are still strongly connected to each other.
Shiva and Shakti
Para Shakti Maya
Then consciousness becomes conditioned by the process of Creation (Srshti). Creation causes disturbance of the state of rest, and hereby a polarization of consciousness happens. This polarization causes a deep separation between Shiva and Shakti. The Shiva aspect is now experienced as Consciousness in its static aspect, as individual consciousness; while Shakti (now called Para Shakti Maya = Apara Brahman) is experienced as Consciousness in its dynamic aspect, and as manifested consciousness. Para Shakti Maya is characterized by movement and change, and takes on appearance and form (=maya) in its unlimited possibilities.
This Para Shakti Maya is the first vibration, and causes into existence Nada (=sound), which is the Aum, the word of creation, or primal vibration. Nada is Aum is Shabda Brahman (shabda=sound).
Before we continue a little explanation is required about the concept of creation that is to follow. Brahman creates in cycles. That means there have been previous cycles of creation. By remembering a previous creation a desire arises to repeat it. This causes unconditioned consciousness to turn into conditioned consciousness, because remembering is already a form of Shakti. Para Brahman (the Unlimited) becomes Apara Brahman (the Limited). From Nada arises Para Bindu, the 'point' that is ready for creation. It is also equaled with Ishavara, the Creator, with his Shakti Ishvari.
a three part point
Para Bindu (the Uppermost Point), or Brahman is ready to create. Para Bindu now can be considered as a point with three parts:
Brahma Pada, which is the Brahma in the center
Ananada Kasha, which is the space of bliss around the center; also called Naha Sunya (Great Sun)
Maha Maya Shakti or Maha Kundalini (the Great Veiling power), which is the powerful dormant force of unmanifested cosmic life energy. It is symbolized by the serpent biting in its own tail. This cosmic life force is here inactive.
When we talk about Para Bindu as a point, one should not see this as a point is space. Para Bindu is the All, nothing exists without it. Everything that was, is and will be is potentially present in Para Bindu. Because of its three qualities it is also called Saguna Brahma (=Brahma with the Three Gunas; guna=quality). Para Bindu is also called Para Ishvara, the Creator together with Para Ishvari, its female or shakti counterpart. All these different terms are different ways of looking at the same thing.
The Three Gunas
As Para Bindu creates the three Gunas, it becomes Tri Bindu. On this level
Shakti is said to have three eyes, which by themselves are symbolized by
Sun, Moon and Fire. It is said that these three Bindus are the light sources
which make possible perception in the three worlds. It is also significant
that Sun, Moon and Fire later become representative for the three nadis
in the spine: Sushumna, Ida and Pingala.
The first shape, from the point, that encloses a space is a triangle. Tri Bindu forms a triangle with the apex pointed downwards. This form we also find in the description of the chakras. The triangle is actually formed out of letters which represent qualities or powers. This triangle is also called the body of Shakti of which the three triangles are Knowledge, Will and Action, the three necessary qualities to create.
Now this triangle is a key concept. It is a trinity that has many reflections:
the three Gunas
So, now we have creation, and consciousness in movement, and thus the Shakti
aspect becomes Prakriti, this is: matter or substance. We just mentioned
the existence of three qualities in Para Bindu. Creation makes the three
Gunas arise. The Gunas are qualities of matter/substance. In other terms
the Gunas are qualities of "consciousness in its dynamic aspect".
The Gunas are a key concept as everything that has been created and exists
in this universe consists of the three Gunas in a myriad different proportions.
In the sphere where the Gunas arise we have Purusha, the Pure Being of man, his essence, which is Consciousness and Prakriti (=prakriti is substance; here primal substance).
The Three Gunas are Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. The three Gunas are qualities of Prakriti, of everything that has been created, and thus they are the inherent characteristic of all matter and energy. They form everything that has been created. Everything that has been created contains different proportions of these three Gunas. You can find many different attributes to these three Gunas, but here is the basic definition.
Sattva is a state of the equilibrium between Maha Shiva and Maha Shakti, between consciousness and its power, between Purusha and Prakriti. It is purity, wisdom, harmony. It is the unveiling by which liberating knowledge is gained.
Rajas is Maya Shakti, the dynamic aspect of Consciousness (=Shiva) which continuously creates forms and veils. It is desire, passion, strife.
Tamas is Maya Shiva, Consciousness stripped of its power and veiled by the action of Maya Shakti. It is ignorance, dullness, inertia, slowness.
Sattva is Vishnu, the Maintainer, and his shakti
Rajas is Brahma, the Creator, and his shakti
Tamas is Rudra, the Destroyer or Dissolver, and his shakti.
Sattva is manifestation or revelation
Rajas is action, the dynamic aspect
Tamas is veiling, and resisting
Sattva is action
Rajas is desire
Tamas is knowledge
Sattva is essence
Rajas is movement
Tamas is inertia
These three Gunas or qualities mix together in different proportions and create the different life forms of devas, man, animal, plants, minerals and matter.
The 24 Tattvas
24 categories of existence
The three Gunas (or Qualities) give rise to the following creations which are called the (24) Tattvas (=categories of existence):
Sattva gives rise to:
Rajas gives rise to:
Tamas gives rise to:
The five subtle elements (Tanmatras):
The five gross elements (Bhutas)
Some systems have 12 more Tattvas, these 12 are higher Tattvas, preceding the classical 24 Tattvas. As Tattvas are seen as categories of existence, they progressively emerge from consciousness in a single causal chain, and thus they start from in the beginning. Here are the twelve higher Tattvas, starting with the highest:
Shiva Tattva: Shiva here is consciousness with the potential of power. Shakti is not yet manifest. Shiva is not conscious yet of the potential of Shakti. Here we have the ShivaShakti written as one word as we saw earlier. There is a sense of union between I and That, although consciousness is emphasized on the I and is not aware of the That.
Shakti Tattva: Shakti has become manifest and thus observable, and becomes the will if Shiva. At her turn she is not really conscious of her consciousness (shiva) aspect. Shakti, the cosmic energy, the dynamic consciousness, is experienced as bliss. The first two Tattvas cannot be seen separately. They are intimately connected. ShivaShakti becomes Shiva-Shakti, in a certain sense 'separated' but still strongly connected to each other. Here is a sense of division between I and That.
Sadakhya Tattva: ShivaShakti in stillness now turn into movement, what is also called 'the first idea'. This first movement is Nada, the original sound, or AUM. In the relationship between I and That, there is now a strong emphasis on the I aspect.
Ishvara Tattva or Bindu Tattva: consiousness starts to exteriorize itself. The I starts to see the That (=the universe) as different from itself although also a part of itself. Here we still can speak of Bindu, the Point, as consciousness identifies itself with the universe, but the universe is still unmanifested. With living beings, this Bindu is situated in the sahasrara chakra. Here we talk about "the opening of the eyes", as one starts to observe the observed; or "the closing of the eyes" when consciousness retreats and observation ceases. Here the seed of creation of the universe is produced. Shiva-Shakti will become Shiva and Shakti. Together they form the Tri-Bindu, that is Bindu becomes a trinity of Bindu (Point), Nada (Sound=Aum) and Bija (seed-mantra). Tri-Bindu creates the subtle body of the Kundalini-Shakti.
Shuddhavidya Tattva: The I and That have equal value here and the tension between them is so strong that they both parts are seen as separated from each other, although here they are not yet completely separated. Consciousness still experiences that it is the universe. Creation starts, but on this level there is only Mantra, that is vibration. But with creation the Tattvas become more impure as the Tamas Guna becomes more and more dominant. Under this Tattva arises the eight Pudgalas (living beings), which are the Jivas in the form of knowledge. The jiva is the soul and possesses consciousness and intelligence.
Maya Tattva: maya means 'to veil' or is the veil of consciousness. Although the veiling of consciousness started from the beginning of the Tattvas, it is here, in Maya Tattva, that it becomes complete. Here the I is being observed as different from That. Duality arises. All the jivas obtain a sense of difference. What is maya? Maya is actually the movement of consciousness, dynamic movement, so we call Shakti also Maya Shakti, as it is this movement, or dynamic aspect that veils pure consciousness (Shiva), or the static aspect of consciousness. The more Maya Shakti veils, the more Sattva guna is repressed and Tamas guna is strengthened. Although Maya Shakti is always consciousness, she appears as mind, gross matter and life force. Maya is actually a power of consciousness, a limiting principle which reduces the universal powers of consciousness and produces the state of limited experience. Maya Shakti is considered the root of her five instruments, the Kancukas. The Kancukas (=coverings or limitations) is the cause that unity is divided in multitude. This creates limitations in experience. The five Kancukas (which become the next five Tattvas) are:
Kaala Tattva: This is the first limitation of consciousness. Maya Shakti divides eternity (of Brahman) and brings it to an apparent limitation, boundary. This 'time limitation' gives rise to what we commonly call time. With this 'time limitation' consciousness experiences birth and death, arising and ceasing.
Niyati Tattva: the unlimited (of Brahman) becomes limited space. As consciousness has become limited to time, the thought process arises which always develops in time. Consciousness becomes dependant on the circumstances, and it looses its freedom and independency, thus becoming dependent on the order prevalent in creation.
Raaga Tattva: complete satisfaction (of Brahman) becomes limited to desire. Raga is a function that creates desire. Desire to know and acquire knowledge and wisdom of (apparent) other objects than the Self. In Reality these other objects are nothing else but its own dynamic aspect. Purusha (the Self) now becomes an enjoyer of Prakriti (the other objects). In essence it is the attraction of pure (still) consciousness (=Shiva) to its own movement (=Shakti, the dynamic aspect).
Vidya Tattva: the all-knowing (Brahman) becomes limited by the Vidya quality to obtaining limited knowledge of the apparent objects around him. Pure consciousness gets only limited knowledge of only parts of his "consciousness in movement".
Kalaa Tattva: The all-powerful (Brahman) becomes limited in its actions. Thus individualized consciousness becomes limited in its actions because of the limitations of Prakriti.
Purusha and Prakriti Tattva: Purisha, the Self, or Cosmic Consciousness becomes limited by its own limiting power, Prakriti, or Shakti, also called Para Shakti Maya in this aspect. By the creation of Purusha and Prakriti, Consciousness forgets about its true nature, it cloaks itself with Maya and and the five kancukas (coverings, see above), it limits its power and reduces itself to an individual soul, Purusha, in a seemingly objective manifestation, prakriti.
There are fourteen worlds (lokas) which are spheres of existence:
At the very 'bottom' is Vishnu in his form of Sesha or Ananta, carrying the entire creation in the form of a serpent.
The we have the seven lower worlds:
In between the seven lower and the seven higher worlds are the 34 hells. These hells are not eternal. Existence in the hells is only temporal.
Then we have the seven higher worlds:
Existence in those three spheres are the result of karmic actions.
These three last spheres are for Jivas (souls) who have attained a certain degrees of liberation (moksa). In those spheres are the highest intelligent beings.
All these worlds are occupied by numerous living beings. They are all Purushas, or Jivatmans, that is divine essences, or individualized souls. A Purusha or Jivatman is not only a human being, animal or plant, but it comprises every single thing in the universe, as everything is alive, everything is consciousness. Thus, for example, an atom is also a Purusha or Jivatman. So are beings that are not visible to us.
All these beings are dominated and limited by time and karma.
The human body is our vehicle to express ourselves in the world. But little do we know what the human body is. Yogis have studied the body for thousands of years and have developed a basic philosophy around it. The principal composition of the human body is of five 'vessels' or koshas:
Anna Maya Kosha
In this food vessel the physical being is bound by birth and death. He ages, becomes sick, deteriorates and dies.
This vessel is composed of the elements earth, water and fire (their seats are repectively in muldahara, svadhisthana and manipura chakra(. Earth and water are supplied by food. Fire transforms these food into useful materials to maintain the physical body. The element earth in the body is balanced by manipura chakra (base chakra), water by svadhisthana chakra (sex chakra), and fire by manipura chakra (navel chakra).
The food vessel also contains the Indriyas or knowledge and action organs. The knowledge organs are the ears, the skin, the eyes, the tongue and the nose. The action organs are the mouth (speaking), the hands (grasping), the feet (walking), the reproduction organs (reproduction), the anus (excretion).
Prana Maya Kosha
In the vital energy vessel man has the energy to keep the physical body alive, and he experiences the need to maintain the physical body, what expresses itself in hunger and thirst.
Prana Maya Kosha is made from the elements air and ether (or akasha) (their seats are respectively in anahata and vishuddha chakra). Prana is a subtle energy that is absolutely necessary to keep the body alive, and to transform the food. This life energy is the shakti of individualized consciousness (jivatman). This shakti divides itself over the chakras to full all necessary functions to keep the body alive.
In the vital energy vessel ten pranas are working: five with an inner function (pancha prana) and five with an outer function (upa prana). There is some contradiction among different sources of the color and function of the pranas, but the following can give you an idea.
Pranas are thus subtle energies with specific functions that move through the body through the nadis. Nadis are very fine, etheric channels, similar to the meridians in acupuncture. There are thousands and thousands of these nadis. All pranas work together.
Mano Maya Kosha
Mano maya kosha and the next vehicle, vijnana maya kosha both have their seat in ajna chakra.
This is the vessel of Manas (cognitive mind), which is the substance of thinking, and is directly connected with incoming sensatory impressions through manas chakra (the seat of the senses).
Mano Mayo Kosha is the center that receives and registers impressions. I can receive impressions from the physical world by the five physical senses, but it also receives impressions from the subtle world with its subtle senses, for example clairvoyance.
Vijnana Maya Kosha
This is the vessel of Buddhi, which is the selective, discriminatory ability of mind. Manas (thinking) receives the impressions and gives them to Buddhi which analyzes, identifies and recognizes the registered object and then relate it to previous experiences. By this the concepts of good and bad arise. Cooperation with Ahamkara (the ego) will determine if this Buddhi, the selective ability of the mind, will be used for lower purposes, such as for one's own gain, or for higher purposes, such as to rise above lower desires.
After impressions have been received by Manas, analyzed by Buddhi and used by Ahamkara, they will go into memory which is Citta.
Manas, Buddhi, Ahamkara and Citta all have their seat in Ajna Chakra and other (minor) chakras above this.
Ananda Maya Kosha
This is the vessel of Karana Sarira, which is the causal body, which has as function the regulation of reincarnation, and thus works together with Citta, the memory bank. Karana Sarira together with Citta is called Karmasaya, the karmic vehicle.
The seat of Ananda Maya Kosha (ananda=bliss) is in Bindu Chakra which is situated in Sahasrara Chakra (the Crown Chakra).
Here is another view:
Jivatman, the individual Soul creates subtle prana, as life energy, maintaining the causal body and the following astral body. Both the causal and the astral body maintain the physical body by means of the vital body which is the ten pranas. The physical body is also maintained by Rajas, the prana present in the atmosphere.
Usually the term nadis is used for the prana nadis, that is, subtle energy channels of subtle, etheric, or pranic energies or 'winds'. They connect the physical body (the food vessel and the prana vessel) with the subtle body (Manas, Buddhi and Karana Sarira) in order for the physical body to exist and function.
Each (of the 144) chakra gives rise to a certain number of nadis, each with a special function. But the origin of all nadis is in Nadi Chakra, more commonly called Kanda, or Kundalini Chakra. Kanda is just above the Muladhara Chakra. It is in the junction where Sushumna Nadi is connected with the Muladhara Chakra From Kanda thousands of nadis leave to weave a network throughout the body and even beyond the body. Kanda has an egg shape and is white.
Of all those nadis (72,000 to 350,000 according to the source) only fourteen are considered important: Sushumna, Ida, Pingala, Gaandhara, Hastyihvika, Kuhu, Sarawati, Pusa, Sankhini, Payaswani, Varuni, Alambusa,, Vishvodari, Yoshaswani. But for the yogi only three of these are important:
Sushumna: relates to Fire (Vahni Svarupa)
Idan and Pingala nadi arise in Mukta Triveni in Muladhara Chakra.
Ida nadi is actually a more dense continuation of Vajrini nadi. Ida nadi is called the channel of the moon. Ida nadi is situated left of the spine. It has a pale moon color and contains the nectar of life, Amtra), vivifying the body. It directs the negative, cooling, female energy. It distributes the nectar of the full moon throughout the body. Ida nadi governs thinking, feeling, emotions, memories, the functions of the mind and intelligence.
Pingala nadi is a more dense continuation of Citrini nadi. Pingala nadi is called the channel of the sun. Pingala nadi is situated right of the spine. It has a golden reddish color and it contains the deadly poison Visam, being destructive to the body. It directs the postive, warming, male energy throughout the body. It uses up the nectar of life. Pingala nadi governs vitality, prana, activity, temperament, will power, artistic aspiration.
In their dual aspect, Ida and Pingala nadi are representative for day and night, space and time, Pursha and prakriti. They spiral up the spine. They join in Ajna Chakra where they create with Sushumna the Mukta Triveni, the Threefold Knot of Liberation, where they enter Sushumna and then separate and proceed into the different nostrils.
Chakras, and there are many more than the traditional seven major chakras, are transformation stations of energy. When Kundalini Shakti, that is the creative consciousness, descended from its divine abode, it created seven major centers of consciousness, the traditional seven chakras.
Each chakra is a point of consciousness from which numerous nadis, or energy channels sprout. Together they control all the functions of the body as part of one all encompassing consciousness. The chakras do not work independently, but all work together, and are dependent from the all governing authority of Param Guru, which is the pure Self. Each chakra is a form of consciousness that is functional at a certain level and keeps the body in working order. Each chakra transmits information from the universe to the parts of the body it takes care of; but it also channels information to the all overseeing sahasrara chakra.
The petals associated with each chakra represent the number of root powers left behind at that level by the descending Kundalini.
The seed mantra or mantra of each chakra has the necessary potential, power and knowledge for its task at that level. It also represent the quality of consciousness.
Certain colors are often attributed to the chakras, but this field is full of contradictions. The reason for this is that the perception of the colors of the chakras, and also their form, is dependent on the mental attitude, the working of the three gunas (=the three basic qualities in the universe), karmic issues of the observer, strength of concentration and the static and dynamic aspect of the chakras themselves.
Take into account that all images and forms, including the gods and goddesses attributed to chakras are mere symbols for energies, information and conscious that can be encountered when exploring these chakras in yoga and meditation. This is the purpose of our study in the chakras: to explore the contents of your being in its different forms through these major energy centers.
Its name means 'foundation or root', and refers to the very founding energy of the body in this world. Muladhara has four petals.
It has a yellow square, representing the element of earth, and is surrounded by eight spears, symbol of the eight directions. Earth is the element of cohesion and inertia.
The Trikona (trikona = the inverted triangle) is fiery and filled with the energy of desire. The triangle represents the yoni, or female energies, and is the seat of Energy. The linga inside represents the male energies. The lingam and the yoni together, here in muladhara, represent the opposites in the physical world.
In the series of the chakras there are three lingas. The first one is Svayambhu linga in muladhara chakra (svayambju = self born or self reproduced). The Svayambhu linga is the self creating linga of the physical world. This linga is black, color of the material energies. It is the potential expression of the creative power of man.
All three lingas have a connections with blockages or knots that need to be unraveled. Svayambhu linga is connected to the Knot of Brahma which is the door or gate that closes the Royal Path (there is no more creation underneath this chakra). When the Knot of Brahma has been unraveled, one feels connected to the totality of the universe.
The sleeping Kundalini Devi, the feminine shakti power of the divine, has wound herself three and a half times around the linga. When it is said that the Kundalini is sleeping, it does not mean that she is inactive. She constantly keeps the body alive. With her mouth she closes the opening of the Citrini Nadi. Citrini Nadi is a subtle energy channel starting from bindu (point of consciousness just above the head) and ending in the Svayambhu linga in muladhara chakra. This nadi encloses the Royal path and is also called the Door or gate to Brahma (divine consciousness). All important chakras are connected with this nadi. Citrini nadi runs inside Sushumna nadi which runs inside the spine.
The seed mantra is Lam, and is associated with Indra. Indra is the king of Gods, Lord of the Firmament, is the most important vedic god; he is the leader of the Devas, the god of war, the god of thunder and storms, the greatest of all warriors. He is the defender of gods and mankind against the forces of evil.
The animal associated with muladhara is Airavata, the black king-elephant with the seven trunks. Airavata symbolizes the bearing, fixed element of earth, which supports and feeds us. He is also the remover of obstacles when ascending through the seven worlds, or the seven chakras. He is strength. firmness and solidity.
The consciousness in muladhara is Brahma and its shakti (or feminine counterpart) Savitri. Brahma is creator of the universe. Brahma has four faces and four arms (there are four petals in muladhara).
The chakra shakti of manipura is Dakini, who is seated in a red lotus and is situated at the end of the Sushumna Nadi. Dakini is the carrier of the revelation of the ever-pure Intelligence.
The sense of muladhara is smell.
Svadhisthana means 'dwelling place of the self', and refers to the maintaining force of one's self. Svadhisthana has six petals.
The symbol of the moon represents the element of water. Around this moon is a double, eight-petalled, secret lotus. Water is the energy that flows downwards.
Svadhisthana is the seat of the invisible Param Linga, which is not perceptible. There is some mystery around it, but in general it stands for the invisible purity in the creation of the universe.
The animal associated with svadhisthana is the Makara, a sea (and thus water) monster. The Makara represents the lower nature of man, which limits itself to its immediate environment. The Makara is the vehicle of Varuna, god of the sea.
The seed mantra is Vam, and is associated with Varuna. Varuna is the vedic god of primordial waters.
The consciousness of svadhisthana is Vishnu, the lord of preservation and all penetrating life energy, and its shakti Rakini. Vishnu is seated on Garuda, a mythical bird, the king of the eagles. Garuda represents the higher nature of man, which has a wider range of vision. Garuda here points to the possibility to use the energies of svadhisthana chakra for sublimation, to transforms its energies into higher states of consciousness.
The chakra shakti svadhisthana is Rakini Shakti, seated in a double, red lotus. Rakini is the image of the Eternal Femininity, overcoming lower powers.
The sense of svadhisthana is taste.
Manipura means 'the city of jewels', or 'city of the sun'. The refers to the knowledge of the entire body, and also to the source of solar energy received through this chakra. Manipura has ten petals.
In this chakra is the fiery Trikona, with a swastika (the T-shapes are indicative of swastikas) on each side. Fire is the upwards moving, transforming energy.
The seed mantra is Ram, and is associated with Agni.
The animal associated with manipura is the ram. The ram is the vehicle of Agni, the fire god. The ram represents initial energy, strong but clumsy.
The consciousness of Manipura is Rudra, the destroyer or transformer, and its shakti Bhadra Kali. They all have three eyes, referring to the trinity of sun, moon and fire, which are the three lights that make possible perception in the three worlds (the physical, the subtle, and the causal). The eye in the middle of the forehead is also Jnanaksu, the Eye of Wisdom.
The chakra shakti of manupura is Lakini shakti, seated on flesh and bones.
In manipura we have Para, the unmanifested aspect of sound, the state of sound at its level of origin.
The sense of manipura is seeing.
Anahata means 'unstruck' (sound), 'not freed', and refers to the non-physical audible sound beyond the senses that can be heard when working with this chakra. Anahata has twelve petals.
Its element is air. Air is the energy that moves in different directions, penetrates everything and is the carrier of sound.
It contains two interlocking triangles, forming a six pointed star, creating a balance between the female, descending energies (the downward pointing triangle) and the male, ascending energies (the upwards pointing triangle). Anahata is the center chakra with three chakras below it and three chakras above it.
In the center we have a downwards pointing triangle that is brilliant as lightning, and which contains the second, red Bana Linga (bana = arrow), symbol for the subtle world. It is red because it has fiery, psychic energy.
Bana Linga is connected to the Knot of Vishnu. When this knot has been unraveled, one perceives the existence of a universal life principle.
The seed mantra is Yam.
Its animal is the gazelle or antelope, swift as the wind (=air element), also symbolizing the lightness of physical substance. The antelope also refers to the feeling of Purusha which is seated at this level. Purusha is the essence of man, his pure being. It is said that Purusha is seated in the center of the heart. When Purusha is being felt, one undergoes a spiritual awakening, and worldly matters are not being chased anymore.
The consciousness of Anahata is Ishvara and his shakti, Shuwaneshvari.
In anahata chakra is also the seat of Jivatman, symbolized here as a unflickering flame.
The chakra shakti of anahata is Kakini Shakti seated in a red lotus.
In anahata we have Pashyanti, sound in its undifferentiated state, before it is expressed by throat or mouth.
The sense of anahata is feeling.
Vishuddha mean 'pure', and refers to sixteen vocals which are considered pure sounds. Vishuddha is also a purification station that transforms the impure energies below this chakra into pure energies when they pass through this chakra in their ascent. Vishuddha has sixteen petals.
Its element is ether. Ether is the energy vessel in which all other elements dissolve. Ether as akasha (the element of space), is the medium for sound and vibration.
The trikona contains a transparent circle, symbol for the ether, or space element.
Its seed mantra is Ham.
Its animal is the white elephant, white being the color of the element ether or akhasa (=space). It is white because in vishuddha all impurities of previous chakras are left behind, and only purity remains. In muladhara we had a black elephant, black refering to the physical world and impurity; in vishuddha we have a white elephant, refering to the ether in which the four elements are dissolved, purified and unified. From now on it is the ether which is the supporting (~elephant) power, and not the physical world or the four element anymore.
Consciousness is Sadasiva and its shakti Sadasive.
The chakra shakti of vishuddha is Sakini Shakti seated in a red lotus.
The sense of vishuddha is hearing.
Up to and with anahata chakra we have the four elements working together, and creation happens within the material world, which is full of impurities. With vishuddha chakra the ascending energies are being purified and synthesized. Vishuddha leaves behind ignorance and incompetence which were prevalent before. Interest in worldly affairs has ceased and one is only interested in divine subjects. Formerly creation happened through svadhisthana chakra (sex included), but now creation happens through sound, which will happen more and more when mankind evolves further.
Ajna mean 'command' or 'authority', and refers to the commanding power seated here which harmonies and balance the lower forces and energies present below this chakra. Traditionally Ajna has two petals.
In terms of elements, in ajna we have space and time, or universal consciousness, that is, the Self and the Divine as inseparable but still distinguished from each other. Sometimes the element for Vishuddha is called Mahat what stands for self-realization, or enlightenment.
The three corners of the Trikona are associated with Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshvara, and with the three Gunas (Qualities) which arise on the level on Ajna.
The Trikona contains the third, white linga: Itara Linga, symbol of the causal world. It is white because it contains radiant purity, and totally conscious.
The Itara Linga is connected to the Knot of Rudra. When this knot has been unraveled, one gains the androgyn state, with universal joy.
The seed mantra is Om. In Ajna one perceives Om, the primal vibration, the source of of which creation happened.
Consciousness is Para Shiva and its shakti Siddha Kali. Para Shiva is the union of Shiva and Shakti, the cosmic union of which the light giving consciousness penetrates everything, transcends everything and unifies everything.
The chakra shakti of Ajna is Hakini Shakti seated in a white lotus, representing Suddha Citta, the pure spirit. She imparts the knowledge of unconditional truth, the awareness of non-duality.
Mastering this chakra, one becomes master over the three worlds and the three times. One lives and dies as one wishes.
The sense of ajna is the formation of mental images and abstract ideas.
Sahasrara mean 'thousand', and refers to the thousand petals that this chakra has. Thousand here is a symbolic term for numerous. Sometimes it is called sunya chakra as it is like a sun, both cosmic and individual.
In terms of elements, sahasrara has universal consciousness, that is, the Self and the Divine are indistinguishable. In sahasrara chakra we transcend space and time, and integrate all opposites, and contain all forms of sound and light.
In sahasrara individual existence ceases. Everything comes forth from and dissolves into Sahasrara. Everything that exists is already present in sahasrara, in its unmanifested state. Here is Paramatma, the Highest Self.
The shakti of sahasrara is Vacaka Shakti, the power to speak, and the origin of Aum.
In sahasrara we have all bodily senses and functions.
When the yogi reaches sahasrara chakra, the mind establishes itself in the pure void of Shynua Mandala, the space between the hemispheres. At this time all feelings, emotions, and desires, which are the activity of the mind, are dissolved into their primary cause. In this union the yogi is sit chit ananda, that is truth being bliss.
Connected with Sahasrara is the Bindu Chakra, often depicted in the center of Sahasrara. Bindu Chakra is a twelve petalled lotus. Bindu chakra supports sahasrara chakra. From bindu chakra all information flows into the body.
Its seed mantra is Om.
Consciousness is Ishvara.
In Bindu Chakra is The Nectar Ocean (Sudha Sagara) with the Island of Jewels (Manidvipa). On this island is the Jewel Altar (Manipitha). Above it is the lightning triangle (Sringataka), and in it the three bindus. on these three bindus is the Highest Swan (Parama Hamsa). On this swan is the Param Guru, the highest guru of anyone. Param Guru is Param Shiva, Shiva in his highest state of consciousness.
There are a couple of additional, secret chakras, the yogis talk about, between ajna and sahasrara chakra:
This chakra is situated in the roof of the mouth. It has 12 petals. In some Tantra scriptures it is called Kala chakra.
Its seed mantra is Om.
It is supposed to be the seat of the self-identity.
Manas chakra has six petals is situated slightly above ajna Chakra.
Its seed mantra is Om.
The functions of this chakra are hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling, tasting and sleeping.
Soma chakra has 16 petals, and it is sometimes said that is part of sahasrara chakra.
Its seed mantra is Om.
Soma Chakra is located in alignment with the middle of the forehead and is the seat of soma (the moon) and amrita (nectar).
It is associated with the mental clarity to achieve enlightenment.
This chakra has a hundred petals. It is situated in Brahma Randhra (=Medullary Cavity). It seems to be the seat of Gurudeva, the inner guru.
The Three Knots
Along the spine, or along the Sushumna channel, are three Granthis or Knots. They can be considered as blockages that prevent the full ascent of the kundalini. When the yogi makes the kundalini rise up he has to make an effort to break through those three knots, by which consciousness will attain a whole new awareness. The three knots are known as:
in muladhara, or root chakra
in anahata chakra, or heart chakra
in ajna chakra, or eye brow chakra
The Three Lingas
The Linga is a key symbol in Tantra. What is a linga? Linga is the name for space in which the whole universe is in the process of formation and dissolution. The yoni is then the primal root of creation. As Shiva and Shakti are always connected, so linga and yoni are always together. Thus in the symbolism of the chakras, the linga is presented as being inside a triangle, symbol of the yoni.
Associated with the Three Knots are the Three Lingas:
Svayambhu linga: the self created linga
As we have seen Shakti is the dynamic part of our pure consciousness, Shiva. Shakti created the universe, the multitude of energies. When it descended to create the human structure, it formed seven levels of energies of which the seven (major) chakras along the sushumna nadi, and in this function it is called Kundalini Shakti. At the end Kundalini Shakti went to 'sleep' in muladhara chakra. Kundalini Shakti is our potential energy, or the latent aspect of cosmic energy. The task of the yogi is to wake up this latent energy. Kundalini Shakti will then rise up through sushumna nadi piercing through the chakras (which are connected to this nadi), and finally uniting with Shiva in sahasrara chakra.
Kundalini Shakti can be woken up by different means. Yoga and Tantra are the most known, but music and dance help too. In yoga, pranayama is used to move the pranas in the body and strike the kundalini with these pranas, forcing her to wake up.
I once met a woman who had total kundalini ascents for years, without knowing what it was. She was not following any practice. When lying in bed, she would feel the energy rising up through her spine, leaving her body totally rigid and cold, a sure sign of an ascending kundalini. She had no idea what is was, until a Tantra teacher explained to to her in an evening lecture. It was probably a latent ability she had from past lives.
Kundalini is usually awakened by pramayama, breathing control. After meditation and single pointed concentration, prana, through breathing exercises, is sent down Ida and Pingala nadis (the two nadis next to Sushumna). Ida and Pingala nadis join the beginning the Sushumna nadi in Kanda or muladhara chakra, the same place where Kundalini is sleeping.
When ascending Kundalini, Shakti has to break through the Three Knots (see above), each time establishing a transformation.
After Kundalini Shakti has reached sahasrara chakra and has spent time in the pure consciousness of Brahman, it will descend again to Muladhara; at least for as long as the yogi wishes to remain in a physical body.
When Kundali Shakti is with the three lower chakras, up to and with manipura chakra, one remains attached to worldly affairs. The ideals are not that high and one still lives in lust and desire.
Anahata really makes a difference. Here a real spiritual awakening happens. Worldly pleasures are not chased any longer. For the first time one feels one's true inner self, the Purisha, the True man in man. With anahata chakra one I still living with and connected to the four elements.
When Kundalini reaches Vishuddha one is not ruled by the four elements anymore. A synthesis of previous energies happens by which the dross is separated from the pure. The attainment of purity liberates from ignorance and incompetence. Interest is only in spiritual affairs, not in worldly affairs anymore. Creation happens here with sound.
Reaching Ajna unification of static and dynamic consciousness happens, and one perceives the Om, the primal vibration, the source of all creation. Pure consciousness never descends below ajna chakra. In Ajna time and space still rules, and the self is still experienced as separate from the divine, in spite of the sense of union.
Leaving Ajna and entering sahasrara chakra, time and space cease to exist, all opposites are integrated and the self joins the divine in an inseparable union. Here one experiences cosmic consciousness, in Bindu.
In the very beginning of creation, the primal vibration arose as the Om or Aum. From this Om arose 50 matrika (=mother) sounds , which also relate to the chakra levels.
Each of the chakras is associated with a "root-vibration," which in turn is associated with certain letters. Thus, taken as a whole, the system of chakras constitutes the primal alphabet, the alphabet formed of the essence of letters. From this alphabet, according to the tradition, the whole universe arises. Each of these letters in the Sanskrit alphabet can individually be called a matrika, because each is a power in its own right.
So first we have a single root sound, the primal vowel, which formed all other vowels. Then from the vibrations of the vowels came the consonants.
Each sound represents a particular cosmic power. With each chakra they are inscribed on the petals. The number of petals of each chakra thus correspond to the number of sounds, or root powers, that are active at that level:
Tantra knows four kinds of sound:
Para (=supreme): is the state of unmanifested sound. It is sound at the level of its origin. This state corresponds with manipura chakra.
Pashyanti (=seeing): is sound in its undifferentiated state. This sound is only heard by the spiritually awakened person. It is sound emerging towards the visible. Through its medium enlightened people can behold all objective existence within themselves. This state corresponds with anahata chakra.
Madhyama (luminous): is the state of sound or word that has been created but not expressed yet by the throat. This luminous sound makes the enclosure and definition of space possible. Madhyama is an internal reflection of manifestation of awareness taking the form of ideas. This state corresponds with vishuddha chakra.
Vaikhari: is sound manifested as form, that is, sound spoken by man, audible sound. It is our language.
Sound plays an important role in Tantra. Mantras are said to invoke special sound vibrations within the practitioner to bring him into a particular state of consciousness or to activate particular energies.
A spiritual mantra is an inwardly-directed Matrika (=mother sound, see above). Mantra saturates and transforms our consciousness when repeated. In our normal thought processes mantra moves through our awareness from the para stage down to the vaikari stage. In the practice of mantra the order is reversed. When repeated at the vaikari level (the throat), the gross body is purified. When repeated on the madhyama level, the mantra is said to have one hundred times the power as when repeated on the gross level. In the next level, the pashyanti level, the mantra no longer exists in concrete form, but is simply a pulse of energy. The awareness of this pulsation releases ecstasy in the heart; a person who has attained this level has the power to create through words. Whatever such a person says has to come true. On the para level, only bliss exists.
Certain sounds are heard when the awakened kundalini rises up through the chakras:
Siddhi Powers are sometimes gained by focusing on various chakras causing an activation of that specific energy center.
Short overview of the advantages of meditating on the chakras:
The Benefits of Meditating on the Chakras
according to the Sanskrit text Sat-Chakra-Nirupana by Purnananda Sawmi (circa 1577)
By meditating thus on Her who shines within the Muladhara Chakra, with the luster of ten million Suns, a man becomes Lord of speech and King among men, and an Adept in all kinds of learning. He becomes ever free from all diseases, and his inmost Spirit becomes full of great gladness. Pure of disposition by his deep and musical words, he serves the foremost of the Devas.
He who meditates upon this stainless Lotus, which is named Svadisthana, is freed immediately from all his enemies, such as the fault of Aha kara (passions) and so forth. He becomes a Lord among Yogis, and is like the Sun illumining the dense darkness of ignorance. The wealth of his nectar-like words flows in prose and verse in well-reasoned discourse.
By meditating on this Navel Lotus the power to destroy and create (the world) is acquired. Vani (the element of Fire) with all the wealth of knowledge ever abides in the lotus of His face.
He who meditates on this Heart Lotus becomes like the Lord of Speech, and like Ishvara he is able to protect and destroy the worlds. Foremost among Yogis, he is ever dearer than the dearest to women, He is pre-eminently wise and full of noble deeds. His senses are completely under control. His mind in its intense concentration is engrossed in thoughts of the Brahman. His inspired speech flows like a stream of (clear) water. He is like the Devata (=celestial being) who is the beloved of Lakshmi (=goddess of fortune and wealth) and is able at will to enter another's body.
He who has attained complete knowledge of the Atma (Brahman) becomes by constantly concentrating his mind (Citta) on this Lotus a great Sage, eloquent and wise, and enjoys uninterrupted peace of mind. He sees the three periods, and becomes the benefactor of all, free from disease and sorrow and long-lived, and, like Hamsa (=the white swan, symbolizing the divine spirit, or the liberated Self), the destroyer of endless dangers. The Yogi, his mind constantly fixed on this Lotus, his breath controlled by Kumbhaka (refers here to breath retention), is in his wrath able to move all the three worlds. Neither Brahma nor Vishnu, neither Hari-Hara nor Surya nor Ganapa is able to control his power (resist Him).
The excellent Sadhaka (=spiritual seeker), whose Atma (=Self) is nothing but a meditation on this Lotus, is able quickly to enter another's body at will, and becomes the most excellent among Munis (=Sages), and all-knowing and all-seeing. He becomes the benefactor of all, and versed in all the Sastras (Vedic scriptures). He realizes his unity with the Brahman and acquires excellent and unknown powers. Full of fame and long-lived, he ever becomes the Creator, Destroyer, and Preserver, of the three worlds.
That most excellent of men who has controlled his mind and known this place is never again born in the Wandering, as there is nothing in the three worlds which binds him. His mind being controlled and his aim achieved, he possesses complete power to do all which he wishes, and to prevent that which is contrary to his will. He ever moves towards the Brahman. His speech, whether in prose or verse, is ever pure and sweet.