Sri Chakra and the Human Body

The human body is seen as a microcosm of the universe and the Sri Chakra Yantra is said to be a geometric representation of the cosmos. So, it stands to reason that there has to be a correlation between the human body and the formation of the Sri Chakra.

In Hindu tradition, a living being is made up of mind, body and spirit. The Sharira Tatva (Doctrine of Three Bodies) describes that the human body consists of 3 aspects and 5 sheaths. The three aspects arise from the Brahman (Divine Consciousness) and are a result of ignorance or avidya.

Sthula Sharira or the gross physical body

Sukshma Sharira or the subtle body

Karana Sharira or the causal body

The Sthula Sharira is the gross physical body through which life or jiva is experienced. The main features of this body include birth, ageing and death. It is related to the waking state.

The Sukshma Sharira is the subtle body that houses the mind and vital energies (prana). The subtle body is said to be composed of the five elements (air, fire, water, earth and space) and made up of the five sense organs (ear, eye, nose, tongue and skin), five organs of action (hand, foot, mouth, anus and genitalia) and the five-fold vital breath (respiration, elimination, circulation, digestion and actions such as sneezing, crying, etc.) along with Manas (mind) and Buddhi (intellect).

The dream state is the distinct state of this Sharira.

The Karana Sharira is the causal body that merely contains the seed of the Sthula and Sukshma Sharira and it has no other function of its own. It is the most complex of the three bodies and is thought to be the portal to enter higher consciousness. It is identified with the deep sleeping state.

The gross body ceases to exist when death occurs and it then becomes one with the nature. The subtle body disintegrates when it is time to take a new birth, allowing us to develop a new personality in the new life. The causal body incarnates again and again with each rebirth and carries the imprints of the karmas of our previous lives (samskaras) and disintegrate only at the time of moksha or liberation.

Each body has a dimension or a layer. In Vedanta, this layer is called a sheath or a kosha as it separates the body from the Atman (soul). Each sheath is made up of increasingly finer shades of energy beginning from the outermost layer of the skin to the innermost spiritual core of our being.

There are 5 such sheaths:

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The five sheaths

Annamaya Kosha 

This is the outermost layer or the physical or food sheath which includes in it skin, connective tissue, fat, muscle and bone. “Anna” comes from “food” which our bodies take from earth and eventually turn into food for other creatures. This layer is possibly the one we find ourselves thinking about most of the time to pursue physical gratification and enjoyment.

 Pranamaya Kosha

This is the sheath of subtle, vital energy (prana) and includes in it the movement of bodily fluids such as blood circulation, lymph and cerebral fluids and the circulation of breath through the respiratory system. We cannot see energy but can certainly feel it in our bodies. This layer is involved in our intuitions and impulses and therefore can be said to control our bodily and spirit rhythm.

Manomaya Kosha

This is the sheath of the mind and includes in it our emotions, feelings and workings of the nervous system. It involves the processing of inputs through our five senses and responding to them reflexively without conscious application of focus. Our thoughts, fantasies and daydreams all constitute this kosha as they are all methods of making sense of the outside world. On the most basic level, we are talking about perceptions, images and emotions, but at a deeper level resides our prejudices, preconceived notions and beliefs that we absorb over a lifetime.

Vignanamaya Kosha

This is the sheath of wisdom or the psyche. Sensory perceptions coming from the Manomaya Kosha are processed here and meaning is imbued into them with awareness, insight and consciousness. It is here that we make choices about every aspect of living/our lives based on our experiences so far. This sheath can be seen as the one housing our intelligence as we engage in activities that help us gather wisdom by way of conscious awareness.

Anandamaya Kosha

This is the sheath of bliss as we move from conscious awareness to pure bliss which includes in it our unconscious mind, samskaras (impressions left behind by every life experience) and our individual consciousness called Chitta. In this sheath, there is nothing but sheer joy and utter contentment. There are no mortal fears or base emotions such as anger, jealousy and insecurities. Among the five sheaths, the Anandamaya Kosha reflects the Divine Consciousness and its state of satchidananda (eternal bliss).

The fact that each of the koshas is suffixed with the word “maya” (illusion) points to their illusory nature. They may appear to separate us from the Divine Consciousness but that is merely illusory. This is an indication the Vedic texts have left for us that even though we point out all these differences, we are not separate from the Divine.

To understand the development of the process by which energy condenses from the unmanifest to the gross physical form of the human body, we can think of the Anandamaya Kosha as ether or space, Vijnanamaya Kosha as air, Manonmaya Kosha as steam, Pranamaya Kosha as water and Annamaya Kosha as ice. Just as it is more difficult to give shape to ice than to water,(as ice is solid and water as a liquid takes on the shape of its container more easily than ice) the more ephemeral the various sheaths become as we move towards the higher realms.

All across Vedic literature, it is reiterated that the human body is a microcosm of the universe. Whatever exists in the universe is seen in the human body and vice versa. The human body is believed to be made up of two parts – one from the top of the head till the end of the spine and the other from the end of the spine to the feet. Therefore, the spine is the axis on which the body rests just as the Meru is the axis of the universe. It is for this reason that the spine is called Meru-danda.

Sutras in the Bhavanopanishad (“bhavana” means “imagination or concept formation in the mind”) help us contemplate our body within the Sri Chakra. The nine triangles (intersection of 5 shakti and 4 shiva triangles) are seen as the nine apertures (navarandha). They are:

Eyes – 2 openings

Ears – 2 openings

Nostrils – 2 openings

Mouth – 1 opening

Organ of procreation – 1 opening

Organ of excretion – 1 opening

The inward journey of a practitioner begins with the feet and moves upward till it reaches a point above the crown of the head. The nine avaranas, therefore, have their own corresponding body parts.

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The Nine Avaranas of the Sri Chakra Yantra

The nine avaranas and their correspondence to the parts of the body

Bhupura First square – feet Middle square – knees Inner square – thighs
Three concentric circles Middle portion of the body
Shodasi Dala Padma From the genital area till below the navel
Ashta Dala Padma The navel
Chaturdasha The abdominal region
Bahir dasha The neck
Antar dasha Region between the eyebrows
Ashtakona Forehead
Trikona Top of the head
Bindu Above the crown
The Chakras in the Human Body
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Chakra is a Sanskrit word that translates to a spinning disk or vortex. The three main nadis (energy channels) –  Ida, Pingala and Sushumna – run along the spinal column in a curved path and criss-cross at several points. These points of intersection are strong energy centres known as chakras. A chakra, therefore, acts as a centre of activity that receives, assimilates and expresses prana.

In Ayurveda, it is believed that the human body in its subtle form (Sukshma Sharira) has 21 chakras but 7 of them are the most important which serve as the conduits of prana or life energy. The seven chakras lie between the base of the spine and the top of the crown.

Each chakra has a specific purpose and area of influence. Physically, the chakras correlate to specific locations, tissues and glands and serve a specific function on a physical, mental/emotional and spiritual level.

Chakras and their corresponding body parts and glands

Chakra Body part Gland
Muladhara Kidney, spine Reproductive
Swadhisthana Bladder, prostate, gall bladder, spleen, bowels Adrenal
Manipuraka Intestines, pancreas, liver, stomach, upper spine Pancreas
Anahata Heart and lungs Thymus
Vishuddha Bronchial tubes, vocal cords, respiratory system, esophagus, mouth and tongue Thyroid
Ajna Eyes Pituitary
Sahasrara Spinal cord and brain stem Pineal

The chakras are subtle in nature and hence are not visible or tangible to the regular five senses. In order to make the chakras more perceptible and easy to understand, each chakra is associated with a colour, symbol, sound and element. Each chakra is depicted as a lotus flower with a specific number of petals to represent the number of nadis leading to and from that particular chakra.

Colours and sounds associated with chakras

Chakra Colour Sound
Muladhara Red Lam
Swadhisthana Orange Vam
Manipuraka Yellow Ram
Anahata Green Yam
Vishuddha Light blue Ham
Ajna Indigo blue Om
Sahasrara Purple Om

Since all of nature is in a state of constant flux, it is important that the 7 chakras are active and in a constant state of motion. A block in one of the chakras will hamper the flow of prana, thereby resulting in stagnation, ill health and spiritual disconnectedness.

The nine avaranas are recognized as chakras lying along the central channel or the Sushumna nadi. Commonly understood, there are seven chakras. But here we see the inclusion of two more chakras – the Manas-chakra and the Soma-chakra. These are located just above the Ajna chakra and lie one above the other. There is a deep connection between the moon and the mind. If the mind chakra is balanced and open, it allows the Kundalini to rise to the Sahasraha without obstacle. These two chakras are very important in the journey of spiritual development and ascent beyond the physical.

The Navavarana and their corresponding chakras

Bhupura Muladhara
Shodasa Dala Padma Swadisthana
Ashta Dala Padma Manipuraka
Chaturdasha Anahata
Bahir Dasha Vishuddha
Antar dasha Ajna
Ashtakona Manas-chakra
Trikona Soma-chakra
Bindu Sahasrara

The Sri Chakra also represents a diagram of the cycle of time (Kaalachakra). The breath is intricately linked with the concept of time. Breathing is influenced by the five elements present in the body and vice versa. It is for this reason that the focus is on Pranayama in all yogic and meditative literatures.

On an average, an adult human being takes 360 breaths in a unit of time called nadika where one nadika is equal to about 24 minutes. One day consists of 60 nadikas. In a day, therefore, we breathe 21,600 times. This is called the nadi chakra or the organization of breaths in the body. The texts further describe that breath is distributed among the various chakras which are mentioned below:

Chakra No. of breaths Time taken
Muladhara 600 40 min
Swadishtana 6000 6 hours 4 mins
Manipuraka 6000 6 hours 4 mins
Anahata 6000 6 hours 4 mins
Vishuddha 1000 1 hour 6 mins 40 sec
Ajna 1000 1 hour 6 mins 40 sec
Sahasrara 1000 1 hour 6 mins 40 sec
Total 21600 24 hours

The central point for distribution of the breaths is the navel. Breath alternates between the Ida (left nostril) and Pingala (right nostril). The Ida breath is a cooling one as it is based on the moon principle while the Pingala is the heating one and represent the sun principle. The Ida and Pingala come together at the Muladhara chakra, close to the seat of the Kundalini. The Kundalini is the spot where 72000 nadis are said to congregate.

In the Chaturdasha Trikona, we observe that there is a representation of the fourteen important naadis.

Another way in which the Sri Chakra is identified with the human body is seen in the nine interlocking triangles that constitute the diagram. The nine triangles stand for the nine fundamental elements or Mula Prakruthi which are replicated in the human body as nine substances such as skin, blood, muscles, fat and bone (aspects of Shakti) and semen, marrow, vital breath and soul (aspects of Shiva).

The important marma points (locations with heightened energy) found in the human body are also represented in the Sri Chakra as the 18 marma sthanas (points that are formed by the intersection of three lines). Marma literally means “a point that can kill” and many martial art forms use these points to teach self-defence and to fatally wound an enemy. Ayurveda believes that there are 108 marma points in the body, each one serving a specific purpose. And in the Sri Chakra Yantra, these 108 points are condensed to 18 marma sthanas.

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