THE CHAKRAS A MONOGRAPH
THE LAYA YOGA
THE HINDU BOOKS
IT is nearly twenty years since I wrote the major part of the information about the chakras which appears in the preceding pages, and I had at that time but a very slight acquaintance with the extensive literature which exists on the subject in the Sanskrit language. Since then, however, several important works on the chakras have become available in English, among which are The Serpent Power (which is a translation by Arthur Avalon of The Shatchakara Nirupana), Thirty Minor Upanishads, translated by K. Narayanaswami Aiyar, and The Shiva Samhita, translated by Sris Chandra Vidyarnava. These works deal extensively with the special subject of chakras, but there are many others which touch
upon the centres in a more casual way. Avalon’s book gives us an excellent series of coloured illustrations of all the chakras, in the symbolical form in which they are always drawn by the Hindu yogis. This department of Hindu science is gradually becoming known in the West; for the benefit of my readers I will attempt to give a very brief outline of it here.
THE INDIAN LIST OF CHAKRAS
The chakras mentioned in these Sanskrit books are the same as those which we see today, except that as I have already said, they always substitute their Svadhishthana centre for that at the spleen. They differ slightly among themselves as to the number of petals, but on the whole they agree with us, though for some reason they do not include the centre at the top of head, confining themselves to six chakras only, and calling the centre the Sahasrara Padma
- the lotus of a thousand petals. The smaller chakra of twelve petals within this crown centre was observed by them, and is duly noted. They speak of two petals instead of ninety-six in the sixth chakra, but they refer no doubt to the two divisions of the disc of that centre, mentioned in Chapter I.
The discrepancies as to the number of petals are not important; for example, The Yoga Kundalini Upanishad speaks of sixteen petals in the heart chakra instead of twelve, and The Dhyanabindu Upanishad and The Shandilya Upanishad both mention twelve spokes instead of ten in the navel chakra. A number of works also refer to another chakra that is below the heart, and to several centres between the brow chakra and the crown lotus, all as being of great importance. The Dhyanabindu Upanishad says that the lotus of the heart has eight petals, but its description of the use of that chakra in meditation indicates (as we shall see later) that it is probably referring to the secondary heart chakra to which I have just referred.
In the matter of the colours of the petals there are also some disagreements, as will be seen from table V, comparing some of the principal works with our own list.
It is not surprising that such differences as these should be on record, for there are unquestionably variants in the chakras of different people and races, as well as in the faculties of observers. What we have recorded in Chapter I is the result of careful observation on the part of a number of Western students, who have taken every precaution to compare notes and to verify what they have seen.
COLOURS OF LOTUS PETALS
CHAKRA OUR OBSERVATIONS SHATCHAKRA SHIVA SAMHITA GARUDA
1 Fiery orange-red Red Red …
2 Glowing, sunlike Vermilion Vermilion Sunlike
3 Various reds and greens Blue Golden Red 4 Golden Vermilion Deep red Golden
5 Blue, silvery, gleaming Smoky purple Brilliant gold Moonlike
6 Yellow and purple White White Red
The drawings of the chakras made by the Hindu yogis for the use of their pupils are always symbolical, and bear no relation to the actual appearance of the chakra, except that an attempt is usually made to indicate the colour and the number of petals. In the centre of each such drawing we shall find a geometrical form, a letter of the Sanskrit alphabet, an animal, and two deities, one male and the other female. We give in Fig. 9 a reproduction of the drawing of the heart chakra, borrowed from Arthur Avalon’s The Serpent Power. We shall endeavour to explain what is understood by the various symbols.
THE FIGURES OF THE CHAKRAS
The object of Laya or Kundalini Yoga is the same as that of every other form of Indian yoga, to unite the soul with God; and for this purpose it is always necessary to make three kinds of efforts - those of love, of thought and of action. Though in a particular school of yoga the will must be especially used (as is the case in the teaching of The Yoga Sutras), and in another great love is chiefly prescribed (as in the instruction given by Shri Krishna to Arjuna in The Bhagavad Gita), still it is always proclaimed that attainments must be made in all three directions. Thus Patanjali propounds for the candidate at the beginning a course of tapas or purificatory effort, svadhyaya or study of spiritual things, and Ishvara pranidhana, or devotion to God at all times. Shri Krishna, similarly, after explaining to His pupil that
wisdom is the most valuable instrument of service, the greatest offering that one can make, adds that it may be learnt only by devotion, enquiry and service, concluding His statement with the significant words: “The Wise Ones, Seers of the Truth, will teach you the wisdom.”
In At the Feet of the Master, which is the most modern rendering of the Eastern teaching, the same triplicity appears, for the qualifications include discrimination, the practice of good conduct, and the development of love towards God, Guru or Teacher, and man.
To understand these diagrams of the chakras which are used by Indian yogis, it must be borne in mind that they are intended to assist the aspirant in all these three lines of progress. It is necessary that he should acquire knowledge about the constitution of the world and of man (that which we now call Theosophy), and that he should develop deep and strong devotion through worship of the Divine, while he is striving to awaken the inner layers of Kundalini and conduct her (for this force is always spoken of as a goddess) in a tour through the chakras.
Because all these three objects are in view, we find in each chakra some symbols which are concerned with teaching and devotion and need not necessarily be regarded as constituting any essential or working part of the chakra. In the services - or collective yoga practices - of the Liberal Catholic Church we have a Western example of the same thing.
There also we strive at the same time to stimulate devotion and to convey spiritual knowledge, while practising the magic involved in the rites. We must remember also that in old days the yogis who wandered about or dwelt in the forests had little recourse even to the written palm-leaf books of those times, and therefore required mnemonic aids, such as many of these symbols give. They sat at times at the feet of their gurus; and they could afterwards remember and recapitulate the Theosophy which they learnt on those occasions, with the aid of such notes as are conveyed by these drawings.
THE HEART CHAKRA
It is hardly possible here to attempt a complete explanation of the symbology of all these chakras; it will be sufficient to give an indication of what is probably meant in the case of the heart or Anahata chakra, of which our figure is an illustration. One of the greatest difficulties in our way is that there are several interpretations of most of these symbols, and that the yogis of India present a front of impenetrable reticence to the inquirer, a stone-wall unwillingness to impart their knowledge or thoughts to any but the student who puts himself in statu pupillari with the set purpose of giving himself utterly to the work of Laya Yoga, determined if necessary to spend his whole life at the task in order to achieve success.
This chakra is described in vv. 22-27 of The Shatchakra Nirupana, of which the following is Avalon’s summarized translation:
The Heart Lotus is of the colour of the Bandhuka flower [red], and on its twelve petals are the letters Ka to Tha, with the Bindu above them, of the colour of vermilion. In its pericarp is the hexagonal Vayu-Mandala, of a smoky colour, and above it Surya-Mandala, with the Trikona lustrous as ten million flashes of lightning within it. Above it the Vayu Bija, of a smoky hue, is seated on a black antelope, four-armed and carrying the goad (ankusha). In his (Vayu-Bija’s) lap is three-eyed Isha. Like Hamsa (Hamsabha), His two arms are extended in the gestures of granting boons and dispelling fear. In the pericarp of this Lotus, seated on a red lotus, is the Shakti Kakini. She is fourarmed, and carries the noose (Pasha), the skull (Kapala) and makes the boon (Vara) and feardispelling (Abhaya) signs. She is of a golden hue, is dressed in yellow raiment, and wears every variety of jewel, and a garland of bones. Her heart is softened by nectar. In the middle of the Trikona is Shiva in the form of a Vana-Linga, with the crescent moon and Bindu on his head. He is of a golden colour. He looks joyous with a rush of desire. Below him is the Jivatma like Hamsa. It is like the
steady tapering flame of a lamp.
Below the pericarp of this Lotus is the red lotus of eight petals, with its head upturned. It is in this (red) lotus that there are the Kalpa Tree, the jewelled altar surmounted by an awning and decorated by flags and the like, which is the place of mental worship.*
THE PETALS AND LETTERS
The petals of any one of these lotuses, as we have seen, are made by the primary forces, which radiate out into the body along the spokes of the wheel. The number of spokes is determined by the number of powers belonging to the force which comes through a particular chakra. In this case we have twelve petals, and the letters given to these evidently symbolize a certain section of the total creative power or life-force coming into the body. The letters mentioned here are from Ka to Tha, taken in the regular order of the Sanskrit alphabet.
This alphabet is extraordinarily scientific - apparently we have nothing like it in Western languages - and its 49 letters are usually arranged in the following tabular form, to which ksha is added in order to supply enough letters for the fifty petals of the six chakras.
* The Serpent Power, by Arthur Avalon, 2nd edition, Text, p. 64.
This alphabet is considered for yoga purposes to include the sum-total of human sounds, to be from the point of view of speech a materially extended expression of the one creative sound or word. Like the sacred word Aum (the sound of which begins in the back of the mouth with a, traverses the centre with u, and ends upon the lips in m) it represents all
creative speech, and therefore a set of powers. These are assigned as follows: the sixteen vowels to the throat chakra, Ka to Tha to the heart, Da to Pha to the navel, Ba to La to the second, and Va to Sa to the first. Ha and Ksha are given to the Ajna chakra, and the Sahasrara Lotus or crown chakra is considered to include the alphabet taken twenty times over.
There is no apparent reason why the letters should have been assigned to the particular chakras mentioned, but there is an increasing number of powers as we ascend the chakras. It is possible that the founders of the Laya system may have had a detailed knowledge of these powers, and may have used the letters to name them much as we use letters in referring to angles in geometry, or to the emanations from radium.
The practice of meditation on these letters has evidently something to do with reaching “the inner sound which kills the outer”, to use a phrase from The Voice of the Silence. The scientific meditation of the Hindus begins with concentration upon a pictured object or a sound, and only when the mind has been fixed steadily upon that does the yogi try to pass on to realize its higher significance. Thus in meditating upon a Master he first pictures the physical form, and afterwards tries to feel the emotions of the Master, to understand His thoughts, and so on.
In this matter of sounds the yogi tries to pass inward from the sound as known to us and uttered by us, to the inner quality and power of that sound, and thus it is an aid to the passage of his consciousness from plane to plane. It may be thought that God created the planes by reciting the alphabet and that our spoken word is its lowest spiral. In this form of yoga the aspirant strives by inner absorption or laya to return upon that path and so draw nearer to the Divine. In Light on the Path we are exhorted to listen to the song of life, and to try to catch its hidden or higher tones.
The hexagonal mandala or “circle” which occupies the pericarp of the heart lotus is taken as a symbol of the element air. Each chakra is considered to be especially connected with one of the elements earth, water, fire, air, ether and mind. These elements are to be regarded as states of matter, not elements as we understand them in modern chemistry. They
are thus equivalent to the terms solid, liquid, fiery or gaseous, airy and etheric, and are somewhat analogous to our sub-planes and planes-physical, astral, mental, etc. These elements are represented by certain yantras or diagrams of a symbolic character, which are given as follows in The Shatchakra Nirupana, and are shown within the pericarps of the
Sometimes in the following list orange-red is given instead of yellow, blue instead of smoky, and black instead of white in the fifth chakra, though it is explained that black stands for indigo or dark blue.
CHAKRA ELEMENT FORM COLOUR
1 Earth A Square Yellow
2 Water A Crescent Moon White
3 Fire A Triangle Bright Red
4 Air Two Interlaced Triangles (A Hexagonal Figure Smoky
5 Ether A Circle White
6 Min ... White
It may seem curious to the Western reader that the mind should be put among the elements, but that does not appear so to the Hindu, for the mind is regarded by him as but an instrument of consciousness. The Hindu has a way of looking at things from a very high point of view, often apparently from the standpoint of the Monad. For example, in the seventh
chapter of the Gita, Shri Krishna says: “Earth, water, fire, air, ether, manas, buddhi and ahamkara - these are the eightfold divisions of my manifestation (prakriti).” A little later on He speaks of these eight as, “my lower manifestation”.
These elements are associated with the idea of the planes, as before explained, but it does not seem that the chakras are especially connected with them. But certainly as the yogi meditates upon these elements and their associated symbols in each chakra he reminds himself of the scheme of the planes. He may also find this form of meditation a means for raising his centre of consciousness, through the levels of the plane in which it is at the time functioning, to the seventh or highest, and through that to something higher still.
Quite apart from the possibility of going out into a higher plane in full consciousness, we have here a means of raising the consciousness so that it may feel the influences of a superior world and receive impressions from above. The force or influence so received and felt is no doubt the “nectar” of which the books speak, of which we will say more in connection with the raising of the awakened kundalini to the highest centre.
In Nature’s Finer Forces* Pandit Rama Prasad presents us with a thoughtful study of the reasons for the geometrical forms of these yantras. His explanations are too lengthy for reproduction here, but we may very briefly summarize some of his main ideas. He argues that just as there exists a luminiferous ether, which is the bearer of light to our eyes, so there is a special form of ether for each of the other forms of sensation - smell, taste, touch and hearing.
These senses are correlated with the elements represented by the yantras - smell with the solid (square), taste with liquid (crescent), sight with the gaseous (triangle), touch with the airy (hexagon), and hearing with the etheric (circle). The propagation of sound, the Pandit argues, is in the form of a circle, that is of a radiation all around; hence the circle in the fifth chakra. The propagation of light, he says, is in the form of a triangle, for a given point in the light-wave moves a little forwards and also at right angles to the line of progress, so that when it has completed its movement it has performed a triangle; hence the triangle in the third chakra. He argues that there is a movement in the ether also in the cases of touch, taste and smell, and gives reasons for the forms which we find associated with these in their respective chakras.
The antelope, on account of its fleetness of foot, is a suitable symbol for the element air, and the bija or seed-mantra (that is, the sound in which the power governing this element manifests itself) is given as Yam. This word is sounded as the letter y, followed by the neutral vowel n, (which is like the a in “India”), and a nasal after-sound similar to that which
frequently occurs in the French language. It is the dot over the letter which represents this sound, and in that dot is the divinity to be worshipped in this centre - the three-eyed Isha.
Other animals are the elephant, associated with earth on account of its solidity and with ether because of its supporting power; the makara or crocodile in the water of Chakra 2; and the ram (evidently regarded as a fiery or aggressive animal) in Chakra 3. For certain purposes the
* Op, cit., p. 2, et seq, out of print.
yogi may imagine himself as seated on these animals and exercising the power which their qualities represent.
There is a beautiful idea in some of these mantras, which we may illustrate by reference to the well-known sacred word Om. It is said to consist of four parts - a, u, m, and ardhamatra. There is a reference to this in The Voice of the Silence, as follows:
And then thou canst repose between the wings of the Great Bird. Aye, sweet is rest between the wings of that which is not born, nor dies, but is Aum throughout eternal ages.
And Madame Blavatsky in a footnote to this speaks of the Great Bird as: Kala Hamsa, the bird or swan. Says the Nadavindu-upanishat (Rig-veda) translated by the Kumbakonam Theosophical Society – “The syllable A is considered to be the bird Hamsa’s right wing, U its left, M its tail, and the Ardhamatra (half metre) is said to be its head.”
The yogi after reaching the third syllable in his meditation, passes on to the fourth, which is the silence which follows. He thinks of the divinity in that silence.
In the different books the deities assigned to the chakras vary. For example The Shatchakra Nirupana places Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva in the first, second and third chakras respectively, and different forms of Shiva beyond them, but The Shiva Samhita and some other works mention Ganesha (the elephant-headed son of Shiva) in the first, Brahma in the
second and Vishnu in the third. Apparently differences are made according to the sect of the worshipper.
Along with Isha in the present instance we have as feminine divinity the Shakti Kakini. Shakti means power or force. Thought-power is described as a shakti of the mind. In each of the six chakras there is one of these feminine divinities-Dakini, Rakini, Lakini, Kakini, Shakini and Hakini - which are by some identified with the powers governing the various dhatus or bodily substances. In this chakra Kakini is seated on a red lotus. She is spoken of as having four arms (four powers or functions). With two of her hands she makes the same signs of granting boons and dispelling fears as are shown by Isha; the other two hold a noose (a symbol which is another form of the ankh cross) and a skull (as symbol, no
doubt, of the slain lower nature).
THE BODY MEDITATION
Sometimes the meditations usually prescribed for these chakras are assigned to the body as a whole, as in the following extract from The Yogatattva Upanishad:
There are five elements, earth, water, fire, air, and ether. For the body of the five elements, there is a fivefold concentration. From the feet to the knees is said to be the region of earth; it is foursided in shape, yellow in colour and has the letter La. Carrying the breath with the letter La along the region of earth (from the feet to the knees) and contemplating Brahma with four faces and of a golden colour, one should perform meditation there. …
The region of water is declared to extend from the knees to the anus. The water is semi-lunar in shape and white in colour, and has Va for its bija (seed). Carrying up the breath with the letter Va along the region of water, he should meditate upon the god Narayana, having four arms and a crowned head, as being of the colour of pure crystal, as dressed in orange cloths and as decayless. …
From the anus to the heart is said to be the region of fire. Fire is triangular in shape, of red colour, and has the letter Ra, for its bija or seed. Raising the breath, made resplendent through the letter Ra, along the region of fire, he should meditate upon Rudra, who has three eyes, who grants all wishes, who is of the colour of the midday sun, who is smeared all over with holy ashes, and who is of a pleased countenance. …
From the heart to the middle of the eyebrows is said to be the region of air. Air is hexangular in shape, black in colour, and shines with the letter Ya. Carrying the breath along the region of air, he should meditate upon Ishvara, the omniscient, as possessing faces on all sides. …
From the centre of the eyebrows to the top of the head is declared to be the region of ether; it is circular in shape, smoky in colour, and shining with the letter Ha. Raising the breath along the region of ether, he should meditate upon Sadashiva in the following manner - as producing happiness, as of the shape of bindu (a drop), as the Great Deva, as having the shape of ether, as shining like pure crystal, as wearing the rising crescent moon on his head, as having five faces, ten hands and three eyes, as being of a pleasing countenance, as armed with all weapons, as adorned with all ornaments, as having the goddess Uma in one-half of his body, as ready to grant favours, and as the cause of all
This, to some extent, confirms our suggestion that in some cases the principles upon which we are asked to meditate are applied to parts of the body for purely mnemonic purposes, not with the direct intention of affecting those parts.
In the centre of the heart lotus a trikona or inverted triangle is figured. This is not a feature of all the centres, but only of the root, heart and brow chakras. There are in these three special granthis or knots, through which kundalini has to break in the course of her journey.
The first is sometimes called the knot of Brahma; the second that of Vishnu; the third that of Shiva. The idea which this symbolism seems to imply is that the piercing of these chakras in some way involves a special change of state, possibly from the personality to the higher self and thence to the Monad - the regions over which these Aspects may be said to rule. It can, however, be only in a subordinate or secondary manner that this is true, for we have observed that the heart chakra receives impressions from the higher astral, the throat centre from the mental, and so forth. In each triangle the deity is represented as a linga, or instrument of union. The Jivatma (literally “living self”) pointing upwards “like the flame of a lamp” is the ego, represented as a steady flame probably because he is not distressed by the accidents of
material life, as is the personality.
THE SECONDARY HEART LOTUS
The second small lotus represented as just beneath the heart chakra is also a special feature of this centre. It is used as a place for meditation upon the form of the guru or the Aspect of the Deity which especially appeals or is assigned to the worshipper. Here the devotee imagines an island of gems, containing beautiful trees, and an altar for worship, which is described as follows in The Gheranda Samhita:
Let him contemplate that there is a sea of nectar in his heart; that in the midst of that sea there is an island of precious stones, the very sand of which is pulverized diamonds and rubies. That on all sides of it there are Kadamba trees, laden with sweet flowers; that, next to these trees, like a rampart, there is a row of flowering trees, such as malati, mallika, jati, kesara, champaka, parijata, and padma, and that the fragrance of these flowers is spread all round, in every quarter. In the middle of this garden, let the yogi imagine that there stands a beautiful Kalpa tree, having four branches,
representing the four Vedas, and that it is full of flowers and fruits. Insects are humming there and cuckoos singing. Beneath that tree, let him imagine a rich platform of precious gems, and on that a costly throne inlaid with jewels, and that on that throne sits his particular Deity, as taught to him by his Guru. Let him contemplate on the appropriate form, ornaments and vehicle of that Deity.*
The worshipper uses his imagination in creating this beautiful scene so vividly as to become enwrapped in his thought and to forget the outer world entirely for the time being.
The process is not, however, entirely imaginative, for this is a means to obtain constant contact with the Master. Just as the images of persons made by one who is in the heavenworld after death are filled with life by the egos of those persons, so the Master fills with his real presence the thought-form produced by his pupil. Through that form real inspiration and sometimes instruction may be given. An interesting example of this was presented by an old Hindu gentleman who was living as a yogi in a village in the Madras Presidency, who claimed to be a pupil of the Master Morya. When that Master was travelling in Southern India years ago he visited the village where this man lived. The latter became his pupil, and declared that he did not lose his Master after he went away, for he used frequently to appear to him and instruct him through a centre within himself.
The Hindus lay much stress upon the necessity for a Guru or Master, and they reverence him greatly when he is found. They constantly reiterate the statement that he must be treated as divine; The Tejobindu Upanishad says: “The furthest limit of all thoughts is the guru.” They maintain that were one to think of the glorious qualities of the Divine Being, one’s imagination would still fall below the perfections of the Master. We who know the Masters well realize the truth of that; their pupils find in them heights of consciousness splendid and glorious beyond all expectation. It is not that they consider the Master equal to God; but that that portion of the Divine which the Master has attained outshines their previous conceptions of it.
EFFECT OF MEDITATION IN THE HEART
The Shiva Samhita thus describes the benefits which are said to accrue to the yogi from meditation upon the heart centre:
He gets immeasurable knowledge, knows the past, present and future; has clairaudience, clairvoyance and can walk in the air, whenever he likes.
He sees the adepts, and the goddesses known as Yoginis; obtains the power known as Khechari, and conquers the creatures which move in the air.
He who contemplates daily on the hidden Banalinga undoubtedly obtains the psychic powers called Khechari (moving in the air) and Bhuchari (going at will all over the world).†
It is not necessary to comment upon these poetic descriptions of the various powers; the student will read between the lines. Still, there may also be something in the literal meaning of such statements as these; for there are many wonders in India - the mysterious powers of the fire-walkers, and the perfectly marvellous hypnotic ability shown by some conjurers who perform the famous rope trick and similar feats.
* Op. cit., V1, 2-8. Trans. Sris Chandra Vidyarnava.
† The Shiva Samhita, V, 86-88.
The Hindu Yogis, for whom the books which have come down to us were written, were not particularly interested in the physiological and anatomical features of the body, but were engaged in practising meditation and arousing kundalini for the purpose of elevating their consciousness or rising to higher planes. This may be the reason why in the Sanskrit
works little or nothing is said about the surface chakras, but much about the centres in the spine and the transit of kundalini through these.
Kundalini is described as a devi or goddess luminous as lightning, who lies asleep in the root chakra, coiled like a serpent three and a half times round the svayambhu linga which is there, and closing the entrance to the sushumna with her head. Nothing is said as to the outer layer of the force being active in all persons, but this fact is indicated in the statement that even as she sleeps she “maintains all breathing creatures”.* And she is spoken of as the Shabda Brahman in human bodies. Shabda means word or sound; we have here, therefore, a reference to the Third Aspect of the Logos. In the process of creation of the world this sound is said to have issued in four stages; probably we should not be far wrong in associating these with our Western conceptions of the three states of body, soul and spirit, and a fourth which is union with the Divine or All-spirit.
THE AWAKENING OF KUNDALINI
The object of the yogis is to arouse the sleeping part of the kundalini, and then cause her to rise gradually up the sushumna canal. Various methods are prescribed for this purpose, including the use of the will, peculiar modes of breathing, mantras, and various postures and movements. The Shiva Samhita describes ten mudras which it declares to be the best for this purpose, most of which involve all these efforts at the same time. In writing of the effect of one of these methods, Avalon describes the awakening of the inner layers of kundalini as follows:
The heat in the body then becomes very powerful, and kundalini, feeling it, awakens from her sleep, just as a serpent struck by a stick hisses and straightens itself. Then it enters the Sushumna.†
It is said that in some cases kundalini has been awakened not only by the will, but also by an accident - by a blow or by physical pressure. I heard an example of the kind in Canada.
A lady, who knew nothing at all of these matters, fell down the cellar steps in her house. She lay for some time unconscious, and when she awoke she found herself clairvoyant, able to read the thoughts passing in other people’s minds, and to see what was going on in every room in the house; and this clairvoyance has remained a permanent possession. One assumes that in this case in falling the lady must have received a blow at the base of the spine exactly in such a position and of such a nature as to shock the kundalini into partial activity; or of course it may have been some other centre that was thus artificially stimulated.
Sometimes the books recommend meditation upon the chakras without the prior awakening of kundalini. This appears to be the case in the following verses from The Garuda Purana:
* The Serpent Power.
† The Serpent Power.
Muladhara, Svadhishthana, Manipuraka, Anahatam, Vishuddhi and also Ajna are spoken of as the six chakras.
One should meditate, in order, in the chakras, on Ganesha, on Vidhi (Brahma), on Vishnu, on Shiva, on Jiva, on Guru, and on Parabrahman, all-pervading.
Having worshipped mentally in all the chakras, with unwavering mind, he should repeat the Ajapa-gayatri according to the instructions of the Teacher.
He should meditate in the Randhra, with the thousand-petalled lotus inverted, upon the blessed Teacher within the Hamsa, whose lotus-hand frees from fear.
He should regard his body as being washed in the flow of nectar from His feet. Having worshipped in the fivefold way he should prostrate, signing His praise.
Then he should meditate on the kundalini as moving upwards and downwards, as making a tour of the six chakras, placed in three and a half coils.
Then he should meditate on the place called sushumna, which goes out of the Randhra; thereby he goes to the highest state of Vishnu.*
THE ASCENT OF KUNDALINI
The books hint at, rather than explain, what happens when kundalini rises up the channel through the sushumna. They refer to the spine as Merudanda, the rod of Meru, “the central axis of creation”, presumably of the body. In that, they say, there is the channel called sushumna, within that another, called Vajrini, and within that again a third called Chitrini,
which is “as fine as a spider’s thread”. Upon that are threaded the chakras, “like knots on a bamboo rod”.
Kundalini rises up Chitrini little by little as the yogi uses his will in meditation. In one effort she may not go very far, but in the next she will go a little farther, and so on. When she comes to one of the chakras or lotuses she pierces it, and the flower, which was turned downwards, now turns upwards. When the meditation is over, the candidate leads Kundalini
back again by the same path into the Muladhara; but in some cases she is brought back only as far as the heart chakra, and there she enters what is called her chamber.† Several of the books say that kundalini resides in the navel chakra; we have never seen it there in ordinary people, but this statement may refer to those who have roused it before, and so have a sort of deposit of the serpent-fire in the centre.
It is explained that as kundalini enters and leaves each chakra in the course of her ascent in the abovementioned variety of meditations she withdraws into latency (hence the term laya) the psychological functions of that centre. In each chakra which she enters there is a great enhancement of life, but as her object is to reach the highest she proceeds upwards, until she reaches the topmost centre, the Sahasrara lotus. Here, as the symbology has it, she enjoys the bliss of union with her lord, Paramashiva; and as she returns on her path she gives back to each chakra its specific faculties, but much enhanced.
All this describes a process of partial trance into which one who meditates deeply necessarily passes, for in concentrating all our attention upon some lofty subject we cease for the time being to pay heed to the various sounds and sights which surround and play upon us.
Avalon mentions that it generally takes years from the commencement of the practice to lead the kundalini into the Sahasrara, though in exceptional cases it can be done in a short time.
With practice comes facility, so that an expert, it is said, can raise and lower the Shakti within an hour, though he is of course perfectly at liberty to stay as long as he will in the crown centre.
* Op. cit., XV, 72, 76, 83-87.
† See The Voice of the Silence, Fragment 1.
Some writers say that as kundalini rises in the body, the portion beyond which she goes grows cold. No doubt this is the case in those special practices in which a yogi goes into trance for a long period, but not in the usual employment of this power. In The Secret Doctrine Madame Blavatsky cites the case of a yogi, who was found on an island near Calcutta, round whose limbs the roots of trees had grown. She adds that he was cut out, and in the endeavour to awaken him so many outrages were inflicted on his body that he died.
She mentions also a yogi near Allahabad who - for purposes no doubt well understood by himself - remained sitting upon a stone for fifty-three years. His chelas or disciples washed him in the river every night and then lifted him back, and during the day his consciousness sometimes returned to the physical world, and he would then talk and teach.*
THE GOAL OF KUNDALINI
The concluding verses of the Shatchakra Nirupana beautifully describe the conclusion of the tour of kundalini, as follows:
The Devi who is Shuddha-sattva pierces the three Lingas, and, having reached all the lotuses which are known as the Brahmanadi lotuses, shines there in the fullness of her lustre. Thereafter, in her subtle state, lustrous like lightning and fine like the lotus fibre. She goes to the gleaming flamelike Shiva, the supreme Bliss, and of a sudden produces the bliss of Liberation.
The beautiful Kundali drinks the excellent red nectar issuing from Para Shiva, and returns from there, where shines Eternal and Transcendent Bliss in all its glory, along the path of Kula, and enters the Muladhara. The yogi who has gained steadiness of mind makes offering (Tarpana) to the Ishta-devata and the Devatas in the six chakras, Dakini and others, with that stream of celestial nectar which is in the vessel of Brahmanda, the knowledge whereof he has gained through the tradition of the Gurus.
If the yogi who is devoted to the Lotus Feet of his Guru, with heart unperturbed and concentrated mind, reads this work, which is the supreme source of the knowledge of Liberation and is faultless, pure and most secret, then of a surety his mind dances at the Feet of his Ishta-devata.†
Like ourselves, the Hindus hold that the results of Laya Yoga can be attained by the methods of all the systems of yoga. In the seven schools of India, and among the students in the West, all who understand aright are aiming at the highest goal of human endeavour, at that liberty which is higher than liberation, because it includes not only union with God in
high realms, beyond earthly manifestation, but also those powers on each plane which make the man an Adhikari Purusha, an office-bearer or worker in the service of the Divine; in the work of lifting the toiling millions of humanity towards the glory and happiness which awaits us all.
OM, AIM, KLIM, STRIM