Chakra Meditation : A Definitive Guide for Absolute Beginners
Chakra Meditation is quickly gaining ground as one of the most popular forms of meditation. In this post, I am going to explain Chakra Meditation in a beginner’s friendly language covering all the relevant aspects of this topic. In this article, I shall try to explain in details the concept of Chakras, Kundalini and the simplest method to utilize them in your meditation practice.
Table of Contents :
Understanding the Chakras
Chakras in Indian & Tibetan perspective
The Nadis : Channels that passes through Chakra
The Seven Chakras of Human Body- Explained in detail
The Concept of Kundalini
The Big Picture : Applying the concepts of Chakra and Kundalini in your life
Risk Involved (Don’t play with the serpent)
What if you can’t awaken it due to risk involved?
The safest path : Mantra
Correct Pronunciation of Seed Mantras
What is Chakra Meditation
Before learning Chakra Meditation, we need to have a clear understanding of Chakras. Once you understand this, doing the Chakra meditation will be easy and effortless. While I will be explaining the entire process of Chakra Meditation in the later part of this article, for all of you who are curious, it would be suffice to say that Chakra meditation is quite similar to Mantra Meditation that I explained here. However, before learning the technique of Chakra Meditation, we need to have a basic understanding of what exactly are the Chakras.
Understanding the Chakras
The word chakra is a Sanskrit word which is derived from the verb car (“to move”). There are several literal meanings of chakra:
Besides the literal meaning, there are also some esoteric meanings:
* The Chakra denotes the “wheel of becoming” (bhavacakra), or “round of existence” (samsara), which is the phenomenal cosmos.
* The word Chakra is used to refer to a circle of initiates in a Tantric ritual.
* A Chakra is a diagram used to determine the right kind of mantra for a particular situation or student.
* The word Chakra refers to the psychoenergetic vortices forming the major “organs” of the body composed of life energy (prana). These esoteric structures are also often referred to and graphically depicted as “lotuses” (padma, kamala).
As per the ancient Hindu belief, Chakras are energy centers of circular shape present inside our body. While there has been some disputes on the number of Chakras, in most of the belief systems there are seven chakras. These Chakras are believed to be situated inside our bodies at a particular distance from each other, the lowest being at the base of the spine and the topmost between the center of our skull. The five lower chakras are believed to be associated with one of the 5 basic elements that constitute this universe which are Earth (prithivi), Water (apas/jala), Fire (tejas/agni), Air (vayu) and Ether/Space (akasha). The remaining two higher chakras i.e. Aagya (Third Eye) Chakra and Sahasrara (Crown) Chakra do not contain any specific element. The Third Eye Chakra is believed to contain Maha Tatva- the supreme element which is the source of all other elements. The Crown Chakra, on the other hand, is considered beyond all elements.
Here is a symbolic representation of Seven Chakras in our bodies.
Chakras in Indian & Tibetan perspective
Chakras as per Buddhism(Tibet)
Chakras are seven energy points in human body and denote various characteristics of our spiritual development in this world. It is believed that right from our journey from the physical world to the highest position in spiritual word, a person passes through seven bodies. Every chakra in our body denotes one such body. Read more : The mystery of the seven bodies
The original models of the chakras from the Brahma and Yogatattva Upanishads were adapted in Tibetan Buddhism as Vajrayana theory and as the Tantric Shakta theory. Vajrayana Buddhism aims to assist the student in achieving full enlightenment or Buddhahood in just a single lifetime. Using techniques based on ancient scriptures known as the Tantras, the practitioner tries to identify with and practice the enlightened ways of the Buddha. Tantric techniques include the repetition of mantras, the use of breath control, healing mudras (or hand positions) and the use of mandalas (circular symbols of the universe) for meditation. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition only five chakras are identified.
Chakras as per Shaktism (India)
Shaktism arose as an organized sect in India in the 5th century AD, and it is this sect’s interpretation of the chakras that has most influenced the Western understanding of them. Shaktism describes the seven major chakras that we recognize today. In Shakta theory the chakras are viewed as centers of pure consciousness and are focal points for meditation. Shakta theory firmly established symbolic associations and correspondences for each chakra: its element, visual symbol, mantra sound, deity, color and animal. The Shakta way also teaches us about kundalini energy: the energy that was unleashed during the creation of the world; Tantric practice focuses our attention on awakening this energy at the base of the spine for a specific purpose.
The Nadis : Channels that passes through Chakra
The Tantric texts refer to the nadis (or channels) of vital life-force (or prana), which passes throughout the body and link with the chakras. According to Shakta theory, the seven chakras are strung along the primary nadi in the body-the Sushumna Nadi-like pearls or jewels. It is also believed that there are two secondary nadis on either side of the sushumna: Ida on the left (containing descending life-force or vitality); and Pingala on the right (containing ascending vitality). Their aim is to direct the energy of each secondary nadi into the central nadi, where it then ascends through each chakra in turn. When kundalini energy reaches the highest chakra (the Crown Chakra), the yogi (or master of yoga who has achieved a high level of spiritual insight) achieves a state of oneness with God.
Let us learn each of these chakras and bodies in some details :
The Seven Chakras of Human Body: The main building blocks of Chakra Meditation
First Chakra – Muladhara (Root)
Literal Meaning: “root-foundation wheel”
Location: Base of the Spine (Perineum area)
No. of Petals : 4
Element: Prithivi (Earth)
The first chakra is the root chakra, called Muladhara in Sanskrit. The root chakra is believed to be located at the base of the spine at the tailbone in back, and the pubic bone in front which primarily consist of Perineum area. The root chakra is closely related to one’s contact with the Mother Earth, improving our ability to be grounded into the earth plane. Muladhara is also the center of manifestation. When you are trying to achieve something in the material world, business or possessions, the energy to succeed is supposed to come from the first chakra. If this base chakra is blocked, an individual may feel fearful, anxious, insecure and frustrated.
A man’s sexual organs are located primarily in his first chakra, so male sexual energy is usually experienced primarily as physical. A women’s sexual organs are primarily in her second chakra, so female sexual energy is usually experienced primarily as emotional. Both chakras are associated with sexual energy.
Second Chakra – Belly (Sacral)/ Swadhisthana
Literal Meaning: “Wheel of the self-base”
Location: Two inches below the navel (area of Clitoris in women/ Base of Penis in men)
Color: Vermilion, white
No. of Petals : 6
Element: Apas (Water)
The next chakra or second chakra is the Svadhisthana – often referred to as the sacral. It is located two inches below the navel around area of Clitoris in women/ Base of Penis in men). This chakra is believed to hold the basic needs for sexuality, creativity, intuition, and self-worth. It also denotes friendliness, creativity, and emotions. It is also believed to govern a person’s sense of self-worth, his/her confidence in his/her own creativity, and his/her ability to relate to others in a friendly way.
Third Chakra – Solar Plexus ( Manipura)
Literal Meaning: “Wheel of the jeweled city”
Color: Dark grey, red, blue (also gold)
No. of Petals : 10
Element: Tejas (Fire)
The third chakra is called Manipura (in Sanskrit) – also referred to as the Solar Plexus Chakra in English. It is located in the navel area. The Manipura chakra is considered as the center of personal power, the place of ego, of passions, impulses, anger and strength. It is also considered the center for astral travel and astral influences, receptivity of spirit guides and for psychic development. When the Third Chakra is out of balance you may lack confidence, be confused, worry about what others think, feel that others are controlling your life, and may be depressed.
Fourth Chakra – Heart (Anahata)
Literal Meaning: “Wheel of the unstruck sound”
Location: Chest (center of two breasts)
Color: Deep red, gold, smoke
No. of Petals : 12
Element: Prana (Air)
The fourth chakra is the Heart (Anahata) chakra.It is located in the central of the spine near the heart, with its exact location between the center of two breasts. This Chakra is the center for love, compassion and spirituality. It directs one’s ability to love themselves and others, to give and to receive love. This is also the chakra connecting body and mind with spirit. When this chakra is out of balance you may feel sorry for yourself, paranoid, indecisive, afraid of letting go, afraid of getting hurt, or unworthy of love.
Fifth Chakra – Vishuddhi Chakra (Throat)
Literal Meaning: “Pure wheel”
Color: Smoky purple, Blue, White
No. of Petals : 16
Element: Akasha (Space)
The fifth chakra is the Throat Chakra also known as Vishuddhi Chakra in Sanskrit. It is located at the throat and is the center of communication, sounds, and expression of creativity via thought , speech, and writing. The possibility for change, transformation and healing in a person are located here. When this chakra is out of balance you may want to hold back, feel timid, be quiet, feel weak, or can’t express your thoughts.
Sixth Chakra – Third Eye (Ajna or Aagya Chakra)
Literal Meaning: “Command wheel”
Location: Forehead ( Between eyebrows)
No. of Petals : 2
Element: Manas (Mind)
The sixth chakra is referred to as the Third Eye Chakra. In Sanskrit it is known as Aagya Chakra i,e. Command wheel. It is located above the area of physical eyes on the center of the forehead. This is the center for psychic ability, higher intuition, the energies of spirit and light. It also assists in the purification of negative tendencies and in the elimination of selfish attitudes. Through the power of the sixth chakra, one can receive guidance, channel, and tune into your Higher Self. When this chakra is not balanced you may feel non-assertive, afraid of success, or go the opposite way and be egotistical. Please also read Third Eye Meditation.
Seventh Chakra – Crown (Sahasrara)
Literal Meaning: “Thousand-petaled Lotus”
Location: Above head, facing down
No. of Petals : 1,000
The seventh chakra is referred to as the Crown.
It is the upper terminal point of the central channel (sushumna-nadi) and the final destination for the awakened serpent-power (kundalini-shakti). When the kundalini, the force of Devi, reaches this center, this signals the merging of Shiva and Shakti.
It is the center of spirituality, enlightenment, dynamic thought and energy. It allows for the inward flow of wisdom, and brings the gift of cosmic consciousness. This is also the center of connectedness with the Goddess (God), the place where life animates the physical body. The silver cord that connects the aura bodies extends from the crown. The soul comes into the body through the crown at birth and leaves from the crown at death. When this chakra is unbalanced there may be a constant sense of frustration, no spark of joy, and destructive feelings. Illnesses may include migraine headaches and depression. Balanced energy in this chakra may include the ability to open up to the Divine and total access to the unconscious and subconscious.
The Concept of Kundalini in Chakra Meditation
The topic of Chakras will be incomplete if the concept of Kundalini is not described here. The Chakras are essentially the milestones through which the kundalini travels to reach at the highest abode in the 7th Chakra.
“Kundalini” literally means coiling, like a snake. The word kundalini comes from the Sanskrit word kundal, which means a ‘spiral’ or ‘coil.’ In Yoga, Kundalini Shakti means the ‘coiled power.’ It is compared to a serpent that lies coiled while resting or sleeping. It essentially denotes a primal life force that animates all living entities and is the source of all creative energy. As the kundalini moves upwards in the spine, it results in an upward shift in our consciousness. There are three nadis (energy channel) in the body known as Ida, Pingala and Sushumna. When awakens the kundalini is believed to travel from Sushumna Nadi through various chakras.
In Hindu scriptures, Kundalini is also described as the feminine power – the Shakti- at the base of the spine, which travels up the spine to unite with the masculine power, her consort, Lord Shiva (Shakta), in the seventh chakra, Sahasrara.
Symbolism apart, Kundalini power has found a mention in almost all the spiritual traditions of the world in some way or other ( Read more here ) . While there has been a number of spiritual paths like Vipassana, Zen etc which gave no specific stress upon kundalini, there are a number of paths wherein the spiritual progress of a person runs parallel with his level of Kundalini awakeness.
Further, all the spiritual paths which give emphasis to Kundalini awakening can also be divided into two major groups. The first group is consist of the practitioners of Mantra Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Laya Yoga or Raja Yoga etc wherein the kundalini is awakened through the effort of the individual (often under the guidance of a guru or master). The second group is of those representing Sahaja Yoga, Kundalini Yoga or Siddha Mahayoga wherein the kundalini is spontaneously awakened by the grace of the Siddha guru in a process which is called ‘Shaktipat’. In this tradition, the Siddha Guru/Master conveys shaktipat initiation to the disciple by means of touch, word or intention which results in an instant awakening of kundalini. Both of these paths of Kundalini awakening have their advantages and disadvantages.
The first path of individual effort is considered the difficult path as the person has to work hard on his practice and the progress is often very slow. However, as everything depends upon the individual effort, the consistent efforts results in permanent progress and the Sadhak (the person who tread the path) becomes supreme confidence in his efforts. Further, slow awakening of kundalini allows proper control over the excess energy it produces and the chance of damage or of negative effects are minimized. However, even in the individual approach, the guidance of a guru/master is a must. In the absence of an experienced person to guide the Sadhak, he may face a sudden uprising of the Kundalini which will be difficult to control.
One such real life incident happened in the winter of 1937 when an Indian man by the name Gopi Krishna experienced a sudden and forceful awakening of kundalini in the state of deep meditation in his room at Jammu, India. His life after the Kundalini awakening was both blessed by ecstatic bliss and tormented by physical and mental discomfort. Here is the description of his experience in his own words taken from his autobiography ‘Living With the Kundalini’
“The illumination grew brighter and brighter, the roaring louder, I experienced a rocking sensation and then felt myself slipping out of my body, entirely enveloped in a halo of light…I felt the point of consciousness that was myself growing wider, surrounded by waves of light…I was now all consciousness, without any outline, without any idea of a corporeal appendage, without any feeling or sensation coming from the senses, immersed in a sea of light simultaneously conscious and aware of every point, spread out, as it were, in all directions without any barrier or material obstruction…bathed in light and in a state of exaltation and happiness impossible to describe.”
Another disadvantage of individual effort in Kundalini Awakening is the fact that the Sadhak who succeed in this endeavor may become egoist due to his achievement. The awakening of Kundalini and its control is considered as one of the most difficult feat to achieve. As such, those who have some worldly desires in them, will feel elated and somewhat special on achieving this feat. From spiritual point of view, this egoism hinders the progress of the Sadhak.
The second path of Kundalini awakening through Shaktipat also has its merits and demerit. On the one hand, it is a short path where the blessing of a Guru is enough to initiate the disciple and awakening his Kundalini. On the other hand, this sudden rise in consciousness may prove difficult to the unprepared Sadhaks. Further, the Sadhak becomes too much dependent on his Guru and live his life depending upon the borrowed experience of his Guru’s grace. An independent awakening of an individual sadhak through is own effort is thus missing in this second method.
The Big Picture : How you can utilize the concepts of Chakra and Kundalini in your daily life ?
What I have discussed in the preceding paras is a brief outline of the concept of Chakras and Kundalini as they exist in various belief systems. However, this will be of no value if I don’t tell you the way to adopt these concept in your daily meditation practice. As already stated in the beginning of this article, this guide is for absolute beginners who are living a busy urban life and don’t have time to fully devote themselves to the spiritual path – but still they want to adopt the practice of Chakra meditation in their life for inner peace and personal growth.
Risk Involved (Don’t play with the serpent)
Since we are discussing the concept of Chakra Meditation and Kundalini Awakening, I want to clarify one thing loud and clear. The Kundalini is not something to play with. Never, never try to play with the Kundalini. Kundalini Awakening is a high risk subject which may wreak havoc on the subject if done in haste without preparation.
Please read this advice of Swami Yatiswarananda in his book ‘Meditation and spiritual Life’ about the danger of Kundalini :
Those who practise spiritual disciplines without physical and mental purity are not only wasting their energy from the spiritual point of view, but are also running the risk of gathering too much energy, which, flowing through the worldly channels, might intensify their worldly life, including sex life, and thus harm them greatly.
Sometimes some take it seriously, and try to awaken the kundalini without undergoing the purification of mind. The practice of concentration without sufficient purity is dangerous. If the energy that is increased through concentration cannot move along the spiritual channel, it may express itself outwardly in the form of violent passions in an extrovert, harming him as well as others. In the introvert the gathered-up energy may not find an outward expression. In that case it may form an awful whirlpool in the individual, shattering his nerves and mind and making him a complete wreck.
In some cases, as the mind is stirred through meditation, all the good and evil things lying hidden in it may come to the surface with tremendous force and bring about a physical and mental collapse. Those impure souls who want to play with the ‘serpent’ always come to grief. In some others again, the stored-up energy may manifest itself as cheap psychic powers such as clairvoyance, thought-reading, and such powers which make those persons egoistic and spiritually bankrupt. In some cases again, there may be a partial awakening of the latent power. The spiritual power may rise to a higher center but may fall down with disastrous results, stimulating worldly desires.
One thing which I want to make clear is that when you are doing anything with the Chakra, you are actually tinkering with the Kundalini – the dormant energy lying at the base of your spine. Without the able guidance of a Guru, the awakening of the Kundalini can have serious negative consequence as the sudden burst of energy, if not controlled properly, can harm the Sadhak. The part of the consciousness which normally remains hidden in the subconscious mind become available after awakening of the Kundalini. The untrained extrovert may waste the excess of energy on on sex and violence whereas the untrained introvert can stuck themselves in a whirlwind of cyclone of the void. (Read more about this concept here and here )
What if you can’t awaken it due to risk involved?
Again the words of Swami Yatiswarananda will give you solace and show a way :
The description of the rise of the Kundalini appears to be simple and easy enough. But actually, it is all very, very difficult. Out of a thousand people who struggle for it, only one may get the awakening. But there is no need to get discouraged. From the way most people live we find that it is only good that in their case the Kundalini awakens very slowly or does not awaken at all. Most people are not at all ready for the rise. They can not face the tremendous reaction that it produces. In fact, in the beginning of one’s spiritual life, it is better to forget all about Kundalini and think only about God. Let the love for your Ista Devata (term denoting a worshipper’s favourite deity within Hinduism. Read more here) absorb all your attention and energies. Leave the Kundalini to Him. He will look after your spiritual welfare. God will grant you awakening at the right time.
As I have repeatedly said, it is better to follow the path of synthesis – a combination of Karma, Gyana (Knowledge) and Bhakti (Devotion). Let selfless work go hand in hand with your meditation. That purifies and strengthens the mind, Practice self-analysis and make the mind detached and calm. And then japa (the repetition of the Mantra) does the rest. When properly done, japa creates an inner harmony which gradually flows along the susumna making it active.
In view of the risk involved, we need to adopt a path which uses the concept of Chakra & Kundalini in its meditation practice but does not involve the high risk mentioned above.
The safest path in Chakra Meditation: Mantra
Whatever be our spiritual path, be it Hindu’s, Buddhists, Christians or Sufi’s, the three stages we all have to pass through are purification, meditation and experience of the divine Reality or Godhead. Here arises the question : how are we to begin meditation with a view to awakening our spiritual consciousness? One disciple once asked the spiritual teacher, Swami Brahmananda,’ Sir, how can the Kundalini, the latent spiritual consciousness, be awakened?
This is what Swami replied:
“According to some there are special exercises by which the kundalini can be awakened, but I believe it can best be awakened by the practice of japa and meditation. The practice of japa is specially suited to this present age; and there is no spiritual practice easier than this, but meditation must accompany the repetition of the mantra.”
So what is the path. It is very simple, very powerful yet relatively very safe. Simply speaking it is Mantra Meditation.
As explained above in the section of individual 7 Chakras, the lower 5 chakras have 5 elements attached with them. These 5 elements have their respective seed (Bija) Mantras. We use these seed mantras to balance the elements in the respective Chakras. For the two higher Chakras ( Aagya/Third Eye & Sahsrar /Crown) the divine Mantra ‘OM’ is used.
So, in short, the Chakra Meditation, in its safest form, is the repetition of Bija Mantras related to the respective elements of 5 lower Chakras which in turn helps in balancing the Chakras.
Technique of Chakra Meditation :
If you ask me to define the exact method of doing Chakra Meditation, it will be like this :-
(1) Sit in the lotus pose. Take some deep breaths.
(2) We will be focusing on various Chakras of our body one by one, starting from the lowermost Muladhara to the uppermost Sahsrara. While we focus on the Chakra, we will recite the Seed Mantra associated with its elements. It will go like this:
a) Focus your attention on the place where Muladhara the base Chakra (representing the Earth element) is located in your body. Now repeat thrice : LAM…. LAM … LAM ….
b) Now bring your attention on the place where Swadhishtan the Sacral Chakra (representing the Water element) is located in your body. Now repeat thrice : VAM …. VAM … VAM ….
c) Now bring your attention on the place where Manipura, the Solar Plexus Chakra (representing the Fire element), is located in your body. Now repeat thrice : RAM …. RAM … RAM ….
d) Now bring your attention on the place where Anahata, the Heart Chakra (representing the Air element), is located in your body. Now repeat thrice : YAM …. YAM … YAM ….
e) Now bring your attention on the place where Vishuddha, the Throat Chakra (representing the Akasha/Space element), is located in your body. Now repeat thrice : HAM …. HAM … HAM ….
f) Now bring your attention on the place where Aagya, the Third Eye Chakra (representing the Supreme element comprising all the basic elements), is located in your body. Now repeat thrice : AUM …. AUM … AUM ….
g) Now bring your attention on the place where Sahasrara, the Crown Chakra (Considered to be beyond all elements), is located in your body. Now repeat thrice : AUM …. AUM … AUM ….
(3) Once you complete the above steps, you will be having two options: (i) Either repeat the above cycle by following all the seven steps mentioned above or (ii) Repeat any of your chosen Mantra of your liking (as explained in the Mantra section here).
I would advise you not to do the first option in excess. Instead please follow a combination of the 3 steps as below:
Suppose you have chosen the Mantra ‘OM Namah Shivay’ for repetition. Therefore, do the combination like this:-
(3.1) Recite the cycle of 7 seed Mantras as explained above. Then recite the Mantra ‘Om Namah Shivay’ three times.
(3.2) Repeat the above (i.e. one cycle of 7 seed mantras and 1 main mantra) two times more.
(3.3) Now stop the cycle of 7 seed mantra and only recite the main Mantra (Om Namah Shivay in this case) continuously for 5-10 minutes.
This, in nutshell, is the entire technique of Chakra Meditation.
Another Method of Chakra Meditation :
Another method of Chakra Meditation which is equally good but adopt a slight different approach is this:-
Instead of focusing on the seven chakras one by one and repeating their Seed Mantras one by one, you can focus on just one Chakra in one session. What you will be doing is to focus on just one Chakra in your body and repeating the Mantras related to its element. Apart from repeating the Seed Mantra of that Chakra, you can also visualize the colour related to that Chakra.
(Thanks to Giovanni Dienstmann from Liveandare for suggesting this method)
While you focus your attention on one particular Chakra, you must repeat one of the main mantras after this method. It will help in balancing any sudden force of energy that may arise within you. Main Mantras are important medium to control the power of Kundalini)
Important things to be kept in mind :
(1) While repeating the mantras, the instructions as explained here should be kept in view.
(2) While the main mantra should be repeated contemplating its meaning in your heart, the same will not be possible in the case of seed Mantras as they don’t have any particular meaning. So while reciting them you should focus on their respective chakras.
Correct Pronunciation of Seed Mantras in Chakra Meditation
Watch this video by MC-yogi:
Then this one by Heart Alchemy Yoga
Watching carefully the way in which all the seed mantras have been pronounced in the above two videos. After browsing through numerous videos, I have selected the above two videos as in both of them the seed mantras have been pronounced correctly that is the way they should be pronounced.
Chakra Meditation : Conclusion
This ends my detailed explanation of Chakra Meditation comprising the concept of seven chakras in human body, the three Nadis, the concept of Kundalini, dangers involved in the practice and the safest way to perform Chakra Meditation. I hope all people interested in Chakra Meditation will like it beneficial for their practice. The concept of the chakhashave remained shrouded in mystery for a long time and has attracted controversy too. It is just like some medicinal plants which were earlier considered as harmful for health. It is only recently that people have started acknowledging the extremely beneficial effects of such plants (read more here: terpene benefits ) and those of Chakra meditation.
Please also read: Chakra cleansing and balancing