“Man’s consciousness has no fixed boundary.” Avalon: Shakti & Shakta
In this our age of fear, anxiety and materialism, the doctrine of Tantra yoga reminds us of a long-forgotten truth: We are in continual, direct touch with an order of existence far higher than that of earth.
In the profound depths of our being, we receive guidance from the mind of God; we commune with saints; we walk the ancient paths of mystery beyond time and space, to the remotest star.
Entities unseen, both good and bad, monstrous and beautiful surround us and interpenetrate us and live within the gross body we identify as ourselves.
Tantrik preceptors, like mystics of all countries and all epochs, not only take note of these beings, but seek to gain spiritual insight from them if they are of higher worlds; or to command them if they are of the lower orders.
To the Western student, steeped as he is in the traditions of empirical knowledge, such a belief may appear to be a metaphysical presumption, or at best, a wholly subjective experience, valid only for the person for whom it occurs.
If such modes of cognition are real, where is the mechanism that makes them possible? (For in our time, even the function of the brain is believed to be that of a servo-mechanism, or a highly sophisticated computer.)
Your Causal Body And Your Subtle Body
The Tantriks answer quite simply that there is more to the human being than meets the eye or that can be measured and analyzed in laboratory procedures.
In fact, they might add, there is only about one third of you in evidence. The rest is invisible.
That is merely another way of saying that, in addition to your gross physical body made up of dense matter, you have two other bodies.
These are called by various names, the most common being the causal body and the subtle body.
According to Shakta doctrine, the causal body is the most enduring of the three. It was the original luminous consciousness out of which the subtle and physical bodies evolved. It is, so to speak, the immediate envelope or sheath of the soul (Jivatma), which lasts until final liberation from our round of deaths and rebirths.
Yogis say that during states of dreamless sleep, the causal body provides a point of direct interchange of psychic energy between the two lower bodies and the cosmic sphere.
The subtle body has been identified with the so-called unconscious or the subconscious mind. Involuntary functions of the physical body, including heart-beat, breathing, digestion, excretion, and endocrine secretion, are controlled by the subtle body, which operates continuously. It is without volition, and responds to suggestions and commands from any source: words, sounds, odors, colors, size, and so on.
The psychic currents that pass from one body to another do so by means of invisible conduits called nadis, woven throughout the subtle body “like threads in a spider web.” Hence the name Tantra, which means “a web.”
It must be understood that while these minute ducts sometimes parallel in their courses, nerves and veins of the physical body, they should not be identified with either.
They are, rather, etheric vessels whose function is to convey streams of polarized energy throughout the gross body as well as the subtle body. Being part of the spiritual anatomy, they are invisible to physical sight.
There is a vast number of these nadis, of different sizes, spreading throughout the body. Authorities are divided on the question of the exact number. Some say 350,000; others 200,000; and yet others, 80,000. The largest body of opinion, however, agrees on 72,000 as the correct number.
All the nadis have their point of origin in an important center of the subtle body, called the kanda. The texts describe it as an egg-shaped bulb, covered with a membrane. The kanda is situated in the physical body at a point midway between the anus and genitals. Some texts say approximately nine finger-breadths above the reproductive organs and twelve above the anus.
The vital currents which these psychic channels carry to nourish our bodies, are fed to the physical organism through focal centers called chakras.
In Sanskrit, the word chakra means wheel or disc. Since the subtle centers appear to psychic sight to be round, vibrating vortices, it is easy to see why the word “wheel” was used to describe them.
Many writings also refer to them as lotuses because, at times, they may resemble that flower, with a given number of “petals.”
The chakras are six in number, each with its individual colors and number of “spokes” or “petals.” Each spoke vibrates at the rate of one of the fifty root sounds of creation, represented in the literature by a corresponding letter of the Sanskrit alphabet.
Like the nadis or mystical veins, the chakras are part of your invisible anatomy. They are, however, corre-lated with the endocrine system of the gross body. For that reason and because there is a mutual influence between the visible and invisible bodies, a number of texts on yoga have incorrectly identified the subtle ganglia (chakras) with the physical glands. For example, a Hindu physician, recently referred to the centers as “neurohormonal mechanisms.” Rammurti Mishra, M.D.: “Fundamentals of Yoga.”
It is true that the currents of life force or vital airs as they are sometimes called, flow most vigorously when the physical organs and the etheric structures that interpenetrate them are both functioning harmoniously.
The flow of vitalizing energy from the cosmic sphere can be greatly reduced and enfeebled by illness or abuses of the physical body.
For example, irregular or wrong breathing, impure air, excessive use of alcohol, and so on, can result in serious disturbances within your subtle bodies. These disturbances, in turn, are reflected in the physical body in what medicine today knows as psychosomatic illness.
Seven Vital Centers Of Radiation
Let us take a closer look at these vital centers of radiation. For, without at least an elementary knowledge of them, and of how to stimulate their activity, the practice of yoga is merely an intellectual exercise.
The first and lowest in the six wheels or centers is called the muladhara. It is situated at the base of the spinal column, about midway between the anal orifice and the genital organs. Four red petals (nadis) emanate from it.
In the center of the chakra is a yellow square, which is the earth element. Within the square appears an in verted triangle that encloses the mysterious psychic energy called kundalini. This energy is often called “serpent power” because in its quiescent form, it lies coiled around the base of the spinal column. Tantrik texts describe kundalini as “luminous as lightning, shining in the hollow of this lotus like a chain of brilliant lights.”
The muladhara energy is the electrical force of creation. It is the cohesive power of matter, the so-called atomic glue of science. In man, it governs the sense of smell and stimulates our knowledge of speech.
According to Tantrik doctrine, meditation upon this center leads to the mastery of desire, envy, anger, and passion. It is the etheric analogue of the gonads in the physical body.
As we proceed upward along the central spinal canal (sushumna), the second center of radiation is the one called svadisthana.
Situated at the root of the genitals, it has six vermilion nadis emanating from it. The texts describe a white crescent moon mystically related to the element water, in the center of the chakra.
In man, the center governs the sense of taste, and controls the function of the kidneys and lower abdominal region of the physical body, including the legs.
By meditation upon this center, the yogi acquires the “dark moon powers,” among them the ability to see and to communicate with entities who inhabit the astral worlds.
In India and Tibet, it is said that one about to travel on water or who is threatened with floods, must seek mastery over the situation by stimulating this center.
It is analogous to, and influences, the adrenal glands.
Continuing our ascent of Mt. Meru, or the spinal column, the next center of force we encounter is the manipura.
It is commonly known as the “navel lotus” because it is situated in the lumbar region, opposite the navel.
Its vibratory rate makes it appear to clairvoyant vision as “the color of heavy-laden rain clouds.” According to a description given in the Satchakra Nirupana, a bright orange-red triangle is seen at the center, on three sides of which are swastikas. Ten nadis emanate from it. It is related to the element fire.
Psychic currents from the manipura flow into the internal organs of the physical body in the epigastric region, thereby controlling the stomach, liver, intestines, and so on. The center is also related to the menstrual flow in women, and influences the eyesight in both sexes.
Those versed in the Tantras say that the manipura chakra is of great importance in the practice of magic and alchemy. A knowledge and mastery of the plexus frees the yogi from all disease, fulfills secret desires, and enables him to penetrate the deepest consciousness of other minds.
It is by stimulation of this chakra that the fire-walkers of India are able to walk upon glowing coals with impunity. One text, the Gheranda Samhita, goes even further. It states flatly that the sadhaka who knows how to enter the “seed of fire” in the pericarp of this lotus, can be thrown into the midst of a roaring blaze (as the Biblical trio – Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego – were cast into the fiery furnace) and “remain alive without fear of death.”
The center is also used in discovering the location of hidden treasure.
Its physical point of focus in the physical body is the pancreas.
Each of us has stored in the solar plexus an amazing reservoir of psychic power, and we shall have occasion to use some of it in one of the exercises to be explained in other articles.
The fourth center of force is the anahata, situated in the chest. It is often called the heart lotus because it is the heart and cardiac region of the physical body. Deep red in color, it has twelve mystic ducts emanating from it.
In the middle of the anahata are two intersecting triangles (known to the Kabala as the Seal of Solomon, symbolizing the macro- and microcosm). Within these triangles is the core of our individual being, the very spark of the divine, which glows “like the steady tapering flame of a lamp.”
To meditate upon this center is to practice yoga in one of its highest forms, for within it will be heard the Shabda Brahma, the primordial, mystical syllable Om, which is the combined sound of the universe, the tone of all creation. There are many varieties of this sound, the most common being the following: the sound of a swarm of bees; a waterfall; humming, like that of telephone wires; roaring of the sea; ringing of a bell; rustling of tiny silver chains; flute notes; shrill, high whistling; the sound of a drum; distant thunder.
The anahata embodies the element air. It governs the sense of touch, the penis, the circulatory system and the locomotor system.
Extravagant claims of paranormal powers are made by some yogis who have concentrated upon this center in their practices. These powers include hearing and seeing at great distances; becoming invisible; precognition; and even the ability to enter and take over another person’s body.
It should be emphasized here that the acquiring of such powers, if indeed that is possible, lies quite out-side the scope of exercises included in the present work.
Most aspirants will feel amply rewarded if results promised by the more practical agamas are forthcoming. The latter state merely that the practitioner of Tantrik doctrine will be beloved of Lakshmi – that is, that material fortune will smile on him.
“His inspired speech flows like a stream of water.” Satchakra Nuripana: Woodroffe trans.
He will be attractive to the opposite sex and eventually will be the recipient of cosmic love. “Having enjoyed in this world the best of pleasure, he in the end goes to the abode of Liberation.” Kalikarana: Commentary.
The anahata influences the function of the thymus gland in the gross body.
Ascending the subtle channel inside the spinal column, the next point at which the invisible world meets the visible is the vishuddha or “Great Purity” center.
As the name suggests, this plexus is associated with a highly developed order of being. It is the doorway to the plane of eternal wisdom.
Its location is the base of the throat. It has sixteen subtle “spokes” of smoky purple, which spread through the laryngeal and pharyngeal regions at the junction of the spinal column and the medulla oblongata.
Tantrik opinion asserts that the center of the vishuddha glows brilliantly when the yogi is spiritually advanced.
The chakram is described as “the region of ether, circular and white like the full moon.” Satchakra Nirupana: v. 28, 29.
It controls the sense of hearing, the skin, the mouth, and the respiration.
“Whoever will concentrate upon this center becomes a sage in the sacred knowledge, a prince among yogis.” 5 Shiva Samhita: v. 5.
The exoteric organ related to the vishuddha is the thyroid gland.
The ajna is situated between the eyebrows at the site polarized as that of “the Third Eye.” It is known as the center of command.
It is “beautifully white, like the winter moon,” and has two subtle channels or “spokes” emanating from it. In diagram, the center, with its two wing-like nadis atop the staff of Meru, suggests the wand of Mercury, which may be a symbol of the same esoteric truth.
The center of command is, appropriately enough, the seat of man’s mental faculties. It is the abode of the individual consciousness, but also a meeting place with the divine; for at this center the aspirant may hear the voice of his spiritual guru and be initiated into the secret knowledge of Tantra.
Meditation upon the ajna will result in the sadhakas being released from the consequences of actions in previous incarnations.
“The yogi who meditates upon this center at the moment of his death, when the breath is leaving his body, dissolves into and becomes one with the Supreme Being.” Shiva Samhita: v. 5.
In the physical body, the pituitary gland is correlated with the ajna.
Above the ajna lies the “thousand-petalled lotus” called the sahasrara, where the three principal arteries of the subtle body come together.
Here, the final goal of the Tantrik aspirant is achieved: the union of the opposite polarities, the wedding of Shiva and Shakti; male and female; electric and magnetic; solar and lunar.
Since this final and greatly augmented plexus is above and beyond the earth plane, most Tantrik writers do not designate it a chakram at all, but consider it a transcendental point of focus, where the soul enters and leaves the physical body at time of birth and death.
The site in the physical body nearest to the sahasrara is the crown of the head, where the slightly depressed area corresponds to the polar region of our globe.
As suggested earlier, the line of authority or regulation of our bodies, is always from the higher or more subtle, downward to the lower and more dense. Consequently, the sahasrara controls the six centers below it.
In various individuals, the area of the center’s expansion differs. In persons who are not greatly advanced spiritually, the vibratory rays are pale and condensed at the top of the head. In the more highly developed, the prismatic colors of the “petals” cover the head like a cap of glowing jewels.
By meditation upon this center, the yogi acquires strange powers and conquers the twin enemies: time and death.