The Sanskrit language is rich in words to communicate ideas about spiritual life, yoga, and God realization. This dictionary, appearing by installments in BACK TO GODHEAD, focuses upon the most important of these words (and, occasionally, upon relevant English terms) andexplains what they mean.
Cakra—The word cakra (literally, “wheel” or “circle”) refers to various centers of energy within the body. These cakras, six in all, are situated one above another, beginning from the pelvic region and proceeding to the stomach, the heart, and the head. In hatha-yoga or astanga-yoga, the yogi focuses his attention on these cakras, one by one, and so raises his life force gradually to the head. He is then supposed to become perfect in yoga and thus attain liberation.
This yoga system trains one to master the gross and subtle aspects of the physical, material body. And in fact it is meant for those not yet free from the mistake of identifying the body with the self, those too attached to the body. In any case, the physical disciplines of such yoga are long, rigorous, and troublesome. The bhakti-yoga system is much to be preferred.
Another type of cakra is the discus or wheel that Lord Sri Krsna, or Lord Visnu, carries in His hand. This cakra, known as the Sudarsana cakra, is a kind of supernatural weapon, glowing with effulgence and spinning with a thousand spokes. The Lord uses this weapon to kill demons such as Sisupala and Salva and to protect His devotees such as Arjuna and Maharaja Ambarisa. When the great devotee Maharaja Ambarisa was threatened by the yogi Durvasa, Lord Krsna’s Sudarsana cakra chased Durvasa throughout the universe. It was only when Durvasa surrendered at the feet of Maharaja Ambarisa and begged his pardon that Durvasa’s life was spared.
Candraloka—According to Vedic terminology, the moon is known as Candraloka.
But the moon the Vedic writings describe is far different from the moon described by modern science.
According to the Vedic writings, the moon is not barren, desolate, and hostile to life. If you go to the moon, the Vedas say, you’ll find pious, intelligent living beings. They look like the people of earth, but far greater in beauty. And they live for ten thousand years, in a luxuriant atmosphere of refined enjoyment. Since time is relative, for each day that passes here on earth the people on Candraloka have a full year to enjoy.
You can get there, the Vedas say, only by performing unusually pious acts. If you’re mean, nasty, or sinful, the moon will be far beyond your reach. But exalted yogis who fail to attain liberation can go there, in compensation for giving mystic yoga a good try.
On the moon, you can also enjoy a celestial beverage called soma-rasa. But the pleasure it gives you isn’t like the chemically induced highs of earth: it’s not a mere intoxicant, and has no ill effects.
Unfortunately, even going to the moon won’t free you from nature’s handcuffs. After ten thousand years of enjoyment, you have to die. And then you must be born again on earth and continue in the perpetual cycle of birth and death. You can’t escape.
The Vedic description, obviously, is quite at odds with modern scientific ideas about the moon. According to the Vedic account, you can’t go there merely by flying through space in a capsule. And if you’re a smoking, drinking meat-eater, you can’t go there at all.
But can we disbelieve what science tells us and what we see on our own TVs? The Vedas point out that when we try to know the universe by exploring it on our own, we often get everything wrong, because we are plagued by four perennial bugs:
We tend to make mistakes (like the scientists who thought the earth was flat). We fall into illusion (that’s what makes hoaxes fun). We have weak, imperfect senses (our eyes can’t even see our own eyelids). And on top of all that, we have a tendency to lie and cheat.
On a visit to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., the author of this “Yoga Dictionary” saw a vivid exhibit dramatizing man’s first steps on the moon. Among the lunar artifacts on display was a small silver plaque. In July 1969, the plaque said, “We came in peace for all mankind.” The plaque was signed by American astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. And below their signatures was a third:
Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States.
Whether or not you believe this man might lie to you, the followers of the Vedas say that rather than spending 24 billion dollars to go walking on the moon and fetch 47 pounds of rocks, you’re better off seeking self-realization and going back to Godhead for a life of eternity, knowledge, and bliss.