Tantric and yogic chakra symbolism

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The use of chakras as a means to spiritual awakening is widely recognized by most religious and mind expansion sects of India. It is particularly popular in tantra, yoga and Buddhism.

Various different methods of symbolizing the chakras can be used. We don't intend to describe all these different systems for this will involve a lot of time; furthermore you are likely to become mentally constipated with facts and figures, which will tend to confuse rather than clarify. Instead we will adopt one system and describe each chakra in turn, together with an illustration, over the forthcoming lessons. This will allow us to give a full treatment of each chakra and for you to become fully conversant with its location, implications and, perhaps in the future, to realize the meaning of each chakra from your own experience.

In yoga and, in fact, in most Indian systems, the chakras are symbolized by lotus flowers. Other systems use different symbols; for example, the Rosicrucians symbolize the chakras by roses. The choice is arbitrary, but for the purposes of kriya yoga we will use lotus flowers. Each of the main chakras is represented by a lotus with a specific colour and number of petals as follows:

1. Mooladhara - four-petalled deep red lotus

2. Swadhisthana - six-petalled vermilion lotus

3. Manipura - ten-petalled bright yellow lotus

4. Anahata - twelve-petalled blue lotus

5. Vishuddhi - sixteen-petalled violet lotus

6. Ajna - two-petalled silver-blue lotus

7. Sahasrara - thousand-petalled lotus of all colours.

Again we emphasize that the sahasrara is not really a chakra, but that it transcends and contains them all within itself. The one thousand petals indicate that it contains infinite petals. It is limitless.

The use of the lotus as a symbol is very significant. Man must pass through three stages in spiritual life:

1. Ignorance

2. Aspiration and endeavour (sadhana)

3. Illumination

The lotus also exists on three different levels: mud, water and air. It first of all starts to grow in the mud (ignorance), grows up through the water in an effort to reacb the surface (endeavour and aspiration) and eventually reaches the air and the direct light of the sun (illumination). Thus the lotus symbolizes man's growth from low states of awareness and lack of knowledge through the chakras to higher states of consciousness. The culmination of the growth of the lotus is a beautiful flower. In the same way, the culmination of man's spiritual quest is the awakening and blossoming of human potential. Incidentally, the lotus was also widely used in ancient Egyptian architecture, especially on pillars and columns. Possibly these represent the ascent through the chakras.

For source information on the chakras, we suggest you read The Serpent Power by John Woodroffe or the texts such as Yoga Sikha, Yoga Kundalini, Amritanada, Hamsa, Brahma, Dhyanabindu, Sandilya, Yoga Tattva, Varaha Upanishads, the Devi Bhagavata and Linga Puranas. But we warn you that it is often very difficult to understand the original scripture.

The important thing to remember is that the chakras are subtle in nature and that any picture of them is merely symbolic. Don't take any pictorial representation too seriously or literally. It is a means to an end, nothing more. The symbolic form and physical location of the chakras is an integral part of kriya yoga.

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