An Introduction to Foundations of the Chakra Teachings of Eastern Esoteric Traditions
By Robert Espiau M.A.
It is very easy to discover if one travels and spends time in other countries that there are widely held cultural views about Americans. It is both sad and unfortunate that Americans have a reputation for being the new Imperialists, continuing the tradition held by Great Britain, Spain, Holland and France. As true with all countries that have been involved in imperialism, exploitation becomes a subliminal side effect of the benefits of assimilating other cultures.
Because we like to think of ourselves as a melting pot, most Americans are very naïve of the differences between the economic and social structures of a culture. This is something you can only see by living and adapting to another culture radically different from your own. Part of the gradual assimilation and exploitation that Americans have been enjoying is that of Eastern teachings which they have been happily taking more easily since the sixties.
American authors and teachers have most certainly been redesigning the philosophies of the east in order to make them more comprehensible and palatable for the American mentality. This has benefits and downfalls. One of the downfalls is that many of the teachings of the East have been taken far out of the high
context learning process which involves a serious dedicated study of teachings with a teacher, to a low context, do it yourself cultural setting where a time oriented culture believes that one can master a teachings simply by reading a few books, taking a weekend seminar and then experimenting.
In the 1940’s and even until the 1980’s, yoga was associated with Eastern spirituality. However, in the last several years those who market yoga have successfully airbrushed out the spiritual roots of yoga and marketed yoga as an exercise. With celebrities doing yoga, yoga on TV, glossy magazine ads of
beautiful people doing yoga, yoga videos, yoga CD’s, yoga mats, and yoga wear, yoga has become glamorized and trendy, an appeal that rarely fails to draw in the masses. Stripped of its association with hippies, with those who made pilgrimages to India seeking out gurus, and with what was once seen as the
with vague ambiguous language or removed altogether. One method has been to change the language so that blatant Eastern terms are replaced with words that seem to refer to health or the physical body. Yoga Fit and White Lotus are examples of companies that are bringing together the American philosophy of Health, Image and Capitalism.
“Yoga Fit Training Systems”, a company that trains teachers to bring "demystified" yoga "to the masses," states that it is "fitness oriented," although it does draw on the Hindu based Ashtanga, Iyengar, and kundalini yoga practices.
Yoga Fit admits that yoga was originally designed to prepare for meditation, but that "Meditation is simply the ability to focus on one thing for an extended period of time." Actually, Eastern meditation involves much more than that, and is a spiritual practice with a specific purpose. Yoga was designed
to prepare the body for meditation; it was used to clear the body of pranic obstructions before practice, much the same as Tai chi or chi gong was used. Meditation systems use techniques to go beyond the mind so that one can be prepared to enter levels of silence and/or unite with the Absolute (God,
Brahman, the One). To describe meditation as simply focusing "on one thing" is misleading and does a great disservice to the teachings of Hinduism and yoga. As Euro-western culture begins to dismantle the practices of the east in order to utilize what feels good to them they would do themselves a great service to recognize that such practices evolved over 4000 years for reasons other than personal Image. Introduction to the Chakra Teachings of Eastern Esoteric Traditions Or
(scriptures) called Tantras. The Tantras contain the esoteric teachings regarding the awakening of Siddhi’s (Sanskrit for Supernormal powers), and ceremonial magic rituals of that you find utilized within Vajrayana Buddhism and Shivaite Hinduism. Most Tantras, and there are many, have not been translated into English from either religion. Hindu chakra references 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. The most well known scriptures related to Hindu Tantra teaching about Kundalini Yoga and the chakras are; the Satchakra Nirupana, the Yogatattva Upanishad and the Hatha Yoga Pradapika. Buddhist Tantric texts are simply not translated into English for the simple reason that, as Portland’s Lama Tashi of the Kagyu center said, “Look at what
Americans have done to Tantra and the chakra system”. Tibetan Buddhists continue to protect against the further degeneration of the dharma through making westerners go through the oral initiation process. So most of the misinterpretations and degenerative teachings that Americans are giving about Tantra come unfortunately from a few Hindu scriptures interpreted by uninitiated Americans.
Tantric texts clearly state that scripture is the necessary complement to the oral teachings one receives from the mouth of one’s guru (Blofeld, 1992). Much of this literature contains complex forms of deity worship and invocation in the form of precepts for meditation and/or complex systems for controlling the body, mind and the other dimensions of space and time.
In the fall of 1995 I went to India for 3 months in order to study Hindu and Buddhist Tantra, however I spent the majority of the time studying Buddhist Tantra as Hindu tantric yogis that I came across were either charlatans, or required large sums of money. My experiences are much reflected in a famous
article written by Michael Winn (see citation), which discusses the problems surrounding finding a teacher. I spent the majority of the time studying with the Lamas available in Dharamsala and I was fortunate enough to even have some time to study with Lama Namkhai Norbu, a Tantric master and Dzogchen teacher.
The following teachings that I will reveal are normally not taught openly but only to those initiated orally with a Tantric Master. However in order to explain the interpretations of the very complex Tantric scriptures in a brief and concise way I am compelled to explain these esoteric Vajrayana teachings in very synthetic and concrete form; Though not all the secrets are revealed in my explanation. Most everything I will explain about the Tantric system of
Kundalini is not only based upon my study with Lamas and confirmed by South American Gnostics and Shamans but through my personal knowledge and ongoing work with these practices. It can also be confirmed by reading such Tantric Buddhist teachings such as the 6 Yogas of Naropa and the Rime teachings of Jamgon Kongtrul. What I will explain does not give you a complete understanding of the working of the higher Tantras because in order to have the full understanding you would have to learn it from a teacher and practice it in order to verify what I am saying.
“There is a reason for this emphasis on an oral transmission. From the time of the Buddha up to the present day, the Buddha dharma has always been transmitted and meant to be transmitted orally, ensuring that there is a living tradition that is still imbued with the blessing and power of the original teachings. It also guards against the possibility of so-called teachers simply coming up with their own ideas. Instead, the teacher passes on a proven tradition of teachings (H.H. Lama Penor Rinpoche)”.
The chakras are an integral part of an esoteric system of teachings related to awakening the Kundalini energy and cannot be separated from this teaching. Taken by themselves without the psychological work of the elimination of the ego, stimulating the chakras can lead to dangerous results, commonly paranoia, anxiety, narcissistic personality disorder and schizophrenia. For stimulating the chakras stimulates the higher senses or faculties known as siddhis
(supernatural powers). In the last 17 years of teaching, my colleagues and I have witnessed many cases of this and were often referred clients who were having kundalini sickness or spiritual psychosis as a result of working with chakras based upon some yogis self invented system. Tibetan Buddhist Teacher and Scholar, Reginald Ray gave an interview to Dharma Life magazine where he responded to the following question:
That is a New Age understanding, which has little or nothing to do with what the chakras actually are. Although the chakras' energy is empty, we identify them with other things we know - like sexuality. But that's an interpretation. Fundamentally the lower chakra is a place of bliss, warmth and pure energy. We need to approach this area with care. At Naropa (University) in Colorado I have often met people who have been taught kundalini without the proper preparation and they report unmanageable experiences of depression, confusion, or wildness in their energy. They don't have the tools or the knowledge to handle these extreme mental states (Reginald Ray, 2005)”.
The simple explanation for this is that the chakras do not contain human emotions; rather they are the conduits of higher spiritual senses that are closed or inoperative because of lower egoic emotions. It is in fact our mundane human emotions that keep the chakras closed. Many of the psychological techniques of meditation and mindfulness are easily and safely integrated into western psychological practices, but these are not part of esoteric systems. The occult anatomy of the chakras are.
In my experience as a dharma teacher in Los Angeles for 10 years one finds a veritable laboratory to study the long term affects of spiritual psychosis that is unique in the world. I have met very few so-called clairvoyants or intuitive’s in LA that did not have deep seated psychological issues such as narcissism or paranoia. People who play around with the chakra systems fail to understand that when one stimulates the Ajna chakra, the third eye, without eliminating the subjective elements that affect perception, being the ego, one is headed towards schizophrenia.
Eventually one will awaken the power of clairvoyance but with the inability to control it at will, as the Kundalini must be awakened for this. Schizophrenics have the ability to see into other dimensions but most often they see there own particular psychological hell realm. This is the Ajna awake but being always distorted by their unconscious egoic projections. So those who experiment a little with seed mantras for the chakras will not notice this, only those who do diligent practice everyday will come to naively understand this spiritual psychosis. To understand the basis of the chakra system we must briefly understand the principle behind the Kundalini energy and how it works in conjunction with the chakras.
Every Human Being has inside them an embryo or a Seed of consciousness that must be grown, it must be encouraged, it must be fed. The consciousness that we have now is largely trapped in the mind, it is trapped in desire. The consciousness itself is an energy. It is an energy that needs to be activated. And it must be separated from the mind in order to be activated. In Zen they call the seed or embryo the Buddhata; in Tibetan Buddhism they call it Tathagatagarbha. I will refer to it simply as the Essence. It is a small spark of light, but it only shines when we know how to use it. If we ignore it, it sleeps.
The word Ego comes from Latin and means the psychological “I”. In ancient scriptures the ego is always described as being the false self with whom we are identified. Our lower nature or Self will which separates us from the Divine. The Ego is always described by the ancient masters the same way. Mohammed, Jesus, Krishna, Buddha all tell us that Lust, anger, greed, envy, laziness, vanity, pride, hatred and other negative emotions and attachments are the cause of suffering. The Ego is a false self composed of mental formations. The Buddha called these Sankharas; mental formations. You can see them in your dreams or in meditation. The Russian Philosopher Gurdjieff called them psychological I’s and Jung called them complexes. They are the root cause behind
our different behaviors. In dreams they are the people we talk with who seem real. One may even perhaps had sex with people in their dreams and it has seemed real, but it is not, it is a mental formation that is actually composed of subtle matter that traps a portion of your consciousness. In Buddha’s teaching all desire traps fragments of consciousness.
"For Buddhists, sexual intercourse can be used in the spiritual path because it causes a strong focusing on consciousness if the practitioner has firm compassion and wisdom. Its purpose is to manifest and prolong deeper levels of mind (described earlier with respect to the process of dying), in order to
put their power to use in strengthening the realization of the emptiness. Otherwise, mere intercourse has nothing to do with spiritual cultivation. When a person has achieved a high level of practice in motivation and wisdom, then even the joining of the two sex organs or so-called intercourse, does not detract from the maintenance of that person’s pure behavior..."
"Through special techniques of concentration during sex, competent practitioners can prolong very deep, subtle, and powerful states and put them to use to realize emptiness. However, if you engage in sexual intercourse within an ordinary mental context, there is no benefit." - How to Practice, Way to a Meaningful Life, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Translated by Jeffrey Hopkins
"Actually, [..] the sexual organ is utilized, but the energy movement which is taking place is, in the end, fully controlled. The energy should never be let out. This energy must be controlled and eventually returned to other parts of the body. And here we can see there is a kind of special connection with celibacy." - Quoted from "The Good Heart," H.H. the Dalai Lama
In the 6 yogas of Naropa; which are considered one of highest forms of Vajrayana Tantric Buddhist practice, one attempts to dissolve the sankharas (ego states) and free the consciousness through combining daily Mindfulness, Samatha and Vipassana Meditation and pranayama for the conservation of the Sexual energy (called in Tibetan- Tig Le). Naropa instructs that through conservation of the sexual energy one causes the secret fire, the Tummo to awaken (Mullin, 2005). Tummo is equivalent to the Hindu, Devi Kundalini, or the Christian Holy Spirit.
As the yogi meditates everyday she enters Samadhi (Jhana) and meditates on the karmic obscurations, ego states or defects that she perceives from this life and previous lives. After the comprehension of several defects each day she will then enter into the Karma Mudra practice (Sexual Connection) with an initiated Yogi or Lama. This relationship however is a consensual and monogamous one and conservation of the sexual energy is vital. Thus we find the original reason why in Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism why Lamas (a sort of higher level of monk) can marry.
...by relying upon a karmamudra as the external condition, the yogi on the high levels of the completion stage practices is led to great bliss. Here one relies upon one of the four types of mudra, such as the lotus like mudra who possesses all characteristics, has been matured by tantric initiation, and has a high degree of spiritual liberation. Such a consort is known as a mudra, or a Wisdom Lady. For this practice one must understand the oral teachings well
and have complete control of the two principal vital energies. One enters into sexual union with the mudra, which gives rise to the special innate bliss. This causes the vital energies to dissolve just as at the time of death, inducing the clear light of mind to arise with great strength. This is to be performed not only at the time of controlling the life energies, but also at the time of the three higher activities. However, this practice is extremely secret and it is not appropriate to say more here. There I will not go into greater detail.
As verse 62 of the Yogatattva Upanishad says, “By the preservation of the semen”. In the HathaYoga Pradapika it says, “By practicing to draw in the bindu, discharged during cohabitation, whether one be a man or a woman, one obtains success in the practice of Vajroli. The Yogi or Yogini who can protect his or
her bindu thus, overcomes death; because death comes by discharging bindu, and life is prolonged by its preservation (Vajroli v.6)”. “When the melting of the bodhimind substances [[[Wikipedia:sexual|sexual]] energy] is accomplished on the basis of having dissolved the energies into the central channel [of the spinal column], then the drops [of energy] can be retained at the tip of the jewel [[[Wikipedia:sexual|sexual]] organ] until the innate bliss is aroused.
central channel].In the beginning of the practice, in order to retain the drops in the jewel chakra and arouse the innate bliss, it is useful to visualize that the drops are directed into the central channel. Engage in the energy practices until this ability is achieved. Don't overly exert force. Quoted from A Practice Manual on the Six Yogas of Naropa: Taking the Practice in Hand by Jey Lama Tsongkhapa
In this practice the couple will sexually connect and begin vocalizing a series of Mantras while concentrating upon the comprehended defects. This will in turn invoke the Kundalini (Tummo) force whose sole purpose is to destroy the defects. Thus Tummo means- “she who terrifies” as seen in the following Tantric pictures:
Notice the necklaces of heads representing the different psychological I’s or defects that have been severed as well as the severed head which represents the death of the identification of ourselves with our thoughts. Each picture also contains the symbols of death and sex being simultaneous. The Tummo or Kundalini however only rises one vertebrae at a time; each vertebrae according to a specific amount of psychological defects that are eliminated from the psyche. It does not awaken all at once shooting up the spine as many modern authors claim to experience. That is what is called the
lower Kundalini or Kundabuffer. The Kundalini rises according to the merits of the heart slowly the psychological initiations. This corresponds to the 33 vertebrae of the spine and is also the hidden mystery of the 33 degrees of Freemasonry. As kundalini rises it awakens the seven higher senses contained within the chakras. These are stated in the Buddhist Tantras as having the following relationships:
Region: located between the anus and the sexual organs
Region: Prostate / Uterus
Region: Solar plexus
Region: Thyroid gland
6. Chakra: Ajna
Region: Pineal gland – the very top of the head.
These powers are cited within the Visshudhimagga, the Yogatattva Upanishad, the Satchakra Nirupana and the Yoga sutra of Patajali. Yet as the Yogatattva Upanishad says, “The king of Yogins should not exercise his powers before any person whatsoever. He should live in the world as a fool, an idiot, or a deaf man, in order to keep his powers concealed (75-77)”.
As the chakras are awakened into activity through the rising of the Kundalini they produce certain vibratory sounds that only a yogi with an awakened Kundalini can hear. These are the one syllable sounds and different from the seed syllables normally associated with the chakras in Tantric texts. They are called Bija and are mystical "seed syllables" contained with mantras. One can find a more concise explanation on this subject in the excellent text, Kundalini Yoga by Swami Sivananda Radha, student of the original Swami Sivananda.
Finally it is prudent to review that by vocalizing seed syllables or the vowels sounds one will stimulate the chakras into activity, however they can never fully awaken without the full employment of the system of self realization involving the Kundalini.
Through simply looking historically at which books were first to be published on this subject, one will certainly find that all modern books on chakra systems primarily derive their source from the Theosophist C.W. Leadbeater, over books on yoga, as he was one of the first to publish writings openly
talking of his clairvoyant and astral experiences, as well as encourage the development of such psychic powers. The chakras are a fascinating system and are touched upon in all ancient eastern religions however let us keep in mind that taking this teaching out of context and practicing it would be like someone reading a book on acupuncture and deciding that from the book they could treat their mom for heart disease with some needles at home and a meridian chart.
In conclusion, this article can only attempt to skim over the teaching of the chakra system precisely because it is rooted within a deep initiatic esoteric teaching that normally requires four to six years of preparation before one can study it within traditional schools. Though vast amounts of new age teachers are claiming that the chakras will open and awaken through a variety of techniques, they are in actuality mistaking other nadis/ meridian points
for this. Consider this information, all acupuncture points are chakras. You can verify this by asking any acupuncturist or Ayurvedic doctor. This being so it can be easy to see how one can mistake one sensation for another. If you really believe you have awakened your chakras ask your self this question; if you have opened your heart chakra can you now leave the body consciously at will? If not your mistaking a sensation for something else. Also with so many chakras on the body; i.e. acupuncture points, why are people always convinced it is one of the main seven? So you’re an advanced energy practitioner and
I hope to encourage the study of the chakras through this paper, yet through apprenticing with a competent teacher who has themselves awakened to a degree. Through showing more respect to the source scriptures that were written not by people who took week long seminars or month long yoga instructor trainings, but many years of psychological training.
evil paths in their pride of intellect. They rejoice saying, ‘We are the yogis’. They are deceived by doctrines. Such persons do not understand the Guhyasamaja, the great Communion, they do not preserve the secret as is required to maintain their vows, and they show off to all beings. They despise
their guru, who is clearly like the Buddha, and they do not honor him. They become furious in an instant and also lustful in an instant. They have intercourse with unsuitable persons such as mother, sister, and daughter. They kill father and mother an also kill other animals. Like-wise, they tell
lies and especially they commit thefts. They consort with the wives of others and commit other sorts of atrocities. They do not know the vows which are the source of wisdom. For just a little fault they immediately engage in killing. Though they apply themselves to yoga, they will not even achieve the
lowest mantras. They will always like the heterodox sciences, will be skilled in their youth, and abandoning their own vows, will behave like elephants who know no goad. They will achieve those mantras and mudras to make a living wherever they can get some profit. They will teach the dharma for personal profit. In order to protect them, the esoteric teaching is declared with ulterior intentions.”
Winn, Michael. “The Quest for Spiritual Orgasm; Daoist and Tantric Sexual Cultivation in the West.” Conference on contemporary Taoism. 2001 <http://www.healingtaousa.com/cgi-bin/articles.pl?rm=mode2&articleid=35>