Kundalini Tantra & Chakras
What is Kundalini? What does it mean? What are Chakras? Are they real? How many are there?
Though Kundalini Tantra Yoga has gained more popularity than other traditional forms of Yoga, it is still quite misunderstood. Here, I’m going to provide some clarifications and explanations; I’m also going to provide some techniques to understand Kundalini Chakras that will satisfy your intellectual curiosity without having to struggle with the vast and often conflicting information currently available.
What is Kundalini?
This word comes from “kunda” which literally means pit. Kundalini is the primal, unconscious force that lies deep within; therefore the word symbolizes our deep unconscious states. Some people incorrectly think of this as a “coil” symbolizing a serpent coiled upon itself. This may be because the brain looks like a serpent coiled around itself. It’s quite possible that ancient Yogis dissected human bodies and studied them. This shouldn’t come as a surprise because Ayurveda also has established techniques for surgery.
What does it mean?
Kundalini signifies the many unconscious states of our body. The autonomic nervous system controls our body without our conscious intervention. So we are complicated machines, but Kundalini Tantra Yoga gives us access to this complicated machine. In this context, Kundalini Yoga is considered the most important discovery of traditional Tantra and other Yoga Philosophies. Kundalini Tantra forms an important part of tantric texts and traditions as it gives us many techniques to stimulate and activate different aspects of our unconscious mind.
What are Chakras?
Chakras literally mean circles or wheels, but in Kundalini Tantra they signify whirlpools. This spiral also symbolizes an ascending spiral into higher consciousness or a descending spiral into our deeper consciousness. Different chakras are associated with different parts of the body along the spinal cord. While different scholars describe Kundalini Yoga differently, they all agree that the alignment of the chakras is along the spinal cord. It’s easy to accept the different interpretation, if you consider the chakras to lie in the generic region. You don’t have to accept that each chakra is associated with a specific vertebra or organ or gland but is an essential representation of that region of the body. Therefore, they are real only to the extent that they represent that “region of the body.”
How many Chakras are there?
If you accept that each chakra is not associated with a specific vertebra, organ, gland, etc., then you can accept that there are as many chakras as there are different cells, tissues, organs, glands, muscles, etc. in the body. You can literally believe in as many chakras as you want! This is helpful when you wish to meditate on a very specific part of your body. For example, study a bit of about human anatomy and you could meditate only on the maximus gluteus or solely on the seminal vesicles. It really doesn’t matter where exactly a chakra is located if your guided meditation can focus on the seminal vesicles or some really small part of the body.
However, most scholars describe 7 different chakras. In this article, I will be describing 8 different chakras, but don’t be surprised if you come across Yoga scholars who enumerate more chakras. “More the merrier” seems to be the motto!
The 8 Chakras
1. Mooladahara Chakra is the seat of Kundalini Shakti. It is located in the region between the anus and the scrotum (in males) and in the cervix in females. It’s association with the excretory and sexual organs is of vital importance because it is the basis or the root. Since we owe our existence to the sexual act, this is an important chakra. It is also the most powerful and untamable when it is awakened. Thus, it needs to be balance with the awakening of the higher chakras. The Mooladhara Chakra also controls many lower chakras all the way down to the feet.
2. Swadhisthana Chakra is the second chakra and is located at the lowest point of the spinal cord. It controls the sacral plexus of nerves and controls the unconscious.
3. Manipura Chakra is located in the spinal cord at the same level as the navel. It controls the solar plexus and is said to be in charge of digestion, assimilation, and regulation of body temperature. Therefore, it directly controls the organs such as the stomach, intestines, liver, etc.
4. Anahata Chakra lies on the spinal column on the same level as the heart. It controls the cardiac plexus and the functions of the heart. It also controls the sinus node (the natural, biological pacemaker of the heart) and the lungs.
5. Vishuddhi Chakra lies at the level of the throat and controls the thyroid glands, the mouth, the voice box, the epiglottis, etc.
6. Ajna Chakra is also considered the most important chakra because of the role it plays in balancing the Mooladhara Chakra. The Ajna Chakra is located above the spinal column in the region behind the forehead and controls the muscles including the stimulation of sexual activity. This chakra controls all aspects of a tantric.
7. Bindu Chakra is not mentioned in most tantric texts, because it is considered to be a secret chakra. Often confused with the Ajna Chakra or the Sahasrara Chakra, the Bindu Chakra is a separate chakra that controls the organs of sight. In this context, it is quite supreme because the human eye is the most evolved of all sight organs in the animal world. Humans are the only animals that can “see” the most expansive range of light radiation – from Violet to Red. Additionally, since all desire begins with what we see, this chakra is also the seat of divine nectar (stimulus of visual pleasure).
8. Sahasrara Chakra is the ultimate chakra and the final point in the ascent of Kundalini Shakti. It is located at the top of the head and is the seat of higher consciousness. It controls the pituitary gland which is the master controller of every gland and system in the human body.
Nadis (Channels for the Flow of Consciousness)
Nadi means “flow” and the Hindi word for river is ‘nadi.’ In this context, if you prefer to believe that these are nothing other than nerves, then fine! However, it should be remembered that tantric consciousness does not focus only on bodily parts or systems to acquire consciousness: it mentions the existence of several other systems too. For example, we are not connected to an object by nerves to experience it. It’s true that the optic nerve carries information from the eye to the brain, but the experience generated by that object is conveyed by other systems or tattvas. Therefore, comparing the nadis to nerves may be helpful but please remember that it is not accurate.
The nadis channelize Kundalini Shakti from one chakra to another forming a to-and-fro system of messaging. In the same way as the chakras need to be awakened through yoga, kriya, or any of the other tantric practices, the nadis too need to be awakened. The following are descriptions of the 3 nadis:
1. Ida Nadi: This channel of consciousness controls all the mental functions.
2. Pingala Nadi: This nadi controls all the autonomic nervous systems.
3. Sushumna Nadi: This nadi controls the awakening of spiritual consciousness. The importance of this channel is understated in most interpretation of tantric texts. However, if this nadi is not awakened, then kundalini shakti – when awakened – will get dispersed. It is like manufacturing cheese but not having any distribution network. The Sushumna nadi is said to be a system of concentric hollow tubes with the innermost tube being the most subtle.
From the outer to the inner, the channels carry tamasic, rajasic, sattwic, brahmic emotions, feelings, messages. It is the innermost channel (brahmic) that carries the higher consciousness created by kundalini. Anyone can awaken Kundalini! In future articles, we will see the few ways in which Kundalini can be awakened and also consider some highly systematic ways of achieving the Kundalini Consciousness.