Chakra is a concept referring to wheel-like vortices which, according to traditional Indian medicine, are believed to exist in the surface of the etheric double of man. The Chakras are said to be "force centers" or whorls of energy permeating, from a point on the physical body, the layers of the subtle bodies in an ever-increasing fan-shaped formation (the fans make the shape of a love heart). Rotating vortices of subtle matter, they are considered the focal points for the reception and transmission of energies. Seven major chakras or energy centers (also understood as wheels of light) are generally believed to exist, located within the subtle body. Adherents of Hindu and New Age tradition believe the chakras interact with the body's ductless endocrine glands and lymphatic system by feeding in good bio-energies and disposing of unwanted bio-energies.
There is a wide range of literature on the history and philosophy of chakras and, beside the traditional Indian spiritual practices and religions, the concept of chakras have become popular in Western culture with new-age religion and medical practitioners.
Much of the original information on Chakras comes from the "Upanishads", which are difficult to date because they are believed to have been passed down orally for approximately a thousand years before being written down for the first time between 1200-900 BCE.
Anodea Judith (1996: p.5) provides a modern interpretation of the chakras:
A chakra is believed to be a center of activity that receives, assimilates, and expresses pranic energy. The word chakra literally translates as wheel or disc and refers to a spinning sphere of bioenergetic activity emanating from the major nerve ganglia branching forward from the spinal column. Generally, six of these wheels are described, stacked in a column of energy that spans from the base of the spine to the middle of the forehead. And the seventh which is beyond the physical region. It is the six major chakras that correlate with basic states of consciousness...
Susan Shumsky (2003, p. 24) supports this idea:
Each chakra in your spinal column is believed to influence or even govern bodily functions near its region of the spine. Because autopsies do not reveal chakras, most people think they are a fancy of fertile imagination. Yet their existence is well documented in the traditions of the far east...
Chakras, as described above, are energy centers along the spine located at major branchings of the human nervous system, beginning at the base of the spinal column and moving upward to the top of the skull. Chakras are considered to be a point or nexus of biophysical energy or prana of the human body. Shumsky states that "prana is the basic component of your subtle body, your energy field, and the entire chakra system...the key to life and source of energy in the universe"
The following seven primary chakras are commonly described:
- Muladhara (मूलाधार, Mūlādhāra) Base or Root Chakra (last bone in spinal cord *coccyx*)
- Swadhisthana (Sanskrit: स्वाधिष्ठान, Svādhiṣṭhāna) Sacral Chakra (ovaries/prostate)
- Manipura (Sanskrit: मणिपूर, Maṇipūra) Solar Plexus Chakra (navel area)
- Anahata (|अनाहत, Anāhata) Heart Chakra (heart area)
- Vishuddha (विशुद्ध, Viśuddha) Throat Chakra (throat and neck area)
- Ajna (आज्ञा, Ājñā) Brow or Third Eye Chakra (pituary gland)
- Sahasrara (सहस्रार, Sahasrāra) Crown Chakra (pineal gland or third eye)
Chakras in the head from lowest to highest are: golata, talu/talana/lalana, ajna, talata/lalata, manas, soma, sahasrara (and sri inside it.)
Bhattacharyya's review of Tantric history says that the word chakra is used to mean several different things in the Sanskrit sources: History of the Tantric Religion. Second Revised Edition. (Manohar: New Delhi, 1999) pp. 385-86. ISBN 81-7304-025-7
- "Circle", used in a variety of senses, symbolizing endless rotation of shakti.
- A circle of people. In rituals there are different cakra-sādhanā in which adherents assemble and perform rites. According to the Niruttaratantra, chakras in the sense of assemblies are of 5 types.
- The term chakra also is used to denote yantras or mystic diagrams, variously known as rikoṇa-cakra, aṣṭakoṇa-cakra, etc.
- Different "nerve plexus within the body".
In Buddhist literature the Sanskrit term cakra (Pali cakka) is used in a different sense of "circle", referring to a Buddhist conception of the 4 circles or states of existence in which gods or men may find themselves. (Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Grammar and Dictionary. Volume II. p. 221. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers: Delhi, 1953. Reprint edition, Delhi, 2004, ISBN 81-208-0999-8). E.g., catvāri devamanuṣyāṇāṃ cakrāṇi.
The study of the Chakras is central to many different therapies and disciplines. Subtle energy is explored through practices such as aromatherapy, mantras, Reiki, hands-on healing, flower essences, radionics, sound therapy, color/light therapy, and crystal/gem therapy, to name a few. Acupuncture, shiatsu, tai chi and chi kung focus on balancing the energetic meridians that are an integral part of the chakra system, according to Vajrayana and Tantric Shakta theories. Several models will be explored in the following sub-headings.
In Hinduism, the concept of chakras is part of a complex of ideas related to esoteric anatomy. These ideas occur most often in the class of texts that are called Āgamas or Tantras. This is a large body of scripture, most of which is rejected by orthodox Brahmins.
There are many variations on these concepts in the Sanskrit source texts. In earlier texts there are various systems of chakras and nadis, with varying connections between them. Various traditional sources list 5, 6, 7, or 8 chakras. Over time, one system of 6 or 7 chakras along the body's axis became the dominant model, adopted by most schools of yoga. This particular system may have originated in about the 11th century AD, and rapidly became widely popular. It is in this model where Kundalini is said to "rise" upward, piercing the various centers until reaching the crown of the head, resulting in union with the Divine.
The chakras are described in the tantric texts the Sat-Cakra-Nirupana, and the Padaka-Pancaka , in which they are described as emanations of consciousness from Brahman, an energy emanating from the spiritual which gradually turns concrete, creating these distinct levels of chakras, and which eventually finds its rest in the Muladhara chakra. They are therefore part of an emanationist theory, like that of the kabbalah in the west, lataif-e-sitta in Sufism or neo-platonism. The energy that was unleashed in creation, called the Kundalini, lies coiled and sleeping at the base of the spine. It is the purpose of the tantric or kundalini forms of yoga to arouse this energy, and cause it to rise back up through the increasingly subtle chakras, until union with God is achieved in the Sahasrara chakra at the crown of the head.
Vajrayana and Tantric Buddhist
According to contemporary buddhist teacher Tarthang Tulku, the heart chakra is very important for the feeling of existential fulfillment.
A result of energetic imbalance between chakras is an almost continuous feeling of dissatisfaction. When the heart chakra is agitated, people lose touch with feelings and sensations, and that breeds the sense of dissatisfaction. That leads to looking outside for fulfillment.
When people live in their heads, feelings are secondary, they are interpretations of mental images that are fed back to the individual. When awareness is focused on memories of past experiences and mental verbalizations, the energy flow to the head chakra increases and the energy flow to the heart chakra lessens. Without nurturing feelings of the heart a subtle form of anxiety arises which results in the self reaching out for experience.
When the throat chakra settles and energy is distributed evenly between the head and the heart chakras, one is able to truly contact one's senses and touch real feelings.(Tarthang Tulku. Tibetan Relaxation. The illustrated guide to Kum Nye massage and movement - A yoga from the hey guy Tibetan tradition. Dunkan Baird Publishers, London, 2007, ISBN-13:978-1-84483-404-4, pp. 31, 33)
Chögyal Namkai Norbu Rinpoche teaches a version of the Six Lokas sadhana which works with the chakra system.
The kye-rim (Tibetan) and dzog-rim (Tibetan) stages work with the 'chakra' (Tibetan: khorlo).
Chakras, as pranic centers of the body, according to the Himalayan Bönpo tradition, influence the quality of experience, because movement of prana can not be separated from experience. Each of six major chakras are linked to experiential qualities of one of the six realms of existence.(Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, Healing with Form, Energy, and Light. Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications, 2002. ISBN 1559391766, pp. 84)
A modern teacher, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche uses a computer analogy: main chakras are like hard drives. Each hard drive has many files. One of the files is always open in each of the chakras, no matter how "closed" that particular chakra may be. What is displayed by the file shapes experience.
The tsa lung practices such as those embodied in Trul Khor lineages open channels so lung (Lung is a Tibetan term cognate with prana or qi) may move without obstruction. Yoga opens chakras and evokes positive qualities associated with a particular chakra. In the hard drive analogy, the screen is cleared and a file is called up that contains positive, supportive qualities. A seed syllable (Sanskrit bija) is used both as a password that evokes the positive quality and the armor that sustains the quality.
Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche teaches a version of the Six Lokas sadhana which works with the chakra system.
Chakras and Chinese medicine
In the circuit of qi, called the Microcosmic orbit, energy also comes back down the front torso channel (equivalent to the nadis of Hatha yoga), and enters the tan tiens: when it returns to the heart (and cycles down and reascends to the head) further meditation/contemplation or union with deity develops . In Macrocosmic orbit the qi is also guided through the main channels in the limbs.
However, while the concept of meridians and ki superficially reminiscent of that of of the chakras and the prana respectively and it has sometime been suggested that they were inspired by the Indian concepts. However the Chinese model includes 12 meridians and at least 365 acupuncture points distributed on various organs rather than just 6 chakras all located alongside the spine.
In Japan, the concept of chi has been adopted under the name reiki.
Chakras in Western complementary and alternative medicine
In the Western hemisphere, a concept similar to that of prana can be traced back as back as the 18th century's Franz Anton Mesmer that used 'animal magnetism' to cure disease. However, the concept of chakras was only introduced in 1927 by the clergyman and theosophical author Charles Webster Leadbeater in his book 'The Chakras'.
Due to the similarities between the Chinese and Indian philosophies, the notion of chakras was quickly amalgamated to Chinese practices such as acupuncture and belief in ki. The confluence of these two divergent healing traditions and the common practitioners' own inventiveness have lead to an ever-changing and expanding array of concepts in the Western world.
The chakras are described as being aligned in an ascending column from the base of the spine to the top of the head. In New Age practices, each chakra is often associated with a certain color. In various traditions chakras are associated with multiple physiological functions, an aspect of consciousness, a classical element, and other distinguishing characteristics. They are visualized as lotuses/flowers with a different number of petals in every chakra.
The chakras are thought to vitalize the physical body and to be associated with interactions of a physical, emotional and mental nature. They are considered loci of life energy or prana, also called shakti, qi (Chinese; ki in Japanese), kuch-ha-guf. (Hebrew), bios (Greek) & aether (Greek, English), which is thought to flow among them along pathways called nadis. The function of the chakras is to spin and draw in this energy to keep the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health of the body in balance.
The New Age movement has led to an increased interest in the West regarding chakras. Many in this movement point to a correspondence between the position and role of the chakras and those of the glands in the endocrine system. These ideas first appear in the writings of theosophical authors like C. W. Leadbeater, who wrote a book on the Chakras.
Many of Leadbeater's views that directed his understanding of chakras were influenced by previous theosophist authors and in particular Johann Georg Gichtel, a disciple of Jakob Böhme, and his book Theosophia Practica (1696) in which Gitchtel directly refer to inner force centres, a concept reminiscent of that of chakras , ()
The seven principal chakras are said by some to reflect how the unified consciousness of humanity (the immortal human being or the soul), is divided to manage different aspects of earthly life (body/instinct/vital energy/deeper emotions/communication/having an overview of life/contact to God). The chakras are placed at differing levels of spiritual subtlety, with Sahasrara at the top being concerned with pure consciousness, and Muladhara at the bottom being concerned with matter, which is seen simply as a more dense consciousness.
Western derivative models and interpretations
It is the shakta theory of 7 main chakras that become most popular in the Western hemisphere, largely through the translation of two Indian texts, the Sat-Cakra-Nirupana, and the Padaka-Pancaka, by Sir John Woodroffe, alias Arthur Avalon, in a book titled The Serpent Power. This book is extremely detailed and complex, and later the ideas were developed into what is predominant Western view of the Chakras by Theosophists, and largely the controversial (in theosophical circles) C. W. Leadbeater in his book The Chakras, which are in large part his own meditations and insights on the matter.
Rudolf Steiner (one-time Theosophist, and founder of Anthroposophy) says much about the Chakras that is unusual, especially that the chakra system is dynamic and evolving and is very different for modern people than it was in ancient times, and will in turn be radically different in future times. In contrast to the traditional eastern teachings, Steiner describes a sequence of development from the top down rather than the bottom up. This is the so called 'Christos Path' which has not always been available to humanity. He also seems to ignore the Thousand Petaled at the crown of the head and mentions cryptically an Eight Petaled chakra located between the Ten Petaled and the Six Petaled. In his book How to Know Higher Worlds Steiner gives clear instructions on how to develop the chakras safely into maturity. These are more like life disciplines than exercises and can take considerable time. He warns that while quicker methods exist, they can be dangerous to one's health, character, or sanity.
Many New Age writers, such as the Danish author and musician Peter Kjærulff in his book, The Ringbearer's Diary or Anodea Judith in her book Wheels of Life, have written their opinions about the chakras in great detail, including the reasons for their appearance and functions.
Another unique interpretation of the seven chakras is presented by writer and artist Zachary Selig. In the book Kundalini Awakening, a Gentle Guide to Chakra Activation and Spiritual Growth, he presents a unique codex titled "Relaxatia," a solar Kundalini paradigm that is a codex of the human chakra system and the solar light spectrum, designed to activate Kundalini through his color-coded chakra paintings. (Kundalini Awakening, a Gentle Guide to Chakra Activation and Spiritual Growth, New York: Random House, ISBN 978-0-553-35330-3 (0-553-35330-6)
Additionally, some chakra system models describe one or more Transpersonal chakras above the crown chakra, and an Earth star chakra below the feet. There are also held to be many minor chakras, for example between the major chakras. Chakras are also used in neurolinguistic programming to connect NLP logical levels, with spiritual goals on the crown, intellectual on the forehead and so on 
The primary importance and level of existence of chakras is posited to be in the psyche. However, there are those who believe that chakras have a physical manifestation as well. Some authors say that there is a relationship between the positions and functions of the chakras and of the various organs of the endocrine system. It is noted by many that there is a marked similarity between the positions and roles described for chakras, and the positions and roles of the glands in the endocrine system, and also by the positions of the nerve ganglia (also known as "plexuses") along the spinal cord (branching to plexuses by endocrine glands or organs), opening the possibility that two vastly different systems of conceptualization have been brought to bear to systemize insights about the same phenomenon. By some, chakras are thought of as having their physical manifestation in the body as these glands and their subjective manifestation as the associated emotional, mental, and spiritual experiences.
The Spectrum of Light & the Chakras
A recent development in Western practices dating back to the 1940s is to associate each one of the seven chakras to a given colour and a corresponding crystal. For example, the chakra in the forehead is associated with the colour purple, so to cure a headache you would apply a purple stone to the forehead. This idea has proven highly popular and has been integrated by all but a few practitioners.
"As humans, we exist within the 49th Octave of Vibration of the electromagnetic light spectrum. Below this range are barely visible radiant heat, then invisible infrared, television and radiowaves, sound and brain waves; above it is barely visible ultraviolet, then the invisible frequencies of chemicals and perfumes, followed by x-rays, gamma rays, radium rays and unknown cosmic rays
Understanding existence and physical form as an interpretation of light energy through the physical eyes will open up greater potential to explore the energetic bounderies of color, form and light that are perceived as immediate reality. Indian Yogic teachings assign to the seven major chakras specific qualities, such as color of influence (from the 7 rays of spectrum light), elements (such as earth, air, water & ether), body sense (such as touch, taste, and smell), and relation to an endocrine gland.
The Seven Major Chakras
Sahasrara: The Crown Chakra
Sahasrara is generally considered to be the chakra of pure consciousness. Its role may be envisioned somewhat similarly to that of the pituitary gland, which secretes hormones to communicate to the rest of the endocrine system and also connects to the central nervous system via the hypothalamus. The thalamus is thought to have a key role in the physical basis of consciousness. Symbolized by a lotus with one thousand petals, it is located at the crown of the head. Sahasrara is represented by the colour violet and it involves such issues as inner wisdom and the death of the body. Sahasrara's inner aspect deals with the release of karma, physical action with meditation, mental action with universal consciousness and unity, and emotional action with "beingness"
Ajna: The Brow Chakra
Ajna (along with Bindu, also known as the third eye chakra) is linked to the pineal gland which may inform a model of its envisioning. The pineal gland is a light sensitive gland that produces the hormone melatonin which regulates sleep and awakening. Ajna is symbolised by a lotus with two petals, and corresponds to the colour white, indigo or deep blue. Ajna's key issues involve balancing the higher & lower selves and trusting inner guidance. Ajna's inner aspect relates to the access of intuition. Emotionally, Ajna deals with clarity on an intuitive level
(Note: some opine that the pineal and pituitary glands should be exchanged in their relationship to the Crown and Brow chakras, based on the description in Arthur Avalon's book on kundalini called Serpent Power or empirical research.)
Vishuddha: The Throat Chakra
Vishuddha (also Vishuddhi) may be understood as relating to communication and growth through expression. This chakra is paralleled to the thyroid, a gland that is also in the throat and which produces thyroid hormone, responsible for growth and maturation. Symbolised by a lotus with sixteen petals. Vishudda is characterized by the color light or pale blue, or turquoise. It governs such issues as self-expression and communication, as discussed above. Physically, Vishuddha governs communication, emotionally it governs independence, mentally it governs fluent thought, and spiritually, it governs a sense of security.
Anahata: The Heart Chakra
Anahata, or Anahata-puri, or padma-sundara is related to the thymus, located in the chest. The thymus is an element of the immune system as well as being part of the endocrine system. It produces the T cells responsible for fending off disease and may be adversely affected by stress. Anahata is symbolised by a lotus flower with twelve petals. Anahata is related to the colours green or pink. Key issues involving Anahata involve complex emotions, compassion, tenderness, unconditional love, equilibrium, rejection and well being. Physically Anahata governs circulation, emotionally it governs unconditional love for the self and others, mentally it governs passion, and spiritually it governs devotion
Manipura: The Solar Plexus Chakra
Manipura or manipuraka is related to the metabolic and digestive systems. Manipura is believed to correspond to Islets of Langerhans, which are groups of cells in the pancreas, as well as the outer adrenal glands and the adrenal cortex. These play a valuable role in digestion, the conversion of food matter into energy for the body. Symbolised by a lotus with ten petals. The colour that corresponds to Manipura is yellow. Keys issues governed by Manipura are issues of personal power, fear, anxiety, opinion-formation, introversion, and transition from simple or base emotions to complex. Physically, Manipura governs digestion, mentally it governs personal power, emotionally it governs expansiveness, and spiritually, all matters of growth.
Svadisthana: The Sacral Chakra
Swadhisthana, Svadisthana or adhishthana is located in the sacrum (hence the name) is considered to correspond to the testes or the ovaries that produce the various sex hormones involved in the reproductive cycle. Svadisthana is also considered to be related to, more generally, the genitourinary system and the adrenals. The Sacral Chakra is symbolized by a lotus with six petals, and corresponds to the colour orange. The key issues involving Svadisthana are relationships, violence, addictions, basic emotional needs, and pleasure. Physically, Svadisthana governs reproduction, mentally it governs creativity, emotionally it governs joy, and spiritually it governs enthusiasm
Muladhara: The Base Chakra
Muladhara or root chakra is related to instinct, security, survival and also to basic human potentiality. This centre is located in the region between the genitals and the anus. Although no endocrine organ is placed here, it is said to relate to the gonads and the adrenal medulla, responsible for the fight and flight response when survival is under threat. There is a muscle located in this region that controls ejaculation in the sexual act of the human male. A parallel is charted between the sperm cell and the ovum where the genetic code lies coiled and the kundalini. Muladhara is symbolised by a lotus with four petals and the colour red. Key issues involve sexuality, lust and obsession. Physically, Muladhara governs sexuality, mentally it governs stability, emotionally it governs sensuality, and spiritually it governs a sense of security.
Woodroffe also describes 7 head chakras (including Ajna and Sahasrara) in his other Indian text sources. Lowest to highest they are: Talu/Talana/Lalana, Ajna, Manas, Soma, Brahmarandra, Sri (inside Sahasrara), Sahasrara.
Chakras and conventional medical science
Modern anatomy and histological science has yet to suggest any indication of the existence of either chakras or meridians. Furthermore, practitioners of energy healing or crystal therapy have yet to provide a theory as to how inert crystals would influence the physiology of a patient. Finally, clinical trials of acupuncture have shown its effect not to be better than that of a placebo treatment, and studies by sceptics such as Emily Rosa demonstrated the inability of energy healers to detect 'energy fields' At this point, no objective evidence exists to suggest that chakras, acupuncture, energy healing, therapeutic touch or any related form of healing is based on anything more than mild hypnotism and placebo effect.
- You are Clairvoyant - Developing the secret skill we all have
- The Practical Sanskrit Dictionary, ISBN 81-208-0567-4
- History of the Tantric Religion, ISBN 81-7304-025-7
- The Twilight Language: Explorations in Buddhist Meditation and Symbolism, ISBN 0-312-82540-4
- Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Grammar and Dictionary, ISBN 81-208-0999-8
- An Introduction to Hinduism, Cambridge University Press , ISBN 0-521-43878-0
- Studies on the Tantras, ISBN 81-85843-36-8
- Healing with Form, Energy, and Light, ISBN 1559391766
- Kundalini Yoga, ISBN 81-7052-052-5
- Tibetan Relaxation. The illustrated guide to Kum Nye massage and movement - A yoga from the Tibetan tradition, ISBN 978-1-84483-404-4
- The Serpent Power, ISBN 0-486-23058-9
Traditional secondary sources and commentary
- Banerji, S. C. Tantra in Bengal. Second Revised and Enlarged Edition. (Manohar: Delhi, 1992) ISBN 81-85425-63-9
- Shyam Sundar Goswami, Layayoga: The Definitive Guide to the Chakras and Kundalini, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980.
Derivative sources, Western and interpretive literature
- Leadbeater, C.W. The Chakras Wheaton, Illinois, U.S.A.:1926--Theosophical Publishing House--Picture of the Chakras on plates facing page 17 as claimed to have been observed by Leadbeater with his third eye Full text of the book “The Chakras” by C.W. Leadbeater with color illustrations of the chakras: ISBN 0973537930 
- Guru Dharam S Khalsa and Darryl OKeeffe. The Kundalini Yoga Experience New York, NY U.S.A.:2002, Fireside, Simon & Schuster, Inc. Copyright by Baia Books Limited. Kriyans and meditations copyright Yogi Bhajan, All Rights reserved.
- Eastern Body Western Mind: Psychology And The Chakra System As A Path To The Self. Berkeley, California, USA: Celestial Arts Publishing. ISBN 0-89087-815-3
- Kundalini Shakti: Explanation of the Seven Chakras 
- Sites related to chakra at the Open Directory Project.
- The Chakra Bible, Patricia Mercier, Octopus Publishing Group Ltd., 2007, p. 12.