I. Chakras – from different traditions

II. The Subtle Body

III. The Seven Main Chakras in the Yogic Tradition

Chakra Colours in Different Traditions


I. Chakras – from different traditions

There are faculties of the soul which express themselves through a certain centre in the body of man; and as there are parts of lands that have never become fertile soil because water never reaches them, so it is with these centres when the breath never reaches them. They are intuitive, they are full of peace and balance, they are the centres of illumination; yet they have never been awakened, for man has breathed only in those parts of his body by which he lives and eats and performs actions. He is only half alive if you compare his existence with the fullness of life that can be obtained by spiritual development.

It may be compared to living in a great town and not knowing that there are many beautiful things that one has never seen. As there are many people who travel to distant lands and do not know their own country, so it is with man. He is interested in all that brings beauty and joy, and yet does not know the source of all such things in himself.

Vol II p 158-9

‘How can he who does not recognize the chakras in his own body attain liberation?’

Yoga Cudamani Upanishad

In tantra, the infinite process of evolution from the Absolute – the state before creation, before the interaction of purusha and prakriti – through the creation of the phenomenal world, the animal and human realms, the dimension of divine beings and beyond, is described in terms of the chakras. This conception is grounded in the belief in the ongoing spiritual evolution of all created things.

Motoyama Chakras p221

The response of the etheric vehicle of all forms and its capacity to appropriate, to utilize, and to transmit are dependent upon the condition of the centres, of the chakras, as they are called in the East. These include not only the well known seven major centres but numbers of lesser vortices of force, as yet unnamed and unknown in the occident. It is dependent also upon the quality of the etheric vehicle, upon its aliveness, and also upon the interlacing network in which the centres have their place, and which in its entirety is called ‘the web’ or the ‘golden bowl’. If this is clear of impediments and of sediment, and if its channels are not clogged then the circulating rays, energies and forces can find an easy medium and can circulate unimpeded throughout the entire body. They can then utilize those centres which are responsive to their vibrations, and can be passed on and through to forms in other or the same kingdoms in nature. Here lies the secret of all scientific and occult healing. Healers are experimenting with the etheric body and yet little real knowledge is theirs. They know little or nothing of the centres in their own body through which the magnetic or other currents must flow; they are unaware of the condition of the etheric centres of those they seek to heal and of the nature of the forces they wish to employ. All they can do is to discipline their lives, and so control their appetites that they build a clean body and provide clear channels for the passage of forces from and through themselves to others.

Alice Bailey Treatise on White Magic

Image of the chakras: tree, root, branches, centres

The air taken in and sent out that one feels through the nostrils or lungs is what we ordinarily call breath. In reality, however, that is as the stem of a tree whose branches are many. A mystic sees the whole body as a plant of the breath. According to the physician the lungs are the channel of the breath, but to the mystic the lungs are the branches of the tree, and other branches reach all parts of the body.

The mystics call all the branches by different names. The tree has a root in the body, and has centres where the branches meet the stem. There are five such centres in the body of man. The breath has its particular work in every centre. By the study of mysticism one finds that man’s life depends upon the working of the centres.

Chakras are generally blocked on the inner side of the body

Generally the centres are blocked up on the inner side of the body. Therefore they give but a dim light, if the breath be pictured as a gas and the centres as lanterns. When the centres are not in a fit condition they are wasted; not only this, but man is deprived of the full experience of life….

As the centres of the body are situated in the centre of the whole mechanism, it is natural that in an average person the breath does not reach their innermost part as it ought to. The question, ‘If it is natural that it should reach them, why does it not?’ may be answered by saying that it is because man leads an artificial life. If man led a natural life it would not be necessary for him to develop by certain meditation processes the qualities that are latent in him.

Breath/Prana awakens and activates the chakras

To live a fuller life the wise in all religions have taken the breath in hand and awakened atoms and centres which are instruments for those faculties. As soon as breath touches these centres it makes them vibrate and then they do their work. Therefore breathing excercises given to a Mureed (a Sufi initiate) are like the winding of a clock. Once in twenty-four hours the clock is wound and after that it goes on without effort.

all 5 paragraphs above are from Hazrat Inayat Khan

Chakras are activated especially when the breath passes from one chakra to the other

Chakras are centres of transformation

Each chakra is a storehouse of physical and mental (psychic) energies Energy influenced by the elements moves through the chakras producing different psychic states, desires, moods.

States of fluctuation are produced as a result of the interaction of different levels of mind Patanjali: ‘To control these mental fluctuations is yoga.’ This is possible by controlling the breath (eg Element Purification Breath)

Chakras interconnect the physical body – endocrine system – etheric body – astral body

Like transformers: they allow energy to be transmuted between different dimensions

– horizontal transmission (spreading prana/chi throughout the body like branches of a tree

– vertical transmission: able to transform energy and consciousness between body, mind, spirit / physical, etheric, astral

So chakras enhance physical health and open up the higher faculties of mind and intuition

‘Chakras can be thought of as wheels of the mind that dwell in the forest of desires.’ Johari

Each centre [is] a vacuum or a capacity for pure intelligence to function in.

HIK Vol XI ch XI


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] dynamicprana 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.


III. The Seven Main Chakras in the Yogic Tradition

Each chakra has:
– A role in the mode of incarnation and transformation, in relation to the other centres
– Element and direction of movement (the lower 5 chakras)
– Colour
– Sense organ and sense
– Endocrine gland associated
– Life qualities
– Resources
– Behavioural characteristics and challenges
– Archetypal symbols etc

1. Muladhara / Base

Meaning in sanscrit: Muladhara: Mul means ‘base’, adhara means ‘support’
Element: Earth. Square. Moves horizontally. Colour: red / yellow (different systems)
Sense: smell. Organ: nose. Gland: adrenals
The mould of the physical body, template within which the physical body is formed and reformed. Higher levels of being are dormant, numb, until the physical body can act as a conduit.

Qualities: stability, security, solidity, persistance, urge for survival. Grounding. Belonging. Existing. Cohesiveness. Inertia.

Resources: A well developed first chakra gives physical strength, muscle power, endurance, self control, patience, a disciplined life.
Gives ability to filter own and others’ negativity

Behavioural characteristics, challenges: Drive to incarnate and survive

Or: tendency to avoid incarnating or staying here
Dominated by the need to find security. Will support the institutions in which they live and work; attachment to race, nation, army, school, religion

2. Svadhistana / Sacral 

Meaning in sanscrit: one’s own abode, dwelling place of the self
Element: Water. Flows downward. Colour: orange or salmon colour
Sense: taste. Sense organ: the tongue. Organs of activity: sex organs and kidneys
Gland: gonads. Governs prana, the vital breath
(Chinese Medicine: Kidneys source of Ancestral Qi and ‘grab’ the breath)

Qualities: Energy, drive, force to protect what one considers is one’s own

Self-confidence, personal magnetism. Well-being, longevity

This centre has 2 important faculties for evolution: 1. it keeps us in the world, reacting to things
2. it takes us towards the intellect: orange to yellow.

Resources: A well-developed Sacral Centre gives individual power

Physically: drives the physical functions eg digestion, circulation, immune system
Associated with blood, and reproduction and all its cycles
Creativity (procreation, enterprise, artistic)
The connection between water, moon, emotions, psyche.

Behavioural characteristics and challenges: Centred on ‘sex, power, money’ (Caroline Myss)

The expansion of personality – 1st Chakra concerned with survival; 2nd Chakra establish family as a power base, network of friends, attract members of the opposite sex.
Relates strongly to family and family responsibilities
Desires, fantasies (eg identifies with being a hero/heroine) creativity (art, music, poetry)
Seeks amusement

3. Manipura / Solar Plexus

Meaning in sanscrit: ‘filled with jewels’, or ‘City of Jewels; it is also called the chakra of the Sun
Element: fire, which is closely related to Shakti and the awakening of kundalini. ‘Fire is the form in which Kundalini remains in the body.’ Moves upwards
Colour: yellow/ red (different traditions)
Sense: sight. Sense organ: eyes. Work organ: feet and legs. Gland: pancreas

Qualities: Personal spiritual consciousness is awakening

Organization: of sense of self, and ability to organize one’s environment
Rational mind, power to express ideas
The rational mind brings a different attitude to the collective: eg playing and controlling stock markets instead of making war.
Emotions become richer and more controllable, sensitivity increases, sympathy with others

Resources: It is the centre of vitality in physical and psychic bodies as the sun is the source of life in the solar system.

Fire: purifies and nourishes
aids in the digestion and absorption of food
and of the psychological food of our life, and the intellect

Behaviour characteristics and challenges: A place of evolution. The ego develops in this chakra: the desire to be recognized, to be powerful and authoritative.

Sun – intellect – organizational ability (cf fantasies of 2nd chakra).
Power to express ideas effectively, power to command.
Charity, atonement for one’s errors, selfless service, dharma

4. Anahata / Heart

Meaning in sanscrit: ‘unbeaten (sound)’, a non-physical sound which continues without beginning or end. The primordial sound, source of all sound, which issues from beyond the material world. Manifests in the heart: eternal, unborn, undying vibrations, the pulse of the universe.

Element: Air – moves in all 4 directions as well as upward and downward
Colour: variously: gold (PVK), green (theosophists)
Sense: Touch ‘in the form of subtle air’. Sense organ: skin. Active organ: hands. Gland: thymus

Resources: Sufis: The altar of God

Qualities: love, compassion, devotion, faith, the desire for sharing and sympathy
The plane of sanctity in this chakra brings the perception of the divine in all existence. 

Behavioural characteristics and challenges

Clarity of consciousness, centred, concentration, meditation
Aware of ones life goal, aware of the truth beyond words
Dedication, devotion, faith, self-confidence
Gain full control of sense and work organs. Become master of own self. Evolve beyond circumstantial and environmental influences to become independent and self-emanating.
Worship with love and find love as God everywhere and in everything.
Faith in self and in the divine makes one a source of faith for others
Harmless: everyone feels secure in their presence. Free from anger, lust, jealousy, etc
Movement is graceful, rhythmic, love flows through their whole being 

5. Vishuddhi / Throat

Meaning in sanscrit: shuddhi means ‘to purify’: this is considered the chakra of purification (ajna: purification of karma; manipura: purification of thought): vishuddhi purifies poison.
Element: ether or space or air or akasha
Colour: green (PVK); blue (theosophists)
Sense: hearing. Organs of knowledge: ears. Organs of action: vocal cords. Gland: thyroid. 

Resources: Communication, creativity

Spoken words give expression to the emotions within the heart. The voice penetrates to the heart of a listener. It affects the listener by changing the space (akasha) of her/his mind and being.
Prayers and devotional songs arise in the heart and are expressed by the vocal chords in the Visshuddha Chakra; mantras bring our divine energies and give form to the formless. 

Behavioural characteristics and challenges: Spiritual rebirth

No distinct worldly characteristics in this chakra
Main problem: doubt or negative intellect when knowledge is used unwisely. This is dispelled when all is verified through meditation and experience. 

6. Ajna / Third Eye 

Meaning in sanscrit: ‘to command’, from the roots meaning ‘to know’ and ‘to follow’
Location: where ida, pingala and sushumna merge – Sushumna continues up to the sahasrara chakra, Ida terminates on the left nostril, Pingala on the right. 

(Element: we have gone beyond consciousness of elements)
Colour: often violet or indigo.
Faculties in the body: eyes and two halves of the brain. Physical gland: pituitary.

Resources: Coordinates all: ‘Controls the various states of concentration used in meditation. Commands the whole personality. Is associated with the cognitive faculties of the mind, both mental images and abstract ideas. For the first time undivided individual existence manifests for the sake of creation as two.’ (Mookerjee)

All faculties of the mind are stimulated: higher intelligence, will power, memory, concentration. Telepathic communications. Clairvoyant perceptions. Transformation involves: spiritual vision: communication through the higher self. Come into contact with higher consciousness. 

7. Sahasrara / Crown

Meaning in sanscrit: ‘thousandfold’
Colour: White, all colours
Faculties in the body: brain, the whole body. Gland: pineal
In overall control of every aspect of body and mind, encompassing all senses, all functions. It is all-pervading in its power.
Regarded as the crossover point between human and divine evolution


Chakra Colours in Different Traditions


(10th century) 


LEADBEATER (Theosophist)



whiter than the full moon, tinged with the colour of the sun



Resplendent as a pearl

like the moon, beautifully white

two halves: pink with yellow puplish blue



smoky purple

blue and green
also silvery


refulgent like lightning




like morning sun

like heavily laden rain clouds

red and green




all colours (spleen chakra)


burnished gold








PIR ZIA (from Naqshbandia)


golden or rosy light

light of 1000 suns

white, all colours



white light of great intensity


eyes: blue

indigo blue



smoky purple


SIRRHIA (centre chest)
golden green light


intense red or golden light

deep red


RUHIA (Rt breast)


blue or green



QALBIA (Lt breast)




salmon colour






marbled grey