Chakras Demystified – A Hatha Yoga view

This is the way Kundalini rises and our perception of our self and the world becomes broader, broader to such an extent that everything and everyone is experienced not as separation but consolidation.

Our inherent infinite potential (Kundalini) takes the opportunity to manifest its completeness through the body-mind complex by evolving over life times. In fact, this is the very reason why we have a body and a life. In this context, every material body is a vehicle of pure potential and every life is an opportunity to manifest its fullness. The evolution of this potential happens over stages. The stages through which the Being evolves to its full potential are called Chakras.

The chakras are zones of psycho-spiritual energy which our Being is made up of. The word Chakra is translated as “wheel”, but such a translation misleads us into thinking of chakras as “wheel like structures”. Chakras are not wheel like structures rather the word chakra in Sanskrit literally means “something that whirls” and everything that whirls is not a wheel. It is so named because it is supposed to convey a whirling movement of the psycho-spiritual energy. It also conveys a radiating force field, a region (kshetra) and not just a point in our subtle body.

Hatha Yoga says that the stability and/or instability of the energetic field in our subtle body along the chakras consequently manifests in the gross body. The chakras have an influence on energetic as well as physical body because the chakras are essential subtle structures functioning to collect, use, transform and pass on Prana energy. Our material bodies could not exist without them for they serve as gateways for the flow of energy and life into our physical bodies. This is how the subtle energies of our chakras in the subtle body influence the physiology in our material body. In fact, the physical body can be called as manifestation of the psycho-vital body which includes prana flow and chakras. Every chakra corresponds to a specific aspect of human nature, behavior and development. The chakras vibrate at different levels relative to the awareness (consciousness) of the individual and their ability to integrate with life and this is why the “spin” of chakras differ from person to person. In simple terms the chakras can be defined as “the stages through which perception and experience of one’s own self and others evolve”.

Let’s understand the concept of chakras with one simple analogy. Imagine a couple have a baby boy. Just like all parents, the parents of our little boy too want him to grow up and be a healthy and happy adult who can create a life full of possibilities by harnessing his potential. For this purpose the parents facilitate proper education, diverse experiences, safe upbringing and stable support with love and care in the life of the child. This example, which perhaps exists in every household, is a microscopic representation of how Shiva and Shakti as our parents facilitate our growth and evolution towards our full potential. To evolve towards our True Potential is our swadharma, one’s own duty towards oneself in this life.

The little boy starts his journey through life. Schooling and education form an integral part of his life as he grows up. The little child goes to a kindergarten, primary school, high school, college, university and so on to gain the required knowledge and experience to become what he wants (or his parents want!?!). The boy’s growth over many years through his educational life could be likened to our growth as spiritual beings (jivatma) moving through chakra stages. In every stage of the boy’s education he goes through innumerable experiences and experiments with life to gain happiness. In the same way, we as spiritually beings (jivatma) evolve over life time to experience and manifest the full extent of our potential. Some experiences are bitter, some are sweet, but experiences come and they shape our life and existence. There is no doubt that consciously or unconsciously transformation does happen. Just like the boy, we, as spiritual students are admitted to the school of life the moment we are born because our potential (Kundalini) as spiritual beings is limited and not yet fully harnessed. The education of our boy through the six stages of schooling namely, early, primary, secondary, higher, master’s level and doctorate studies could be likened to the evolution of human beings through six stages of chakras in the school of life.

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We go through life weaving the warp and weft of mistakes and success to shape our life into a fabric of pure love, permanent freedom and unending bliss. This love, freedom and bliss is the full expanse of our True Potential (Param Shiva). This experience is not a step but the stage from where the Being radiates without the hindrance of any limitation. It is here when the Hatha Yogis say the “Kundalini has united with her Shiva”, meaning, the spiritual being has reached its ultimate pure, true potential. When one starts exploring the bigger dimension of their being by starting to explore the inherent potential (Kundalini), the Kundalini awakens and starts moving through the various levels (chakra). This is called evolution of the Kundalini along the chakras. This is the way Kundalini rises and our perception of our self and the world becomes broader, broader to such an extent that everything and everyone is experienced not as separation but consolidation.

Kundalini Demystified – A Hatha Yoga view

Our life might feel inconsequential but as Beings of light we have the potential to create magnificence. Kundalini is a part of us, rather She is very much us. It is time we stopped looking at Kundalini as some supra natural esoteric force. She is a Goddess, our mother and the potential within us that is programmed to find the way towards its full expression.

The Hatha yogis of past understood the human existence in a deeper way as compared to modern understanding. They understood humans not as mere bag of bones and muscles with some oxygen thrown in but as a much subtler and complex creation. Hatha Yoga understands human beings as consciousness based psycho- spiritual entities in human domain of manifestation. It believes that infinite divine consciousness is constantly and gradually evolving through 840,000 psycho-spiritual domains (yoni). Every domain (life form), from an insect to an elephant is permeated by the same divine consciousness. Human domain is the last stage towards reaching the full bloom of consciousness through a physical body. The human body-mind complex as a domain is most capable of manifesting the divine consciousness, it’s the most conducive vehicle so to say

When we see a tiny little match stick it seems lifeless and impotent. When the same match stick is struck against the right surface a tiny spark emerges that can start a forest fire. Similar is the case with us humans. Our life and existence might sometimes feel inconsequential but as Beings of conscious light in human form we have the potential to create magnificence. The potential to manifest a spark that is inherent in the matchstick is also inherent in humans. Humans too have this very potential of radiance because we are divine light (prakasha), a spark of the divine fire. This potential inherent within us is traditionally called Kundalini or Kundali or Kula Kundali in Hatha Yoga.

Kundalini in Sanskrit means “coiled”. Kundalini can be defined as the psycho-spiritual potential inherent within us all. It is because of Kundalini that we are conscious. It is this very force that breathes life into material body and it is this force that leaves the matter lifeless when it exits. As the seminal Hatha Yoga scripture, Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati says “There is no doubt that the creation and dissolution of the universe results from the proliferation and contraction of the supreme Shakti on account of which she is called the Mulam (the root cause).”

Kundalini is the potential within us that is programmed to find the way towards its full expression resulting in innumerable possibilities. This is why Kundalini is regarded as Shakti, the power within. This inner potential and power is not seen as a lifeless electrical energy current running through the body but a conscious, powerful feminine creative force (chitshakti). It’s a creative force because of its inherent potentiality and it’s this creative nature that gives it its feminine essence. This is why in Hatha Yoga the Kundalini is regarded and respected as a Goddess and not just as energy or force. Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati, describes Kundalini as follows, “As Kundalini is the material cause of all beings, She is considered to be supreme”. – SSP 4:15

The base of the spine or the root chakras is the entry of Kundalini in the human domain of consciousness. In some Hatha Yoga scriptures the origin of Kundalini is said to be a part in the subtle body called as Kanda. From the Muladhara along the spinal highway She starts her journey to cross the domain of limited human tendencies in order to realize her infinite divine spontaneity by merging with Shiva (universal consciousness). Gheranda Samhita very eloquently states, “Muladhare Kundalini bhujagakararupini, tatra tishtahi jeevatma pradipkakalikakriti.” In the Muladhara the Kundalini lies in form of a coiled serpent. The innate self dwells there like the flame of a lamp – Gheranda Samhita 5:16

Kundalini is visualized as a three and half coiled dormant snake coiled around the Svayambhu-linga (representation of Shiva) at the base of the spine with the tip of its tail in its mouth. The coils are symbolic of potentiality as in the snake springing up when disturbed. The number three is a representation of three states of awareness and the half is symbolic of transcending those three states, similar to the diagrammatic representation in OM.

Every human has Kundalini, She is the very force of universal potential within the body-mind complex. It may happen that life times may pass without a person even acknowledging the existence of this pure potential within. This is called being “asleep” to your true nature. This is why in Hatha Yoga the Kundalini is represented as a dormant spiritual force (sleeping snake) which the yogi (spiritual aspirant) awakens by his determination and will. The yogi awakens the Kundalini in order to make her unite with Shiva, her consort, where the union signifies full bloom of potentiality. This is also the representation of individual potential merging with the universal potential. Note: The snake is not dead, it is alive but asleep. If it were dead we would be unconscious, inert, jada.

Human domain of consciousness does not mean only one life time in human body. The Being that is present within the human body is here for a purpose. This purpose is to manifest its true potential which is nothing but pure consciousness beyond the limitations of psycho-somatic conditioning. To evolve from the human domain of consciousness and stabilize in the divine may take thousands of life times. Just because we have a body, mind and life does not mean we will automatically transcend to the divine state. It takes firm determination, commitment, trust and surrender to go through the trials and tribulations of limiting tendencies. Hatha yoga is the path of working on the Kundalini in a disciplined, dedicated and devoted manner.

Every individual is infinite potential and innumerable possibilities, in this sense we all are Shiva and Shakti in our true nature. This potential is inherent in us all and lies dormant because of our lack of knowledge and acceptance of our true potential. The Shakti is limited by various factors over lifetimes. Self doubt, mistrust in the bigger scheme of things, nurturing limiting tendencies, disregarding the importance of body and mind are just some factors that halt our experience of full potential. When a seeker acknowledges the existence of the infinite potential within and starts the journey of Self search it is then that the Kundalini awakens and proceeds on her journey to manifest her fullness.

Kundalini is a part of us, rather She is very much us. It is time we stopped looking at Kundalini as some supra natural esoteric force. She is a Goddess, our mother and Hatha Yoga has always described her as a loving nurturing caretaker, protector and guide. Let us hold the hands of our mother and allow her to walk us home.

Representation of Kundalini and Chakra in a Tantrik painting.
Representation of Kundalini and Chakra in a Tantrik painting.