The Real Story On the Chakras By Christopher Wallis from Feb 2016
I found this article on the internet, and really want to share it’s content! I hope you enjoy. Here are his 6 points… go to his blog to read the complete article!
The Six Most Important Things You’ve Never Known about the Chakras
Over the past hundred plus years, the concept of the chakras, or subtle energy centers within the body, has seized the Western imagination more than virtually any other teaching from the yoga tradition. Yet, as with most other concepts deriving from Sanskrit sources, the West (barring a handful of scholars) has almost totally failed to come to grips with what the chakras meant in their original context and how one is supposed to practice with them. This post seeks to rectify that situation to some extent. If you’re short on time, you can skip the contextual comments I’m about to make and go straight to the list of the six fundamental facts about the chakras that modern yogis don’t know. (See the postscript for a precise definition of ‘chakra’.)
First let me clarify that by ‘the West’ I mean not only Euro-American culture but also the aspects of modern Indian culture that are informed by the Euro-American culture matrix. Since at this point it is nearly impossible to find a form of yoga in India not influenced by Euro-American ideas about it, when I use the term ‘Western’ I include all the teachings on yoga in India today that exist in the English language.
Okay, I’ll give it to you straight: for the most part, Western yoga understands almost nothing about the chakras that the original creators of the concept thought was important about them. If you read a book like Anodea Judith’s famous Wheels of Life or other books inspired by it, you are not reading a work of yoga philosophy but of Western occultism, based on three main sources: 1) earlier works of Western occultism that borrow Sanskrit terms without really understanding them (like Theosophist C.W. Leadbeater’s The Chakras, 1927); 2) John Woodroffe’s flawed 1918 translation of a text on the chakras written in Sanskrit in 1577; and 3) 20th-century books by Indian yoga gurus which are themselves based on sources 1) and 2). Books on the chakras based on sound comprehension of the original Sanskrit sources exist only in the scholarly world.
‘But does that matter?’ yogis ask me. ‘I’ve benefited so much from Anodea Judith’s book and others like it, don’t take that away from me!’ I won’t and I can’t. Whatever benefit you’ve received, from whatever source, is real if you say it is. I’m just here to tell you two things: first, that when modern Western authors on the chakras tell you they are presenting ancient teachings, they’re lying—but they don’t know that they are, because they can’t assess the validity of their source materials (since they don’t read Sanskrit). Second, for those who are interested, I’m here to let you know a little bit about what yogic concepts mean in their original context (because I’m a Sanskrit scholar, and a meditator who happens to prefer the traditional forms). Only you can assess whether that is of any benefit to you. I’m not claiming that older is intrinsically better. I’m not trying to imply there’s no spiritual value to Western occultism. I’m just approximating the historical truth in simple English words as best I can. So I’ll get on with it now: the six fundamental facts about the chakras that modern yogis don’t know. (Again, please see the p.s. at the bottom for a definition of what a chakra is.)
1. THERE’S NOT JUST ONE CHAKRA SYSTEM IN THE ORIGINAL TRADITION, THERE ARE MANY.
To read each of these bullets, please go to the original blog: The Real Story On the Chakras By Christopher Wallis from Feb 2016
2. THE CHAKRA SYSTEMS ARE PRESCRIPTIVE, NOT DESCRIPTIVE.
3. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL STATES ASSOCIATED WITH THE CHAKRAS ARE COMPLETELY MODERN AND WESTERN.
4. THE SEVEN-CHAKRA SYSTEM POPULAR TODAY DERIVES NOT FROM A SCRIPTURE, BUT FROM A TREATISE WRITTEN IN 1577.
5. THE PURPOSE OF A CHAKRA SYSTEM IS TO FUNCTION AS A TEMPLATE FOR NYĀSA.
6. THE SEED-MANTRAS THAT YOU THINK GO WITH THE CHAKRAS ACTUALLY GO WITH THE ELEMENTS THAT HAPPEN TO BE INSTALLED IN THOSE CHAKRAS.
This is still mostly uncharted territory. So when it comes to the chakras, don’t claim you know. Tell your yoga students that every book on the chakras presents only one possible model. Nothing written in English is really authoritative for practitioners of yoga. So why not hold more gently the beliefs you’ve acquired about yoga, even while you keep learning? Let’s admit we really don’t understand these ancient yoga practices yet; and instead of seeking to be an authority on some oversimplified version of them, you can invite yourself and your students to look more clearly, more honestly, more carefully, and more non-judgmentally at their own inner experience.
After all, everything that every yoga master ever experienced is in you, too.
Like this post but you want something more practical for your spiritual life? Check out this post on the Power of Subtle Impressions (samskāras). Some people have called it ‘revelatory’. And please sign up for my newsletter!
Postscript: This post is getting a wider circulation than I’m used to, and some people who don’t know me interpret my wry tone as arrogance or sarcasm. In fact, I’m a real softie at heart. Please read my bio so that you can assess my qualifications to make the statements that I do. And if you’re in the Bay Area or Colorado, come out to one of my live teaching events!
Postscript #2: Someone pointed out that I didn’t offer an actual definition of a chakra in this post. So here it is: “In the Tantric traditions, chakras (Skt. cakra) are focal points for meditation within the human body, visualized as structures of energy resembling discs or flowers at those points where a number of nāḍīs or meridians converge. They are conceptual structures yet are phenomenologically based, since they tend to be located where human beings experience emotional and/or spiritual energy, and since the form in which they are visualized reflects visionary experiences had by meditators.”