Chakras were first documented in the the Vedas thousands of years ago. Today, Chakras are a well-known term, thanks to yoga, Ayurvedic medicine and New Age crazies such as myself. However, the concept of Chakras has been twisted and compromised in so many ways – kind of like that Telephone Game (also creepily known as “Chinese Whispers” in other countries) in which people whisper their own interpretations of the original phrase and the end result is often strikingly different. In order to understand the Chakras, I feel it is important to understand the belief/science and history behind them. In Part I, I explained the Aural bodies and which Chakra they each correlate with. Here in Part II, I explain the history behind the development of the concept of Chakras. In Part III, I will explain each Chakra a little more in depth, explaining what happens when they are either taken care of or neglected.
A Brief History
Originally called “Cakras” in the Vedas, the Chakras are a concept that took a shitload of time to fully understand – around 30 centuries, from the first mention of them in the Vedas written about 1400 B.C.E., to a yogic text explaining Chakras in depth that was written about 1600 C.E.. Furthermore, knowledge of the Chakras continued to be explained more in depth in the centuries following. The Vedas are the oldest Hindu scriptures. They were orally recorded by ancient sages who understood Transcendental truth, and then compiled circa 1500 B.C.E.. Chakras were first acknowledged in the Rigveda (c. 14th century B.C.E.) and mentioned Cakras to be the stars of the big dipper that served as wheels of a seven-wheeled chariot.
Following that, the Vedic Upanishads (Upanishad translates to a sitting student while receiving esoteric knowledge from a teacher) contain the foundation of Hindu philosophies and information on the highest purpose of the Veda. The Chāndogya Upanishad (c. 7th century B.C.E.) mentioned the City of Brahman (the body) to have a small lotus where the heart is, which then contained ether.
“Within the city of Brahman, which is the body, there is the heart, and within the heart there is a little house. This house has the shape of a lotus, and within it dwells that which is to be sought after, inquired about, and realized. What then is that which, dwelling within this little house, this lotus of the heart, is to be sought after, inquired about, and realized?” (Chandogya Upanishad 8:1:1, 2)
Estimated to have been written shortly after the Chāndogya Upanishad circa 700 B.C.E., the Brihadâranyaka Upanishad talks about the Subtle Body. If you remember Part I of the Chakras, you would remember that the Etheric Body (one of the Subtle Bodies) is where our Chakras reside. Here in this text, you will also find reference to Hita, now known as Nadis (meaning “flow”), which serve as pathways for Prana (Subtle Body energy). In the Yogatattva Upanishad (c. 2nd century C.E.), there are five centers in the body which possess a specific color, shape and a seed in the center labeled by a Sanskrit letter.
Fast-forward to 10th century C.E., the Kālacakra Tantra (Kālacakra meaning “wheel of time” and Tantra meaning “tool for stretching”) was written explaining some of the Tantric practices of Vajrayana Buddhism. It describes activated Chakras as spinning wheels, how Kundalini (meaning “coiled” like a snake and is wrapped around the spinal cord) can be used activate the Chakras from bottom to top. Kālacakra root tantra was first taught by Buddha – apparently at two places at once – after being asked to teach others how to practice Dharma (cosmic law and order, according to Buddhism) without renouncing worldly responsibilities.
Lastly, written by a Bengali yogi named Purnananda Swami around 1577 C.E., the highly influential Ṣaṭ Cakra Nirūpaṇa is a tantric Hindu scripture that clearly describes the seven major Chakras. This text was introduced to the West as The Serpent Power in 1919 C.E. when it was translated by an Englishman by the name of Arthur Avalon.
Now that you have an idea of how much thought, meditation and work was put into what we know about Chakras today, let’s talk about how to put it in to practice! In Part III, that is 🙂