Chakras (Sanskrit: चक्र, IAST: cakra, Pali: cakka, lit. wheel, circle) are the various focal points in the subtle body used in a variety of ancient meditation practices, collectively denominated as Tantra, or the esoteric or inner traditions of Indian religion, Chinese Taoism, Tibetan Buddhism, as well as Japanese Esoteric Buddhism, and in postmodernity, in new age medicine, and originally psychologically adopted to the western mind through the assistance of Carl G. Jung.
The concept is found in the early traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. They are treated as focal points, or putative nodes in the subtle body of the practitioner. These theories differ between the Indian religions, with many esoteric Buddhist texts consistently mentioning five Chakras, while separate esoteric Hindu sources will offer six, or even seven. They are believed to be embedded within the actual physical body, whilst also originating within the context of mental and spiritual fields, or complexes of electromagnetic variety, the precise degree and variety of which directly arise from a synthetic average of all positive and negative so-called “fields”, this eventuating the complex Nadi. Within kundalini yoga breath exercises, visualizations, mudras, bandhas, kriyas, and mantras are focused on transmuting subtle energy through “chakras”.
The very concept of the so-called chakra, etymologically originates directly from the Sanskrit root चक्र. The “tsschakra” remained in virtual linguistic conformity throughout possible adaptations throughout the relative temporal and linguist adversity of two thousand years. At heart, the chakra denotes a “wheel”, a “circle”, and a “cycle”. One of the Hindu scriptures Rigveda mentions Chakra with the meaning of “wheel”, with ara (spokes). According to Frits Staal, Chakra has Indo-European roots, is “related to Greek Kuklos (from which comes English cycle), Latin circus, Anglo-Saxon hveohl and English wheel.” However, the Vedic period texts use the same word as a simile in other contexts, such as the “wheel of time” or “wheel of dharma”, such as in Rigveda hymn verse 1.164.11.
In Buddhism generally and Theravada specifically, the Pali noun cakka connotes “wheel”. Within the central “Tripitaka”, the Buddha variously references the “dhammacakka”, or “wheel of dharma”, connoting that his dharma, universal in its advocacy, should bear the marks which bear the very characteristic of any temporal dispensation. While further, it should be added that the Buddha himself insinuated freedom from cycles in and of themselves – sui generis – be they karmic, reincarnative, liberative, cognitive or emotional.
In Jainism, the term Chakra also means “wheel” and appears in various context in its ancient literature. Like other Indian religions, Chakra in esoteric theories in Jainism such as those by Buddhisagarsuri means yogic-energy centers.