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Misunderstandings of the Modern Chakra-Healing Movements
While the ancient Upanishads and the Vedas mention chakras, they are not simply seven, but are twenty-one in their total number of the greater Hindu Yoga system.
Those working with the seven chakra system are hence neophytes with superficial understanding, which can be dangerous. The seven lower chakras reflect and represent the seven spheres of base forces / instincts within the human-animal sphere or the negative workings of the psyche. They are often described as spheres of suffering (duhkha), due to various birth defects and punishments administered in human forms of life based on past deeds and hence are known as “narakas” (those of man), which influenced subtly by the lower reflections or realms, which are said in Vedic lore to often be more opulent than the Devas or celestials, but nefarious, not always helpful.
The Vedic system has a more definitive system which reflects man’s own inner desires, longings and traits (samskaras) reflected in the lower and higher chakras, as per past life impressions and mental traits (purva samskaras and vasanas). We can say one person can represent a “chakra state” if we like, as according to their psychological consciousness in this life.
A chakra itself is not an “energy centre”, for the term chakra itself means a ‘wheel’ or circle, reflecting cosmic principles and psychological states. The chakras then, are subtle spheres, always “aligned” and portrayed actually as lotus-flowers with different petals, each representing the aksharas (syllables) of the Sanskrit alphabet and the tattvas (principles) of the Samkhya system of Hindu cosmology and relating to various tanmatras (subtle elements) and their respective organs.
Representing the deeper states of consciousness or cosmic spheres (lokas), chakras reflect the universe.
Physically, they correspond to physical organs, but internally (astrally), correspond to higher states of awareness. There is no “balancing” of chakras in Hindu Yoga traditionally, but systems do work at transforming (or purifying) and awakening them, not through energy healing via gems, lights, hands gestures etc. but by physical descent of the grace or soma in some systems (as bhakti) and ascent of the Kundalini force, in others. Various specific practices exist for in Tantra working with the Shaktis (powers) ruling over the chakras for their transmutation and transformation of the tattvas that relate to each chakra or sphere and their shodhana (purification, tattva-shuddhi), from their lowest tamasika (delusional) to the highest sattvika (pure) state, through diet, exercise, pranayama, meditation, pujas and special mantras of each, relative to them also, over long periods of time.
Modern (superficial) New-Age approaches generally ignore the traditional guidelines of working with the deities, no strict diets to purify one’s inner prana (life-force) or shakti (celestial power as the Divine Mother) from which such healing power derives, after several decades of practice of intense Yoga disciplines.
It takes some Yogis even several lifetimes, including decades of practice of awakening past-life impressions (samskaras) and therapies in the present life or incarnation.
Of the three systems of healing the mind-body complex, the Ayurvedic Seer Charaka classifies Daivavyapashraya (celestial modalities) Ch. Sutra. XI. 54), as being the use of mantras, oshadhi (herbs), mani (gemstones, as in astrological use), mangala (auspicious acts), bali (offerings), upahara (gifts), homa (fire sacrifices), niyama (observances of Yoga), prayaschitta (atonement), upavasa (fasting), swastyayana (auspicious rites), pranipatagamana (repeatedly going and offering obeisances, as in planets, Gurus, deities etc.) etc. along with two other systems of Yukti-vyapashraya (rational modalities) meaning ahara or intake of foods and aushadha-dravyas (herbal drugs or medicines) and Sattvavajaya (psychotherapy) as “manonigraha” (controlling the mind).
Before even thinking of working with the chakras, all of these must be understood and practiced.
As an example here, Niyamas are the positive observances in Yoga disciple that Charaka also mentions as part of these treatments, viz. Shaucha – purity (in mind, body and speech), Santosha – contentment, Tapas – austerities (as fasts, sacred festivals, pilgrimages etc.), Swadhyaya – self-study (meaning study of sacred texts to impart purity to the mind etc.) and Ishvarapranidhana or devotion to the deity (under which poojas, homas, bali, yajnas, japa, mantra etc. occur) on a daily basis.
On this note, with relation to the ashta siddhi (eight mystical powers of Yoga), the Ayurvedic Seer Charaka (Sharira, I. 140-41) states states these are only possible by shuddha-sattva-samadhana or concentration on the purified (shuddha) mind (sattva). Likewise, only when rajas (passion) and tamas (ignorance) are completely negated as also past-life karmas are also destroyed, especially by aforementioned methods under daiva-vyapashraya, is moksha or liberation possible (Charaka, Sharira, I.142).
The greater system of Yoga knew but ignored working with these energies of the chakras, as they reflect the siddhis or mystical powers developed, which even advanced Yogis of yore misused and became obsessed or distracted by, rather than going in for the Self.
The modern obsession with the occult and these powers can be dangerous, more so from the human plane of existence and by neophytes not understanding the deeper psychology of Yoga and Ayurveda and states of consciousness, let alone having developed sattvas (purity), and therefore more likely to open one up to the energies of the lower earth-sphere (muladhara chakra) and the seven patala or netherworld chakras of the asura-worlds (below muladhara), which also provide insights, mystic powers etc., but of a negative or nefarious nature or even semi-divine planes. We have to be careful what influences we allow in; several mudhabhavas (delusional states) also exist in Yogic psychology.
No deeper working with chakras can really begin unless one first understands the deeper doctrine of Yoga and by that, Tantric Hindu Yoga in depth and working with then numerous ancient teachings and systems of Hindu Philosophy, which takes several years of practice and intense discipline, even for advanced Hindu-born practitioners. While some may claim to have experienced “healing”, we must also recognise the scope of buddhi-vibhramsa (intellectual delusions or hallucinations), kshipta (distracted) and mudha (delusional) states of the mind that can also be compared to modern placebo effects due to their distractions from actual pain and suffering on a physical level.