The symbols of the chakras form the basis for many of the advanced practices of yoga. For these practices, you need to be familiar with the names, colours and shapes of the chakras. Of course, it is not strictly necessary that you visualize only these particular symbols throughout your practice. Your experience and your visualization of the chakras can be different according to your choice. But the symbols that I am about to describe are the traditional ones, and they have a scientific meaning as well as a sacred history behind them.
There are three gunas, or qualities - rajo guna, tamo guna and sato guna, and all three are present in the chakras. However, in certain chakras there are more tamo guna qualities, fewer rajasic ones, and even fewer sattvic. Other chakras are more rajasic, less tamasic or more sattvic.
Each chakra also contains innumerable other faculties. For example, you might have heard that when mooladhara chakra begins to awaken, certain instinctive feelings or emotions are aroused. Likewise, when swadhisthana chakra begins to awaken, all the faculties concerning sexuality, jealousy, hatred and so on come up. And when anahata begins to awaken, one feels more compassion, love, sympathy, equality, etc.
When manipura begins to awaken, the vasanas associated with food become very powerful. People experience strong desires to eat, to taste different foods, to look at food or hear about it, or to enjoy other material things. During this period of time, the consciousness is thinking about these objects of desire all the time, about enjoying and exhausting them. So in mooladhara, swadhisthana and manipura, you feel like enjoying and indulging the senses, without ever thinking about having to transcend them.
It is not possible to predict which faculty of which chakra will awaken, and when. Perhaps one faculty of mooladhara and another faculty of swadhisthana will awaken at the same time. Then what will happen? Or if two faculties of manipura and two faculties of ajna awaken together, what will happen? Your vasanas will say, 'Oh! Good food, good house, good wife, good children, enjoyable life.' And the detached awareness in ajna will say, 'Oh, these things are rubbish; they are illusion. I do not want them; they are all taking me deeper into the maya.' So there is conflict.
This second voice is the wisdom which is speaking, but the human urges always say the opposite. Therefore, at these times a guru is most necessary for every human being. This means having an external guru, not merely saying arrogantly, 'The guru is within me,' because usually you are not able to consult the inner guru, and most of the time he does not reply.
The chakras keep awakening any time and all the time. Not necessarily only through the practice of kriya yoga, but through pranayama or asana they may also awaken. They can awaken even due to eating, walking or talking too much. They can be awakened in so many ways, by social activities as well as by personal sadhana. They are being opened and awakened all the time. This process begins right from our birth and even before, and it will continue after our death too. By practising tantra, yoga and tapasya, we are trying to accelerate this awakening. You cannot rely on nature for total awakening because you can never know whether it will take you up or down. It is only for this reason that we use the techniques of tantra and yoga to open and awaken the chakras fully.
The chakras are symbolized by lotus flowers, each with a different number of petals. There is only one exception, which I will discuss later.
The first chakra is mooladhara, located within the spinal cord at the tail-bone. Its symbol is a four petalled deep red lotus. Next is swadhisthana, at the third disc of the spine; it is a vermilion lotus with six petals. Manipura, behind the navel within the spinal cord, is a ten petalled yellow lotus. Then comes anahata, behind the heart in the spinal cord - a twelve petalled blue lotus.
Vishuddhi, behind the throat, is a sixteen petalled purple lotus, and ajna is a grey or cream coloured lotus with only two petals.
Then comes bindu - the one chakra that is not a lotus. Bindu means 'point' or 'dot'. Bindu is like the full moon in the night sky - big, round and golden. Finally comes sahasrara, a thousand petalled red lotus.
The chakra symbols are actually much more complex than this. There are particular animals, elements and sounds which can be found in the lotus petals, above the flower, in the stem, and also at the root of the stem. Each chakra has its own mantra, and the individual petals of each chakra have their own mantras as well. They are always vibrating, each petal producing a different syllable.
In each chakra, different deities also reside, which can be awakened or known through the mantra. These deities have certain forms, colours and qualities, but at this stage they would be too complicated for you to understand. They can only be intuited after you have learned and practised kriya yoga, and your consciousness is prepared to understand and accept them.
Now we will try to concentrate on the colours and petals of the chakras, and we will try to visualize them.
Please be seated in one of the meditative poses.
Sit in padmasana, siddhasana, vajrasana or sukhasana, whichever you can maintain easily, without discomfort, for fifteen to twenty minutes.
Remove your eyeglasses and close your eyes and mouth.
Rest your hands lightly on the knees, with the elbows relaxed.
The fingers should be in chin or gyana mudra, with the index fingers at the root of the thumbs, and the other three fingers together and straight, but not stretched.
The back and the head should be straight, but at the same time, there should be no tensing or tightening in any part of the body.
See that the head, back and spine are in one straight line.
Neither raise the shoulders nor lower them.
Do not lean the head to either side.
Keep absolute consciousness and awareness of the instructions, and try to visualize the chakras described, at their correct location.
First, take your consciousness to mooladhara, at the seat of the perineum. Visualize mooladhara chakra as a four petalled dark red lotus.
Then visualize swadhisthana chakra, a six petalled vermilion lotus, at the bottom of the spinal cord.
Manipura, a yellow lotus with ten petals, behind the navel.
Anahata, a blue lotus with twelve petals, behind the heart.
Vishuddhi, a purple lotus with sixteen petals, behind the throat.
Ajna, a grey coloured lotus with two petals, behind the eyebrow centre.
Bindu, like the full moon, a golden moon at the top back of the head.
Sahasrara, a thousand petalled bright red lotus at the crown of the head.
Please go on visualizing each of them in turn, one after the other, going from mooladhara up to sahasrara, and from sahasrara back down to mooladhara. Train your consciousness to visualize the chakra symbols in their correct position. Be careful not to visualize the symbol of vishuddhi at swadhisthana, or the symbol of mooladhara at anahata.
Visualize Mooladhara, a four petalled dark red lotus; Swadhisthana, a six petalled vermilion lotus; Manipura, a ten petalled yellow lotus; Anahata, a twelve petalled blue lotus; Vishuddhi, a sixteen petalled purple lotus; Ajna, a two petalled grey lotus; Bindu, like the full moon; Sahasrara, a thousand petalled bright red lotus.
Please try to visualize the symbol of each chakra. You have to remember them for the future. Keep yourself alert and aware of the lotus symbols - how they look, their shape and colour, their root and their stem.
In each of the chakras try to find the pericarp at the centre of the flower, where the petals are joined to the stem. Within that centre section of the flower is a written mantra.
Of course, these mantras are primarily sounds, but they are also Sanskrit syllables, written in Devanagri script. There is a different mantra, with a different sound, for each chakra.
The sound belonging to Mooladhara chakra is Lam; Swadhisthana, Vam; Manipura, Ram; Anahata, Yam; Vishuddhi, Ham; Ajna, Om.
Actually, there are three sounds associated with Ajna. From left, to centre, to right, they are Ham, Om and Ksham.
Bindu is the point from which sound emanates. It is the creator of all sound or vibration, but in itself, it is soundless.
And Sahasrara also has no sound. So inside the four petals of the mooladhara lotus is written the mantra Lam;
Inside the six vermilion petals of the swadhisthana lotus is Vam; Inside the ten yellow petals of the manipura lotus is Ram; Inside the twelve petalled blue lotus of anahata is Yam; Inside the sixteen petalled purple lotus of vishuddhi is Ham; Inside ajna are Ham, Om and Ksham, on a two petalled grey lotus.
Then comes bindu, the soundless centre, without colour or form.
Finally, the thousand petalled bright red lotus of sahasrara.
Please remember them again...
Now become aware of your physical body seated on the floor. Become aware of the whole environment. Become aware that you have been practising meditation on the symbols of the chakras.
Hari Om Tat Sat.
Please inhale deeply, and while exhaling, chant Om.