The information presented here is culled from various sources and is public knowledge, but the presentation and format is specific to this site. This textfile is copyright (c) 2001 Pwyll.  All rights reserved.  This work may not be edited or altered in any way, and may not be distributed in any form other than electronic transmission.  Used here with permission.

The Chakra System

There are hundreds of chakras mapped out in the human body, but there are only six/seven that are generally dealt with as they are the main focal points of energy/consciousness--the other, lesser, chakras being much more specific and limited in application and/or use.  While there are seven "main" chakras, the Hindu only deal with six of them in literature and teaching as the seventh is beyond the scope of this reality, being the point at which the Self "intersects" with the illusion of reality, and so existing outside the confines of space and time and beyond the limitations of matter and energy.  Whether it is the allure of the number seven, so popular in Western tradition, a misunderstanding of the chakra system itself, or something else entirely, the "New Age movement," in adopting the chakras to Western systems, have attributed many things to it.  These, in the "original" system, were all attributed to Ajna, so nothing is added--and the effect of "splitting" the one chakra into two and "filling" what was (evidently) seen as a void of information effectively cuts us off from an understanding of our "true nature" in so far as how it was understood in discovering and mapping the chakras in the first place.  But it has been done in the west for many years and so has developed as a kind of tradition--and it has served many people well--so it is presented here.

This simple introduction to the functions and correspondences of the chakras provides both Vedic and "New Age" information, and tries to be clear in those places they differ--though the only significant difference is that mentioned above.  For the most part Westerners simply ignore the Sanskrit names and only note the most basic of information, which is compleatly understandable as the chakras have been studied for over a thousand years and the minutae is very rarely relevant to most people.  The only "decision" you will have to make about the information presented, other than whether it has any relevance to you at all, is whether to recombine the functions of the seventh chakra back into the six or not--and this is a decision best made through experience and contemplation.

General Introduction

The word "chakra" means "wheel," and the chakras are envisioned as spinning vortices of energy located at key points in/on the nervous system.  They both draw in and emit energy, filtering and transmuting it in the process.  They affect and are affected by both physical and spiritual health--when open and in balance the mind, body and spirit have the capability of functioning as a balanced and unified whole, but when a chakra is blocked it results in a spiritual imbalance that manifests as a physical and/or emotional illness.  Likewise, physical and emotional illnesses can create blockages or unbalance chakras.

The chakras are considered to be a part of the nervous system itself, and as such are physically located at neural concentrations of some kind.  The third, fourth and fifth chakras are located on the spinal cord itself, the sixth is located "in" the pineal gland, and the first and second are located within glands and/or nerve bundles in the pelvic region.  Viewed from the front they form a straight line, but viewed from the side they form a sort of elongated and angular S curve.

The information on the individual chakras is presented here as a sort of database.  It is formated for easy reference and comparison.  The "title" of each section is centered and is the "common" Western name for the chakra--the name you are most likely to come across in non-Vedic references.  The next item given is it's "number" within the framework of the main seven and the general New Age/Western functions associated with it.  The Sanskrit name and a more precise description of the location follows, and after that the Vedic functions of that chakra--these do not always match the Western associations exactly. Next is the colour associated with that chakra, and the traditional gemstones.  Any gems of the appropriate colour will work, but the ones listed are those whose interaction is generally considered most effective.  Next is given the "element" associated with that chakra, and while these come from the 52 rays of creation in Vedic philosophy, they do correspond very well with the classical Elements of the Western/Mediterranean Tradition.  Lastly, a brief description of how the chakra works is given, along with some of the effects that can happen if it is blocked or imbalanced.  While examples of possible physical manifestations are included at the end of each description, it is important to remember both that the list is not all-inclusive and that working with the relevant chakra alone will rarely "fix" any physical manifestations of chakra blockages.  An example would be an emotional trauma which a person found too horrible to speak about.  This would set up a blockage in the throat chakra and could result in, say, hysterical muteness.  Were this to happen, simply trying to unblock the chakra would not work unless the person seeking the blockage was able to also find and deal with the original trauma.  On the other hand, simply finding and dealing with the original trauma in the context of psychotherapy is not always sucessful, either, as blockages in the chakras can cause other imbalances and problems.

Root Chakra
First Chakra (Grounding/Security)
Sanskrit = Muladhara
Location = Perineum
Desire = Basic survival needs; Procreation; Family concerns; Creature comforts / Luxury
Color = Blood Red * Gemstone= Ruby/Garnet/Bloodstone
Element = Earth

The "Root" chakra is called such because of it's function--as the roots of a plant, the Muladhara deals with physical survival.  As the point of "entry" for energy into the system, it acts as a grounding vortex, regulates the survival instinct, and provides the drive and strength for living in the physical world.  When open and balanced it assures physical vitality and provides the emotional desire for life and propogation.  Blockages often result in ennui, or even suicidal thoughts/tendencies; imbalance can cause fatigue, suceptibility to disease, or a concentration on physical presence to the exclusion of emotional and spiritual health.

Sacral Chakra
Second Chakra (Desire/Sexuality/Procreation)
Sanskrit = Svadhis(h)thana
Location = Just behind and above the genitals
Desire = Sexuality as an expression and experience; Luxury in the sense of experiences as opposed to objects
Color= Vermillion (orange) * Gemstone= Coral
Element = Water

Once the needs for physical existence are met, the ability to enjoy that existence arises.  While copulation is necessary for survival, and so is controlled by Muladhara, coitus can be experienced purely for the sensations--or even be an expression of love or worship.  It is the desire for sexual pleasure that Svadhisthana controls, and the ability to transcend purely physical sensation that it allows.  An open and balanced sacral chakra results in desire for sensual pleasures, the ability to understand sex as more than simply the act of rutting but as the union of two individuals in a physical, emotional and spiritual sense, and the ability to transform that union into an experience of divinity/the universe itself.  Blockages in Svadhisthana can result in a lack of sexual desire and/or the inability to enjoy the sensuality of coitus while imbalance can lead to a fear of sexuality and/or nymphomania/satyrism/sexual addiction.  Physical manifestations of problems with this chakra can include impotence or priapism, or the equivalent in women.

Solar Plexus
Third Chakra (Will/Power/Balance)
Sanskrit = Manipura
Location = Navel
Desire = Strength, Fame and Immortality; Power over self and others
Color= Yellow * Gemstone=Amber/Topaz
Element = Fire

As we develop the desire to experience the World beyond the merest necessities of survival, we need the ability to seek out, find, and have those experiences.  Manipura transmutes desire into action.  The third chakra regulates our willpower and determination.  Muladhara roots us in the physical World, allowing us the same survival instincts and abilities as the plants and animals.  Svadhisthana allows us to "rise above" the animals and seek more from life than mere survival.  Manipura gives us the ability to interact as humans, to seek the power available when one finds purpose beyond simple survival.  It gives us both the desire for and the ability to attain power relative to those around us, and thus the reputation and fame that can give us immortality among ourselves.  An open and balanced solar plexus chakra gives us self-confidence, strength of will, and the desire and ability to be all that we can--to push our perceived limits and rise above them.  Blockages in the third chakra can result in self-doubt, self-recrimination, &c.  Manipura out of balance can result in over-confidence, becoming a bully, or becoming a "welcome mat."  Physical manifestations of problems with this chakra can include gastro-intestinal disorders of any kind.

Heart Chakra
Fourth Chakra (Love/Compassion/Understanding)
Sanskrit = Anahata
Location = Beside the heart
Desire = Love, both spiritual and romantic; Compassion; Empathy
Color= Green * Gemstone= Emerald/Tourmaline/Rose Quartz
Element = Air

With the ability to have power in the World comes the need to know how to use it.  Once survival in, enjoyment of, and mastery over the physical World is acheived, it becomes necessary to find out what lies beyond it.  For the first, Anahata gives us compassion, both for others and for ourselves--for the second it acts as a bridge between the "lower," or physical chakras and the "higher," or "mental/spiritual" chakras.  The bridge between the physical self and the spiritual self is the emotional self, and this is seated in the fourth chakra.  Being the central wheel of the seven greater chakras, being the bridge between physicality and spirituality, and being located in the center of our body, Anahata is the heart chakra in every sense.  When open and in balance, Anahata gives us true compassion for others, the desire to help when they need it and the wisdom to know when the best help is to let them handle things on their own.  It also allows us to see ourselves and others, and our and their actions, in the light of what we truly are, absolving ourselves of unecessary guilt and others of unecessary blame.  Anahata is the chakra of emotions.  Blockages and imbalance result in guilt, blame, disconnectedness from others, a sense of persecution or the need to persecute others, &c.  Physical manifestations of problems with this chakra can include cardio-pulmonary disorders of any kind, including blood problems.

Throat Chakra
Fifth Chakra (Communication/Creativity)
Sanskrit = Vis(h)uddha
Location = Behind the larynx
Desire = Knowledge and Communication
Color =Bright Blue * Gemstone=Turquoise
Element = Akasha

Once we can survive, desire, acquire, and empathize, we begin to understand.  Once we can be, want to be, become what we want, and realize we are not the only one, we begin to understand what we are, and to learn to communicate with those others that are.  We are, we enjoy, we gather what we enjoy, we realize we are not alone in our existence, desire or need--and we learn to create.  Visuddha is the vortice that controls communication and creativity.  The lower chakras deal with needs, the heart chakra allows us to recognize others as ourselves and with similar needs, and Visuddha lets us gather that information, process it, and communicate it to those others.  It lets us gather information through the lower chakras, understand it through the heart chakra and create from it something new.  When open and in balance, Visuddha lets us understand old information in a new light, gather new information and understand it, create beauty, and communicate all.  Visuddha is the intellectual/mental chakra.  Blockages and imablance in the throat chakra can cause the inability or refusal to communicate effectively, the inability or refusal to understand ideas and the inability or refusal to create or recognize the creation of others.  Physical manifestations of problems with this chakra can include any disorder of the eyes, ears, nose or throat, including hysterical muteness.

Brow Chakra
Sixth Chakra (Psychic Center/Intuition)
Often called "Third Eye Chakra"
Sanskrit = Ajna
Location = Center of brain, level with ridge of the brow
Desire = Wisdom and Understanding; Perception, both physical and occult
Color = Indigo * Gemstone=Lapis/Quartz
Element = Mahat (reality; as opposed to Maya, illusion)

With the ability to live in, enjoy and control the physical World, the ability to empathize and communicate with others in a way that can "transcend" what was hitherto seen as the constraints of the physical World, and the ability to create things new to the physical World, comes the recognition that there is something beyond the physical World and the need to perceive it.  Ajna allows us to perceive what is hidden from our physical senses, and allows us to understand it.  The brow chakra is the seat of intuition, our "third eye" gives us our psychic awareness.  Ajna is the chakra of spirit.  Blockages here usually simply mean that one is unable to tap into the wonder and joy that resides "within" and "behind" the physical world, though severe blockages can result in what is seen by others as being "spiritually sick" or "dead inside."  Imbalances in the brow chakra generally result in either pursuit of the spiritual to the exclusion of the World, or in denial of the spiritual aspects of the World.  Physical manifestations of problems with this chakra can include brain disorders, physical or mental/emotional.

Crown Chakra
Seventh Chakra  (Thought/Understanding/Spiritual Center)
Sanskrit = None, the seventh chakra is beyond language
Location = Just above the center of the top of the skull
Desire = The seventh chakra is beyond desire, it is the seat of the Self itself, the true "you" that is beyond knowledge, wisdom, understanding, individuality or individuation; it is the intersection of absolute reality and the ability to  experience this reality; it is the location of "Nirvana;" it is the All in which nothing exists because there is no seperation
Color = Clear and/or Violet * Gemstone= Amethyst/Diamond

To the Vedic system from which the map of the chakras come, the seventh chakra is that point at which the World and the Reality that is beyond reality meet.  This World is an illusion, composed of the false duality of matter and energy and creating the false impressions of time and space.  In absolute Reality there is only "be"ing in which nothing can exist since the existence of anything is only in relation to what it is not.  "Nirvana" is unity of everything that therefor transcends existence itself, and the only way to experience anything is to create the illusion of seperation.  That illusion is this World and reality is the seventh chakra.  While it can be tapped into, and thus experiences for very short times, which seem in themselves to be eternity, naturally, it cannot be opened as that would result in "losing" this world compleatly.  As such, it is always "blocked" in that sense, and always "in balance."  It is outside the realm of chakra work as it represents the giving up of that necessity.

To New Agers and most other Westerners, however, it represents our conscious and unconscious thought structure - our belief system.  This chakra crowns our whole system.  The key to the wisdom within this chakra is the understanding of the inter-penetrating harmony of everything we have explored thus far, everything that we will ever explore, and creating and maintaining a perfect balance of the other six greater chakras.  The seventh chakra is the seat of enlightenment and the center and source of consciousness itself, as opposed to the Consciouness it represents to Vedic philosophy.