Chakra, literally, “wheel” or “discus,” is a term used in KUNDALINI yoga to designate energy cen-ters along the spine. These centers do not reside in the gross body, at the physical level, but in what is termed the “subtle body.” Though they have a physical position, they have no definite physical adjuncts or precise nervous system connections as in the case of the Chinese system of meridians in acupuncture. They are instead believed to be connected to a network of channels in the subtle body called NADIS.
   The chakras are usually visualized as being lotus flowers with differing numbers of petals. Each of the chakras is a center of consciousness of sorts, playing a role in the makeup of the full human being (including his or her transcendent aspect).
   There are six basic chakras found in almost every kundalini system with a seventh “highest chakra” that technically is beyond the chakras, but is often called “chakras” nonetheless. The names of these chakras vary in different systems. The most common system lists the following chakras, moving from the base of the spine to a place above the head: MULADHARA, SVADHISHTHANA, MANIPURA, ANAHATA, VISHUDDHA, AJNA. In this system the seventh level is usually called SAHASRARA, the transcendent level, which is not in most systems actually a chakra, but for convenience is some-times designated as such.
   Some accounts include an additional chakra, the LALATA or soma chakra, between ajna and sahas-rara. In kundalini yoga one raises the kundalini, which is seen to be a coiled serpent, through breath control and/or MEDITATIONS so that it pierces in succession each of the chakras, giving the adapt control or mastery over them. This movement results in complete personal transformation and, ultimately, access to the transcendent state.
   Further reading: Haris Johari, Chakras: Energy Centers of Transformation (Rochester, Vt.: Destiny Books, 2000); John G. Woodroffe, The Serpent Power, 7th ed. (Madras: Ganesh, 1964).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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