Chakras & Prayer
Chakras & The Praying Hands
We have already talked about the five fingers of the hand and its associated lessons for the soul and also for the human life stream as such. These we covered in our discussion of the Pandavas in the Mahabharata, and of the Great Pentacle described in the Bible. The association of these major lessons and tests of the soul with the five fingers of the hand is more than symbolic. This gestalt of the five – i.e. major areas and lessons – extends to the dynamics of the human body, particularly in the functioning of what has been called ‘chakras’ in eastern lore. There exist pathways between the personality and the soul, and the hands of the body, via acupuncture-like meridians through the chakras. That is also why certain mudras (postures) of the hand are used in various religious and spiritual traditions to pray, to meditate, to bless and so on.
We do not propose to repeat what has already been sufficiently covered in various literature and spiritual practices, as to the location and nature of the major chakras of the body. The reader needs only look for such information to find those easily. Our purpose here is rather to describe why and how they function, and what purpose they serve in the evolution of the human spirit.
The observant reader may object at this point saying that there are seven major chakras usually discussed, and not five as suggested by the fingers of the hand! While this is largely correct, the two major chakras located at the extremities of the body have a very different function than is usually understood. Indeed there are many other ‘major’ chakras that lie mostly dormant in the current stage of human evolution. And there are innumerable minor chakras as well. We propose to delve into the matter only of the well-known seven chakras in detail.
The iconic Praying Hands is one of the powerful yogic mudras given to man. It is particularly potent in the devotionally-oriented; for it alleviates the need to follow a complex regimen of breathing exercises (pranayama), chanting, visualization and associated mudras that would otherwise be required. But we stress that this pathway works well only when the heart chakra is open enough, such as in devotion. To understand how this posture or mudra works, a short discussion on the nature, purpose and functions of the chakras is in order.
Forming the Chakras
Incarnation on to earth through a physical body requires first the separation of a portion of the soul or higher self’s consciousness, and then binding that separated consciousness to a body. This separated consciousness later develops into what is called the personality.
Now this process of separation does not really disconnect the personality from its higher self. As part of the process of development of the body in the womb, the higher self establishes multiple communication pathways or ‘soul bridges’ with the body, through which various attributes resident in the higher self can be funneled into the personality, and the learning acquired by the personality can be transmitted to the higher self. These connection points or links with the body are called Chakras in eastern traditions, and most of these chakras represent soul bridges to the higher self. Note that these soul bridges connect to not just the physical, but also to the higher bodies.
Earlier we covered the meaning of the five fingers of the hand in the context of life lessons and tests of a soul, as well as of the human race itself. These we discussed in relation to the Pandava princes of the Mahabharata, and the Great Pentacle of the Bible respectively. These same lessons, tests and attributes are also reflected in the number and nature of the major chakras which function as soul bridges. That is, out of the seven major chakras, five of them function primarily as soul bridges. The other two, located towards the very extremities of the body, serve a very different function. We will discuss these in more detail subsequently.
Microcosm of the Hand
Every part of the body is a microcosm of the whole, and the hands in particular are energetically connected to the chakras. The seven major and innumerable minor chakras have direct energy pathways to various areas of the palm, including the finger tips. These connections are able to both send and receive energies of an associated nature. This energy transmission is one reason the palm, unlike other areas of the skin, does not tan. Tanning sets up an energy blocking layer (such as against the sun) which prevents the penetration of harmful frequencies the body cannot handle. The palms however are especially designed to transmit and receive energy, and hence do not tan. The same applies to the feet, the lips (hence the magic of the kiss) and the eyes. Also notice that the tips of the fingers and the toes, including the nail areas, also do not tan.
Except for the bottom-most and the top-most chakras, the remaining five major chakras and most minor ones connect the personality to the higher self. These then are bi-directional energy pathways through which certain specific aspects of the higher self can manifest into the personality, and also attributes acquired by the personality can be transmitted to the higher self. Such a chakra when active and pure, is able to tightly integrate the higher self to the incarnated personality along a specific function, attribute or nature concordant with its frequency.
We will first cover the two chakras at the extremities, and then go on to the other major five.
Of the other two chakras, the bottom most one called the root chakra or Muladhara, and the topmost one called the crown chakra or Sahasrara, are energy pathways to external sources outside man. Muladhara, indicated by its placement at the very bottom of the spine, connects energetically with the Earth. It is able to receive energy from the earth and supply the same to other chakras. It is hence called the ‘root’ chakra as in association with the roots of a tree. The energy so tapped has been called the Kundalini, which can be etymologically described as “Kund Lini” or “that which lies in the depths” (of the earth). As we have mentioned before, energy or power per se is typically represented by the serpent and hence the Kundalini Serpent is a common term used by practitioners. This design of the body was an inescapable requirement as it is very often the case that an impure body cannot receive sufficient energy via the soul bridges for fulfilling higher functions. So there needs to be a supply of energy from an external source, which, in the root chakra case, is the earth itself. Thus the ‘rising kundalini’ is actually from Mother Earth, and is able to energize all the other soul bridges (chakras), knitting the personality closer to its higher self. This is of course provided the chakras themselves are functioning well.
It is not enough to sustain the soul bridges this way with energy inputs from the earth, so that communion with the higher self is possible. There must also be facilitated an access to realms above man, from which stepped-down energies can be transmitted into the human body. Facilitating this access ‘from above’, the Sahasrara or crown chakra is positioned at the top extremity of the head, and is able to receive higher energies and direct them to various chakras and indeed the whole body. When this chakra is open and functioning well, it is possible for the personality to reach beyond into higher realms of consciousness, well beyond the soul or higher self. But the most important function of this chakra (in evolved souls) is the ability to receive higher energies into the earth plane and disseminate them out into the environment, such as to other individuals. This constitutes what is typically known as a blessing, where a heavenly stream of energy (allegorically called the Ganga) comes down, is caught in the locks of the head, and then transmitted out through hands, feet, eyes and so on. This is the inner meaning of a similar symbolism found in iconography associated with the deity Shiva. The placement of this chakra is also why a blessing or anointing is typically administered on the top of the head.
While the above two are the major ‘energy’ chakras associated with external sources, one of the other chakras that connect to the higher self also functions in a likewise manner. This chakra is able to connect energetically with the environment that surrounds the body, which in normal case is the air, and which carries forms of energy named ‘prana’ in the east. This energy ultimately originates from the Sun, and the chakra that can work with this energy has been called the ‘solar’ plexus chakra and is positioned about the middle of the body.
Thus it can be seen that the design is very elegant. The chakra at the bottom extremity of the body connects energetically with the earth below. The one at the top extremity connects energetically with higher realms above. And the middle positioned chakra connects energetically with the body’s own environment which is in turn powered by the Sun.
We will describe the five major soul bridges and their palm/finger associations next. For each chakra is energetically connected via meridians to locations on the palm. Earlier we discussed symbolism associated with the hand, particularly the fingers, in our discussions on the Great Pentacle as described in the Bible, and also in the symbolism of the Pandava princes of the Mahabharata. The same association can now be used to understand the palm's connection with the chakra system.
Note that the root chakra connects with the base of the palm (which should be intuitive) and the crown chakra connects with the center of the palm. The latter is designed specifically so, as it needs a relatively large area corresponding to the size of this chakra. The design enables a major outpouring of energy (blessing) to be received from higher realms into the crown and then be transmitted out (perhaps stepped down or modulated) via the center of the palm.
We will now discuss the other fingers and associated major chakras.
The thumb is ruled by Mars, which is symbolic of raw physical type energy. In the Mahabharata symbolism described earlier, the character represented by this finger and its chakra, is the prince Bhima. The thumb is energetically connected with the solar plexus chakra, called Manipura in eastern lore. A blow to this chakra area is highly debilitating, and this chakra is a primary source of the more “earthly” type energies that power the body. It is also the chakra that is most involved in the projection of will, which is the physical aspect of the Triangle of Being we discussed earlier. With this background, the connection of this finger (and chakra) with Mars should be obvious.
The placement of this chakra at about the center of the body is also reflected in the fact that the human thumb is opposable, and can therefore face and interact with all the remaining fingers on the hand. In doing so the thumb is also aligned towards the center of the other four fingers. Likewise this chakra can interact with and supply energy to the other four chakras (i.e. interact with them in an opposable way much like the thumb). Indeed, much as the opposable human thumb has been instrumental in the physical evolution of the species, this chakra has been instrumental in the spiritual evolution of the indwelling being.
The shape, flexibility, power and size of the thumb are all indicative of the exact nature of such energies available to the body, and also about the will aspect of the personality. The solar plexus chakra is the most common target of certain elementals that vampirize human beings for energy. The chakra is located near the diaphragm of the chest and is easily energized through breathing exercises. This diaphragmatic or “belly breathing“, is a common technique used in yogic pranayama. These exercises energize this chakra, which can then pass on the energy to other major and minor chakras. This is made easier by touching locations on the thumb to other fingers in turn, creating an internal pathway for energy flow from this chakra to designated locations associated with the other fingers. These are common mudras or postures used in meditations or yogic exercises.
The energies fed into this chakra via the breath come from the air and is called ‘prana’ in eastern lingo. Prana refers to certain types of energy that is received from the Sun and sustained by the earth, with air being one of its major repositories. Hence the exercise regimen of energizing various chakras through this method is called prana-yama. And this chakra center, being able to take in pranic energy which was received originally from the Sun, is also called the ‘solar’ plexus chakra.
As an aside, in our discussion on Nations (http://www.godprinciple.com/nations), we covered some of the challenges of the Islamic peoples. Many who are born into this religious pattern have, in their soul histories, struggled with concepts of authority, law and order, and of yielding to a higher will than theirs. Now the solar plexus chakra is the one that bridges the personality with the will aspect of the higher self, which corresponds to the ‘physical’ side of the upper triangle (see the article on the Triangle Of Being). For this reason, the Islamic prayer mudra often requires placing the open palms of the hand over the solar plexus chakra. This allows higher energies fed down through the crown of the head (Sahasrara) to more easily connect with the solar plexus chakra via the center of the hand, and from there to the will aspect of the soul via the soul bridge. The resulting submission of will by the soul and the personality is one reason the term ‘Insha Allah’ (God Willing) has become a very common refrain among those following the Islamic faith.
As an interesting side note, those who stimulate this chakra excessively (such as through rigorous sports activities or regular meditation exercises) and then later withdraw from all such efforts tend to find themselves developing pot bellies. The excess energies coming through this chakra, having nowhere else to disburse, tend to condense as fat around the belly – fat itself being a repository of energy. The pot-bellied laughing Buddha figurine is another good example, which is indicative of a highly active or open solar plexus chakra functioning in a body with a relatively non-strenuous lifestyle.
The remaining four fingers are mapped in the *same order* to the remaining major chakras from top to bottom. The forefinger connects with the agneya or third eye chakra, the middle finger with the throat chakra, the ring finger with the heart chakra, and the little finger with the sacral chakra. We will describe each in turn.
The forefinger is ruled by Jupiter, which we have identified earlier as symbolic of faith, God, religious experiences etc. As discussed in ample detail there, among the Pandava princes Arjuna is represented by this finger. The corresponding chakra has been called the third eye, Agneya or Ajna chakra, of spiritual wisdom and vision, and is located between and slightly above the brows. The actual chakra location is in the center of the head, of which the third eye center is but an extension.
Activation of this chakra stimulates the higher mind and encourages visionary experiences, including the religious and the out-of-body kind. It is not uncommon to find meditation practices that use a very popular mudra, where the tip of the thumb touches the tip of the forefinger. Again, the mudra works well only if the solar plexus center is energized, and can supply its energy to the agneya chakra through a circuit initiated by the connected fingers. Thus pranayama often tends to be a prelude to these meditation exercises.
The reverse situation also applies. It often happens that when these two centers are energetically connected in some way (such as during a spiritual visionary experience), someone regularly practicing pranayama and meditation may find that the corresponding two fingers come together automatically to assume such a mudra. In such cases (for a yogi that is), an idea of the state of consciousness can be ascertained by studying the type of mudra postured by the hands.
The Middle Finger
The middle finger is ruled by Saturn, which we connected earlier with tests of righteousness and of doing the right thing. The prince in the Mahabharata represented by this chakra is Yudhishtira. We also said that Saturn represents the great dictum “Man, know thyself!”, and thus represents the notions of identity and of self-expression. When the above two concepts are combined, one gets the idea of “Expression of Inner Truth” which is the primary function of the throat chakra
The throat is also the primary means of man’s self-expression, through vocalization such as speech, songs, and other sounds. When energized by the higher self, this chakra helps the personality to express higher concepts and truths across the soul bridge.
It is interesting to point out a very common mudra used by almost everyone who has learned to read and write. It is that of holding a pencil or pen, where the thumb, the forefinger and the middle finger come together. This mudra or posture has been specifically given to the race through cultural, social and other traditions, on how to best hold a writing instrument. The posture essentially knits together the solar plexus energy center (thumb), the third eye or the higher mind center (forefinger) and the throat chakra that facilitates expression of truth (middle finger). The result is an acceleration of the higher mind, bringing down concepts that can be expressed in human terms as concrete thoughts (amenable to be spoken literally), and which can then be put into writing. Thus the very attempt at writing while using this mudra can help the mind flower!
The throat chakra is also the Yudhishtira chakra, in the sense that it is one that helps discern good from evil, effectively leading the personality into purity, goodness, truth and beauty – as it is conceived by the higher self. This notion has been called “Satyam- Shivam-Sundaram” in Sanskrit. The connection of this chakra with the deity Shiva has already been covered (http://www.godprinciple.com/deities).
The Ring Finger
The ring finger is ruled by the Sun which represents the higher self! The associated character in the Mahabharata is Karna, the noblest of all the Pandavas, as we have described earlier. We also said that this finger represents love per se, in all its purity. Combining these two aspects, it should become clear that this chakra (called the heart chakra or Anahata) is the closest approach of the higher self into the personality, and especially a center for the manifestation of the Love aspect. The love aspect is one of the triune aspects of the Godhead, and for all practical purposes *is* God! Thus it is in the heart that He manifests, in the temple of the human body!
Since this center best represents the higher self, the proper functioning of this chakra helps to bring down the higher self’s consciousness into the personality. This union or integration of the lower with the higher is also reflected in the symbol that is associated with this chakra, viz. the Shatkona or the Star of David. We have discussed this symbol in sufficient detail before.
The Little Finger
As covered earlier, this finger represents sexuality (among others) and is coupled with the ring finger that represents love. This physical coupling of the fingers is an indication that human beings are yet to fully distinguish between love and sexuality.
The associated chakra is called the sacral chakra and is one that is highly active in most human beings. It drives the procreative and related aspects of the body. Certain types of tantric rituals build up sacral chakra energy and then release it in a controlled fashion to other chakras. Many yogic systems however use either the solar plexus chakra (pranayama) or the root chakra (kundalini yoga) as the primary source of energy. Devotional approaches may use an open heart chakra and a flood of energy into the crown chakra from above instead. Then there are those that use the eyes as receiving points. Based on the energy sources and the distribution paths, different traditions of spiritual practices can be discerned. It is not that one is better than the other – it depends entirely on the personality and the soul in question.
The Praying Hands
This brings us finally to the iconic mudra of the Praying Hands. It should now be obvious that this mudra knits together all the major chakras. By placing the base of the palm over the heart, the mudra is able to activate the chakra system using heart chakra (devotional) energies alone. And since all the chakras are connected, there is an amplification effect which in turn opens the heart chakra even wider. This prepares the personality for a descent of grace from above, i.e. through the crown chakra into the body, and most often into the heart center. Various religious experiences come as a result of associated chakras being energized.
Even without placing the postured hands over the heart chakra, the latter is able to energize the other chakras. This is because of the energetic association of the arms of the body with the heart center! This association is well known to heart patients who tend to feel pain in the arms in relation to a heart attack. Clasping the palms this way creates a circuit with the heart center which is then able to energize the above mentioned centers, albeit in a minor way.
There is a reason the East Indian mudra of welcoming someone uses a similar posture (Namaste!). It is one that generates good will within the heart automatically, by virtue of holding that posture for a few seconds – without needing to hug, kiss or otherwise physically welcome a stranger, as practiced in other cultures.
This brings our discussion on the chakras to a close. The purpose and intent of this discussion has been to show that various spiritual traditions and practices have a common phenomenal basis behind them, rooted in the body. Only the approaches really differ. However it is not a requirement that one understand the chakra system or work with and manipulate the system directly - any more than the average individual needs to understand various physical systems of the body or work with them - to actually function well in everyday life. Often such meddling creates more troubles than they tend to solve.