Professor Daya Somasundaram – Chakras
– A Tantric description of levels of consciousness

Daya LE Mag Vol One Nov-Dec 2023

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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Magazine, Volume One Nov-Dec 2023.

Chakras – A Tantric description of levels of consciousness,
by Professor Daya Somasundaram.

Fig. 1 Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
Fig. 1 Maslow’s hierarchy of needs


An interpretation of levels of consciousness based on Tantric texts is presented. Each chakra is described as a level of consciousness with its own characteristics, features, organizing principle and theme. The problems of each chakra  have to be worked through and mastered before a person can move on to the next higher level of consciousness. There are said to be six standard chakras. The first, Muladharam, corresponds to basic material needs like water, food and shelter. Next comes, Swadhishthanam, which is the sex centre.  The third chakra, Manipuraham, represents power.  The fourth, Anahatham, is the centre for love.  The higher states of Visudhi and Ajna are more reflective of  cognitive and spiritual development.  It is explained that progressive evolution through each chakra is accompanied by a corresponding expansion of consciousness.


“Consciousness is a fascinating but elusive phenomenon: it is impossible to specify what it  is, what it does, or why it evolved .  Nothing worth reading has been written about it.” 
(Sutherland, 1989)

Consciousness studies is in its infancy in the West, perhaps no more than a century old (Guzeldere, 1995). There is considerable confusion on what consciousness is, how it should be defined, why it has evolved and even if it exists at all (Guzeldere, 1995; Shear, 1995). According to John Searle, “ ….at our present state of the investigation of consciousness.. We don’t know how it works and we need to try all kinds of different ideas”.

It is remarkable that there is a treasure house of ideas on consciousness in the spiritual texts and traditions of the East, but most modern ‘cognitive scientists’, with a few notable exceptions, seem to ignore this vast gold mine of knowledge. The explorations of the reasons for this off hand dismissal of the Eastern contribution to understanding consciousness will in itself be an instructive exercise. Most western scientists do not expect any thing of value to come out of the East. Whatever the truth of this assertion, it is perhaps in the field of consciousness studies that the East has excelled herself. While neglecting all other pursuits, even to the point of her ruination, the East has systematically cultivated and encouraged the exploration of the field of consciousness.

Somewhat akin to present day western societies’ dedication to science, creating a whole culture for the advancement of scientific studies through universities, research bodies and grants, the East had built a complete culture that allowed and admired those who pursued consciousness. For centuries, the most gifted and dedicated gave up all to investigate consciousness. They submit themselves to the hardest discipline, the most rigorous methods and an inner longing for genuine personal experience and proof. It may not be necessary, therefore, to rediscover these old truths anew or invent the wheel again.

Part of the East-West impasse may be the unscientific and often heavy religious language that basic texts are clothed in, the obvious dross, dust and thick veil that covers and often misleads. The research will mean learning a new and strange language (which is not a difficult pursuit for scientists considering the whole new language of consciousness studies now being created and the willingness of newcomers to learn it) and a new system. Perhaps more difficult will be the paradigm shift that goes against the most basic assumptions of a materialistic world view that has been learnt from childhood. For in most Eastern schools of thought, Consciousness is primary, the fundamental stuff of the universe while in western science matter, particularly sub-atomic particles are primary and consciousness a mere epiphenomena.

One way to bridge this seemingly unsurpassable gap, to find a common ground, would be to go behind the sub-atomic particles to the underlying energy (according to Einstein’s famous E=mc2) which could be the primal consciousness of the East (Capra, 1980). The Eastern concept of consciousness tends to be much more deeper and richer. Thus when an one tries to define consciousness, insurmountable difficulties arise. Unlike in the west, there are many words for what could be termed consciousness with subtle differences in meaning. Thus we have Chit, Saythanyam and Prajna all depicting consciousness. In fact, Prajna goes much farhter, to the far East, and incorporates the nuances of Zen (Neng, 1969).


It is not the purpose of this paper to inquire into the finer meaning of these terms nor to defend or explain the Eastern views on consciousness. What I would like to do is present one more way of looking at levels, states or dimensions of consciousness. There is already the well known differentiation into waking, sleeping and dreaming states presented in the Upanishads, for example in the Mandukya (Ghambirananda, 1958) which also describes a fourth- Turiya state. The first three states are a favourite among our scientific colleagues and established by a wealth of experimental studies including physiological and EEG correlation. Interestingly, the Transcendental Meditation (TM )researchers claim to have found similar evidence for the fourth state also (Borland & Landrith, 1976; Benson, 1975). More recently, Wilbur (1993) and Farthing (1992) have described the spectrum and levels of consciousness, respectively.

A description based on the WHO holistic definition of health (WHO, 1984), which speaks of the physical, psychological, social and spiritual dimensions will be presented in a subsequent paper. It is not that one is right and another is wrong, though their may be minor mistakes. We are only human. On the other hand, these and many other descriptions enrich our understating of consciousness. Consciousness is a multidimensional continuum and includes much variety within its fold. None can claim to exhaust its possibilities. One description may be more useful for a particular way of understanding a problem than another.

Most Eastern schools speak of a progressive development or evolution of the human being (or soul) through different stages or levels. Each stage has its own unique characteristics, needs, goals, consciousness. The needs at each level are akin to Abraham Maslow’s (1970) Hierarchy of Needs (see fig. 1). At the bottom are the basic physical needs of water, food and sex. Next comes security and feeling of safety.

At the next level there is the emotional need for love, relationships, acceptance and sense of belonging. Following this is the need for self-respect, dignity, skill and recognition. As a higher intellectual or cognitive need is understanding, clarity, curiosity and knowledge. Higher than this is the aesthetic needs for art, creativity and enjoyment of beauty (rasa) or symmetry. Finally, in a few individuals at the pinnacle of human achievement, is the drive for self-actualization, fulfillment or attainment of the highest potential. Every human being will function at one of these levels.

Whichever level (s)he or she is at, that will form the basis of the person’s thoughts, emotions, goals, dreams, desires, behaviour, perceptions, world-view, meaning, frustrations, fulfillment – in short their consciousness. For the time being that level is their world. Man strives to attain and fulfill the needs of that particular level before progressing onto the next higher level and so on.

According to orthodox psychoanalytic theory of Freud (1939) and his followers, the driving force in man has been called the Libidinal energy. Depending on a person’s needs, experiences, childhood complexes, opportunity and inherited character, this largely unconscious energy will invest internal and external objects to determine man’s thoughts and actions. Later day humanistic psychotherapists have described this fundamental motivation in man as an inherent tendency to evolve, develop and climb higher, to achieve the highest potential. Carl Rogers (1977) taught that our goal should be help man to find his inner self and live genuinely according to that. Victor Frankl (1959) described man’s search for meaning as the most important need.

Modern humanists like Assogioli (1982) have developed the field of transpersonal psychology which teaches that in all of man’s striving, needs, and goals the highest is to find the Self. This highest goal has been called by many names including God, Holy Grail, Truth, Atma, Brahmam, Nirvana etc. In the Tantra, this driving energy to develop and evolve, this prime motivating force is called the Kundalini Sakti. It is said that this force will push man through each level, each chakra, till the final goal is to attain the highest level, in esoteric language, unite with Siva.

For this paper, a model based on the Tantric Chakras is presented. An interpretation of the older texts based on more modern psychological theory is attempted. As such it can be hardly called orthodox and may not be acceptable to all. The attempt is at a metaphorical or symbolic description and not meant to be taken literally. So for the skeptical, strict cognitive scientist or neurophysiologist, the following can be taken as mere fiction, written just for their reading pleasure, an invitation to take a journey into pure imagination. However, as always, most discerning readers should find a germ of truth and intuitive confirmation in this exposition which was first presented as the Prof. Vithiyananthan 2nd Memorial Lecture on May 18th 1994 at the University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka.

Fig. 2 Characteristics of a Chakra


Each chakra is a level of consciousness, a world of its own with it own characteristics, needs, goals etc. (see fig. 2). In the symbolic Tantric description each chakra is a lotus and these characteristics are described as its location, hue, petals, deity, logos, bija mantra, number, letter, theme, thathuvam (basic substance) etc. There is an organizing principle for each level and particular construction of reality.

Man’s task at each level, similar to Erikson’s (1963) fulfillment of the psychosocial tasks for each stage, would be to grapple with the problems of that level, meet its needs, the desires for that level have to be fulfilled, the person has to be satiated, to reach a poise of neither like or dislike for the objects of that chakra before moving onto the next level. The integration of the opposites, the black and white, good and evil, pleasure and pain, male and female, known as the Yin and Yang principles in the Chinese Tao system (Watts, 1986) is an essential step. The world of that level has to be experienced, the theme processed and integrated. The work for each level has to be completed before graduation.

According to Eastern doctrine, man is given the where’ll to meet his needs or work set out for him according to his stage of development. Literally, man receives a body (thanu), organs (karanam), world (s)he inhabits (puvanam) and experiences (anupavam) or enjoyment (bogam) depending on his/her past actions (karma) and stage of development. The problems, difficulties, challenges a man faces in life are those necessary for his advancement. And (s)he is given the necessary strength, skills, materials and opportunities for it, but progress depends on their personal effort, motivation, free will if you will. That is the freedom to go forward, backward, sideways, get lost or stay in the same place.

The work for each level may not necessarily be completed in one lifetime. The world is like a classroom for learning the lessons for that level, it becomes the testing ground, an examination before graduation, for man’s evolution to the next chakra. There is a slight increase in understanding, a small expansion of the consciousness, the veil hiding the eternal Truth is drawn back a little for a moment to perhaps give just a glimpse. In the beautiful symbolism of the Tantric texts, this completion of the tasks for that level and the graduation to the next is described as the lotus of that chakra opening up, blooming with all its petals spreading out as the Kundalini sakti passes onto the next chakra.

The tantric texts describe the chakras as located along the spinal cord (see fig. 3). Although some enthusiasts (Seat, 1953) ascribe anatomical and physiological significance to these locations in terms of nerve plexus or spinal centres, they will be only taken in a metaphorical or symbolic sense here1, more as a convenient framework for the description that is to follow. There are six standard chakras, though some schools describe more. They are from below, Muladharam, Swadhishthanam, Manipuraham, Anahatham, Visudhi, Ajna and on top, the thousand petalled Sahasrara Lotus (see fig. 3).

In what is to follow the explanation for the first four chakras will differ considerably from the orthodox view. Traditionally, the chakras are considered to be stages or centres on the spiritual path for aspirants or shadakas, who actually make a very small minority of mankind. However, for this interpretation, the first three chakras will describe the state of consciousness of the majority of ordinary, normal human beings immersed in the worldly life. They comprise the usual binding attachments and desires of the mundane world.

These three together are also sometimes referred to as the fire system (mandalam), the lower states (kilalawasthai) or path, in contrast to the other four which are the higher states (nirmalawasthai) or pathway. If one is to follow the tantra strictly, one would have to go below the Muladharam, to the lower worlds (pathalam) for the psychospiritual explanation of the first three states of consciousness as described here. There is considerable variation in the various texts (Arunanthisivachariyar, 1971). Nevertheless, the interpretations presented here will be based on the Tantric texts, particularly Sir John Woodroffe’s monumental works (Avalon, 1953; 1980), with a selected textual excerpt at the beginning of the section for each chakra, followed by a psychospiritual interpretation.

Fig. 3 Six standard Chakras and Sahasrara above
Fig. 3 Six standard Chakras and Sahasrara above

Muladharam (see fig. 3)

At the centre of the body, just above the anus at the bottom of the spinal cord is found the Muladharam. Brahma, the creator, is the deity sitting atop Indra’s vehicle, the elephant. Its thathuvam is the earth (soil). The bewitcher of the world, Kundalini sakti in the form of a serpent lies coiled up in deep sleep. The goal of shadana is to awaken the kundalini sakti and make her rise up through the chakras.

At the Muladharam, man’s basic needs for life, namely air, water, food, health, shelter and clothes can be taken as central or organizing principles. In other words, this is the annamayakosha, the physical sheath, the materialistic world, very much down to earth. A person’s consciousness, attention and thoughts, likes and dislikes, desires and satisfaction, pain and pleasure will be centred around the gross physical body.

Water and food are essential for survival. Thirst and hunger are terrible states of agony. Food, particularly for those millions of families caught below the poverty line, becomes a overriding need. The stories of the daily struggle for a piece of bread or handful of rice shapes current history and future reality.

In contrast, there are those privileged few who spend all their time, energy and thoughts in searching for, preparing and eating all varieties of cuisinary delights. Some eat to live, while others live to eat. After tasting and gorging themselves with one meal of many courses, they may rest for a while in a torporous state, before they are off again preparing for the next meal. For some overeating becomes a disease, putting on excess weight leading to many of modern day illnesses that are basically due to obesity. Some have to spend more energy and money in trying to keep their weight down by fancy diets, exercises and drugs.

Others find their pleasure in drinks, drugs and other substances and pain when they are not able to obtain them. They soon become dependent on these substances, some become physically addicted. Their whole life revolves around these substances: their friends, life style, their consciousness. Everyday they scheme on how they will get their drink or fix. They are willing to beg, burrow or steal to satisfy their unsatiable craving. When they obtain it, they may wallow in an all to temporary altered state of consciousness, mainly a depressed state of consciousness, before the unbearable withdrawal symptoms drive them to again seek another dose. They become completely immersed in this drug culture or alcoholic world. In time this leads to the complete ruination of their health, socio-economic and spiritual state, not only for themselves but of their family and community.

Others will spend their time and efforts to look after their bodies. Some become obsessed that some dreadful disease has inflicted them and spend their time and energy in hypochondriacal worrying. They waste considerable money in visiting many doctors, having multifarious investigations, blood tests, x-rays, cat-scan and even surgery to find out what is ailing them. A quest that never ceases or is satisfied.

Some others will spend their time in dressing themselves to look attractive to others. Money is spent in buying the latest fashions, going to tailors, dress makers; or, in purchasing all types of make-up, perfumes, going to beauty saloons and wasting hours before the mirror or parading their beauty for others to admire. Others concentrate their efforts in finding or building cozy homes, and then furnishing them with comfortable or fashionable furniture. Others will expend all their efforts to save and accumulate wealth, land and other properties in the belief that these are needed to enjoy the above. But they get caught in money making and never get the time or frame of mind to actually enjoy its fruits.

Marx (1954), Lenin, Mao and others believed that the struggle to fulfill theses basic physical needs of food, shelter, clothes and the materialistic and economical forces thus unleashed determine world, social and class forces or history. It is often said that man can begin to think of higher things only after meeting his basic needs. However, Jesus has said, “Man doesn’t live by bread alone”. Thus we are able to see some who are able to forego the above, sacrifice their creature comforts and needs, for a cause, a higher calling. Some are able to fast for justice, political or religious reasons. Some torture their bodies as a penance to obtain relief for their sins or for merit. This shows that man can overcome and control this basic need, attain mastery and freedom from these binding shackles.

However this may be, whether it be those trying to maintain their health medically or those involved in spiritual shadana, it would be wise to follow the commonsense adage to stick to the middle path, not indulge in extremes, not eat too much or too little, but do just what is necessary in moderation.

Swadhishthanam (see fig. 3)

This centre is found just above Muladharam, at the base of the sexual organ. The deity is amorous Krishna. This is the stage where the internal enemies like lust and craving are met and mastered.

Thus, those at this stage will have sexual pleasure, satisfaction and enjoyment as a central feature of their life. Starting from touch, caressing, seeing and imagining to physical relationships and sexual intercourse, they will expend their time, energy, efforts and thoughts on sex. They enjoy watching the body movements of the opposite sex, their coy glances, seeing through what their clothes reveal and hide. To match this, the opposite sex will walk with a sway, look with an entrancing side-way glance, suggestively drape their clothes, make other seductive gestures and behave provocatively. In addition, sexual stimulation is obtained from the countless phonographic magazines, books, films, videos, advertisements, songs, night shows, massage parlors and more recently Internet.

Those whose carnal appetites and lust is thus stimulated will live in a world of sex, their perception and consciousness will be immersed in it. Their perception becomes coloured by sexual desire. The will see, hear, feel and smell in a completely distorted way. In place of an ordinary mortal human being, they will actually see a heavenly Venus. There are some beautiful literary portrayals of characters, for example by John Steinback and Herman Hesse, who have uncanny ability to win over and seduce the opposite sex wherever they go.

When one considers the time and energy spent on thinking, day dreaming, planning, looking, talking etc. on sexual matters, one realizes how much mankind is caught in this centre. The father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud (1939), also came to this conclusion. According to his estimation, behind most of our conscious and unconscious thoughts and behaviour is sexual causes- frustrated desires, unresolved (Oedepal) complexes, attractions, competition, future hopes etc.

Some, for example students, social or humanitarian workers , shadakas, are able to control and divert this powerful force to higher ends, a process termed sublimation. However, according to modern psychological theory, it is dangerous to forcefully suppress sexual energy. It will somehow come out in one way or another. Freud felt that sexual repression or denial was the underlying aetiological cause for neurosis, hysteria in particular. Probably it was for the same reason that Apostle Paul said “It is better to marry than to burn”(Gideons, 1978).

Manipuraham (see fig. 3)

Right behind the navel is the Manipuraha lotus that shines like many jewels. Fire is the thathuvam in a triangular shape with three swastikas as symbols in each corner. Urithiran is the deity and the courageous bull his vehicle. His consort, Vahini sakti, likes to eat meat. From the mouth with two vampire like teeth jutting out, drips blood and fat wetting her chest red. By meditating diligently on this centre, one gains the power to create, rule and destroy this world.

The Manipuraha centre corresponds to power. Individuals at this level will function to bring others under their power and control them. When they attain this superior position they gain satisfaction. They are able to manipulate and take advantage of the needs, desires and hopes of the aforementioned Mulathara and Swadhishthana people to bring them under their control. At times, they will not hesitate to betray, sacrifice or murder friend or foe in their intoxicated drive for power. They spend their time and effort in thus planning strategy, intriguing, maneuvering, manipulating and exploiting others and the situation. They see the world as an opportunity to achieve power. They are easily tempted into adopting authoritarian and totalitarian methods.

Most if not all politicians belong to this chakra. Vilfred Pareto (Zeitlin, 1968) has aptly compared the competition for political positions as a continuous struggle between lions and foxes. This struggle for power not only takes place between countries, nations, groups, communities, institutions, organizations, and families but within them as well. Leaders aspiring for power are able to manipulate people’s frustrations, anger, expectations, perceptions, ethnic and national consciousness and patriotic feelings through clever propaganda, arousing demagogue and the mass media for their own ends. They have the special ability to brainwash a whole people and reconstruct social reality. Hitler was thus able to constrict the German peoples’ consciousness within this narrow circle of Nazi ethnocentrism through indoctrination and use the energy released for his rise to power.

Those functioning at this chakra will be found to possess authoritarian personalities (Frenkel-Brunswik & Sanford, 1945), though most individuals belong to the bottom of hierarchy. Nevertheless, they are basically “Power oriented in their personal relationships-submissive and obedient to those they consider their superiors, but contemptible and authoritarian towards those considered inferior”(Atkinson, 1987).

They will invariably possess the rajas guna, acting with courage to lead others and solve problems. They look towards recognition and respect from others and society.

The drive for power was described by both Adler and Nietzche as the ‘Will to Power’. According to Adler (Mairet, 1928), each individual from childhood is exposed to experiences that make him feel inferior. The world and society are instinctively felt as hostile to his/her real interests and (s)he constantly perceives events around him as slights or proof of rejection. His life goal then becomes a constant striving for compensation by struggling for supremacy, control and domination, a battle between the inferiority and superiority complexes. Nietzche (Kennedy, 1909) goes even further by describing this `will to power` as desirable and a positive characteristic of his Superman: “And as the lesser surrendereth himself to the greater so that he may have delight and power over the least of all, so doth even the greatest surrender himself, and staketh-life, for the sake of Power”.

In the case of Germany, we can see historically that Nietzche`s ideology of the superman and the will to power led to the development of the Nazi fascist order. The tragedy is that it caused enormous suffering and misery to Germany as well as to the rest of the world, though at the time the Germans were riding high on nationalistic glorification of a third Reich that was to last a `thousand years`, quite unaware of their real predicament. More recently, similar ethnic and national consciousness has served a few to attain power but spelt real misery and suffering for the ordinary people.

What is evident is that there is a will to power manifesting itself in extreme form in a few leaders as an intense struggle to dominate and rule, using all the means available, eliminating all obstacles in their path. Yet, in all fairness, it must be said of those in power see everything in political terms and genuinely believe that they are acting for the good of society, their community or nation. Due to this fundamental misperception, they may be responsible for untold miseries caused by conflict and war. Most people in the first three chakras are not quite conscious (‘they know not..’) of what they are doing. According to the texts, it is only past these three, that is by renouncing attachments and desires, that one is able cross-over to the higher path (nirmalawathai) and real spiritual growth starts.

Anahatham (see fig. 3)

Next, the heart lotus is red in colour. Air is the thathuvam and it contains the wish fulfilling tree(katpahatheru). It is here that one can hear the Sabdha Brahmam (sound) that is born form the original source, Nadam. The Jeevatma can be seen as a thumb size motionless flame. Your Ishta deity and Vahini sakti whose heart is melted by amirtham are appropriate for inner worship.

This is the centre of love. Compassion, sympathy, care, charity and service are the important characteristics of this chakra. In the East, love is divided into four types: the love of a mother for her child, the love of children for their parents, brotherly love and romantic love. Love is said to selfless and unconditional, not something that traps or enslaves the other. The other person is respected and allowed to live independently. Fulfillment is gained by just the chance to love and doesn’t expect anything in return. Thus love permeates their consciousness, they live in giving love.

Artists and poets who create, forgetting their small ego, reach a high transpersonal level. Similarly there are those who sacrifice themselves for a higher calling, or work selflessly for an organization or society. Mother Teresa is one modern day example.

Love ripens into bhakti. The four types of love merge in the love for God. In love for God one completely loses oneself. Jesus Christ declares that God is love and commands us to, “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all they soul and with all thy mind”. Then He commands us to, “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Gideons, 1978). The mystics from different ages and all parts of the world are the best example of this high state. The Islamic Sufi tradition also centres on love( Shah, 1968). Buddha taught that Meththa, Maditha and Karuna (compassion) are the highest qualities (Burtt, 1955). The Tamil saint Thirumoolar (1993) has sung of becoming the embodiment of love itself, for then, one merges into the form of love, which is God:

Love and God are different say the ignorant
Love is God no one understands
Love is God once known
Love as God they will be.

Visudham (see fig. 3)

Above the heart lotus comes the throat centre. The ethereal open space is its thathuvam. This is also referred to as the Chidambara rhasiam (the secret of the temple of consciousness). Ardhanareeswarar is the presiding deity. It is here that the Jeevatama is purified (atma sudhi) so that the intellect is able to know the past, present and the future, opening the way for the atma to proceed towards mukti or liberation.

Ramakrishnan used to say that for bhakti a tiny bit of ego is necessary so that one can have the feeling, “I am the devotee, to praise and pray to you, I am a separate person”, and with it the right to that relationship. But in Visudhi even this egoism is lost. Patriotism, ethnicity, nationality, religion, family, sex and even bodily identification has to be given up in this purification process. It is significant that the presiding deity, Ardhanareeswarar who is half male and half female, represents a deep psychological truth. Carl Jung (1939) described this through the androgynous concept.

All of us have a part male and a part female as an integral part of our personality. In some, one part may be more dominant or overt. However, the true inner self, the atma, has no sex. Maya creates this illusion in us. This is one of the most difficult barriers to cross, as is body consciousness itself. One has to rend asunder all these coverings, veils, to finally reach ethereal open space.

Harvard University’s Professor Allport (1958) has beautifully portrayed this progressively unfolding identity through concentrically expanding circles. These can also be seen as levels of consciousness. At the centre, within a constricted circle is self-interest, egoism or individualism, so important in the west. Next comes the feeling of belonging to a family and identification with it. The extended family circle follows. Then comes membership in a community, group, society, nation, country, motherland and identification with its way of life, culture, language, religion and so on. Most of us are caught at this level of consciousness, and that mainly in a form of narrow ethnocentrism. Above all this, is the identification with all of humanity; or even more broader, is to feel one with all life. The highest experience is to reach universality, to experience Paramatma in all his splendor.

Ajna (see fig. 3)

This chakra, located at the centre of the forehead, is white in colour like the moon. The long journey up the Sulumanai, the central canal of spinal cord, ends here by joining the pingalay and idaikalay. The Bija mantra of this chakra, the Pranava Om, should be regularly repeated while meditating with the thathuvam of this centre, the subtle mind, to attain pure consciousness where the inner atma can be realized in the form of light.

The soul’s long journey evolves step by step to reach this chakra. The fruitation of this development is symbolically called the opening of the third eye, the purification of saythanyam (consciousness) or birth of Prajna, the wisdom of Zen (Neng, 1969). In this Jeevamukta state, the perception becomes cleansed, without blemish or veils of the previous levels. The true reality can be seen.

Sahasrara lotus (see fig. 3)

Above all the chakras, at the top of the head, is the thousand petal white lotus, the abode of ParamaSivan. Kundalini sakti awakens at the Muladharam and works her way up through each chakra to finally unite with Siva at the Sahasrara lotus. This is where the Jeevatma becomes the Paramatma, to attain the Advaitha state. “Thathuvamisi” (Thou art That), Satchitanandam (existence-consciousness- bliss), mukti (liberation), Truth, Heaven, Paravindhu (the great circle), Sunya or Nirvana is also this. Man’s saythanyam or consciousness is completely evolved to reach Thuriyatheetham or Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Nadarajan’s eternal cosmic dance can seen here.

This is a state transcending words or the mind. Yoga swami (1974) has pointed to this experience:

Those who have seen do not speak
Those who speak have not seen – Thangam
There is nothing else.

One cannot say much more than this.


Man, perhaps without quite realizing it, is on a long and arduous journey. There will be many ups and downs, wrong turns, side-tracks, blind alleys, mountains to climb and conquer. But through all these experiences, the consciousness slowly grows and evolves, expands. Of course, there may be temporary set backs, regressions, narrowing or constrictions of consciousness. Each chakra (see fig. 2) is a field for experience, a classroom for learning, an opportunity for progress.

Man grapples with the thematic problem of each level until (s)he masters it, learns about the good and the evil for that level, tries to do the good and avoid the evil. (S)he will experience the pleasures and pains of that level. Dream and wish for the objects of the chakra. Finally (s)he is satiated, all the wishes fulfilled. There is no more likes and dislikes at that level. An equipoise is reached and (s)he graduates to the next stage. We have described this long journey symbolically as the Kundalini sakti working her way up through each chakra, from the Muladharam to the Sahasrara lotus (see fig. 3).

Though for the sake of easy understanding each chakra has been described separately, in reality the boundaries are not that rigid and the picture more complex, more subtle. There are said to be many sub-levels within each chakra. Further, a person may be at different levels for different problems and at varying degrees of processing or evolution. Each person in unique with their own past experiences, personality, problems, behaviour and thinking patterns. Thus the paths followed also are unique. Each person is different and lives in a completely different world. However, their worlds intersect at some common points. At level of the family, group, community, village, nation and society there are shared characteristics, a mingling of worlds. The chakras are general organizing principles, similar levels of consciousness, helpful symbols, signposts, or guide to explain man’s mainly unconscious travels through the worlds and search for his/her own soul or primary consciousness.

This article is an English adaptation of a Tamil lecture I delivered in 1994 :
Prof S. Vithyananthan Memorial Lecture on “Man in Search of His Soul” (Tamil).
Kailasapathy Auditorium. University of Jaffna. 18th May 1994.


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© Professor Daya Somasundaram

Prof. (Rtd.) Daya Somasundaram, BA (USA), MBBS (India), MD (SL), FRCPsych (UK), FRANZCP (AUS), SLCP (SL), was a senior professor of psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Jaffna, and a consultant psychiatrist working, often solely, in northern Sri Lanka for over three decades during the civil war. He has worked as a consultant psychiatrist at Glenside Hospital; with indigenous mental health services; supporting those coming as refugees and asylum seekers in Australia at Survivors of Torture and Trauma Assistance and Rehabilitation Service (STTARS), and is a clinical associate professor at the University of Adelaide. He retired as a consultant from the Wide Bay Mental Health Services, Hervey Bay, Queensland. He has also worked in Cambodia for two years in a community mental health programme with the Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation.

He has functioned as co-chair of the subcommittee on PTSD formed under the WHO working group on stress-related disorders during the ICD-11 revision process. Apart from teaching and training a variety of health staff and community-level workers, his research and publications have mainly concentrated on the psychological effects of disasters, both man-made wars and natural tsunami, and the treatment of such effects.

He also functioned in two national bodies, as the co-chair of the Task Force on Psycho-social Support, Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR), and on the UN mandated Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms, Sri Lanka. In retirement, he is involved in studying the health impact and creating awareness of the local and transborder hazardous air pollution during the North East monsoonal blowing from northern India and Bangladesh. In addition, he is trying to establish an eco-friendly wellbeing yoga and meditation centre at Thapovanam in Allaipiddy island and Mullaithivu.

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