Ajna chakra in different traditions

The awakening of ajna chakra is the heart of all mind expanding, religious and mystical traditions. Sometimes it is widely described and symbolized, as in India; often it is hardly mentioned at all. But always, in mystical circles, its existence and significance has been known; without awakening ajna it is impossible to gain wisdom and open up the deeper layers of one's being.

Because of its importance, ajna chakra is widely mentioned in texts and teachings throughout the world. The following are a few obvious examples.

Many people, such as the ancient Egyptians and the American Indians, wore special head raiments that symbolized the third eye at the eyebrow centre. Often a snake is shown emerging from the forehead, indicating that the kundalini rises through ajna via sushumna.

Ajna chakra is clearly mentioned in the Bible: "The light of the body is the eye (ajna); therefore, if thine eye be single, the whole body shall be full of light." (Matthew 6:22) There is a lot of information within this short verse. First of all it explains that ajna chakra is the psychic centre which connects man to the source, sahasrara. If one's mind is concentrated (thine eye be single) then one can perceive the more subtle aspects of being through ajna chakra. The result will be illumination and wisdom.

The medieval mystic Eckhart similarly stated: "The eye with which I see the supreme is the same as that with which it sees me." This statement also has many implications. Ajna chakra is the bridge between the microcosm and the macrocosm, between the finite and the infinite, and between man and pure consciousness. Like a bridge over a river, it can be traversed from either side. Thus ajna chakra is the means by which consciousness manifests into individual man and activates man's actions and thoughts (pravritti path). Conversely, ajna is man's means of making the return journey (nivritti path) and communing with the source. Ajna is the door of subtle perception, and is what William Blake referred to when he said: "If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is ... infinite." This verse implies that when the mind becomes harmonized, one-pointed and a perfect instalment, then one can gaze through the window of ajna into the infinite.

The mystics of ancient Greece knew of the ajna chakra. Plato wrote: "In all men there is the eye of the soul, which can be re-awakened by the correct means. It is far more precious than ten thousand physical eyes." There are many methods of helping to open up the ajna. Plato was initiated by a mystical sect and was the disciple of Socrates; he therefore utilized the appropriate methods that he was taught.

Many sects and traditions symbolize the ajna chakra by an open eye, whether alone or shown on the forehead of a deity, yogi and so forth. Bear this in mind when you study old texts, fables and when you see pictures of one-eyed people. It is the ajna that is being indicated. Incidentally, in the Kabbala, the Ain Soph sahasrara) is often symbolized by a closed eve. This means that one will tune in with the sahasrara when one's perception is directed along the sushumna through ajna chakra. Illumination will arise when the eye of subtle perception, the ajna chakra, is directed away from both external and psychic phenomenon, hence the closed eye.

Many statues of Buddha indicate the ajna chakra by a jewel placed at the eyebrow centre. This is the divine eye of perception that Buddha awakened when he sat under the bodhi tree and was enlightened. This leads to the sahas-rara. indicated by a large number of petals around the head.

The ajna chakra is widely symbolized in Hinduism and Tantra. Many of the deities, such as Shiva and Dakshina Kali, often have a dear marking on the forehead. Also, one of the most widespread rituals of India involves placing a tilaka (spot of coloured powder) on the forehead of all people during a religious or festive occasion. Furthermore, all married Hindu women wear a tilaka on their forehead at all times. This tilaka symbolizes the bhrum-adhva and ajna chakra.

There are many mystical stories that describe the awakening of the ajna chakra. For example, a well known one concerns Shiva. The devas (celestial and divine beings) were being molested by asuras (demons). The devas represent the positive, harmonious aspects of the mind; the asuras represent the negative torces. The devas help one along the path to wisdom, whereas the asuras retard one's progress. Therefore, the confrontation between the devas and the asuras means a person's spiritual progress is being hampered. When the asuras gain the upper hand then there is a retardation. When the devas become dominant, then one makes spiritual progress.

Let us return to the story. The devas discovered that the asuras could only be destroyed by a child born of Shiva, but Shiva lived in the Himalayas and sat continuously in meditation. How could he possibly produce a child? A plot was hatched. The devas sent Kama Deva. or Kandarpa (the equivalent of Cupid in European mythology) to disturb Shiva's meditative bliss and incite passion so that Shiva would produce a child with his wife Parvati. Kama Deva shot his arrow of passion at Shiva, but Shiva was unmoved. He merely sat on his tiger skin with his eyes firmly closed. However, he opened his third eye, keeping his fleshy eyes closed. He saw Kama Deva and perceived his motives. He immediately emitted a thunderbolt of psychic power which instantly killed Kama Deva. The story continues and involves various other plots and ploys. Eventually, Shiva is persuaded to mate with Parvati and their son Subramaniyan was born. He is known as the lord of the celestial realms and he destroys the demons.

This story can be interpreted in many different ways. For example, the ajna chakra destroys attachment to passion and other worldly interests (indicated by Kama Deva). One can still act in the world, passionately or otherwise (as in the case of Shiva), but there will be an attitude of inner detachment. However, we have narrated this story more because it makes interesting reading, rather than for any other reason. We leave the reader to interpret the meaning of the story for himself.

The ajna chakra has been symbolized in a large number of traditions and will continue to be so in future. In fact the Bihar School of Yoga will continue this tradition, since we have adopted the symbol of ajna chakra for our emblem.

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