Unformatted text preview: 1: THE SIX CENTRES AND THE SERPENT POWER
3: THE FIVEFOLD FOOTSTOOL (Pādukā-Pañcaka) Serpent Power by Woodroffe
Illustrations, Tables, and Highlights...
By Veeraswamy Krishnaraj
THE SIX CENTRES AND THE SERPENT POWER
Introduction PAGE 1
The two Sanskrit works here translated--Ṣat-cakra-nirūpaṇa (―Description of the Six Centres or Cakras‖) and Pādukāpañcaka (―Fivefold footstool‖)—deal with a particular form of Tāntrik Yoga named Kuṇḍālinī-Yoga or some works call it,
Bhūta-śuddhi. These names refer to Kuṇḍālinī-Śakti or Supreme Power in the human body by the arousing of which the
Yoga is achieved and to the purification of the Elements of the body (Bhūta-śuddhi) which takes place upon that event.
This Yoga is effected by a process technically known as Śat-Cakra -bheda, or piercing of the six Centres or Regions (Cakra ) or
Lotuses (Padma) of the body (which the work describes) by the agency of Kuṇḍalinī Śakti , which, in order to give it an English
1 name, I have here called the Serpent Power. Kundala means coiled. The power is the Goddess (Devī) Kuṇḍalinī, or that which is
coiled; for Her form is that of a coiled and sleeping serpent in the lowest bodily centre, at the base of the spinal column, until by the
means described She is aroused in that Yoga which is named after Her. Kuṇḍalinī is the Divine Cosmic Energy in bodies (v, post). The Saptabhumi, or seven regions (Lokas =
The seven "worlds" Bhuh, Bhuvah, Svah, Mahāh, Jana, Tapah, Satya.) are, as popularly understood, an exoteric
presentment of the inner Tantrik teaching regarding the seven centres: The six Cakras and the upper cerebral centre, or
Various people have in antiquity assigned to various parts of the body the seat of the "soul" or life, such as the blood,
(the Biblical saying, "The blood is the life ".) the heart and the breath. Generally the brain was not so regarded. The
Vaidik system posits the heart as the chief centre of Consciousness - a relic of which notion we also still preserve in
such phrases as "take it to heart" and to "learn by heart". Sādhaka, which is one of the five functions of Pitta, and which
is situated in the heart, indirectly assists in the performance of cognitive functions by keeping up the rhythmic cardiac
contractions, and it has been suggested that it was perhaps this view of the heart's construction which predisposed Indian
physiologists to hold it to be the seat of cognition.
According to the Tantras, however, the chief centres of consciousness are to be found in the Cakras of the cerebro-spinal
system and in the upper brain (Sahasrāra), which they describe, though the heart is also recognized as a seat of the
Jīvātmā, or embodied spirit, in its aspect as vital principle or Prāṇa (breath). According to some Indian views, the brain
is the centre of the mind and senses, and the heart that of life. Charaka says that the heart is the root from which spring
all other parts of the body, and is the centre of some of the functions or organs. According to Sushruta, the heart is the
seat of sensations. It is for the reasons mentioned that the first verse of the Śat-Cakra -nirūpāna here translated speaks of
the Yoga which is to be achieved "according to the Tantras" (Tantranusarena) - that is, as Kalicharana, its
Commentator, says, "following the authority of the Tantras".
We find in a well-known Sanskrit dictionary that the Cakras are defined to be "circles or depressions (sic) of the body
for mystical or chiromantic purposes," and their location has in almost every particular been wrongly given. The Mūlādhāra is inaccurately described as being "above the pubis". Nor is the Svādhiṣṭhāna the umbilical region.
Anāhata is not the root of the nose, but is the spinal centre in the region of the heart; Viśuddha is not "the hollow
between the frontal sinuses," but is the spinal centre in the region of the throat. Ājñā is not the fontanelle or union of the
1 coronal and sagittal sutures, which are said to be the Brahmā-randhra, but is in the position allotted to the third eye, or
Jñānachakshu. Others, avoiding such gross errors, are not free from lesser inaccuracies. Thus, an author who, I am
informed, had considerable knowledge of things occult, speaks of the Suṣumnā as a "force" which "cannot be energised
until Iḍa and Piṅgalā have preceded it," which "passes to the accompaniment of violent shock through each section of
the spinal marrow," and which, on the awakening of the sacral plexus, passes along the spinal cord and impinges on the
brain, with the result that the neopyhte finds "himself to be an unembodied soul alone in the black abyss of empty space,
struggling against dread and terror unutterable". He also writes that the "current" of Kuṇḍalinī is called Nāḍī ; that the
Suṣumnā extends as a nerve to the Brahmā-randhra; that the Tattvas are seven in number; and other matters which are
inaccurate. The Suṣumnā is not a "force,"2 and does not pass and impinge upon anything, but is the outer of the three
Nāḍīs, which form the conduit for the force which is the arousing of the Devī called Kuṇḍalinī, the Cosmic Power in
bodies, which force is not itself a Nāḍī, but passes through the innermost, of Citriṇī Nāḍī, which terminates at the
twelve-petalled lotus below the Sahasrāra, from which ascent is made to the Brahman andhra.
1 A term which is also employed to denote the Brahman adi, in that the latter is the passage whereby the Brahmā-randhra in the cerebrum
2 Except in the sense that everything is a manifestation of power. It would be easy to point out other mistakes in writers who have referred to the subject. It will be more profitable if I
make as correct a statement as my knowledge admits of this mode of Yoga.
But I desire to add that some modern Indian writers have also helped to diffuse erroneous notions about the Cakras
by describing them from what is merely a materialistic or physiological standpoint. To do so is not merely to
misrepresent the case, but to give it away; for physiology does not know the Cakras as they exist in themselves - that is,
as centres of consciousness - and of the activity of Sūkṣma Prāṇa-Vāyu or subtle vital force; though it does deal with the
gross body which is related to them. Those who appeal to physiology only are likely to return non-suited.
We may here notice the account of a well-known "Theosophical" author1 regarding what he calls the "Force
centres" and the "Serpent Fire," of which he writes that he has had personal experience. Though its author also
refers to the Yoga Śāstra, it may perhaps exclude error if we here point out that his account does not profess to
be a representation of the teaching of the Indian Yogis (whose competence for their own Yoga the author somewhat
disparages), but that it is put forward as the Author's own original explanation (fortified, as he conceives, by certain
portions of Indian teaching) of the personal experience which (he writes) he himself has had. This experience appears
to consist in the conscious arousing of the "Serpent Fire,"2 with the enhanced "astral" and mental vision which he
believes has shown him what he tells us.
1 "The Inner Life," by C. W. Leadbeater, pp.443-478, First Series.
2This and the following notes compare his and the Indian theory. The Devī or Goddess is called Bhujangi or Serpent because at the lowest centre (Mūlādhāra ) She lies "coiled" round the
Liṅga. "Coiled" = at rest. The Cosmic Power in bodies is here at rest; when roused it is felt as intense heat.
The centres, or Cakras, of the human body are described to be vortices of "etheric" matter2 into which rush from the
"astral"3 world, and at right angles to the plane of the whirling disc, the sevenfold force of the Logos bringing " divine
life " into the physical body. Though all these seven forces operate on all the centres, in each of them one form of the
force is greatly predominant. These inrushing forces are alleged to set up on the surface of the "etheric double"4
secondary forces at right angles to themselves. The primary force on entrance into the vortex radiates again in straight
lines, but at right angles. The number of these radiations of the primal force is said to determine the number of "petals"5
(as the Hindus call them) which the "Lotus" or vortex exhibits. The secondary force rushing round the vortex produces,
it is said, the appearance of the petals of a flower, or, "perhaps more accurately, saucers or Śallow vases of wavy
iridescent glass". In this way - that is, by the supposition of an etheric vortex subject to an incoming force of
the Logos - both the "Lotuses" described in the Hindu books and the number of their petals is accounted for by
the author, who substitutes for the Svādhiṣṭhāna centre a six-petalled lotus at the spleen,4 and corrects the number
of petals of the lotus in the head, which he says is not a thousand, as the books of this Yoga say, "but exactly 960" 6
The "etheric" centre which keeps alive the physical vehicle is said to correspond with an "astral" centre of four
dimensions, but between them is a closely woven sheath or web composed of a single compressed layer of physical
atoms, which prevents a premature opening up of communication between the planes.
1 Certain Siddhis or occult powers are acquired at each centre as the practitioner works his way upwards.
2 The petals of the lotus are Prāṇa-Śakti manifested by Prāṇa- Vāyu or vital force. Each lotus is a centre of a different form of matter" (Bhūta) there predominant. - A.A.
3 This is a Western term. - A.A.
4 Not mentioned in the account here given. - A.A.
5 See last note but three.
6So little attention seems to be given to exactitude in this matter that one of the letters is dropped in order to make1,000 petals - that is,50X20. "Thousand" is,
here, only symbolic of magnitude. - A.A. There is a way, it is said, in which these may be properly opened or developed so as to bring more through this channel
from the higher planes than ordinarily passes thereby. Each of these "astral" centres has certain functions: at the navel, a
simple power of feeling; at the spleen, "conscious travel" in the astral body; at the heart, "a power to comprehend and
sympathise with the vibrations of other astral entities"; at the throat, power of hearing on the astral plane; between the
eyebrows, "astral sight"; at the "top of the head," perfection of all faculties of the astral life.1 These centres are therefore
said to take the place to some extent of sense organs for the astral body. In the first centre, "at the base of the spine," is
the "Serpent Fire," or Kuṇḍalinī, which exists in seven layers or seven degrees of force.2 This is the manifestation in
etheric matter, on the physical plane, of one of the great world forces, one of the powers of the Logos of which vitality
and electricity are examples. It is not, it is said, the same as Prāṇa, or vitality.3
The "etheric centres" when fully aroused by the "Serpent Fire" bring down, it is alleged, into physical consciousness
whatever may be the quality inherent in the astral centre which corresponds to it. When vivified by the "Serpent
Fire" they become gates of connection between the physical and "astral" bodies.
1 Certain Siddhis are said to be gained at each centre. But the top of the head is far beyond the "astral" life. There Samādhi, or union with the Supreme
Consciousness, is had. - A.A.
2 Para-śabda which is Kuṇḍalinī in Her aspect as cause of all sound has seven aspects from Kuṇḍalī to Bindu.- A.A.
3 Kuṇḍalī is Śabda-Brahman or the "Word (Vāk)" in bodies, and is in Her own form (Svarūpa) Pure Consciousness, and is all Powers
(SarvaŚakti mayi). Kuṇḍalinī is in fact the cosmic energy in bodies and as such the cause of all and though manifesting as, is not confined
to, any of Her products. - A.A. When the astral awakening of these centres first took place, this was not known to the physical
consciousness. But the sense body can now "be brought to Shareall these advantages by repeating that process of
awakening with the etheric centres". This is done by the arousing through will-force of the "Serpent Fire," which
exists clothed in "etheric matter in the physical plane, and sleeps1 in the corresponding etheric centre - that at the
base of the spine". When this is done, it vivifies the higher centres, with the effect that it brings into the physical
consciousness the powers which were aroused by the development of their corresponding astral centres. In short, one
begins to live on the astral plane, which is not altogether 'an advantage, were it not that entry into the heaven world is
said to be achieved at the close of life on this plane.2
Svadhisthana Cakra : Thus, at the second centre, one is conscious in the physical body "of all kinds of astral influences,
vaguely feeling that some of them are friendly and some hostile without in the least knowing why".
Maṇipūra Cakra : At the third centre one is enabled to remember "only partially" vague astral journeys, with sometimes
half-remembrance of a blissful sensation of flying through the air.
Anāhata Cakra : At the fourth centre man is instinctively aware of the joys and sorrows of others, sometimes
reproducing in himself their physical aches and pains.
Viśuddha Cakra : At the arousing of the fifth centre he hears voices "which make all kinds of suggestions to him".
Sometimes he hears music "or other less pleasant sounds".3 Full development secures clairaudience in the "astral"
1Kuṇḍalinī is called the Serpent (Bhujangi). She sleeps in the Mūlādhāra. As to what She is, see last note. She sleeps because She is at rest. Then man's
consciousness is awake to the world, Her creation, in which She is immanent. When She awakes and Yoga is completed man sleeps to the world and enjoys
2The end of Kuṇḍalī Yoga is beyond all Heaven worlds. No Yogi seeks "Heaven" but union with that which is the source of all worlds.
3 According to the text translated, the sound of the Śabda-Brahman is heard at the Anāhata, or fourth centre. - A.A. 10 THE SIX CENTRES AND THE SERPENT POWER
Ājñā Cakra : The arousing of the sixth centre secures results which are at first of a trivial character, such as "half seeing
landscapes and clouds of colour," but subsequently amount to clairvoyance. Here it is said there is a power of
magnification by means of an "etheric" flexible tube which resembles "the microscopic snake on the head-dress of the
Pharaohs". The Power to expand or control the eye of this "microscopic snake" is stated to be the meaning of the
statement, in ancient books, of the capacity to make oneself large or small at will.1 When the pituitary body is brought
into working order, it forms a link with the astral vehicle, and when the Fire reaches the sixth centre, and fully vivifies
it, the voice of the "Master" (which in this case means the higher self in its various stages) is heard.2
Sahasrāra Cakra : The awakening of the seventh centre enables one to leave the body in full consciousness. "When the fire has thus passed through all these centres in a certain order (which varies for different types of people),
the consciousness becomes continuous up to the entry into the heaven world3 at the end of the life on the astral plane.''
There are some resemblances between this account and the teaching of the Yoga Śāstra, with which in a general
way the author cited appears to have some acquaintance, and which may have suggested to him some features of his
account. There are firstly seven centres, which with one exception correspond with the Cakras described. The
author says that there are three other lower centres, but that concentration on them is full of danger. What these
are is not stated. There is no centre lower, that I am aware of, than the Mūlādhāra (as the name "root-centre" itself
implies), and the only centre near to it which is excluded, in the above-mentioned account, is the Apas Tattva centre,
1 There is no mention of such a "snake". The Siddhis Anima, etc., do not depend on it. It is consciousness which identifies itself with the small
or the great. - A.A.
2 As the text hero translated says, the Ājñā is so called because
here is received the command of the Guru from above. - A.A.
3 See note2, page 9 ante. INTRODUCTION11
Next there is the Force, "the Serpent Fire," which the Hindus call Kuṇḍalinī, in the lowest centre, the Mūlādhāra. Lastly,
the effect of the rousing of this force, which is accomplished by will power (Yoga-bala),1 is said to exalt the physical
consciousness through the ascending planes to the "heaven world". To use the Hindu expression, the object and aim of
Śat-Cakra -bheda is Yoga. This is ultimately union with the Supreme Self or Paramātma ; but it is obvious that, as the
body in its natural state is already, though unconsciously, in Yoga, otherwise it would not exist, each conscious step
upwards is Yoga, and there are many stages of such before complete or Kaivalya Mukti is attained. This and, indeed,
many of the preceding stages are far beyond the "heaven world" of which the author speaks. Yogis are not concerned
with the "heaven world," but seek to surpass it; otherwise they are not Yogis at all. What, according to this theory,
manifested force apparently does is this: it enhances the mental and moral qualities of the self-operator as they existed at
the time of its discovery. But if this be so, such enhancement may be as little desirable as the original state. Apart from
the necessity for the possession of health and strength, the thought, will and morality, which it is proposed to subject to
its influence must be first purified and strengthened before they are intensified by the vivifying influence of the aroused
force. Further, as I have elsewhere pointed out,2 the Yogis say that the piercing of the Brahmāgranthi or "knot"3
sometimes involves considerable pain, physical disorder, and even disease, as is not unlikely to follow from
concentration on such a centre as the navel (Nabhipadma).
1 With the aid of bodily purification, certain Āsanas and Mudrās (v. post).
2In the first edition of my MahāNirvāṇa Tantra, CXXIV.
3 There are three "knots" which have to be pierced or centres where the force of Māyā is particularly strong. 12 THE SIX CENTRES AND THE SERPENT POWER
Further, as I have elsewhere pointed out, the Yogis say that the piercing of the Brahmāgranthi or "knot"1 sometimes
involves considerable pain, physical disorder, and even disease, as is not unlikely to follow from concentration on such a
centre as the navel (Nabhipadma).
To use Hindu terms, the Sādhaka must be competent (Adhikari), a matter to be determined by his Guru, from
whom alone the actual method of Yoga can be learned. The incidental dangers, however, stated by the author, go
beyond any mentioned to me by Indians themselves, who seem to be in general unaware of the subject of "phallic
sorcery," to which reference is made by the author, who speaks of Schools of (apparently Western) "Black Magic"
which are said to use Kuṇḍalinī for the purpose of stiMūlating the sexual centre. Another author says:1 "The mere
dabbler in the pseudo-occult will only degrade his intellect with the puerilities of psychism, become the prey of the evil
influence of the phantasmal world, or ruin his soul by the foul practices of phallic sorcery - as thousands of misguided
people are doing even in this age." Is this so? It is possible that perverse or misguided concentration on sexual and
connected centres may have the effect alluded to. And it may be that the Commentator Lakṣmīdhara alludes to this
when he speaks of Uttara Kaulas who arouse Kuṇḍalinī in the MūlĀdhāra to satisfy their desire for
world-enjoyment and do not attempt to lead Her upwards to the Highest Centre which is the object of Yoga seeking
super-worldly bliss. Of such, a Sanskrit verse runs "they are the true prostitutes". I have, however, never heard
Indians refer to this matter, probably because it...
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