The Vedas are the oldest Hindu scriptures. They were orally recorded by ancient sages who understood Transcendental truth, and then compiled around 1500 B.C.E. The Chakras were probably first acknowledged by the Rig Veda, in the 1500 – 1200 B.C.E.. Rig Vada mentioned Chakras, which was then prophesied as the stars of the big dipper that served as wheels of a seven-wheeled chariot.
Then, around 700 B.C, there was the writing of the Chāndogya Upanishad which was found mentioned in the City of Brahman (meaning the body), which was believed to have had a small lotus where the heart was, which then contained ether.
Proceeding this we have the Vedic Upanishads, Upanishad translates to a sitting student while receiving esoteric knowledge from a teacher, which seemed to contain the foundation of Hindu philosophies and information on the highest purpose of the Veda and their diverse traditions. They are only known due to its Vedic Corpus and their ideals were that of the spiritual core of the Hindus.
In Vedic literature, they are two written parts with a four part rig. The four parts rig are the Sama, Yajur, Atharva Samhitas and Karmakanda. Hence; the Aranyakas and the Upnishads was a section about the knowledge of Jnanakanda. Upnishads were a collection of sacred texts that forms one the foundations of Hindu Religious thoughts, which was written between 600 -300 BC. Their thought dealt primarily with the nature of humans and the universe.
There was also the Kabbalah which is thought to have been developed between 600 B.C and the 1st century C.E from an earlier tradition known as Maaseh Merkabah ( The Work of the Chariot), throughout the communities of Palestines. Through meditating they would visualize a chariot descending through the halls of heaven to commune with the divine. They would practice techniques to alter the conscious state through a process known as Maaseh Bereshet (The Work of Creation) to achieve enlightenment.
Merkabah had numerous ascetic sects and one of them were the Essenes (200 BCE – 200 CE). They were the ones who founded the first Kabbalistic monasteries at Qumran ( now Jordan) and the Nazarenes, of whom Joshua Ben Miriam ( Jesus) was believed to have been an initiate.
These particular sects were the ones known to have a major emphasis on mastering the physical postures similar to the Asanas of Yoga and on exercises designed to stimulate the etheric energy centres of the human body, which are now commonly referred to by their Sanskrit name of Chakras.
The Kabbalah believed that the key to all spiritual work is self awareness and that it begins with an exploration the physical body. They also explain that they believe that the human body has an etheric counterpart, a matrix of psychic energy which is connected at certain key points, which are known as the Chakras.
The Essenes devised the ‘Tree of Life’ as part of the method used for Meditation. This ‘Tree of Life’ comprised of seven branches of which went upwards to the sky and and seven branches which went downwards to the earth. The man would represent the trunk. They also believed that contemplation was the synthesis of the celestial and terrestrial forces within the body. Within this system they had seven angels of heaven and seven angels of the physical body. Their whole system was compatible with the Kabbalisic system’s divine attribute.
What soon followed was the Brihadâranyaka Upanishad which was later found to talk about the ‘Subtle Body’ which leads to references of Hita, now known as Nadis, meaning ‘flow’, which serves as pathways for Prana which is thought of as the Subtle Body Energy. This leads to it evolving towards the Yogatattva Upanishad, this is believed believed to be from around the second century C.E., at this stage, it was thought that there were five centers in the body which possessed a specific colour, shape and a seed in the center labelled by a Sanskrit letter.
Between the tenth and twelfth century C.E., the Kālacakra Tantra was thought to have been written explaining some of the Tantric practices of Vajrayana Buddhism. Kālacakra is thought to mean the ‘wheel of time’ and in Tantra it is believed to mean the ‘Tool for Stretching’. The word Cakra is probably derived from Sanskrit Cakra meaning “Wheel” or “Circle”. It describes activated Chakras as spinning wheels, and it describes how Kundalini can be used activate the Chakras from the bottom to the top and it is thought to translate as ‘coiled’ like a coiled snake which is wrapped around the spinal cord.
Kālacakra root tantra was first taught by the Buddha. Kālacakra means ‘Cycles of Times’ and the Kālacakra had a system which had three cycles. These cycles are external, internal and alternative. The external and internal cycles deal with time as we normally know it, while the alternative cycles are practices for gaining liberation from these two.
The structures of the external and internal cycles are in the same line with one another, similar to the parallel between macrocosm and microcosm discussed in Western philosophy. This means that the same laws that govern a universe, will also govern the atoms, govern the body and our experience of life.
The practices of the alternative cycles also follow this structure to allow us to engage with the forces of life in an efficient manner. This understanding can be distinguished with the features of the Anuttarayoga tantra method.
The Buddhists understood ‘Time’ as a definition for a measurement of change. Cyclical repeated patterns, although the events of each cycle are not completely identical. Externally, the universe passes through cosmic, astronomical, astrological and historical cycles.
Internally, the living organism passes through growing and continuous changes; hormonal, nervous system, circulatory system, ageing, growth and psychological system. Furthermore, just as the universes continuously changes and regrows, each living organism are reborn with repeated conception, growth, old age and death.
The pronunciation is known as chokrah, pronounced with ch as in chart and also the a in yoga, however, the pronunciation is found to be incorrect. The correct Sanskrit pronounciation is ‘Cha- Kra’ as in Charts and roll your ‘r’.
All the chakras are aligned in ascending order beginning at the base of the spine leading to the top of the head. They are known to associated with multiple physiological functions. One being the multiple functions of the physiological body, one of the consciousness, another being the classical elements and this leads to the function of distinguishing the characteristics. The features could be visualized as that of a lotus and each of its petals were thought to distinguish every chakra. Some traditional sources name either five, seven, eight or even eleven Chakras.
The chakras are believed to vitalise the physical body and thought to be associated with the physical interactions as well as those of emotional and mental cognition. They are considered the center force of energy or prana which is also known as shakti or chi. This pathway was thought to be named nadis. The function of the chakras is to spin and draw in this ‘Universal Life Force Energy’ to keep the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health of the body in balance. Traditional Chinese medicine also relied on a similar model of the human body as an energy system.
Bengali yogi named Purnananda Swami is believed to have been written around 1577 C.E. The writings was thought to be highly influential in Ṣaṭ Cakra Nirūpaṇa which is a tantric Hindu scripture that clearly describes the seven major Chakras.
In the Tantric texts the Sat-Cakra-Nirupana and the Padaka-Pancaka are described as emanations of consciousness from Brhaman ( body ), best described as an energy emanating from spiritualists, which the Christians describe as the ‘Halo’. This in turn led to the art as creating distinct levels of chakras.
This evolved to the Muladhara Chakra. They are therefore part of an emanation theory, like that of the Kabbalah in the west, lataif-e-sitta in Sufism or neo-platonism. The energy that was unleashed in creation was called the Kundalini which lay coiled and sleeping at the base of the spine. With the use of tantric or Kundalini forms of yoga it is thought that it arouses this type of energy. According to their teaching, this in turn rises through each chakras until union with God is achieved within the Sahasrara Chakra at the crown of the head.
India’s primary text, different Western authors, especially Theosophists have spent years translating, and trying to understand the given knowledge. New Age Writers, like the Danish author and the musician Peter Khareulff with his writing of the ‘Ringbearers’s Dairy’ and Anodia Judith with her book, ‘Wheels of Life’, have given the topic numerous subjected views on their findings.
However, due to the translation of two Indian texts, the Sat-Cakra-Nirupana and the Padaka-Pancaka which were translated by Sir John Woodroffe, alias Arthur Avalon (his translation was named ‘Serpent Powers’, 1919), his translation describes how we come to follow the shakta theory of the seven main chakras.
Although, some have argued how the evolving Western modern theory of the Chakras was not quite what was once thought as the original truth of the Chakra theories, it was however, found that the present day Indian Gurus incorporate the modern Western Chakra Theory within their system of philosophy. Clearly indicating that the translations could not have been far from the whole truth of the original theory which was once practised and which are now renowned as part of the development from the Shakta Tantra School.
The other traditional models of Chakras are based on the Chinese Medicine, Tibetan Buddhism, Jewish Kabbalah to which the different Sephiroth are sometimes associated with parts of the body, so, again, showing the similarities. In Islamic Sufism, Lataif-e-Sitta consider ‘Six Subtleties’ which are considered as part of psychospiritual ‘organs’ or faculties of sensory and super-sensory perceptions, activation of which makes a man complete, a whole person.
Hence, throughout history and the long standing claims that the philosophy of Chakra was a new modern Western cultural theory to which it did not have its place in ancient history bears no mark from the actual truth, as it seems that even in spirituality the resemblances are almost identical.