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The Origins of the Chakra System, Part 1

Long ago, before our world and animate life form, before chakras, there was a great ocean, a turtle and a snake, and the gods and demons.

As the story goes, the demons and the gods were both interested in the “Amrit”, the Water of Life, and they knew they could get it by churning up one of the seven oceans, the Ocean of Milk. They set Mount Mandara on top of a turtle (an avatar of Vishnu) for a churning-pole and the hundred-headed serpent Vāsuki for a churning-rope. They wound the serpent around the mountain, and pulling it this way and that the Ocean of Milk frothed and bubbled as they churned. By creating the ripples through the Ocean of Milk, all of creation was set into motion.

The churning went on for a thousand years. Life formed on the mountain, and all the while the serpent spat venom from his hundred heads. The venom broke into the rocks of the mountain and flowed down its sides, destroying the worlds of Gods and men. All of creation would have been destroyed in that flood of venom if it had not been for Shiva.

Shiva took up the venom in a cup and drank it. His throat became blue with that draught of bitterness, but because of his act, the Gods won to more powers than the demons.

Still they churned. Then out of the Ocean of Milk came the moon, and Shiva took it and set it upon his forehead.

The Gods grew in strength as they laboured, and they laboured as they grew in strength, while the demons abandoned themselves more and more to pleasures, and they fought amongst themselves on account of the pleasures that all of them sought. And then, seated on a lotus and holding a lotus in her hand, a Goddess appeared. She went to Vishnu and threw herself upon his chest. Reclining there, she delighted the Gods with the glances she bestowed on them. All knew her as the Goddess of Good Fortune. And the demons were in despair because Good Fortune had gone to the side of the Gods.

Then appeared the sage Dhanvantari, with his hands he held the cup containing the Amrit, the Water of Life. The demons strove to seize it; they would drink it all themselves, or else they would fling it where the serpent’s venom was dripping on the rocks. They nearly overpowered the Gods in their efforts to seize the Amrit, but then Vishnu changed himself into a ravishing nymph of Heaven. The demons, distracted, went towards the faux nymph; they even fought amongst each other to get to her. Meanwhile the Gods took the cup and drank of the Amrit. That was the beginning of the wars between the Gods and the Daityas–the wars that went on for ages.

The Gods were triumphant and the three worlds became filled with radiance and power. Above the most holy mountain issaid to be the golden palace of the Lord Brahma–a palace that is built on nothing that is substantial.

While there are many versions and translations of this beautiful Hindu myth called “The Churning of the Milk”, found in the Bhagavata and Vishnu paranas as well as the Mahabharata, it is said that we can liken the seven oceans as the seven energy centres, or chakras; the three worlds as the more rudimentary energy plexus division of lower, middle and upper bodies; and the mountain as the basis for the human craniosacral system or vertebral column.

It impossible to fully understand the origins of the chakra system without the knowledge of the nadis, the energetic channels of the body, of which there are said to be 72,000. For the purposes of understanding the origins of the chakra system, three of channels are of significance: the central channel known as the Sushumna nadi; the moon channel, Ida nadi; and sun channel, Pingala nadi …. Stay tuned for part two, The Origins of the Chakra System: the Nadis and Hatha Yoga.

(Learn more about the chakra system! Lizzie will be teaching a 2 1/2 hour Jivamukti Chakra Balancing Workshop on December 4th from 2-4:30pm at Indaba Yoga Studio …. Don’t miss it!

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