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Chakras are the various focal points in the subtle body used in a variety of ancient meditation practices, collectively denominated as Tantra, or the esoteric or inner traditions of Hinduism.
The concept is found in the early traditions of Hinduism. Beliefs differ between the Indian religions, with many Buddhist texts consistently mentioning five chakras, while Hindu sources offer six or even seven. They are believed to be embedded within the actual physical body, whilst originating within the context of mental and spiritual fields. Or, in modern interpretations, complexes of electromagnetic variety, the precise degree and variety of which directly arise from a synthetic average of all positive and negative so-called "fields", thus eventuating the complex Nadi. Within kundalini yoga, the techniques of breath exercises, visualizations, mudras, bandhas, kriyas, and mantras are focused on transmuting subtle energy through chakras.
The term chakra appears to first emerge within the Hindu Vedas, though not precisely in the sense of psychic energy centers, rather as chakravartin or the king who "turns the wheel of his empire" in all directions from a center, representing his influence and power. The iconography popular in representing the Chakras, states White, trace back to the five symbols of yajna, the Vedic fire altar: "square, circle, triangle, half moon and dumpling".
The hymn 10.136 of the Rigveda mentions a renunciate yogi with a female named kunamnama. Literally, it means "she who is bent, coiled", representing both a minor goddess and one of many embedded enigmas and esoteric riddles within the Rigveda. Some scholars, such as David Gordon White and Georg Feuerstein, interpret this might be related to kundalini shakti, and an overt overature to the terms of esotericism that would later emerge in Post-Aryan Bramhanism. the Upanishad.
Breath channels (nāḍi) are mentioned in the classical Upanishads of Hinduism from the 1st millennium BCE, but not psychic-energy chakra theories. The latter, states David Gordon White, were introduced about 8th-century CE in Buddhist texts as hierarchies of inner energy centers, such as in the Hevajra Tantra and Caryāgiti. These are called by various terms such as cakka, padma (lotus) or pitha (mound). These medieval Buddhist texts mention only four chakras, while later Hindu texts such as the Kubjikāmata and Kaulajñānanirnaya expanded the list to many more.
In contrast to White, according to Georg Feuerstein, early Upanishads of Hinduism do mention cakra in the sense of "psychospiritual vortices", along with other terms found in tantra: prana or vayu (life energy) along with nadi (energy carrying arteries). According to Gavin Flood, the ancient texts do not present chakra and kundalini-style yoga theories although these words appear in the earliest Vedic literature in many contexts. The chakra in the sense of four or more vital energy centers appear in the medieval era Hindu and Buddhist texts.
Chakra is a part of the esoteric medieval era theories about physiology and psychic centers that emerged across Indian traditions. The theory posited that human life simultaneously exists in two parallel dimensions, one "physical body" (sthula sarira) and other "psychological, emotional, mind, non-physical" it is called the "subtle body" (sukshma sarira).This subtle body is energy, while the physical body is mass. The psyche or mind plane corresponds to and interacts with the body plane, and the theory posits that the body and the mind mutually affect each other. The subtle body consists of nadi (energy channels) connected by nodes of psychic energy called chakra. The theory grew into extensive elaboration, with some suggesting 88,000 chakras throughout the subtle body. The number of major chakras varied between various traditions, but they typically ranged between four and seven.
The important chakras are stated in Hindu and Buddhist texts to be arranged in a column along the spinal cord, from its base to the top of the head, connected by vertical channels. The tantric traditions sought to master them, awaken and energize them through various breathing exercises or with assistance of a teacher. These chakras were also symbolically mapped to specific human physiological capacity, seed syllables (bija), sounds, subtle elements (tanmatra), in some cases deities, colors and other motifs.
The chakra theories of Hinduism and Buddhism differs from the historic Chinese system of meridians in acupuncture. Unlike the latter, the chakra relates to subtle body, wherein it has a position but no definite nervous node or precise physical connection. The tantric systems envision it as continually present, highly relevant and a means to psychic and emotional energy. It is useful in a type of yogic rituals and meditative discovery of radiant inner energy (prana flows) and mind-body connections. The meditation is aided by extensive symbology, mantras, diagrams, models (deity and mandala). The practitioner proceeds step by step from perceptible models, to increasingly abstract models where deity and external mandala are abandoned, inner self and internal mandalas are awakened.
The more common and most studied chakra system incorporates six major chakras along with a seventh center generally not regarded as a chakra. These points are arranged vertically along the axial channel (sushumna nadi in Hindu texts, Avadhuti in some Buddhist texts). According to Gavin Flood, this system of six chakras plus the sahasrara "center" at the crown first appears in the Kubjikāmata-tantra, an 11th-century Kaula work.
It was this chakra system that was translated in early 20th century by Sir John Woodroffe (also called Arthur Avalon) in the text The Serpent Power. Avalon translated the Hindu text Ṣaṭ-Cakra-Nirūpaṇa meaning the examination (nirūpaṇa) of the six (ṣaṭ) chakras (cakra).
The Chakras are traditionally considered meditation aids. The yogi progresses from lower chakras to the highest chakra blossoming in the crown of the head, internalizing the journey of spiritual ascent. In both the Hindu and Buddhist kundalini or candali traditions, the chakras are pierced by a dormant energy residing near or in the lowest chakra. In Hindu texts she is known as Kundalini, while in Buddhist texts she is called Candali or Tummo (Tibetan: gtum mo, "fierce one").
Below are the common new age description of these six chakras and the seventh point known as sahasrara. This new age version incorporates the Newtonian colors that were unknown when these systems were created.
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