The System of Chakras according to Goraksanath
The following article, called “System of Chakras according to Gorakshanatha,” by the esteemed tantrik scholar Gopinath Kaviraj, first appeared in the Princess of Wales Sarasvati Bhavan Series, Vol II, 1923, and is consequently out of print. Words which were in Sanskrit in the original article have been converted to the iTrans format. Ed.
The System of Chakras according to Goraksanath
By Gopi Nath Kaviraj
The system of mystic culture introduced by Goraksa Natha does not seem to have spread widely through the educated classes, so that although about a millennium has passed since this great man appeared his teachings have remained till to day almost a sealed book to many. The Goraksa Sataka and Goraksa Paddhati are two of the few Sanskrit works published which profess to give an exposition of this teacher’s instructions. The Hathayogapradipika also belongs to this school, but it deserves to be supplemented.
We propose to deal in a separate paper, on the basis of Mss. and printed books (in Hindi and Sanskrit), with the entire system of mystic culture associated with Goraksa Natha, both historically and philosophically. Here we must confine ourselves to the system of Chakras or intra-organic centres of spiritual energy recognised by Goraksanatha. Our description will be based on a Ms of Vairata Purana and on an old coloured chart (obtained accidentally from a local gentleman interested in this panth) representing: the human body containing the spinal column with the various centres painted and duly located. It will be found that this arrangement differs widely from the current notions both of the Hathayoga school and of the Tantras.
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First of all in the perineum we have. the Adhara chakra (coloured red) presided over by Ganesa natha with his two Powers, viz. Siddhi and Buddhi. This is identical with the well known Muladhara of the Tantras. But the next centre, called Mahapadma chakra, controlled by Nila natha is unknown else where, The third, the Svadhisthana chakra (coloured yellow), is in the genital region and has Brahma for its Deity and Savitri for the Power.
Between this and the Manipura there are three distinct centres, viz. Saddala (called also Susumna chakra), Garbha (in the Garbha sthana) and Kundalini (in the region adjoining the waist and presided over by Fire). Besides bare names and vague localisation we do not find statement for any further detail about these psychic vehicles. The Manipura is situated in the navel and has Visnu for its Devata. Above this is supposed to exist the so-called Linga chakra, of which, again, no particulars are given. Higher still, in the pericarp of the Anahata is the seat of mind – Manas.
The Anahata itself is in the heart and looks like a lotus with 12 petals, emitting a white radiance around. The presiding god of the chakra is named Mahadeva (Rudra natha, in the Ms) and the Power is Uma. The rsiis called Hiranyagarbha. This corresponds to the causal body, dream-less sleep, Pasyanti Vak and Sama Veda.
The next higher Chakra is of course Visuddha, in the throat. It is a sixteen-petalled lotus, with smoky colour, presided over by Jiva and Adya Sakti, The Rsi is Virat. It corresponds to the causal body, dreamless sleep, Paravak, Atharvana Veda, Jalandhara Bandha and Sayujya Mukti.
The Prana chakra which is a thirty-two-petalled lotus of bright hue (udUdyotavarNaprabhA) and is controlled by Prananatha and Parama Sakti, is seated near the region of the throat (galasthAna)1. It forms the 10th aperture of the human body. Of the four chakras above Visuddha and below Ajna, the second one is Avala chakra, furnished with 32 lobes shining ‘like the rising sun (aruNodyotaprabhA), presided by Fire. The exact site of this Chakra is not mentioned. From what is said it appears that it is seated where the three granthis viz. Brahma, Visnu and Rudra, unite (trigranthisthAnagzg), and is very intimately connected with Kalachakra and Yoginichakra. The Chivuka chakra is somewhere in the facial region, apparently near the chin, and is formed like a sun-like lotus of 34 lobes, presided by Prana and Sarasvati. All the devas have their seats within the lotus. Its Rsi is named Krodha. All languages, indeed human speech itself, are supposed to have their origin here. The Balavan chakra is just below the Ajna, in the nasal region, and looks like a three-petalled lotus of red, white and dark colour. This place is described
as Tribeni, being the confluence of the three streams of Ganga, Yamuna and Sarasvati represented in the body by the three nadis, viz. Ida, Pingala and Susumna. The presiding God of this Chakra is Pranava and the Power Susumna. The statement that this place is associated with the three matras of Pranava (viz. A, U & M) becomes thus intelligible. The name of its Rsi is given as Mahahankara.2
The famous Ajna chakra (called also Ani chakra in the Ms.), which is in the centre of the space between the two brows, is a diamond like (mANikyavarNaprabhA) lotus of two petals, presided by Hamsa Devata, and Susumna Sakti. It corresponds to the Vijnana state and Anupama Vak, and to the half matra of the Pranava.
The Karnamula chakra, within the auricular region, is a 36-lobed lotus of mixed colour (dark and yellow.) The presiding God and Power are Nada and Sruti respectively.
It is the seat of the 36 matrkas.
The Tribeni chakra, above the brows, is a 26-lobed circle with Akasa as its rsi. This is the real Tribeni, but how this place is connected with the Balavan chakra lower down is no-where stated.
The Chandra chakra is in the forehead and consists of 32 lobes3 with a colour between white and red4. It is presided by the Moon and Amrta5Sakti. The Rsi is Manas (mind) with its sixteen kalas. It is said that the sun goes to this lunar mansion to drink nectar.
This centre is very closely related to another chakra – the Amrta chakra, almost in the same region, probably a little upwards. Its Devata and Sakti are identical with those of the preceding chakra, but the Rsi is Atma rather than Manas.
It is from here that nectar is constantly flowing, This place is described as the abode of the Gayatri named Kamadhenu (lit. ‘wish-giving cow’), figured like a milch cow with four teats viz. Ambika, Lambika, Ghantika and Talika. It has a human face with intoxicant looks (madanetra), a peacock’s tail, a horse’s neck (grIvA), an elephant’s tusk (tuNDa), a tiger’s arms (hastashArdUla), a cow’s horns, and wings consisting of Lila Brahma and Hamsa. It is a stranger figure. It is from the udderof this ‘cow’ that nectar is perpetually streaming down. The Khechari, Viparitakarani and other mudras are some of the devices intended to check the downward flow of this blissful current. The Yogin who has. obtained access to the chakra and abides here becomes immortal and free from the effects of Time.
Next is the Brahmadvara Chakra, located above the forehead and shining with its 100 petals like the many coloured rainbow; and beyond this is the seat of the Akula Kundalini — a lotus of 600 petals bright like the newly risen sun.
On crossing this one comes up to the Brahmarandhra in the cranium (mUrdhasthAna), with its multi-coloured 1,000 petals. This is the so called Sahasrara of the mystic literature – the Aim and End of all spiritual progress. It is here that the Guru and the Chaitanya Sakti reside.
One would naturally expect that the series of chakras would come to an end here. But the picture on which the above account is based, mentions 6 chakras more beyond the Sahasrara, viz. (a) Urdharandhra, (b). Bhramaraguha, (c) Akunthapitha Punyagara, (d) Kolhata, (e) Vajradanda and (f) Niradhara Paramajyotischakra. The Urdharandhra, called Talu chakra in the Ms, is seated in the Talima and is a 64-lobed chakra, presided by Goraksanatha and Siddhanta sakti. This statement is interesting as it gives us an idea of what the followers of the path thought in connection with the founder of their school. The Bhramaraguha, also called Alekha, i. e. Alaksya chakra (called Brahma Chakra6 in the Ms), is the place, where samadhi-yoga ensues, and prana and manas cease to work. The lotus is described as furnished with ten millions of lobes and wonderfully brilliant. The presiding God of this centre is Alaksyanatha, the Sakti called Maya (= Mahamaya?; Akula in the Ms.) and the RsiMahavisnu.
The higher Chakra with an equal number of lobes has Akalanatha as Devata, Akalesvari as Sakti and as Akala as Rsi.
The Kolhata Chakra is in the Sikhamandala and corresponds to the Vaikuntha of the Vaisnavas and Kailasa of the Saivas. Both the Devata and the Sakti are named Ananta7. The Ms. calls this region a road to the Highest Void (paramashUnyamArga).
The description of Vajradanda is not very clear. It is said to be, as I understand it to be, in the form of a column, vast (mahAvishAla), lustrous (tejaHpu~njaprabhA) and long (dIrgha).
The final Chakra is in the Niralambasthana, with an infinite number of lobes, colours, matrkas, devas and worlds. This is the Highest Seat of the Gurudeva.
Beyond this is a series of 20 voids of which nothing is said. The Ms. observes that Final Liberation takes place in the Great Void (paramashUnyasthAna) above 21 Brahmandas. Transcending the great Void the Yogin becomes eternally free from ‘coming and going’, i. e. the wheel of birth and death: sa cha yogI tiShThati yuge yuge jyotiH sametya
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We have tried to reproduce above with as much fidelity to the understood meaning of the chart as possible the account of the Gorakhpanthis concermng the arrangement and function of the various chakras. But as the chart was on an old canvas with the figures rendered indistinct by time and the notes appended generally vague, illegible and sometimes totally unintelligible it is quite likely that mistakes and in some places even confusion have been left unnoticed. It is sure nevertheless that the general presentation of the scheme is unimpeachable.
Taking it as we find it there is no doubt that the ideas of this school differed in many points from those of the Tantras on the same subject. The question of the total number of chakras may be left aside for the present.8 For we are aware that there are several hidden (gupta) chakras which are not ordinarily counted; and very often a certain number of chakras, considered minor from one’s own point of view, is supposed to form a connected whole. There are other reasons also which would explain the difference of the number in different systems. The actual description of a particular chakra is more important to a student for purposes of comparative studies. But even here there are certain fatal limitations. For instance the same chakra may not look exactly alike to different sadhakas. The personal sankalpa of the aspirant, either conscious or sub-conscious, and that of his Guru go a great way towards determining the feature of the Vision. The reality observed is, in a certain sense, only ideal.
Entering into detail we may observe that the Sahasrara is not supposed to form the Highest Limit:- there are stages beyond. With this we may compare the accounts of the Radhaswami sect who also hold more or less the same views.
The Manasachakra as described here embodies 32 lobes, while elsewhere it is said to be 6-petalled (Dr. B. N. Seal, The Positive Sciences of the Ancient Hindus, p, 221; Avalon, The Serpent Power,. p. 146).
Regarding akulakuNDalinI it may be said that the Tantrists locate it within the Moon of Consciousness which forms the pericarp of the downward facing Sahasrara and is situated in the transcendant heaven (para vyoma) – a technical term for a part of the cerebral region9. The contact of kula with this akula is the immediate cause of the flow of nectar (sudhAsrAva). While Goraksanatha holds that the nectar flows from the Amrta chakra above the Moon, Bhaskara considers that it flows from the Akula which is within the Moon.
The name of Bhramara Guha is to be found mentioned in the literature connected with the names of Kabir, Radhaswami, etc., but nowhere is its function clearly stated. The Sutasamhita and Bodhasara use the term vaguely in the sense of Brahmarandhra. This so-called cave is in reality a hole or rather a hollow which appears to view when one gazes into the centre of the ‘Kutastha.’ The entrance to this hollow is brilliantly dark, but it is surrounded by a luminous ring of rays. The powers of obscuration (AvaraNa) and dissipation (vixepa) are said to guard this entrance, so that they try to screen up and throw off the gazer. It is only when the power of introvision is produced after the generation of pure magnetism within the body through strict continence, pure food, &c. and through the cultivation of the moral virtues of selflessness, forbearance, &c. and through the action of prana that one can expect to gaze at this hollow without fear of AvaraNa and vixepa. At this state mere gazing makes the mouth of the cave wide open, and every tattva is illuminated.
In the Chart the Prana chakra is described as the tenth avenue of the human body. This aperture is usually closed in men, so that the body is as a rule likened to a “city with nine gates”. (Cf. navadvAre pure dehI- Gita) only. But a steady process of psychic discipline helps to open this avenue, through which the Jiva of the Kramamukta-upasaka passes away along the ray of the sun into the Solar Region, called also Brahmaloka, and thence with the dawn of Knowledge is absorbed in Brahman. The medulla oblongata (bhastaka granthi) above the Visuddha Chakra, is one of the sites where the three nadis are united. From here the Susumna enters into the skull, and the other two nadis, viz. Ida and Pingala, pass along the right and left sides of the forehead and meet together and are joined with the Susumna between the two eyebrows. From there the Ida goes to the left nostril and the Pingala to the right. From the medulla the Susumna is bifurcated: (1) one line passes below the brain and in a rather oblique course comes to the eyebrow whence with a slightly upward bend pierces the pericarp of the Ajna and unites with Ida and Pingala. Then it comes out, and running straight up crosses a very subtle hole within the interior of the central region of the forehead and hanging down to some distance takes a curve and goes right up, penetrating the Sahasrara and entering the Brahmarandhra.10 (2)Another line goes up direct from the medulla, and through the interior of the skull extends to the Sikhara. With a slight curve it enters the Brahmarandhra. The mouth of this line of the Susumna which is in the Brahma randhra remains usually closed, while that of the first line is open. Consequently the hollows of the two lines are not in union.
While passing away from the body the yogin gets the closed mouth of the Susumna opened, on which the two holes mentioned above become unified. This is what is usually known by the name of the “10th avenue”. In the Amaraugha Sasana, however, the 10th aperture is identified with the mouth of the Sankhini,which is a hollow behind the front tooth (rAjadanta) and the Kankalamalini Tantra locates Brahmarandhra just beiow the Sankhini. 11
1. This is apparently the so called kaNThakUpa mentioned in the Yogasutra, 3.30.
2. Could this term mean the Purnahanta or Parahanta of the Trika and Tripura systems of philosophy?
3. Sixteen lobes, according to The Serpent Power, p.146.
4. White only, according to the Ms.
5. Amada Sakti, according to the Ms.
6. According to the Ms. the Brahma Chakra is really within the Brahmaraguha and consists of 108 lobes in which the great Maunins are incessantly occupied with the repetition of Ajapa.
7. The Ms. calls the Devata Achintyaha and the Sakti Avyakta.
8. The Svacchanda Sangraha, according to Bhaskara’s report (Lalitasahasraranama Bhasya, p.53), speaks of 32 chakras, cf. alsoAdvaita martanda as reported in Avalon, The Serpent Power, pp.169-170, and in Shakti and Shakta (2nd Edition), p.409.
9. dvAdashAnta.m lalATorddhA kapAlordhvAvasAnakam.h .
dvaya~Ngulordhva shirodesha.m para.m vyoma prakIrttitam.h .. Quoted by Bhaskara in his Varivasya Rahasya (Common verse 51), p.94 (Cal. Edition).
10. See introduction to the Pranava Gita. In The Serpent Power, p.130, the Susumna is said to terminate at the twelve-petalled lotus in the pericarp of the Sahasrara. The Mandala Bhrahmanopanishad and its Raja Yoga Bhasya refer to the Susumna as ending in the Brahmarandhra (Mys. Ed., p.9).
11. tasmin.h randhre visarga.m cha nira~njanam.h .
tadUrdhve sha~nkinI sR^iShTasthityantakAriNI ..
brahmarandhra.m tataH smR^itam.h .