When it comes to the chakras, much of modern-day yoga focuses on their physical and emotional properties. For example, it is not uncommon to hear it said that someone who has issues with personal finances or security (for example) has issues with muladhara chakra whereas someone who has poor self-esteem might be said to have issues with manipura chakra. From the traditional Tantric perspective, however, these comments indicate only a partial understanding of the chakras and the ways in which these energies manifest when chakras are truly ‘open’.
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Examining the chakras from this perspective, however, only gives a partial picture. Rather than demonstrating true understanding of the psycho-spiritual properties of the chakras, it relates more directly to the physical characteristics of ‘un-opened’ chakras. When it comes to true spiritual practice, the chakras are only truly open when both prana (life force) and citta (consciousness) enter into the central subtle-energetic channel of the spine: sushumna nadi. This happens as the result of formal yogic practices and does not occur during ordinary consciousness.
In fact, what many of the older yogic texts say is the that the chakras are closed in everyone except those who have practiced deep meditative awareness. Regardless of how physically healthy we are, or how mentally or emotionally aware we are, we remain ‘spiritually ignorant’ until such time as this happens. The purpose of opening the chakras is not to cure disease or release un-expressed emotions. It is to merge the mind with consciousness in Samadhi, where awareness of ourself as separate disappears, where the ‘many’ become the ‘One’, where we realise that are this ‘One’. It is this realization that takes us beyond spiritual ignorance.
When we limit our exploration of the chakras to their physical functions we miss the point because, when it comes to the awakening of the chakras on the spiritual level, the focus is actually on purifying their subtle elements (earth, air, fire, water, ether, mind), not about improving the functioning of their related organs. In fact, the more energy we direct into the external manifestations of their energies, the less energy we have available to explore their subtle-body functions.
Through the experience of spiritual awakening, we come to see the physical body, not as our ‘home’ but rather, simply as a container for our soul. The physical body becomes purer, lighter and more full of energy and radiance and the mind becomes free of desire, fear, anger, anxiety and stress.
[Click here to explore the experience of 'opening the chakras']