II. The Subtle Body

drawn mainly from the Yogic tradition

There was fertile and respectful exchange between the Sufi and Yogic traditions in India, and our Chishtia teaching includes much Yogic knowledge and practice. However, each tradition maintains its integrity and we should not look for exact correspondences regarding the subtle bodies or the chakras. The Sufi term for the energy centres is Lataif, and these will be presented in a separate paper. Some correspondences are noted here.

Chakras relate to the source of life energy or prana, not to a related physical point

Prana is the energy that creates life, matter, mind. [We draw prana in through the nostrils, but] dynamic prana energy is not based on the physiochemical system of the body; it operates super-physically rather than through the nervous system.

Meditation on the chakra should be done using the image of the chakra that includes the respective element and divinities, not on a particular physical point such as the coccyx, base of the spine, or anal region. The physical areas associated with the chakras are only the locations of the related sense organs and work organs. The chakras themselves are related to the source of energy that puts life in the cellular body (prana and the elements). Thus, for example, the desires of the first chakra are not the desires of the anal region. Johari p81

The subtle body: the nadis

All nadis originate in the region around the navel
are channels for circulation of prana/vital energy
which may be directed mentally or by pranayama and physical exercises 

Nadis: Sushumna, Ida, Pingala:

All 3 originate in Muladhara Chakra, proceed upwards, Sushumna rising straight up inside the subtle spine; Ida and Pingala on either side, alternating from L to R at each succeeding chakra
All meet at Ajna, where one is freed from time-bound consciousness.
Ida and Pingala start L and R side Muladhara and end in L and R nostrils respectively
Sushumna ends at the Crown/Sahasrara


The subtlest of the subtle nadis. The only nadi that is not time-bound
Its structure: four levels of which the inside is a void called the Brahma Nadi
Sushumna is activated when the breath comes through both nostrils simultaneously (10 breaths per hour), also through Pranayama, when the other nadis stop functioning and Kundlini rises up the Sushumna through the Brahma Nadi. When this happens, it harmonizes Ida and Pingala.
+ automatically operates at dawn and dusk – calms the system, makes meditation easy

Etheric body: (for Sufis this may relate to the plane of Arwah)

The template of the physical body
The web which allows energy streams of thought, feeling, action to flow from astral to physical body.
It protects the physical body
Normally: opens gradually, acts as barrier against too much coming in from astral when not ready
Can be damaged by alcohol, narcotics, drugs, tobacco
Important role in evolution. Alice Bailey calls it ‘the web’ or the ‘golden bowl’.

Astral body: (For Sufis this may relate to the plane of al-Mithal))

The great unconscious, the psychic body
The chakras are centred in this body
Different mode of perception: vibrational information can be received from all directions
The chakras must be awakened for man to be conscious of the astral dimension.

[Causal level: contains the formative causes of all that each human being is as an individual (For Sufis this may relate to the plane of Malakut)]


Shakti is the name for the Divine mother, creative energy, the eternal energy of the supreme consciousness; this spiritual energy in the Muladhara, dormant and coiled, is Shakti in the form of Kundalini. So Kundalini is the transcendental basis of physical nature, the primordial source of all the processes of natural evolution, the origin and reunion of matter.

The journey of transformation is seen as the rising of Kundalini to meet Shiva in the Crown Centre, pushing open each chakra on her way upwards.