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Ashtaang Yog

The core of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra is an eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for yoga practice. Upon practicing all eight limbs of the path it becomes self-evident that no one element is elevated over another in a hierarchical order. Each is part of a holistic focus which eventually brings completeness to the individual as they find their connectivity to the divine. Because we are all uniquely individual a person can emphasize one branch and then move on to another as they round out their understanding.

In brief the eight limbs, or steps to yoga, are as follows:

  1. Yama : Universal morality
  2. Niyama : Personal observances
  3. Asanas : Body postures
  4. Pranayama : Breathing exercises, and control of prana
  5. Pratyahara : Control of the senses
  6. Dharana : Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
  7. Dhyana : Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
  8. Samadhi : Union with the Divine

The first two limbs that Patanjali describes are the fundamental ethical precepts called yamas, and the niyamas. These can also be looked at as universal morality and personal observances. Yamas and niyamas are the suggestions given on how we should deal with people around us and our attitude toward ourselves. The attitude we have toward things and people outside ourselves is yama, how we relate to ourselves inwardly is niyama. Both are mostly concerned with how we use our energy in relationship to others and to ourselves.

The yamas are broken down into five "wise characteristics." Rather than a list of dos and don'ts, "they tell us that our fundamental nature is compassionate, generous, honest and peaceful." i They are as follows:

I. Yamas (Universal Morality)

1. Ahimsa ظ€ô Compassion for all living things

The word ahimsa literally mean not to injure or show cruelty to any creature or any person in any way whatsoever. Ahimsa is, however, more than just lack of violence as adapted in yoga. It means kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things. It also has to do with our duties and responsibilities too. Ahimsa implies that in every situation we should adopt a considerate attitude and do no harm.

2. Satya ظ€ô Commitment to Truthfulness

Satya means "to speak the truth," yet it is not always desirable to speak the truth on all occasions, for it could harm someone unnecessarily. We have to consider what we say, how we say it, and in what way it could affect others. If speaking the truth has negative consequences for another, then it is better to say nothing. Satya should never come into conflict with our efforts to behave with ahimsa. This precept is based on the understanding that honest communication and action form the bedrock of any healthy relationship, community, or government, and that deliberate deception, exaggerations, and mistruths harm others.

3. Asteya - Non-stealing

Steya means "to steal"; asteya is the opposite-to take nothing that does not belong to us. This also means that if we are in a situation where someone entrusts something to us or confides in us, we do not take advantage of him or her. Non-stealing includes not only taking what belongs to another without permission, but also using something for a different purpose to that intended, or beyond the time permitted by its owner.iii The practice of asteya implies not taking anything that has not been freely given. This includes fostering a consciousness of how we ask for others' time for inconsiderate behavior demanding another's attention when not freely given is, in effect, stealing.

4. Brahmacharya - Sense control

Brahmacharya is used mostly in the sense of abstinence, particularly in relationship to sexual activity. Brahmacharya suggests that we should form relationships that foster our understanding of the highest truths. Brahmacharya does not necessarily imply celibacy. Rather, it means responsible behavior with respect to our goal of moving toward the truth. Practicing brahmacharya means that we use our sexual energy to regenerate our connection to our spiritual self. It also means that we don't use this energy in any way that might harm others.

5. Aparigraha - Neutralizing the desire to acquire and hoard wealth

Aparigraha means to take only what is necessary, and not to take advantage of a situation or act greedy. We should only take what we have earned; if we take more, we are exploiting someone else. The yogi feels that the collection or hoarding of things implies a lack of faith in God and in himself to provide for his future.v Aparigraha also implies letting go of our attachments to things and an understanding that impermanence and change are the only constants.

The Yoga Sutra describes what happens when these five behaviors outlined above become part of a person's daily life. Thus, the yamas are the moral virtues which, if attended to, purify human nature and contribute to health and happiness of society.

II. Niyama (Personal Observances)

Niyama means "rules" or "laws." These are the rules prescribed for personal observance. Like the yamas, the five niyamas are not exercises or actions to be simply studied. They represent far more than an attitude. Compared with the yamas, the niyamas are more intimate and personal. They refer to the attitude we adopt toward ourselves as we create a code for living soulfully

1. Sauca - Purity

The first niyama is sauca, meaning purity and cleanliness. Sauca has both an inner and an outer aspect. Outer cleanliness simply means keeping ourselves clean. Inner cleanliness has as much to do with the healthy, free functioning of our bodily organs as with the clarity of our mind. Practicing asanas or pranayama are essential means for attending to this inner sauca. Asanas tones the entire body and removes toxins while pranayama cleanses our lungs, oxygenates our blood and purifies our nerves. "But more important than the physical cleansing of the body is the cleansing of the mind of its disturbing emotions like hatred, passion, anger, lust, greed, delusion and pride."

2. Santosa - Contentment

Another niyama is santosa, modesty and the feeling of being content with what we have. To be at peace within and content with one's lifestyle finding contentment even while experiencing life's difficulties for life becomes a process of growth through all kinds of circumstances. We should accept that there is a purpose for everything - yoga calls it karma ظ€ô and we cultivate contentment 'to accept what happens'. It means being happy with what we have rather than being unhappy about what we don't have.

3. Tapas ظ€ô Disciplined use of our energy

Tapas refers to the activity of keeping the body fit or to confront and handle the inner urges without outer show. Literally it means to heat the body and, by so doing, to cleanse it. Behind the notion of tapas lies the idea we can direct our energy to enthusiastically engage life and achieve our ultimate goal of creating union with the Divine. Tapas helps us burn up all the desires that stand in our way of this goal. Another form of tapas is paying attention to what we eat. Attention to body posture, attention to eating habits, attention to breathing patterns - these are all tapas.

4. Svadhyaya ظ€ô Self study

The fourth niyama is svadhyaya. Sva means "self' adhyaya means "inquiry" or "examination". Any activity that cultivates self-reflective consciousness can be considered svadhyaya. It means to intentionally find self-awareness in all our activities and efforts, even to the point of welcoming and accepting our limitations. It teaches us to be centered and non-reactive to the dualities, to burn out unwanted and self-destructive tendencies.

5. Isvarapranidhana - Celebration of the Spiritual

Isvarapranidhana means "to lay all your actions at the feet of God." It is the contemplation on God (Isvara) in order to become attuned to god and god's will. It is the recognition that the spiritual suffuses everything and through our attention and care we can attune ourselves with our role as part of the Creator. The practice requires that we set aside some time each day to recognize that there is some omnipresent force larger than ourselves that is guiding and directing the course of our lives.

III. Asanas (Body postures)

Asana is the practice of physical postures. It is the most commonly known aspect of yoga for those unfamiliar with the other seven limbs of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra. The practice of moving the body into postures has widespread benefits; of these the most underlying are improved health, strength, balance and flexibility. On a deeper level the practice of asana, which means "staying" or "abiding" in Sanskrit, is used as a tool to calm the mind and move into the inner essence of being. The challenge of poses offers the practitioner the opportunity to explore and control all aspects of their emotions, concentration, intent, faith, and unity between the physical and the ethereal body. Indeed, using asanas to challenge and open the physical body acts as a binding agent to bring one in harmony with all the unseen elements of their being, the forces that shape our lives through our responses to the physical world. Asana then becomes a way of exploring our mental attitudes and strengthening our will as we learn to release and move into the state of grace that comes from creating balance between our material world and spiritual experience.

As one practices asana it fosters a quieting of the mind, thus it becomes both a preparation for meditation and a meditation sufficient in and of itself. Releasing to the flow and inner strength that one develops brings about a profound grounding spirituality in the body. The physicality of the yoga postures becomes a vehicle to expand the consciousness that pervades our every aspect of our body. The key to fostering this expansion of awareness and consciousness begins with the control of breath, the fourth limb ظ€ô Pranayama. Patanjali suggests that the asana and the pranayama practices will bring about the desired state of health; the control of breath and bodily posture will harmonize the flow of energy in the organism, thus creating a fertile field for the evolution of the spirit. "This down-to-earth, flesh-and-bones practice is simply one of the most direct and expedient ways to meet yourself. ظ€خ This limb of yoga practice reattaches us to our body. In reattaching ourselves to our bodies we reattach ourselves to the responsibility of living a life guided by the undeniable wisdom of our body."viii To this B.K.S. Iyengar adds: "The needs of the body are the needs of the divine spirit which lives through the body. The yogi does not look heaven-ward to find God for he know that He is within."

IV. Pranayama (Breath Control)

Pranayama is the measuring, control, and directing of the breath. Pranayama controls the energy (prana) within the organism, in order to restore and maintain health and to promote evolution. When the in-flowing breath is neutralized or joined with the out-flowing breath, then perfect relaxation and balance of body activities are realized. In yoga, we are concerned with balancing the flows of vital forces, then directing them inward to the chakra system and upward to the crown chakra.

Pranayama, or breathing technique, is very important in yoga. It goes hand in hand with the asana or pose. In the Yoga Sutra, the practices of pranayama and asana are considered to be the highest form of purification and self discipline for the mind and the body, respectively. The practices produce the actual physical sensation of heat, called tapas, or the inner fire of purification. It is taught that this heat is part of the process of purifying the nadis, or subtle nerve channels of the body. This allows a more healthful state to be experienced and allows the mind to become more calm.x As the yogi follows the proper rhythmic patterns of slow deep breathing "the patterns strengthen the respiratory system, soothe the nervous system and reduce craving. As desires and cravings diminish, the mind is set free and becomes a fit vehicle for concentration."

V. Pratyahara (Control of the Senses)

Pratyahara means drawing back or retreat. The word ahara means "nourishment"; pratyahara translates as "to withdraw oneself from that which nourishes the senses." In yoga, the term pratyahara implies withdrawal of the senses from attachment to external objects. It can then be seen as the practice of non-attachment to sensorial distractions as we constantly return to the path of self realization and achievement of internal peace. It means our senses stop living off the things that stimulate; the senses no longer depend on these stimulants and are not fed by them any more.

In pratyahara we sever this link between mind and senses, and the senses withdraw. When the senses are no longer tied to external sources, the result is restraint or pratyahara. Now that the vital forces are flowing back to the Source within, one can concentrate without being distracted by externals or the temptation to cognize externals.

Pratyahara occurs almost automatically when we meditate because we are so absorbed in the object of meditation. Precisely because the mind is so focused, the senses follow it; it is not happening the other way around.

No longer functioning in their usual manner, the senses become extraordinarily sharp. Under normal circumstances the senses become our masters rather than being our servants. The senses entice us to develop cravings for all sorts of things. In pratyahara the opposite occurs: when we have to eat we eat, but not because we have a craving for food. In pratyahara we try to put the senses in their proper place, but not cut them out of our actions entirely.

Much of our emotional imbalance are our own creation. A person who is influenced by outside events and sensations can never achieve the inner peace and tranquility. This is because he or she will waste much mental and physical energy in trying to suppress unwanted sensations and to heighten other sensations. This will eventually result in a physical or mental imbalance, and will, in most instances, result in illness.

Patanjali says that the above process is at the root of human unhappiness and uneasiness. When people seek out yoga, hoping to find that inner peace which is so evasive, they find that it was theirs all along. In a sense, yoga is nothing more than a process which enables us to stop and look at the processes of our own minds; only in this way can we understand the nature of happiness and unhappiness, and thus transcend them both.

VI. Dharana (Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness)

Dharana means "immovable concentration of the mind". The essential idea is to hold the concentration or focus of attention in one direction. "When the body has been tempered by asanas, when the mind has been refined by the fire of pranayama and when the senses have been brought under control by pratyahara, the sadhaka (seeker) reaches the sixth stage, dharana. Here he is concentrated wholly on a single point or on a task in which he is completely engrossed. The mind has to be stilled in order to achieve this state of complete absorption."

In dharana we create the conditions for the mind to focus its attention in one direction instead of going out in many different directions. Deep contemplation and reflection can create the right conditions, and the focus on this one point that we have chosen becomes more intense. We encourage one particular activity of the mind and, the more intense it becomes, the more the other activities of the mind fall away.

The objective in dharana is to steady the mind by focusing its attention upon some stable entity. The particular object selected has nothing to do with the general purpose, which is to stop the mind from wandering -through memories, dreams, or reflective thought-by deliberately holding it single-mindedly upon some apparently static object. B.K.S. Iyengar states that the objective is to achieve the mental state where the mind, intellect, and ego are "all restrained and all these faculties are offered to the Lord for His use and in His service. Here there is no feeling of 'I' and 'mine'."

When the mind has become purified by yoga practices, it becomes able to focus efficiently on one subject or point of experience. Now we can unleash the great potential for inner healing.

VII. Dhyana (Devotion , Meditation on the Divine)

Dhyana means worship, or profound and abstract religious meditation. It is perfect contemplation. It involves concentration upon a point of focus with the intention of knowing the truth about it. The concept holds that when one focuses their mind in concentration on an object the mind is transformed into the shape of the object. Hence, when one focuses on the divine they become more reflective of it and they know their true nature. "His body, breath, senses, mind, reason and ego are all integrated in the object of his contemplation ظ€ô the Universal Spirit."

During dhyana, the consciousness is further unified by combining clear insights into distinctions between objects and between the subtle layers of perception. "We learn to differentiate between the mind of the perceiver, the means of perception, and the objects perceived, between words, their meanings, and ideas, and between all the levels of evolution of nature."

As we fine-tune our concentration and become more aware of the nature of reality we perceive that the world is unreal. "The only reality is the universal self, or God, which is veiled by Maya (the illusory power). As the veils are lifted, the mind becomes clearer. Unhappiness and fear ظ€ô even the fear of death ظ€ô vanishes. This state of freedom, or Moksha, is the goal of Yoga. It can be reached by constant enquiry into the nature of things."xvii Meditation becomes our tool to see things clearly and perceive reality beyond the illusions that cloud our mind.

VIII. Samadhi (Union with the Divine)

The final step in the eight-fold path of Yoga is the attainment of Samadhi. Samadhi means "to bring together, to merge." In the state of samadhi the body and senses are at rest, as if asleep, yet the faculty of mind and reason are alert, as if awake; one goes beyond consciousness. During samadhi, we realize what it is to be an identity without differences, and how a liberated soul can enjoy pure awareness of this pure identity. The conscious mind drops back into that unconscious oblivion from which it first emerged.

Thus, samadhi refers to union or true Yoga. There is an ending to the separation that is created by the "I" and "mine" of our illusory perceptions of reality. The mind does not distinguish between self and non-self, or between the object contemplated and the process of contemplation. The mind and the intellect have stopped and there is only the experience of consciousness, truth and unutterable joy.

The achievement of samadhi is a difficult task. For this reason the Yoga Sutra suggests the practice of asanas and pranayama as preparation for dharana, because these influence mental activities and create space in the crowded schedule of the mind. Once dharana has occurred, dhyana and samadhi can follow.

These eight steps of yoga indicate a logical pathway that leads to the attainment of physical, ethical, emotional, and psycho-spiritual health. Yoga does not seek to change the individual; rather, it allows the natural state of total health and integration in each of us to become a reality.

Type of Chakra

  1. Bindu
  2. Muladhar
  3. Swadhisthan
  4. Manipur
  5. Anahat
  6. Vishudha
  7. Ajna
  8. Sahastradhar

Bindu (Sanskrit: ضجشضج┐ضجéضجخضح) is a Sanskrit term meaning "point" or "dot". The feminine case ending is bindi which denotes a small ornamental, devotional and/or mystical dot that is cosmetically applied or affixed to the forehead in Hinduism.

Bindu refers to an aspect of the anatomy of the 'subtle body' composed of 'drops' and 'winds' : "the drops and winds are features of the human energy system and have varying degrees of subtlety.

In the Shakta tantra school of philosophy, there is said to exist a Bindu chakra, at the back of the head, in the part where Brahmins grow their small tuft of hair, although it is often not mentioned in traditional chakrologies. This centre is said to be where the Bindu fluid is produced, a fluid that can become either the nectar of immortality, or the poison of death. This Bindu fluid is often conflated with both male and female gamete(s) (that is semen or ova) and amrita in Tantrism. It is intimately connected to the Vishuddha chakra, and awakening the Vishuddha chakra is held in the Tantric traditions to awaken the Bindu chakra.

Philosophy

In metaphysical terms Bindu is held to be the point at which begins creation and the point at which the many becomes the unity. It is also described as "the sacred symbol of the cosmos in its unmanifested state".

Muladhar chakra Location

Muladhara is said to be located near the basal end of the spinal column in the vicinity of the coccygeal plexus beneath the sacrumit, while its kshetram, or superficial activation point, is located on the perineum.

Appearance

Muladhara is described as a yellow, square lotus, surrounded by eight shining spears on the sides and corners, and with four red petals. The deity of this region is Indra, who is yellow in colour, four-armed, holding a vajra and blue lotus in his hands, and mounted upon the white elephant Airavata, who has seven trunks, denoting the seven elements vital to physical functioning. Occasionally, instead of Indra, the deity is Ganesha, with coral orange skin, wearing a lemon yellow dhoti with a green silk scarf draped around his shoulders. In three of his hands he holds a ladu, a lotus flower, a hatchet, and the fourth is raised in the mudra of dispelling fear.

Seed mantra

The seed mantra syllable is lam. Within the bindu, or point that forms a part of the letter, just above it, is Brahma, who is deep red, with four faces and four arms, holding a staff, a sacred vase of nectar, a rosary, making the gesture of dispelling fear (alternatively instead of the staff and rosary he is holding a lotus flower and the sacred scriptures). He is seated on a swan. His shakti is a goddess called Dakini. She is seated on a red lotus, and is shining red or white, has a beautiful face with three eyes and four arms, holding a trident, a skulled staff, a swan, and a drinking vessel (instead of a swan and drinking vessel, she sometimes is holding a sword and a shield).

Seat of Kundalini

In the centre of the square, below the seed syllable, is a deep red inverted triangle. Within this resides/sleeps the kundalini shakti, the great spiritual potential, waiting to be aroused and brought back up to the source from which it originated, Brahman. She is represented as a snake wrapped three and a half times around a smokey grey lingam. Petals

The four petals are red, with the Sanskrit syllables va, scha, sha and sa written in gold upon them, representing the four vritties: greatest joy, natural pleasure, delight in controlling passion, and blissfulness in concentration. Alternatively, they may represent dharma (psycho-spiritual longing), artha (psychic longing), kama (physical longing) and moksha (longing for spiritual liberation).

Additional

Muladhara is the base from which the three main psychic channels or nadis emerge: the Ida, Pingala and Sushumna.It is also believed that Muladhara is a subtle abode of the Hindu God, Ganapati. And in the highest revered prayer for Ganapati, the Ganapati Atharvashirsha, it is mentioned that 'one who worships Lord Ganapati would easily grasp the concept and realize Brahman'.

Function

Muladhara is considered the 'root' or 'foundation' chakra, and is the transcendental basis of physical nature. It is also the seat of kundalini awakening, which begins its ascent here. Alternatively it is called the seat of the 'red bindu', or subtle drop, which is caused to rise up to the 'white bindu' in the head in order to unite the female and masculine energies of Shakti and Shiva.

It is associated with the element of earth, and the sense of smell, and the action of excretion.

"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."

Association with the body

The location of Muladhara is at the base of the spine, and it is associated as well with the perineum, close to the anus. Being associated with the sense of smell, it is associated with the nose, and being associated with excretion, it is associated with the anus.

Practices

In kundalini yoga, there are various yogic practices held to incite the energy in Muladhara including: asanas (such as Garudasana, Shashankasana and Siddhasana); nosetip gazing, or Nasikagra Drishti; specific pranayamas; and most importantly the practice of mula bandha the contraction of the perineum, which awakens kundalini, and is also important for the retention of semen.

Comparisons with other systems

When compared to the other important Tantric system of Vajrayana in Tibet, the Muladhara chakra finds no parallel in the same place, unlike the other 6 chakras. Instead, the Tibetan system positions 2 chakras on the sexual organ, the jewel wheel in the middle, near the tip, and the tip of the sexual organ itself. These chakras are extremely important for the generation of great bliss, and play an important role in Highest tantra sexual practices. In the Tibetan system, the red drop, called the red bodhicitta, is not located here, but instead at the navel wheel.

In the Sufi system of Lataif, there are 2 'lower' Lataif. One is the nafs, which is just below the navel. The nafs incorporates all the elements of man's 'lower self'. The other similar lataif is called the qalab, or mould, which appears in 7 lataif systems, and corresponds to the physical body, but this is sometimes located at the top of the head Qalab is usually further divided into the 4 elements.

In the Kabbalah, the lowest Sephiroth is known as Malkuth, and performs the same transcendental role as the basis of physical nature. It is associated with the sexual organ, in close contact with Yesod.

Alternative names

Tantra: Adhara, Brahma Padma, Bhumi Chakra, Chaturdala, Chatuhpatra, Muladhara, Mooladhara, Mula Chakra, Mula Padma Vedas (late Upanishads): Adhara, Brahma, Muladhara, Mulakanda Puranic: Adhara, Muladhara

Sv─dhiط╣ثط╣صh─na Chakra Svadhisthana chakra called 'One's own abode' is the second primary chakra according to Hindu Tantrism.

Location

Swadhisthana is positioned at the tailbone, two finger-widths above Muladhara. It has six petals which match the vrittis of affection, pitilessness, feeling of all-destructiveness, delusion, disdain and suspicion. Its corresponding point in the front of the body (i.e. its kshetram) is at the pubic bone.

Appearance

Swadhisthana is described as a black lotus, with six vermillion coloured petals. Inside of this lotus is a white crescent moon, formed by two different sized inner circles, one inside of the other. The crescent moon is the water region, whose deity is Varuna, white in colour, four-armed, holding a noose and seated on a crocodile. The two inner circles also have petals, the larger one has eight outward facing petals, and the smaller one has eight inward facing petals.

Seed Mantra

The seed mantra, located in the innermost circle, is a moon-white Vam. Within the bindu, or dot, above the mantra is the deity Vishnu. He is shining dark blue, wearing a yellow dhoti, and holds a conch, a mace, a wheel and a lotus. He wears the shriwatsa mark, and the koustabha gem, and is seated either on a pink lotus, or on the divine eagle Garuda. His Shakti is the goddess Rakini (or Chakini). She is dark black, dressed in a red or white sari, seated on a red lotus, and she is either one faced and two armed, holding a sword and a shield, or two faced and four armed, holding either a trident, lotus, drum and vajra, or an arrow, skull, drum and axe.

Petals

The six petals are vermillion, and have the following syllables written on them in the colour of lightning; bam, bham, mam, yam, ram and lam. They represent the vrittis of affection, pitilessness, feeling of all-destructiveness, delusion, disdain and suspicion.

Function

Swadhisthana is associated with the unconscious, and with emotion. It is closely related to Muladhara in that Swadhisthana is where the different samskaras (potential karmas), lie dormant, and Muladhara is where these samskaras find expression. It is associated with the element of water, the sense of taste, and the action of reproduction.

Swadhisthana contains unconscious desires, especially sexual desire, and it is said that to raise the kundalini shakti (energy of consciousness) above Swadhisthana is extremely difficult for this reason. Many saints have had to face the sexual temptations associated with this chakra.

Through meditation on Swadhisthana, the following siddhis or occult powers are said to be obtained. One is freed from all his enemies, and becomes a lord among yogis. His words flow like nectar in well-reasoned discourse. One gains loss of fear of water, awareness of astral entities, and the ability to taste anything desired for oneself or others. Association with the body

The location of Svadhisthana is just in front of the spine, in the sacral region, and its kshetram or activation point is in the pubic region. Being connected with the sense of taste, it is associated with the tongue, and being connected with reproduction, it is associated with the genitals.

It is often associated with the endocrine organs of the testes or ovaries in men and women respectively. These produce the hormones testosterone or estrogen, which are important factors in sexual behaviour. These are also the locations the spermatoza or eggs are stored with their latent genetic information, like the latent samskaras that lie dormant within Swadhisthana.

Practices

Practices in kundalini yoga for controlling and balancing the energy in Swadhisthana chakra include vajroli mudra (contraction of the genitals), ashvini mudra (contraction of the anus), and various asanas and pranayamas.

Comparisons with other systems

The equivalent chakra in the Vajrayana highest tantra systems of Tibet is called the Secret Place, four fingers below the navel. It is red in colour, with 32 downward pointing spokes. Meditation on this point produces great bliss.

In the Sufi system of Lataif, there is an energy centre called the nafs, which is just below the navel. The nafs incorporates all the elements of man's 'lower self,' which must be tamed in order to attain closeness to Allah.

Western occultists make the kabbalistic association of Swadhisthana with the Sephirah Yesod. Yesod is also associated with the sexual organs. Its function in the tree of life is to gather the different energies that have been created in the descent down the tree and to distribute them to Malkuth, the material world, where the energy can find physical expression.

Alternative names

Tantra: Adhishthana, Bhima, Shatpatra, Skaddala Padma, Swadhishthana, Wari Chakra Vedas (late Upanishads): Medhra, Swadhishthana Puranic: Swadhishthana

Manipura Chakra

Maط╣çip┼سra, called "city of jewels", is the third primary chakra according to Hindu tradition.

Location

Manipura is located at the spine directly behind either the navel or the solar plexus, depending on the system, while its kshetram or superficial activation point is located directly on the navel (or solar plexus).

Appearance

Manipura is represented by a downward pointing red triangle, the fire region, within a bright yellow circle, with 10 dark-blue or black petals, like heavily laden rain clouds. The triangle has a t-shaped swastika on each of its sides. The fire region is represented by the god Vahni, who is shining red, with 4 arms, holding a rosary and a spear, and making the gestures of granting boons and dispelling fear. He is seated on a ram, the animal that represents this chakra.

Seed Mantra

The seed mantra is the syllable 'Ram'. Within the bindu or dot above this mantra resides the deity Rudra, who is red or white, with 3 eyes, of ancient aspect with a silver beard, and smeared with white ashes. He makes the gestures of granting boons and dispelling fear. He is either seated upon a tiger skin, or upon a bull. His Shakti is the goddess Lakini. She is black or dark-blue vermillion, with 3 faces with 3 eyes each, and four-armed, holding a thunderbolt, the arrow shot from the bow of Kama, fire, and making the gesture of granting boons and dispelling fear. She is seated upon a red lotus.

Petals

The ten petals are dark-blue or black, like heavily laden rainclouds, with the syllables dda, ddha, nna, ta, tha, da, dha, na, pa, and pha upon them in a dark-blue colour. They correspond to the vrittis of spiritual ignorance, thirst, jealousy, treachery, shame, fear, disgust, delusion, foolishness and sadness.

Function

Manipura is considered the centre of dynamism, energy, willpower and achievement (Itcha shakti.), which radiates prana throughout the entire human body. It is associated with the power of fire, and digestion. It is also associated with the sense of sight, and the action of movement. Manipura is "the center of etheric-psychic intuition: a vague or non-specific, sensual sense of knowing; a vague sense of size, shape, and intent of being.As such, some psychics recommend "listening" to it since it may help in making better decisions in one's life on many different levels.

Through meditating on Manipura, one is said to attain the siddhi, or occult power, to create, destroy or save the world.

Association with the body

The position of Manipura is stated as being either behind the navel or the solar plexus. Sometimes, when it is located at the navel, a secondary chakra called Surya (sun) chakra is located at the solar plexus, whose role is to absorb and assimilate prana from the sun. Being related to the sense of sight, it is associated with the eyes, and being associated with movement, it is associated with the feet. In the endocrine system, Manipura is said to be associated with the pancreas, and the outer adrenal glands; the adrenal cortex. These glands create important hormones involved in digestion, converting food into energy for the body, in the same way that Manipura radiates prana throughout the body.

Practices

In kundalini yoga, different practices for arousing and balancing the energies of Manipura include various asanas which work on that part of the body, pranayama, Uddiyana bandha (exhaling and pulling back and up of the abdomen and diaphragm respectively) and agnisara kriya (practicing jalandhara bandha, and moving the abdomen in and out), as well as the practice of Nauli (stomach churning), and a pranayama called the union of prana and apana, where the lower and higher winds are made to unite together.

Comparisons with other systems

In the Vajrayana Highest Tantra traditions, the navel wheel is extremely important as being the seat of the 'red drop'. It is triangular, red, with 64 petals or channels that extend upwards. Inside of it is the short syllable 'Ah'. Meditation on this syllable is the key component of the practice of Tummo, or inner heat, where the subtle winds are made to enter the central channel, and rise up to the top of the channel, in an experience akin to that of 'raising the kundalini' in Hindu terminology, melting the subtle white drop in the crown, and causing the experience of great bliss. This practice is considered the first and most important of the 6 yogas of Naropa.

In Chinese qigong, there exists 3 Dantians, act as furnaces to convert different energies in the body. The lower Dantian exists in the region of the stomach. Its function is to convert sexual jing energy into Qi energy (a concept similar to Indian Prana).

Within the system of the Sufi Lataif-e-sitta, there are a number of Lataif on the torso, but they are not distributed vertically, like chakras, but have some to the left and some to the right. The nafs, or lower self, is a centre situated below the navel.

Western occultists make different kabbalistic associations with Manipura. For some, it relates to the sephira of Hod and Netzach, Netzach being that quality of energy to overcome different obstacles, and Hod being the tendency to control and break down energy into different forms, the two being contending and balancing forces, like the forces of anabolism and catabolism in the human body. Hod and Netzach are associated with the left and right legs and feet of the body.

Alternative names

Tantra: Dashachchada, Dashadala Padma, Dashapatra, Dashapatrambuja, Manipura, Manipuraka, Nabhipadma, Nabhipankaja Vedas (late Upanishads): Manipura, Manipuraka, Nabhi Chakra Puranic: Manipura, Nabhi Chakra

Anahata chakra

An─hata is the fourth primary chakra according to the Hindu Yogic, Shakta) and Buddhist Tantric traditions.

In Sanskrit the word anahata - means unhurt, un-struck and unbeaten. Anahata Nad refers to the Vedic concept of unstruck sound, the sound of the celestial realm.

Location

The Anahata chakra is positioned in the central channel behind the spine at the heart region, with its kshetram or superficial activation site actually in the heart region between the two breasts.

Appearance

Anahata is represented by a smoke grey lotus flower, with 12 vermilion petals. Inside of it is a smoke-coloured region that is made from the intersection of 2 triangles, creating a shatkona. The Shatkona is a symbol used in Hindu yantra that represents the union of both the masculine and feminine form. More specifically it is supposed to represent Purusha (the supreme being), and Prakriti (mother nature, or causal matter). Often this is represented as Shiva - Shakti. The deity of this region is Vayu, who is smoke coloured, four-armed, holding a kusha and riding upon an antelope, the animal of this chakra.

Seed mantra

The seed syllable is the mantra 'Yam', dark-grey in colour. Within the bindu or dot above the syllable resides the deity Isha (Lord in an all pervading form), who is either shining white or blue in colour, with either 1 or 5 faces, 3 eyes on each face, with either 2, 4 or 10 arms, clad in a tiger skin, holding a trident and a drum, or making gestures of granting boons and dispelling fear. His shakti is Kakini, who is shining yellow or rose in colour. She has a number of variations, having either 1, 3 or 6 faces, 2 or 4 arms, and holding a variety of implements, occasionally a sword, shield, skull and trident. She is seated on a red lotus.

Petals

The twelve petals are vermilion coloured, and upon them are inscribed the syllables kam, kham, gam, gham, ngam, cham, chham, jam, jham, nyam, tam and tham in Sanskrit. They match the vrittis of lust, fraud, indecision, repentance, hope, anxiety, longing, impartiality, arrogance, incompetence, discrimination and defiance.

Function

Anahata is considered the seat of the Jivatman, and Para Shakti. In the Upanishads, this is described as being like a tiny flame that resided inside the heart. Anahata is so called because it is in this place that sages hear that sound (Anahata ظ€ô Shabda) which comes without the striking of any two things together." It is associated with the element of air, the sense of touch, and with actions of the hands.

Anahata is associated with the ability to make decisions outside of the realm of karma. In Manipura and below, man is bound by the laws of karma, and the fate he has in store for him. In Anahata, one is making decisions, 'following your heart', based upon one's higher self, and not from the unfulfilled emotions and desires of lower nature.

It is also associated with love and compassion, charity to others, and forms of psychic healing.

Meditation on this chakra is said to bring about the following siddhis, or occult powers; he becomes a lord of speech; he is dearer than the dearest to women; his senses are completely under control; and he can enter at will into another's body.

Hrit/Hridaya/Surya Chakra ظ€ô the wish-fulfilling tree

Hrit chakra, just below Anahata, is the seat of the wish-fulfilling tree.

Immediately below Anahata at the solar plexus, or sometimes located slightly to the left-hand side of the body, is a minor chakra known as Hrit, or Hridaya (heart), with eight petals. It contains three consecutive regions, a vermilion sun region, within which is a white moon region, within which is a deep-red fire region, and within this is the red wish-fulfilling tree, kalpa taru, which symbolizes the ability to manifest whatever one wishes to happen in the world.

Hrit chakra is occasionally identified as Surya (Sun) chakra, which again is situated below the heart, and sometimes slightly to the left. Its role is to absorb energy from the sun, and to provide heat to the body and other chakras, in particular to Manipura, to which it provides the Agni or fire element.

Associations with the body

Anahata is said to be located near the region of the heart. Because of its association with touch, it is associated with the skin, and because of its association with actions of the hands, it is associated with the hands. In the endocrine system, Anahata is supposedly associated with the thymus gland, located in the chest.[citation needed]

Practices

In Kundalini yoga, anahata is awoken and balanced through practices including asanas, pranayamas, and the practice of ajapa japa (the practice of japa without the mental effort normally needed to repeat the mantra.). It is purified through the process of bhakti (devotion).

Comparisons with other Systems

Tibetan Buddhism

The heart wheel in Tibetan Buddhism is the location of the indestructible red and white drop. At the time of death, all the subtle winds of the body dissolve and enter into this drop, which then leaves the body into the Bardo, intermediate stage, and then into rebirth. The heart wheel in this model is circular, white, and has 8 petals or channels that reach downwards. These channels divide into 3, the mind wheel, speech wheel, and body wheel, and go to 24 places in the body, after which they divide into 3 again, and then into 1000, producing 72108 channels, known as Nadi which spread out throughout the whole body.

The heart wheel is very important within meditation. In the lower tantras, the recitation of mantra is done from the heart. At first, a mantra is recited verbally, then mentally, and then inside of the heart a tiny moon disc and a flame is imagined, from which the sound of the mantra is heard ringing out. In the higher tantras, the Anuttarayoga Tantra of the Sarma schools or the Inner Tantras of the Nyingma school, the practitioner attempts to dissolve the winds and drops into the central channel at the level of the heart in order to experience the Yoga of Clear Light; this is one of the practices of the 6 yogas of Naropa.

In the Tibetan scheme of chakras there is also included a chakra known as the Fire Wheel. Its position is not, however, the same as the Hrit/Surya chakra, but is instead above the heart and below the throat.

Kabbalah

On the kabbalistic tree of life, the central sephirah, Tiphereth, is associated with the heart region. Christian kabbalists in particular associate this sephirah with love, healing and Jesus Christ.

Sufism

The Sufis manage a system of Lataif-e-sitta, that are positioned at various points on the body, and at the level of the heart there are 3 positioned horizontally. To the left of the chest is the Qalb, or heart, the Ruh, on the right hand side of the chest, and the Sirr, or secret, of the innermost heart, between the two of them.

The Qalb is called the heart of the mystic, which is caught between the downward pull of the lower nafs, and the upward pull of the spirit of Allah, and thus it can be blackened by sin. It may be purified by recitation of the names of God.

The Ruh is the centre of the spirit, the breath of Allah, and when awoken it counteracts the negative pull of the nafs.

The Sirr is the secret or innermost heart, called the heart of the heart, where Allah manifests his mystery to himself.

Qigong

In Qigong the middle Dantian is located in this region. This Dantian is one of the three furnaces that transform energy in the body. The middle Dantian transforms the qi energy into shen, or spirit energy.

Vishuddha chakra

It is also known as Vishuddhi, is the fifth primary chakra according to Hindu tradition.

Location

Vishuddha is positioned at the neck region near the spine, with its ksehtram or superficial activation point in the pit of the throat.

Appearance

This chakra is white with 16 purple or smoke coloured petals, and within the pericarp is a sky-blue downward pointing triangle, within which is a circular region which is white like the full-moon, representing the element of akasha or aether. This region is represented by the deity Ambara, who is white in colour, with four arms, holding a noose and a goad, making the gestures of granting boons and dispelling fear, and seated upon a white elephant.

Seed Mantra

The bija mantra (seed sound) is the syllable, and is written in white upon the chakra. In the bindu or point above the mantra resides the deity Sadashiva, who has 5 faces and 10 arms. The right side of his body is a white Shiva, and the left half of the body is a golden Shakti. He is holding a trident, chisel, sword, vajra, fire, a great snake, a bell, a goad, and a noose, and is making the gesture of dispelling fear. He is clad in a tiger skin. His Shakti is Shakini, who is shining white, with five faces, three eyes each, and four armed, with a bow and arrow, noose, and goad, and seated on a red lotus.

Petals

Vishuddha has sixteen purple petals upon which are written the 16 Sanskrit vowels in golden;

NB: Some vowels listed above do not strictly correspond to the grammatical definition of a Sanskrit vowel, specifically ضحة ط╕╣, ضجàضجâ ط╕ح, and ضجàضجé ط╣â. See Sanskrit Phonology for details.

The petals correspond to the vrittis of the mantra Ong [Aum], the Sama-mantras, the mantra Hung, the mantra Phat, the mantra Washat, the mantra Swadha, the mantra Swaha, the mantra Namak, the nectar Amrita, and then the seven musical tones.

Function

Vishuddha chakra is known as the purification centre. Here the nectar amrita that drips down from the Bindu chakra, and is split into a pure form and a poison. In its more abstract form, it is associated with higher discrimination, and it is associated with creativity and self-expression. When Vishuddha is closed, we undergo decay and death. When it is open, negative experiences are transformed into wisdom and learning. The success and failure in one's life depends upon the state of this chakra (polluted/clean). Guilty feeling is the most prominent reason for this chakra to block the Kundalini Energy moving upwards. It is associated with the element Akasha or ├†ther, &nd the sense of hearing, as well as the action of speaking.

Meditation upon this chakra is said to bring about the following siddhis or occult powers; vision of the three periods, past, present and future; freedom from disease and old age; destruction of dangers; and the ability to move the three worlds.

Lalana Chakra

Closely related to Vishuddha is a minor chakra, located in the roof of the mouth, called Lalana. It has 12 red or white petals, that correspond to the virtues of respect, contentment, offense, self-control, pride, affection, sorrow, depression, purity, dissatisfaction, honor and anxiety. Inside is a red circular moon region. This acts as a reservoir for the nectar amrit. When vishuddha is inactive, this nectar is allowed to run downwards into Manipura, where it is consumed, resulting in physical degeneration. Through practices such as khechari mudra, however, the nectar can be made to enter Vishuddha, where it is purified, and becomes a nectar of immortality..

Associations with the body

This chakra is located in the neck and throat. Due to its association with hearing, it is related to the ears, and due to its association with speaking, it is associated with the mouth. Vishuddha is often associated with the thyroid gland in the human endocrine system. This gland is in the neck, and produces hormones essential for growth and maturation.

Practices

In Kundalini yoga, Vishuddha can be opened and balanced through practices including asanas (such as shoulder-stand), pranayama, Jalandhara Bandha (throat lock), and Khecar─س mudr─. This chakra can be cleaned/opened by meditation and also by practicing singing or playing instrumental music.

Comparisons with other systems

The throat wheel is an important centre in the Highest Yoga traditions of Vajrayana. It is circular, red, with 16 upward pointing petals or channels. It is of particular importance for the practice of Dream Yoga. Correctly meditating upon it before going to sleep should produce lucid dreams, within which one can continue to practice yoga.[1]

Western occultists make various differing kabbalistic associations with Vishuddha. Some associate it with the hidden sephirah Da'at, where 'wisdom' and 'understanding' are balanced in the supernal realm by the aspect of 'knowledge', a tangible idea, which is then expressed, leading to the act of the creation, others associate it with the sephirah Chesed and Geburah, mercy and strength, which are sephirah intimately associated with morality, and the concept that both expansion, as expressed by Chesed, and limitation, as expressed by Geburah, are necessary for the creation of individual beings. In terms of ethics, this is expressed by the yamas and niyamas ( do's and do nots ) of yoga.

In the system of the Sufi Lataif-e-sitta there are no Lataif in the throat, but there are three in the region of the heart which are arranged horizontally and not vertically. They are the Qalb, or heart, which is the battleground between the lower forces of the Nafs and the higher forces of the Ruh, or spirit; the Ruh which is said by some to be situated on the right hand side of the chest; and Sirr, or secret, between them both in the middle of the chest.

In Taoism, the position of lalana chakra in the roof of the mouth corresponds with a point known as 'The Heavenly Pool'.

Alternative names

Tantra: Akasha, Dwyashtapatrambuja, Kantha, Kanthadesha, Kanthambhoja, Kanthambuja, Kanthapadma, Kanthapankaja, Nirmala-Padma, Shodasha, Shodasha-Dala, Shodasha-Patra, Shodashara, Shodashollasa-Dala, Vishuddha, Vishuddhi Vedas (late Upanishads): Kantha Chakra, Vishuddha, Vishuddhi Puranic: Vishuddha, Vishuddhi

Ajna chakra

Ajna meaning 'command' or 'summoning' is the sixth primary chakra according to Hindu tradition.

Location

The Ajna chakra is positioned in the brain, directly behind the eyebrow centre, while its ksehtram or superficial activation site is at the eyebrow region, in the position of the 'third eye.'

Appearance

Ajna is white in colour, with two white petals. Inside of the pericarp is the Shakti Hakini, who is moon white, with six faces, and six arms, holding a book, a skull, a drum, a rosary, and making the gestures of granting boons and dispelling fears.Above her is a downward pointing triangle, within which is a moon-white lingum. In some systems the deity Ardhanarishvara a hermaphrodite form of Shiva-Shakti, symbolising the primordial duality of subject and object, resides within the lingum. Above the triangle is another smaller triangle, within which is the bija mantra Aum.

Bija or Seed mantra

The seed syllable is Aum, or "Pranava Om", the supreme sound.[3]

Petals

Ajna has two white petals, said to represent the psychic channels, Ida and Pingala, which meet here with the central Sushumna nadi (channel) before rising to the crown chakra, Sahasrara. Written upon them in white are the letters 'Ham' on the left petal, and 'ksham' on the right petal, representing Shiva and Shakti, respectively. These petals also represent the manifest and unmanifest mind, and are said by some to represent the pineal and pituitary glands.

Function

Ajna translates as 'command', and is considered as the eye of intuition. When something is seen in the mind's eye, or in a dream, it is being 'seen' by Ajna. It is a bridge that links gurus with disciples, allowing mind communication to occur between two people. The sense organ and action organ associated with Ajna is the mind in both cases.

Hindus believe that spiritual energy from the external environments enter their body through this gateway and hence take utmost precaution in protecting it with spiritually positive protecting forces. The various religious marks one sees on the foreheads of men and women belonging to the Hindu faith (like holy ash,namam, vermilion etc.) are thus the blessed spiritual prasadam of their respective form of the Hindu gods.

Meditation upon Ajna supposedly grants the following siddhis or occult powers: to quickly enter anothers body at will; to become omniscient; he realizes unity with Brahman; and he has the ability to create, preserve and destroy the three worlds.

Manas Chakra

Manas chakra is responsible for sending sense perceptions to the higher chakras. The petals change colour depending on the sense

Directly above Ajna is a minor chakra known as Manas, or mind. It possesses six petals, one for each of the five senses, and one for sleep. These petals are normally white, but assume the colour of the senses when activated by them, and they are black during sleep. Its function is to send sense perceptions to the higher chakras.

Association with the body

The parietal eye (very small grey oval between the regular eyes) of a juvenile bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana)

Ajna is associated with the third eye on the forehead. It is sometimes associated with the pineal gland, and sometimes with the pituitary gland. The pineal gland is actually related to a light sensitive 'third eye' (Parietal eye) found in some lizards, amphibians and fish, and regulates the circadian rhythms, while the pituitary gland is considered as the master gland of all endocrine glands, whose secretions control all the other endocrine glands.

Practices

In kundalini yoga, different practices are said to stimulate the Ajna chakra, including Trataka (steady gazing), Shambhavi Mudra (gazing at the space between the eyebrows), and some forms of Pranayama (breath exercises).

Comparisons with other systems

In Tibetan buddhism, this chakra is at the end of the central channel, which in their system runs up the body to the top of the head, and then over and down to the forehead, where it terminates. The 2 side channels then continue onwards towards the two nostrils, and end there. This centre is frequently depicted in artwork as the 'third eye,' and is used in various meditations.

There is also a forehead centre above the third eye, which corresponds to the position of Manas, known as the Wind Wheel, which is one of the ten chakras in the Mahayoga tantra traditions.

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