7 chakras in particular are described in the Shakta Tantra tradition that was brought over to the West. Below is a description of each of them, with Eastern and Western associations.
Sahasrara: The Crown Chakra - Dali
Sahasrara, crown chakra which means 1000 petaled lotus, is generally considered to be the chakra of pure consciousness, within which there is neither object nor subject. When the female kundalini Shakti energy rises to this point, it unites with the male Shiva energy, and a state of liberating samadhi is attained. Symbolized by a lotus with one thousand multi-colored petals, it is located either at the crown of the head, or above the crown of the head. Sahasrara is represented by the color white and it involves such issues as inner wisdom and the death of the body.
Its role may be envisioned somewhat similarly to that of the pituitary gland, which secretes hormones to communicate to the rest of the endocrine system and also connects to the central nervous system via the hypothalamus. According to author Gary Osborn, the thalamus is thought to have a key role in the physical basis of consciousness and is the 'Bridal Chamber' mentioned in the Gnostic scriptures. Sahasrara's inner aspect deals with the release of karma, physical action with meditation, mental action with universal consciousness and unity, and emotional action with "beingness".
In Tibetan buddhism, the point at the crown of the head is represented by a white circle, with 32 downward pointing petals. It is of primary importance in the performance of phowa, or consciousness projection after death, in order to obtain rebirth in a Pure Land. Within this chakra is contained the White drop, or Bodhicitta, which is the essence of masculine energy.
Ajna: The Brow Chakra - Gamma
Ajna is symbolised by a lotus with two petals, and corresponds to the colors violet, indigo or deep blue. It is at this point that the 2 side nadis Ida and Pingala are said to terminate and merge with the central channel Sushumna, signifying the end of duality. The seed syllable for this chakra is the syllable OM, and the presiding deity is Ardhanarishvara, who is a half male, half female Shiva/Shakti. The Shakti goddess of Ajna is called Hakini.
Ajna (along with Bindu), is known as the third eye chakra and is linked to the pineal gland which may inform a model of its envisioning. The pineal gland is a light sensitive gland that produces the hormone melatonin which regulates sleep and waking up. Ajna's key issues involve balancing the higher & lower selves and trusting inner guidance. Ajna's inner aspect relates to the access of intuition. Mentally, Ajna deals with visual consciousness. Emotionally, Ajna deals with clarity on an intuitive level. (Note: some opine that the pineal and pituitary glands should be exchanged in their relationship to the Crown and Brow chakras, based on the description in Arthur Avalon's book on kundalini called Serpent Power or empirical research.)
In Tibetan Buddhism, this point is actually the end of the central channel, since the central channel rises up from the sexual organ to the crown of the head, and then curves over the head and down to the third eye. While the central channel finishes here, the two side channels continue down to the 2 nostrils.
Vishuddha: The Throat Chakra - Alpha
Vishuddha Throat Chakra (also Vishuddhi) is depicted as a silver crescent within a white circle, with 16 light or pale blue, or turquoise petals. The seed mantra is Ham, and the residing deity is Panchavaktra shiva, with 5 heads and 4 arms, and the Shakti is Shakini.
Vishuddha may be understood as relating to communication and growth through expression. This chakra is paralleled to the thyroid, a gland that is also in the throat and which produces thyroid hormone, responsible for growth and maturation. Physically, Vishuddha governs communication, emotionally it governs independence, mentally it governs fluent thought, and spiritually, it governs a sense of security. In Tibetan Buddhism, this chakra is red, with 16 upward pointing petals. It plays an important role in Dream Yoga, the art of lucid dreaming.
Anahata: The Heart Chakra - Silio
Anahata, heart chakra is symbolised by a circular flower with twelve vermillion, or green petals. (See also heartmind). Within it is a yantra of 2 intersecting triangles, forming a star of David, symbolising a union of the male and female. The seed mantra is Yam, the presiding deity is Ishana Rudra Shiva, and the Shakti is Kakini.
Anahata is related to the thymus, located in the chest. The thymus is an element of the immune system as well as being part of the endocrine system. It is the site of maturation of the T cells responsible for fending off disease and may be adversely affected by stress. . Anahata is related to the colors green or pink. Key issues involving Anahata involve complex emotions, compassion, tenderness, unconditional love, equilibrium, rejection and well-being. Physically Anahata governs circulation, emotionally it governs unconditional love for the self and others, mentally it governs passion, and spiritually it governs devotion. In Tibetan buddhism, this centre is extremely important, as being the home of the indestructible red/white drop, which carries our consciousness to our next lives. It is described as being white, circular, with 8 downward pointing petals, and the seed syllable Hum inside. During mantra recitation in the lower tantras, a flame is imagined inside of the heart, from which the mantra rings out. Within the higher tantras, this chakra is very important for realizing the Clear Light.
Manipura: The Solar Plexus Chakra - Limi
Manipura or manipuraka is symbolised by a downward pointing triangle with ten petals. The seed syllable is Ram, and the presiding deity is Braddha Rudra, with Lakini as the Shakti.
Manipura is related to the metabolic and digestive systems. Manipura is believed to correspond to Islets of Langerhans, which are groups of cells in the pancreas, as well as the outer adrenal glands and the adrenal cortex. These play a valuable role in digestion, the conversion of food matter into energy for the body. The color that corresponds to Manipura is yellow. Key issues governed by Manipura are issues of personal power, fear, anxiety, opinion-formation, introversion, and transition from simple or base emotions to complex. Physically, Manipura governs digestion, mentally it governs personal power, emotionally it governs expansiveness, and spiritually, all matters of growth.
In Tibetan Buddhism, this wheel is represented as a triangle with 64 upward pointing petals. It is the home of the Red drop, or red bodhicitta, which is the essence of feminine energy (as opposed to the Shakta system, where the kundalini energy resides in Muladhara). It contains the seed syllable short-Ah, which is of primary importance in the Tummo inner fire meditation, which is the system by which the energy of the red drop is raised to the white drop in the crown.
Svadhisthana: The Sacral Chakra - Kali
Swadhisthana, sacral chakra is symbolized by a white lotus within which is a crescent moon, with six vermillion, or orange petals. The seed mantra is Vam, and the presiding deity is either Vishnu, with the Shakti being Rakini ( or Chakini ). The animal associated is the crocodile of Varuna.
The Sacral Chakra is located in the sacrum (hence the name) and is considered to correspond to the testes or the ovaries that produce the various sex hormones involved in the reproductive cycle. Svadisthana is also considered to be related to, more generally, the genitourinary system and the adrenals. The key issues involving Svadisthana are relationships, violence, addictions, basic emotional needs, and pleasure. Physically, Svadisthana governs reproduction, mentally it governs creativity, emotionally it governs joy, and spiritually it governs enthusiasm.]
In Tibetan Buddhism, this is known as the Secret Place wheel. Below this point the Shakta tantra and Vajrayana systems diverge somewhat.
Muladhara: The Base Chakra - Seli
Muladhara or root chakra is represented as a yellow square, with 4 red petals. The seed syllable is Lam, the deity is Brahma, and the Shakti is Dakini. The associated animal is the elephant Ganesha. This chakra is where the 3 channels are merged, then separate and begin their upward movement. Inside of this chakra is wrapped up the goddess kundalini three times around a black lingam. It is the seat of the red bindu, the female drop (which in Tibetan vajrayana is located at the navel chakra).
is related to instinct, security, survival and also to basic human potentiality. This center is located in the perineum, which is the region between the genital and the anus. Although no endocrine organ is placed here, it is said to relate to the gonads and the adrenal medulla, responsible for the fight-or-flight response when survival is under threat. There is a muscle located in this region that controls ejaculation in the sexual act of the human male. A parallel is charted between the sperm cell and the ovum where the genetic code lies coiled and the kundalini. Muladhara is symbolized by a lotus with four petals and the color red. Key issues involve sexuality, lust and obsession. Physically, Muladhara governs sexuality, mentally it governs stability, emotionally it governs sensuality, and spiritually it governs a sense of security.
There is no chakra that exists in this position within Tibetan Buddhism. Instead, below the secret place wheel, there are 2 other wheels, the jewel wheel, which is located in the middle of the sex organ, and the wheel located at the tip of the sex organ. These wheels are extremely important for the generation of great bliss, and are involved with tantric consort practices.
There are said to be 21 minor chakras which are reflected points of the major chakras. These 21 are further grouped into 10 bilateral minor chakras that correspond to the foot, hand, knee, elbow, groin, clavicles, navel, shoulder and ear. The spleen may also be classified as a minor chakra by some authorities despite not having an associated coupled minor chakra.
Hrit chakra or Surya chakra This chakra is a minor chakra located just below the heart at the solar plexus, and is known as the wish-fulfilling tree. Here, the ability to determine your destiny becomes a reality. It is also known as the Surya chakra. It supports the actions of Manipura chakra by providing it with the element of heat, and is responsible for absorbing energy from the sun. In Tibetan buddhism, a similar chakra called the Fire Wheel is included in the scheme, but this is located above the heart and below the throat. Lalana/Talumula A chakra known as Lalana is situated in one of two places, either in the roof of the mouth, between Visuddhi and Ajna, or on the forehead, above Ajna. The Lalana chakra on the roof of the mouth is related to Bindu and Vishuddhi. When the nectar amrit trickles down from Bindu, it is stored in lalana. This nectar can fall down to Manipura and be burned up, causing gradual degeneration, or through certain practices it can be passed to Visuddhi and purified, becoming a nectar of immortality. Manas A chakra known as Manas (mind) is located either between the navel and the heart, close to Surya, or is located above Ajna on the forehead. The version on the forehead has 6 petals, connected to the 5 sense objects plus the mind. In Tibetan Buddhism, the chakra located on the forehead is called the Wind wheel, and has 6 spokes. Bindu Visarga/Indu/Chandra Bindu visarga, is located either at the top back of the head, where some Brahmins leave a tuft of hair growing, or in the middle forehead. It is symbolized by a crescent moon. This chakra secretes an ambrosial fluid, amrit, and is the seat of the white bindu (compare with the white bodhicitta drop in the crown chakra in the Vajrayana system). Brahmarandra/Nirvana
Hrit chakra or Surya chakra
This chakra is a minor chakra located just below the heart at the solar plexus, and is known as the wish-fulfilling tree. Here, the ability to determine your destiny becomes a reality. It is also known as the Surya chakra. It supports the actions of Manipura chakra by providing it with the element of heat, and is responsible for absorbing energy from the sun.
In Tibetan buddhism, a similar chakra called the Fire Wheel is included in the scheme, but this is located above the heart and below the throat.
A chakra known as Lalana is situated in one of two places, either in the roof of the mouth, between Visuddhi and Ajna, or on the forehead, above Ajna. The Lalana chakra on the roof of the mouth is related to Bindu and Vishuddhi. When the nectar amrit trickles down from Bindu, it is stored in lalana. This nectar can fall down to Manipura and be burned up, causing gradual degeneration, or through certain practices it can be passed to Visuddhi and purified, becoming a nectar of immortality.
A chakra known as Manas (mind) is located either between the navel and the heart, close to Surya, or is located above Ajna on the forehead. The version on the forehead has 6 petals, connected to the 5 sense objects plus the mind. In Tibetan Buddhism, the chakra located on the forehead is called the Wind wheel, and has 6 spokes.
Bindu visarga, is located either at the top back of the head, where some Brahmins leave a tuft of hair growing, or in the middle forehead. It is symbolized by a crescent moon. This chakra secretes an ambrosial fluid, amrit, and is the seat of the white bindu (compare with the white bodhicitta drop in the crown chakra in the Vajrayana system).
In some systems, Sahasrara is the chakra that is on the crown of the head. However, other systems, state that the real Sahasrara is located some way above the top of the head, and that the crown chakra is in fact Brahmarandra, a sort of secondary Sahasrara with 100 white petals.
This is a minor chakra located slightly above the top of the head. It is an upward facing 12 pedaled lotus, and it is associated with the Guru, which is the higher force that guides us through our spiritual journey.
There are said to be a series of 7 chakras below muladhara going down the leg, corresponding the base animal instincts, and to the Hindu underworld patala. They are called:
This chakra is located in the hips, it governs fear and lust.
Located in the thighs, it governs anger and resentment.
Located in the knees, it governs jealousy.
Translated as 'under the bottom level', it is located in the calves, and it is a state of prolonged confusion and instinctive willfulness.
Located in the ankles, it is the centre of selfishness and pure animal nature.
Located in the feet, this is the dark realm 'without conscience', and inner blindness.
Located in the soles of the feet, this is the realm of malice, murder, torture and hatred, and in Hindu mythology it borders on the realm of Naraka, or Hell.