Watching “The Guru” from Avatar (one of my favorite episodes) inspired me to study some essential principles from Taoism, Hinduism and Buddhism. Though I do not agree with many of their foundational teachings, I find some of their philosophies and basic principles very insightful. Truth can be found anywhere if we are willing to seek it. One of the reasons I enjoy studying history is because I am able to find bits of light and truth in diverse places.
Now, for this post I wanted to focus on the concept and application of chakras. In many Eastern religions, chakras are energy points in the spiritual self (soul). Nadi, or energy channels, connect these energy points where a person’s prana or life force flows (also know as vital energy). Though there are many chakras discussed throughout varied Indian scripture, there are seven which most consider to be the most important.
It is important to remember that there are hundreds perhaps thousands of variations and denominations of Eastern religions and philosophies. Much like Christianity, they are connected by basic principles which differ in detail and interpretation. Though I use the term Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism I speak of a general set of ideas and similar beliefs which bind them.
The ideas of chakras date as far back as the creation of the Upanishads but became concrete when the Buddhist Hevajira Tantra developed a hierarchy for chakras which would lead to enlightenment through disciplined practice. This idea of slowly becoming closer to enlightenment by traveling up the body is a universal concept in Hinduism as well.
Hindu temples are built based on the human body. Starting at the feet (the entrance to the temple) and eventually arriving at the crown of the head (the highest temple tower) one journeys through the hierarchy of human pursuits: artha (property and wealth), kama (pleasure and sex), dharma (virtues and ethical life) and moshka (release and self-knowledge).
This idea is not so different in Christianity. When I went through Chartres cathedral near Paris every part of the chapel was dedicated to Man’s spiritual journey. The farther in the cathedral someone travels the closer they come to spiritual cleansing and revelation. There was even a circular maze engraved in the tiles many from my group walked through which represented man’s mortal journey back to God.
Back to chakras. In Avatar Aang meets guru Pathik who tells Aang there is a way to master the Avatar state. To do this, he takes him on a journey through the seven major chakras located throughout the body. To master it Aang needed to master himself. The Avatar state is extraordinarily powerful but whenever Aang goes into it he loses almost all control over himself as it is triggered by overwhelming, negative emotions. Each of the chakras were blocked by negative energy and attachments. To reach pure cosmic energy, each chakra needed to be released in order, without stopping.
I noticed how each chakra calls for a balance within ourselves. This balance is outlined by both a positive and negative emotion within each chakra. To maintain it, one must learn to let go and find peace within themselves. (It is ALOT more complicated then I make it sound, but this is the general idea.) I will outline each chakra to the best of my ability.
First, the earth (root) chakra located at the base of the spine. It represents survival and is blocked by fear. Also known as Kundalini or “the sacred fire”, it awakens and quickens the other chakras. Earth is the foundation for life and the beginning of man’s spiritual journey. All of life depends on it to exist.
Why is it blocked by fear? Fear is an emotion triggered when a person feels they are threatened, in danger or in pain. It means a person loses control over their own survival and questions their ability to choose rationally and confidently. But fears can be controlled and must be let go before one can enjoy life.
Second, the water (sacrel) chakra located in the lower abdomen. It represents pleasure and is blocked by guilt. Also referred to in Sanskrit as Svadhisthana or “sweetness”, it is perhaps the hardest to control. Though ambiguous in the show, it is literally located in the pelvic area, the center of passion and pleasure. (This means all of life’s pleasures, not just sexual.)
Why would it be blocked by guilt? It is not only the hardest to control but also the most difficult to understand. There are two extremes connected to pleasure: rejection and over indulgence. Popular media practically glorifies sexual “freedom” and excessive behavior. However, the horrible consequences to this irrational and undisciplined behavior are extensive for others and ourselves.
But one can also hurt themselves by rejecting this part of their body and nature. The trick is learning to balance it. If one loses control, leading to guilt (regret, remorse and self-condemnation) it is important to accept all of ourselves and that we have made mistakes.
Third, the fire (solar plexus) chakra located in the stomach. It deals with willpower and is blocked by shame. Also referred to as Manipura or “lustrous gem”, it is the center of self-confidence, personal drive and personal power. Another way to look at it is as our inner fire, or zeal which gives one the motivation to grow and progress.
Why is it blocked by shame? Shame is antithetical to confidence. It denotes a loss of self esteem and respect as well as humiliation and dishonor. These personal disappointments keep one locked in place, ashamed and lost. In order to break from this, a person needs to accept these things happened and let them go. For, though they cannot be changed they can be overcome.
Fourth, the air chakra located in the heart. It deals with love and is blocked by grief. Literally known as Anahata or “unstruck” (unhurt, unbeaten) it is where we develop personal bonds or connections with others as well as compassion, kindness and respect. As such, it is also the healing center, for love is the ultimate healer.
Why is a blocked by grief? Grief embodies a deep sense of loss or heartbreak. This usually entails the loss of a loved one to death, distance or hatred. Such mental suffering, especially in regards to death builds an illusion of permanent separation. It is important to remember that love is a form of energy and still binds us to those we have lost. It also means it recreates itself in the form of new love.
Fifth, the sound chakra located in the throat. It represents truth and is blocked by lies, specifically lies we tell ourselves. Known formally as Vishudda or “especially pure”, it is where we cultivate and understand truth and knowledge. In learning to understand ourselves we also learn to accept who we are. It is linked directly to personal integrity and standing strong in our beliefs. But it also means learning to recognize truth in the face of personal bias.
Why is it blocked by lies? Lies are created and cultivated to destroy truth. In regards to ourselves, we hear thousands of voices who seek to convince us we are not who we are. In Hinduism especially, the Atman or our divine self is blocked by lies, especially the lies we tell ourselves. Unfortuately, they suppress our understanding of ourselves. Despite these lies, we must see through them and accept who we are as well as our divine nature.
Sixth, the light (brow) chakra located in the forehead. It deals with insight and is blocked by illusion. Also known as Ajna or the “third eye” it is where we gain an understanding of our higher selves (Atman) and of a greater life force. It strengthens intuition and helps us understand the meaning of life itself. In so doing, we set ourselves on the right path and become conscious of reality.
Why is it blocked by illusion? Illusions mask what is real by replacing it with something else. Regularly, these false images and understandings look a lot like reality but twisted and incomplete. Avatar specifically addressed the illusion of separation. Things we believe are separate are the same, such as people, countries and religions. Everything is connected through subtle strings whose origin is the ultimate reality/truth. It is important to not let ourselves be deceived by illusions which strive to separate us from truth and goodness.
Seventh, the thought chakra located at the crown of the head. It deals with pure cosmic energy and is blocked by earthly attachments. Formally known as Sahasrara or “thousand petaled” it is the place where one connects with the universe and ultimately God. It is how a person transcends themselves and becomes fully aware that all life is fundamentally connected. Ultimately, it is the resting place of the soul which connects the finite with the infinite.
Why is it blocked by earthly attachment? This is difficult to explain. Attachment means fastening or tying ourselves down. Since this chakra is the bridge between a person and God, if a person chooses not to reach that state because of their worldly attachments they cannot achieve enlightenment. I believe it is akin to the idea of personal revelation. If we refuse to listen or understand divine concepts because of our earthly concerns and desires we limit ourselves. Each of the Chakras required freeing ones self from negative emotions. Even the purest love can become a vice if not tempered with discipline and wisdom. Which is why one must learn to put eternal things above physical things.
Thank you for reading. I hope it has been insightful despite my limited understanding. Below, I listed my sources which you can access if you are interested.