by Sharon Gannon |
October, 2001

The evolution of consciousness through the doors of perception

The Sanskrit word chakra means wheel. A wheel rolls, turns and, by means of cyclic or circular movement, takes one on a journey. This journey occurs in space and time, and thus it is eventful, but it also may propel the traveler beyond the limits of time and space. Who is this traveler we speak of? Consciousness is the traveler.

Kundalini is a Sanskrit term (literally meaning “coiled snake”) referring to this consciousness, which is identified with the jiva (individual soul). So it is not super-consciousness, but the limited consciousness of an unrealized soul.

Kundalini is moved from a dormant state by life’s experiences. The desire for experience propels the soul. Like the flames of fire, this journey moves upward. The soul is always moving toward super-consciousness, or the enlightened state, whether it is aware of its destination or not. But awareness can accelerate the awakening.

The various levels of cognition that kundalini goes through to gain consciousness are referred to as chakras. With the ascent of consciousness, perception expands. The journey is an evolving one, and with each new level of awareness gained, the previous chakra continues to function and expand.

Consciousness lies dormant at the root center or base of the spine. This is the site of muladhara chakra. Mula means root. The priority here is physical preservation. When you perceive reality from this level, you are concerned mainly with the basic necessities of life: food, shelter and safety. Money is a prime interest. Grounding in the material world is necessary if one is to move upward toward full spiritual realization.

Once the basic needs and responsibilities are taken care of, consciousness evolves toward sexual and creative expression, which is what the second level, swadhisthana chakra, is concerned with. This creative expression can be in the form of art and/or procreation. After there is creative experience then comes the identification with ego and the quest for power, which is the concern of the third chakra: manipura.

This force can manifest itself as the quest for worldly success through the acquisition of wealth or fame, or by trying to control others or the environment. Most souls spend their entire lives without ever evolving their consciousness past these three chakras, or levels of awareness. Those who do so are motivated by a desire to be of benefit to others. Compassion, not selfishness, guides their lives, and then consciousness is said to reside in the heart or the anahata chakra.

The knowing principle begins to perceive the interconnectedness of being. Compassion fuels consciousness in this chakra. Many saints live in the heart; it is a very elevated level for consciousness. When consciousness continues its ascent upward, it moves into the vishuddha chakra, the seat of expression of the higher wisdom, the wisdom of harmony and alignment with the Divine Self. All actions are motivated by good intention and a desire to embody peace and to express the highest potential of life.

From this place of eloquence, consciousness evolves to the abode of transcendental joy, the ajna chakra or third-eye center. In this, the clearest form of perception, duality is transcended and Oneness is perceived. From this perception of Oneness, consciousness ascends to the sahasrara or crown chakra. This is the thousand-petaled lotus. Here there is no longer perception of ultimate reality but the knowing and being of ultimate reality. All senses are merged into the very source from which all senses originate. When consciousness attains this state of perception there is no longer anything to perceive; there is only super-consciousness, which brings about mukti or liberation from all avidya (misidentification), resulting in samadhi (the goal of yoga), the highest joy: eternal ecstasy.

The following is an easy-reference chart for understanding the chakra system. Keep in mind that even though physical locations and organs may be cited, the chakras exist in the astral body. Chakras are affected most directly through sound current and vibration. Mantra is a potent yogic method for purifying the chakras and promoting the ascent of consciousness. Asanas, due to their ability to directly stimulate the endocrine glands, are another potent method used for chakra cleansing.

# Chakra Corresponding location Associated glands Element Sense Bija mantra
1. Muladhara perineum suprarenal earth smell LAM
2. Swadisthana below the navel gonads,
water taste VAM
3. Manipura solar plexus pancreas,
fire sight RAM
4. Anahata heart thymus air touch YAM
5. Vishuddha throat thyroid ether hearing HAM
6. Ajna between eyes pineal akasha OM
7. Sahasrara crown of the head pituitary akasha OM

-Sharon Gannon