Ajna chakra : Within the realm of ‘all things yoga’, ajna chakra is of particular interest in that it is the site at which we, as practitioners, transcend our experience of duality. It is at this point in our subtle-energetic journey that we move beyond an experience of the world marked by separation and aloneness towards an experience of the world marked by wholeness and connection with the forces of life itself.
With the vantage point that this new way of experiencing the world gives us we come to understand, and also viscerally feel, that we are embedded in a matrix of universal energy. To put this another way, ajna chakra is the site at which individual consciousness surrenders itself to universal consciousness.
Become a Breathe Yoga and Wellness Member...
…for full access to our library of articles and the classes, tutorials, themes, playlists and interviews in our Members Portal…updated weekly.
From a subtle energetic perspective, this shift from dual to non-dual awareness happens because ajna chakra is the meeting point for ida and pingala nadis; two of the three most important subtle energetic pathways in the body. Ida and pingala nadis wind, like a double helix, from their origin near muladhara chakra (at the base of the spine), through each of the chakra points, before merging at ajna chakra; the third eye.
For as long as the energies of ida and pingala nadis remain separate we remain stuck in the play of duality: light/dark, good/bad, masculine/feminine. When ida and pingala nadis merge, however, sushumna nadi (the central energy channel in the body) opens. That’s when we experience the wholeness, connection and unity of universal energy. We become one-pointed, moving beyond time and space.
[Learn more about ajna chakra here: the psychology of ajna chakra]
The role of the third eye
The third eye is not, as popularly thought, the spot between our eyebrows. Rather, it is the spot about two inches back from that, in the mid brain, where the pineal gland lives. Whereas our physical eyes see the past and present, our third eye sees the future. The ability to access the third eye, grows within us the capacity to know what the insights of our ‘future vision’ are. Focusing our attention at the third eye (which sits behind the eye brow center) builds our capacity for concentration and, more importantly, clarity, because the concentration we develop here helps us to cut through the impulses and desires that can lead us in a thousand directions at one.
Ajna chakra and the pineal gland
Ajna chakra is most commonly associated with the pineal gland. The pineal gland gets its fair share of attention because it exerts an influence over our capacity for perception and also because there is a relationship between it, light and altered states of consciousness. The pineal gland also regulates our biorhythms.
This relationship between ajna chakra and the pineal gland means that ajna chakra is considered to be the portal through which we are able to perceive the subtler qualities of reality. This is how we develop our capacity for intuition, insight, archetypal awareness and vision (not vision insofar as our sense of ‘sight’ is concerned but vision in the sense of ‘clear seeing’ or ‘spiritual perception’).
In the same way that our physical eyes help to bring our outer world into focus, our third eye brings our inner world into focus. As we cultivate our relationship with this energy center, the door of our inner vision opens. This gives us access to levels of consciousness and psychic abilities that might otherwise lie dormant.
“The person who focuses intensely and meditates deeply on this chakra will destroy gradually the negative effects of his or her previous bad actions, from this life and from the previous lives. The adept becomes a greatyogi and a jivanmukta, a liberated person while still alive. He or she will obtain the eight great paranormal powers (siddhis) and the 32 minor paranormal powers.”
- Swami Sivananda-
When our access to ajna chakra develops, our capacity for discrimination and analysis becomes heightened (left brain hemisphere). The other thing that happens, however, is that our capacity for intuition is heightened (right brain hemisphere). With our two hemispheres working together we’re far less likely to get sucked into over-intellectualisation or, conversely, get sucked into the realm of superstition and fantasy. Rather, we can mediate the relationship between these two poles and the integration of the two will give us the ability to transform knowledge into wisdom.
For this reason, it is sometimes said that when ajna chakra opens, we can both see and understand. When we both see and understand conscience develops faster because our dual abilities to see what’s going on and understand what it means gives us greater ability to act in a way that transforms us into an instrument for justice.
The symbolism of ajna chakra
Let’s begin in the center of the symbol, where the presiding deity, Ardhanarishvara, is situated. Ardhanarishvara is a half male, half female deity who symbolizes the basic polarity that exists in a ‘dual’ universe. The right side is masculine and the left side is feminine. The masculine aspect of the deity holds a three-pronged trident, which represents the three aspects of consciousness: cognition, will and affect. The feminine aspect of the deity holds a pink lotus; a symbol for purity. The union of these two poles shows us that by the time our consciousness ascends to ajna chakra we, as practitioners, have moved beyond the dual world of ego and separation into the non-dual world of connection and unity.
The Shakti of ajna chakra is Hakini, pictured here with four arms and six heads. It is Hakini’s responsibility to impart true knowledge; that is, knowledge of the ultimate non-dual nature of the universe. In her hands she holds a drum which marks the rhythm of the yogi’s journey along the yogic path, a skull as a symbol of our attachment to the physical world and a mala to help us keep time during japa meditation. Her remaining right hand makes a gesture (mudra), which grants fearlessness to devotees.
The two petals represent ida and pingala nadis; respectively the lunar and solar subtle-energetic channels of the body. They also represent two of the sounds of the Sanskrit alphabet that grow out of the intersection of these nadis. Those sounds are (spelled phonetically) hung and k-shung.
The petals also have an additional layer of meaning. That is, that they represent purusha and prakriti, where purusha is pure consciousness and prakriti is the creative energy of the universe. It prakriti that allows the consciousness of purusha to be made manifest.
The bija mantra (seed syllable) for ajna chakra
In the center of the symbol is a round circle with an inverted triangle. Inside the circle is the bija mantra for ajna chakra: AUM.
The round circle is the pictorial representation of the void state we enter when we move into awareness beyond the ego (this is because the ego can only exist in a world of duality). The triangle represents the manifesting power of the divine feminine. The Shiva Lingham, which is sometimes pictured inside of it is the power of consciousness of the divine masculine.
Characteristics of ajna chakra:
- Perception of subtle energy
- Psychic abilities
- Access to higher mental states
- Access to wisdom and insight
- Access to creativity and inspiration
Signs of imbalance at ajna chakra:
- Lack of perspective