According to Tantric philosophy, sahasrara chakra (the crown chakra) is the funnel through which energy and consciousness move in the body of an individual. By this measure, sahasrara chakra is the gateway through which energy and consciousness are given and received in a feedback loop between us as individuals, and the universe. Think of it as the meeting point for the finite (our body and ego) and the infinite (the universe and the soul). It is also the place at which time and timelessness meet and where death and eternal life meet.
We’ve all had moments where our view of the world has shifted and, for a fleeting moment, we’ve felt that we are a part of matrix of connection that includes everything in creation. These glimpses open us to an aspect of reality beyond the limitations of our human form. This is what sahasrara chakra does. It leans us into the totality of what we are and enables us to experience life from a place of trust and joy, instead of judgement and fear.
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From the Tantric perspective, the ascension of kundalini energy along the central energy channel in the spine – sushumna nadi – gives rise to an event where individual consciousness and universal consciousness merge. At sahasrara chakra, the way we experience our own awareness changes, becoming more vibratory in nature. We shift from thought-based awareness to a somatic experience of awareness with no ‘I story’ in the middle. Think of it like the moment that a caterpillar emerges from its cocoon and becomes a butterfly.
And so we can see that sahasrara chakra - located just above the crown of the head (outside of the physical body, but still within our subtle-energetic body) - is the portal through which we access higher states of consciousness.
Sahasrara is associated with
- Higher awareness and wisdom
- Connection to limitless existence
- Realisation of the Self
- The experience of ecstasy and bliss
- Transcendence of our limitations
In the physical body, sahasrara chakra governs the functioning of
- Upper skull
- Cerebral cortex
- Pineal gland
- Nervous system
Misappropriation of sahasrara chakra’s energy is associated with
- Disconnection from the ‘big mystery’ of the universe
- Cynicism toward things that are sacred
- An excess of energy in the head, expressed as an overactive mind
- Disconnection from the feelings in the body and an inability to take care of basic everyday needs (paying bills on time, keeping to deadlines etc)
- Obsessive focus on spirituality
- A feeling of emptiness
- Sensitivity to light
- Poor boundaries
Sahasrara chakra's relationship to sound, light & vibration
Whereas many of the other chakras are associated with a particular colour or quality, sahasrara chakra is different. By its light, sahasrara chakra unites all the colour vibrations, which manifest together as the brilliance of pure light.
Similarly, in the way that all rivers eventually flow into the sea, the energy the body’s nadis (suble-energetic pathways) flow into sahasrara chakra. The idea is expressed in the symbol of the thousand-petalled lotus. The petals themselves represent the unique sounds that are created at the points of intersection of each of the nadis at each of the chakras. The fifty points of intersection give rise to fifty sounds, which together make up the sounds of the Sanskrit alphabet. There is a practice called Mantra Laya, which involves chanting these fifty sounds continuously for twenty rounds, making a total of? You guessed it, a thousand.
Shiva and Shakti
When kundalini shakti ascends to sahasrara chakra, the union of Shiva and Shakti takes place. Shiva (the divine masculine) represents consciousness. Shakti (the divine feminine) represents bliss, and so we experience their union as our own inner union of consciousness and bliss; a state we know as Samadhi. In this state, the world as we know it dissolves. We merge with ‘all that is’. Subject and object; the seer and the seen, come together as a continuous flow of energy and awareness. ‘I’ no longer exist. This is experience is one of liberation (‘moksha’).
The journey of kundalini can be described in the following way:
Before kundalini rises, Shakti lives at muladhara chakra and Shiva lives at sahasrara chakra. Between the two poles exists an irresistible attraction but the space between them is filled with confusion and ignorance. Because of this confusion, and because of the ignorance each of us has about our true nature, we experience a gamut of difficult emotions; suffering, loneliness, bitterness, doubt, fear. The journey of Shakti towards Shiva is one in which these many obstacles must first be overcome. Each of them takes the form of karma that we have accumulated in this life time and lifetimes past.
We can’t make this journey on our own, and so we call on the power of Iccha Shakti (willpower) for it is she that bestows upon us the strength to remove the obstacles in our path. Depending on our particular personality her power will manifest in one of two ways. It will either unfold gradually and gracefully or in a way that feels turbulent and tumultuous.
Sahasrara chakra and anahata chakra
This is not the only condition which must be overcome for kundalini to rise. The other is that anahata chakra (the heart chakra) must be open. According to tradition, anahata chakra is the seat of atma (our soul; the part of us we recognize as universal) and so if anahata chakra remains closed, we will never be able to realise atma, we will never be able to connect with the part of us that is universal. For kundalini to finish her journey along sushumna nadi, anahata chakra and sahasrara chakra must open simultaneously.
Anahata chakra is, of course, the place from which bhakti (devotion) flows. With devotion and an open heart, the river of our individual consciousness can flow into the ocean of universal consciousness.
Although, on occasion, this process can occur spontaneously, it is more common that it is a process that unfolds slowly, in the same way that it takes time for a seed to grow into a bud and continue its toward the light. It is the same journey a lotus flower undertakes. The lotus begins its life in the mud of muladhara chakra, grows through the water of svadhisthana chakra, establishes a stem that supports it through its journey through chakras 3-6 and then blossoms at sahasrara chakra a thousand beautiful petals.
Walk your path with purpose
The understanding that lies at the heart of this process is that, although we all have our own path to walk (where we must confront ourselves, our choices and our karmas), all paths lead to the same place, to the same ultimate goal of liberation.
That moment of liberation, however, will only present itself to those who walk their path purposefully, with a commitment to spiritual practice. For those who chase external markers of happiness and success, who distract themselves with the hedonism of superficial experience, will never experience liberation. Joy is an inside job.
Sahasrara chakra’s bija mantra (seed syllable)
The bija mantra for sahasrara chakra is absolute silence.
The nerve plexus for sahasrara chakra
The nerve plexus for sahasrara chakra is the carotid plexus in the head, which consists of three nerves that, amongst other things, have responsibility for producing cerebrospinal fluid.
Sahasrara chakra’s endocrine gland
The endocrine gland associated with sahasrara chakra is the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is very small (no bigger than a pea), and sits at the bottom of the hypothalamus at the base of the brain. The pituitary gland is known as the ‘master gland’. It has responsibility for regulating the functions of the other endocrine glands in the body, including the thyroid, adrenals, ovaries and testes.