The True Chakra System According to the Vedas
As with everything pertaining to spirituality, we will often come across a more westernized version and an ancient eastern version.
Today we’re going to talk about facts relating to the chakras that modern yogis don’t know about.
Typically, when texts are translated from one ancient language to another, especially English, there are many mistranslations and misconceptions of the original text. What if I told you that everything you thought you knew about chakras was wrong?
I went on a quest for proper knowledge and hunted down a Sanskrit scholar who has translated the ancient texts in order to present the actual facts about the chakra systems. I believe, like me, you will have your eyes opened.
Let’s dive a little deeper into the glaring differences between vedic text and modern yogic practices surrounding chakras.
1. There isn’t just one chakra system in original sanskrit yogic tradition, there are many.
Western interpretation of the chakras tells us that the chakras are like organs within the physical body. They are not. The energy body is an extraordinarily fluid reality. The energy body can present with any number of energy centers, depending on the individual person and the yogic practie they are performing.
We do find that there are a few centers that are found within all systems. Specifically, in the lower belly or sexual center, in the heart, and near the crown of the head.
But in the original texts, there’s a vast variety in the chakra system. For example, if you’re doing a five-element practice, you use a five-chakra system.
2. The Chakra Systems Are Prescriptive, Not Descriptive.
English western sources tend to present the chakra systems as an existential fact, using descriptive language. Ex: muladhara chakra is at the base of the spine, and it’s red.
In most original sanskrit sources, they are not teaching about the way things are, they’re giving specific yogic practices. You are to visualize a subtle object made of colored light, shaped like a lotus or a spinning wheel, at a specific point in the body, and then activate mantric syllables in it, for a specific purpose.
3. The psychological states associated with the chakras are completely modern and Western.
We are told things like the muladhara chakra is associated with survival & safety, that manipura is associated with willpower and self-esteem, etc.
All associations with the chakras with psychological states are a modern western innovation that started with Carl Jung, the psychologist. They are not found in the sanskrit sources.
Within the sanskrit texts we don’t find each chakra associated with a specific emotion or psychological state. Instead, each petal of each lotus chakra is associated with a distinct emotion or psychologial state, and there seems to be no pattern by which we could create a label for the chakra as a whole.
Also, the chakras are not associated with a certain bodily gland, bodily malfunction, food, metal, mineral, herb, path of yoga, planet, Sephira of Jewish mysticism, suit of the tarot deck, essential oil, crystal, or archangel.
4. The 7 Chakra system that’s popular today doesn’t derive from an ancient scripture, but from a treatise written in 1577.
This chakra system that western yogis practice today comes from a sanskrit text written by a guy named Purnananda Yati. He completed the text (the Sat-chakra-nirupana or ‘Explanation of the Six Chakras’ ) in the year 1577. It was later translated into English 100 years ago in 1918.
Most yogis (both Indian and western) know the 7 chakra system through Purananda’s 16th century work, or the incoherent and confusing translation of it that was done by John Woodroffe in 1918. It’s based on 20th century occultists’ interpretation of a flawed translation of a nonscriptural source.
5. The main purpose of a chakra system is to function as a template for nyasa- installation of mantras and deities.
The original sanskrit texts showed that the main purpose of any chakra system was to function as a template for nyasa, which means the installation of mantras and deity energies at specific points in the subtle body. Almost no one today uses chakras for their intended purpose.
The original features of the chakra systems in the original sources are these 3: 1) that the mystical sounds of the sanskrit alphabet are distributed across the ‘petals’ of all the chakras in the system, 2) that each chakra is associated with a specific Hindu deity or deities, 3) that each chakra is associated with a specific Great Element (earth, water, fire, and space).
You visualize a specific mantric syllable in a specific location in a specific chakra in your energy body while silently intoning its sound.
The sanskrit language is seen as uniquely powerful vibrations that can come from an effective part of a mystical practice that brings about spiritual liberation or worldly benefits through magical means.
Invoking the image and energy of a specific deity into a specific chakra is also culturally specific. If western yogis come to understand what those deities stand for, the practice could be potentially meaningful for them as well.
The Caused-deities (karana-devatas) figure largely in every chakra system. These deities form a fixed sequence: from the lowest chakra to the highest, they are Ganesh, Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Isvana, Sadasiva, and Bhairava, with the first and last of these often not appearing, depending on the number of chakras.
Bhairarava (the most esoteric form of Shiva) is only included in the list of Cause-deities when he is transcended by the Goddess. The Crown of the head is technically not a chakra, since chakras by definition are pierced by Kundalini in her ascent or descent, whereas the sahasrana is her final destination and home.
6. The Seed-mantras that you think go with the chakras actually go with the elements that happen to be installed in those chakras.
You’ve been told that the seed-mantras (bija) of the muladhara chakra is LAM. Well, it’s not. Not in any sanskrit source, not even in Purnananda’s account. And the mantra of svadhisthana chakra is not VAM.
LAM (rhymes with ‘thumb’) is the seed mantra of the Earth element, which is installed in the muladhara. VAM is the seed mantra of the water element, which is installed in sbadhisthana (in the 7 chakra system you know about). RAM is the syllable for Fire. YAM for the wind, and HAM for space. In esoteric Tantrik yoga, the elemental bijas actually have different vowel sounds which are thought to be more powerful.
So, the fundamental mantras associated with the first 5 chakras that are part of western teachings, do not belong to those chakras per se, but rather to the five elements installed in them.
In different Tantrik lineages, we find the elements installed in very different places. Ex: the saddhantika lineage installed Earth in the heart chakra.
What effect do you think it would have on your relationship if you always install the Wind element in the heart center? YAM is the mantra of Air/Wind, not of the anahata chakra, whose intrinsic mantra is actually OM.
Do you ever notice that modern American yogis have rather unstable relationships? Imagine why?
Also, most of the geometric figures associated with the chakras today properly belong to the elements. Earth is traditionally represented by a (yellow) square, water by a (silvery) crescent moon, Fire by a downward-pointing (red) triangle, Wind by a hexagram or six-pointed star, and Space by a circle.
Lastly, in Purananda’s 16th century text that is the basis for the popluar modern chakra system, the 5 elements are installed in the first 5 chakras of a 7 chakra system.
But this doesn’t really work, because the Space element is installed at the crown of the head, since this is where the yogi experiences an expansive opening into infinite consciousness. Space is the element that merges into the infinite, so it has to be at or near the crown.
What will hopefully come of this post? Some humility. A few less claims when it comes to esoteric subjects. Maybe a few less yoga teachers trying to tell their students what chakras are all about.